Hello, dear family and friends! I apologize for not writing yesterday, but these posts do require a bit of time and effort, and after posting 3 days in a row, I felt like taking a day off. So today’s post will be a combination of what I did and learned on Thursday and Friday.
Before I tell you about the rest of my week, I have to let you know that I forgot to mention something in my previous post. As you recall, on Wednesday I went to the big Emart with Caleb and the newbies to get some things we couldn’t get at the little Emart around the corner, and that we ate dinner there and I had the dolsot bibimbap. Well, I forgot to say that that was my first time using chopsticks for an entire meal. I’ve known how to use them, I just never wanted to because it required more muscle control than a fork and when I’m hungry and have food in front of me, I would rather take the easy route and use a fork. I know, I know… shame on me. But be proud of me that I used the chopsticks this time! (When in Rome….)
You probably remember me mentioning that this week we had “special” programs (meaning anything other than a 5-day program), and had middle-schoolers from Monday-Wednesday. Thursday-Friday we had elementary school kids, who were 10-11 years old… meaning they were 9-10 years old (in Korea, you are 1 when you’re born. So, if a kid says he’s 11, that means he’s 10 in our system). My word! What a difference from the middle-schoolers! They were SO excited to be here, wanted to know everything about us (they asked a lot of questions…) and were so enthusiastic in class and eager to learn. They really were adorable and I was bummed we had them for only the 2 days.
They arrived Thursday morning and instead of the usual orientation all together in one large room, we had to take them to their homerooms and do the orientation separately for each class. (If you remember, a class is actually quite small by American public school standards [no more than 16 students], but a classroom is made up of 2 classes and always has 2 teachers. Anyway, the kids were really cute and it took about half an hour of them asking us questions before we even got started with the orientation! The questions are always the same, regardless of their age: Where are you from? What is your favorite food/song/color? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you think you are beautiful? What is your blood type? (Yes, this is considered small-talk in Korea. Your blood type is said to correspond with particular personality traits, sort of like how we go by zodiac signs – for example, Scorpios are short-tempered and feisty – and on Korean Facebook profiles, there is even a section in “About me” to include your blood type!)
After orientation was lunch, and I decided not to eat in the cafeteria with everyone because they were serving spaghetti – or at least, what the Koreans say was spaghetti. I would’ve been the first in line if they were serving the Korean buffet, but I wanted to try something different, so I went to Meister Burger (across the street from the pizza + pasta joint we ate at on Tuesday) and got a chicken wrap that wasn’t too bad. I saw some other teachers in there and chatted with them in line, but when it was time to find a table, they walked right past me and went to the back. I’m noticing that however friendly the teachers are here, they won’t go out of their way to include a newbie in anything, even when she’s sitting alone at lunch time. I’ll always be the person who sits with someone who is alone or invites him/her to sit with me!
After lunch, we had classes for the rest of the afternoon. In Cooking (officially called “Cutting Edge,” by the way), we made banana nut muffins. What I love about my Content Area is that the first hour we go over vocabulary (mixing bowl, wooden spoon, spatula, etc.) and the next 2 hours are followed by cooking, eating, and cleaning up, in which the kids literally entertain themselves and our job is just to make sure they don’t hurt themselves or each other with the utensils. It goes by so fast and is so hilarious to watch them cook and clean! I really can’t believe I’m getting paid for this!
I was actually off the last hour for devo (short for “development”… it’s basically a planning period) and since I had nothing to do (which is apparently the norm), I ended up chatting with some of the other teachers, which was fun. Then, Caleb took me to see where the pianos are located in the village: one in the concert hall, where the Edutainers work (the actors, singers, and dancers who work here and put on shows for customers) and one in the music room in one of our buildings, where a class was going on. Gwen, the woman I helped with dodgeball earlier in the week, and Chris, the newbie, had taught a country line dance to the kids and they were having a dance contest. Gwen wanted me and Caleb to stay and help judge, so we did! The classes were divided into 4 teams, so at each team’s turn, they got up and had to dance together in the middle of the room. It was so cute!!! The team that won got stickers in their passports (the kids carry around a passport that they acquire stickers in when they answer questions in class or do a good job). Then, the whole class got up and did the dance together to determine the best dancer, so we teachers went around and tapped them on the shoulder to sit down if we thought they weren’t the best dancer. After a few minutes, one boy was left and he got candy for winning. They were so excited and enthusiastic, it really was a lot of fun! The best part, though, was that one of the cooking classes had been really bad and weren’t allowed to eat the frittatas they made, so the 4 of us ate them… and they were delicious! Needless to say, Caleb and I were extremely glad that we had wandered in to check out the piano!
Since Gwen had been so generous, I offered to take her class to the cafeteria to drop them off for dinner. On the way, some of the girls wanted to know what my name was, and I told them that I needed a Korean name. They came up with Kim Han Byol (“Kim” being the last name), which I found easy enough to say, so I accepted. The next step is to learn the Korean writing system and learn how to write my Korean name. 🙂
Thursday night I did some organizing around my apartment since I had gotten a few things from the Emart, then Skyped with Glenn and his dad, and then went to bed. That brings us to Friday….
Friday morning, I ended up having the same classes I had for homeroom on Wednesday, so the kids remembered me (but asked me all the same questions again anyway) and it ended up being one of the most fun classes I’ve experienced so far. For some reason, they LOVED me and competed for my attention the rest of the day, and everywhere I went I had kids hanging on me and holding my hand. We made French toast and every single group insisted that I try some of theirs, which means I wasn’t too hungry for lunch later on.
Lunch was a lot more fun because the entire teaching staff, it seemed, had the Korean buffet at the cafeteria, so I had company to eat with. The food was delicious again: rice (always), kimchi (always), but not with cabbage… there were 2 kinds this time, one with cucumbers and one with radishes; carrot + potato salad, braised pork, and radfish (I didn’t take either one). I’ve decided that I’ll eat at the cafeteria every day from now on, including dinner when they’re open for it, because I really don’t have much money left and I need to make it last until the end of the month (we get paid the first day of each month). You really can’t beat a $3 buffet versus paying $5-6 for a panini that doesn’t fill me up. (I’m not bitter….)
The closing ceremony was after lunch, which we were able to do all together this time instead of in individual classes. It was possibly the most entertaining part of the day, because we got to watch videos + songs that the other classes had made, and there was a hula-hooping contest, where one kid from each class went up to the stage and hoola-hooped until there was one kid left. They put on flashing lights and played techno music while the kids hoola-hooped – it was quite a hilarious sight! We then took the classes back to homeroom (yes, same kids again) and they wrote postcards to their favorite teachers. Guess how many postcards I received? Well, let’s just say I had a bigger stack of them than any other teacher!
The kids left around 2:30 and we had meetings the rest of the day. We talked about next week (middle school girls all week. Yay) and prepared the passports and class lists. We newbies were told we’re moving to the Weekend Program, so then we had a meeting for that. In the last 2 days, GEV Administration decided to create a permanent weekend schedule, and lucky us, we were selected to be the permanent weekend staff. Everyone else was really upset, but I was actually thrilled because of several factors: First of all, weekends are easy! We’ll work with the regular OWP program (what we did this past week) for just 3 days of the week since we’ll also be working Saturdays and Sundays. Secondly, weekends are EASY! There will be a little classroom time, but it will be small groups – possibly even just 1 or 2 people – and it will be families instead of school groups. Thirdly, it will be just a little classroom time; the rest of the time we’ll be doing activities! For example, this weekend they’re doing bobbing for apples. That means the teachers simply lead the bobbing for apples activity 9am-6pm. Piece of cake, right?! The other reason I’m glad about working weekends is that traveling around Korea will be easier in terms of dealing with crowds of tourists. Glenn is less pleased with the news since rugby games are on Saturdays, so he’ll have to put effort into finding people who are willing to switch days with him so that he can play (he’ll have to go into Seoul for full contact rugby since there is only touch rugby in Paju). I’m confident that it will all work out and that we’ll end up loving weekends. 🙂
Well, I think that brings y’all up to speed. (By the way, I have to make sure I say “you all” instead of “y’all” here for fear of being made fun of!) Today I’m going into Seoul with the newbies, which means I will have plenty to blog about tomorrow! Stay tuned. 🙂