Friday, December 30, 2011

on teaching children, volume one.

kids are effing weird. wonderful, at times, but mostly just odd. here are a handful of my more... memorable interactions so far.

the general fascination with my hair: my entire life, my hair has been a point of interest. when i was little, it was platinum blonde. i was sometimes teased, it was frequently oohed and ahhed over by adults, and taking photos of me in direct sunlight was tricky because my head would just be engulfed in the white light of my hair. by comparison, my hair is much darker now, but still quite blonde. in korea, the fascination has moved to an entirely new level.
  • you may remember my facebook status from a week or so ago. the one about the boy who actually pulled a hair OUT OF MY HEAD during class to look at and show to the other boys. for the record, this kid is also the one who thinks i'm a pirate since i have tattoos. he always peers at my hair anytime i'm anywhere near him and i think actually asks me every. single. class. if my hair is real. he's strange. but during one class, while i was checking on his group's progress on their presentation for the day, he actually just reached over and pulled a hair out. not off my shirt. but out of my scalp. like, i felt it. then he put it on the desk and all the boys leaned in and they examined it. ...yep.
  • number of times i've had a student just reach out and touch my hair: i've actually lost count. this seems to be the most normal reaction. personal space is nonexistent.
  • last week, one of my favorite students pulled some hair off my back. when i noticed and turned to say, "oh, thanks," i realized she wasn't just helping me keep my shirt free of hair, but she was picking off the hair so she could look at it. the girl next to her leaned in to look too, and when they saw me watching, they dissolved into a giggle fit. adorable, yes, but i also think she kept my hair..
the desire to be the teacher's best friend: this probably applies to the girls in my classes more than the boys, though there are some exceptions. but i have been so amused and touched by the things my students have done to be nice and get to know me.
  • sharing their snacks! it's a pretty regular occurrence for my students to bring me a handful of whatever food they're eating during break time. one will even bring an extra clementine orange just for me when she's packed one for herself. of course, when i have a snack, they expect me to share with them too, but i always do. plus they seem to be greatly entertained when they give me something i haven't tried yet just so they can see my reaction.
  • very earnestly telling me their opinion on a particular exercise in class. one section of my memory english classes involves practicing memorization skills. one student absolutely hates memorizing and waved me over to tell me this. "teacha, i really do hate this part of class. in korean, i am so good at memorizing. in english, it is not fun and i don't like. but i will try anyway. but i don't like." then, in every class since, he will look at me and shake his head and quietly say, "teacha, you know what i think about this. i told you." even though he doesn't like it, he still tries hard and has actually improved a lot. but he really enjoys giving me a knowing look and reminding me that we discussed how much he dislikes memorizing english sentences.
  • giving me presents and/or drawing me pictures. right off the bat, students were giving me gum and angry birds erasers. every now and then, when they draw a picture for their presentations, they'll bring it to me at the end of class and say, "this is for you, teacha." but today, a couple of my girls actually drew pictures of me, folded them up, and quietly passed them to me during class. so sweet. and then they were so pleased when i thanked them for the pictures.

the love of death and all things morbid: i've mentioned this before -- the sheer joy the boys in my class get out of killing off any character in a story we make up. lately, even the girls have chimed in more than usual with their own... creative ideas.
  • in one class last week, we read a story about a haunted house. two of the characters actually ended up being ghosts. for their thinking (creative) project during the last hour of class, they had to design and plan an entire haunted house attraction that they would then present to the class. one of my groups of sweet, adorable girls came up with a two-part attraction. first, you see this cute little house that's all pastel colored and pretty. then, you see what happens to the house after an evil witch takes over. as they were presenting, i noticed giant red blobs all over the page. when i asked them what it was, one innocently looked at me and matter-of-factly said, "oh, that's just the blood rain." oh, yes. of course it is. another group of girls even put an entire river of blood into their drawing. lovely.
  • at the beginning of lessons, the students look at a couple pictures in the book and try to predict what happens next in the story. it's a fun exercise and they get to be really creative. the stories can literally go anywhere, so they really have fun trying to make them crazy. the first picture today showed a little girl talking to her mother and looking angry. the second picture was of the little girl at a camp, arguing with the camp counselor (who the students just kept calling "teacher," for the sake of the rest of this making sense...). so, during prediction, i always write their ideas on the board so we can plot out the story. they decided the little girl and teacher argue, the little girl wins the argument, and then here's the rest: yes, my students supplied "dehydrated" and "children play in river of teacher's tears." should i be concerned for my safety?
that's all i can think of at the moment for the really memorable stories. i'm sure i'll have plenty more in a couple weeks. i never really imagined myself teaching children, and while i probably won't once i move back from korea, i do have to say i'm quite enjoying it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

my christmas in korea.

being away from family on christmas is never ideal, but at least it wasn't a new thing for me. who remembers christmas 2009? yeah, that was an awesome time for everyone... (and yes, i know i had it easy that year since i was just alone for the holidays and not having to push my car out of any snowy oklahoma ditches. but it still blew.)

so even though i wasn't with family this christmas, i still had a pretty damn great christmas.

presents! sent back to family rather late... they should be arriving in about a week? sorry i'm the worst at sending things in a timely manner. and i hope you like random stuff...

snow! during break time last friday, one of my students came flying through my classroom door yelling, "TEEAAACHAAAAAA! SNOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!!!!" so i joined the masses running to windows and snapped this.

the walk home from work. so pretty! perfect timing for a white christmas. :)

skypin' with my dog on (my) christmas eve.

my dog rules.

christmas dinner at an expat bar in my neighborhood. ham, veggies, pasta salad, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, soup, wine... it was pretty fantastic.

and dessert! apple pie and strawberries with chocolate. and a glass of hot apple cider.

of course, there was a white elephant/yankee swap gift exchange. i didn't have time to get a gift, so i just sat back and watched. it was pretty universally agreed that the above gift, which jen was able to steal, was the best. like, ever. so amazing. the note says, "dear person, this image, entitled "the meaning of christmas," is an original piece by an artist who may one day be famous. if placed on ebay, it is guaranteed to sell for at least one million usd. regards, secret santa"

some of my fellow teachers: brigid, jen, heather, and jim, with their gift swap winnings.

but the best part of my christmas? PUPPIES.

seriously -- look at that face and try to be sad. it's not possible.

obviously, the focal point of the evening quickly became the puppy... especially for kara, heather, angus, and i.

and here he is, sleeping on my arm. because we are now best friends.

and then the next evening's christmas festivities? ANOTHER PUPPY! IT WAS TRULY A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! puppies make everything better.

so this christmas was all about snow, friends, lots of good food, wine, laughter, and puppies. while i miss my family and my own puppy dog, i'd say it was a success.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

a saturday in seoul.

so i just spent a good five minutes thinking of possible puns on "seoul" for the title of this entry and came up with some truly godawful ones... then decided against it. yeah, you're welcome.

despite icy weather and the budgeting of funds, some friends from training and i decided to all meet up in seoul for a day of hanging out, eating good food, and cheap/kitschy christmas shopping for family and friends back home. we hadn't gotten together as a group since training week, so it was definitely time to meet up and swap stories about our first three weeks of being teachers. and celebrate our first month of living in korea! (i can't believe it's been a month! crazy.)

i wish i'd gotten a picture of the first thing that happened to us because it was really wonderful. as we were walking down the street, a man with a big dry erase board and dslr camera approached us. in his broken english, he explained it was his kid's birthday soon, so he was taking pictures of people holding the sign with different birthday messages. he showed us a few of the pictures he'd taken and asked if we would be in one. so we wrote "happy birthday from america and england" on the board and he showed me the characters for his kid's name, so i wrote that across the top too. so cute! such a sweet idea. it was a great start to the day. (and we saw him again later in the day taking a picture of a different group! he's a cool dad.)

of course, the first thing we did was grab lunch. (sidenote: dumplings, as seen here, are my new obsession.) we headed straight to the insadong area so we could do some korea-y shopping. (just you guys wait for some of the kitschy shit i picked up to send home...)

booth in insadong selling drawings... will approves.

angry birds! corey says he bought this for his nephew. but then he wore it all day and got tons of compliments, so i suspect he wants to keep it for himself.

i don't remember what these guys were making, but they were singing/chanting the whole time and it was pretty awesome/hilarious. they were laughing too -- they'd drawn quite a crowd.

insadong street. as well as tons and tons of shops selling pretty much every possible gift or souvenir, there were tons of little carts loaded up with more goodies.

LET'S MERRY. i love engrish.

i wish i could send stuff like this home for christmas! so pretty.

best restaurant sign. i want this on a tshirt.

i don't know why this was happening, but they blocked the street for a bit so they could pass.

then we headed over to the namdaemun market to do some more shopping and looking. it was overwhelming. total sensory overload. it's outdoors and indoors and consists of narrow aisles with these booths just packed full of everything you can imagine.

we found angry birds earmuffs to go over his angry birds hat! plus a nice teenage girl pose.

i found christmas. it's kept in this shop. like, all of it. the entire store looked like this.

give me all the korean street food you have.

corey and will asking this dude if they can get a picture with him. because he's awesome.

he was happy to oblige.

then he called me over and took my hand, so we assumed this meant it was me
and kara's turn for a picture. but then after we took the picture... he wouldn't
let me go. and he waved my friends off and gestured like he was going to keep
me with him... it was pretty funny. and a little odd.

will was describing this weird picture of men dressed as women...

one of my shopping missions today was to find one of these: it's a cellphone charm (that i'm going to keep on my actual keys) that works as a subway card. i keep misplacing my actual subway card since you have to swipe it when you get on and off the subway, so i wanted something easier to get to. and so of course i got the angry birds one! ha.

then we headed to myeongdong to find dinner and do a little bit more shopping.

there were groups of teenagers with these signs everywhere. we hugged these guys. and then later there was a group of a dozen and when i smiled at one of the girls, so she decided that meant "hug me," so she did, which set off a chain reaction of the other eleven or so boys and girls also attacking me with hugs.

this area is pretty nice. not super ritzy, but definitely a pretty classy area to do shopping. i can't wait to go back when i actually have money to spend.

possibly my favorite street food i've ever had ever. it's a potato! with some kind of seasoning. not sure what it was. but it's pretty much amazing.

go eat and sources would flow. yes.

more street food! also delicious.

after our appetizer of street food, we decided it was time for dinner. like most korean restaurants, the meal was cooked at our table, and this was the first bit to be cooked. there was chicken in the sauce.

then the rice was added! making this the final result. very delicious.

after dinner we were able to meet up with one more training friend: jenn.
(she had a makeup saturday class at her school so she was busy all day.)
we look so serious. or just really cold.

"everyone pretend to be a korean girl!"

next stop: some celebratory drinks. beers and apple soju.
(soju on its own tastes like watery vodka. not a fan.)

to one month in korea!



it was a successful day of shopping! i picked up some of the christmas presents i'm planning to send back to family and was able to track down a few of the things i needed for myself. such as:

new sunglasses! i managed to break mine on the flight over here. (they were in my backpack and i guess i stepped on it at some point during the flight? womp womp.)

mittens! soooo many mittens and scarves being sold in the streets. i brought gloves with me, but sometimes you just need super thick, knit mittens with a fuzzy lining to keep your hands warm. plus they are on a string! just like mittens i had when i was a little kid, so i can just leave them hanging out of my coat sleeves all the time! don't have to worry about losing one! haha.

i also wanted a big, knit scarf. i had to leave my chunkier scarves behind to save suitcase space, so i was on a mission to find a nice big scarf. success! this picture is kind of hard to see, but i found a suuuuuuuper long scarf in a pretty shade of blue.

i can pretty much wrap it around my entire head/neck/shoulders. it's wonderful. i was so much warmer yesterday after i bought this! it's going to get a lot of use this winter. for damn sure.

so that was my saturday. it was a lot of fun and we already have tentative plans to get together as a group again.

now it's sunday and i think i might be getting sick? i'm not sure. my throat and allergies have been acting up, but i assumed it was just the cold weather and dry heat from the heated floor. but it's all kinda worse today... so i think i'll be spending this sunday in my pajamas, drinking tea, and watching tv on the internet. my voice sounds a little croaky and that's the last thing i want to happen. i need to be able to talk tomorrow at school! it's sort of necessary... haha. wish me luck.