Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas, please!

Kids weren't too eager to meet 'n' greet with Santa...and I don't blame them. He was all beard, no face! Creepy.

Enjoying some candy canes sent from Britney Teacher's mommy

I wished you a Merry Christmas

My ten little elves.

Magical gingerbread village on my classroom window...paper, glue, and glitter, oh my!

Please note the Kim Yu-Na gingerbread woman figure skating on the pond in the left corner...a hit with the Koreans, of course

Ten singing snowkids

Photo session by the Christmas tree

Merry Christmas! Love, Britney Teacher's class

Red Christmas dresses

Last day with a favorite student- goodbye, John- I will miss your electric-blue plastic glasses :(

Another Christmas away from home- no easier the second time around.
But still, it's debatable whose anticipation for Christmas was greater: the 5 year old students finishing their tenth month of intensive English immersion with the introduction of conjugating past-tense verbs...or the 24 year old teacher finishing her seventeenth month abroad and about ready to collapse from the sheer exhaustion of introducing the conjugation of past-tense verbs to said students.

Whew....Break. was. necessary.

I've never felt entitled to a vacation before this year's Christmas break from teaching (ahem- aside from the old high school whines over the injustice of never being granted the same warm weather, spring break getaways as my classmates. Boohoo indeed- those whines were merely in vain and merely out of obligation to fulfill my role of displaying teenage angst). To feel deserving of a break is a pleasurable state- knowing you've applied effort and persistence toward a goal or other definable end. To feel a sense of entitlement toward something more- a bit too self-indulgent, like an acceptance of complacency now that said goal has been achieved.

Nevertheless, I have to say again....Break. was. necessary.

Sometimes I forget that I am teaching children. Not the act of teaching in itself- one can never detach them self from the thorough presence and attentiveness necessary for such a job- but the reality of whom I am teaching. We can pound out workbook pages in a heartbeat, recite new vocabulary in the blink of an eye. We can recite vowel pairs and sound out double consonant blends and dutifully proclaim what the weather is like today. We learn English songs, pick fights with each other in English insults and retorts, and try to remember that "very many" is not a correct description of quantity for every single noun (once and for all, NO- we cannot be "very many happy!")

And somehow during those days of study...somewhere between the stacks of flash cards and rote memorization, the most important lesson of all got lost in the shuffle: we are just beginners. Only one person in the classroom is a day older than 7 years old (whether you're counting in English or Korean years!). The majority of the classroom, in fact, still needs assistance in blowing their nose and putting their shoes on the right feet. How could I have looked past their consistent habits of spilling milk as soon as the cup is handed to them...and their reactions of pouts and tears when a toy is taken from them...and their hugs and cuddles and sneaky ways of worming themselves into my heart, despite their most undesirable of behaviors displayed beforehand?!

They're still babies. We have packed them just about full to the brim with "English goodness" in the past ten months. Looking back on it...ten straight months of "work" with this class of kindergarten class alone...has not been work at all.

I deserved this Christmas break. But I was not entitled to it...this one was for the kids.

P.S. Chris, Crystal, Jamie, Jasmin, Jessica, John, Kelly, Ray, Sean, and Vicky all wish that you had a "very many happy" Christmas :)

Three years older?

Near the entrance to Soyosan Mountain, north of Seoul

Beautiful fall colors!

Visiting the Icheon Ceramics Village- this is the ceramics "mascot"?
Still trying to figure this one out...

Icheon village kilns...the graffiti art also baffles me

Pots pots pots pots pots...I'm in heaven!

Ceramics 2010! Woo! Is that what a ceramics mascot would say?

Pottery in the lake. Um, sweet.

Icheon village in the background

Pottery...everywhere...in the streets...in the walls...I'm HAPPY!

Happy Birthday to me! Love, my friendly neighborhood Korean restaurant owner, Mr. Lee. He prepared this cupcake birthday cake just for me :)

Of course I had to blow out the candles...

Thank you, Mr. Lee! I love your food best.

November: my fifteenth month in Korea, and my 24th birthday.
Followed shortly by my 25th and 26th birthdays...

One of my favorite questions, "Teacher, you are how many old?" actually merits a quite different response these days. After the first of the year, Koreans say that everyone has turned one year older. Add this to their belief that everyone is already one years old at birth, and you get some significant discrepancy of age between our two cultures. It was difficult enough to celebrate my second birthday abroad in Korea...so then simultaneously aging a few more years beyond my assumed age of "24" was just a bit much to handle!

But if nothing else, it's a fun riddle to puzzle people with back home: "Britney Teacher left the USA when she was 22 years old. She lived in Korea for 18 months. But, when she returned home to the USA, she was 26 years old. How can this be?"

Thankfully, I've had some good adventures and good friends to celebrate my (very many) birthdays with here. One such friend is Mr. Lee, owner of a Korean family restaurant near my school. My business there alone over the past year has likely helped him to steadily pay his monthly lease for the restaurant space- in other words, I love his food. He knows all the teachers at my school, both by name and by what we typically order ("Ahh, Brit-a-nee, dolsot bibimbap?" to me). Naturally, I went there for my birthday lunch- and he presented me with a cake made of chocolate cupcakes he had just unwrapped from their packages (think: Korean style Hostess cupcakes). He topped off the tower of cupcakes with candles, and then proceeded to sing "Happy Birthday" and watch me blow out the candles. Excellence...good food, good friends, and good wishes for my next few years of life (which apparently caught up with me pretty quickly, those next few years! ;)