25 March 2010

As promised...

Meet class 4-8.
They are unlike any class I've had here.
They are hyper active.
They are high maintenance.
They are high energy.
They are enthusiastic, vibrant little rascals,
and they are really really really into...

Kelly Teacher.

We're on Lesson 2 this week: Don't Do That!
Every lesson has a song, and 4-8 had me heaving in laughter. I've never seen a group of kids so stoked about some lame song.
(I also love how my co-teacher wrote "Don't Do That?" on the board)

Oh no, don't do that! Oh no, don't do that! Oh no, don't do that! It's not OK, don't do that! Don't run, don't run, don't run in the classroom. Don't jump, don't jump, don't jump in the classroom. Oh no, don't do that! Oh no, don't do that! Oh no, don't do that! It's not OK, don't do that!

Okay, last story.

4-8 has, in my opinion, the most high maintenance student in the school. He was one of my 3rd graders last semester and I about killed him. This time around, I chose to goof off back rather then seethe in anger... and oddly enough, it's working.

Well, I thought it was. I thought I was doing something that made him calm down and listen. Until three weeks ago, when I realized that what's working is the little lady who sits next to him.

EVERY week, this happens.
EVERY week, it cracks me up.
THIS week, I filmed it for you.

Maybe you have to be here to see it: she next to Mr. High Maintenance and for forty looong minutes, makes sure his face is glued to the desk. She uses all methods. Hitting, smacking, smothering (she literally stands up and covers him), and gentle patting. Then she'll catch me looking at her, laughing, at which point she (1) gives that adorable, innocent smile (2) starts patting his head with her right hand and (3) rests her chin in her left hand. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. She's so consistent, I love it.

I don't know what kind of super power she has..... but I want it.

22 March 2010

Crowds... of a different kind.

I arrived in Korea just in time for the start of second semester (Sept-Dec). I taught English camps in the morning during January, and worked 9-noon the first two months of 2010. It was rough. March 2nd marked the beginning of a new school year: students have moved up a grade, I'm teaching different grades, the English classroom is getting a makeover, and I have three new co-teachers.

Things look and feel remarkably similar to last September; many things have changed, requiring much adaptability on my part. But one thing is remarkably different: this time around, I'm known. No longer do I wander around the hallways, feeling lost in a sea of Korean children; these days I have to wade through swarm of hugs to get to the next class. Especially when I walk through the 4th grade hallway. Those little buggers amaze me with their unending reservoir of sheer excitement simply because I walk into the room. I'll take a video to prove it: they cheer for at least 10 seconds every time they see me.

I couldn't be more pleased that the students finally feel comfortable around me. It took many long months of smiles, hugs, and an unending reservoir of sheer excitement to get 700+ kiddos to warm up to me.

And warm up have they EVER.
these days,
I'm thinkin they're a little too warm for my liking.

Case in point (I'll give you one example from each grade)(and also, this all happened in the SAME week):

Grade 4
One day I wore my contacts. I always wear my glasses. I dont wear much makeup, and the makeup I do wear certainly isn't trying to "cover up" anything. The first class asked my co-teacher why I wasnt wearing face makeup. I told them I didn't need it, I was beautiful without it. They gasped in horror. I then turned to all the 10 yr old girls and told them they, too, were beautiful and didnt need make up. Some of them fell out of their seat and rolled around the floor shrieking. Suffice it to say that Korean advertising has an agenda, and it reaches all the way down to 8, 9, and 10 yr old girls. And, it works. Unfortunately.

Anyway. The next class, one little gaffer was bold enough to walk to the front of the room, touch my face (under my eyes) and ask my co-teacher why there were dark circles. Well, sweet muffin, we all have wrinkles and splotches and weird things on our face, but most women "cover it up" and I choose not to...

Grade 5
My hair is finally long enough to pull it back a bit. Which I've done a few times, and I've received myriad compliments. Apparently, this was the first time this particular 5th grade class saw it, and as most children do, they noticed immediately. One boy said something in Korean, the class hooted in laughter, and one of the more fluent students graciously translated, "Teacher, he says you look like a man!" And why is that, my sweet little muffin? "Your new hair fashion!"

Grade 6
Winter in Korea. Cold. Long. I brought a pea-coat, and I only brought one. As it is usually very cold inside the school, I have it on most of the time. The day after the Grade 5 hair comment, one of the 6th grade students bluntly asked, "Teacher, why do you always wear the same clothes?" Well, sweet muffin, I'm really poor and haven't any money to buy other clothes! Can you donate to my cause? (... It wasn't even worth wasting breath trying to explain to him that THIS is a coat, and I have only one because I only brought TWO suitcases with me from home and I couldn't FIT more than one, and not to worry because though I may look the same on the outside, I am QUITE proactive about changing the clothes I wear UNDERNEATH the coat...)

These kiddos. Rough crowd.
Now, I have to make sure to
..wear my glasses on Thursdays
..dress warmly on Tuesdays (and ditch the coat)
..and straighten my hair on Mondays.

I've never felt so insecure in my life.

08 March 2010

Crowds and other Korean delicacies

It always feels crowded here. And the crowds are exhausting. A fun Korean fact: bumping, nudging, or flat-out shoving is normal. No one thinks twice about it - except the Westerner who is quite used to her "personal bubble." But alas, I've been bumped, nudged, and shoved so many times the last six months I've grown quite used to it. Observe:

This is Myeongdong -- a popular, cutting edge shopping district in Seoul. I was sitting on the second floor of a coffee shop, digging deep to find more energy, pondering whether I wanted to go back outside and walk around in that, again. This was back in December, when my bubble still felt violated on a daily basis.

Winter here has been bitterly cold. This was a crowded ice festival we went to in January, on the east side of the country. This was also the day "slide" was added to the "bump, nudge, shove" list. We got taken out by people quite literally sliding into us.
January and February I hit the slopes, which - you guessed it - were crowded (I took up boarding this season because I couldn't find enough room on the hill to ski). I tell you the truth: I have NEVER seen anything like a Korean ski hill. I've also never seen such a busy ski patrol. People were skiing, boarding, and sliding into each other left and right. Again, no one seems to thinks twice about it: just get up, wipe off the snow, and continue on with your day until you get taken out again 38 seconds later. If I were to start my own business here,I'd open clinics at the base of ski resorts. I'd make bank.
Last weekend I finally made it to a well known flea market in Seoul. Quite the overstimulating experience. It's rare these days for Koreans to buy anything secondhand, thus the market is a treasure trove of trinkets. I was thoroughly exhausted after two short hours; I haven't been pushed around that much since my rugby days!

Even the meals feel crowded.
This is a traditional (and typical) Korean meal -- complete with a zillion delicious side dishes. Stop by for a visit, I'll take you to a few of my favorite places... (hint, hint)

Besides the crowds, life here is fairly normal. I spend all my time with people. On Monday I hang with my favorite family: the Stewarts. Zach's eleventh birthday is this week, and we threw him a big surprise party on Sunday. Look at the little stud, surrounded by his "best friends in Korea." Rough life, Zach... rough life.
As you can see, the numbers have grown. The gals went from two this time last year, to five, to eight, and now we're pushing fifteen. Whitney had to get a new apartment to fit all the people on Wednesday nights. But growth is to be expected when God is breathing on something.

One weekend in February we crashed Scott and Dionne's apartment, where we laughed, cried, worshiped, ate, slept, and laid many-a-hand in an effort to encourage and edify one another. 'Twas delightful, and another weekend is already in the works.

A recent favorite in the new year: my neighbors. We met Ashley and JJ at the end of 2009, and quickly discovered they live in the next apartment building. They also love board games. Charissa and I live for board games. For two months, the four of us have been getting together for game night on Tuesdays. They bring the wine, we bring the dessert.

Oh, before I forget. Turns out I brought a friend back from Thailand with me. I named him Wormy. Thanks to Asian medicine, he's been flushed out of my system now, but I thought some of you would like to know. I mean, how often do you know someone who contracts a hookworm and lives to tell about it?!

Just kidding. They're not that bad. I kinda miss the little sucker (literally).

The first weekend of March was Korean Flag Day. We went to the park, where hundreds of flags filled the sky and the sounds of Korean festivities echoed throughout the air. The costumes were vibrant and the people were joyful.

And this man ate raw pig. Mmm...

I, on the other hand, found a little friend and was quite content to play with her for the rest of the afternoon. She laughed gleefully and I was giddy. The color coordination was totally planned.