Thursday, March 30, 2006

Suji Alert

The poor, poor new girl. Today she came running into work panting from her run to school. A young Korean man had flashed her and follwed her and flashed again in the safe, baby laden streets of Suji. She was understandably shaken up.

I myself have never been assaulted in any way (unless you count the legless ajumma beggar in the subway who slapped my leg one time) but many foreigners have.

One of my coworkers has had a man cross a busy street to grab her breasts, and on another occassion a man followed her through a parking lot near her house, openly fondling himself until she had to push him out of her way.

Another coworker was assaulted in the dark alleyway near her house. She credits her boss at the time for finding her an apartment in a dark alleyway.

My male coworker was hit from behind by three guys one night and then kicked in the face resulting in a broken nose. He said he was drunkenly minding his own business at the time so who knows if this is a legitimate story.

Another crazy story I heard is that a foreigner guy (in sleepy Suji) was in bed when he heard a rustling in his room. Turned out a man was sitting right in his apartment!! Needless to say, I lock my doors.

What's all this about?

[update: what a surprise! Both my parents responded to this post within minutes of its writing]

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Airport

This week's theme is airplanes, and yesterday we discussed airports. We covered such important vocabulary words as "flight attendant" and "escalator" but I found the day before more interesting, what with "cargo hold" and "fuel tank." Just the kind of thing a five year old ESL student needs to learn. Anyway, I thought these journal entries were rather cute. I'll arrange them in order of newest kid in my class to most experienced so you can see whether there's a difference.

Here is Jamie's work. Jamie arrived in Smile class about two weeks ago. He was really terrible at first, climbing all over all the furniture, throwing himself around at other kids, and demanding all of my energy and attention. He's calmed down quite a bit since then and I'm seriously relieved. Don't you like his person waiting there at the airport? Where is his friend? I guess when you punch everyone it's hard to get people to like you.

The next to join the class was Stephanie. Not the old Happy class Stephanie but a new one with a cute smile and a very quiet disposition. Arriving just before Jamie, she cried, no, bawled, for about a week (beginning at Jamie's arrival) but this week there hasn't been a single tear yet - highly correlated to Jamie's progress. Her writing needs a bit of work, and she especially needs to work on using an eraser, but hey, it's not too bad.

Next is John who started at the inception of Smile class at the beginning of the month. He was the biggest troublemaker before Jamie came on the scene but sort of pulled up his socks since then. He cares more about doing the right thing and though he has a tendency to hit people (including me!) he takes the consequences seriously. He's starting to do his work, too. I love his Korean Air plane with him and Yoon looking through the window. They're lucky to have both gotten a window seat.

Alice started in Happy class back in December or January and I never bonded with her until the last little while. It just didn't happen. I felt like she was an emotionless brick who never really spoke. She didn't break the rules but she didn't make an effort to participate. Maybe the class level was a little high for her. Now that there are fewer kids in the class she's really starting to come out of herself... she talks all the time. IN KOREAN! It drives me crazy! But she also is the best reader in the class, in that she can do it. The other kids can read very simple words they've seen before but she can sound 'em out and everything. Wow. She writes in huge print and she colors everything in the brightest colors ever. Her mother also dresses her in the most hideously multicolored things ever. I quite like Alice's airplane and the picture of her and her mommy. That huge red mouth is... so red.
Next we have Yoon. Ahh, good old Yoon who started at the beginning of the original Happy class way back in July. He didn't know a damn thing. Now he's a superstar. Just look at those letters!!! His printing kicks butt and he's pretty good at speaking and reading too. He really tries all the time. I love the boy. He does still have to work on his drawing, perhaps, though those smiles really make my day. And the suitcase is pretty cool too.

Mindy started at the same time as Yoon and she knew just as little as he did. She hated me and school for weeks because of her unfortunate circumstance of being forced to go to English immersion. I don't blame her. Now she's the best behaved kid in my class. She never speaks Korean and she never breaks the rules and she has really great writing. Look at that writing! Her reading isn't quite there yet but she's getting there. She rocks! And she's so cute. You wouldn't be able to stand how cute she is. If there's any reason to come to Korea for a visit it's to see Mindy. Her drawing skill level has really gone up since she was a little baby five year old, too. Lately she's on a "wide eye" kick. Everybody she draws has eyes on the sides of their heads, no exceptions. It's cute, I have to admit. I think I'll take that up.

And here is my work of art. I've been studying English for close to twenty years and drawing pictures for even more and I can't say I'm much better than some of the kids.
Ahh well, at least I don't write like this boy. He's nine. What a moron. ;)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Time keeps a' flyin'

Well hello.

So far so good with the little ones this week. I guess I don't hate teaching after all...

I don't have much to say right now. Let's see.

For those who are curious, though the new girl quit, she's still around a month later. I think this is her last week and a new new girl has been hired, likely to begin on Monday. The office atmosphere has been strained all month, perhaps due to the new girl's situation, perhaps not. She doesn't talk and we're unusually quiet. Maybe it's Scott's absence that's the real difference. I don't write about my coworkers here because it wouldn't be appropriate, but there are eight of us; seven girls and one guy. The ambiance is for the most part good. At least there's no serious office drama to speak of. I'm hoping the new new girl is at least managable, though, which sometimes can be hard to come by in these parts.

I've hit the gym twice this week after a bit of a hiatus what with sickness and no motivation. Feel the burn, baby. Now all I want to do is sleep but it's guitar practicing time.

I think about finishing this teaching contract every single day. I can't wait to travel and then to go home, so much so that the thought is taking away from my day to day experience here. It's so close and in my reach and yet so far off at the same time. Three months to go. In that time I have a number of things to look forward to, most notably a long weekend in Tokyo, so let's see how fast that time keeps a' flyin'. A year is really nothing.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Spring in my step

I like to get new shoes around springtime. Last year I got grey ones and I've been wearing them ever since.

This week I replaced them with green ones. Hey, I'm in Korea, it's cool. I like new shoes but I particularly like Spring. Look at this interlocking brick. I could easily be on my driveway in Thornhill. Sigh.

Here we go, into another week. I will not yell. I will not show anger. I will be a good teacher.. I will, I will. Apparently I'm a good teacher, said the new girl. She knows because the director talks most about me when he's talking to her about the teachers. Apparently I always seem happy. Ha.

In other news, I went to the ritzy, stylish area called Apkujeong, which sports its own Rodeo drive, and came across many places to buy nose studs (and other body jewelery if you're interested). There is one particular roadside booth that sells cheap and cool stuff so if you head there look for something along the lines of "Max's". Now I have some variety.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Make a friend, whatever you do

Four of us girls were walking home from work yesterday heading towards the weekend. Up ahead in the distance we saw something flicker.

"Is that a cute foreigner boy in the distance?"

It was!

As we approached we noticed his was pushing a shopping cart full of furniture. Ahh. He was also wearing a shirt and sweater. Missionary alert, missionary alert!

I said hello anyway, missionary or not. "Hey, moving in or moving out?"

Moving in, he said, in an Irish accent. Missionary alert averted.

We continued along and I turned to Sara. "Invite him to come to the WA bar tonight".

We stopped and turned back, she invited him, and we chatted a bit more before heading on our way.

He ended up coming to the bar with his friend. They have been here for two weeks, work in a new school that just opened up directly next to mine, and had not yet found any foreigner population in Suji. They live in the same complex of buildings as us. They're cool, normal, and interesting to tall to, and they ask refreshing questions like "why" instead of just "what" all the time, or even worse, no questions at all.

I think we could be friends, and all because of an easy hello and an invite. I should try that more often. Though likely you usually get stuck with freaks. Would it work so easily in Toronto, you think? How do people make friends?

Friday, March 24, 2006

School lunches: Friday

Thank god it's Friday. I hate teaching and can't wait to be finished with it. There it is. I have two new kids in my kindergarten class and they are sucking the life out of me! Right out! I have no more life. There is a good reason that teachers have summers off and all the other things we call perks. I wish I had a March break.


Today's lunch was good and I have to say that of all weeks to photo-document, this has been rather spectacular. Not once did we have a lunch with only rice and kimchi, an occurence that easily comes up twice in one week. Maybe the cook noticed my camera in her kitchen and pulled up her socks.

Today we had saucy and battered chicken (not too appetizing for some but a winner in my books), kimchi, lotus root, and kimchi.
Here is my plate. That lotus root is damn tasty, if that's what it really it. I don't know how it's prepared or what it really is but it is a real delicacy. I recommend it. And the crumbly tofu soup is also fantastic, though it's probably the left over tofu from lunch two days ago. All in all, a decent lunch.

I'm so glad to see Friday roll around after a bad, but quick, week. I can't think of any other job that would bring me to boiling point as often as this job, if ever. It can't be good for my health, or eye bags.

It's the WA bar's closing night tonight. What will become of the Suji foreigner scene??

Thursday, March 23, 2006

School lunches: Thursday (and my road to stardom)

Lunch today was chap chey (I don't actually know how to romanize this one properly...) It seems like everyone has something in Korea that they used to love to eat but now can't stomach the thought of. Sara, for example, can't even think about mandu OR cheese toasts, two things I hold near and dear to my heart. For me, one of those things is chap chey. It's actually quite delicious and I'd recommend it: glass noodles, various veggies, some meat, and a sesame flavour (I think). The problem for me is that it's always served cold and greasy-like at school and I just can't take it. I don't know what the green stuff is on the other side of the kimchi.

Today I took it anyway. Here is my plate. Luckily the seafood soup was a little bit hearty today so I didn't die of starvation.. until about 4:30 rolled around.

In more interesting news, I held my first concert the other day for an audience of six! I have six kids now.. but again, I don't want to talk about the demon(s). I found this website with the chords for all my kid's favourites including Baby Beluga, Down by the Bay, Twinkle Twinkle, and a bunch of others you'd remember. It's amazing the things I remember from my childhood. Like the amazing trick of putting something on your elbow, snapping your hand down, and catching it no problem every time! Lately my kindergarten kids love "criss cross, applesauce. spiders crawling up your back, spiders crawling down your back.." Whoever can finish the rest of this rhyme wins a prize.

I recently taught my elementary kids the full "eeny , meeny, miny, mo" verse plus "my mother says to pick this one". Ahh, It's wonderful.

So anyway, I am really enjoying taking the guitar more seriously and am seeing real improvement. I'm going to buy a decent one and have yet to decide on whether I'll get it in Korea (where it's cheaper than at home) or in Canada (where it's more convenient in terms of transporation and not getting screwed.)

This is John. He's really got to learn how to hold a pick if he wants to make it someday.

And Mel, here is your namesake Melissa. She has the sweetest smile you ever did see. Takes after her... mother.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

School lunches: Wednesday

There's a more interesting post below this that doesn't have to do with school lunches.

Let's look at today's spread. Oh look! Kimchi!! Today was actually quite impressive with two favourites of mine: some kind of tasty meat and some kind of tasty potato. Mashissoyo! Also there is cole slaw which is a rare occurence. It's nice to have cabbage in this form but do they HAVE to lay the mayo on that thick all the damn time? Why? With many foods here there is a tendency to be very sauce heavy, and this coming from a girl who loves her sauce. Even sushi rolls get drenched in a ranch or mayo-type dressing. Don't even get me started on green salads if you're lucky enough to come across one somewhere.

Here is my plate. I also quite like this tofu-heavy soup. Never before did I enjoy tofu but these days I find it to be quite a pleasing addition to my regular diet. I supplemented this lunch with a small bag of peppero courtesy of a new little kindergartener of mine who has been bawling uncontrollably the past two days. Save me.

Two more days until the weekend when I'll have to make my own lunch. Oh, how will I manage?

Are you too good for your home?

All I want to do is post pictures of my lunch today so I can got on with my life but no! Blogger is disagreeable tonight. Maybe in a bit it'll work. In the interim I'll bring you up to date on my newest deliberation.

The question of the day is where to live next year. Living in the suburbs with my parents is out because of all that independence and draw of city living and such. The other options are to rent an apartment, invest in a condo or loft, or live in residence.

My immidiate thought was that I would rent a bachelor apartment. I don't want to share because I'm not very good at sharing. And I call myself a kindergarten teacher... Really, I like to live alone and don't want to have to worry about someone else's stuff, habits, personality, or whatever might come up. I also don't want any friendships to suffer.

Then I got offered all this money so my next idea was to invest in real estate. I can buy (AKA get a huge mortgage) and avoid throwing money away on rent. I will be in Toronto for eight months definitely and probably a lot more but I'd like to eventually live there (well, I think I do) so if I leave for a little while I can always rent it out. I think certain neighbourhoods are very up and coming and by buying now I could be setting myself up well.

I was getting all excited about this idea.

But then I thought that I really don't have that much money. And I have no idea what my bank account will look like next year. I'll either find a job (and with an MA in Sociology I won't be able to go all that far) or I'll move on to a PhD. Who knows what my financial situation will be like, but likely it won't be great and I won't have a large sum sitting in my bank account from a year spent in Korea.


That led me to my most recent tentative decision to live in the graduate house at U of T. It's that terrible building that looks like it has no windows. The set-up is three or four person apartments with private, SMALL bedrooms and shared bathroom, kitchen, and living room. At first the idea of living in residence again repulsed me - the terrible furniture, the terrible smell, the terrible sharing. But it's starting to sound pretty damn good. I only have to commit to the eight months of my program (instead of a year long renting contract). It only costs $600 a month including utilities, where the kind of apartment I'd want near U of T costs around $850 without utilities (or roommates). It's right on campus and close to everything. I don't have to worry about moving furniture. It's quick and easy. I don't know how it'll be having friends over, or whether I'll feel too controlled by my roommates, though. Who knows, maybe I'll actually like my roommates and meet some decent people in my building.

Has anyone lived or known someone who lived there? Any thoughts or impressions about all this?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

School lunches: Tuesday

Let's see what today had in store. From left to right we've got: Ahh, what a surprise! It's the same plate of kimchi from yesterday! And there is another kimchi variety which I have reason to believe is radish, undercooked egg patties, and jja jjang. Ugh, I hate jja jjang. It's black slop made from black beans (I think) and it has little carrots, onions, and meat bits in it, at least at my school. I used to not mind it and piled it onto my rice but these days the thought of it makes me shudder. Except at the little noodle store downstairs. There it's okay.

And here is my, err, plate! Yep, anytime we have jja jjang D'Arcy and I head for the hills. Thank goodness for the recent arrival of Subway in Suji. I have taken to ordering veggie subs here because they are delicious and cheap (2,800 KRW for a small) but today I had a rough one with my kidergarteners - I'll get to that some other time - so I treated myself to chicken. It wasn't worth the extra thousand won. The taste was strange.

That's lunch for ya.

Today I officially faxed in my acceptance to U of T so that's that. Now I have to think about where I'll live and that's been occupying my mind a lot. To rent or to buy.. that is the question. I'll get to that in detail once the lunch series comes to an end.

So long!

Monday, March 20, 2006

School lunches: Monday

I've been meaning to get around to this fascinating series for months now but never remember to do it when Monday rolls around. Be prepared for incredible culinary arts, my friends!

At Suji Kid's College we teachers are provided with a free lunch daily. Usually it's the same thing the kid's eat that day, but sometimes it's not quite as good. We pretty often have quite bad lunches and sometimes some really good ones. Who knows what this week will bring.

Take a look at what was served today. This is a pretty impressive spread with two meat options and two varieties of kimchi. On the left is cucumber, then there is some kind of fish, sweet beef (bulgogi) and good ol' fashioned kimchi.

This is my plate. I'm not so into fish, especially when you have to pay careful attention to the many bones, so I opted out today. I took a healthy serving of bulgogi and put extra sauce on my rice for some flavour. The cucumber was only alright, and the soup today lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Ahh, je sais - good taste! After repeatedly scooping 3/4 of my dull white rice back into the rice cooker the cook has finally learned to give me a smaller serving. Also, I tried hard to develop a taste for kimchi but I've given up. I just can't do it.

Does this look good or bad to you, I wonder? It's really not too bad, but can you imagine what the poor vegetarians are eating? Suckers.

Stay tuned to see what the rest of the week will serve up. And keep your fingers crossed for my sake.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Rolling in the dough

I felt a little confused about what I'd do when Western offered me $14,500 to study there. But then I got word from U of T that they're offering a minimum of $19,100. Most of their students, they say, get 1.4 to 2 times the minimum. That certainly cleared up some of my confusion. I guess I'll see how much McGill has to offer (by the way, they want me too) but I'm basically sure that I'll choose U of T. They expect my answer by Friday.

All of this should be very exciting and incredible, but after the initial shock that I'd been accepted to U of T I'm left feeling very little about it all. Of course it's great news that money won't be much of an issue. Of course it's an ego boost to be accepted everywhere. But it's also unnerving to realize how bad my judgment is. I really didn't think I'd get accepted anywhere. My papers weren't so good, my statements unpolished. Are they so easily fooled? Am I so unaware of myself and what I'm capable of? Who am I up against? It all doesn't make too much sense.

And now they're offering me thousands of dollars I never expected. What the hell is going on here? It's cool, I can deal with this kind of surprise.

Mel's engaged, read all about it! Spread the word! Hip hip hooray!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Waitress etiquette

Sometimes it's like people have never seen a 'foreigner' in real life before... and it cracks me up to be such an interesting sight.

Today the school lunch was worse than the usual bad so D'Arcy and I went downstairs to a little noodle place in the next building. We've been there a couple of times before and the last time the waitress woman paid particular attention to us. Today was no different.

First of all, D'Arcy ordered jap che, a glass noodle dish with sparse veggies and meat. For some reason this dish is served with rice on the side when rice is the last thing we want. She told the waitress to hold the rice and she understood but kept coming back and making sure that D'Arcy didn't want it. How could you not want rice? Though D'Arcy said NO RICE (in Korean) three solid times, eventually the ajumma just couldn't take it anymore and brought rice in a bowl. It went uneaten.

Aside from lingering at our table, staring at us, and talking about us openly to the other diners in the small restaurant, what really sent me over the edge was when she brought some soup to our table, took a spoon, spooned some out, BLEW ON IT to cool it down, and spood fed it to D'Arcy. I'm not exaggerating in the slightest. Could you imagine if a waitress ever blew on your soup back at home? I don't know what would happen but it wouldn't be pretty.

She blew on it. And fed D'Arcy. I'm astounded. I burst out laughing.

Walking home a small child saw me pass by and called out an enthusiastic "hi!!!" This is as common as someone bumping by you in the streets of Toronto.

I wonder how it'll feel to go back to Canada where I'll just blend in with the crowd.

She blew on it!!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My yes!

My new boy John hits everyone and I don't know what to do about it. It's really a pain... badoom ch! And one of our class rules specifically says "no hurting - hugging!).

I love when Yoon tries really hard to tell me something, realizes he can't, and smiles.

Whenever my kids want to tell me about something they have at home they say something close to "me house two television!" or "Mindy three crowns!". Often it's a lie, but the point is that this week I'm trying to get them to say "I have two televisions at home". It's a difficult task.

Even worse, my elementary kids say "my yes!" If they want to say I like that, I have that, or anything similar to that. I have implemented a no "my" rule (unless appropriate - I better teach when it's appropriate). So they started saying "I yes!" instead which I guess is a little bit better.

Korean grammatical constructing is the very very rare subject-object-verb. Or is it object-subject-verb...? Hmm. I know nothing about grammar, Korean or otherwise. They never taught me in school... Anyway, anytime you want to say something in Korean it's backwards from English.

"Please give me one Kimchi mandu" in Korean is "kimchi mandu one please give me."

"I am going to the store" in Korean is "I store to go."


So when I come back to Toronto, please forgive me for not being able to hold a Korean conversation. All I can handle are vocabulary words provided by my five year olds and a few key restaurant phrases. Ahh, a year well spent.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk?

The timing: Saturday night

The setting: Seoul, South Korea. The new canal and Itaewon.

The characters: D'Arcy, Jessica, and some guests.

5:00 - we jump off the bus at Jonggak and take a relaxing stroll along the canal that winds through Seoul.

5:15 - we realize we went the wrong way and the canal stopped short soon after we set out. No matter.

5:35 - after a bit of walking we got cold and hit the subway. A man offered to change seats with me so D'Arcy and I could sit beside each other.

5:42 - Realizing at the last minute it was our subway stop, we bolt. I make it through but alas, D'Arcy's foot gets caught! A kind soldier uses all his manly strength to wrench open the doors for her and she just makes it out in time.

6:30 - we devour delicious burritos at Taco Chili Chili's where the Korean owner speaks Spanish fluently. He says he's Mexican. He's not.

7:15 - we walk into a dusty second hand bookshop and find many, many good titles despite the word on the street that it's bad. Nice!

8:00 - we have a beer at Gecko's...

Ahh, enough of this.. let's get to the point.

Sitting at the bar in Rocky Mountain Tavern, who knows what time it was, a guy walks in and I say "hey, that looks like Chris." "It is Chris," D'Arcy replied rather nonchalantly.

I flipped out.

Ten points for whoever can remember who Chris is. Okay, give up?

He's the guy who did the midnight run waay back in July when he and I were both scheduled to go to Japan for visa runs. It was summer holiday and I had a feeling something was askew when he didn't show up for the flight we were both to take to Osaka. The Monday morning following he didn't show up to work and the director found his apartment bare with loads of outstanding bills and other things missing. What a spineless prick he was to just pick up and leave like that, totally screwing over my very generous and accomodating director. It's been eight months since then and we hadn't heard from him at all.

And here he was!

He talked, we stared and occasionally blinked, as it had been when we knew him before. A few things were cleared up and it was kind of funny knowing what really happened after a lot of speculation. It reminded me of reuniting with an ex-boyfriend or something and finding out all the details that you always wanted to know. Why'd you do it? How'd you feel? That kind of thing.

I really care too much about dumb things that don't matter.

He left because of the long hours and a whole bunch of other ridiculous reasons, and is now teaching in Daegu. He said he felt some regret but he wouldn't apologize for what he did.

Then he bought us Jagger shots. It made it worthwhile.

My ear ache update

The ear pain kept me awake and unhappy until around five in the morning, despite two tylenol 3's I took at 11:30. I went to the doctor before work and he did all the usual(ly strange) things like sucking out the contents of my nose and dabbing my throat with reddish foul tasting things. In his script-like manner he told me that I have acute jibber jabber medical term, inflamed timpani (or something - I've got band on the mind) drums, post nasal drip, infected tonsils, etc. etc. He told me not to blow my nose vigorously and he prescribed the same mystery packet he always does. The all purpose ear, nose, and throat doctor precription, only three days worth, to ensure a return visit

I was surprisingly energetic throughout the day but am falling fast..

I think I'll put Saturday night's events in a separate post.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Resolutions and pain

I'll start with the good.

I've been feeling disconnected and bored here ever since I found out about getting into grad school. I've been ready to move on. But I still have three and a half months left of my contract before I hit the hills and I don't want to be waiting all of that time. I want to be productive in some way.

So I've decided to reclaim my guitar from Sara and really teach myself how to play. I've always wanted to learn. I taught myself the very basics a few years ago, and when I got to Korea I ventured into Seoul in my first week to buy this cheap guitar. But then I gave up on it after a while. I have the time now, so I'm finally going to get to it and practice every day. Mark my word. I'll make a video one of these times to show you my progress as I go along. If Jordy can knit a scarf (and play guitar, hey, you're my hero!) then I can do this.

Oh, I'll also spend more time in Korea Korea and not Foreigner Korea. As long as I can bring some friends along...

The bad:

My ear started hurting about four hours ago and is progressively getting more and more painful. In fact, it began with just the right but in the last twenty minutes the left started up too. I'm sure it's an ear infection and I hope I can make it through the night decently until I can get to a doctor tomorrow. I have a stash of Tylenol 3's from my June ear infection at least. Boo hoo hoo. I'm sad.

PS: I have hilarious things to tell y'all from last night so don't let me forget! Don't, or you'll be at a loss. A serious, real loss. Consider yourself warned.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The yellow dust is coming!!

The director announced on Friday that the yellow dust was scheduled to arrive that evening. We should prepare for it. Expect the children and everyone to be wearing masks (you remember sars masks, right?) Take precautions. Locks your doors. You know.

What is yellow dust? The word is that yellow dust is sand from the Gobi desert in Mongolia that blows over China, South Korea and Japan every spring. How lovely! Some years it's bad and people get sick - eye infections, coughs, etc. Other years you hardly notice it. I don't know what this year's forecast is. Apparently for about a month you get occasional dust storms that last for a few days at a time.

Though it was supposed to arrive on Friday night I don't think I noticed it at all on Saturday when I went into the city. Maybe a few more people were wearing masks than usual (people wear masks when they get sick here), but there was no significant difference. And I got cancelled on because of the dust. Whatever, man.

I still believe it will hit at any given moment. So... I am prepared!!!

Apparently I got this year's stylish baby blue mask-uh. This guy's really taking every precaution with the protective eyewear and ear and head covers. I've got to up my game.

I'll keep you posted on the situation.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Last Weekend... and then some

A little late but hey, why not show you some pictures from last weekend.

Here is Diego and the hideous dog one of my kids gave me around Christmas time. They seem to get along. Diego is the very cool husband of my very cool coworker Jennifer. They have traveled the world together after meeting in Thailand four or five years ago. They married just over a month ago here in Korea to get the immigration papers going for when they move back to Canada. She's from Canada and he's from everywhere. He just got a job two hours away from Suji so they're apart despite being newlyweds. Anyway, here he is with my hideous dog.

Here's me and Dragos at my and D'Arcy's dinner party. We all played Scattergories and I didn't win.. this time.

On Sunday Darce and I jumped on the 5500 and headed towards this interesting area of Seoul we came across back in the Fall. We were there last when it was just getting chilly and I had to buy a scarf to keep warm. This Sunday was one lovely afternoon and it seemed kind of fitting to be back during a season change.

Did you know they have Yogen Fruz in South Korea?? Strange, but true.

They also have pizza in a cone. It's Fun-tastic! I couldn't pass it by.

I opted for the spicy hot chicken flavour. I am very happy with my pizza cone. Waiting in line was well worth it!
Here is a close-up shot of my very special pizza cone. Doesn't it look... delicious? It is! It is!
This is me on the subway with my very cool shopping bag that cost me 100 won. That's ten cents. It's shaped like a T-shirt. Even that fellow with the braces likes it a lot. Uh huh, he does. Maybe I should have gotten his number so I could share it with him.

Here is my mom holding up Kwinter. I miss Kwinter and can't wait to reunite with her sleek self. I love you Kwinter! I love you too, Mom.

Hope you enjoyed the slide show, folks.

Everyone at work is dropping like flies. Six or seven out of eight of we teachers has been sick lately. I have been since two Sundays ago and just when I thought I was on the mend a new shot of sore muscles and sickness hit.

The new girl is still at work and nobody has mentioned the situation to the rest of the staff so who knows what's going to happen. I'm pretty sure she's still leaving because she's not making any particular effort to socialize with anybody or to do any work.

I still only have four kids in my class: Mindy, Yoon, Alice, and John. Mindy is so cute but likes to break the rules. Yoon is so cute but likes to break the rules.. in contrast to Mindy, though, he tries really hard to talk and write well and things. Alice lacks personality but doesn't usually break the rules. John doesn't speak any English at all and shouldn't be in my class. Today he totally flipped out because I caught him cutting up his art project (kind of accidentally) and then surreptitiously switching his with Alice's. I called him on it, he denied, denied, denied, and then he got so angry that he went under the table and refused to come out. Mindy said that her mother is angry that there are only four kids in the class. I think we're all going to grow tired of each other, and fast, if we don't get a decent sized class going. Not that I'm complaining about the sweet, stress-free set up.

Goodnight, sweetheart, goodnight.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Suji Bored

There's nothing to do! I'm bored. Bored bored bored. I have one foot out the door, I think, and I need to get re-involved with my Korea life before it's over and done with.

Work finished today at 4:30 and I went to the gym, came home, and spent the rest of my time reading through a U of T student discussion board. I read a lot of dumb posts about things that have nothing to do with me or my interests.

For months before I left for Korea, while I was finishing off my last year of school, I was addicted to reading the message boards about teaching in South Korea. I haven't touched them since I got here.

I don't feel like reading or watching TV, it's still too cold outside to actually leave my shoebox, and that pretty much exhausts my Suji options. I could go wander around Lottemart. I could get my ol' guitar back from Sara and play the same five songs I know again. What else?

An hour or so later...

I just watched some dancing reality show with Darce and it totally changed my world around. Life is interesting again!! I also took Nyquil to stop my terrible cough and now I'm not sure if I'll make it through Sex and the City (Season 6). I need a life. And fast.

Just kidding, it's not.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Some tasty office gossip

Walking to work this cool Monday morning, the new girl casually asked if we'd heard the news.

"No, what?" Sara and I asked.
"I quit this weekend" she replied.

She arrived on Tuesday night from Waterloo, had a day off on Wednesday, met her kids briefly on Thursday, and her first full day of teaching on Friday. She quit on Saturday.

Who quits after one day of work? Who comes all the way to Korea to do that? Sure she has a tough situation with a class of three and four year olds, but come on! Everyone has it tough in one way or another. Give it some time, at least, and it'll eventually come together.

The idea of quitting was never even a consideration for me - despite Mrs. Rudolph's warning, in response to my groundbreaking fifth grade choir quit, of once a quitter always a quitter. I had already invested so much time and thought and preparation. I had said my goodbye's. I had packed my bags. I was determined to "spend a year in South Korea". And now it's almost done and I made it and it's all fantastic. It's been worth it, really it has. I can't believe she's throwing it away so soon.

It really amazes me. Not only this situation, but the haphazard way that people come here and expect it to be all fun and games. People think about the money, about the travel and adventure, and I think a lot forget to think about the job itself. I hardly considered it. They also don't bother to take the time to find out about the way this industry tends to work over here. At least I knew about the schedule changes and the lack of advanced notice.

I think the new girl assumed she would receive training. Ha! HA HA! That cracks me up.

Sure it's a shame that it didn't work out for her but I love a little bit of drama to spice things up. Especially when it makes me feel like an all-star.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The other side of the world

I waved and smiled and stuck my tongue out at my grandparents today. My grandmother was in her nightie with her hair askew, laughing like a schoolgirl at her granddaughter who is fourteen hours ahead and millions of miles away. Millions? I don't know.

My grandfather is improving his typing skills so I get a great view of his head while he searches the keyboard for the right keys.

I love it.

If only we could get our microphones working properly.

I can't wait to go home already.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Red eyed devils

Having four kindergarten kids is kind of strange, and not necessarily all that great.

My new elementary classes are great because they aren't beginners and they can write neatly and communicate clearly. It's fantastic! I don't quite know how to teach real English though so it might take a little getting used to.

We didn't get our textbooks for the classes until we were in the class already. Thankfully I brought that trusty little photo album that Carina gave to me so long ago. It really comes in handy when I otherwise have no idea what to teach.

The kids are really fascinated by the red-eye phenomenon which apparently doesn't afflict Korean eyes. Their eyes vary in colour from very dark brown to solid black. Maybe that has something to do with it. They're also fascinated with my dad's belly, any boobs that might appear in any picture, and basically they emit a satisfactory "wha!" at any new picture they see. Mom, some kids thought you were Korean today. You kind of look it, after all. All you need is a pair of flower print pants and a sun visor and you're all set!!

Weekend, weekend, weekend time.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A fresh start

New classes began today and I finally felt emotional about the goodbye's mentioned yesterday. Only a little bit emotional, though.

Between the new classes, new children, and the new teacher working with the five year olds I was really made aware of how much I've learned since I got here. I remember how lost and bewildered I felt for the first.. umm.. maybe five months. You really have no idea what you're doing when you're thrust into this crazy teaching environment. Imagine how much more effective the system would be if they bothered to train new teachers even for a week.

Instead the director drops the new teacher off at school and then retreats to his office, expecting her to come across all the new information on her own. The other teachers help, but it's really up to the new teacher to either figure it out or ask a million questions at the risk of annoying her coworkers to death. I really don't mind. But she didn't ask much.

My kindergarten class only had four kids today. I think there are only four kids confirmed, in fact. Isn't that insane? My new kid's name is John and he's rather cute, though he speaks to me in Korean and wonders why I don't respond. My new classroom is nice and the tables are a little more interesting. I've even fashioned myself a teacher's desk. Wow!

My elementary class consisted of seven seven year olds with very little English skills. They know about as much as my more advanced five year olds did back in July, which is basic letters, colors, numbers, and animal names. D'Arcy and I team taught this class and then split them up into two separate classes according to level into. It was fun to teach together. I say we do it all the time. I'm sure the administrators won't go for it.

Oh, by the way, having just talked to our mutual friend Mel on the phone, we named a kid without an English name after her. I tried my hardest to fight back the giggles when we suggested the name. She agreed upon Melissa. Mel, you've got a namesake in Korea!

Tomorrow is a full day in this new class system and I'll have two other new elementary classes to get to know. I feel really bad for the new girl. I remember when my apartment felt sticky and not-mine and my days were stressful and tear-inducing.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Goodbye, Happy Class

Goodbye Brian, Yoon, and Peter.

Goodbye Molly, Wendy, Elizabeth, Stephanie, and Mindy.

Actually, I get to keep Yoon and Mindy so it's all good since they're my favourites. Yay Yoon and Mindy!!!

Four months left!

Sometime in the last little while I've started counting down instead of up. And that countdown is not all that far off, especially since I now have a definite plan of action for next year.

Monday was the last technical day of school for this school year. It was pretty anticlimatic with no pizza party or teacher gifts or anything. My good old Happy class is seriously disbanding, with four kids off to greener pastures, one kid remaining in the five year old class, two heading to the advanced six year olds and three remaining with Jessica teacher but relocating to Smile class. We are no longer what we once were. I didn't even feel too sad.

Tuesday was a big graduation ceremony where the kids received diplomas and awards and speeches were made. We rented out a big church and decorated the altar with a huge inflatable castle. I got a few bouquets of flowers wrapped in terrible tacky crinolin and other awful things. Does overpowering the beauty of the flower please you?

Today, Wednesday, was a day off and tomorrow is an orientation day before real classes begin on Friday. I have six kids currently enrolled in my class and the rest will slowly register, I imagine, which kind of sucks since they'll throw off the flow of the class each time they saunter in.

I'm happy to have this change. Hopefully it will make these next four months fly right by in a fun and happy blur.

We said goodbye to Scott last night with a small pizza party in my apartment where I successfully ordered pizza over the telephone instead of having to walk all the way over in the freezing cold. What a step forward to being a fully functional citizen of society. It hasn't quite hit me that Scott left yet, but I'm sure the office atmosphere will be quite difference without his constant banter and nasty jokes. He's in the air as we speak.

Cara, a friend we met in Jeju back in October, leaves tomorrow so we spent today hanging out in Itaewon to send her off.

There are constant goodbyes in this country and it's just something you come to expect. I'm pretty good at goodbyes. There are also hello's to deal with. The new five year old teacher starts tomorrow with no teaching experience. She'll have a class like I did but with the little brother of the most badly behaved kid in our school. I wish her all the best.

So, eight months have come and gone. Still can't believe the flying ability of time. My apartment is like home to me, and I've started to worry about actually saving more money for next year.

I pledge to start all my new classes on the right foot so I don't have behavioural issues with my kids. I will NOT try to be their friend. I will not, I will not!