I've been having summer English camp for two weeks, and the highlight for me is always reading the amusing things my students post. Here are two answers to writing the conversation for this photo:
Spiderman say "superman! How are you?"
Keep watching, and you'll get some crazy hops starting at 1:20.
My Dad mentioned the other day how we hadn't posted on the blog for a while, and I said, "you know, it's same old, same old here in the Dream Hub." The Gunsan mayor and his people have bestowed the motto "Dream Hub" on our little town, and I think if you were to interview anyone who lived here we'd all agree that it's fitting. As I've signed on for another year of teaching in Korea, I'll highlight some of the reasons why Gunsan is our Dream Hub:
1. Our internet is about one hundred times faster than yours.
2. We have a really cute bunny.
3. Working is often about the same as not working. I've been keeping track of classes I've actually taught so far and it's come out to about 60%. Keep in mind that my regular schedule is 20 hours a week.
4. It's beautiful. Whether we're walking around the lake in our neighborhood (the park that surrounds it just got new, free excercise equipment) or admiring the rice fields from school, it may be flat, but it has a charm all it's own.
5. It hasn't snowed yet. In fact fall has just come with a bit of a coolness noticeable in the air.
6. My students are filled with endless enthusiasm despite the fact that everywhere they turn someone is trying to beat it out of them (in fact, you can whack your students if you'd like in Korea, sometimes I whack mine with the textbook.)
7. We have a giant TV.
8. Really Fancy Coffee Shops. Sometimes they have swings.
9. Our neighborhood is the best. We were a bit nervous when we moved into an apartment building in the middle of a giant apartment building complex, but now that we've joined the hustle and bustle it is certainly home. The neighborhood kids all yell hello at us still. The corner pizza places delivers with such entusiasm that you'd think we were royalty. The bakery makes sure that we don't buy too much bread and the vegetable stand gives us free onions. The stationary shop gives us freebies and every bus in in Gunsan stops at our house.
10. To jump off the last point, despite the fact that we've been here a year, we're still celebrities. Jordan recently caused a hallway jam when he showed up at the end of my class causing all my students to stop and stare at him like he was Jesus returned.
To see more recent pics check out our new flickr album.
So last Friday one of my classes was not wanting to participate: my thoughtful and creative attempts at discussion and activity were being met with nothing but yawns by the energetic students, and snores by the less motivated.
The lesson was on health and fitness (From the textbook: ... Mike: "It really shows. You look so healthy." / Mina: "How about you? You look like you gained some weight over the vacation." ...). Anyway, I will often search YouTube for an entertaining video touching on our topic just to get the kids laughing or what have you; on Friday I found one that was somewhat disturbing (okay, very disturbing, but that's what middle schoolers love) to go along with our fitness theme. I had not shown it to the students yet, and suddenly I was struck by a brilliant idea.
"Everyone up. Out of your seats. Yes, you too. Stand up."
Gradually everyone wakes up and stands, most of them looking somewhat confused and disoriented.
I then started the video:
They start laughing. I tell them that this is serious business.
"We are now going to exercise with the video."
The students look at each other in disbelief. I can't be serious.
Some of the students start to move their arms and legs feebly.
"Pump your arms now! Let's go!"
More feeble movements.
I let them continue in this fashion until the video finishes. Everyone sighs with relief and begins to take their seats.
"No. Keep standing."
Confusion and suspicion radiate from the lethargic mob.
I then proceeded to give an impassioned speech on class participation, lethargy, and education in general: "... and if you are not going to interact with my lesson, then we are going to exercise with the poodles. And if you do not exercise with the poodles--energetically--you will leave the classroom. The poodles, you see, are a metaphor for life: just as you must exercise energetically with them, so you must participate energetically in class..."
It was clear by the horrified looks I was receiving that the students understood my message. And so I started the video again, from the beginning, and this time everyone pumped their arms.
The end result of all this is that when we returned to our lesson, and I repeated the question to which I had previously gotten no response, multiple hands went into the air. The students had decided that this was better than the poodle video. And I had decided that the poodle video was better than anything. It now resides permanently on my jump drive, in my pocket.
So I was teaching about modes of transportation in class today at Napo, and we had all kinds of fun. At the end of the class I decided to have a showdown between all the types of transport we'd discussed; we lined all of the modes up in brackets, and for each bracket the students had to vote on their preferred way to get around. It was a basic bracket style tournament, where you'd have, say, walking vs. train, and if trains wins, then it goes on to meet the winner of car vs. rowboat.
Now what you have to realize here is that we had brainstormed up basically every kind of transportation imaginable, from jet ski to hot air balloon to hand glider--so there were a lot of choices, and a number of rounds. Well, needless to say the tournament was tense to the very end, with emotions soaring in all directions, some wild thrashing, a couple of students who had to be physically restrained, and no end of close and unexpected upsets. The long and the short of it is that Canoe--yes, you read that right, Canoe--emerged victorious, soundly defeating the previously unbeatable Jet. I tried for the life of me to understand why Canoe was so popular, but all I really got in the end was that it had something to do with "human power." I'm sure there's a valuable bit of insight into the Korean middle school psyche here, but I'm not sure what it is. Cast your own vote via the poll in the sidebar.
So we had a half day at school yesterday. I was pretty excited to go home and do nothing for a while, but around second period Ms Park told me that the teachers were going to climb a mountain that afternoon and I was invited to go along. Invited meaning I was going along. I was a little annoyed at the short notice, since I was dressed for school in tights, a skirt and inappropriate footwear, while all the other teachers who were going were dressed in jeans and sneakers. I guess they were given more than a few hours notice of the trip.
So at one o'clock I found myself on bus with about 30 teachers (there are about 50 at the school, so a little over half). We pulled out promptly (or at least I assume it was promptly because we left at 1, although perhaps we were supposed to leave at 12:30, I don't know, no one tells me anything). Soon after we pull out people start passing around the snacks: a bottle of water, some tangerines, dried squid and beer. Dried squid is in fact one of my least favorite things on the planet, but I tried to it be sociable. And I drank my dixie cup full of beer. After about a half hour ride we pull off the highway and Miss Kim (I think maybe no one told me about the trip because Ms Park couldn't go, and I think she was worried about me going without her) informs me that we are stopping at a high school. Although Miss Kim is an English teacher, she speaks practically no English, although I believe she can understand a decent amount (at least she is always translating what I say in class), so what we're doing at the high school (and where the mountain is) remain a mystery. We meet the principal at this high school, and so there are some speeches amongst the two principals. Then we walk to this big building which turns out to be a large auto-mechanics classroom, with lots of engines and cars and stuff. So, I guess we were there to tour this pretty fancy technical high school. We also clapped for the auto-mechanic teachers. Then it was back on the bus and on to the mountain.
The mountains weren't too far from the high school and soon we were blissfully wandering amongst the fall colored leaves next to a peaceful brook, while vendors tried to sell us various strange foods. And it became apparent that "hiking the mountain" was really "stroll along at the bottom of the mountain and take lots of pictures and maybe have a snack." Since Ms Park didn't come with, I got to hang out with all the teachers under 30, as they frolicked from pretty tree to pretty tree taking pictures. The group of teachers who came on this outing, as far as I could tell, was comprised of unmarried, young women, older women whose children were gone, and various men.
As we neared the end of the path (paved for our convenience), the teachers I was with spotted the older teachers (including the principal) sitting at a table drinking and having snacks. At this point there seemed to be hesitation and an effort to turn around without being seen by this snacking group, but I fear there was no hope for them since they had me and no one was going to let me miss out on group bonding. I felt a bit bad because I didn't want to repay their kindness in letting me hang out with them by dragging them to the table with the bosses, but what could I do?
We found the principal, vice principal and various other teachers snacking on a salad and a quiche thing, with bowls of rice wine on the side. Of all the things I had to drink on this outing of fun, the rice wine was the best. There was a big discussion about my name, what the last part of it was, how to say it, then it was back on the trail to head back to the bus.
At this point, it's 4:30 and I think, "maybe it's time to go home." So I happily get on the bus and wait. Miss Kim comes and says, "now we go to dinner." Food is generally a good thing in my book, and I know both Jordan and Matthew have had very tasty meals with their teachers, so I was hopeful. The large, obscene statue outside the restaurant, however, should have made me wary. We walk into the restaurant and Miss Kim says, "Eel." "Eel?" I say back, somewhat worried. "Eel, do you like?" Well, I've never had eel, I tell her. Then she informs me that there is a small table where I can have meat instead. Sighing to myself, I say, "no, I will eat the eel." She looks at me dubiously and sits down. I think she was hoping to avoid the eel herself, but the principal was there and I was sure he would have been very disappointed if I didn't eat the eel. So I ate the eel. I suppose I can say that it wasn't terrible, I managed to eat a few pieces without the threat of gagging, so it's ranked above a few foods I've eaten. You know it's bad when the vegetables start looking good.
At dinner we also had blackberry wine. I'm not sure wine is the right word though because it seemed to be quite a bit more potent that wine. We had little glasses, smaller than a shot glass even. I tasted it and decided it would be better if I just ignored it and focused on eating the eel. But then, someone wanted to display their desire to be my friend and shared their glass with me. So, unless I don't want to be their friend, I have to take the glass and drink the wine. Not too tasty, but better than eel in any case. Then a few minutes later, someone else comes to be my friend. So we go on like this. Eventually Miss Kim and the other woman sitting near me intervene on my behalf and make them give me Coke instead. However, my triumphant moment was when, after taking a shot of Cola and listening to a speech about how he hoped I would learn Korean customs because they are "beautiful," as he was making to leave, I offered him my empty glass. "Ho ho!" everyone says, "Return!" And the man gladly takes my cup and I pour him some wine.
After dinner, everyone wanders back to the bus, and I'm ready for a little snoozing on the bus. However, apparently the party was just getting stared because the entire way back we were entertained with what I can only assume were jokes (everyone was laughing) and singing. Various teachers took the microphone and sang songs to make help make the time pass as we drove back to Gunsan.
Finally, we arrive back at 7pm and I bow goodbye to the principal and I'm given four cans of beer ("for your husband!") and I make my way home. Not quite the mountain climbing trip I expected, but then, this is Korea.
A couple of weeks ago we video-taped a little tour of our neighborhood here in Gunsan. It kind of went on the backburner, but here it is in all of its low-resolution glory (I appologize for the video quality: I didn't really know what I was doing with the camera settings at the time). I hope you enjoy the K-Pop.