Monday, March 26, 2007

Tired and Frustrated

So I don't often post many work related gripes but with Lewis being gone and no new teacher in sight things are a bit grim. I am quite exhausted even though I only taught one extra class. However, that did mean that I had no breaks throughout elementary and taught 6 classes straight and my "break time" between kindergarten and elementary was spent frantically prepping for things. This also means that I am teaching 20 elementary class periods a week aka Winter Intensive part 2 and our overtime pay is the shits. On top of that on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I used to get a bit of a break and was off at a half decent time (4:30pm) I now work until 6pm indefinitely. Or as Mr. Rhie cryptically stated "Until I find a replacement teacher- Korean OR Native.". Wow, I am sure someone will be flying into Korea lickety split and even if they did, where are they supposed to live? We may call it the spare room but it is *ours* and I don't think 5 adults could comfortably cohabit here. I suppose Matt and I could be moved into our own apartment, which wouldn't be too bad except I don't want to be shoved into a glove compartment without any dishes, pots, pans or furniture. Especially since Stephie and Alison are coming to visit us in July. I am getting ahead of myself.

Today I think I was most frustrated with Mr. Rhie when he pulled his daughter, Isabel, out of my class because she was crying. Now, I am not a child psychology expert, but I have a psychology degree, 3 younger siblings and lots of experience with children. Isabel has basically been raised in the school and up until now she has had free reign of it. She could come and go as she pleased and the rules were few and far between. Since starting school (I might add, the first few days she was okay) she has taken to screaming and crying her head off any time she is brought within 5 feet of the classroom. Sometimes her mom will sit in the class with her but usually they just let her leave and go back to doing whatever she wants. This has gone on for about 3 weeks now and her behavior is getting progressively worse. I know it isn't a dislike of me since the moment school has ended she is hugging and playing with me and attempting to get my attention in some way. The problem is that she is allowed to leave when she wants to. If you teach her that if she doesn't want to do something she can cry and scream and then you'll come and save her then she will never, ever stay in class. Not just this class, but pretty much any class in this school. The other kids cry sometimes but we comfort them and move on.

Anyway, this morning I decided to take action and while she was sobbing her head off I scooped her up and took her to class. She cried, this is a fact, but then she realized it didn't matter and no one was coming and she stopped. She regained some crying energy and started again and then stopped again. Things were going just as I expected but she was starting to get the picture (and was pouting, I might add). Then she found one last burst of insolent energy and let a good loud scream out- and Mr. Rhie came running and removed her from the class. I tried to talk to him and explain things to him but he is adamant that Isabel isn't ready and is too young and it's too stressful and all this garbage that I do not agree with. The times she has decided to participate in class she has been on the same level as every other student and has done great. The problem is she hasn't learned that she has to stay in class, just like everyone else. No special treatment. So I was pretty upset and a bit insulted at his decision. You hire me to do a job and then don't trust me enough to let me do it? All I want is 3 days, uninterrupted and without interference and that's all it will take. She will get the picture and may try the crying thing a couple more times (just to make sure it still doesn't work) but as long as no one caters to that behavior it will not be a problem. So frustrating!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, must block out angry thoughts. Here's a cute picture of me when I was a bit younger than Isabel. My cute will block out her evil, yes, that's right. Plus everyone can have a chance to see a child that was as good, pure and practically perfect as ever has been created.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Momma's Got New Shoes.

So it's possible you've noticed that at school all the kids change into indoor shoes here (which isn't unlike Canada, however our indoor shoes are usually just regular shoes you only wear inside). You see these shoes on sale all over the place at every other store you pass on the street and they are really cheap. I was delighted when I realized that they make them large enough for me to wear! Actually, I don't even wear the largest size available! So now I have indoor shoes which I debuted at school on Friday. My Korean coworkers laughed and laughed at me and then Paige asked me where I got them and how much they cost because she wants to get some! So there! I am the crazy foreigner but I do the things that they want to but are afraid of looking crazy. Now that I've done it it makes it okay for Paige to do it. They are pretty snazzy and really comfortable and for being $4, plus they come with an extra set of liners! I got the pink ones but there is also blue. I think they will really come in handy during the rainy season when everything is soaked and I will have shoes to change into.

The Pottery Village

We survived it and luckily it turned out to be well executed and a lot of fun! I'd have to say that this was our coolest and most fun field trip to date (I suppose we've only gone on three, but still). I was really relieved that we were the only school/group at the Pottery Village so we didn't have to worry about losing kids as easily or picking up new ones or having our kids bother another group during the trip. I think I was probably more excited than the kids were when I found out in the morning that I was going to be able to create something and paint it too. Hahaha. This was great since Matt and I wanted to go to a Korean pottery place and now we got to do it for free!

This pottery experience was different than any I'd had in Canada (not like I was a pottery guru or something but I had painted some at one of those shops once or twice) because this stuff was actually just formed and still wet, soft and malleable. This meant that on top of painting our stuff we got to carve things into it and shape it if we wanted. Some people did interesting things with the tops of their vases like make it into a heart/flower/star shape but I was boring and kept mine round. Also we only had 4 colors to choose from- a glaze that looked red and turned brown, one that looks purple and turned red, one that looked grey and turned blue and a white one. It was neat and I hope my vase doesn't turn out too hideous. Paige's looks cute as she had a heart motif going on.

Paige and Lily hard at work.

My vase is on the far left, Jake's is beside mine.
Joi and Kelly got to make plates.

After everyone finished with their carving and painting we got to go onto stage two of the field trip and have a go at the pottery wheel. Of course there was a trained professional there doing 99% of the work. It was really cool and the kids loved it!
Once all the kids had a go Mr. Rhie asked if the teachers wanted to try (all the kids had gone out in the massive playground to play while this was going on). I was like, sure, and then they said something about there only being enough clay for 3 of us to try (Paige, Kelly, Elly and I were still inside) and I couldn't figure out what the big deal was. They let me go (since I'm the foreigner) and after I learned that we get to keep the mug that was made! Then I understood the big deal. Luckily Kelly used her extensive feminine wiles and sweet talked them into bringing out more clay so she could have a mug. Joi was fairly annoyed when she learned of our mug making experiences while she was (and I quote), "Freezing her ass off in the cold watching the kids play".

Then we played with the kids on the playground for awhile before going back to the school. It was a really great (although still exhausting) day.

Lily and her older sister Kayla (Panda Class). Aren't they adorable?

Gus from Panda Class is so shy and cute.
Matt gives a push.

More pictures here. There are some good ones so this time I really recommend looking. I even made captions!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Return to Anarchy

Oh the fun things you can do with tiny babies. So many messes to make and so little time! Today our lesson called for paint and paint we delivered. Things were going reasonably well until Andy and Will decided to give each other makeovers.

I think they look a bit tribal, actually.

Overall, a pretty paint-tastic day.

And then the kids got to play while the paint clean up was happening (after they washed their hands, of course!). Now that I've been working with them for a couple weeks I am seeing a lot of personalities pop up. For example, Cathy is a bit bossy and doesn't really like Jake. Jake is a lone wolf and is one of those only children who have always played alone and so far he hasn't began the transition into playing with other kids. Sara is really bright and really likes me a lot (this shouldn't be a surprise considering I just said she's bright! hehehe.). Will and Andy are total buds and nothing but trouble. Will is actually going through a bit of a monkey phase now that he has learned that English word and he does a pretty hilarious monkey impression. Overall you can really see the difference between boys and girls at this age- the girls really do pick up on things quicker. The field trip tomorrow should be interesting. I am sure at least one of them will eat clay. Hopefully Korean clay is non-toxic.

(R) Lily, Kate and Janet in the toy house.
(L) Andy and Will took a brief pause from destruction to pose for this picture.

There are some more here if you haven't seen enough pictures of kids painting and playing.

I bought my first phone charm...

Well I officially bought my first phone charm since the other one I have came as a free gift when I bought some wine. I have some fond memories of Astro Boy from my youth and lo and behold he is apparently still popular! I scored some socks and my awesome phone charm. It makes me giddy to look at my phone. Look what happens when you miss the bus so you are too late to make your free Korean class and then you go shopping instead.

Click on the picture to enlarge it so you can experience a larger portion of awesome.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Times are changing...

So it was just announced that Lewis Teacher will no longer be working at Little Brown and that this week is his last week. This should be very interesting and there will be a lot of changes I'm sure. I just hope they've actually found a replacement and we all don't end up working mandatory overtime to cover his classes. Or worse, work twice as hard for no overtime while they combine his classes into the ones we're already teaching so we have double the kids and work crammed into the same amount of time. Work is never dull.

Oh and we just found out that there is going to be a field trip on Wednesday. Whose brainchild was this?? Half my kids still don't respond to their English names! And none of us know all the new kids, just the ones in our own classes. So if there are other schools at the Pottery Village our kids are probably going to be lost or kidnapped. My word, this shall be interesting. Oh well, maybe I'll get to make a bowl.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Adventures in Korean Veterinary Medicine

Poor Teek has had it rough in his short little life. He's had ear mites, he's had bad haircuts and now he apparently has some kind of fungus that is similar to ringworm (which is miraculous to me since he doesn't go outside- the vet said he got it from licking our shoes). This means that he is on mega medication and Joi has had to do all sorts of crazy things like bleach floors and boil socks (because our washing machine only has a cold water setting). On Thursday I went with her for Teek's latest vet visit and was entertained by some of the products available.

I was relieved to learn that the Potato and Duck treats contain potato and duck and I like the informative sizing info on the giant bone (you'll note that at the bottom it indicates "size big".). If anyone's interested in these treats for their pet, let me know.

Oh and as we were lamenting Teek's diseases this couple came in with their poor dog. I took a picture but it's blurry since I was trying to be covert. So things could always be worse! I wonder what the heck happened to this poor dog. Maybe it's neck is too weak to support the weight of all that fur.

The vet is really nice though and speaks great English. I was a little confused when he asked, "So how's Joi today?" when we walked in but I figured he was just being friendly. As Joi later confided, when she first filled out the forms at the vet she misunderstood where she was supposed to write her name and the dog's name and as a result the vet thinks that Teek is Joi and Joi is Teek. Hahahahaha! And now it's gone on too long for her to correct him. That made my week with the hilarity.

Deja vu

So does anyone remember than when we first arrived we had a different roommate (and when he left Jon arrived as his replacement)? Well Matt Teacher is back in Korea and on Thursday he ventured all the way into Gimpo for dinner and drinks. It was very surreal and exciting at the same time. For the past 6 months he and his girlfriend had been teaching in Taiwan and apparently things were not ideal at their workplace so they cut their contract short and returned to Korea. It was unfortunate that it was a Thursday night so we had to cut our evening short but it was really fun and great to see him again. Everyone really missed him and he really missed Korea. We went for dinner at his favorite galbi restaurant and then ended up at Hudson. The pictures look just like the ones I took when we had just arrived here! It's insane!

At Hudson Paige cranked up the sex appeal and we were rewarded with free nachos!

Then Paige brought out the tiniest credit we'd ever seen and Joi did a series of poses that I'm sure Visa will be interested in for their next ad campaign.

The kicker of the night was when this group of people came in.

Yes, that is a toddler in a bar. You can't see it in this picture but they have his stroller parked on the other side of the table. Only in Korea, I tell you. Moments after I took this picture they sent the little boy over to give me a Chupa Chup. I can't make this stuff up people.

It was a fun night and Matt ended up staying over at the apartment and then coming to school to say hi to the kids. It was really cool and hopefully we get to see a lot of him now that he's back in the country.

Today's Lesson: Complete Annihilation

As previously mentioned, March 14th was White Day in Korea. As a result I received a respectable amount of delicious candy and chocolate from my students.

I ended up with two fancy boxes of chocolates, a whole tin of candies and a variety of other odds and ends. I love free snacks (although on Friday a kid gave me an obscene amount of peanut butter squid balls and while I appreciated the gesture, I would have been satisfied with one or two of them.). Oh and you can see my awesome flower pen in the background of the first picture. I love it so much even though it ran out of ink about 3 months. I can't bear to throw it away. Someone, please find me another one. Or a case of them.

So the candy/chocolate part of White Day was quite excellent. However, the major highlight of the day happened during kindergarten. You see, the lesson plans for all classes are already made for us. I am not entirely sure where they got them from or who made them, but generally they are okay. Occasionally they are puzzling, bizarre and slightly ridiculous. And right now with the tiny babies not knowing any English, a lot of the games and activities are a bit over their heads so we often have to improvise. Anyway, I've seen some strange activities in these plans but usually I can justify them. On Wednesday I was at a loss though. The plan for an entire 40 minute block of time? Give the children newspaper and let them tear it up and provide balloons for them to pop. WHAT?!? Please, someone tell me where the learning comes in? I guess we hadn't had a chance yet to teach them useful English words such as destruction, anarchy, chaos and annihilation but I was hoping we could save that for our lesson on the apocalypse.

Paige couldn't explain it either but we are good, faithful employees that strive to follow the lesson plans we are provided with. So we found some newspaper and blew up numerous balloons (I chose white ones in honor of White Day). Then we gathered all 11 of the children together and proceeded to hand out newspaper and demonstrate how to rip it up. You don't believe me? Pictures never lie!

After looking at us suspiciously and shyly tearing a few strips of paper they quickly got into it and destroyed the entire classroom.

It was a fun activity for the kids but I still can't figure out what educational purpose it was supposed to serve. And Jon just informed me that next week there is a lesson activity that says "Do anything with balloons". Here we go again.

Oh and a really funny (atleast to me) White Day story from one of my elementary classes. Now, these kids are my dream class- their English is quite good, they are all really curious and sweet and very well behaved. They always do their homework (ALWAYS) and 98% of the time they all get 100% on their (daily) spelling tests. So last Friday when we finished our lesson a bit early I taught them how to play Uno. Well these kids had never seen or heard of it before and they loved it. They are literally obsessed with this game now. So I told them if everyone got excellent all week on their spelling tests on Friday after we were finished the book questions we would play again. They have brought up that game a million times each class ever since. Then on White Day Julie pipes up with this gem, "Amber Teacher, last night, I (pause while she thought of the right words) talked to Jesus and and and ask please today a game!". I just about died (I did however teach her the verb to pray and corrected her sentence structure.). And then Linda pipes up, "Me too.". Their obsession is bordering unhealthy! Oh to be a kid again when the heaviest thing I need to pray about is playing Uno. So I chuckled a lot and then after everyone got 100% on the test and we finished the lesson I broke down and let them play again (which turned out to be good since on Friday 2 people got one word wrong and therefore I had to be a hard ass and we played nothing). I was pretty outdone though. (They also told me on Friday they would be praying over the weekend to play again on Monday. Look at me, inspiring and nurturing my students' spirituality.)

On a completely unrelated note, if you ever wondered which celebrities I am secretly related to now all of your suspicions can be officially confirmed! I have heard that this is 100% accurate. When I put in a different picture of me and one of my 7 year old students they matched him to Pharrell Williams. Impeccable! Uncanny! It has to be true!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Correction

Matt informed me that the roses are not a strange red color but are in fact orange. Also that he got a lot of flack for buying his "wife" orange roses (and only 6 of them at that) from the florist, the florist's wife, the taxi driver and all of the students who saw the roses before he gave them to me. So Matt was trying to be all clever and sweet and get me flowers in my favorite color (even if the roses really do look red) and he got a lot of grief for his efforts. So thank you Matty, thank you very much.

Oh and please stay tuned for my next blog where I talk about the insanity that was today. I don't know if it was White Day or what but some pretty crazy and hilarious things happened.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Mount Everest of Meat

So I don't have much of anything important to update about. This week has been mostly uneventful (although our old roommate Matt is apparently back in Korea and we're having dinner with him Thursday) and I guess it's almost half over, so that's great.

Sunday we went to the new Home Plus (which is soooo close to our house, it was lovely) for groceries and we passed by this majestic meat mountain. We were all in awe and I had to take a picture.

It's much bigger than this picture makes it appear.

Also, tomorrow is White Day which is like Valentine's Day part II. As I've mentioned, on Valentine's Day the girls give to the boys and then a month later it's the boys turn on White Day. (Apparently next month there is a Black Day for singles. Hahaha!) So Home Plus was filled with many delicious gift ideas.
Who wouldn't want some Sexy Beauty or Nude Candy? And yes, these were on the top shelf and I am short so that's why the pictures are at such weird angles.

Matt decided (well, I told him I was expecting something for White Day- I mean, we're in Korea, it's important to respect and participate in their traditions, right??) to go the safe route though. He was a day early but I did get bragging rights since he gave them to me at work so all my coworkers saw them.
In case you can't tell, there are six red roses.

In other news, I ran out of Canadian toothpaste so I had to suck it up and take a chance on a Korean brand. Please do not taste like kimchi or contain something toxic.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


It may be a small victory but this week we transferred money to Canada and with that money I was able to completely pay off the smallest of my three student loans!! I also paid a chunk off another one and so while I still owe a ridiculous amount of money, I do feel like I am making some progress. And when I went to the nose doctor on Tuesday he gave me a clean bill of health (but more pills just in case- which I finished yesterday) and told me I didn't need to return for any more vacuuming sessions. Hurray! This means I can even have a drink tonight to celebrate!

Now if only this t-shirt was available for me to order, my life would be complete. I think it might be the funniest shirt I've ever seen.

Friday, March 09, 2007

It's Friday!

Wow, this week has been so long and tiring and I'm really glad to see the end of it. The only other week that came close to this kind of madness was the first week we were here (although that week was worse since we were adjusting to everything and not just new students). Things are beginning to settle and it seems like it will be all right. My kindergarten students are going to be a lot of work but luckily my elementary classes are quite simple to teach and the students are well behaved so I suppose it balances out.

Today I managed to get a photo of the illusive Andy. He's the smallest kid in the class (everyone except Lily is about a head taller than him) and is so small that he actually has difficulty with stairs. What he lacks in stature he definitely makes up for in attitude. In this picture he looks rather pensive and is probably thinking of ways to wreck havoc.

You can see a few more pictures here. The kids are eating Korean rice cake which is much different than rice cakes in Canada. These are chewy and sticky and sweet. They are called Deok and aren't too bad (although I don't think I could have eaten as large of a quantity as the kids did today). Anyway, we survived the week and this is the important thing.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Safety First

So if you're really observant you may have noticed that they re wallpapered our classrooms. So instead of grungy ghetto ripped creamy white we have adorable clouds which you can see in this picture of Isabel.
Doesn't she look a little bit evil here? Trust me, she is a little bit evil.

Now you're probably thinking, wow that's great. They noticed that the school needed a bit of renovations and decided to address this and spruce things up. What actually happened was that the school had a fire inspection and from what I have gathered, they did not pass all areas with flying colors. Therefore, we had to change the wallpaper and we're not allowed to put felt on the wall (well, atleast not until after the end of the month when they come back to check things out again) and each classroom is now equipped with new fire gizmos. Oh, and they made a fire escape on the second floor. I was relieved to see that it was labeled accurately.

I'd like to add that when you open this door you are presented with a small metal platform that leads to nowhere. Well, I guess that's not entirely true but it's a long way down and below it there are concrete stairs leading to the basement level of the building. I haven't heard any talk about ladders or ropes so maybe that's all we're going to get. But hey, I suppose if I had to choose between burning to death or breaking my neck I would probably use the Descending Life Line. Really, the fall doesn't look so bad.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Introducing the new Lion and Lamb classes!

So things are still quite hectic at work and everyone is trying to adjust but I am pleased to say that nothing has come close to how awful and stressful Friday was. Hallelujah! Anyway, I thought that I would introduce and identify the new batch of kiddies that are sure to be continually featured here.

New Lion Class
Between the two classes, this one is definitely going to be the "bad" class (as in behavior, not necessarily in English skills). Obviously I don't know any of the kids very well yet but my impression is that a few will be a bit of a handful (particularly Kate, Jake and Isabel).

Alexa, Isabel, Jake
(Isabel is my director's youngest child and Jake is Elly Teacher's nephew)

(l) Kate- the wildchild of Lion Class who also happens to be Brian's (old Lion Class) friend.
(r)Sara with Cathy in the background.

New Lamb Class
So far I'm a bit partial to Lamb Class- possibly because the two smallest kids (Lily and Andy) are in it and possibly because they are capable of paying attention for longer than 1/1000th of a millisecond. Unfortunately Andy has been sick this week so I don't have a picture of him yet.
This is Will and don't be fooled by this monster face he's making because he is actually the sweetest, most "kiss-y" little boy you'll ever meet.

Here is Grace (I would like to note that while I am greatly amused that I have two students named "Will and Grace" in one class, I am not able to take credit for this humorous coincidence. Both of them were named by Elly and Kelly Teacher and I doubt they have ever seen the TV show.). Grace is also really sweet and the only student that has really been plagued by homesickness. She cries her heart out for about a half hour every morning.

On the left we have Janet and she is really smiley and clever. The other girl is my Lily who's a button. She is so small and adorable! I'm truly smitten.

If you want to see a couple more pictures you can go here. I will be adding more in the future, I'm sure.

An interesting observation that I made was that these kids sure know how to wash their hands. This was one thing we struggled with for the old Lion Class since they were always in such a mad rush. If you weren't watching them they wouldn't wash after going to the bathroom (eww!) and they barely washed before eating. These kids I can't seem to get out of the bathroom though. A couple are a little bit OCD. I'm sure it's just that water and soap are super fun to play with.

It's too bad I don't have a picture of Andy because he's the smallest kid and really cute. He looks a lot like his big brother Kevin though, who Matt used to teach and I now teach (in an elementary class since he graduated). Andy looks just like him only he's half his size.