Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Day of School

The first day of school is over and done with.  I am so glad.  Tomorrow is Thursday so the majority of the week is through and I'm starting to get to know the kids. 

The kids are not like Americans, of course.  I am still getting to know their mannerisms, but in general they follow directions fairly well (sometimes they don't understand my English) and listen.  What's different in a good way is that they are all very worried about their grades.  They all want to make an "A."  Today I put up a vocab quiz announcement and they all started asking me what type of quiz it would be - fill in the blank or multiple choice or memorize the entire definition of each word.  I must admit I was impressed.  One of my students has already started reading the textbook.  I couldn't believe it. 

The biggest challenge I face, and I can already see it, is that some of the kids (at least 2 or 3 in each class) don't speak English very well at all.  They don't understand what I'm saying and they don't know how to follow directions.  But I can tell they really want to learn, and all the kids here speak Korean in the hallways and at lunch so it's not like they're left out too much.  Another challenge is that the kids are so motivated to do well in so many different areas, and they have a tendency to show up to school really tired because they've been doing so many activities. 

My favorite thing about teaching is that I get to choose what to teach and how to teach it.  It's so nice to be able to pick the most important thing I think the students need to learn and teach it.  We spend 10 minutes at the beginning of each class journaling, learning how to take notes, deciding on the main idea, creative writing, and doing a grammar question.  Each day we rotate what we do.  I can't wait to see how the students improve throughout the year.

That's it for now.  I can't wait to sleep in on Saturday! 

Friday, August 26, 2011


Things are going good.  Yesterday was the last day of teacher orientation, so my room is decorated and looking good and I'm ready for the kids to show up.  Monday is the first day of school here.  The assignment for my teaching changed, so I'll be doing 9th Grade English, 9th Grade Honors, 8th Grade English, 7th Grade English, and the computer class..  I have a huge stack of books full of curriculum, which is a good thing, but it's hard to choose what to cover.  I guess I'll figure it out as I go.

Last night we all went out to eat as a group (all the teachers).  Our school director took us to an Italian restaurant about 45 minutes away.  The area was really beautiful.  They had a big lake, a walking trail, and a place to go bungee jumping.  The restaurant was really nice, and we were all escorted upstairs to a corner that had chairs and couches.  The couches were covered in velvet and the walls had velvet padding (I guess in case we got too loud).  I sat on one of the couches, but it was just too weird.  I ended up switching seats with someone so I could sit in a chair.

It's too bad I don't have pictures of the food because it was interesting.  We got bread and oil and vinegar 1st, which was delicious.  Next was a cream soup.  It was completely white with small bits of onion in it.  The main course was steak, which was supposed to be medium well but ended up looking medium rare or rare in some places.  It was covered in a dark sweet sauce and had a little bowl of crispy straws covering it.  On top was a skewer with garlic, tomato, zuchinni, and some other stuff I didn't recognize.  It was really good.

The highlight of dinner was when 2 of the teachers sang and played the violin.  Afterwards, several of the Korean teachers wanted to go to karaoke, and since I'd never been I wanted to check it out.  It was so much fun! 

First I have to explain how it is in Korea with the buildings.  The buildings are all really tall, and there are signs on the outside all the way up advertising different companies.  There's a bottom floor which connects to the street and has vendors selling mostly food and clothes, but in the middle of each building is a four-way tunnel that connects the outside to a place with an elevator and bathrooms.  Side-note: If you have to go the bathroom in Korea, you have to find one of these types of bathrooms because there are none in the stores.  And you have to bring your own toilet paper because there won't be any.

Anyway, once you get on the elevator, you can go to any floor in the building and you can find different businesses, anything from a dentist to a hair salon to bowling to karaoke.  So that's where we went - the 5th floor of one of these buildings. 

When we stepped out of the elevator, we could all hear a man's voice blaring through the hallway and the music behind it.  It was in Korean, but the slurring of his speech and terrible pitch was a dead giveaway he was drunk.  The lady behind the counter was courteous and showed us to a room while her little dogs yapped at us. 

The room was dark and had 1 big screen at the front and 2 little screens at the back, with a huge table in the middle with a couch surrounding it, and a space for dancing and singing.  We had 2 microphones so it was less embarrassing if you didn't want to sing alone.    

One of the girls picked out the famous Spice Girls song "I'll tell you what I want what I really really want..." and it started blaring while we searched through the books for some other English songs we could sing.  I sang a couple rap songs and some Black-Eyed Peas, which shocked some of the people there. :)  There was some Queen, U2, Boyz 2 Men (sorry if I got that wrong), and Gwen Stefani.  We had a great time and when we weren't singing we were up dancing to the song or singing along.  We got there at 10 and stayed until about 11:30 last night.  One of the last songs 2 of the girls got up and sang a K-Pop song.  It was really cool.  A girl there told me her and her friends do karaoke as a workout sometimes, and by the end of the night I knew why.  I had no trouble falling asleep right away when I got home. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'm Alive!!!

Hey everybody! Sorry it took so long to post this, but I'm here and I made it and everything is going fine.

Here is a short description of everything, minus the short part.  Unfortunately I left the U.S. without realizing that my digital camera didn't have a memory card.  So....I have no pictures yet.  Sorry!  But they'll be exciting when you see them!

We (me and Mom) got up at 2 am on Sunday morning and drove to Emory, where Dad met us and took me to the airport in Dallas.  We got there at 5 am or so and went through the check-in just fine.  The bag weight limit was 50 pounds each for 2 bags, and I weighed them over and over and over before I left stuffing as much crap as possible in them.  When we got to the airport they weighed 51 pounds each and I almost got charged extra but the lady behind the counter was really nice and let it slide. :)

The flight to San Francisco was awesome because the middle seat was unoccupied.  I felt drugged because I only had 1 hour of sleep, so I listened to music and slept most of the way.

In San Fran, I had a 3 hour layover, where I called a few people and copied down phone numbers into my notepad and had a really good hamburger for the last time.  Up until boarding the flight I didn't know my seat number, but I got really lucky (blessed) again and only 1 person was sitting next to me for the row, so we had an extra seat and I got to sit by the window.

Korea itself when we flew in was beautiful but covered in fog.  When we left the airport the sun was going down and I couldn't even see the sun.  The fog was really dark and the road was really high, so as we drove through it almost looked like a video game.  The buildings were tall and rose above the road, but you couldn't see the bottoms of the buildings because of the fog.  Behind the buildings on both sides were green mountains and trees.  It was all very creepy but beautiful. 

When we got close to where the school is and my apartment is, we drove in among the tall buildings so I couldn't see much anymore.  The neon signs were visible.  Some were in English, some in Korean.  Not far from where I live is the "E-Mart" which is pretty much the Korean equivalent of Wal-Mart.  Yesterday I walked there and bought an alarm clock, a hairdryer, and paper towels.  I used my Korean dictionary to navigate, pointing to what I wanted (a hairdryer), and then the lady wrote down in Korean where I should go.  From there I pointed to the paper asking where it was, and after about 10 minutes I made it.  I made a list of prices of everything, which I'll show in a later post.

Today was teacher orientation day 1, and it all went very well.  My classroom has four large windows, and I will be teaching 9th grade English, 10th grade English, 9th grade honors, 10 grade honors, and a research class on how to write a good paper using the internet without plagiarizing.  My closest co-worker is Annie, and she's teaching the upper-level high school English and she's from Seattle, Washington. 

My apartment is very nice except that it smells a little bit.  The landlady said that's because of the rain and when it stops raining so much it won't smell.  (It's too bad South Korea has all this rain, because if they gave just a little bit to Texas things would be better on both sides of the ocean.)  My closet is VERY BIG!!! I realized it's the best closet I've ever had.  Seriously.  Pics to follow...

I have a washer, a small fridge, a bed with a headboard (made of plastic), a desk, a rolling chair, a small pullout table, a stovetop (no oven), a shower with no entrance (which makes a bit of a mess), and a small cabinet in the bathroom, a normal toilet, and a TV and a small shelf.  The main room is about 12 X 12 I'd guess. 

I will say however that I had a bad experience yesterday morning when I took a shower for the first time.  First of all, I have to turn on the water heater before I want to take a shower.  So I did that and then waited 10 minutes for it to heat up.  Well, it didn't heat up until I turned on the shower.  Then I had to wait 5 more minutes.  THEN, while I was taking a shower I burned my skin on the pipes.

The food so far isn't bad.  I have some pre-cooked meat in my fridge and a little bag of rolls that I make little sandwiches with and a 1/2 gallon of milk.  I can only drink bottled water, but a girl told me about a store that delivers bottled water for free.

Signing off...