Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nippon Ichi v1.2

perhaps I should just break it down by day?

Day 1:
I awoke at the abysmal stroke of 4:30am. I had to get on the train at 6:20 in the morning. On the train, I met a woman who works in the school office at another high school in Gimcheon. Her name was ... 이지용... I think. It was nice because we have a common friend and some common acquaintances, as we would come to realize. I think when you meet someone in that kind of situation its like a gift that keeps on giving.

I took a shuttle bus to the airport and was able to check-in and go through security in a combined time of about 6 minutes. So I just was sending text messages to all of my friends that I would miss while I was in Japan. And all too soon, I was on the plane going to Japan!

On the plane I met a woman from Peru who is a student at KEIST university in Korea. It was interesting to hear the viewpoint of someone who is a student in Korea, rather than another teaching going through the same program as me.

After landing in Tokyo, I was able to call Yuriko and say hi, and she welcomed me to Japan. Since I wouldn't be meeting her until tomorrow, I decided I'd take the hour-long train towards downtown Tokyo so that I could find my hotel and get acquinted with the surroundings. On the train I was fortunate to meet a Japanese woman who quite helpful. She showed me all of the key places on the subway map and I was surprised to learn that she can speak some Korean. Actually, she is fluent in Chinese, English, and Japanese, and she can speak decent Korean also. When I meet people like that, I always admire them so much. Especially someone who worked so hard to learn the languages. Sometimes people grow up in a country or household that speaks 2 or more languages. But growing up in the United States and Japan, you really have to work hard to put yourself into situations to learn about other languages and cultures.

I explored the area for a couple hours before checking into my capsule hotel. The area is famous for the traditional sights and souvenirs, so it was a good place to see. I found a small shrine to Inari that was really peaceful and surprisingly well-taken care of. Considering how small and hard to find it was, I expected it to be somewhat neglected. I still dont understand why the fox statues were always wearing red bibs though. Maybe because people always make offerings of food to Inari when they pray for a good harvest or business success? Not that the stone statues can eat the food, though. Ironically, there were a number of cats that lived at the shrine. I think Inari (being a fox, and a member of the dog family) would be upset to know that cats were inhabiting his shrine.

My hotel was quite nice... but the staff spoke very bad English (which was surprising, as half or more of the guests were foreigners). Every room (I use the term "room" in the loosest sense of the word) had a TV and alarm clock! But I only got 1 channel on the TV. It was just there in case I wanted to rent adult videos (at an extra charge). But there was a community bathing room that was good. It had shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Also, there was a hot tub (too hot for me), a sauna (too hot for me) and a balcony that you could go on to air dry or enjoy the scenery of Tokyo (its more beautiful if you're naked?).

At the hotel, I met a guy named Alfredo from Chile. As we were both flying solo that night, we decided to team up and explore Tokyo together. All of the best downtown areas were quite far from our hotel, though. First we went to Ueno. We ate some dinner there and saw lots of Pachinko parlors. We tried to go into a bar but they kicked us out because they don't serve foreigners. So, we headed to Ginza and got a couple drinks at a Spanish bar that we found. We saw a movie being filmed in one of the alleys outside of a restaurant/bar. But most things were already closing down, so we headed to Roppongi. It is known as the best place for foreigners. Actually, there were lots of black guys out on the street trying to lure customers into their establishments. These establishments were all quite questionable, however (or sometimes, there was no question about the type of establishment it was... but it certainly wasn't anything we were interested in.) Finally we found a nice place though. It had a unique mix of different foreign ethnicities as well as a number of Japanese people. I met some guys from Mexico and talked to some Japanese people. There were so many Japanese women in kimonos on this day because of the fireworks festival in Tokyo. And the kimono are so beautiful that sometimes I'd just see the dress and think that the woman is gorgeous, but after seeing her face I'd realize it was quite a different story altogether!

There were some crazy signs in the subways sometimes. I mean, this is common sense! DO IT AT THE BEACH!

Sadly, we could only stay for an hour because we wanted to catch the subway back to our hotel before the subway lines stopped at night. We made the mistake of taking a bathroom break before we went on the subway though! We just missed one train and ended up getting on the last train bound for Asakusa. The train didn't finish it's route, though >_< we got kicked off near Ginza as they made everyone leave the subway line. We tried to walk towards Asakusa.... but it was so far. We met four Japanese people who were standing on a bridge. They laughed at us when we told them we would walk to Asakusa. They said it will take us 3 hours or more. After chatting with them for a bit, we walked a little more and then just decided to get a taxi, which is quite expensive in Tokyo. I went to sleep so I could wake up relatively early the next day.

Of course, I had to check out the night view of Tokyo from the rooftop terrace before I went to sleep.

END of day 1.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nippon Ichi

Japan was amazing. I had a total of 8 days and 7 nights there. On one hand, it really was too short to see Tokyo, Kyoto, AND Osaka. After leaving each city, I really regretted that I couldn't spend more time there. I bought a number of things there that will help me to remember my journey, but my favorite things are those that were given to me.

I have too much going on now to make a full entry. More to come later.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

the sound of lightning (part 3)

My co-teacher is explaining something in Korean on the first day of the week.

Picture with all of the students on Friday. On the back left side is Eun-Jeong. She is such a smart student. Sometimes she can speak English better than my Korean co-teacher. You may notice in the picture that there is a set of twins, a girl with an eyepatch, and a girl with a cast on her foot (maybe you cant see that part). Sye-Jin, Eun-su, and Eun-Jeong wanted to be near me in the picture ^^ and Gyeong-Mi also.

Sandwiched between my favorite 6th grade students !

It was halloween day in class. You might be seeing some of the props. The boy on the end always answered my questions in Korean, his way of revolting against English camp.

Me with a swarm of students. Twins on my left and right. They always look so apathatic. The shy girls are in the front.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

the sound of lightning (part 2)

Okay, I know teachers aren't supposed to play favorites but that's never the case. These are a couple of my favorite students from my week of teaching elementary school (and coincidentally they are the only two that wanted to have their photo taken)

This is Sye-Jin. Perhaps the smallest student in the class of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. She is a 6th grader this year and quite mischievous.

Sye-Jin on the left and Eun-Su on the right. If the students at A-cheon were to make a Matt Fan Club, I'm pretty sure these two would co-found it. Is that a gun?

Eun-Su doesn't seem to mind that Sye-Jin is always attacking her, so long as the camera is pointed in her direction.

The infamous rebel, Sye-Jin.

There are more pictures that were taken on the A-Cheon school camera so hopefully I can get those soon. I had 4 or 5 favorite students, but they aren't all in the photos. Some of them were really quiet and so I never got to learn their names. And some were always talking to me and asking me questions (sometimes the same question every day).

I really want to teach at A-cheon next year, but I know it wouldn't be the same students. Sye-Jin and Eun-Seung will be in middle school. And there will be 200 students, only 15 of which I know. So maybe its kind of silly to want to work there next year. But teaching these kids for 20 hours, I've really grown attached to them. I've never taught the same students for more than 4 hours in a week before this.

On Saturday I'm going to TOKYO. I hope its half as fun as teaching my elementary students. I'm so glad Yuriko got on my case for me to plan my trip. So far I have a list of things I want to do, and my schedule of when I'll be in which city, and my reservations for the hostel and capsule hotel that I will be staying at. Also, I figured out how to get to Incheon Airport. So, I still need to figure out how to get from Tokyo airport to my hotel (and the downtown area). And I need to figure out how I will travel between cities. And I need to get Japanese Yen (worst case scenario i should be able to do this at the airport). Other than that, I just want to print out some maps and directions so I can find the places that I want to get to.

I'm so excited that I will see Yuriko again. I might be able to visit Megan from my TESL class, as she has vacation the same week that I do. Other than that, Yuriko's friends might keep me company on some days and I'll probably be flying solo in Kyoto and Osaka. I have the phone numbers of both Yuriko and Megan in case anything happens to me in Japan, and they can both speak Japanese so please dont worry about me !

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

the sound of lightning

the problem when you don't update often is that it's hard to know where to begin. but after pondering that quandry for a few moments, its quite easy for me to know; I'm not here to catalog every detail of my adventures -- just the important ones.

Last week was interesting because I had to work two jobs. In the summer I am teaching 19 hours per week. That's only 2 less than my normal semester. But in the normal school year I plan two class hours a week and teach them over and over again until I perfect them. In summer, I can only repeat 4 hours of my lessons... so I have to create 15 hours of material to teach. So, you can imagine that I'm actually more busy during summer vacation than I am during the regular school year. Last week was especially interesting because my city's Office of Education forced me to work at 아천초등학교 (A-cheon Elementary School) AND my high school job in the same week. So 9am - 12:30pm was Elementary school (with no downtime ... just 4 straight classes) and then I had to go teach at my high school from 2pm - 6pm. Of course I also had my 4 hours of private lessons (2 on tues, 2 on fri). So, normally i teach 23 hours in the summer and I had to add an extra 20 hours, plus more prep time. It was quite exhausting. Not only because of the hours, but because elementary students demand so much attention and energy.

I'm so glad I got to teach elementary school! I loved it. The students are so energetic and passionate. And of course they are all so cute. My high school students sleep in the 10 minutes between classes. The elementary students play dodgeball, draw pictures of me on the whiteboard, make presents for me, and of course, wrestle me. Especially the girls always want to wrestle. On Friday, I got 8 presents from my girl students (the class size is 20 students). I got 2 letters on cute stationary, handmade soap, a die(what am i supposed to do with 1 die?), and lots of handmade cards that are half in english and half in korean. I gave them my phone number after the last class on friday but then I had to rush to a lunch meeting with the people from the Office of Education. Over the next two hours I must have gotten 30 text messages, 8 phone calls, and a picture message. I couldnt answer most of them because i was in the meeting. One of the girls has been texting me every day and she gets mad if I dont respond immediately. I made a promise to her that I would study korean every day if she studies english every day.

I have to go to lunch now. I hope to post more later (with some pictures too).