Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Two of my 5th graders. Rambunctious to say the least

Let's begin this update by answering the obvious question that arises from my current location. My first Christmas away from home wasn't as rough as i expected. A bunch of us expats got together and hung out most of the day and kept things pleasant and light. That combined with the facts that I got to talk to a few friends back home and I was able to join the family Christmas via skype made the day a good one (though i am looking forward to being back in Texas for it next year)

A Christmas card that 3 of my 4th graders made for me in another class :D It made my day

This week I've been teaching a winter English camp. It's been easy and quite enjoyable. The kids are well behaved, the activities are interesting and i get home by 2 instead of 5. :)

On a random note, it's been snowing shockingly heavily the last two days here. To commemorate this, we had a massive 40 minute snowball fight with all the kids before beginning the final day of camp. To call it absurdly fun would be a gross understatement. I absolutely loved it and couldn't stop smiling the rest of the day (neither could the children).

For the next week I have a light schedule and the week after that, another English camp (for a different school). Then I'm heading to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia for my 3 week winter vacation!! This will be my first time exploring Asia and I'm enormously excited! I'll have more details in my next update (by then i might even have figured them out) :)

PS. Happy New Year!!!!!

Right before the school play began

Several of my students acting out a local Jeju legend about how a terrible plague was stopped by a courageous villager

School plays are the same everywhere :)

My kids were very excited for our final day snack party, as their work on the blackboard clearly demonstrates

I know its blurry but its the best picture i've got for size comparison. These are not big kids

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We interrupt this class for a .... war drill???

Any time a camera comes out, the peace signs go up

It happened Wednesday in the middle of a perfectly normal class (ie the kids were running across the room playing the game "what time is it mr. wolf"). So clearly we were busy learning when suddenly a siren sounded and a stern voice erupted from the loudspeaker. Fire drills are easy to recognize regardless of where you live so i sent the kids straight outside. As I was heading out myself, I asked one of my Korean co-teachers if fire drills were common here. She said, "oh no. Is not fire drill. Is war drill." Such is life when you live next door to a tiny, spittle-emitting dictator.

This was our "Market Day". It's when students get to use the stickers they earned for being good and/or smart to buy fun little things

On a related note, my kids are adorable. Today a group of my 3rd grade girls came up and asked if I was a Christian. I smiled and said yes. They became very excited by this, explaining that they were too (ok explaining may be too strong a word. more like saying "me christian too" with a big smile). Regardless I couldn't help grinning at their enthusiasm as they led me off to play games with them until the next class.

Clearly Market Day requires difficult choices

I also found out today that I am now the tech support guy for all the English speakers in our building. I was asked in one evening to
1) help someone figure out how to download movies from the internet
2) setup a guy's computer so he can call the US for free
3) help find korean subtitles for christmas movies.

It finally dawned on me that I had become our resident Tech when a friend asked me why his program for calling home wasn't working. As I started to head 3 floors down to his place I realized: there is an insanely obvious thing that must be turned on for this to work (a red light that has to be turned to green to work) and I didn't ask him about it on the phone. Anyone who's done this type of work before knows what came next. I was proven clairvoyant.

But once they make up their minds, they can't wait to buy!

Oh and ps, my tropical island is apparently only tropical 7 months out of the year. Today it snowed lightly for most of the day. Fortunately after adjusting to average temps in the lower teens last year, upper 30s aren't so bad. Maybe we'll even get a white christmas :)

The toughest part of the event was crowd control

Friday, December 10, 2010

Korean culture: private time = community time

An interesting aspect of Korean culture popped up this weekend. The Office of Education(POE) is having a traditional Korean games event Saturday from 10am-3pm. Its not mandatory but it is being treated like it was by the administrators. I had to remind myself that this is a different culture with different rules. In the US, non-work time is your private time to be used for whatever you like. Here your non-work time still belongs to the communities you are a part of. As a teacher, my communities are my two schools and the office of education. Therefore, when my school or the POE sets up something after hours, they expect me to always attend.

This can obviously create a conflict when something is planned that I don't particularly want to attend. Like say the occasional friday night round of dinner, drinks and korean karyoke that schools arrange. After a long week, the last thing I want to do is spend 5 hours having extremely broken conversations with my increasingly drunk vice-principle. This would be quite a problem if I was more accommodating. Fortunately, I'm not :) In a trait no doubt inherited from my grandfather Earl, I do what I want to do, when I want to do it and I don't give a damn what people think of me for it. It may not make me the life of the party but it does make me happy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

(*singing) I'll be home for ..... no wait

I may only have 1 string of Christmas lights but I use it well. And for those of you who have never lived somewhere where Christmas isn't celebrated, its almost impossible for me to explain just how much I value these simple lights

In case you haven't guessed, I won't be coming home for Christmas this year. In fact I work both Christmas eve and the week after Christmas. This is definitely sad but its part of living abroad.

My consolation is that I get to take a 3 week trip to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia from late January to early February. This visit promises to be full of tropical weather, spicy food, cheap prices and gorgeous beaches. I am definitely excited. I absolutely love the kids I teach but it'll be nice to get away from school for a couple weeks. My loose plan right now is to fly into Bangkok, look around for a couple days, then fly to Singapore. I'll explore a bit there, then take the train through Malaysia, stopping whenever I feel like it. After that, I'll head up to a couple of the many Thai islands and spend a week or so relaxing and hopefully learning to scuba dive. Finally i'll take the train up to Bangkok and fly back to Jeju. The relaxed pace of this trip should give me plenty of opportunities to explore my chosen destinations.

The view from my apartment building down to the ocean

Other than travel planning my week had 2 small highlights. The first was that I got the entire day off Tuesday to go to a 90 minute meeting :) The second was that I played the boardgame Risk for the first time in my life on Saturday and I managed to completely conquer Asia. Apparently that's not easy to do :) Neither of these sound very important (because they aren't) but I always try to live by Zombieland rule #32: "Enjoy the little things"

Asia conquered!