Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Lately i've been noticing the Pros and Cons of Jeju.

Con: It's been hazy or raining nearly every day for the past 2 months.
Pro: Laying on a beach in hazy weather is still laying on a beach.

Con: It's about 30 minutes to the nearest good beach.
Pro: I pass 3 of them on my way home from work every day.

Con: At times (like yesterday) parents and seemingly half the staff come in to evaluate my teaching.
Pro: After work that day I took advantage of the information in Pro #2.

Another plus, rain and haze can produce cool sunsets

Con: Having disposable income here doesn't really improve the quality of life that much.
Pro: Thanks to the Korean government, teachers actually HAVE disposable income here.

Con: There is very little diversity on this island.
Pro: I get to work here in order to help correct that problem.

Con: I stand out like a lion in a prairie dog town.
Pro: People remember my food orders, my name and go out of their way to be friendly and helpful to me.

Con: Jeju is NOT the Hawaii of Korea as some of it's marketing claims!
Pro: It's still a nice place to live with relatively moderate seasons.

Con: The kids I teach can be obnoxious and a pain.
Pro: They're adorable and absolute sweethearts 95% of the time.

Cute right?

Con: Living abroad makes you miss home.
Pro: Living abroad makes you appreciate home more than you ever can if you never leave it.

Con: Flying out of Korea is fairly expensive.
Pro: Flying inside Korea isn't.

Con: The variety of food here is fairly limited.
Pro: This is not a problem in Seoul.

Con: I'm going to Seoul for the weekend next week.
Pro: Wait that was the pro! Where's the con???

Con: You had to read this.
Pro: I got to write a really easy update!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Time flies when no one is prepared

My small school 3rd graders

It's amazing how time can fly. I looked up yesterday and realized I'm a month away from summer break. Lately everything has been blending into a fun blur of teaching during the week and relaxing, research heavy weekends.

I say research heavy because I'm currently deciding where to go on vacation in August (in Korea), where to go for the Korean Thanksgiving (Japan), where do go after my contract ends (possibly Nepal, China and/or other places) and where to live next (Australia unless i find a job somewhere like Bali or Fiji). Looking into all this, plus guessing where my finances will be though out, checking airline prices, etc takes a lot of time. Hopefully here in a couple weeks I can jump up to Seoul for a weekend. Get away and get a taste of home at the same time :D

A normal picture for children (ie no two doing the same thing)

Now to continue my series about Korea, I'll address two things. One good and one not so good. First the not so good. The whole school system from the top down seems to be completely unorganized. Part of this is that they forget to tell me things until the last minute. But they make this same mistake so consistently and across so many schools that it is clearly a systemic error. Absolutely everything feels rushed or thrown together at the last minute at my schools. Events seem to appear out of nowhere. Teachers sometimes stay in the classroom with me and sometimes go off to talk with their friends. Plans get changed at the last minute and I usually find out when I show up to start the original ones.

This induces the occasional complaint from me (What do you mean I have to teach the 3rd grade now?!? I don't teach them again until next week!). But overall I mostly just find it funny and roll with it. Besides, at least half of these "by the way" moments are good things like "today we have a field-trip and you don't have to teach" or "all your classes are canceled for testing today".

The plus side to this loosely controlled chaos is the amount of freedom i'm given to teach what and how I want to. I'm largely free from oversight and can thus focus on really improving the student's English, instead of follow the exact plan the book lays out. It gives me more ownership of the classroom, makes me work harder and makes me prouder when my students succeed.

Of course the ultimate lesson from both of these situations is to just relax and go with it. As the Bible says "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Clearly these two got the message

PS. Yes I know the pictures are all non-sequiturs

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Some weeks are easier than others

Can you find the waygook among the tired children?

Last week I promised to post pictures of the area I was exploring. However, I discovered an important fact while there. It was boring (the area, not the people). So rather than waste your time, i'll just post one picture from a rose garden there and move on.

The rose garden

Ok I lied. Here's one picture of Wonju. See what I mean.

The rest of the week so far has been fantastic. Temps are in the lower 70s. Monday was a national holiday. Tuesday my entire school went on a field trip to a place called Eco-land. I wish I could make up a name that great but once again Korea goes above and beyond to amuse me. It consisted of (and I am not making this up) riding a train through a forest, walking on a bridge over a big pond, looking at terrible animal sculptures possibly made from grass, taking a walk in an overgrown semi-jungle and then spending 2 hours running around a big field with half a dozen small wooden sheds/playhouses. Why on earth people would pay for this experience I can not fathom. Fortunately I was saved from ennui by my students who kept the day interesting and fun. I even taught a group of them to sing Zip-a-dee-doo-da during the hike.

This group to be specific


Wednesday continued my no-teaching streak with both of my classes for the day getting canceled. This allowed me to do something far more important. Watch the Mavericks win game 4 of the NBA Finals. Thursday also proved to be a classless day thanks to a field trip at my other school. If you know anything about the level of coordination and planning consistently exercised by the schools here, you'll know what came next. I was told about my field trip by text message wednesday evening, was not told where we were going or when to arrive. So the next morning I found myself on the bus destined for, you guessed it, Eco-land again!! Be still my beating heart. Still it beats actually working for my money.

I could hardly contain my excitement

Clearly, neither could they

So now I move into friday, fully prepared to earn a weeks salary for teaching 4 classes (instead of my usual 28). Sometimes life can be pretty good.