Halloween Party

Korean students work really hard.  They go to school, then come to after school academy, and then go home to study.  Many of my elementary school students don’t go to sleep until midnight or 1:00am.  Some of them even attend optional classes on Saturday!

My students showing off their “money” – they’re rich!

In recognition of this, my school had a Halloween party on Wednesday.  We wanted to give something back to the students, and let them have a little fun for once!

My classroom, transformed into the Pumpkin Restaurant

It was great.  Based on how many points they’ve accrued (for doing homework or well on tests), they could ‘buy’ candy, food, movie tickets (we set up a theater just for this purpose!), or play Gamble Quiz.  To play Gamble Quiz, you had to pay 2,000 “won,” pull out a ticket, and hope it had a number on it.  If it did, you had to answer an English question and could potentially win a prize.  Some tickets had nothing written on them! So many students blew ALL of their money this way, but it was entertaining nonetheless.  Andy and Yujin were the hosts, and they were hilarious.

Yujin and the gambling crowd

I manned the candy table.  As usual, the younger crowd (grades 1-4) bought most items, so when the older students arrived (5-6), there was almost nothing left.  However, the older students had a lot less points and couldn’t buy as much, so it probably evened out.  In the end, I started bribing them with my personal candy supply – pose for a photo, receive a piece of candy.  Otherwise it’s impossible to take photos of students, especially girls.  They’re very shy.

Andy’s 5th and 6th grade girls

I think most students had fun, although the next day they claimed they didn’t because they didn’t have enough points… Still better than classes, right?

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A letter I received at work

Last week, Sae-hee, one of my first-grade students, surprised me with a package.  Inside said package was a bounty of candy (including gummy frogs) and two letters.  It came from her sister, Sae-yeon, a third-grade student I had had several months ago but who no longer attends my academy.  It turns out she is now attending Moon Kkang, a franchised academy in Korea.

The candy is long gone, but the letters remain.  Check out this cuteness (transcripts below):

Letter one (adorable mistakes intact):

to. Ashely teacher
teacher hi    how are you today?
Oh! I’m Sae-yeon  I’m missing you
teacher I want to go to kimyongjin English academy
This academy is very fun
and Ashely teacher is pretty and andy teacher 
is handsome
and I go to moonkkang English academy. But
moonkkang is very boring
and teacher I am very enviable Because your
and I think your rich or andy teacher is rich
teacher it’s my cell phone number
010.xxxx.xxxx Sometimes call me please
and My younger sister is    go to kimyongjin
you know Sae-hee?
If you want to send letter then
letter is give to Sae-hee then Sae-hee give letter
and can you give cell phone number??
Bye I Love you
Letter two:
Moonkkang Level is 3
My mom said if
you Level up then
you can go kimyongjin
so I study English
How cute is that?? Not sure why she thinks Andy and I are so rich! And no, I haven’t given out my cell phone number… although all Korean teachers do hand out that information.  The teacher/student relationship in Korea is very different than in America.  Teachers see students more often than their own parents do, so it makes sense.
Also you might note my name was misspelled Ashely… this is my biggest pet peeve in Korea and even my coworkers are guilty of it.  Although to be fair, I probably couldn’t spell many of their names.  I think it comes from the Korean pronunciation of 애슐리 which is Eh-Shool-Li.  Drives me bonkers!
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A Korean Apartment

I taught a lesson on rooms and furniture with my 12-13 year olds today.  At the end of class, I had them draw and label their apartments.  It was educational for me as well; I didn’t realize that many of my students have their own room, but don’t sleep in it.  Instead, they sleep on mats on the floor of other rooms.  Their room is just for their things and where they study.  A few of my students even share a bed with their parents! Of course, some have their own bedroom (with a bed) like an American child.

One of my students drew a particularly detailed floor plan.  Her apartment is fairly typical, but it’s a little smaller than most of my other students’.  Click to enlarge.

A Korean student’s apartment

Here’s another good one.  This apartment houses 6 people.  The three children sleep on mats on the floor.  I teach two of them. 

Can you believe six people live here?

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Market Day

On Wednesday, my school had a Market Day.  Many schools have their own version, and I think my hagwon did a great job! Instead of classes, all of the students (grades 1-6) were given fake money (depending on how many points they’ve earned all semester) and were able to buy stationery and food.  Stationery is serious business here in Korea… they go nuts for it! So it was definitely appropriate.

What you see when you exit the elevator – Market Day!
Welcome to the KYJ Party!

I manned the stationery/cookie table, while Andy handled drinks and cotton candy.  Yes, my school rented a cotton candy machine just for this occasion.  Yu Jin and Min Young cooked mandu (Korean dumplings) and ddeokbokki (rice cakes in spicy sauce with cabbage, garlic, and fish cakes).  They also sold corn dogs, which Koreans call hot dogs.  It was definitely a Korean kids’ feast!

Working in the stationery shop
Making cotton candy
One of my students, Min Hoon, absolutely destroying his cotton candy
Our ddeokbokki – delicious!

After the party ended, we stayed late to help clean and set everything up for tomorrow.  We ordered mul nyeangmyeon (물 냉면) for dinner, which is one of my favorite dishes.  A great summer food, nyeangmyeon is a cold dish of buckwheat noodles.  Mul nyeangmyeon is served in the icy broth (mul means water in Korean).  A refreshing end to a long day.

Mul nyeangmyeon

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Photos from the beginning

Not much is going on, but I want to share some photos with everyone.  Soon I am either going to photograph our apartment or (rather ambitiously) make a short video… so watch for that!

These first two are of the view from my balcony on the 20th floor.  I took these on a hazy day, but when it’s clear you can see more mountains in the background and everything looks much prettier! You can click all of the photos to make them larger.

The tower is part of Woobang Land, an amusement park – you can bungee jump from it!
It was a Korean holiday so we displayed our flag
These next two are of the school.
Kim Yong Jin Language School (floors 6-8).  I teach floor 6.
My classroom and the front desk

Hope you enjoyed!

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Starting Work in Korea

 On Monday, we finally got our internet, phone, and cable hooked up.  It’s so great having a reliable connection.  Our cable box has two slots for USB so we can even watch our shows from home right on the tv! We also had our first day of work, which was crazy for everyone.  It was the first day that our school opened (for the younger grades), so everyone’s schedule was being rearranged and changed.  I had 5 classes, ranging from 1-9 students and grades 1-6… definitely a little bit of everything.

After work, we walked through the Monday market right next to our school.  We got 12 of these little pastries (she threw in 2 free!) for 2,000 won… no idea what they were, but they were delicious.  I think they were filled with fig?  When we got to Seongseo we walked around until we found a restaurant that looked good.  The place was called Nuri Potato Soup and we each ordered a soup/stew to help combat the cold rainy weather.

On Tuesday, we met Chang Ha early at work to get our photos for our ID card.  I had different classes but mostly the same lessons.  It was helpful to experiment and see what worked better.  Andy and I went downtown after work since we had to go to Daiso (fancy dollar store basically) and got dinner at a place called Gobul.  Nothing to write home about.

The next day, Chang Ha came to our apartment at 10am to take us to the hospital for our medical check.  We ended up getting blood drawn, a urine test, had our vision and hearing checked, were weighed and measured, AND got a chest X-ray.  I guess they’re pretty serious about who they let into the country! We needed this medical check for our visa (and to get approved for an Alien Registration Card).  Wednesdays at our school focus on conversation and speaking, so it was a lot more fun and casual.  I had only younger students and we learned the words “what” and “why.”
Since I didn’t have a full day this Wednesday, Mr. Kim let Andy and I leave a bit early.  He’s really a great boss – he even bought every teacher in the school Starbucks yesterday, and that stuff is pretty expensive here! So we met some friends downtown for dinner.  It was my first time having Korean BBQ in Korea – we went to a typical place and ordered samgyeopsal (pork belly) which was delicious.  After dinner we all wandered around until we ended up at Makgeolli 3000, where we had pajeon (scallion and egg pancake) and three different kinds of makgeolli (rice wine).  I tried regular, strawberry, and honey… strawberry was the clear winner with honey making a close second.  Delicious – and cheap! The whole night, including dinner, beer, pajeon and makgeolli cost 13,300 won – or less than $12.

pajeon – incredible!

Today we woke up late (when you don’t work until 1:30 you have that luxury) and headed
 to work.  My classes were all really great expect my last one… they basically just sat and stared at me for 70 minutes and it was brutal, even when we played games.  I taught the exact same lesson to the same aged students right before, and that one was a lot of fun – it depends on the class dynamic I guess.  I need to figure out how to get them to engage.  I’ve noticed my students will not answer if they do not know the exact answer, which is hard because in English they rarely do.  Even when we play hangman they will only guess the word, not letters – because they don’t want to be wrong.

We just got home from dinner… went to another Korean barbecue place.  So much food for just two people – I don’t know what we were thinking!

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Training and more

The internet company guy came by yesterday (as did one of our Korean coworkers, Kim Chang Ha) but he had a problem connecting the home phone service… so we don’t have phone, cable, or internet still.  We still have our sporadic internet access, but it’s not good enough to call home or anything.

In Korea, plans change a lot last minute, and sometimes the message isn’t clear.  Beth summed it up nicely, “We only get about half the information, but then we only get half the responsibility.”  So Andy and I showed up at our school at a new time (Kim Chang Ha let us know… thankfully) and thought we were going to the hospital with Mr. Kim to get our medical check.  Except no, we were there for our teacher planning meeting which we were supposed to have two hours later.  And instead of lunch with Mr. Kim and his wife, we had dinner with the rest of the staff.  Mr. Kim ordered in Korean-Chinese and we tried jajangmyeon for the first time.  Jajangmyeon is basically Chinese noodles in a black soybean sauce.  I had only heard of this dish because single people eat it on Black Day, which I always found baffling.  February 14th is Valentine’s Day in Korea, when women give men chocolate or presents.  On White Day, March 14th, the men reciprocate.  If you didn’t receive anything, you “mourn” by eating jajangmyeon on Black Day, April 14.  Definitely unique to Korea!

jajangmyeon, Korean black noodles

Andy and I both received our schedules, which are fairly empty at the moment but will become busier as the term continues.  The new school year just started in Korea since their long break is Jan-Feb.  Three of my classes have only one student! We are both teaching grades 2-6, and I have four different books to use… lots of lessons to plan.  The books are fairly straightforward and Beth and Jess gave us some tips on lesson planning, stretching out units, games to play with students, and so on.  On Wednesdays our schedule is different and we focus on Speaking English with students in a more casual environment.  We haven’t heard anything about that schedule yet.  We both start on Monday.

Today we went over to E-Mart and bought some more groceries to stock our kitchen.  Later we are planning on heading downtown and possibly checking out some used furniture.  Right now I have to rest my poor feet… so much walking in Seongseo, our neighborhood!

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