Friday, October 29, 2010

Busy week

Two of my 5th grade students

"Rule #32: Enjoy the little things" -Columbus (not the explorer)

My life is slowly starting to find a rhythm here. Work keeps me busy but that's normal. At a taco dinner party my neighbor hosted I learned that nothing happens here during the week. Everyone works all day, then plan lessons and relaxs at night. Its only on weekends when this place comes alive. It certainly made me feel better about my situation.

School picture on the field trip

One of the hills near the top

Got to partially climb Mount Halla (the only mountain here) thursday. It was a blast. A moderate climb made more interesting by the company of my oldest students and some gorgeous fall foliage. We get about halfway to the top before we ran out of time and had to head back down. At the bottom I played games outside with the kids for a while after lunch and then we headed home. As a bonus, they dropped me off on the way back. So i got home 2 hours early :D

On the way down

Not camera shy

Friday I had my first kid that refused to behave and had to have his teacher called in to deal with him. Wasn't fun but it was definitely necessary. The class behaved well after that.

Saturday I was required to work at the International Fair on the south side of the island. In the Australia/New Zealand booth. Probably because I can do a funny sounding accent and the kids don't know the difference. Fortunately my "work" consisted of playing rugby and football with kids for several hours and talking to other expats the rest of the time. Overall it was a fun day and as an added bonus I got 2 extra days of vacation for doing it :D

The leaves were lovely on Halla

Today has been about simple pleasures. Watching the Rangers win game 3 in the morning. Having lunch with a fellow christian. And best of all, finding a source of Dr. Pepper!!!!!! Its the real stuff and its fantastic. One of my rules for life is enjoy the little things and that certainly applies here. My present joy knows no bounds!!!!

Two of my favorite nature pictures from the trip

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Back to elementary

"I expected to be thrown in the deep end when I arrived. I just didn't expect it to be the deep end of the Pacific" -Me

As i'm sure you can guess from my choice of opening quotes (being the perceptive reader that you are), my first week of teaching k-6 was a mix of the wonderful and the extremely stressful. I'll get the bad parts out of the way first. My first day they expected me to teach 7 classes with no time for prep and no experience teaching kids. I survived with only a few panic attacks. The next day was at my 2nd school (I teach at 2) and there I met another expat teacher who really helped me find my footing. Her websites, tips and my only have 3 classes that day gave me a chance to breath and get something resembling a plan together. The rest of the week was occupied solely with teaching all day and planning lessons all night.

This picture has no relation to our current narrative but its on a hilltop here and it's pretty and calming after that last paragraph

Fortunately there was plenty of good news too. Now that i'm getting my bearings i'm not so stressed anymore (I was slightly-nauseated-stressed for my first couple days). I'm getting the hang of lesson planning and i'm getting faster. Soon instead of taking all night, it will probably take me 30 minutes or less. Also i'm starting to understand how to teach kids and that makes a big difference too. Once I get some backup plans in place and come to better understand each individual class, I have no doubts that this will become as second nature to me as teaching in Prague was.

Another good thing is that I love the kids and they seem to love me. Maybe it's because i'm a giant to them. Maybe it's because I smile a lot. Maybe it's because I'm new. Maybe it's because I throw them in the air and play lots of games in class. Whatever the reason, they all yell and wave and smile every time they see me. It certainly makes the job rewarding. Heck, at one of the schools I even have my own room to teach in (in the other I visit each grade's homeroom).

My classroom

My classroom

One of my principles even told my korean co-teacher that he thought I looked like a movie star. Tom Cruise to be specific. I laughed and pointed out that he is much shorter than me. They all laughed quite hard at that.

This weekend I am spending sleeping, reading, grocery shopping and generally relaxing. I'm trying to let the stress bleed off then refocus and get ahead so i don't have another week like that anytime soon. I can certainly handle it but I don't like being unprepared if I can help it. For now, here are a couple beautiful pictures I've taken walking around. I'll say this for Jeju, I definitely won't be bored here :)

Looking across the city to where the ocean meets the sky

As my path leads, so I go

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My new apartment (round 2)

"Ok, lemme esplain. No, is too much. Lemme sum up." (bonus points for anyone who can ID the movie this is from)

Things are happening quickly here. This is the cliff's notes version. Thursday I did a short interview (and apparently impressed them according to my recruiter). Then I went and climbed a small mountain next to the harbor which was very pretty and peaceful and is pictured above.

Friday I signed my contract. Basically I get paid better than most, thanks to my experience in Prague, and I have 18 days of vacation (and quite a few more for sick days if needed). I also went out with some people friday and met lots of other expats (expats if you'll recall are people living abroad like me).

Saturday I woke up early and went to play tennis with 8-10 other teachers which was amazingly fun :D. Then I came back and moved into my new apartment. Pictures below. 2 things were notable about that day. The internet was installed the day i moved in (thank you Lord) and my bed was pink. Details below.

Now clearly I couldn't sleep on this or I'd have lost my manhood forever

Fortunately, I brought sheets with me (whew! that was a close one!)

The view from my bed. Its a simple efficiency with a small tv, small fridge, microwave and one hotplate burner but its enough for me

Itty-bitty living space. Toilet (off camera by sink), sink, shower and washer (on right) all rolled into one.

My street. I living in the exciting part of town

Looking out my window. Kinda looks like the city disappears into nothing doesn't it?

Today I went shopping to get most of the stuff my "fully furnished" apartment was missing (silverware, plates, bowls, cups, cleaning supplies, pots, pans, etc). Tomorrow morning the actual teaching of elementary age kids starts. I have to admit i'm a little nervous but I think that's natural. And realistically, it shouldn't be too tough. After all, it isn't rocket science (they cover that in middle school)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Welcome to Jeju

Welcome to Jeju Island. A lovely place of 300,000 people that isn't nearly as scary to navigate as it looks (when you don't read Korean, it looks pretty scary)

Can you see how this might be a problem?

This is a little better

After entirely too much flying, I arrived sunday night. A guy met me at the airport and took me to my temporary hotel where i proceeded to do my best garfield impersonation. The next morning I had a fast, professional medical exam (to make sure I'm healthy and not on drugs before they hire me). I then took the rest of the day to wander around and get my bearings. A trip to the harbor and the market highlighted the exploring.

I only got slightly homesick once that day. And ironically, it wasn't my texas home I was missing.

I saw this randomly while walking down the street. I miss the Tyn Church and Staromestske Namesti :(

I also found out that I may be a minor rock star here. I was walking through the city when I passed by 3 buses full of schoolgirls. As I went by all the girls started smiling, waving, calling out hi, giving me thumbs up, making hearts with their hands, blowing kisses, screaming towards me. This happened with each of the buses. I smiled and waved back and that made them go even crazier. I'd only seen reactions like that to celebrities on tv. Crazy (and a little fun) :)

Tuesday consisted of watching monday night football from 10am-1:30pm (time zone fun). After that came another trip to the waterfront. I filled in more details of my mental map of the area, found a very useful store, enjoyed a lovely day and had a good 3 hour walk. Thursday i'm supposed to sign my contract and will hopefully move into my new apartment this weekend. I'll keep you posted on details. For now enjoy my two favorite pictures from the island so far

View looking towards the center of the island with the old volcano in the background

A solitary fisherman

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Time for me to go

It's been a bit since I put an update here. Of course since i've been home, my updates would have been mind-bogglingly dull (ie. played golf today. spend time with friends. it was fun. had mexican food for the 5 time this week. continuing my single-handed effort to deplete the world's supply of Dr. Pepper, etc)

However change is in the wind (as opposed to dollars??). This wednesday I was given a tentative job offer on the Island of Jeju in South Korea (pictured below). It had everything I was looking for. Good salary, above average vacation, perfect location, fair workload, free housing, free flight there and back. There was only one catch. It required me to prepare a ton of paperwork by sunday and to physically leave by next sunday. But what's life without a little chaos in it?

So two days, 500 miles of driving, and many MANY hours of planning later, I acquired all the necessary documents and decided to accept the offer. Now I have one week left to prepare and say goodbye. Unlike last year, I won't be able to come home at Christmas. This is goodbye for a year (stop cheering!)

That's where I'll be, way down at the bottom

I promise to send an update including pictures once I get there. For now, here is a map of Korea with Jeju in pink. You've seen this before but I want to remind everyone, I will be FAR from North Korea. I will be safe and I promise not to go anywhere near the DMZ.