Monday, November 8, 2010

Beautiful Fall!

Top: Walking along the fortress... Dominique and I sitting on a beautiful fall tree
Middle: I love the fall trees... this was on the grounds near the arboretum
Bottom: In the middle of our long hike through the forests near the fortress... we stopped to take a picture on this old bridge

I can't believe it's November.. although i've been getting a little homesick (people have been telling me it usually sets in for a little while around the third month.. it's been 2 months and 3 weeks) time is still continuing to fly. The work week zooms right by because we are so busy all day long. I can't get enough of the weekends so obviously, they go by pretty fast as well.

This week was a little hectic at work. I am almost done with the art curriculum but supposedly management says that I do not work fast enough… excuse me for teaching class all week long, grading, making tests, making lesson plans and writing evaluations. I've been working hard to create this great, year long, Kindergarten, weekly themed art curriculum. I tried to explain to them that with my busy schedule, I need a little more than 2 1/2 weeks to create a year long curriculum… nothing is ever good enough for them- quality work does take time ya know. On a lighter note in that area, management has looked at a good portion of the curriculum and they just love my work. They might even try to sell it to other schools… shouldn't I get a chunk of that?!?! I have really enjoyed working on this… it's right up my alley!

So… I have this one class where every student is just a mess. I still love them but man… it's rough sometimes. One of the little girls has got to be bipolar (one minute she is so sweet and the next, she is talking back and throwing things at me). One of the little boys is sooo incredibly smart but he has this weird hand fetish. If he isn't coloring his fingernails with his pencil (I often take it away for this reason) then he is eating his hands or his cuticles (I am telling you, he literally chews on his palms). My god child, your going to get worms if you don't stop that… I tell him this but it doesn't seem to make a difference. There is only 4 students in this class… one of the little boys quit this month for personal reasons (I think he knows he failed his last test and he is afraid to look me in the eye again). Teaching the older kids is still a new learning experience for me (I am really glad I have them but like I have said before, I miss my babies). When I did student teaching in college, the oldest class I taught was 3rd grade and it was only for 3 different science lessons so I haven't really had a lot of experience with older students (3rd, 4th or 5th). I feel pretty lucky to be getting this experience here before I go back to teach in America. I think I forgot how conniving older students can be. I really tried to be nice for a while but after this past week, I decided that I wasn't going to take any more of their bullshit. I came in today (Monday) and laid it all out.. I had a new set of rules and I was ready to enforce them. Can you believe that I was nervous? It ended up going really well. They still acted silly but I am okay with a little silliness as long as I feel I am getting the respect I deserve and we are getting our work done. I think things will be looking up in this class!

So let me tell you another why my academy embarrasses the hell out of me. You know I work across the street from the Gwangju convention center (Kim Dae Jung Convention Center). Well, some very sophisticated, middle aged, Korean women came in a few weeks ago and asked if we taught any business classes. Of course, management told them yes (No.. we are a freaking Elementary school with a few middle school students… come on TN). Not only did they tell them yes but they also went out of their way to tell them we had an entire business curriculum set up. If that isn't enough bullshit for ya, listen to this… this past Monday the women came in ready for their scheduled class time. You know management wasn't prepared, they probably even forgot the women were coming. Who the hell was going to teach this made up class? Luckily, Ryan wasn't teaching at the time.. he was just busy making tests, lesson plans, etc. so they told him he had 30 minutes to come up with a lesson for a 2 hour class… poor Ryan- he is a graphic design graduate, he really doesn't know much about business (haaa.. nor do I). He found some random stuff on the internet and went and taught it. After a week of teaching, Ryan told me the class was going well. He really loves the women but he still feels a little unqualified to teach the class. It's kind of sad that these women pay 2,000 won a month (equal to about 2,000 dollars) for a course that doesn't even have a set up curriculum. Like I said… it's embarrassing!

The best thing about this past week at work was what one of my students brought me. After class ended last Tuesday I walked downstairs ready to go home and make dinner but to my surprise, Annie's parents had brought me an entire pizza, a steak and potatoes, and a lobster with fresh veggies. Oh my gosh… thank you!!!!!!! I made sure to write them a thank you note (of course, they won't be able to read it so Annie will have to translate). Apparently Annie's dad owns an American-stye restaurant… I hope to visit there in the future because the food was delicious!

I had the best weekend… back tracking…I met a really nice girl when I went to the Daejeon Rock Festival last month. I found out she lived in Gwangju and knew some people I worked with so we exchanged numbers. This past weekend she invited me to go with her and some of her friends to a really beautiful, historic town called Gongju. It's fun to meet new people over here… it's like college- meeting people from all over the U.S… over here your meeting people from all over the world.The people in our group are from: America (Arizona, Minnesota Pennsylvania and North Carolina of course) and Canada (Ontario). Saturday morning we took a bus to Deajeon and had lunch. Because Gongju is such a small town, we couldn't go straight there from Gwangju. After arriving in Gongju, we went to a neat museum where we learned all about the Songsan-ri Burial Mounds. We later went outside into the beautiful, crisp fall weather for a short hike to visit some of the actual tombs. One of the most well known tombs we saw was that of King Muryeong. The tombs were mostly hidden… I have to say, the best part about the tombs was the scenic hike along the way. Although, it was a neat feeling to be surrounded by so much history….these tombs have been around since 523 AD. After visiting the tombs, a lot of our day was over because the sun was going down. We found a motel (yes… another love motel, what else- this one wasn't nearly as nice as the one we stayed at in Daejeon but it was still a cozy place to sleep). We ditched our bags and went out for a tasty dinner and a night doing what… can you guess… karaoke!!! I have learned to LOVE karaoke- mom, I think I need a karaoke machine but I doubt I will be able to find friends so sing with me haha. After a really fun night with all my new friends we tried to head home early so we could begin day two in Gongju somewhat early.

After having a delicious breakfast at the bus station we walked along the Geumgang river and to the beautiful fortress of Gongsanseong. The fortress was incredible… we walked/hiked for hours along the fortress, exploring the ancient mysteries of a 1,500 year old kingdom (Baekje). I could not get over how beautiful the trees looked and how wonderful the weather felt- we picked the best weekend to travel to such a beautiful place. After a nice long hike we took a taxi over to the arboretum and it's beautiful scenic grounds. We walked around admiring all the beauty and learning about the different plants, trees and flowers of this ancient town/country. The trip was amazing and exhausting at the same time… not knowing what to pack.. I made the mistake of packing too much. I didn't realize we would be walking/hiking all day long with our things. I could have easily just throw in an extra shirt and underwear but I didn't really know what we were going to be doing. Oh well… my fault… I guess I got twice the workout as everyone else because my book bag was like carrying a small child. The bus rides back to Gwangju were so relaxing… I finally finished my book (The Last Lecture.. I recommend it- very moving and inspiring) and took a nice nap!

Monday has come and gone and I can't wait till this weekend. Alicia (the lead teacher and my friend) is turning 30 on Friday- she is having an 80's themed party… I am looking forward to it! Talk to ya soon :)

Korean Facts/Randomness:

-A lot of Korean woman are pregnant right now because they all want to have their babies in the spring… it is believed that if you have a spring baby, he/she will be born with a lot of strength, power and courage.
-The way Koreans use heat is via the floor (the heats comes though the floor)… it's pretty nice since you have to walk about without your shoes one
-Most Korean children wear glasses (no exaggeration- out of the 18 students that I only teach, 12 of them wear glasses)- one time the girls in my Giza class were alll trying each others glasses on so I tried them on too… they don't even need them!!!!! I found out that the reason they all wear them is because it's a preventative strategy.
-My students were telling me how much they dislike spring… how could you not like spring it's such a happy time I thought- well… in Korea, during spring time they experience sandy winds from China (yellow dust). They said that a lot of people wear masks when they go outside. I am anxious to experience this yellow dust. Being that the Koreans exaggerate a lot, I am imagining its somewhat like pollen.

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