Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Gifts

Yesterday, I had my final class with my favorite 5th graders. It's a class of seven students, all of whom have high English levels, work hard, have good attitudes, and are hilarious. I look forward to going to their class every week. After class was over, I was packing up my things, and the students approached me and handed me a big envelope. Inside was this:

They also made one for Jon, who will get to teach them next semester, as they will move up to 6th grade.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fred's Visit: Day two (the much awaited sequel)

Sunday was defnitely less action-packed than Saturday. Since we'd seen pretty much all there was to see in Ingu, we travled south to the big city of Gangneung to visit the Charmsori Gramophone and Edison Museum (if you'll recall, Jon and I went there before, but my camera broke so I lost all of the pictures). Fred works for GE so we thought he'd be interested in the museum, plus it's just a really weird really great museum in general.
Unlike last time, we had an English-speaking tour guide, so we actually learned a little about Edison and music players during our visit.
Here are Jon and his dad in the museum:

Our tour guide showing off the collection of light bulbs:

We even got to listen to a phonograph, and teach our tour guide the word "crank."


After the museum, we took a bike ride around Gyeongpo lake in Gangneung. I've wanted to ride a tandem bike for a while now, and I finally achieved the dream!


We stopped for a breather halfway around the lake.



More pictures from our adventures can be found here.

Fred's visit: Day one

This weekend, we hosted our very first visitor! Jon's dad was able to stop by Korea during a business trip. It was a great experience, first seeing someone from home and second, being able to share a little bit of what life is like in Ingu. We ended up learning more about Ingu ourselves, as we visited places we hadn't seen before and didn't know existed, and did things we never were brave enough to do before: like public singing.
The first item on our agenda was to take Fred to see our school. It was a Saturday, but the kids still had to go to school for a half-day, and everyone was anxiously awaiting our arrival. We first had to meet with the principal, who did the normal bragging about how great Gangwon is, and actually complimented Jon and I on our teaching, which was nice, especially since he's never seen us teach.
Here are Jon and his dad in the hallway of the English Center. OR are they actually on the streets of New York City? Who can tell?
Fred was very happy to find his home country represented in the English classroom:
Next we explored the area around Jukdo or "Bamboo Island," this supposedly used to be an island, but is now attached to Ingu.
The view from the top of Jukdo of Ingu Beach is beautiful.

While walking around outside of Jukdo, we found these really interesting rock formations. They made me dream of summer when it will be warm enough to go there and read.
Later we went to Jumunjin to eat at our favorite pizza place. It was a very windy, cold day which found us hiding in doorways and running into buildings to try to escape the pain, but we still managed to explore a little.
One of the most interesting parts of Jumunjin is the huge fish market, where we found a dried Manta ray for sale:
We also went down to Jumunjin Harbor. I love this picture because it adequately captures how we were feeling in the weather (you can click on the image to get a close-up).
After lunch, we returned to Ingu, where we finally got to show off Ingu's pride and joy: THE BIG BUDDHA at HyuHyu-Am temple.
I mean, it is really big.
We went inside of HyuHyu-Am for the first time. The temple is made up of a long circular hallway covered in paintings, in the center of the hallway is a small room with an altar.
The last, but certainly not least important, event of Saturday was our trip to Norebang. Norebang or "Singing Room" in English, is basically karaoke without an audience, or rather, only the audience of a small group of your friends. You pay by the hour for your own room with a bunch of TVs, two microphones, and some tambourines. Would you like to see some videos of us singing? I thought so. In case you were wondering, the lovely Korean woman in the videos is Yeong Eon, our office aid who LOVES Norebang.

I took a lot of pictures so you can find more here, but try not to spoil it for yourself because "Fred's visit: Day two" will be up shortly.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Coffee Shop

Although I love to complain about the rarity of coffee, specifically good coffee, in our neck of the woods, Ingu actually does have one coffee shop. Granted, this coffee shop only serves plain drip coffee and charges 5,000 Won (a little over three dollars) for this drip coffee, but the view from the coffee shop is very beautiful, so we still go there occasionally. The cafe is on the top floor of a hotel, and overlooks the ocean.

On our last visit, the barrista played the same song three or four times. Like most Korean songs, it randomly had English lyrics: "Fighting fighting. My life is beautiful life." I took a short video of Jon enjoying the music.
You can find more pictures here and more videos here.

Wednesdays

Wednesdays are traditionally bad days for us. On Wednesdays we go to the bad school to teach the bad children. The school is called Namae, and at Namae we teach a two hour after school class with no co-teacher and children who love to hit and trip each other. Every week I try to mentally prepare myself and remain in the best mood possible, even if I fail to teach anything. I usually fail. This week I mostly succeeded, partially because my students were being particularly funny. They sucked me in with their charms. To document this rare moment in history, I took a couple of videos.
First, here are my fifth graders, performing a role play about the Bremen Town Musicians for the lesson entitled "Can you join us?" This is normal class time, and not after school, so they are better behaved and I have a co-teacher in the room. The kid who is playing the mouse is just so funny.

Later, during after school, I played Bingo with the 3rd and 4th graders to try and emphasize letter sounds, something the third graders are having a particularly hard time with. They were actually decently behaved. I think the trick is to only do activities where they remain sitting.



You can find more pictures here and more videos here.

A Weekend in Yang Yang

Last Saturday, Jon and I went to Yang Yang, the big city North of Ingu, to visit our friends William and Theresa. They graciously allowed us to spend the night in one of the spare rooms in their huge apartment (of course, any apartment with a closet is huge to us). On Saturday evening, we went to Sol Beach, a huge resort along the beach.
Here's the outside of the resort:

I'm pretty sure Sol Beach is the fanciest place I've ever been.
Here are the elevators, which are surrounded by flowing water.

Here we are inside the lounge. The nightly performers are two westerners who sing "My Heart Will Go On."



On Sunday morning, we went with William and Theresa to a tiny Methodist church in the country. They have a Korean friend who is a professor and speaks English, and he takes them to church every Sunday. There were probably a total of 15 people in the church, and they of course all stared and smiled at us. During the sermon, the preacher would randomly say one sentence in English, looking at us for reassurance, then continue in Korean. I really enjoyed being able to sing traditional Methodist hymns in English while everyone else was singing in Korean.

After the service, there was a huge lunch spread with all fresh fruits, vegetables, and produce provided by the church members. Jon and I befriended an older man who spoke pretty good English and told us that he really likes Americans because he remembers when they helped South Korea during the Korean War, but he thinks our students are turning against us because they have "Red" teachers. I'm not so sure this is true.
You can see more pictures here and videos here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hot Topics

Twice a week, Jon and I teach a 30-minute English class to our fellow teachers. This week, we printed off a list of issues, and taught them how to say "I'm for it," "It doesn't concern me" and "I'm against it."

This was an interesting excercise, because a lot of the issues ended up being great talking points about differences between the US and Korea. When we discussed whether or not the drinking age should be raised to 25, we discovered that the drinking age in Korea is 20. The teachers were shocked that it is even higher in the US. When discussing whether the voting age should be lowered to 15, we discovered that none of the teachers know what the voting age currently is.

One of the younger teachers is really good at listening comprehension, but tends to be very quiet during class, while the older teachers love expressing their opinions and don't mind trying to speak English, even if they make mistakes. During this class, the younger teacher mostly stayed completely silent, probably because the older ones were being so outspoken. Toward the end of the class, we discussed giving homes to the homeless. I glanced over at the young teacher's paper and watched as she scribbled "I'm against it."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trip to Samcheok

This weekend, the Epik teachers that live in Sokcho and Yang Yang went on a trip to Hwanseongul Cave. Jon and I enjoyed seeing our second cave in two weeks. We're probably officially cave connoisseurs by now. We also enjoyed getting to know some of the EPIK teachers that we haven't met before.
After reaching the park where Hwanseoungul cave is located, we had to walk 1 1/2 kilometers uphill to the cave, which was not exactly easy, but the view was really beautiful.







This cave was much more impressive than the cave we went to in Taebaek, and had even funnier signs



After visiting the cave, we got back on the bus and sang some karaoke:








Then we went to Hassla resort, where we had a fancy meal complete with caviar and steak.






Then we carved some wooden ducks.


Another exciting thing that happened this week was that I got my first care package. My nonie sent me some coffee, gloves, and socks, which were all much needed. I had my first cup of the coffee today, and it was a nice break from the weak coffee beans they have here.
The weather is already so cold, and we're told it's only going to get colder. I think I have weather-culture-shock.
That's all for today!You can see some more pictures from our trip here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Korean Bureaucracy

Things Koreans Care About:
Paperwork
Things Koreans Don't Care About:
Doing any of the things written in the paperwork.

For example:
-Jon and I had to have a fake meeting with our co-teacher where we pretended to discuss the afterschool program so that someone could take pictures of the meeting to submit to the board of education.
-Even if all our classes are canceled, we still have to write all of our lesson plans so that they can be submitted to the principal.
-It is documented that the woman who is in charge of the English center, and doesn't actually speak English, is our co-teacher, even though Jon and I never work directly with her. Our real co-teacher is not allowed to go to official meetings with us because on paper she is only our translator.
-So that we will work the minimum required hours, our school created an afterschool program where we teach the other teachers English. The teachers don't want to attend this class, and we don't want to teach it. On paper, we have taught the class twice a week since September. In reality, we have only taught the class twice.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Taebaek

This past weekend, Jonathan and I traveled to Taebaek, in the southern part of Gangwon province. The town was pretty much perfect for us. There was a lot to do and see, but it wasn't super crowded or hectic like some of the larger cities we've visited.
We stayed in a Taebaek Highland Forest cabin, which had one notable surprise: no bed.Although itt did have comfortable mats.
I was really impressed with how isolated our accomodations were. We ended up being a twenty-minute bus ride plus thirty-minute walk away from downtown, and we were completely surrounded by beautiful woods and mountains.
Here's Jon walking on a makeshift bridge during our morning hike:
As usual, we had some interesting interpersonal encounters. First, we ran into a man who was carrying around an orange tree, tried to talk to us for twenty minutes even though he barely spoke English, tried to drag us to eat lunch with him even though we told him we were waiting for a bus, took pictures with me on his cell phone, then gave us some photos of himself to remember him by.
We also ran into some children with toy guns. They loved us the minute we started playing along with their shooting game. They followed us around until we went into a grocery store and the clerk kicked them out. Just a side note: unlike in the US, playing with toy guns is not really discouraged here. Violent crime isn't much of an issue, and gun ownership is illegal.
Our main outing in Taebaek was to Yongyeon Cave. We took a train up to the cave:

We enjoyed yongyeon, but they really tried too hard to make it cool by adding lots of flashy lights and giving silly names to different areas, like "Dragon Head" and "Gateway to Hell."

We liked the Yongyeon a lot more once we got away from the flashy displays, and more into the plain-old cave.
Before we left on Sunday, we visited Gumunso, where there are Paleozoic rock formations...

... and Jon was attacked by a dragon.

We took a train home, which was fun at first, and had a beautiful view...

then the train started going backwards, which was not fun, but scary. It turns out the conductor had gotten on the wrong tracks, so we rode backwards for about five minutes to where the tracks switched, and then started back on our journey going on the correct path. This did not exactly instill me with much faith in the Korail system.

There are a lot more pictures from our trip here. Videos are here.

3rd Graders

Last week, Jon got to help me with my 3rd grade afterschool class. These are the craziest students I teach. During afterschool, their homeroom teacher isn't in the room, so they act horribly. There's a lot of running around, hiding under desks, and yelling. No matter how frustrated I get with them during class time, I always immediately forgive them during break time, when they come to me to ask questions and show me things they've learned. It's not their fault that at the age of 9 they're not quite ready to sit still for an 80 minute class.
During the break time, I took some photographs of the tiny terrors.
The boys played a shooting game with Jon, pretending that the alphabet letters from the rug were guns...
...while the girls drew on the board

According to one of our students, this is what Jon and I look like.
Whenever we play games, our students get to pick team names. This time, Korean pop star G-Dragon faced off against Obama.
More pictures are here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

(Non) Snow Day

It snowed today! Which we thought would mean no school, but no such luck. Here are some pictures of our beautiful and painfully cold walk to work this morning:





(Atleast Yeong Eon, June, and I have warm winter slippers)
More pictures here. Videos here.