Thursday, April 30, 2009

good work!

I forgot to update to mention that 수진 and myself did great on our presentation to the officer from the Province. Actually it wasn't quite as big as I thought it would be, maybe only 12 people watching the lesson. The officer had a lot of good things to say, but I think he was a bit too idealistic. Obviously with only a 50-minute class you are not going to be able to accomplish everything... so some days will focus more on grammar or sentence formation or vocabulary, and some days will have alot of speaking, or writing, etc. But because he only saw one class, he couldn't see the scope of everything I have done. Nonetheless, he really liked the class... especially the video that we made for the class starring myself, 수진, 혜진, and 5 of the students (with 희옌 working the camera). Because we are the only high school with a native teacher in Gimcheon (of 11 or 12 high schools) I think they really wanted to see my lesson to see whether they should consider the effectiveness of a native teacher at the high school level.

I got into a bit of a disagreement with my best Korean friend last night. Today we had a birthday celebration in the morning and then 민채 is monitoring the mid-term exam for students, so we haven't had a chance to talk. I'm always the the type to forget disagreements overnight, so I hope we can make up today.

Yesterday we started mid-term exams. They will last for a week... but the students work very hard all day studying so we are only having about 4 hours of exams each day and then school ends early. After school yesterday about 30 teachers went out to a restaurant near 직지사 and had a great lunch. Then they had a big field out behind the restaurant where we could play a game that was a cross between volleyball and soccer. Yes, you're confused. Let me explain. It is on a volleyball court... with two differences. Firstly, the net is about 3 feet off the ground. Secondly, its on dirt, not sand. Then you use your feet and/or head instead of your hands. Between each hit, the ball can bounce once legally if it is within the boundaries, and your team can have 3 hits, like in volleyball, before you have to send it across the net. There were many other activities to keep everyone happy... such as playing with puppies, picking herbs, playing a traditional gambling game, drinking beer, and talking in the shade.

I've been slacking on posting picutres... so here are some that I have on my work computer:

The photo that all of the teachers took together. On the top row, the 3rd man is 이종식 and the fourth man is 한상철. Both of them co-teach English classes with me. In the 2nd row from the top, the third teacher is 서태오. He took me and some other teachers out to dinner one night, then showed us his miniature airplanes in action and took us back to his house to meet his wife and have tea/fruit. On the far right of that row, the first woman is Ms. 조 the music teacher. She is getting married in three weeks and I'm excited to go to the wedding. On the end is 조경숙. She is a 2nd grade English teacher and has 1 class with me each week.
Third row from the top: the 3rd teacher is 정학영. He is the head of all of the English teachers and picked me up on my first day. At the end of this row there are six women. So, here they are, in order. (1) The health teacher (2) the chemistry teacher 진은겅 (3) 츼예진, one of my best friends here. She is in Japan right now on vacation... in Osaka (4) 신희옌, the biology teacher. Or is she the Chemistry teacher? I can't think today. She's really nice too and I spend alot of time with her (5) my main co-teacher and good friend 배수진. She always helps me when I have problems learning how to live in Korea and is always thinking of ways to help me (6) my best Korean friend 정민채. She always helps me study Korean and is probably the one person here who never tires of speaking English to me. I think even the English teachers sometimes get tired of trying to speak English to me, but she will speak to me for hours, even though she is not an English teacher and has a hard time expressing herself at times.
On the bottom row, the two men in the middle with light pink ties are the vice principal and principal. The first man on the left is the Japanese teacher. He introduced me to his daughter once and was really happy to see her speaking to me in English. I was impressed that his daughter, who is maybe 13 years old, speaks better English than my high school students. The first among the last three teachers in the row is 김명환. He has taken me out to dinner and is always very nice to me. His english is quite good, especially considering at his age it was not taught much in school. Next is 이인민, who co-teaches 12 classes with me each week and instructs me in tennis. Last is 김태슨, the PE teacher. He is good at every sport and is very friendly. He gave me presents to send home to my family (i'll mail them soon) and he took me out to a great dinner once. (Not featured in this photo is the secretary who plays hackeysack with me).

I didn't mention these three in the last photo because I had this photo. We are enjoying the cherry blossom trees behind my school. First is 허민, a math teacher who is a few yeard older than me. Next is 박주원, he also picked me up on my first day and is a 3rd grade (12th grade) English teacher. He is pretty cool and always wants me to introduce him to women. On the right is the statistics teacher 옌구. We sometimes have lunch together and teach each other words in our languages, even though i forget most of them because I don't write them down.

This is the new teachers on the first day. They've all been named in the above photos, so I won't waste my time doing so again. But we all get along well because we are new teachers who started at the same time. Actually, I remember my first day 혜진 was very nice to me and always helping me know what to do and where to go during the ceremony, even though I had never met her before.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I stayed in Gimcheon last weekend. All of the teachers besides me have to work on Saturdays. So after school on Saturday I hung out with 민채. When we were taking a walk after dinner we ran into someone who works at our school... actually, it was the vice principal. So we talked to him briefly and then went along... he was waiting for some friends or family on a bench. I hope he doesn't think it was anything romantic because it was just me and 민채 alone. My three or four best friends at the school are women. The two young English teachers are naturally the best at English (because they had to study it for so much longer than the older teachers) and they sit right next to me, so we get along well. So I'm in the clique with them and a couple of the other young women, who speak good English for not being English teachers.

On Sunday night, we had a big meeting amongst native English teachers to introduce everyone that hadn't met yet. I had already met them all, other than Lindsay. But I'm glad that I went because she is pretty cool. We did bowling/drinking (or, for some of us, drinking/bowling), then noraebong (or for some of us, drinking/noraebong), and then we just got rid of any pretenses and went drinking. Of course, the numbers dwindled at each step of the way, but I usually think that small groups are better than big groups anyhow. The guys in my town have their own clique which consists of the sauna/dinner/noraebong (karaoke)/bar routine pretty regularly. It can be fun every once in a while.

Tomorrow I have to present my lesson to an officer of the Province that I work in. As the teachers are employed by the state, myself included, its a pretty big deal. Even the principal is worried. He is making us do the same lesson for the students twice (and pretend like its the first time). He sat in on the first class and critiqued us. I dont mind presenting in front of the officer from the province, or the principal, vice principal, and 20 other teachers from my school and nearby schools... but I don't like our principal's methodology. Now, we not only have to worry about having a good lesson, but we also have to worry about making all of the necessary changes to appease our principal and also to make it seem like we haven't already taught this material to the students. Today, 혜진 and 휘연 did their class presentations... but there were only three people watching and none of them were officers from the Province. Nonetheless, they were getting evaluated from the principal and I was glad to hear that their classes went great today. Tomorrow is dinner to celebrate our impending success!

Monday, April 13, 2009

괜잖아 질까요

Two Sundays ago I was somewhat bored so I decided to explore Gimcheon on my own. I think I took a bad route cus I mainly went along the highway, which was pretty desolate and never connected to the main part of town. I did eventually find my way to Gimcheon College though, which was interesting. And there were a couple good sights.

My town and school has many cherry blossom trees!

Last weekend I went to Busan. I met a cool korean woman and we stayed up all night on Friday exploring 헤운데 beach and another beach. The Diamond Bridge was really cool at night. I got to eat some mexican food (ITS SO HARD TO FIND IN KOREA) and we explored the 헤운데 area, which is popular among tourists and among Koreans.

On Saturday, I met up with American friends having got no sleep. We went to the aquarium near the beach and had Indian food. Then we went downtown and explored a bit before making our way to 부산 tower. I wanted to meet up with my friend Emmy for dinner, but due to some faulty communications we only got to meet for five minutes before parting ways. On Saturday night I stayed at a 찜질방 for 6,000 Won ($4.50). Pretty good deal considering I got to shower, hot tub, sauna, and sleep for that one price.

The view from Busan Tower. The city stretches far in every direction and on the other side is the bay to the Sea of Japan. On the mountains in the background, many refugees lived during the Korean War. At one point in the war, almost all of Korea had been taken over by the north except for Busan... so it was the best place for refugees.

On Sunday I went exploring on my own in some of the markets in downtown and got to experience shopping for counterfeit products and haggling over prices in Korean. Sometimes I was a little nervous though because I'm not sure about the quality of the products, or if it is sincere when the products say "Made in Korea." I got a few things, but I don't want to say what they are cus I want to send them home to family. I also want to get some of my fellow teachers to help me pick out things to send home. Then my korean friend took me to Shinsegae department store, which is supposed to be the best one in Korea (she may be biased cus she's from Busan). I got a swimsuit, which I desperately needed cus I want to go to some beaches when it gets just a touch warmer. Also, I got some takoyaki, which is my favorite street vender food in Korea. Its a Japanese dish made from cuttlefish, dough, and onions. They fry it in balls on top of the stove like Aeblskiver and then serve it with a hot sauce and mayo on top.

Next week the Principal, Vice Principal, and lots of other teachers and senior teachers will be sitting in on a class that I am teaching with my main (and favorite) co-teacher. She is really nervous and wants to put together the perfect lesson. So at the end of last week we brainstormed a bit and then today we put a lot of work into it over dinner and coffee. I feel really good about it... but she is putting in a lot of extra work and I fear that she is stressing herself out too much over it. But she is a new teacher and will be working at this school for the next 35 years, so she really wants to make a good impression.

Last Thursday, 정민채 was really sick and had to go to the doctor, who told her not to work for a week. So she comes in on Friday anyways, even though she looked like she would rather be dead. She fainted during her class and had to go the hospital. She looked much better at work today, but I am really worried that she is pushing herself too hard. This first month or two of school has been really hard on the young teachers because they are not used to working so hard and they have to create alot more material and work harder than the experienced teachers. I wish she would have stayed home to rest. Today she thanked me for my concern, because she could tell from my text messages that I was really worried about her. To be honest, I'm still a bit worried about her -_-oo

Sunday, April 5, 2009


On Friday the tennis club invited me to play with them after school, so I did. I was by far the worst one there. Really there was more eating and drinking of makeli (rice wine) than there was tennis though. Minchae came just to drink with us before she had to go back to the library to monitor the student's study time. After that, I met up with some of the new EPIK teachers in Gimcheon and Gumi. Some of them seem fun and chill, but I think they all had a rough first week because they don't know anyone here and don't know the good spots to hang out. As two of them fell asleep at the bar, we got pretty drunk finishing the last of the alcohol so we all slept on the floor at one of the girls' apartments who lived nearby.

I woke up at 8:30 saturday and had to go back home. I took a shower and got dressed nicely to get to school by 10. The students were doing elections, so each candidate got to speak and then have their supporters do performances. There was singing, rapping, skits, and choreographed dance (my favorite). After that, we did photos of all of the teachers at the school to use for the bulletin board and other promotional materials.

I stayed to hang out with some of the other teachers and then went to Daegu with Hyejin. She was going there to transfer on another train to her hometown and I was going to meet some friends for the weekend. Actually I mainly just wanted to meet Mona, as I hadn't seen her since orientation. So I met up with her and spent most of the day with her. She had alot of shopping to do and it was mostly fun just to follow her around and try the various street food we found. Actually we ate Japanese food for lunch and pizza for dinner... so no korean food. We ran into some people she knew from her town which is 3 hours away from Daegu. And we also ran into the people I had been hanging out with on Friday. I tried calling them after Mona left so that I could hang out with them, but only one of them has a phone so far and he went home before everyone else... so I had no way of meeting up with them. I did some shopping and sightseeing on my own, but my legs were really tired and the shops were all closing, so I took the 50 min train back to my town.

Today I've been taking it easy. While I was writing this, my landlady came in because they needed to fix something with my pipes. She also started a load of laundry for me and hung up my ties on a hangar, among other things. It was pretty funny.