Friday, September 30, 2005


I woke up this morning with my eyes glued together. No it wasn't a college prank, but lots and lots of 'golden slumbers'. Oh oh. Don't tell me...

I think I have pink eye. I'm getting good at self diagnosis.

I considered for one second returning to that ear, nose and throat clinic but thought twice. Instead I treked over to the nearest pharmacy, a two minute walk, and rehearsed my charade I planned to enact to communicate the problem. This one wouldn't be as easy as "Is this laundry detergent?" - point to clothes and say "wash??" or "I need floor cleaner" - pretend to clean the floor in the cleaning products aisle and then do the universal shoulder shrug and palms up to heaven. This one would take creativity and flair. Eyes glued together? Hmmm...

The pharmacist spoke English.

She gave me eye drops special for conjunctivitis (not even a prescription needed) and charged me three dollars. I walked home and was hit with the memory of my childhood detestation for eyedrops. I needed eyedrops as a kid. My mother used to have to give them to me and I cried and hated them. I'm sure she felt awful about it. I wished she was here now to give them to me and I felt a surge of homesickness for a moment.

Everything is fine though and I'm leaving in an hour for Jeju-do. Here are some of the things on the jam packed itinerary:

Airport arrival
Visit Dragon Shape Rock
Visit Magic Road
Move to Jeju Full House (Accomm.)
Dinner Party with Samgyupsal(B.B.Q)
Visit Five Snow Rock
Visit Seokbujak Theme Pa°¡
Visit Miniature Tree House(Lunch)
Visist Cheonjiyeon Water Fall
1. Time for Beach
2. Cheju Cruise(Option/\15,000)
Visit Halla Mt. tour
Visit Sungeup Falk Village
Visit Horse Riding
Visit Sunrise Land
Visit Supjicoji
Visit Sea Woman Village
Back to Boondang

Asiana Airlines 8597 incheon-cheju

I have no idea what most of these things are but it should be good no matter what. At least it's not raining there like it has been here for the past day and a half non stop.

I really hate it when my umbrella bumps against someone else's or a tree. That feeling irritates me to no end. All my kids, even the least advanced ones, know the word umbrella. I remember learning it in Mrs. Jamieson's kindergarten class in French. It's a memorable word worldwide.

Three months in review

Happy three month anniversary to me. I am officially one quarter finished this contract. And this pleases me.

Perhaps you readers are sick and tired of hearing about nothing but children but that's my life at the moment. I also find it remarkable to read my impressions of the children in retrospect, so record I must. I'm going to write a three month update on my kindergarteners and then paste my earlier impressions (from mid July) into the text for a side by side comparison. Here goes.

The boys:

Elliot: I love him. He often has an expression of fear or trepidation on his face but then he breaks out of his shell and says "teacher, colour??" or "Y!!" (to help spell the day of the week). His voice is high pitched and the other kids made fun of that today. He's affectionate and has become a masterful colourer these days, often creating the best pictures of all. He uses multiple colours and those lovely thick pastels. He doesn't try to speak Korean to me. Here we have little Elliot. I think something might be wrong with little Elliot. Well, maybe not really. On the first day he semi-cried, semi- just stared ahead and didn't do anything. Now, a week later, he'll need special encouragment to touch crayon to paper and he is very hesitant to speak. Maybe once a day he'll brighten up and exude some kind of animation, but for the most part he reminds me of plastercine. I like him anyway.

Brian: Brian is sweet but he also drives me crazy. He's the most talkative in both Korean and English and hardly ever listens or pays attention. He wants my affection though, and will try to sit on my lap or hug me all the time. He also does annoying things, like playing silly games where other kids have to grab his thumb. He finishes his work first and just figured out how to kind of write his name. His writing sucks. Here is Brian. He was the crier on the first day of school, clutching his mummy for dear life. Now he's the life of the party. He speaks the most English by far, and with a little bit of an English accent, it sounds like. But he can't really write his name and he's not so great at colouring or cutting. He likes to say "I can't do it!" He translates for me sometimes when I can't understand Mindy's demands.

Peter: Peter's the genius. He's mild mannered and sweet with an adorable smile. He seems frustrated when the others are noisy and require stern-Jessica-voice. His writing is pretty good though he uses capital letters for his name. Everything he colours is green and yellow, no matter what it is. He knows his letters and remembers what I teach him. This is Peter who is absolutely adorable and good. He knows his colours and can almost write his English name. I love him

Yoon: I also love Yoon. He used to act up all the time but he's getting better and better these days. He's interested in English and tries his best to use it. He always says "I-da" which I think is his way of saying "I think" or "Listen to me". I'm not quite sure about that. Sometimes he gets hostile and will try to punch or scratch but for the most part he's loveable and cute. He doesn't like to listen at all as his English level is pretty low. Okay, nonexistant. But he'll respond to encouragement. Lots of encouragement.

The Girls:

Wendy: She's the devil! She's always getting in fights with the other kids and then she gets angry and doesn't do any work. She craves attention and does all the wrong things to get it. She is the best at writing in the class though not the best at reading or spelling. She often guesses the wrong letter for spelling the day of the week when it's right up on the wall. She whines, yells, doesn't listen, and has really bad teeth. She clings to me. She holds onto things when it's time to let go. She uses baby talk and calls herself a baby. Wendy is probably the most advanced person in the class in terms of writing and colouring. She can write her name and colour very well. She is not particularly talkative, however.

Elizabeth: She's become a very happy and assertive student. She likes to participate and has really been trying to use English. When she can't figure out how to express herself the way she wants to she laughs. She listens well and doesn't let Wendy distract her. She smiles and wraps her arms around me and gives me little kisses on the cheek. Beside her is Elizabeth who is moody and a handful. She's one of the ringleaders for bad behaviour. It's difficult to get her to smile.

Mindy: Mindy smiles and speaks English! She will talk about the colours she chooses and she will say "Teacher, me glue helper??" She sometimes uses this fake smile to get what she wants and I'm still getting used to this part of her expression repertoire because she had a long scowly period. She's very sweet and doesn't cause much disruption. Sometimes she talks too much or has arguments with Wendy. Next to him is little Mindy, the one I thought was so much younger than the others. Apparently she's around the same age, only really small. She didn't smile for the first few days but she's starting to warm up and she looks incredibly adorable when she isn't frowning or scowling. She is on the lower end of English speaking ability and she doesn't respond to me when I call her name. She's definitely got her own agenda.

Molly: Molly is the sweetest thing you ever did see. She's tiny and smart and has a jolly chuckle that cracks me up. She knows the letters and doesn't have to refer to the wall to know what comes next in spelling. She is way too slow in all her art projects so she hardly ever finishes them, which is a hassle. But she's just so cute. And she loves me.

Ashley: Ashley was away in August and I think she missed an important stage of learning or something. She holds her pencil in a fist and can't write her name still. She annoys me on purpose by standing up and running to the whiteboard, touching it, then sitting back down. She looks at me for a reaction. She does this kind of thing all the time. Or she'll sit on her chair in a funny way so that it's always toppling over. I'm trying to give her attention when she's not being a fool so she'll stop trying to win me over in counterproductive ways. Her English is below the level of the other kids. Next to him is Ashley who is a pretty sweet little girl, though she likes to test me and follows the other bad behaviour in the classroom.

Stephanie: We know all about her at this point. According to her father she hates English right now. She knows nothing about it and hopefully next time I write about my kids this will be ancient history.

I leave for Jeju-do tomorrow at 4:25pm and have an exciting itinerary laid out. It's a group trip of about thirty people so hopefully I won't feel too much like I'm in summer camp or something. I've gotta charge all my equipment. My ipod fell on the floor today and stopped working but it's now playing Sublime as we speak. Guess it just needed some r&r.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Having trouble with the little one

As you may recall I have been teaching the director's daughter for about one week now. She seems to be regressing. The first day she at least stayed in the classroom and spoke Korean to the other children. But now? She cries and leaves the room.

I think the problem is threefold. First, both her mother and father are right down the hall at any given time of day. She is well aware of this fact and uses it to her full advantage. Second, she's about a year younger than all the other kids and definitely too little to be in a school with this kind of structure. Sit at a table? What? Third, and most importantly, she knows absolutely no English, not even the alphabet, so she feels totally and utterly lost in the class where these kids have come a long way in three months. I don't blame her for wanting to get out of that foreign environment. And I'm not sure how to get around this problem. I reviewed soem important concepts this week like the words "happy, sad, angry, and surprised" and "I like/I don't like" but she doesn't stick around to benefit. And these reviews are meant for her!!! No!

So I'm lucky enough to have an audience during some of my classes while her mother or some other Korean staff tries to help her and explain to her what's going on. That's okay because I'm proud of my kids and how much they can do. I want to be a good teacher and I want them to know that I am one. If I am one.

I asked Alice for advice on how to get her more comfortable and she told me she thinks it's up to Stephanie's parents to do it. Apparently this little three year old questioned the logic in studying English when she's Korean. Smart girl. I bet she'll be fine once she accepts her English immersion fate. Poor baby.

Happy Birthday Jordy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Walking home...

Walking home from work in the cool September dusk, Sara and I noticed lights and music just up the road from our apartments where lights and music usually are not. We went to check it out.

The music was coming from a man dressed in drag, with what looked like smartie decorated balloons stuffed down his wifebeater. Interesting... he stopped his song and said something into the microphone to us. "Excuse me! blah blah blah!!!" We smiled and shrugged and kept walking while the audience laughed at our expense.

The lights were coming from rows and rows of little vendors set up along the roadway. Of course we had to sample. I miss the days in Israel when I could point at something in a market and say "mazeh??" with my sweetest smile to get that thing for free. Kind of backfired when we tried that with sabra and ended up with cactus needles embedded under our skin. Eh Wend? Sarah tried some dried thing but it looked too questionable for my taste. It turned out to be fishy and to take the taste away we bought what looked like Rice Crispie Squares. I had a feeling they wouldn't be quite the same. They were hard and sticky without the sweet delicious taste we know so well.

Then we came to a man selling pomegranate juice. He gave us a taste and it was cool and refreshing. Very delicious! But a free taste was enough for me.

On the way back we came across a stand that sold fabulous things so I bought myself one and couldn't be happier. I can't tell you what it is because I'll probably be sending them as gifts from now on. If you're dying to know maybe we can work something out. Maybe.

Then we bought some gogi mandu for two grand. It was doughier than the place we usually go to. I could really go for some fried mandu after the movie last night which features that variety. Haven't tried it fried yet. Next I had some saucy meat, most likely pork, on a stick. It was tender and melty and delicious.

Mmm... meat on a stick.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Old Boy

I just got home from the DVD bang where I saw the explicit and disturbing "Old Boy". Is it in Blockbuster's foreign section back at home? Check it out if you're interested in Korean flicks. Though I thought it was both overly gruesome and rather predictable, especially due to the tidbit of info I had about it before I saw it. So I'll spare you.

Today we pinned the nose on the clown. And I taught the children the words yell and yelling and no yelling. I hope that lesson has the desired effects.

I think I have a genius in my class. Peter. I read "There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly" twice. Then a few days later we coloured a picture of a whale that had many different sea animals in its big whale body. Peter said "Teacher! Whale swallowed seal, swallowed lobster, swallowed seahorse..." I was dumbfounded. He can hear a word or phrase one time and he remembers it just like that. What a guy. Plus he's sweet as can be.

I'm supposed to leave for Jeju on Saturday morning but I've heard nothing from the guy who is organizing the trip for over a week. I know none of the details and I'm starting to feel irritated. He hasn't responded to my email from yesterday yet, either. If I don't go to Jeju on Saturday I'll be very disappointed.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Four hugs a day

I can't sleep. It's early and I'm exhausted but I can't sleep. I was lying in bed thinking about this weekend, grad school options, and hugs.

This weekend: Maybe I'll get some hugs.

Grad school: How about a thesis on blogging and community? Or blogging and the self? There's gotta be some great sociological discoveries to be made that will do nothing for society, right?

Hugs: I was one of those who broke up with a boyfriend right before going away to University. It was okay because I never really liked him all that much. (I should remember that this is not quite anonymous). Anyway, we broke up and I left for school without the blink of an eye. After a few weeks I noticed something was missing. I didn't feel quite right. What was it? It was a lack of physical contact. Not only was I boyfriend-less but I was also away from my family and friends, even my dogs. I got no hugs. I realized then that I need hugs.

I have to say that I'm not one for casual hugs from people I don't care for. I detest those phony half hugs which are so often accompanied by a phony half cheek kiss or two depending on provice/country of origin. I don't like when people's knees rest on mine or sticky arms touch mine on the subway. But I crave a good, rib crushing hug once in a while.

The kids can be pretty affectionate sometimes but it's not the same as reaching up or around into a substantial embrace, you know?

Today I initiated a bit of interstaff hugging. It actually made a difference in my mood. You'd be amazed what a hug or two can do. Go hug someone now. And if you're around me and I like you, go in for the kill.

My first movie theatre experience

I went to the movies for the first time yesterday and they're a bit different than at home. You have to buy your tickets in advance (take a number and wait your turn) and choose the seats you want on the seating chart. Can you believe it? Assigned seats at the theatre!

We arrived at about one and there were only fifteen seats left for the 3:50 show. We opted for the 6:10 show instead.

The inside of the theatre is the same as at home. The price of tickets is only six dollars and the popcorn is cheaper but smaller sizes. We stocked up on candy beforehand because it was the only logical thing to do when seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I had Skittles and a Toblerone bar but didn't crack into the chocolate until just now. Did you know that Toblerone with a spoonful of chunky peanut butter on top is heavenly?

Five days until I'll be wearing a bathing suit on the sandy beaches of Jeju. Screw it.

Jenny my Korean coworker turned down a piece of gum because she's dieting and doesn't want her jaw to expand. Have I been chewing too much gum? I wonder if she swallows all her food whole.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I love markets

If there's anything I love it's markets. I know I love other things but markets are among my list toppers. And the market I visited today didn't let me down. Let's take a tour of a traditional Korean market, shall we?

There was everything you'd imagine at a market and them some. Plants and flowers, herbs and medicines, grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, prepared food, clothing, belts, watches, shoes... oh, and live animals. Just you wait and see.


Here are some grains. Don't believe me? Well, I'm just guessing too. My not-so-accurate Korean skills tell me this is guk san kawtu heskaws. What? No idea.

BUGS! yum yum

This is the favourite snack of young boys country wide. Jenny, my Korean coworker who brought us to this market said it is 'butterfly eggs' but her English is only so dependable. I know kids eat larvae and things. Whatever this is, it looks tempting but I had just eaten some tolsot bibimbap.


Too bad this picture doesn't capture the wriggling, ALIVE quality of these crabs and the many fish for sale in this market. Buckets of water and even baskets without sported wriggling, flipping, crawling, gasping fish, crabs, and even turtles. I'll show ya.

Turtles: fifty thousand won

A fresh turtle soup would set you back fifty bucks. Maybe you could use the shell for something. A shield? A helmet? Maybe a candy dish?


If you can't see the details click on this picture and look at it in a larger size. This market stretched on and on. It was truly unbelievable. Notice the toilet paper hanging from the roof. Convenient easy access for all wiping and blowing needs.

And then we reached the section that really killed me. Broke my heart and cheered me up at the same time. I've never seen pets for sale at a market before but here there was a row of vendors with cages and cardboard boxes loaded with tiny puppies and kittens. Mostly small breeds like poodles and bijon frise types. There were even some daschunds but they didn't let me take a picture. And there was a pomeranian. Corky in her next life? I hope not. I would not want to be a dog living in these conditions, and I was this close to rescuing one. Sixty bucks for a puppy! Five for a kitten. Five! If it wasn't for the fact that I'd have to clean up after it and deal with it while I travel next summer I would have bought one. What a sight.

I also was tempted by this adorable little redhead. It only would have cost me sixty dollars. A dog like this would be something more than ten times that in Canada, I think.

un-free range bunnies

Not quite free range bunny, is it. Awful, I know.

Here you'll see the famous dogs that are not sold as pets. These sleepy fellas will be bubbling in a soup by morning. It makes you feel sad but it's really no different than eating any other animal, right? Still I think the Koreans are sensitive to their tradition in the eyes of the world, perhaps because of an incident with some famous Brit who said the 2002 World Cup shouldn't be held in a country that eats dog. Whatever, man. I was only able to snap this not-so-great picture before they told me not to take any more.

What a market. What a place. What a day.

apartments in Suji

Friday, September 23, 2005


Went for a long over-due second swim at the YMCA yesterday. I was swimming continuously, dodging the others in the lane and wondering about the social norms I might be infringing on. At the wall I turned and glanced around to see if anyone was goggles on and ready to go before I pushed off. An older man in a grey swim cap gave me the OK thumb and forefinger signal and said "nice". "Thanks," I smiled, and away I went.

What, nice stroke? Nice endurance? Nice to see a foreign woman somewhere else besides the McDonald's line? Was he just trying to practice some English? Maybe he liked my almost new Speedo? I know his was looking fine.

Then I figured it out. It must have been my shockingly red swim cap that reads "YAP!" in zippy yellow print. Nice is right. You can pick it up at the 'pro-shop' upstairs for only nine grand, buddy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The new kid

The day ended and I was sitting in the staff room, lucky enough to have a coworker take my elementary class so I could rest my still awful voice. The director came in to talk about his daughter, who started English kindergarten today.

"I don't want to talk about how her English is or how she's doing," he said to me. "I just want to ask you not to give her any special treatment. If you don't mind, can you treat her with equal or actually lower opportunity than the others?"

What? Did I hear that right? You want me to give your daugher less attention and encouragement than the others??

Turns out that since she's only four (read less than three and a half) she'll be in the five year old class for a while and I guess he doesn't want her to be too ahead of the game. But come on, like I would treat a child any less than the others(intentionally anyway). Nuts to that.

She's definitely way behind the others, with no knowledge of the alphabet and the same way of talking to me in Korean that Mindy and some others did before they realized I don't understand. It's an interuption to the smooth routine we have established in happy class, this little tyke waltzing in, but she's making friends and hopefully will do okay.

I just wish I had my voice in tact so I could keep order in the classroom. When will it end?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

These kids crack me up.

Yoon, Peter, Brian, Molly, Mindy.
Elliot, Ashley, Wendy, Elizabeth.

Who's your favourite? Tell, tell!

At least I didn't get a shot in the bum

I went to work this morning and my voice was slightly better than yesterday. So I taught. It kind of sucked but luckily my kids were good and the day went by really fast. I missed last period of kindergarten so my director could take me to the doctor.

The doctor.

It's always interesting to see the medical system of another country. When I was in Israel last summer we got to see one of Tel Aviv's top hospitals thanks to Wendy's dehydration and throat infection. It cost a fortune then, and the service was relatively quick and efficient.

Today I was brought to an ear, nose and throat clinic. Apparently there are different clinics for whatever is wrong and people use these instead of family doctors. In fact, there are no family doctors. I bet Canada adopts this system someday.

I only waited for five minutes and then went into the doctor's room. There was no table with crinkly paper for me to sit on. Instead I sat in a chair that reminded me of the eye doctor's chair from when I was a kid, except that I could understand what the eye doctor said to me. My director interpreted for me. Hopefully he interpreted accurately.

So the doctor moves to spray something down my throat and I back away. You can at least tell me what you're doing. Turns out it's a local anesthetic. I hesitate, knowing that freezing my throat will feel unpleasant, and I'm right. It still lingers and it sucks. I didn't even have a sore throat to begin with. Next he inserts a long, thin metal scope down my throat, thankfully not touching any of the sides, and holds it there for quite some time. After that's through he shows me the video clip of my vocal chords on super zoom. They ain't pretty, that's for sure. According to doc they're swollen. No kidding.

Then he proded my nostrils with some strange instrument I've never seen before. Again I start. I'm sure everyone was laughing at my reaction to each new and strange procedure. Especially when they sat me down in front of what turned out to be a humidifier that blows steam in your face. It looked kind of like a breathalizer, or what I imagine a breathalizer to look like. When the nurse turned it on and the steam started jetting out of it I jumped back. She laughed. Bitch.

The visit cost me eight dollars and the subsequent medicine I was prescribed cost me four. Not too shabby, especially when you consider how much medicine I got. Look at this:

I'm to take the entire contents of that packet three times a day and I must drink 10 cc's of that vial. What kinds of drugs are these? I sniffed the liquid. It smelled like flouride rinse from the dentist. I downed it anyway. As for the pills, I have no idea, but I swallowed them about ten minutes ago and I'm starting to feel drowsy...

He also said to drink lots of water and to rest my voice. I'm sure he told my director I should have the week off but that message wasn't passed along to me. I asked if I should stay home from work tomorrow to rest. Stupid question.

Hopefully I won't have to visit another clinic again.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Getting sick of tea

Here I am, after a three day weekend of doing not a thing, still with no voice. This really sucks. I feel uncomfortable and I'll tell you why.

My director is really calm and generous with us teachers. He never gives anyone a hard time about anything and is always willing to help if need be. When a teacher is sick there are no questions asked and he volunteers to help with doctors or hospital visits or whatever may be needed. The thing is that when a teacher is sick there is no such thing as a substitute teacher. Instead all the other teachers pitch in to cover the classes, combining their own classes or missing something like computers. It's not so much fun, at least in my opinion, to cover classes because having a class of twenty instead of ten in a small classroom meant for six is just bad.

I would still feel bad, but not that bad, if Scott wasn't off tomorrow because his parents are in town. Now with me voiceless there will be two teachers gone and six teachers teaching eight classes. Not so fun for the others.

It's not my fault, I know, but I still feel uncomfortable about it.

I miss my college days. Ha. Never thought I'd say that, but seriously, the days when you are not accountable to anyone but yourself. If you get sick you do what you need to do to get better. Or you drive home along the 401 to lie on your couch in your parents house and snuggle with your dog and eat Lipton's soup from the box with frozen peas and corn added. You don't have to call or explain to anyone. Sick or not, I miss those days. My days were mine. I went to class, yes, but I chose the times of those classes and if I needed to go somewhere or do something, I did not have to apologize or arrange to miss them. I was not shackled to the clock or some superior. That's the worst thing about where I am now.

So I'm going to go into work tomorrow with no voice, unless it miraculously comes back. I assume they will send me home to get better. But they might not. I really can't talk louder than just above a whisper, and even then it's scratchy and unintelligible, so it would be silly for me to teach. Plus, the best remedy is to avoid speaking. If they want me to be able to teach they shouldn't let me teach for the next day or two.

I was optimistic that I would be fine by tomorrow but improvement has been close to nil over the weekend. Too bad they can't just hire a substitute and give me the week off. :) Maybe I'll get the week off anyway, and have all my coworkers scowling at me by the weekend.

Oh well, at least I've had lots of time to myself and to my book. I'm almost finished the eight hundred and something page beast and I think I had only two chapters read on Friday.

And I was to start teaching the director's daughter tomorrow.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Crazy going slowly am I

Having no voice has lost any kind of allure it once had. I've spent the entire weekend laying low and following everyone's 'lost voice' advice. Drink fluids, take hot showers, avoid talking. There have been mild improvements but I'm still concerned that I won't be able to teach on Tuesday. Luckily it's a long weekend, but what a lousy long weekend it's been.

Yesterday I spent watching TV so today I changed it up and spent it reading. That was fine for the first number of hours, but by the time nightfall rolled aorund I was ready to go. I showered and took a walk through Suji, marvelling at the quiet streets and lack of lights. Today is Chusok day, where people do things with their families and thank their ancestors. McDonald's was booming.

I missed a day of fun at Everland but D'Arcy was thoughtful enough to bring me back a bucket of popcorn.

I'm sorry for myself but I have a solution:

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sandwiches are beatiful, sandwiches are fine

Today I succumbed to a craving I never really had by buying myself a half sized loaf of white bread, a jar of Ottogi strawberry jam, and Extra Crunchy Skippy peanut butter.

Besides two baguettes I've bought over the past two and a half months, which never actually made it home, this is the first bread I've bought. With rice every day, there's never really a need for it. Bread in Korea is pretty standard white wherever you go. Paris Baguette, which is as common as Tim Horton's in Toronto, sells a variety of fancier variations but as far as I can tell, they're all whiter than Whole Wheat Wonder. That doesn't say much. My loaf is bagged so that you look down upon the top of all the slices' crusts. You don't see only the end. Get what I'm saying?

As for the peanut butter, I had the choice of Extra Creamy or Extra Crunchy and went for the crunch. My family tends to be a creamy one so I thought I'd rebel. We're also a Coke family and I just finished off a bottle of Pepsi. But that came free last week as 'service'. No tipping and service make this country worth living in. Back to the point, my 510 gram (the small size) tub of peanut butter cost me 550,000 won! That's more than six dollars Canadian! A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Now, the jam is not so noteworthy except that I love how it's so fake that you don't get stuck with large chunks of strawberry. I hate those large chunks and always scrape them off the bread and put them back in the jar, but that leaves me with more chunks to avoid the next time. Always an issue. Well, the matter is solved!

All three things, bread, peanut butter, and jam, have found a home in my refrigerator. Back in Canada I would only refrigerate the jam but for some reason I like to refrigerate things here. Like soya sauce. Why? I can't answer that question.

My voice is a whisper so I can't even answer my phone to the plethora of suitors dialing me up. I aplogize now, men. Today I was not only voiceless but it also poured rain so I watched old movies and old television shows all day long. Jurrasic Park is pretty good as an adult too.

My family is in Montreal preparing for a fancy dinner at a great steakhouse. They've been telling me for weeks how the reservation is for nine and if only I was there it would be ten, blah blah blah. Well, have fun you guys. You're jealous of my crunchy peanut butter and smooth jam sandwich on whiter than white.

I'll expect a medium rare in the next package.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Down for the count

It progressed quickly from period to period throughout the day, and by the time my last classes rolled around all I could manage was a slight squawk. I've lost my voice. And man does it suck to be an English teacher with no voice. Especially one of little children.

At present time my friends are out listening to hot guys (obviously hot since I'm not there) play acoustic guitar at the showdown in Itaewon. What I wouldn't give for some hot acoustics right about now. No matter, I just caught the newest episode of Survivor on AFN, the Armed Forces Network. The commercials reminded me to travel with a buddy and to sit on the aisles to avoid terrorist attacks.

My head is heavy and I'm immune to effects of Nyquil because of my little unmentionable habit. That's a joke, Mom. Fret not.

This weekend is Chusok, the Korean equivalent to Western Thanksgiving. Except teachers get presents! The director gave each of us a fabulous Dove gift set (gift sets are all the rage here... you can choose from a variety including Spam, Dental hygiene kits, and a box of apples for mucho dinero) and thirty thousand won. What a generous man! I'm so lucky. From students, on top of the bag yesterday, I got a beautiful tea set made in Japan, a box of cookies from my Korean helper woman, and three huge Korean pears. Do not mistake them for Asian pears because they're Korean, I was assured. Not a bad day, all in all. Oh wait, except I lost my voice.

For Show and Tell Friday I had the brilliant idea of "Silly Hair". Most kids didn't really participate, except for Elliot, who's really getting into the swing of things.

Man oh man, this doesn't even capture how ridiculous and adorable he looked. I love Elliot. It turns out he's the youngest in the class, at maybe three and a half if not younger, so we'll forgive him for the 'incident' and move on from there.

And because I can't pass up posting this fantastic photo of Yoon...

Have a good weekend everybody!

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Last night I read from the menu "al-puh-lae-toh cuh-leam saw-suh Sup-uh-get-ti". Cream sauce spaghetti I got, but what was al-pu-lae-toh? I asked and found out. Alfredo, of course! It's funny when you're reading for the hell of it and the realize it's English. Salad, Cajun, family fitness.. it never ends. Will I still know how to read Korean when this whole thing is far behind me? My kids will hate me for my coolness.

Sara was dismayed the other day when shopping for brown bobby pins. Why are they all black!?!?! Take a look around, honey.

I got my second gift as a teacher today. The first was a sparkly lip gloss from Liz who I no longer teach. Today I got a fancy bag from Peter's mom. The post-it note addressed it to "Techer". I'm happy anyway. I love gifts. I'm hoping tomorrow I rake in for Korean Thanksgiving, better known as Chusok. Maybe I'll get a Spam gift set if I'm lucky.

The World Cup Museum was really cool, actually. The kids had fun kicking soccer balls around and checking out the stadium. We sat in the stands which were otherwise empty and then watched emotional footage of the "Reds" kicking Spanish, Portuguese, and everyone else's ass. Even the five years olds were cheering and clapping at the goal reruns. I felt nationalistic pride. It's regrettable that Canadians don't have something like that to bring us all together.

I have received no postcards from any of you. You should be lowering your eyes in shame. Except you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A new student is coming

I had mixed emotions when they told me that Chris, a tall and akward kid in my kindergarten class, had quit the school. On the one hand I no longer had ten kids to wreak havoc on my spirit. On the other hand I knew that sometime or another a new kid would join the group and would have to get used to the routine.

Well that new kid is coming Tuesday.

And that new kid is the dirctor's daughter.

She's not quite four years old and her name is... Yun Jin! That's Eugene to me, baby.

I was once the director's daughter, getting all the attention and love at daycare, so now I guess it's time for me to pass along that favouritism. Great.

Cough, Cough

I thought I might be lucky enough to beat the odds and avoid getting sick this year. Working with three year olds, it shouldn't be too difficult, right? I can feel the sore throat creeping in and my head is feeling a bit heavy. I just took two large vitamin C's and bought some special vitamin C drinks so maybe I can keep this cold at bay. This makes me the fourth teacher at my school to fall victim to this virus.

In other news, I have a reservation to fly to Ho Chi Minh City on December 23rd. That's Vietnam, people. Peanut sauce here I come.

Oh, and field trip tomorrow! The World Cup Memorial Museum - should be fascinating. South Korea is still basking in the glory of hosting World Cup in 2002, I think it was.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A brilliant sky

I've been complaining about the routine of my life a little bit lately, but sometimes the same old landscape takes my breath away. The towering apartments and the colourful signs are easy to get used to. All it takes is the sky to remind me of how unusual they actually are for me.

For the entire first month that I was here the sky looked just like this picture. Grey and dull. Never was there a ray of sunshine or a crack of blue to lift my spirits. I had to go along with the kids when they said it was "sunny today". Sunny? Where?

Then sometime in mid August the clouds broke and sun began showing itself. This pleased me to no end! It's amazing how a blue sky can make my day. Or a collection of white, not grey, clouds.

This picture was an amazing novelty, and everyone at home thought it looked cloudy and grey.

Then the sun really came out.

This Friday was perhaps the best of all - an orange sunset highlighting the polluted Suji river! Breathtaking! What will be next?

Almost the same as the bridge through my neighbourhood at home. Minus the river. And the looming apartments.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Making Progress

What!?! I just wrote a long and scintillating post and it's nowhere to be seen!

I can't even be bothered to recreate it for you. I was merely bragging about how wonderful my kids are and how they're now able to have relatively interesting conversations with me. Let it be known that they knew only the alphabet and colours before they arrived in Happy class.

Elliot hasn't peed in his pants since the first incident, AND he can now write his name and tell me that Friday ends with a y.

Mindy doesn't scowl at me anymore. In fact she smiles regularly and she can recite "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" with confidence and flair. I have a video clip that I can send through messenger if you're dying to see the kids in action.

The point is that I'm the best teacher on the face of the Earth. Forget the fact that three year olds are sponges.

My older kids called me fat today. But they also called me thin today. I'll take that as a combined "just right". They also called me "Africa." Why? I don't have blue eyes.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Who could ask for anything more?

So if you want to liquor it up cheap, Honky Tonk is the place to go. Fifteen thousand won for unlimited beer and spirits. Fantastic! And dangerous.

Did you know that copious amounts of alcohol can have some crazy effects? (On a sidenote I'm annoyed because I finally figured out the difference between affect and effect earlier this year and today I forget it. I miss school.)

Here is some evidence. Shelly seems to have a thing for ear wax. Right Shelly?? Meet Scott and Jen.

Here is a gang including Scott, Dan, myself, Sara, Shelly, Darce, and two girls who have never been to Canada despite the Montreal shirt.

Darce, some guy, and Shelly. Oh, and the obligatory peace sign. Peace!

The ladies. We look like we're an underdressed wedding party.

Whatever it was, it was damn hilarious.

And for a special treat, here is the newest addition into my awesome Korean t-shirt collection:

Brian, send me a picture of the shirt I sent you. "Come let's walk with vigorous strides!" Ahh ha ha, I can't contain myself.

Post Script: I've just been informed that this farm shirt is actually an American Eagle print from 2003 summer line. Damn. There goes the novelty. There's no tag though!!

Friday, September 09, 2005


Lottemart has Laughing Cow cheese too, for cheaper than the little foreign store. I guess I got excited for nothing since I go there all the time and never even bothered to check the cheese section.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Everyone seems fascinated with Eugene the girl. Here she is!!!


I happen to think the name Eugene is much more appropriate for a female. So don't think of it as a future cause of mental problems for the girl. Think of it as a confidence booster - when she revolutionizes the name Eugene she'll feel better than ever! Uh huh.

My school has a website

I'm not sure if you'll be able to figure it out since it's all Korean but if you're interested in giving it a try, it'll allow you into a world of Kid's College pictures.

Step one:

Step two: the email address is and the password is UJ0517. You type these two in to the logical boxes.

Step three: Click on the button that says 'club' on the top toolbar.

Step four: On the top left there is an animated girl. Click on the third choice.

Step five: Choose the option with the crown next to it.

Step six: My classroom is Happy Class!

In case you can't be bothered to follow those six easy steps, here are some photos for your viewing pleasure.

Here are my children. Yup, they're mine, even the ones I could do without. From left to right: Elliot, Elizabeth, Wendy, Molly, Mindy, Yoon, and Brian.

I get to play Duck, Duck, Goose at my job.

There I am again, getting a kick out of the rip roaring game.

Here are some of the staff, though since this picture was taken Chris and Barbara have left and Sara and Kevin have arrived. Clockwise from left: Chris, me, Barbara, Scott, D'Arcy, Sang Kyu, Kierstie, Meaghan, and Alice.

Almost Friday!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Naming children and the perfect cheese

I found "La Vache Qui Rit" cheese for 6000 Won. I couldn't resist. My long time readers will remember how I feel about this lovely snack.

I got a new boy in my later elementary class today. It's a brand new class that opened up on Friday and I had only two girls in it who were far beyond their 'beginner' status. It was great. This new boy spoke not a word the entire two hours despite my sunny disposition and constant jokery. Apparently he's silent in Korean school too. Great, the pressure's off! I'd prefer a mute to a hyperactive maniac any day.

This boy didn't have an English name so I was, as usual, given the heavy responsibility of selecting his monachre that will haunt him for the rest of his English speaking career. His Korean name, I learned, is Su Hwon. After careful deliberation and a number of suggestions to which he did not respond, I named him Shawn. The other choices were Tom, Jon, Richard, and Mike. The girls in the class thought Tom or Jon were good choices. I proposed Richard as a kudos to my brother, and Mike.. well, I had just talked to Mike Richardson on MSN. Hi Mike! I almost named a kid after you!

Anyway, moral of the story is I named a kid something close to his real name which I'm happy about. And I could have named him Sean but instead I chose something phonetically sensical. In two months I've named a Jenny, a Molly, and a Eugene. Eugene, sadly, is a girl but her name in Korean is Yun Jin so it made sense to me. Until afterwards when I realized Eugene is a man's name. A bad man's name.

I'm going to go eat a bite sized piece of cheese before popping some Nyquil and falling fast asleep. Is Nyquil addictive, by the way?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Crackdown in the classroom

Last Friday was the first day of the new month so students who had gone away for the summer returned and my elementary class increased in size a little bit. My already badly behaved elementary class.

I decided to start off the new semester with some tough love. Specific rules and specific punishments. I enforced a boy-girl-boy-girl seating plan and generated rules from the class which were then posted for all to see. The system is this: each child begins the class with four stars. If they break any of the rules (talking when the teacher is talking, walking around, being rude, etc. etc.) they will lose one star. If they lose all four stars they must go into the hall and get a talking to from Alice.

The first period was like a slice of heaven. Everyone was obeying the rules and I was thrilled. The second period was less perfect.

Then Monday rolled around and they were hellians. Matthew in particular. In fact he lost all four stars and then cried and refused to leave the classroom. I didn't want to physically 'impose' on him or anything so I got Alice who did talk to him but did not force him out of the class. Dang! There goes all authority.

I hate this class and I have to teach them every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2:30 - 4:30. It bites. I don't want to yell. I don't want to punish. I just want to get through our work in a comfortable fashion and then have some fun. Why oh why!?!

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Bus

The other day I happened to be sitting in the front seat of the bus (better to see where I'm going in a place that all looks the same, my dear) when alas! There was my coworker's boyfriend plastered on the back of the bus ahead! We'd heard about this humiliating photograph and here it was, in the flesh! Genius!

I wish I could be on a bus. Come learn English from me! I'm on a bus!

I went to see "Bride and Prejudice" tonight. It was funny. Tomorrow we are supposed to be going on a field trip unless the expected typhoon makes it difficult to do so. My director said it will be a very serious one. I asked if we might have a rain day. "In my country we don't have these things". He said.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Send me a postcard

I can't sleep.

To everyone in all the world, I reach my hand, I shake my hand.

Will you send me a postcard? I have a collection of two, both from Wendy. One from Portugal and one from Toronto. I'd like to add to the collection. Wherever you are, whoever you are. I promise to return the favour if you like.

Yong-in, Sanghyn-dong
257-1 IT Plaza
Second Floor
Kid's College
449 130

I know you might be compelled to add South Korea to the address, which is fine, but unneccessary.

Send away! Make my day! Don't delay!

Time for me to hit the hay.

I like clay.


I went to the exhibition in the COEX mall entitled: The Human Body. I've never heard of anything like this before but the entire exhibition consisted of real human bodies that had been plasticized. I'm not sure if this was before or after they had been cut up in various ways to show human muscle or bone or blood vessels, depending.

I think I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

This guy's holding his own skin.

The white stuff you see is fat. This was an example of obesity.
Here are all the internal organs.
I don't know about this one.
Ay ya yaiy!!!

Crazy, eh? I'm skeptical about this scientific form, but... all in the name of education, right? More pictures available for the curious.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hold up!

Scratch that last post.

I just made dinner and guess what? It tastes awesome! And I incorporated the green pumpkin. And I threw in chuncks of garlic which I then ate in their whole chunk form because I am practically Korean. I am happy. My mouth is on fire, but I am happy.

And to celebrate, here is my fabulous colouring job on the theme of "Rapunzel". The pre-pubescent boys got a kick out of her buxom rack. Hell, so did I.

I haven't coloured so much in my life, I don't think.

Two Months in Review

Two months have come and gone in what feels... just like two months. I've been thinking about what I'd write in this post for the last few days. I've been thinking about what I'm doing here and how I feel about what I'm doing here since I arrived here two months ago.

I'm neither happy nor sad at this point, and if you ask my kids, those are one of four emotional states we humans experience, including angry and surprised. Forget lonely, bored, disappointed, excited, amazed, or whatever else there is.

Why am I not happy? I feel like I've reached the top of the stairs, if I can describe it this way. The first month was a huge learning curve of getting accustomed to life and work and food and everything surrounding me. Now I find myself in a dull routine. I go to work, I walk the same route. I teach the kids in the same ways. The weekends come and go with surprising speed and I do the same things. WA bar Friday night, Seoul Saturday, frisbee or not Sunday. That's it. That's my life. I work, I eat, I sleep. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I watch a movie. Often I use the internet. And there's not much else. Food doesn't surprise me. The language barrier is manageable. My neighbourhood doesn't change.

What did I come here for? I came for newness and excitement and self discovery. I can say that I've discovered the adaptability of human beings. Two months pass and nothing surprises me anymore. I am me whether I'm in Canada or Korea, and that me likes to sleep and doesn't really like to work.

There are other more noteworthy things too. I'm a more social person over here than I am at home. My inhibitions regarding meeting people have diminished while D'Arcy's seem to have escalated; something kind of strange since she's usually the more outgoing of the two of us. My feeling is that there's a limited number of people here that I can communicate with. At university I was surrounded by people, classmates, teachers, and friends that I could interact with. Here I spend my time with five year olds who don't have English skills and my seven coworkers. Come Friday I'm itching to talk and watch.

My plan for now is to pick things up. I want to add more to my life so there's something going on besides school and sleep. Maybe swimming could fill that role. Or some kind of course (Korean? Taekwondo?) I just feel as though I have no time or energy for extra things, but I'll have to get around that.

I'm happy because I'm learning things slowly. I've discovered that I do like children and, believe it or not, they like me too. Wow. That's all I can think of about why I'm happy.

When I was a teenager I kept a diary and I often wrote "I'm not as sad as I sound". What was I doing? Protecting my own image from some non-existant future reader? I feel like writing that here, to real readers, friends and strangers. I can protect myself by saying I don't feel sad exactly. I don't feel disappointed exactly. I wish I could explain better.

I've discovered that you can't depend on places or people to offer up happiness on a platter. You have to get it for yourself.