Tuesday, 28 April 2009
"10 men die handshake Obama," and tried again after looking at her notebook:
"10 men die shaking hands with Obama"
Now, my first thought was that my president has the handshake of doom. This IS big news. After a little while I figured out that she was trying to talk about the Swine influenza, and how she read that Obama went to Mexico and was shaking hands with people that were sick and later died.
Thursday, 23 April 2009
After a 1 hour climb, the 1st through 6th grade students of Dongbu reached the top of the mountain to discover an excercise park.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
Class 4-3 was particularly memorable, because of all the classes in the school, they decided to prepare me a gift. They also spent their break before I got to class writing "Nice to meet you!" "welcome" and "Shara" on the board for me. This is what they gave me:
A handmade flower bouquet (you can see inside the flowers they even included the pollen!), a card, and a handmade box (which was wrapped in paper with the word "open" written on it). Inside the box was an assortment of many-colored paper cranes and hearts.
In the card was written:
"Hi we are 4-3 cildren
you comming here 2~3 day
But in Korea is very buriful
We like you and all people
likes you. (^.^)
oh I am sorry we don't write
any - -
I am really sorry
biy biy ~
We (4-3) "
There was also a heart at the end with the word "like" written inside. They are not ready to make a love commitment yet.
When got back to the office, the teachers started talking about how popular I am here with the students. The 6th grade gym teacher looked at me and said "I popular too. Rival" so I taught them what the phrase "bring it on" means.
During my free time, I drew 4-3 a thank you card with a cartoon version of myself holding the flowers, and as I went to deliver it to their homeroom teacher using a shortcut (there are 5 floors to my school and various staircases) I made a startling discovery.
They have been constructing an English room.
It's about 2 weeks from completion, and somehow nobody has thought to mention it to me. Even my tour of the school bypassed that hallway. I've been here long enough that I'm not surprised by this, really. When I asked Taebun about it later, he just looked at me as if it was something very obvious. It's the reason why he's been so busy lately and sometimes not around.
The room is massive- on the same floor as my current office, but in a separate hallway in the back right corner of the school (and just down the stairs from 4-3). The walls in that part of the hallway have ben painted a pale yellow, which is also the main color in the English room (with distressed green wood paneling trimmed along the base (the same color as the door) and plantlike details painted in green on the walls. The room seems to reflect me, completely by accident. The furniture hasn't been moved in yet, but there's a gigantic TV on one end by my desk, which is on a small raised platform. At the other end is a distressed brown barn or house-like structure without a roof (maybe for books or to keep plastic food in for restaurant role plays?). I can't get a good look down there there, because the room is locked.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
He finally offered that a good option would be to say "I gotta pee," but then I learned that he thought it was "I got a pee" and pee was a noun. I had to explain that "gotta" is "got to" and "pee" is the verb so now we're all clear on the matter.
I am a little apprehensive about going back to the med center with Taebun, because now we're 2 for 2 on urine conversations.
And then today.
Mrs. Shim and Mrs. Im were talking about children and pregnancy. There is a woman that works in the principal's office that is pregnant with twins. Mrs. Shim was having a hard time explaining this to me in English, and tried saying "she gets pregnant" and then "she is pregnancy." She then asked "pregnancy is a noun?" I said yes "and pregnant is an adjective, because it describes her." She then takes out her notebook for writing down new English words, hands it to me, and asks "What is the verb for getting pregnant?"
This is my first week of actual teaching after a two week observation and adjustment period. This is my schedule:
All of my classes are the first four periods of the day and are 40 minutes long. The day starts at 9am, and my fourth class ends at 12:10.
Monday: (6th grade) 6-5, 6-6, 6-7, 6-8
Tuesday: (5th grade) 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, 5-4
Wednesday: (5th grade) 5-5, 5-6, 5-7, 5-8
Thursday: (6th grade) 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4
Friday: (4th grade) 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4 (and every other week 4-5, 4-6, 4-7, 4-8)
Note: There are 8 classes for each grade because the school is so large, with about 34-35 students per class.
Lunch is from 12:10-1:10, and then I have the rest of the day until 4:40 for planning before I go home. I'm told that next week I will start holding a class from 3-4pm on Tuesday and Thursday for the school faculty (and so far 30 of the 50 teachers have signed up for it).
After lunch, most Koreans will brush their teeth. They keep toothbrushes and toothpaste in a cup at school. I saw the same thing at the public bathroom of the college where we had EPIK orientation classes, so now I know. I have chosen to adopt this practice, and brought a toothbrush in on my second day of school (after hearing that many others receive toothbrushes as a gift if they don't bring their own).
This puts me at a perfect 22 teaching hours for my contract. I'm really lucky, because most schools are not as large so the other foreigners like me have the teach English at two schools. Scott has to teach 6 classes on Tuesday at another Elementary school because his main school is quite small.
Because most students are too shy to ask me questions, I prepared an intro PowerPoint for my first day in each class. It was mostly pictures with the headlines: Where I'm From, My House, My Family, What I Like, My Favorite Sports. Afterwards, I asked them if they had any questions. Every class asked me how old I am and if I speak Korean, but I did get a few more unique questions such as "Why did you come here?" "Why are your eyes blue?" and "Do you like Kimchi?" (By the way, I did actually finish it the other day! I had expected the spicy fermented cabbage to be the death of me at every meal, but I prevailed! After I announced my success to Taebun, certain I would be hailed as a true Korean, he said "Oh, I don't always eat it."
The English texts are, well, OK here. The Teacher's version of the text is even harder to follow, with it's half English/half Korean instruction for activities. Sometimes it will say the English and the Korean, sometimes just Korean. The only real problem with the text is that Mrs. Shim and Mrs. Im are a little apprehensive to move away from them.
The problem is, a lot of the times the text will use language or situations that wouldn't happen in real life, such as this from the 6th grade lesson on learning seasons:
Kevin: Hi, Ann. How's it going?
Ann: Not bad. How about you?
Ann: See you later.
Kevin: See you. Ann! Wait.
(The clip shows Kevin going to the grocery store, Ann eating ice cream, and Ann dropping a bushel of green onions as she leaves. They talk in monotone, and the clip freezes as Kevin takes a step forward and holds up the onions like an offering to God.)
Taking out the obvious problem with the "Hello! OK, Goodbye!" style scenario that would never happen between two friends, the bigger issue is that the lesson is about learning the seasons. This clip is played right after having the kids repeat "it's hot in summer" "it's warm in spring" "it's cool in fall" "it's cold in winter."
My other favorite is the 5th grade chant in the lesson about learning prepositions such as "in, on, under, beside":
Wah do wary wary Wah Wah Wah!
Wah do wary wary Wah Wah Wah!
Where's my watch? It's on the TV.
Where's my watch? It's on the TV.
Oh thanks mom.
Wah do wary wary Wah Wah Wah!
Wah do wary wary Wah Wah Wah!
Where's my bat? It's in the box.
Where's my bat? It's in the box.
Oh thanks dad.
Please hurry up.
...hmm. I actually cut that chant from the Tuesday/Wednesday lesson for 5th grade, but Mrs. Shim felt it was important so she worked it in to the Thursday lesson.
Taebun at least is a little suspicious of the text, so I think there's more flexibility with 6th grade. The balance I need to strike, however, is that the standardized tests Korean kids must take pulls questions straight from these texts and my purpose here is to raise their test scores. Pretty much, if they can tell me the phrase "I'm going to set the table for dinner" but I don't teach them to say "the cap is on the table" then I'm dooming them to poor test scores. I'm starting with cutting the unnecessary items and replacing them with something using the same key phrases in a better way.
My first baby step is the games.
4th grade: The game is supposed to be a board game, where they can advance their piece by saying the proper phrase (the phrases they are learning this lesson are "wow! beautiful!" "watch out!" "look at the bird" "don't do that" and "are you OK?" My problem with it is that like most of the games, it means sitting at your desk, but also because I don't want them just to associate these phrases with their textbook cartoon characters in frozen moments.
Instead (and this will be tomorrow) I am taking them on an imaginary walk through the woods, where they will walk in a line around the room and listen for when I tell (and show- I made some supplemental cards) them what they are encountering. They will look at birds flying above them, experience a change in weather, and have to carefully climb a big hill to see and comment on the beautiful view. On the way back down they will fall and need to check if everyone is OK.
5th grade: (learning up/under/in/etc) The game was to look at the two cartoon characters in the book- one at a table and one next to it. There was a book on the table and a pencil case under it. Then they were to turn to their partner and role play the scenario of asking where the book and pencil case was.
Instead, I drew a bedroom/kitchen on a big poster paper and labeled "bed" "desk" "refrigerator" "bookcase" etc. Then I made 15 little cards with items on it like "milk" "pillow" "trash" "chair" etc. I told them I needed help putting things in the house, so they had to come up (in groups of 5) and put things in the house and tell me where they are (with the class asking "where is the ___?" and then making them repeat the student's answer "the _____ is on/in/under/in front of the ____"). Most classes put things in logical places, but after the first group of five items in the 5-8 classroom, the kids got creative. The chair was on the desk, the trash on the bed, and the computer in the freezer. I let them stay there, and had the class repeat where everything was amidst a sea of giggles. I never said there was a right or wrong place for things!
6th grade: The game was to play telephone (say a sentence and whisper it on down the line) in two lines. Not bad, but for a lesson about seasons I thought there might be something more relevant.
I counted them off by season, and had each season group up in a different corner of the room. Then I gave them two papers and had each group (groups of 8, 4 per paper) write in English (or draw pictures and I would help with the new words) as many things that happened in their season to report to the class at the end. It was amazing the things they came up with. I was warned that most students just don't get English, but really just most of them don't talk. Some pages had nearly 20 things on them after 10 minutes! (and I walked around to monitor participation).
Now, there are a few students that have spent time in America. Two of them, a girl and a boy, are in the 5-3 class and I desperately want them to do more. They look so bored during class, but still do the work because it's a requirement. I told them, when the class was learning how to write the letters "K, L, M, N, O" to write down words that start with each letter instead. The girl asked me if I wanted them alphabetical, and when I asked her "what starts with K?" she started by saying "Knock". After class, she wanted to ask me what a word meant that she came across in a book she was reading- "Congressional." Clearly, I need to challenge her more.
The 5-8 homeroom teacher, after last weeks "workshop" at the Andong Dam, found out she lives near me and offered to drive me to school in the morning. I didn't know this, but apparently some people were concerned when they found out I had to walk 20 minutes down the road from my home. She doesn't know much English, but today when I got in her car she had a notebook on her lap with English phrases, so she would look down at it sometimes and then try talking to me. She is really sweet, and if for no other reason that to talk to her in the morning, I'm going to commit myself to learning more Korean asap. I know I shouldn't have a preference, but I adore the 5th grade teachers. There are 4 others that are good friends of Mrs. Shim, all about 35 and have just fun youthful energy. They are always grabbing me and including me, even if I can't speak Korean. The 5-2 teacher has the most positively infectious laugh, I can't help but smile, and she always bounds up to me and says something rapidly in English like she's been waiting for 15 minutes for the perfect time to say just that. It's amazing.Anyway, now that I have a ride to school, I worry that the copious amounts of food they give me at lunch will cause me to gain 50 pounds, so I really wanted to walk home. I successfully managed to tell the woman giving me rides to not wait for me after school, but I made the mistake of telling Mrs. Sim and Im I'd be walking home. I did say "I like walking, I like the exercise" but 10 minutes later they had Taebun signed up for the task of driving me home every day. They ask every day if I ate breakfast and to see if I was driven to school. I am going to let it go for a couple weeks before I say I would like to walk, because I don't want anyone to think that I'm ungrateful for their attentiveness to my care. Today, however, Mrs. Im told me to make sure I was exercising every day for my health.
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
...on a soft sandy terrain covered in shrubs, dead grasses, and needles.
The view was worth it though. We didn't make it quite to the top, because the climb grew steeper and we could hear a group of people above us at the lookout house. The last thing I wanted to do was grab a tree and hoist myself up into a group of Koreans looking like a heathen shrub. Instead, we made it to a level ground with benches, which had a path that lead us to a park at the base of the mountain. Oh yes, there was a path about 10 feet from where we decided to be mountaineers.
I'm going to miss the cherry blossoms. They are stunning.
We stumbled back down in the blazing heat, and walked down the road to where the exhibition buildings are, just next to the Moonlight Bridge. Along the street were several other small seafood restaurants, with large tanks out front housing the fish you can select to eat. Just as we were about to pass out under the extreme heat I hear "Sara Long!" (well, more like "Sah-Rah Rong!") and out pops my principal from one of the restaurants. When he's not in school, I'm pretty sure he would spend every waking minute basking in the cultural hot spots of Korea- he is very much in love with his country, which is really cool to see. He supplied us with some water and introduced us to his wife. He asked us if we wanted food, but we declined because they had already finished their own.
Before heading home, we walked across the Weolyeongyo "Moonlight Bridge"- that structure is in the center. I like it, because it's not a typical straight bridge. We need to go back again, not only to see the moon from it, but because there are also fountains of water that shoot up from either side of it during the evening.
Monday, 13 April 2009
I can't wait to be here on New Years Day. Biggest birthday party ever.
OK. Last Tuesday (and pardon the lateness of this post, but I just acquired the pictures from this event), after applying for my ARC Card with Taebun, I was dropped off at school and told "Oh Sara, today teachers have workshop after lunch." Taebun had to leave again (he's the busiest person I know), so the only additional information I could glean was something about the Andong Dam and dinner later. When 1:20 came around, I left with Mrs. Shim and Mrs. Im and hopped in the car with the 5th grade PE teacher (by the way, the difference between "hop on!" and "hop in!" was discussed at great length during the ride, which later lead to a routine where they would say "hop on!" and me pretending to leap onto the car hood).
So "Workshop" turned out to be another word for "Hang out." I'm not sure what happened with the students at school, but we met up with the entire faculty turned at the Weolyeongyo bridge("Moonlight Bridge"), which is about 10 minutes by car down the river from my apartment, near the Dam. It is the longest walking bridge in the nation, named for the view of the moon you can see reflected on the river like an old Oriental painting, and has a large hand carved gazebo in the center of it.
From left to right: Mrs. Im (4th grade), Me, Mrs. Shim (5th grade), and the 5th grade PE teacher (I still can't get his name, but we both show up to work early every morning and he tries to have a rapid conversation with me in Korean and sings to himself at his desk).
The faculty is really a big family here. Which is interesting, because there's over 50 of us, all at different ages. I had expected something much more strict from a culture that puts such a value on respecting elders, but it's actually very relaxed. I can laugh, drink, and joke with my principal (although I still maintain appropriate conduct, such as offering to pour a drink when empty, and when he pours me a drink to hold it with my right hand and touch my left to my wrist. As a foreigner I do get away with little slip ups though). You can respect your elders without being afraid of them. Mrs. Im is 36, Mrs. Shim is 43, Taebun is 30, and I'm 25, but there is absolutely no problem with all of us walking around and chatting about everything. It's great.
After an hour of leisurely strolling the bridge and the area on the other side with Mrs. Shim and Mrs. Im, where traditional Korean houses dot the landscape up the mountain, we walked down the street to some nearby buildings with exhibitions for Andong craft work. In one, you can view and purchase items made in the style or look of traditional Andong art, such as framed miniatures of the famous masks, scarves and coin purses, ties made out of onion plants, and tassels for traditional garments.
(This is me and my school principal)
(Me and Mrs. Shim. I have this framed- one of the teachers gave it to me the next day. Behind me is the display and mannequin that the dress was on.)
It was a lot of fun, even if it was a little strange for me to be on display. It certainly broke the ice a little bit for the faculty who have been a little afraid to talk to me because they didn't think their English was good enough. Afterwards, it seemed like it was easier for them to approach me for a few words or questions.
This is how I suddenly became a tennis pro.
Mrs. Shim and Mrs. Im were not always by my side, so I would try talking with the others. I was seated at a table with about 10 of the female faculty, and they were trying to find things to say. They wanted to know if I played any sports. The only one I know, well aside from riding horses, is tennis so that is what I told them. One woman (I think the school nurse) said "I play!" and wanted to know if I would play with her. Now, this has evolved over the course of the week because I also found out that, because the faculty is a big family, they like to share gossip. I did tell them that I hadn't played in years, mostly just in high school, but that didn't stop word from getting around that I'm fabulous at the sport. Now I've been approached by about five teachers to play tennis with them, and pretty soon I'm about to become a huge embarrassment because I've heard these women are really good. I'll update you when I have my debut.
After leaving the exhibitions, I "hopped on the car" to go to the top of the Dam which is massive and was only just built in 1981. From the top I could see all the way down the Nakdong river, flanked on each side by the rising mountains (which is all the more beautiful of a view when the cherry blossoms are in bloom- pink speckled at random all over. It really brings out the sheer depth of the rising landscape), and could count the bridges all the way to the one nearest to my apartment. I had no idea when I moved that I was not only going to be living right across the river from downtown, but also just down the river from beautiful uninhabited scenery in a country that has to do a lot with limited space in cities.
And then dinner. My parents should enjoy this one because they saw exactly what this was on the Anthony Bourdain Korean food special before I left the country. Dinner was a big pot of spicy red soup complete with a whole catfish (and if it's like we saw it made on the show, they just catch the fish and throw it on it) along with long thin mushrooms that are in most every soup here, and a few other vegetables. Oh yes, I ate the catfish, which was really good once removed from its scales and bones. I must say, I'm really enjoying this whole concept of communal eating that takes place over here. Everyone shares what's on the table. We also had hot stone pots of rice, and various side dishes including tiny dried sardines, peanuts, kimchi, and mushrooms. And of course, Soju. It's too delicious for it's own good.
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Taebun (my 6th grade co-teacher/Mr. Kim. That's how I'm Romanizing his first name) and I went to Andong City Hall to apply for my Alien Registration Card yesterday. The ARC registration table travels throughout the week, and is only in Andong on Thursday. This will make me official here, so I can get a cell phone, Internet, and other useful things. The only problem, I learned later, is that we didn't see a "multiple entry" box to select on the application and we can't clear this up until next Wednesday. So technically if this isn't fixed, this means I lose my job and right to be here if I leave the country in the next year. Hmm.
Anyway, so I'm in line and an old man walks up to me and taps me on the shoulder. He keeps asking if this is a tourism information desk. He's French, and speaks with a very heavy accent in very slow and sometimes disjointed English. After a bit of confusing dialogue, I learn two things about why he's here: He was climbing a mountain and lost his guidebook (at first he kept saying "I lost my guide on the mountain" to which I felt horrified that some guy was stranded on a mountain somewhere), and he is in Andong because "there is something important to see here" and he didn't know what it was.
Andong is the capital of Korean tradition- it's on signs everywhere. There are many important things to see here.
Also, nobody in City Hall spoke English. I finally got Taebun involved, because I figured that he was the only person in about a 10 mile radius that could help this man because of his English fluency. However, the Frenchman and Taebun had a difficult time understanding each other because of their respective accents (not to mention the French man liked to interrupt Taebun with a new thought if he didn't understand), so I fit in somewhere in the middle of the fiasco.
After applying for my ARC, the three of us went to the information counter to get him a map. The French man spoke to me, I clarified for Taebun, and Taebun spoke to the women at the information counter in Korean- and then the chain reversed. He kept saying he thought he wanted to see a temple. After about 10 minutes of this, I figured out what he really wanted to see was Hahoe village (which he didn't recognize the name spoken, but he did in print), which is a traditional folk village (the source of the famous masks) and lies just outside of Andong.
We left when he asked us for the address and directions to his hotel. I'm not sure how he managed to get here at all.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Yesterday I went with the 5th grade on a field trip or "work day." No work required. We loaded up 9 buses (just the 5th grade) and took a 1 hour ride down to Daegu to go to Woobang Tower Land!
Sunday, 5 April 2009
(For those who wondered, this was our hotel room, as described in my last post. Motel Won.)
Bonnie and Tom (an older married couple who I believe have been here a month)