Friday, October 5, 2012

We come, we bow, we eat, we leave

This is the story of how I spent chuseok. My host family and I traveled north to paju, about 40 minutes outside of Seoul. We stayed at my host dad's parents house. We arrived late on Friday night and spent some time with his parents talking and watching tv. Around 1, I think I was yawning enough that they finally asked if I would like to go to bed. I kindly accepted haha. Saturday was spent cooking food and hanging out with the family. I was able to help make 전 and 성변. 전, chon, it fried fish? I think? I'm not exactly sure but I got to help make it. 성변, is a traditional rice cake that Koreans eat during chuseok. Chuseok is like Americans version of thanksgiving. There is a lot of food and you spend time with family. The major difference is that Koreans also honor their dead ancestors on this day. They set up a table of food and bow to their deceased ancestors.
After helping cook food, my host dad, host sisters and I went to Ilsan lake park. There is a big path around a lake, with playgrounds basketball courts and places to eat and relax. The park was so beautiful! We rented bikes and biked around the lake. It was probably one of the most enjoyable days I have had in Korea so far.
Sunday was chuseok. We got up early and went to a family members house. All the children were sent to a separate room and I joined them. I hung out in there for a while. Then my host dads cousin arrived, she came and sat with me. Her English was very good and we were able to talk for a while. We ate breakfast, then almost immediately after finishing we left. We went to another relatives house and did the same thing, and then another relatives house. So there was lots of eating and bowing.
After visiting several relatives houses we went to my host dads grandparents graves. Graves in Korea are different than those in the United States. I am not sure whether the deceased are buried in caskets or not, but their bodies are buried above ground instead of below. Many times the graves are on a hillside and there is a dug out section for the grave with a mound in the middle, where the body is buried. Graves are also not necessarily in a grave yard. The graves we visited seemed like they were randomly placed in people's backyards.
We finally made our way home and were able to rest for a few hours before traveling home to Cheongju.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

English Class Hard Workers

My first three weeks teaching have been an amazing adventure. Every day I learn something new about how teaching is different here than in America and my student always make me laugh. Friday my student came in and the first thing he said was, "I love you" with his arms in a heart over his head.

I have finally finished with my introduction lesson and I am getting into the curriculum with the students. The textbooks are really boring so I am trying to find ways to make it more interesting. Like making my own videos... Yes they are embarrassing but I think that's why my students enjoyed it. This week I will try and show an animated video I made for free online. It didn't take that long and I think the extra effort will pay off in class. I have also been taking video of my students during my lessons so here are my 4 th graders hard at work! They all got English tickets for doing this, I am not above bribing my students ;)

My 6th graders video will be coming later.

All of my advanced lesson plans for the year are due Friday so that takes precedence. I have 3rd and 4th done, most of 5th and now I have to do 6th grade lesson plans. It's coming along :)

I have also been trying to get involved in things outside of teaching. So last Wednesday I played volleyball with the teachers after school. It was really fun but I am not sure how often they play because we didn't play this week. So I will also be joining a gym soon... Blah. I don't really like gyms, but it is preferable to people staring at me if I run on the street. Koreans don't rally do that and I am obviously American so there isn't any way to blend in. I have been going to a church with an English service and bible study for the past two weeks. It isn't like church at home but I think that bible study is really going to help me grow spiritually during my grant year.

Friday night my host family and i went to jincheon to see my host sister preform in a traditional Korean music concert. It was really cool but I left my phone at home so no pictures :(

Today I went to the cheongju national museum with my host parents and then went to my co teacher's son's first birthday party. First birthdays are really big in Korea. The parents and child wore traditional Korean clothes which were really beautiful. I told my other co teacher that I would love too buy a dress but when she told me it was the equivalent of $200, I changes my mind haha.

Anyway, things have been going really well here in Korea! That's all for now :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Typhoons, fire and a missing chapstick lid...

Participation Jar
My first week teaching has been adventurous to say the least!!! Monday was my first day in school. I was asked to get in front of the camera during announcements and introduce myself to the school (in English, thank goodness) I forgot my co teacher mentioned I would be doing that last Friday. She also said I would be introduced at the teachers meeting. I volunteered to give my speech in Korean, that I had written for my Korean class. Don't ask... I don't know what I was thinking. Anyway the teachers meeting ended up getting moved to next week so I have extra time to practice. Monday I basically sat around my classroom all day and prepared for teaching the next. I made participation jars, star charts, printed worksheets and class lists. I knew I was ready to teach the next day and then boom! a typhoon hits Korea. We definitely got off easy in Cheongju but school was closed anyway so I hung around the house, skyped and played with my host sisters.Although I thought all the windows were going to fly off at any second ( we live on the 20th floor and the wind was intense) there was hardly any rain so everything was fine.
My teaching schedule

I came in on Wednesday anxious to meet my students and start teaching. I taught 4 6th grade classes my introduction lesson. So we talked about rules, routines, I introduced myself and they did a worksheet about themselves and created name tags. Everything was going very well. I was supposed to meet Dan after school (an eta at the high school across the street from me) at 5 so after my lessons were over I stayed at school to lesson plan and prepare for the year. I am sitting at my desk watching this silly chant and dance video that goes with the fourth grade textbook when all the sudden the power goes out. I got up and walked in Caelyn's (my official Fulbright co teacher) classroom and she said she would find out what was going on. I walked out into the hallway and saw a lot of teachers running around outside and pointing to a classroom diagonal from me. Caelyn comes back and says, "The computer room is on fire" and proceeds to go back to her desk and work.... and I'm like what?!!?! shouldn't we maybe...possibly... QUICKLY... leave the building? (There was smoke pouring from the window and a firetruck pulling into the parking lot). Apparently fire alarms don't exist in Korea, and teachers don't believe in evacuating (I will save that for another blog... Things Koreans don't believe in) Anyway the eventually decided it might be a good idea to make sure everyone was out of the building. The fire department came and the firefighters climbed up their ladders into the window and put the fire out. Very crazy! Then I met Dan for coffee and got to tell him all about it!

Thursday there was another typhoon and I am pretty sure I ruined my shoes walking to school and back. I think Korea has finally convinced me to buy a pair of rain boots... They might be useful after all. My host teacher took me to the bank to set up mobile banking, which is really confusing but Caelyn is great!. Yesterday I taught fourth grade and had to improvise my lesson plan a little bit but overall my first week of teaching went well.

Friday night all the Cheongju ETAs met downtown for dinner at Ashley's an "American" buffet. There were wedge fries... so I was happy :) It was really awesome to get to meet everyone again and catch up on how everyone's first week went. Today my host family took me to the Yeongdong grape festival. I had a good time, and I enjoy spending time with the family. They seem so excited to have me and really willing to include me in everything they do. Sometimes it seems a bit overwhelming but the other ETAs assured me it is better to be in this situation than with a family that is never home. My host sisters finally found my lip gloss... so that is gone and I am now missing the lid to my chapstick... I asked Amy where it went but she 'doesn't know' haha. They have also discovered my jewelry, which they are currently playing with. Tomorrow I will go to the international church in cheongju and maybe hangout in E mart (walmart sort of...) for a little while and look around.
Host family- From left to right- Me, host dad Max, Sister Sally, Host mom Julie and sister Amy

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Real Korea: No more marble!

I arrived in Cheongju a few days ago and my homestay family is very nice. My mom, Julie  is a travel agent and has been to over 40 countries. She was telling me today that they are planning a trip for winter vacation. I think they were inviting my? I am not sure. My host dad, Max works at the air force base in Cheongju as a plane mechanic. I have two host sisters, Sally and Amy. Sally is in 3rd grade and Amy is in 2nd grade. So far communicating with my family has not been a problem, although my Korean is horrible, their English is pretty good. I also put a calendar on my door so they would know where I was and when I would be home.

My room is very nice! I have a double bed and a big wardrobe and a dresser in my room. At first I was very worried because I think I am in my host parents room, but after talking to two of my co teachers they said my parents had not been using the room for a long time and in Korea it is common for people to sleep on the floor (which they are doing in the study room). My host sisters also sleep on the floor but in their own room.

On Departure day, August 22nd, my co teacher Caelyn came to pick my up from Goesan. We had lunch together and then she took me to Cheongju, where I met Mirim, another co teacher and the head of the English department. We went out to dinner together and had Korean bbq, sooo yummy :) I am glad I have finally found Korean food that I like.  Speaking of food... my host dad made me spaghetti for dinner tonight <3 a="a" account="account" and="and" anyway="anyway" bank="bank" caelyn="caelyn" cell="cell" ever="ever" first="first" get="get" iphone="iphone" me="me" my="my" on="on" open="open" p="p" phone.="phone." phone="phone" smart="smart" thursday="thursday" to="to" took="took" yay="yay">

Today I spent most of the day cleaning my desk area. My classroom is HUGE and if I tried to clean it in a day I would go crazy. I organized and got myself ready to start school on Monday and then from there the cleaning will be a process.I start teaching on Tuesday! :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's about time

I am sure that is what some of you reading this are thinking.... It is about time I posted something on this blog... I am not particularly good at keeping up with them but I know this is the only way some people are able to keep up with me. So here it goes... the last month of my life summed up into a few paragraphs:

We began Korean language classes on July 6th and have been taking them Monday- Friday for 4 hours a day. As expected, I was placed in the beginner class and the language is pretty difficult. I am picking up on it and I have made several excursions into town using my Korean successfully. Orientation also consists of cultural workshops and teaching workshops that are supposed to help us prepare for our year in Korea.

As part of Orientation, we fill out a placement form on where we would like to be placed in Korea. However the placement form does not guarantee anything, it only indicates our preferences and the KAEC (Korean-American Educational Commission) does their best to place us in school that fits our preferences. Ultimately it is up to them.  I did not have any specific preferences other than being placed by an English speaking church, which is actually more common in Korea than I thought. About a week after submitting our placement forms we had a placement ceremony in which everyone's placements and school types were read off. I am an EETA or Elementary English Teaching Assistant (although the assistant part of that title is rather misleading), as a result my school type is just co ed elementary school. Secondary ETA's could be placed in co ed, all girls or all boys middle school or high school. When I received my placement, Cheongju- Namseong Elementary School, I excited when I realized I had already visited the school. During the first week of Orientation EETAs went to visit an elementary school to help us visualize what our next year would be like. It just so happens that the school I visited will be the one I am going to teach in for the next year.

Korean Language classes are finishing up this coming week. We have a speech to memorize and give on Monday and a final on Tuesday. On Friday we are traveling to Seoul for the weekend. We will visit the DMZ and have a graduation from our Korean language class. During this graduation each class must put together a presentation. Ours is going to be a skit (in Korean, of course) based off the Real World reality tv show. We are video taping it this week and presenting the video during graduation.

Departure day is August 22nd. Our Principals and co teacher will come to Jungwon for a big ceremony in which all of us will leave Goesan and travel to our placements. This day is going to be both exciting and very sad. While I will be leaving many of the friends I have made over Orientation, I will definitely travel Korea to visit them and I look forward to a year of teaching. I don't think it has hit me yet that I will actually have my own classroom (well sort of). I am going to be a real teacher! Crazy! This is what I have worked so hard these past four years for!

Here are some pictures so you can see what I have been up to :)
This is the shopping district in Cheongju. A few of us went here one weekend because we wanted to get out of Goesan. At the time I didn't know this was where I would be placed, so I am looking forward to going back and exploring some more. Cheongju is considered suburban by Korean standards but it has about 600,000 people. So comparable to the size of Baltimore.

This is Namseong Elementary School. I took these pictures on our site visit, not knowing this was where I would be spending the rest of my grant year.

This is one of the classrooms the previous ETA, Clare taught in. She did not have her own English classroom but moved around to her students classes.

I decided to take Taekwondo while I was at orientation. The goal here was to blow out the candle without actually touching it. I got it, just not on the first try :)

We were also able to sign up for Archery, which was REALLY cool. Our instructor is apparently world famous and was training two olympic athletes, whom we were able to meet.

We traveled to a Budhist temple while visiting Donghae (beach weekend) and the monk was showing us how to play the drum as part of their religious ceremony.

Me and a random elephant statue at a museum we went to on our way home from Donghae.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Independence Day Party

     I left for Korea on July 3rd and traveled for over 24 hours and arrived on July 5th, meaning I completely missed the 4th of July. Soo... this weekend our OCT decided to set off fireworks for us. Everyone got a sparkler and we held rockets as the fireworks flew out and over the field. Very cool! Afterwards I played basketball and Ultimate Frisbee with a bunch of people from the team.
     I have still been waking up really early, I guess I am not over the jet lag. But Saturday I was up at 5 and today I was up at 4 45. I laid in bed for a while both days but finally couldn't take it anymore and decided to go to the gym. It was closed this morning so I can on the track outside. The Fog was so think I could feel it against my skin as I was running, pretty crazy.
     After my run I came back and got ready for church. About 12 people from the team attended the local Methodist service in Goesan (all in Korean). I am pretty sure he preached from John 1:29-34 where John testifies about Jesus. Although I couldn't tell you his interpretation of the passage, he seemed very enthusiastic. The people in church were very nice and welcoming and invited us to lunch with them after service. Some of the people that spoke better Korean than I decided to join them and I met some other friends for lunch at a bakery in town. We did a little shopping and headed back to the school for our first workshop on the Korean Education System. The speaker was organized and well informed, I really enjoyed hearing her perspective on how it really is in a Korean school.
     Tomorrow will be our first visit to a local Korean school. I will be going to an elementary school in Cheongju. Can't wait!!! I am getting sooo excited to start teaching :)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Anchovies and Octopus...Yum

So I just wanted to share what I had for lunch today, or in some cases what sat on my lunch tray and certainly did not enter my mouth haha. I also took pictures of my dorm and the view from my dorm window that I wanted to share.
Lunch: Octopus


Here is my dorm and the view from the window: