Saturday, December 30, 2006

We're Back!

And we're both pretty exhausted since our flight was through the night. But once we take a nap and I upload all the pictures we took then there should be some good blogging happening. We had a really great time and are a bit tan (and slightly sunburnt) and we're looking forward to enjoying the last few days of our vacation before returning to work.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Brief Announcement

We leave for Saipan today and the temperature there is around 30 Celcius. You should all be very, very jealous. We'll be back on the 30th and we have no idea what we're doing for New Years.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Greetings!

Please excuse the low quality of the video and how exhausted tired I look. And Matt's shakey camera work. We miss you and love you all!

Sunday, December 24, 2006


This is a terrible picture of a cool piece of candy. In case you can't read what it says, introducing Lotte's Atlas chocolate, complete with Almond Power! Delicious!

A Christmas party like no other...

As I write this I am still blurry eyed and exhausted from pre-Winter Vacation madness. It's taken me a day and a half to recover enough to try and document the hilarity and insanity that occurred on Friday. I was in high spirits even though I've been a little sick (I am constantly sick here and so is Matt- it must be Korean super germs or maybe the lack of real cold weather) and I had to get up early to primp and groom (which resulted in no breakfast. Dammit.). Shortly after getting to work the hysteria began when we had to help all the kids get changed into their costumes for their Musical English plays (half of the kids were putting on Peter Pan and the rest were performing Beauty and the Beast). These costumes just blew me away. As I told Jon Teacher, I haven't seen that much spandex and sequins since I was in figure skating. I also have no idea what kind of drugs the person who created these plays were on since I've never heard of anything even remotely similar to the versions of these fairytales that the children performed. They were all pretty adorable though and it was really funny.

Of course, immediately my little Steven started looking terrified and forlorn. Even though he'd been cast as one of the 2 Spidermen (and he loves Spiderman) he was unwilling to change into costume. He cried for awhile and things were looking grim but then Kelly Teacher saved the day, cheered him up and convinced him to put on the costume. We practiced our Christmas songs a few times (I took a video of one song but it's on Jon's camera so I'll have to post it up later) and then it was time for the plays to start.

I only watched Peter Pan since that's the one my Lions were in and during the other one we were upstairs. It was really bizarre and strange and hilarious. Maybe even a little inappropriate at times (like when Captain Hook- played by a female, ran her hook up and down Wendy and said, "Wendy I love you, will you marry me?"). Also, I had forgotten how much I loved the part when the 2 Spidermen capture Wendy on her birthday and then a clip from the Rocky theme is played mixed in with some 90s techno music while she is being saved. The parents seemed to be entertained although I couldn't follow the plot at all and was entertained for that reason.

After the plays the kids sang their Christmas carols (so cute and my kids did pretty well and weren't too afraid of the big crowd of parents with their massive cameras) and then Santa Claus came and handed out presents. I think Matt did a pretty excellent job being Santa but the true highlight was when it was time for my Lion Brian to get his present. You see, the parents had supplied the gift for their kids so we had presents of all different sizes, etc. The kids before Brian had gotten HUGE boxes and then Brian's present was much smaller in size. Well I just about peed my pants as Brian continally shook his little head, stretched out his tiny arms and cried, "No! A big one!". He kept this up for a couple minutes before accepting his gift. Later he was given a second present to appease him (the school had brought extras in case a parent had forgotten). It was pretty priceless though and just perfect.

Then we had a big potluck lunch and got to mingle with the parents and kids. I ate a lot of bacon and sausage because apparently one of the mothers had bought it especially for the foreign teachers. It's really interesting what kind of assumptions and misconceptions people have of eachother. There were a few parents who were impressed we could use chopsticks. I mean, how shameful would that be if I lived here for close to 4 months and couldn't use chopsticks. Lunch was really delicious and after we ate I was surprised by Daniel's Mommy with a 50,000 Won giftcard (Kelly got one too) that I can use at a variety of places. And since Michelle Teacher is leaving, she and Matt were saddled into a big Bear and Dolphin mommy get together which turned into a bit of an interview for Matt. At the end of it they handed Michelle an envelope full of money for the 4 of us (Michelle, Lewis, Matt and I) to go out to dinner with. Michelle and Matt just split the money though since they are really busy planning their wedding and it would be tough to match our schedules. This means that we have an extra 75,000 Won. Woohoo! We were both pretty shocked and a little horrified but I guess it's a pretty common occurance here (although less now since it's illegal for parents to give these kinds of gifts to public school teachers- we're a private hogwan though).

Finally the kindergarten portion of the day was over and we rested up, tidied up and prepared for the elementary classes. We were holding a Golden Bell quiz with prizes. Lewis said that he was a bit disappointed since the kids weren't really excited about it like when they did one 2 years ago but I think they are too tired and overworked right now to want to study extra material for a "fun" quiz. Two years ago they weren't doing Winter Intensive classes either.... Hmmm.... Anyway, one of my students (who I thought would win) won the Golden Bell for the younger classes and one of Matt's students (who he'd predicted would win) won the Golden Bell for the older classes. I was a quizmaster for the younger kids although it would have been fun to have been with the classes that weren't doing the Golden Bell (my elementary phonics class, for example) because they were coloring pictures and just being cute. They all hugged me and one of my phonics kids gave me a Christmas card that said "To Ember Teacher". I suppose this means we need to work a bit harder on the distinction between the A and E sounds or perhaps I need to stop slurring my name. It was really cute though.

After the Golden Bell we cleaned up and Lewis gave us some final Saipan trip information. We got to take a lot of food home that was leftover from lunch and we stopped to buy some crappy Korean beer to celebrate. It's good to be on vacation!

Here are kinder-Christmas pictures. All of them are found here though.
This is the Christmas card Max made for his parents. I really liked how his snowman had 8 legs and how on the back he drew his family and included his pet ants in a heart.

Kelly and I with our Lions. Ben and Max were mice, Daniel and Steven were both Spiderman and Brian was Buddy the dog.

I don't think they could have found a better costume for our crazy little Charlie. He's apparently one half of the Magic Gate but he looks a bit like the Little Mermaid to me.

Matt's classes; Daniel and I.

Jon entertained the masses while we waited for showtime. Paige with Andy (he's a rainbow) and Frances (Captain Hook).

For the finale all the classes sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" together.

Santa and his list.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Supporting things that are little and brown since 2006!

So this actually has nothing to do with Korea or teaching English or even with us. I found this site not too long ago and thought it was really excellent, interesting and generally cool. Plus her project shares 2/3 of our blog name. Therefore I proudly present and support The Little Brown Dress.

It's only logical...

With the recent arrival of all of this snow (which I am hoping stays until we leave for Saipan and then miraculously is gone when we return) my sneakers are just not going to suffice for keeping my feet warm and dry. If I could go back in time I would have packed differently and brought my trusty boots but alas, I did not. This meant I had to go shopping today (awww darn!). Look what I found for 25,000 won! Aren't they cute? Beside the boots is the newest addition to my ever growing toque collection. Adorable and functional. I know you're all jealous.

Winter Wonderland

As promised, here are some pictures of the snow that covered Gimpo this weekend. It's the kind of snow that's really heavy and wet and good for making snowmen and snowballs. It looks pretty and it makes me happy since it isn't really Christmas without the snow. More pictures here.

This is a glance at a portion of our route to work/home every day. Should be great fun if the snow turns to ice through the night.

(left)These kids were having a blast sliding down on a piece of cardboard.
(right)This is Samsung Kindergarten and they've just installed that awesome curvy slide. I wish we had one that went from our apartment to work.

Christmas Cheer...

Yesterday we ventured into Seoul once again (to Insadong and Dongdaemun, respectively) and saw many interesting things. For example, when's the last time you saw Santa Claus and Christmas Hello Kitty together? If you're wondering why I have such a poor quality photo of this unlikely event it's because you had to pay to get your picture taken with them so I had to be covert since I was taking my own photo for free. Apparently there were some free gifts involved if you paid and you also received your own instant Polaroid of this happy moment. We weren't convinced that it was worth 5,000 Won, especially once Paige found out that the whole affair was sponsered by the Shinhan Bank (our bank) and that the money was not going to a charity or some noble type of community program. Nope, they are apparently trying to raise money to hire new staff. Pssh! Although I guess their honesty is commendable.

Good-bye Kitty! Hrmph!

Next we saw this guy who was giving free hugs. Both Joi and I indulged while Paige smiled and walked a bit faster. There was a camera guy recording everything so maybe I'm on the Korean news or some kind of documentry or something.

Then we were passed by a reenactment of a traditional Korean wedding. Apparently they do it once a year in Insadong. It was pretty cool.

Afterwards Matt and I went to the Dongdarmun area to watch a movie (we saw The Holiday- which is called Romantic Holiday here). It was interesting because at this theatre we got to look at the seating plan before buying the ticket and select our specific seats. The theatre was pretty full and even though we ended up in the second row they had the screen set up so it didn't make us nauseous. I liked the movie and it was more than a step up from Step Up.

In other news, it's totally (finally) snowing and I plan to go out and take some pictures today. It's also perfect snow for making snowballs, etc.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Quick Shout-out

When we were in the subway I saw this magazine at a little kiosk and had to take a picture.

Oh Cindy, your perkiness is finally internationally recognized, now all you need is that excellent fuzzy hat.

Tis the Season

It's been an exciting mail week here in Gimpo. We received a huge, awesome parcel from my Mom on Monday and today we got gifts from Donna and Cindy. Thanks everyone! I think we have a fake tree somewhere but I'm not sure if it's in a presentable condition or if I could even be bothered to really decorate so I'm thinking maybe I will put all the wrapped ones under the giant cactus in our spare room. A Christmas cactus is way more fun than some old plastic monstrosity. Anyway, Matt and I went back to Dongdaemun this past weekend and things were decorated in full force. I bought a really adorable toque/scarf (maybe you'd call it a torf??) and Matt found some pants that fit (apparently in Korea he is a XXL- note, in Canada he is a M). I took a few pictures at Dongdaemun:

This is a blatant lie. Every Korean I know is constantly complaining about how bitterly cold it is (however it is still not cold enough for it to actually snow and definitely not cold enough for any snow to stick around).

Almost every department store had some kind of outdoor display or showcase going on. This one had some pretty fly Korean hip hop dancer chicks. It was a bit 'In Living Color'. Good times.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sure beats the Thighmaster...

So today one of my classes had a test and I was responsible for administrating the oral portion of it. One section required them to complete some sentences. Today was a bit of a crappy day for me (sheer chaos, fatigue and just general misfortune) so this student basically redeemed everything for me.

(Question) Johnny was healthy because... (Student's Answer) he is a running machine.

And yes, I accepted that as a correct response.

My diabolical genius

My co-teacher Michelle had to take a day off work with her fiance Lewis (the manager of our school, doncha know) to plan their wedding. This meant someone had to pick up the slack and I volunteered. I taught both my Bears and Dolphins together as one super class. They were "Bolphins".

As you can imagine, this is more or less suicide. One teacher does not stand a chance against fifteen wild, hyper emotional, pushing, screaming, running, bug squishing, scribbling, snivelling, little brown monsters! Not an ordinary teacher anyways.

Fortunately, I was allowed to manipulate the curriculum for this one day. We played gym, had story time, sang Christmas caroles, and colored. All very managable group type activities. I even printed out extra worksheets just in case some kids finished early. This was my saving grace since some of my kids are much quicker than others. When they finish coloring or doing a particularily easy worksheet they tend to rip the class apart with their tiny fingers. In this case the assignment a Christmas themed maze that took all of five seconds for them to complete. You know the kind. You find them on the backs of cereal boxes. So I printed out another maze for them to do.

As you can see my children were quite occupied.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006



Today we officially started "WINTER INTENSIVE" classes which is like normal school but MORE INTENSE. Basically all of our 7-11 year old elementary kids have to come to school for an extra 80 minutes a week. Ergo we prepare for an extra 80 minutes. This means more homework for them and more marking for us. We get paid for the extra time teaching but not for the prep and marking. Our kids don't get paid at all, unless you consider watching your childhood pass by slowly a form of payment. Intense payment.

Our elementary kids are a diverse bunch, each with his or her own after school activities. Some of my kids only go to two hogwans in addition to public school. Maybe Little Brown and some sport or music lesson. Others, like my poor ECIII class girls, have about five extra hogwans in addition to their elementary schooling. They go home at 7:30 pm and are a bitch to teach because their brains melted some five hours ago. This is the price of a solid, rock hard, INTENSE education.

In the interest of improving our school I have come up with the following ways to make WINTER INTENSIVE even more... you know... INTENSE!!!!

1) Have class outside in our underwear. The gentle cool breeze with keep students alert and give new meaning to the words WINTER INTENSIVE.

2) Instead of sharpening pencils students will sharpen their fingers.

3) Lewis should observe every class, with a microscope.

4) Give everyone a gun and see what happens.

5) One word: electrodes

6) Lessons are taught in English, backwards.

7) Friday is "bring an anthropological sociologist to school" day. Students who have a bad attitude and choose not to participate will fail life.

8) Memorize the dictionary.

9) Memorize the medical dictionary.

10) No one leaves until the water cooler is full... with tears.

Twinkle, twinkle...

I am finally getting the recognition (or 'props' if you may) that I deserve. One of Matt's students (Kevin) presented me with this sweet ass bit of bling today:
Oh yeah!

I wore it all day long and received muchos attention and compliments from teachers and students alike and now it's residing on the wall over my desk. Kevin is a pretty talented little sucker, isn't he?

He also made one for Matt (but it's green, not red) and one for Michelle (red) and I think he might make some for a couple other teachers since they placed some requests. However, let it be known that I was the first teacher who doesn't teach Kevin to get a super wicked awesome cool star necklace pendant. True 'dat.

Crazy Hair Day

So last Friday we had another theme day with the kindergarten students and this time it was Crazy Hair Day. Most of the kids made some kind of effort, however, generally the results were a bit shy of 'crazy'. They were still really cute and quite entertained by the concept of crazy hair. All the teachers participated- Matt rocked a mohawk while I went for the classic, yet subtle, triple-bun with silly barrettes look. Here are some pictures of Lion class and some of the kids from Dolphin class (one of Matt's classes).

Every day is Crazy Hair Day for Charlie considering he is crazy.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Crazy Candy

Last Friday we had our monthly theme day. This month it was "Crazy Hair Day". I had my hair dipped in ultra strong super adhesive gel to form a wicked cool mohawk and Amber had three funky hair buns going on. This was nothing compared to some of our adorable, very crazy children who had horns, messy hair, spikes, and ponytails galore. One girl had a giant spike like thing coming out the top of her head. Truly awesome.
Nobody beats out my Dolphin girl 'Candy' for crazy though. Yep, Candy is her chosen English name, and here she is...

Let me give you some background on my little three foot funny bunny. Candy alway wears interesting clothes and she loves to be praised. Everything she colors is rainbow. I have a scarecrow hanging in my office that she colored in October and he's wearing some pretty funky rainbow pants. Joi is afraid of her. She loves to prance (jump/dance randomly) and play with a grain of rice for hours in the palm of her hand. She eats off the floor. She is obsessed with bunnies and chicks.
She is also very cute and one of my favorites. For my vote Candy is the clear winner for Crazy Hair Day (she also had the best complimentary crazy outfit to go with her hair). You go Candy!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Category: Extreme Animal Abuse

Joi took Teek to get groomed today and look at what they did to him!!! Good Lord! Someone needs to be arrested.

He's reaching out for help that doesn't exist. Poor fellow.

He looks like a plucked chicken/rat/chihauhau/giraffe. Yes, Teek is a freak.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In Canada this would be highly inappropriate...

So since Matt didn't mention this golden nugget of a story I feel it is my obligation to relay it. As you're all aware it was Matt's birthday on Nov. 30th, but did you know that he received a really special gift from one of his students? The next morning, Lucy, one of his 7 year old kindergarten students, brought a lovely gift bag and a handmade birthday card for her beloved Matthew Teacher. What was inside the bag? Well, a bottle of Medoc red wine and a corkscrew, of course. Her Daddy had supplied her with this and happily sent his little girl off to school. Where else do children come bearing liquor and pointy objects as gifts? Where else are the children responsible enough to be trusted to deliver such items? Only in Korea, I say.

(Don't get me wrong, we really liked and appreciated the wine- the point is that this is weird.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Birthday to Remember

Well you all know how much I love movies. So on Thursday Amber and I went out for some galbi at this restaurant the other Matt swore by. After our bellies were filled we did some wandering around and then came across the local cineplex. We scanned the movies that were playing and decided to see this fantastical cinematic wonder...

Pan's Labyrinth. We didn't know what it's like or if it is any good since all the previews for it have been in Korean but the previews made it look pretty cool and creative. It is probably just another cute little family movie along the lines of the original Labyrinth (with less David Bowie) or Mirror Mask - which would be fine...
As it turned out, however, this is not an American movie or even a British movie, this is a Mexican movie. This is something Amber and I discovered only after we had purchased our tickets and taken our seats in the theatre. (In my defense, I tried looking the movie up online earlier and I swear it said it was in English. Also a Korean lady outside of the theatre who spoke English told us it was in English.) So I went out and in my broken outlandishly poor Hanguk I explained to the usher that the movie was not in English but in Spanish. He was surprised (I guess he didn't know either) but he understood. I could not get our money back but we were able to see another movie. Amber will say that I tricked her into seeing this, but truthfully it was fate. And so it was by some happy fortune that we saw this little treasure...

Step Up! I highly recommend that all of you rush out to see this dance and drama masterpiece at once! Let me wet your appetite. Imagine two worlds colliding - one soul is from a distinguished arts school and the other is from the wrong side of the tracks. The stars cross their paths and they fall in love through their dance. As the trailer says this is the "feel good movie of the year". Some of you might be skeptical and some may be determined not to love it, but give it a chance and it will win you over, just like the female lead wins over her widowed mother who believes dancing is a silly pasttime. It will convince you in the same way the male lead convinces the art school director that he is not a good for nothing punk. Yes. See STEP UP. See it for the marvellous dance routines, the fresh new acting talent, and the heart pounding romance. See it for the camel toe!

As an interesting side note, I had to go to the bathroom during the movie. I couldn't find it and the usher could clearly see that I was confused. He asked what I was looking for and I could not for the life of me remember how to say 'where is the bathroom?' (I know now: it is "Hwa chung shill awdi issawyo?"***). The only thing I could remember is what Paige said to me, which was "Ddong mario". Roughly translated "I have to take a shit".

The usher found this very amusing, as has every Korean person I've shared this anecdote with. Basically the usher laughed his ass off and then ran over to the popcorn girl who proceeded to laugh her ass off. I was just glad I could brighten someone's day as much as "Step Up" had brightened mine.

***Note: this is a very poorly written phonetic representation of this phrase.

Bathtime Fun

Look how pathetic (I mean, adorable) little Teek looks! He's 2 lbs of total man-dog with his bow that Aunt Paige bought him. It's the most manly bow I've ever seen. And yes, we had to blow dry his cute little butt.

Puppy, puppy, puppy!