Archive | June, 2011


24 Jun

Last week I did my open class. This means that I had to prepare a lesson to showcase to the principal, vice principals and a team of other teachers who would mark me.

Most teachers spend a LOT of time preparing for this because this is how they show themselves to the rest of the teachers. They often prepare really special lessons, which are nothing like their normal ones.

For my open class I decided to do one basically like my normal lessons but with a tiny bit more effort. I had to write up a detailed lesson plan (4 pages) to hand in before my lesson.

The lesson went quite well. My co-teacher discussed with them in advance what we would be doing, so they knew what to expect. Grade 6s can be difficult, but they were angels in that class and participated enthusiastically for every activity.

Two weeks passed and we finally had a meeting about the results of our classes. I sat through a 45 minute meeting all in Korean, as usual not knowing what was going on or why I had to be there. My co-teacher slipped me a note mid-way through which said “Strong and weak points of less. Brief discussion.” All the teachers had to give a brief expanation of their lesson. I thought, do I really have to do this? Only about 6-7 people here will actually understand. However, the lesson ended and none of the English teachers spoke.

After the meeting, two of my co-teachers came up to me and said “You must be very happy!” I was, as usual, confused. They said that apparently I was the only teacher that the principal had complimented and that he was very impressed because I had gotten all the grade 6s motivated to participate in my lesson. As well, I wrote the most detailed (read: longest) lesson plan. That would explain the clapping and general looking in my direction during the meeting that I ignored. My co-teachers told me that he said I was a ROLE MODEL for them. This made me really embarrassed because I have been teaching for only 10 months and this is, of course, their career.

So, 잘했다 to me! That means good job. Although this makes zero difference to me since I am resigning and leaving in 8 (EIGHT!) weeks, it’s nice to know I was doing a good job here overall.

See you soon!


sweating it out.

21 Jun

It’s too early to turn the air conditioning on, said the principal. Today is only the first day of summer. Well, we’ve had 30 degree Celsius plus temperatures for the past 1.5 weeks. So.  I’m not sure June knows it’s too early. The students are barely capable of answering a question and I feel even worse standing there sweating in front of them all.

Luckily yesterday it was decided that after 10 am we’re allowed to turn the a/c on in our classrooms. I can just see the power going out from the sudden surge of every classroom turning it on.

Our office won’t be a cause of that however, because our air conditioner is broken. Our office is one of the warmest rooms in the school due to the 5 computers in a small space and lack of a cool breeze. I’m not used to this predicament! I have always had air conditioning at home and in my apartment I put it on as well. I have one window there, so there is no cross breeze to speak of. Basically the heat makes me feel pretty miserable. Headaches and the like. I even am drinking my 2 L of water every day at work. Doesn’t seem to matter. I don’t deal well with heat.

Basically I am biding my time here. The inevitable happened on Sunday and Jacob flew back to Canada. I’m not sure if it felt worse for me to come back here in February or if it was worse when he left, but it was pretty bad. It’s been two days now and I’m getting back into my routine. It’s a bit hard to go home after work to an empty apartment. And to make my own food and my own breakfast (!) and do the laundry :). He was a lovely roommate.

At this point I’m just looking towards the near future. The last day of school is July 15th. Less than 4 weeks away. Then after that it’s time for summer camp; just three weeks of working until noon. About 12 days after that (hopefully of some time off) I will be flying to San Francisco for 4 days before heading home. I’m so done with this life. I’ve been here for 10 months. I’ve had the experience I came for and then some. I’m bored with my job.  I’m tired and miss everyone back home. On the plus side the rainy season should be starting tomorrow. Not.

This post is what 30 degrees indoors will do to you.

a little satisfaction.

16 Jun

A very important factor in job satisfaction is feeling like your job is worthwhile. Most of the time I feel like my job is pretty useless because the students don’t seem to be improving in the public school system. Sure, they improve in the private English academies that are so prevalent here, but not in my classroom.

Then the odd thing happens that makes you think that maybe their little brains are absorbing something after all.

Exhibit 1:

Today, an adorable, but English challenged, baseball player came up to me to talk. Usually baseball players are absolved from learning English because they have practice every day after school, so it’s accepted that they are too busy to study. My feelings on this attitude are irrelevant (but can probably be assumed). Anyhow! Today this adorable little boy came up to me and in perfect English said “TEACHER! My grandmother is in Canada.” I was actually shocked because usually it’s a major struggle just to get him to say a single word. My co-teacher asked him something and it was clarified that his grandmother lives in Canada. Nonetheless, I was amazed.

Exhibit 2:

In one of my grade 5 classes there is a student who tries to sleep all the time. Apparently his mother isn’t in his life and his father works all the time. His older brother takes care of him. In my class, his eyes are drooping constantly and he seems like he’s going to keel over any second. He’s just so disinterested in the class. We found out that he doesn’t even know the alphabet, despite having been learning English since grade 3. My co-teacher has asked him to stay in our class for the 10 minutes after each lesson and today he said the alphabet from A-M. I know it doesn’t sound like much but we were both really proud of him. I think my co-teacher looked like she was going to cry. The best part was really his face, because he looked so enthusiastic and proud for the first time all year.

Exhibit 3:

This is just amusing. One of my tiny, scrawny grade 5 boys with glasses and missing teeth was singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” word for word today. He is a low level student. Who knows?

Although I still find I have little job satisfaction, it’s the odd things like that which make me days go by a little faster.


our one hour flight to “hawaii.”

14 Jun

Two weeks ago Jacob and I flew to Jeju Island. It’s an island in the south of South Korea. It’s called Korea’s “Hawaii.” This is because Jeju has a massive volcano on it and craters everywhere and volcanic rock up the ying yang. The water is also (supposedly) bright blue. Unfortunately the weekend we went it was cloudy and a bit rainy so we were slightly bummed. Jeju typically has warmer and sunnier weather than the rest of Korea. So.

Anyway, we flew out on Saturday afternoon with Jeju Air. The flight was really short; only 55 minutes. The cabin crew was great and there was a big game of rock, paper, scissors that Jacob attempted to participate in. They also wandered around with costumes to try on so you could take photos of yourselves wearing wigs (?). Not sure why. We wanted to, but were too late.

Jacob imitating the Jeju Air logo. Wonderful.

When we arrived in Jeju City we took an hour long bus to Seogwipo which is in the south of the island. We stayed at the Jeju Hiking Inn, which was cheap. You get what you pay for, with the exception of the owner who was really helpful and gave us maps and directions.

That night we headed off to the Cheonjiyeon waterfall which was close to our hotel. There were people there, but not as many as you would expect.The water looked like it could have been really blue but we went at night. I would recommend going in the day, even though there will be hordes.

Me at the waterfall.

The next morning we struggled to find breakfast somewhere. This is usually my biggest concern. Where can I eat breakfast? Luckily, two of our friends from Seoul were also in Jeju for the weekend, and they had a car! Note to self and everyone else, rent a car in Jeju. They drove us to a hotel for breakfast. It would have taken us at least 40 minutes to get there otherwise, on some bus. Also, I forgot my camera for the entire day.

I forget the order of things that we did, but I’m pretty sure I recall WHAT we did.

First we headed off to Jungmun beach, known as one of the prettiest on the island. I’m sure it would have been, but it was overcast. So. Not really. Here is what it should have looked like:

From We Travel World

Anyway. It didn’t. However, the upside was we got sworn at by some haenyo. What are haenyo you ask? Lovely ladies of the sea! Haeyno are women (up to age 60) who free dive up to 20 metres deep for seafood. They wear wetsuits now, but we imagine that they used to wear loin cloths.

From the blog "The Best Time of the Day"

Haenyo can hold their breaths for up to 2 minutes and have to fight off sharks and things in order to pull up sea creatures from the depths. They are salty dogs, let me tell you. When we wandered around to look at their wares, one woman told us (not too politely!) to get away if we weren’t going to buy anything. There’s no window shopping with haenyos.

There used to be something like 300,000 (or 30,000?) haenyo, but now there are under 3,000 in Jeju. I guess they realized there were better ways to get fish. Being a haenyo offers the women some kind of independence as they are the ones who are bringing home the clams (heh).  More power to them!

Once we ran away from the haenyos we went to the Seogwipo submarine trip! It was pretty expensive (50,000 won a person) to go down in a submarine, but it was cool overall. Plus as foreigners, we got to skip to the front of the line for unknown reasons. We took a boat over to the submarine. Here’s a photo from the internet of what that looked like:

Then we climbed on in and began the 45 minute submarine ride. It went 40 metres deep (only 2 times more than the haenyo do free diving, mind). We went by fish and a ship wreck and coral. They even had some guy in a scuba suit come out and feed the fish shrimp so they’d swarm around the submarine. Here’s what the submarine looked like under the water.

It was an exciting experience overall, despite being overpriced. Not many people can say they’ve been in a submarine!

After that I think we were on the road for awhile searching for this place that makes a big hamburger. Our friend read about it in Lonely Planet and so we, of course, were eager to try it. It was over on the east coast, so it was over 40 minutes away. The hamburger was not a hamburger. Really just a sandwich, but a large one. The patty was made with black pork (which Jeju is famous for) and was topped with apples, lettuce and a variety of vegetables. It was really quite delicious (not a hamburger, though) but not enough for us! There were 6 pieces for 4 of us and we wished we had bought two. Luckily for you, the internet actually has a photo of it.

From some strange blog called Me Ilamo Jorge.

Later we went to the Manjanggul lava tubes, the longest lava tubes in the wooooooorld! I don’t have any photos, so you’ll have to deal with internet finds.

From Wikipedia

That’s a pretty realistic photo. It was minimally lit, damp, lava-y and COLD! Definitely under 10 degrees Celsius in there. Sheesh! But anyway, pretty massive and long and all that. So quite interesting to see.

After that we went to a hedge maze, which I’ve never been in. Anyone who knows me know my keen directional sense, which was genetically passed down to me from my mother. *cough*. No. Nonetheless, Jacob and I managed to find our way out of the maze before our two friends! It was probably magic, or luck, or my sense of direction. The maze was run by this weird man who had lived in Korea for 40 years but was from the States originally. Anyone who chooses to live here for 40 years from elsewhere is weird in my mind. But anyway, he offered us a free kitten. We were tempted but said no.

The drive home was strange. There were no cars on the road. We were alone. Coming from Seoul, where I shove people out of the way on the regular, this was a shock to us. We even stopped to watch the sunset and frighten some grazing cows. That would never happen in Seoul. Also the air smelled GOOD. It was fragrant with the smell of flowers. Lovely.

I believe at that point we headed back to Seogwipo. We ate dinner at a place recommended by the owner of our hostel. It was only 7,000 won ($5.50ish) a person, and had 15 side dishes, a whole fish for 2 people, some pork and who knows what else. Great meal for cheap! After that we tumbled into our beds because we had a tiring day.

The next day was Jacob’s birthday, so on our breakfast search we stopped at a cafe that reminded us of a Muskoka cottage. It was quite relaxing and the sun was even out!

Jacob overlooking the harbour in Seogwipo.

We got hot.

Then we decided it was time to head over to the biggest crater on the island, Sangumburi on Sunrise Peak.

Here’s what the internet says it looks like:

So, we were excited. We took a long bus from Seogwipo there (about 1.5 hours) and were greeted with this:

Just a bit foggy.

We could barely see down the street. Undaunted, we headed to the crater. This is what we encountered there:

As clear a day as any!

Picture perfect. Still, we were raring to go and began our hike up the mountain. The massive amount of fog and cloud actually ended up being quite beautiful and I’m sure the mist did wonders for my skin (as my mother would optimistically say).

Above the fog.

It looks like we’re in Borneo or Ireland or something.

Eventually we got to the top of the crater and this was our view:

Not quite as clear as the internet photos, but beautiful nonetheless.

After that we decided to go to Udo Island, which was near the crater. At first we hesitated because it was cloudy but we went for it, and I’m so glad we did. We took a taxi to the harbour ( I have no idea how to get there otherwise) and it took about 15 minutes to get over to the island. When we got to Udo we rented an ATV. It was 30,000 won for 2 hours, so we thought that was a good deal. You could get around Udo in an hour apparently without stopping.

Driving an ATV for the first time!

Driving the ATV was super fun and safe! Look at those hot helmets. The island definitely would have been more beautiful if it was sunny (sigh) but we saw some sights anyway.

Jeju's famous horses.

One of the lighthouses. The black stuff is all volcanic rock.

Sandy beaches with the contrasting black volcanic rock.

A black sand beach.

Us at the black sand beach.

Then we headed on the ferry back to Jeju Island and took the bus back to Seogwipo.

Since it was still Jacob’s birthday we went for dinner at a pajeon (green onion pancake) restaurant and drank makgeolli (rice wine). That is the perfect meal for a rainy day, according to Koreans, so we did well. Then, he wouldn’t let me buy him a cake, so he blew out his candles on this nasty blue ice cream cup from a convenience store.

A birthday for the books.

The next day we woke up pretty early because our flight was at 2:15 and we still wanted to go to Loveland in Jeju City (just over 1.5 hours away by bus). We hopped on the airport bus and stored our luggage at the Jeju City airport when we got there. We grabbed a cab and directed him to 러브 랜드 (Lobuh Landuh). Love Land is a sex themed park. Very strange for a conservative country like Korea, and I’ve heard no trip to Jeju is complete without it. So, how could we resist? The majority of photos we took were definitely NSFW (not safe for work), but I’ll upload the tame ones.

A baby turning a crank which makes the metal couple do the deed.

A tame photo of me kissing a golden man.


This could be art, but we know it's just sleaze.

Anyway, it was a very entertaining and strange place. If it’s representative of the sexual attitudes in Korea then I’m quite afraid. You’ll just have to visit yourself to see what I mean.

All in all it was a lovely weekend. The weather did not dampen our spirits for a second and we definitely made the most of our time. We probably could have stayed longer and should have rented a car, but there’s always next time.