Sunday, September 24, 2006
Anyway, Engrish will be an ongoing thing, as I find it and photograph it. Here are a couple things that tickled my fancy thus far.
This is the real reason why I haven't had time to email anyone lately.
Nothing satisfies like a long, smooth drag off a timeless time.
Shoeracks at home are never this entertaining.
For Engrish done right- this website always has me laughing.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
We blindfolded him and Amber, Joi, Paige, and I took him to his favorite Galbi house here in Gimpo. It was fun. We ate at a small round wooden table. Really very decent food for what it cost too. Then we surprised Matt with a cake and sang happy birthday, and this was my favorite part of the evening. Because in
Korea when someone whips out a birthday cake and sings everyone's favorite birthday jingle everyone joins in. The Korean families also dining at this establishment were quiet and unassuming until we brought out that cake and then bam! They all come wish Matt a Happy Birthday, get him some drinks, and become really friendly and inviting. Also, in Korea when you whip out a cake you share that cake with everyone. I like this. It solves the left over cake problem and it warms the soul.
Afterward Joi experienced killer stomach pains so Paige was kind enough to run her to the hospital for a shot of whatever it is the Koreans give you. Thank you Paige. Matt, Amber and I went to the "Cass and Rock", a bar, and bought a giant pitcher of Cass beer. Korean beer is weak shit man. Like take Budweiser and add ether. Not water. Ether. Water is too strong. An hour later we were rip roaring... barely buzzed actually. And for those of you paying attention, yes Amber drank beer! Shocking.
So someone else was ALSO having a Birthday at the Cass and Rock. They shared their green tea ice cream cake with us and I ate the whole thing. Matt and Amber refused. I don't know why. I mean its cake! You eat it! It's delicious man! A little weird maybe, but not bad. Although it was topped with whipped cream and a red bean. So then I bought the birthday girl from their party a shot of whiskey and Matt carried it out for me. She drank it and then they in turn gave us this... I don't know... plum liquor and beer mixture??? It was alright. I'd have it again. It would probably go well with another slice of that green tea ice cream cake!
Monday, September 18, 2006
There was this coffee bar on the second level where I asked for an orange juice and the woman blended up a whole damn orange, PEEL and all with some ice and gave it to me. This was nasty on some new levels that I had not discovered previously. It's not fun to drink orange rind, pith and seeds along with your juice. I can handle pulp but this was pretty ridiculous. So even though it was ridiculously hot in the clinic and I was deathly thirsty (and slightly hung over) I could barely drink my 3,000 won juice. Curse you coffee bar woman!
Next Joi was called into this room and we all piled in. I think she was talking to a nurse who determines why each patient came to the clinic. Since this was the gynocologist floor there was this extremely interesting/disgusting poster of a healthy cervix and then different stages of cervical cancer. This is a very compelling visual argument about why regular pap smears are important. After alot of confusion it was determined that Joi's Korean friend is on crack and that Depo provara does not exist in Korea, but they do have this freaky implant thing that they will put in your arm for approximately $350 (Canadian). Joi made the decision to get birth control pills but to still have a pap smear (probably because of that poster). So we went to the next level of waiting.
I was spared being there for the actual exam (unlike Paige) but after hearing what happened I almost wish that I could have been a witness. Apparently everything was extremely modest and Joi didn't even have to get undressed (she had the foresight to wear a skirt) and there was a screen put up so even she couldn't see what was going on. Also she said that she was in a weird chair thing instead of laying on a table. Then (now this is the best part) the doctor told her to look at the screen and apparently there was a TV and a scope and without warning her cervix appeared for everyone's viewing pleasure! What the hell!?! And the icing on the cake? Apparently they took a picture, but not of the inside of her body. WHY? Now that's a new kind of mug shot. Man alive, things are different in Korea!
Sorry folks there are no pictures to go along with this one.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Matt ran the very popular store room which offered cool toys, stickers, pens, pencils, notebooks and jewellry.
There was also a raffle for various bigger toys.
Yummy Land was also a big hit where kids could buy some sort of Korean dish and grapes.
There were also cool games like the bean bag toss, basketball, darts and pin the tail on the tiger (designed and created by our Matt). Downstairs they were also showing DVDs with snacks.
Everyone had a really good time. This is my student, Luck. Sometimes I think that he knows more English than I do. He is definitely on the far right hand side of the bell curve that is my students.
More Market Day photos here!
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Like mother figures feeding young man figures.
Take the custodial/kitchen staff at our school for example. We call her Ajuma, which is the title given to an older (not elderly) married woman. Literally it works out to "Auntie" I think.
Being a lousy cripple I am unable to dish out my own food at lunch time. Ajuma is all too happy to do this for me, and typically my tray will be fully thrice the size of the other teachers and students. I had been eating it all too, and not thinking anything of it. Ajuma is the one wearing a yellow apron dolling out Kim Chi.
I took a picture of one of my trays to post here, you know, so you could see what Korean cafeteria food looks like. When Amber saw the picture her jaw just about fell through the floor. Apparently it is "a lot of food". I thought nothing of it.
This is a pretty typical meal at Little Brown (except for the gigantic portions). Rice. Some kind of soup, which in this case is significantly thicker than it usually is. Most of the time the soup is merely a broth or miso base with a few bits of sea weed or leafy things swimming in it. On this day it was a slightly spicy broth with shredded tofu in it. The top right bowl always has some sort of Kim Chi, which is a vegetable fermented in a red spicy mix and served cold. The top middle has seaweed and a rice/seaweed patty thing going on. So you can have rice or seaweed or rice AND seaweed together at last. The last bowl has a breaded and deep fried meat. In this case pork. I like it. Amber... not so much.
Koreans eat with metal chopsticks, which is what you see on the far left. I could devote a whole blog entry to these difficult little utensils. Sufficed to say metal is more difficult to use than wooden chopsticks. I'm getting better but it is still embarrassingly messy sometimes. Last night for instance when our boss took us out and I dropped several pieces of meat and garlic (I think it was garlic) down the barbecue.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Our apartment building.
The Buddhist temple/university that I can see from my bedroom window. Sometimes I wake up at 5am to hear the monks chanting.
Good old Samsung Mart- great place for 50 cent ice cream.
Rice fields and lake near Little Brown.
These trees are everywhere and they are my favorite! Like huge bonsai trees.
The exercise area for our apartment. Basically all of the equipment is pretty useless and involves a lot of twisting. Only old people seem to use it (at about 6am so that their jabbering wakes me up).
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
(for further pictures from our night, go here)
After our delicious, free Korean BBQ we ventured out to sample the Gimpo nightlife. First stop was Hudson where they make the most fabulous strawberry margarita. If I could fill a pool with this margarita I would be the happiest person in Korea. They also had the most bizarre complimentary snack- deep fried spaghetti. Behold!
It didn't taste good AT ALL, yet we were compelled to eat it. Clearly this is Korean voodoo.
Paige Teacher & Joi Teacher margarita it up
A lesson in why soju, whiskey and beer do not mix.
After Matt (roommate) was suffiently plastered we moved on to NORAE BANG! This is easily the coolest thing I've done in Korea. For the ignorant, norae bang is like karaoke, only way better since you rent a private room for your group. This means no waiting for strangers to warble through nasty Britney Spears tunes. Also, our norae bang gave us a score out of 100 at the end of our song. This seemed to be based on how loud and awful you sang and perhaps how nice your hair looked (basically it was non-sensical and had nothing to do with being talented).
The selection of English songs were interesting and random. For example, they had a lot of Madonna, however, Like a Prayer was not on the song list while 6 of her songs I'd never heard of were. I did rock out to Alanis (You Oughta Know) and Avril (Sk8ter Boi) and a little bit of Green Day (Basket Case). Joi didn't stick around but the 4 of us had a lot of fun.
Paige breaks it down while the rest of us get our rock stars on.
There were a few 100 scores that night.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Those are some very amusing little blog entries Ambear has put out. Aren't they?
But I'm sure everyone is itching for a different perspective of the same experience. A perspective that's a little more masculine. A little more sweaty. A perspective from a disabled person perhaps?
First of all when you are disabled your armpits hurt, because you have to use your crutches for pretty much everything. So do your hands and wrists. And then one of your legs (in my case the right one) gets super pumped from hopping everywhere and the other becomes all small and flabby and weak. So I have one super leg that looks like it was taken from an action figure (Check out my Kung Fu grip!) and my other is like puffy raw chicken fat left out in the sun.
Koreans stare at disabled persons. I get asked quite often, especially by the children, what my crutches are. I tell them that they're my robot legs. Oh and you might think that being pushed around Incheon Airport by an 85 pound Korean lady (who is every bit as cute as Amber says she is. I just wanted squeeze her wittle cutesie wootsie eyeballs out) is fun, but no. It's humiliating. You feel lazy with no other recourse but to sit there and be judged by all those eyes. Those slanted eyes.
Sigh... It's hard.
Now, however much being a 'person with a disability' is difficult, it is nothing compared to the burden of being 'a person of colour'.
The classes are difficult but rewarding. I loves me the children, and teaching them English is a pleasure (even if they aren't so interested themselves). I have a Kindergarten class (K-3) made up of children 6-7 years old and I have four elementary classes of various ages. This technically works out to 30 hours a week, but just like our teachers in
Certainly I am enjoying the work and finding it much more rewarding than 'Personal Care'.
It is also challenging. The rules of grammar and spelling are so convoluted and nonsensical in English that there is almost no point in trying to explain anything. A student is better off rote memorizing the entire language. Watch my ten year olds trying to sound out words like "night" and "actually" is sometimes painful. After the school has spent so much time engraining the subtle difference between l and r it was a nightmare explaining the pronounciation of "Colonel". Hey kids English is weird!
It actually feels a bit imperialistic to me when I hear or see splatters of English in Korea. The infamous Konglish (basterdized English - also known as Engrish) is direct result of our own dysfunctional language structure. Expecting better is like expecting everyone who visits Korea to learn Korean (which is - I think - much easier).
I have a few really gifted kids. Actually, I met a new girl on Friday, her English name is Jenny. Jenny is from Abbotsford, BC. She has been living there for the past three years. I estimate she much be between nine and seven. So, her English is nearly perfect and her Korean is poor. Jenny is very scared. Me too Jenny.
I have a lot of boys too. My boy like to act like dinosaurs and throw foamy numbers at each other during break times. They catch bugs and squish them mercilessly outside. The Korean style of parenting seems to be a "go play in traffic" mentality, where no one care what the kids do as long as they buckle down and get to work when play time is over. I have been fighting my instinct to paddle their asses for throwing shit, fighting, making a mess, and goddamnit just being too noisy for Matthew Teacher's nerves. Supervision is pointless but still required.
Actually the mob of children at dinner that Amber spoke of was mine. It was Ryan's and Candy's birthday - both turning six. Neither one has any attention span what so ever. You will hear more about these two crazies soon, I can tell you that.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Paige Teacher ordered a BBQ for 5 and was there ever a ton of food. Korean BBQ places all have a grill in the middle of the table where you cook your meat. They also have more side dish things than I've ever seen in my life. Some are delicious, some a bit questionable.
Behold the glory of the side dish! Matt and Joi are so awestruck that they must avert their eyes.
Can you taste it?
Paige Teacher and I
As it turned out it was great luck that our students were dining at the same establishment as their parents decided to pay our bill. The only thing more delicious than Korean BBQ is free Korean BBQ. We were unfortunately not able to finish all the food but I did get to try soju (it's a Korean alcohol which is sort of a cross between vodka and kerosene) and I was sufficiently fueled for going out to a bar and rocking out at the norae bang.
L-R: Ben, Max, Steven, Daniel and Brian
(These were taken on Friday which was a "Theme Day" and therefore everyone was wearing opposite/different shoes)
When Ben started school in March, apparently all the students were calling him 'the ugly kid'. Poor Ben. He's a bit spastic but very smart. He's really good at creating full sentences but has trouble singing "Row, row, row your boat" (Ben translation- Lo!Lo!Loleeboat!). You can't see it but those pants he's wearing have a smiley face on the bum. When asked why he is feeling happy he generally replies "Two teacher come". He also does a mean high five.
Steven is our sensitive, tortured artist of the group. He often misses his mommy and will then withdraw and sometimes cry (but not too often because 'only babies cry'). He's excellent at coloring but takes his time so much that often all the other kids are finished way before. He's also a really quiet talker but usually if you prompt him he'll get a bit louder.
Daniel can be a bit stubborn at times. He's definitely a boy's boy though and is interested in dragonflies, caterpillars (and according to this picture) and plastic bags. He's got a really sweet smile and likes playing tag. He also really gets a kick out of hiding under the table and having Amber Teacher say, "Oh no! I've lost Daniel". He's good friends with Ben and they often hold hands and get into trouble together.
Max is my little genius. He really hates playing outside or having to go to gym or music class. He'd much rather sit in the classroom and look at a book. This week we've been studying "The Wheels on the Bus" and Max likes to sit down with the book at noon hour and quietly read it to himself, practicing the English words and the hand gestures that go along to the song. It's pretty adorable. He often will grab me and get me to read through books with him. Kelly Teacher says his parents are doctors and that doesn't surprise me one bit. He's also the most popular student in the class since no one ever fights with him or gets angry with him. Everybody loves Max.
And then there's Brian aka Lion Brian aka Baby Brian aka Cryin' Brian. Brian is the youngest student at Little Brown (4 years old which actually means 3 years old) and therefore gets away with bloody murder. Anything Brian doesn't want to do, Brian doesn't have to do and people are constantly giving him candy. Yes, it's good to be Brian. Also, he doesn't really look it, but he weighs a frickin' ton. It's like he's made of lead or something. Brian also has a slight biting problem and you can often hear Kelly Teacher say, "Brian! Don't bite your friends! Say sorry!". And Mr. Brian immediately looks forlorn and says, "I'm sorry, that's okay" and proceeds to bite someone else an hour later.
Kelly Teacher with our Lion class at the lake near our school. Notice Steven is hiding and everyone else is some sort of ninja. They start training ninjas young here.
Things are now in order again. Huzzar!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
The school that we teach at is called Little Brown. Not Little Brown School or Academy, just plain Little Brown. I'm not really sure why this is, but it does leave you hanging a bit if you ask me. Teaching at Little Brown is a little, shall I say, hectic and disorganized and quite stressful if you're new. It took me two days to figure out how to read the schedule they gave me. I have to write down what books we use for each individual class since there is nowhere to reference this. They show you once and you're expected to remember it. I mean, you can ask your coteacher (which I do all the time) but sometimes they are busy or not available and there is the slight fear that eventually they will get fed up and tell Lewis teacher (in Korean) about the waygook incompetence. I'm not sure any of the Korean teachers would do this since they seem very meek and sweet, but you never know.
So on Monday we started work. There is no such thing as training and this makes perfect sense. I mean, when you are brought up in an English speaking country you automatically are able to teach progressive and non-progressive verbs and know how to explain to a tiny Korean person when they are supposed to use 'the'. This is why having English as your native tongue is so amazing; it grants you super powers. Let me say, Monday was one of the most confusing, stressful and all around awful days of my life. I had this knot in my stomach for a good part of the day and basically felt like the biggest moron to ever cross the ocean. Now that I've made it to Thursday, I know that I will probably catch on okay and will not be fired and deported. Monday Amber, however, had no access to this information and was extremely distressed. I was brave though and did not cry until I was safe at home in my room. I know I can be pretty hard on myself and that patience isn't always my strong suit so I am hoping this experience will help me learn those lessons.
So the way the schedule works is that we show up at 9am and morning classes start at 9:45am. I guess that time is for planning and stuff. In the morning we teach the kindergarten students. Everyone has a co-teacher who they work with and everyone (except me) has 2 kindergarten classes. So one teacher works with one class and the other with the other class and then they switch. I lucked out on the kindergarten front since, not only do I get to teach the youngest and most adorable students (age 5- but actually 4 in real age since Koreans start counting at 1 at birth), I also only have one class so me and my co-teacher, Kelly Teacher, are always together with these 5 students (all boys). This is really excellent for me since Kelly has been there for 2 months and knows what she is doing and has taught me alot of stuff. She's also super cute and always says things that make me giggle. For example, her favorite movie is "The Sound of Music". I mean, how adorable is that? She has the soundtrack and plays it all the time during class when the kids are working and she sings along to the songs. No evil can lie in a heart that loves "The Sound of Music".
My kindergarten classroom. Home of the "Lion" class (all the kinders' classes have animal names).
In the afternoon things we teach the elementary students and things get much more tricky. In total I have 5 elementary classes, all of different students who are at totally different skill levels. Monday and Friday are my days from hell where I teach the kinders and then all 5 of my elementary classes. My first day was no exception which is why I was so stressed out. We finish with the kinders at 1:30pm and the elementary lessons start at 3pm. Each class is 40 minutes long and again there is this co-teacher business. My elementary co-teachers are Kelly Teacher and Paige Teacher. So from 3-3:40pm there is a class, then a 3 minute break, then another class, then a whopping 7 minute break, etc, etc, until 7:23pm arrives and all classes are over for the day. I have 4 classes that come on Mon., Wed., Fri. and the other class comes on Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri.. So Tuesday and Thursday are awesome since I only have one elementary class and am finished work by 4:30pm. The other nights I have either 4 or 5 classes and don't finish until 7:23pm.
On Monday I was totally counting down the seconds until my classes ended because the were such a disaster. I was being handed random books 3 minutes before I entered this class of kids who I've never met before and was expected to teach them whatever course material was in said book. I'm one of those people who learns best by watching someone else and asking questions so this was definitely out of my comfort zone. I feel better now that I've written down a lot of stuff about each class and now that I know how to read my schedule. Mistakes are still happening almost hourly, but no one has died yet. The kids also really like to call me Hamburger Teacher which is actually kind of funny. Nothing really rhymes with Amber, but growing up I got Pamper alot and hamburger is pretty tame in comparison. The kids are easily scared though with threats like, I will not stamp your conduct card (they get points for good behavior, getting 100% on tests and completing homework) or I will send you to the corner (where they have to stand with their arms in the air) so I don't think they will call me Hamburger for very long.
So tomorrow is Friday and my crazy day. I am really looking forward to it being over so that I can relax all weekend and maybe go into Seoul with Joi. I figure the first week will probably be one of the hardest, so if I can survive I will be good to go. Matt is handling the teaching stuff a bit better than I am but he's not as high strung in nature and he has been a TA in Canada so he doesn't really count. I mastered the photocopier yesterday and that does bring me one step closer to conquering the world, so never fear!
Matt (roommate) had the magic key. You'll be relieved to hear that we will not have to wear the same clothes for the rest of the year. That is all.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
our front door (look we're in apartment 201 here too!)
the funky screen that separates the porch with the rest of the apartment
the apartment iguana (which is kind of freaky- notice all the stuff on top so it doesn't escape)
a couple shots of the living room area (the iguana also lives here, but behind the couch)
a picture of the space between the kitchen and the living room
The kitchen (note the massive fridge and stove complete with OVEN!!!) and the one bathroom (Joi has another in her room)
The space age washing machine
I keep expecting it to blast off.
Our bedroom with its own cool balcony. This apartment has 4 rooms about this size and we get to claim 2 of them. You can probably understand why we're staying. Also, it's helpful to have other people who can help us settle in and guide us along.