Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I am so ready for this heat and humidity to be over! I can't even imagine what July & early August were like here. I've had to quickly buy a bunch of cheap skirts and light t-shirts to wear to school...I definitely did not bring enough hot-weather clothes with me. Good thing the streets around here are full of racks of cheap clothing, my favorite! Can't beat 5,000 won for a shirt (under $5 US).

Today we had the birthday party for Alice, one of my kinders. It was so much fun!! Everyone, including Britney Teacher, got party favors and cake. Cindy Teacher (one of the three full-time Korean teachers on staff) helped out, taking pictures of Alice posing with her cake and her classmates. The class also got Capri Sun juiceboxes, sausage tubes, fruit mentos, cubed watermelon, and cherry tomatoes (they tend to have random food pairings like this all the time; for example, the pasta place nearby serves a bowl of sweet pickles as an appetizer, and a local bar serves a bowl of canned peaches over ice cubes along with your alcohol!).

In the afternoon, all the kindergarten classes had arts & crafts. I was pretty much in my element with that one: teaching cute Korean children + art class = happy Britney! The students are told what to draw and create in their art workbooks. Today, the directions were to draw squirrels in trees and then make Origami acorns to glue on the picture. Ummm kindergarteners making origami?? Highly ended up being a chaotic hour of the girls drawing princess squirrels and the boys trying to make Origami paper airplanes. There were glue sticks rolling around without caps, sticky fingers grabbing at me every second, and scraps of paper covering the floor...and I loved every minute of it!

Tomorrow morning we have a staff meeting regarding the swine flu and its health concerns for fall & winter. The other teachers think the staff is going to forbid us from leaving the country to travel during our October break, and possibly even during Christmas break. It's hard to know whom to believe, though, on the issue of the flu threat here. Some kindergarten parents have joined together in refusing to expose their children to the just-arrived international teachers here (the 2 new girls from MN, Shauna & Christine). Yet, many of these parents have been sending their children to school with head lice in the past few weeks...even while knowing that the children had lice! It seems like they become very neurotic about some health standards, but are then so lax toward other common-sense health measures (head lice pandemic prevention?)!

Weekend plans- staff party on Friday (hopefully to end at the nore-bong...more on that later) and hopefully moving into my new apartment!

Monday, August 24, 2009

At School

My 2nd day of teaching kindergarten today- it went SO well and SO much better than last week!! I only had 7 of my 10 there today, so that may have helped me a bit :)

My students are: Alan, Alice, David, Grace, Alex, Irene, Katie, Zackary, Tony, and Ashley. They are called 6-1, meaning they are 6 years old and in their first year of English. Interesting fact, though: Koreans believe that they are 1 year old at birth, so, according to our Western perception of age, they are actually younger than they say they are (so my kindergarteners are actually 5).

Alice's birthday is on Wed.- I'm very excited for it because the birthday child becomes a celebrity at the school that day. They bring in tons and tons of food & desserts, and all the children in the class have to bring them presents. Apparently, the parents try to outdo the other parents by bringing in the most food and party favors for everyone!

That's another thing about the school: just about every day, the Korean mothers bring in food and treats for their child's teacher, or for the whole teaching staff. So far, I've witnessed milkshakes, cookies, bananas, egg & ketchup sandwiches on white bread (didn't try that one), and a whole carton full of hot dogs (didn't try that one either, although they certainly love their hot dogs here).

Hopefully I can get up some pictures of my students this week!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Running in South Korea...I know, I can't believe it either

One of the strangest things to adjust to so far is the fact that I've been able to go running here! I've gone about five times now...more than I've run in the past year combined. So maybe all this time I was injured and hurting, I just had to go to South Korea to get better?? I'm up to 7min run/1 min walk far, so good!!

There's a bike/walk path down by the river (actually a stream that co-mingles with the sewage deposit) that is just packed with people as soon as night falls. Everyone is out walking, pushing strollers, biking...and they have no set rule for who walks/bikes where...the whole thing is just a chaotic mess of dodging others (think: Lake Calhoun on a sunny summer day). I've been one of the few runners, though...and I can see why, given the pollution from the air and the stream. In some places, the sewage smell is so bad, I have to just hold my breath or breathe out of my mouth...pretty awful.

But for the Koreans, this sewage stream is their Lake Calhoun; there's obviously no great expanses of green parks and beautiful lakes within the cities. It really makes me more appreciative of the lakes and green areas at home!!

Ten Days In

Hard to believe I've been here for almost two weeks! The new girls from MN, Shauna and Christine, arrived last night, and I've already felt like a pro giving them advice and showing them around. I never imagined I'd feel this well-adjusted so quickly into the experience. I feel as though I've been here so much longer...although the time has also seemed to by very quickly. I already have a daily routine, favorite places to eat, and a punch card at one of the local coffee shops!

I've been so busy that I haven't had much time to think about being homesick...which is a good thing for me. I'm still trying to nail down the time difference factor between here and home (14 hours)...that definitely makes it more difficult to Skype. I still have my computer set to MN time, though, and that's been a nice reminder of home...kind of still makes me feel a part of things back there.

All last week I observed the other teachers at the school...that got a bit boring by the third day, as I was already getting so anxious to start teaching! On Friday, I finally got to teach my own 10 kindergarteners, from 10:00 am-2:30 pm. It was SO hectic- I never had time to just stop and collect my thoughts! They are so adorable, I can hardly stand it. I am known to them as "Britney Teacher" (the older students usually just say "Teacher"). I can't wait to take pictures of them this week and show them off to everyone!

The funniest thing is that they all choose English-sounding names once they begin at the you have a classroom full of Asian children answering to the names of "Tony," "Kelly," and "Louie." There are also many Alices, Aileens, and even a Eugene! I can't imagine what source their parents are getting these names from, because I definitely wouldn't say that Debby and Dorothy are the most popular English names nowadays!

Tomorrow starts my first full week of kindergarten teaching- wish me luck (and patience)! I'll be observing elementary classes until September 1st, when the new semester begins. Can't wait to be fully immersed in the teaching experience!!