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 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:
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


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.


The great thing about American holidays is, even though we don't get to celebrate them here, we get an excuse to have a holiday party with our afterschool classes. Last week, we taught our students about the joy of Halloween. In my third grade class, I taught my students different vocabulary like witch, ghost, mummy, vampire. After I taught them all the words, Jon snuck in the back of the room with a vampire outfit and turned off the lights. Then taught the students the "Ghost of John Song."

Then we let the students make their own masks

And we went Trick-or-Treating. We told the students they could only get candy from doors with pumpkins. Here we are searching the hallway:

Here's June distributing the candy. She made sure every student said "Trick-or-Treat" before they got any. I'm not sure why she put it in a shoe.

We also made balloon Jack-o-Lanterns

Every other Saturday of the month, there is a half-day at school. Luckily, Jon and I don't have to go in on Saturdays, but June and Yeong Eon do. When we came into work on Monday, we found this note from Yeong Eon on our desk:
Our most recent Ingu photo album can be found here, and videos are here.

Some interesting things that have happened lately

The Grandmother
While driving back to our home school from one of our more rural schools, an old lady waved us down. She asked June which way we were headed and then asked if we could drop her off on our way. She was going to a community sports day up the road, most likely to compete in some sumo wrestling or tug-of-war. Jon was sitting in the front with June, and the grandmother sat next to me in the back. As we drove on, June and Jonathan began discussing something, and the grandmother looked over at me and grabbed my hand. She looked at me as if to say something, then just nodded and smiled, and continued to hold my hand and rub my arm. I found this simultaneously funny and endearing and it left me with a big smile on my face. The funniest thing was that neither Jon nor June noticed, so I had to wait until we'd dropped our hitchhiker off to tell them what happened.
Scary Americans
On Fridays, we visit our smallest school, where our biggest class is 3 and smallest is 1. We only teach 3rd through 6th grade, so we don't see the younger children very often. When we first started working there, the other teachers told us that one of the kindergarteners used to cry every time he saw Jean and Kate (the previous Native English Teachers). They were all impressed when the child saw us in the hallway, didn't cry and said hello to us. On Friday, we saw him for the second time. He waved and said hello, and I reached down and patted his hand. Then he just stared at me for a while. We usually go back to Ingu to eat lunch, but on that day the Vice Principal invited us to eat with them, and while we were sitting in the cafeteria, we noticed the kindergartener sitting at the other table, crying. Our 5th and 6th grade students informed us that he was crying because of us. Eventually, his father, who is a teacher, had to drag him out of the cafeteria.
Well-Informed Homeless (?) Man
While we were waiting for a bus in Jumunjin, a bigger town next to Ingu, a man saw us from across the street, and decided to walk over and speak to us. I can't quite figure him out. He looked kind of dirty and acted a little crazy, but I'm not sure if he was homeless or not. It's strange, but when we're in public, the only people who ever try to speak to us are either children or crazy-looking adults. Anyway, the man came up to us and started saying things like "Lyndon B. Johnson. Richard M. Nixon. Satellite. Neil Armstrong." We nodded and smiled appreciatively, occasionally replying with something like "Satellite. Yes." He then said "Hillary" and gave two thumbs up. We asked "Do you like Hilary?" "NO NO NO!" he replied. "Do you like Obama?" "Obama? No no no." "Who do you like?" "Richard M. Nixon. Richard Milhous Nixon." Interesting choice. He also told us some important information like "John F. Kennedy. Assassinated" and showed us that he could read by taking Jon's book and reading out loud, pointing out words he knew.
No Longer Feeling So Beloved
I think I've adequately painted the picture thus far that we are treated like celebrities in Ingu. Anytime someone walks up to us we expect a friendly smile, a wave, and a "Hello." If someone really wants to practice English, we might even get a "Where are you from?" This weekend, we learned the hard truth that it's tough out there in the big(ger) city. While we were waiting for the bus in Jumunjin, just before being accosted by the above mentioned man, a bus drove by and we saw a kid with his head sticking out of the window. We looked up and smiled, expecting a loud "Hello!" What we got was an equally loud "Kiss my a**!"