Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fall is Coming!!

Girls from my Giza 1 class (from left: Erica, Alice, Crystal)

I left off last weekend on a Friday... from my last post, i'm sure you could see that I not exactly in the right state of mind.. like I said, it happens!! On the following Saturday I went to an art show/festival at the Convention Center. It is so convenient having the cities convention center only yards away. This show was called: "Art Gwangju"... it was absolutely incredible. It was so inspiring, I wanted to go right home and paint.. I didn't bring my paints but, it's a good thing I brought a sketch book and some drawing utencils- thanks Colleen and Dave. I spent a good three hours at the show in awe then remembered it was in fact Saturday night. Out I went for another fun filled evening on the town.

It is interesting, the things I have seen when I go out for a jog... one day as I was heading home, I noticed a huge pile of fish heads just chillin on the sidewalk where everyone passes. In the last week I have seen a lot of food being dried. In the middle of the path, there will be towels of different foods (sliced chili peppers, onions, etc.). People all over town take full advantage of the little bit of farm land they have near their homes. They work very hard planting and harvesting goods to sell. The Korean people are extremely trusting. No one in their right mind would dare steal (the food that they dry on the sidewalk is definitely worth some money but no one ever worries about someone taking it.. they just let it sit there all day). Since there are no dryers in Korea... people hang everything, obviously! You often see drying racks outside of people's apartments on the sidewalk with all their nice clothes hanging to up. When people wash their large comforters, they drape them over large park fences and go get them later that evening. I love how trusting this country is! I mean really, you could set your wallet down on the side of the road and if someone even touched it might be because they were going to turn it in to the police!

The school week... ugh! I really do like my job but it is extremely frustrating that things change every 5 minutes- literally!!!! If you know me.. you know that I like a schedule, I like organization and I like having a plan! I think this job is going to make me a more flexible, laid back person... who knows! As of last week I had 4 classes and I was tutoring one student. On Tuesday I came in to find out I needed to start coming in 3 hours earlier and that I was part of a new research team for TNE's curriculum. They dropped one of my classes so that I would have more time to devote to the new research team. Here comes Wednesday... ohh, what do ya know, my schedule has changed yet again. Im not part of the research team anymore... I have all my classes back, plus an extra one. What the hell! I think it is crappy that they rotate teachers so often... it is extremely unfair to the students!!!! Anyway, enough of that. Minus the bullshit, I love my students. I have consistently been teaching 3 wonderful, girls (they just moved up to, Giza 1- 3rd/4th grade). They are soooo sweet and very, very smart. I teach them every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It's give and take with these girls... not only have I been teaching them but they are teaching me so much about the Korean culture.

Here's some things I have learned from Erica, Crystal and Alice:
- Almost all Koreans have an English/America name.. when they are born, their parents decide on their Korean name and then their English name. Not all cases happen at birth, some people make an English name for themselves later on in life... it just depends. I kept wondering about this... before I came here I was preparing myself to have a lot of difficulty with the Korean names. I was up for the challenge but now I guess I really don't have to worry that much.
-So, if I didn't already say this... TN English is like an afterschool program. Technically, it is only a school for Kindergarten this is why the Kinderloca students are here for a normal school day. I don't teach the Kinderloca students, that's why my first class isn't til 2:50 (this is when the afterschool program beings.. goes until 8:35). The typical Korean school day (not the after school programs) lasts about 6 hours. What was so crazy to me was that these poor kids don't ever get a chance to get their energy out... NO RECESS!!! I mean come on, kids needs to run around outside and get some damn vitamin D!! They get small breaks throughout the day in which they spend time reading. I told them about my Kindergarten students from my internship in America and how they not only have P.E. (physical education) but they also have a 30 to 45 minute recess outside. They were in complete awe.... and so jealous!
- After students eat lunch at school, they all HAVE to brush their teeth (it is essential...on the first day of school, to bring your own tooth brush and paste)... students should do this in America!
-No one and I mean no one packs their lunch for school... everyone buys!

So, yesterday (Saturday, September 11th) was the 9 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. During each one of my classes on Friday, I spent a good 15 minutes telling my students about this sad day and how much it will be rememberd in America on Saturday. Together, via the internet we researched the sad event. We watched videos and looked at numerous pictures. Being that I am an English teacher, from America teaching at an English school, I thought it was important for my students to understand that this day will always be remembered in America. I really felt like I got in deep with my older students. At one point during our discussion we all seemed a bit glassy eyed! GOD BLESS AMERICA!

When I was little I had a few Korean friends... one of the most memorable things about them was... how awesome their pencil cases were. Haha, I know your thinking, really... this is the most memorable thing. I know some of you are right there with me... you know you had Asian kids in your classes and they all had the coolest pencil cases! Well, ya know what.. it must be an Asian thing because ALL of my students have really neat pencil cases. Haha, ahhh memories!

I REALLY miss my shoes. I hate that I have to take off my shoes when I go to work. You might think this is nice to not have to wear shoes (I can wear the Korean slippers but I feel like a grandma and my feet sweat really bad in them and then they smell... gross!) After a while, you feel kinda nasty just running around in your workplace barefoot, especially when everyone else is barefoot. Think about the bathroom... little boys who can't aim then step in their pee and run around where your walking. I won't be surprised if I come home with a foot fungus.. hmmm... lovely!

On Friday I went to the "Friday Market" with Laura. I bought the usual things I like: Korean grapes, seaweed, apples, cherry tomatoes, etc.. One of the funniest things I've seen yet: an octopus got out of its pool/water case and started walking down the sidewalk where everyone was shopping. I've never seen an octopus before and this was the best site ever. I would have expected to see one either sitting on a plate waiting to be eaten or in an aquarium. This little guy was no bigger than my head but still, the sight of him inching his way to freedom was just hilarious. The old woman running the booth he was at finally got hold of him, rinsed him off and put him back with his buddies in his sad little pool he was in earlier.

Saturday night (last night) was great!!! Alicia took everyone out to the only mexican restaurant in town. "Tequilaz" was the name of the restaurant. It was located near Chosun's campus (one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in South Korea). It was so comforting to be around a college campus... even though i'm not in college anymore, it felt a little like home- PIRATE NATION back in North Carolina! After a hard month of work, Alicia thought it was only necessary to celebrate with a few bottles of tequila and a lot of pitchers of margarita's- Thank you so much Alicia for all that you did on Saturday night.. the bottles of tequila sure hit home!

I'm loving the weather here... especially today, it was absolutely gorgeous outside! It was sunny, slightly warm, no humidity, a cool breeze every now and then, ahhhh perfect- I couldn't get enough! Fall is coming and i'm so exited to see how everything plays out in a new season. What I really can't wait for is the Korean holiday of Chuseok. Sometimes referred to as the "Korean Thanksgiving," Chuseok (also transliterated as Chusok, Chu'sok, and Chu'seok) is actually a harvest celebration. Chuseok falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, the day of the full moon referred to as the "harvest moon." In fact, the word "Chuseok" may be translated as "Harvest Moon Festival." Because Chuseok follows the lunar calendar, its place on the solar (Gregorian) calendar varies from year to year. Chuseok 2010 falls on Sept. 22, with Sept. 21-23 being the dates of the Korean legal holiday. The celebration starts with a family get-together at which rice cakes called "Songphyun" are served. These special rice cakes are made of rice, beans, sesame seeds, and chestnuts. Then the family pays respect to ancestors by visiting their tombs and offering them rice and fruits. In the evening, children wear their favorite hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and dance under the bright moon in a large circle. They play games and sing songs. Like the American Thanksgiving, Chusok is the time to celebrate the family and give thanks for their blessings. I am very exited to learn more about this holiday.. I hope to discuss it in class this upcoming week and next with my students. The days that we have off work are right in the middle of the week.. kinda silly but whatever! We will go to work on Monday September 20th and then we are off work the following 3 days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) then we will return to school on a Friday. I am very exited because Laura and I are going to Seoul for the holiday. For those of you who do not know, Seoul is the capital of South Korea. It is the biggest city in the country.. it is similar to New York City as far as size goes. We plan to stay with my friend Taylor. He moved to Seoul about the same time that I moved to Gwangju. I looking forward to a traveling adventure, good friends and some days off work!!

Korean Facts/Randomness

-There are sensor lights everywhere.. it's so nice! In my apartment, when I walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night, a sensor light goes off to guide my way. Not only are there sensor lights all over the place but there is also sensor music.. haha! At the park where I work out, they have public bathrooms. When you walk in, not only do lights come on but also, some lovely classical music.
-There is a service here that is extremely cheap (between 3,000 and 8,000 wons- 2 to 7 bucks)... when your out and you have your car with you.. you might be a little too drunk to drive home. If you call this service they come and take you home, along with your car. Isn't this nice!!! I wish we had a service like this in America.
- I finally got my own Korean credit card along with a check book through the Gwangju bank. When I get paid, the head boss automatically transfers my money into the Gwangju bank and I receive a pay stub. I have been told that since Koreans are very trusting, a lot of time they either don't get a pay stub or they don't bother to check the bank to make sure all their money went in because they just trust that it did. I will have a problem with this.. that is why I will be getting a pay stub and I will be checking my account on the regular! You can never be too trusting when it comes to money!!!!
-Korean hospitals... when I have passed a hospital it is interesting to see so many people outside smoking cigarettes. Now, these are not just visitors and other random pedestrians, they are patients. Patients come out of the hospital with their IV at hand, in their gowns and just hang out on the side of the street, usually smoking...hmm.

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