Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Daily Walk

My latest realization about living in Korea is that so many things are so normal to me after 10 months here. I don't notice when I get pushed by an ajumma (old Korean woman) on the subway or when an adjoshi (old Korean man) spits on the sidewalk as I walk past. The closer I get to coming home, I also realize that nothing I consider normal is even close to being normal to everyone back home. Regardless of how many photos I take or how much I talk or write about it, no one will ever truly know Korea the way I do. In an attempt to change that last fact just a little, here is what I see two times a day, Monday through Friday, as I walk from my apartment to school and back to my apartment.
The outside of my apartment building. Ironically, the name of the building is the same name as my hometown.
A view down my street. I don't know the name of my street. Street names are somewhat irrevelant in Korea. Each building has a name and a number and that is more important. I ordered pizza from a place at the end of this street and it took me about 5 minutes to communicate to the delivery guy that I lived at the end of the street, just 2 minutes away.
The major road that runs parallel to my smaller street.
Crossing the major intersection, often going across on a red light when there are no cars around to the horrified stares from any nearby Koreans.
Another view of the same intersection.
Heading towards the blue apartment buildings.
A lovely sight to see every day - trash on the sidewalk.

Entering the blue apartment building complex. When I first got here, I thought I would get lost because all the apartments looked the same to me and they seemed to be everywhere that I looked.

Leaving the blue apartments and entering the few blocks of shops and restaurants, a mini oasis of sorts, as I consider it.
School is in sight, the top (7th) floor of the building in the middle.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Korean Music Video

This is my favorite Korean song of the moment. My kids love that I can sing the English part of the chorus, although I change the lyrics to "I'm so sorry that I love you, but it's time for a grammar quiz" or something to that effect. Sometimes, when it comes to teaching, you have to find ways to amuse yourself in order to survive the day.
Anyway, this song is called Lies or Koh Ji Mal by a group named Big Bang. This video has English subtitles so you can follow it. Enjoy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Teachers at the Zoo

All the girls at my school, in a circle from left to right: Lynn, Apple, (in back) Sela, Janice, Annette, me, Gina, and Jun.
This is the manager at my school, Lynn. Although she can be quite strict with us teachers sometimes, I do respect her and appreciate that since she doesn't let us slack off, we end up becoming good teachers. She works extremely hard at her job and is always in a tough position trying to please students, parents, teachers, and the main corporation.
This is Apple, one of the Korean teachers at my school. Her and Jun below don't work with the students in the classroom. That is our sole domain. Instead, they work at the main counter, answering phones, talking to parents, disciplining students, and taking care of all other administrative type work at the school.
Each of us is assigned a "counter teacher" or "counselor" as we call them who then works with us to manage the students. We meet periodically to discuss how the students are doing and come to each other with any specific concerns. Jun is my counselor and has been since she started working at my school back in the spring. The sign she is holding says something to the likes of "Danger. Stay Away." We tried to convince her to bring it back and hang it up at the school, but she thought it best to leave the sign in its rightful place at the zoo.
Lest you think that there are no boys at my school, rest assured that there are quite a few now. Here are two of them, Huy and Neil, demonstrating their winning poses for our school's next top model competition.

Animals at the Zoo

The other weekend, the manager at my school arranged for all of us teachers to go on a trip to the zoo in Seoul. Despite being a slightly cold day, it was still a fun time being outside admist all the colorful leaves. Here are some pictures of the best animals.

Sadly, these bears have learned how to beg for food. Whenever they saw a lot of people standing in front of their area, the big one would immediately start posing and then the littles ones, who are obviously in training, would follow suit. These animals are smart though because all their tricks worked and the people who aren't so smart would then toss them pieces of carrot or apple.
This bear was doing his best to get some food as well. While it was fun to watch these bears perform, you also felt really bad for them and a slight anger towards the audience. The entire zoo is much different than the one near my hometown in that people aren't allowed at all to feed or even tempt the animals with food and the animals' living areas are much bigger and cleaner.

Apparently at the zoo, the giraffes love hamburgers as evidenced by this sign on a Lotteria (Korean fast food restaurant) stand directly across from their area.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Pepero Day!

In Korea, November 11th is Pepero Day. Pepero is the name of a favorite type of snack. Basically, it is a biscuit/cookie stick dipped in chocolate although it comes in several different versions like chocolate stick dipped in chocolate, stick filled with chocolate, and stick dipped in chocolate with almonds. On November 11th, you are supposed to give Pepero to people that you love, sort of like another version of Valentine's Day. Why November 11th? Well, Pepero are shaped like the number one and November 11th is 11/11. Clever. Anyway, Lotte Mart had a huge display of Pepero just for Pepero Day. It was quite amazing and amusing to see just how many different kinds and different sizes and different boxes of Pepero you could buy.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Enjoying Autumn (while it lasts)

On Saturday, I went to Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul. The actual buildings of the shrine (where ancient royalty were buried after they died) wasn't that interesting, especially when the big red rectangles had to compete with the adjoining park and lake. I was so glad I went because I got to enjoy possibly the last decently warm day of autumn and all the colorful leaves of so many trees. It didn't feel like I was in Seoul or Korea anymore. Sadly though, the warmness is quickly disappearing and soon all the colors will give way to the cold, bland gray of winter.

A lot of other people in Seoul also wanted to enjoy the beauty and quiet of the shrine grounds. It was a refuge from the crowded noiseness and cookie-cutter construction of the city.
Of course everyone enjoyed it in their own way. For example, here are the old and the young.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Making Masks

At school, we were allowed to celebrate Halloween with our students. I say 'allowed' because our manager does not like anything that takes away from class/study time. In her own words, "Teachers, if you want you can have small party for Halloween with your students, maybe 30 minutes. But actually I don't want you to." Guess what all of us did anyway? Most of us even dressed up in some sort of costume like Gina and I did.

Two of my Basic 5 students, Jack Black (left) and Peter (right) also wore costumes. By the way, I added the Black to Jack's name to make it more fun to say.
My Basic 5 class is very young (most of the students are 10 and a few are 11 and 12 years old) and at a very low level so they loved my idea of making masks. Here are Jully (left) and Karen (right) busy coloring.
Here is Mark King Kong (I added the King Kong part, but only after Mark would answer every question with King Kong. For example: What do you eat? King Kong eats Empire Steak Building. Yes, Steak Building and not State Building.) actually sitting in his seat and being quiet for once. Proof that miracles do happen. I love this kid, but he does drive me crazy.
Jenny hard at work on her jack'o'lantern mask.
We also made masks in my Senior 5 class. When the students saw that my Basic 5 students had made masks, they eagerly begged me if they could do the same activity even though they are all 12 years old and at a much higher level. Here are my 2 Jameses. This happens a lot at my school, having 2 students with the same name. Therefore, each teacher comes up with a creative way to distinguish between the two. In this case, another teacher who taught these students before me came up with the solution of NJ (New James on the right) and OJ (Old James on the left).
The girls of my Senior 5 class: Christine with the cat mask, Emily to the right, then behind is Flora who is barely visible, Sue in the black shirt, and Mina in the turquoise jacket.
Mina happily holding up her finished pumpkin mask.
This is Andy, my last student in Senior 5. As this picture shows, Andy thinks and acts like he is too cool, but I've found that there is a soft side to him as well. He is a grade older than all the other students and he spent a year in the United States (Utah to be exact) while his mother was studying English. On the first day of class, I was trying to make conversation with each student. When I asked Andy what he liked, his answer was "I only like sleeping, eating, and girls." Girls are a popular topic of conversation between us. Since September, Andy has broken up with his original girlfriend because she bored them, then he got a new girlfriend who has broken up and then gone back out with him at least twice. When I told Andy he needed a better and nicer girlfriend, he said, "But I love this girl." I have to admit that Andy is one of my favorite students. His too cool attitude sets him apart from the rest of the students. I also like that Andy sits by himself in the back of the room and smugly smiles at my jokes and grudgingly participates when he feels like it which shows just how smart he really is.