Friday, March 28, 2014

Badger Blogging Blitz: Day 5

[This post is Day 5 of a weeklong blogging event, Badger Blogging Blitz 2014, during which myself and five other UW-Madison graduates are posting every day about living and teaching English in Korea. The original event was created by past Badgers in Korea in 2012. Here are this week's previous posts: Day 1. Day 2, Day 3, Day 4]

Badger Blogging Blitz in Korea Day 5

7:14 - Up before my alarm again. And like yesterday, not because I felt completely rested. I was up way past my normal bedtime last night.

8:04 - Get up to brush teeth, get dressed. Eat banana.

8:12 - Out the door. It's nice out already, the sun is shining. The farmers on my street are out working:


8:22 - I see Holly and her younger sister (whom I've never met) as I get near the school. I make Holly have some awkward conversation with me. She doesn't really know me, we're just both foreigners and I'd like her to be comfortable talking with me. I asked her if she speaks Korean. She said "a little". I asked her how long she's lived here, and she said "I don't know". (She's in first grade). I asked where her mom is from, and she said "Australia". (Though the mother did not have an Australian accent when I met her, and Holly was wearing an Ohio sweatshirt today...)

8:25 - Walking up the stairs after I say goodbye to Holly/her sister, I realize I probably should have introduced myself to the younger sister (and re-introduced myself to Holly. I don't even know if she knows my name). Next time.

8:26 - YH isn't here yet. I change into my slippers and turn on the computer.

8:33 - YH comes in the door. "I am late today," he says, as if he owes me an explanation. I try to make it clear that I don't care: "It's okay."  I'm not keeping tabs and won't hold it against him one bit.

8:34 - YH tells me that his kindergarten daughter has an excursion today, so he was up making kimbap this morning for her to take with. He also brought two rolls to school for the teachers in our hall to have later in YJ's office. Then he tells me that last night he had a Scout meeting (He's some sort of scout leader), so he was hungover today. Drinking is huge in Korean culture, especially with men at work meetings. It's very rude for them to refuse a shot (usually the shot's of soju). You can never pour your own drink, but as soon as your shot glass is empty someone else at the table will surely refill it for you, and then you must drink it.

8:36 - I help YH finish cutting the strips for our ordering activity today.

8:44 - I go and unlock the English room and prepare for our four morning classes of fifth graders.  Today's class is the second period of the lesson "Whose Umbrella Is This?". Today they're supposed to learn "What a (nice, wonderful, pretty) ~!" and "Whose ~ is it?"

In the Baskin Robbins game at the end of class, each student can either say one, two, or three words at a time. The student to say the last word is out, but can stay in the game by dancing to Gangnam Style. During the first class only one boy danced. The kids who got out during the second round were too shy to dance in front of their classmates, so YH just had them sit down and be back in the game. After two quick rounds (with 10 minutes left of class), YH changed the game to "nun-chi". Everyone stood up, and kids can sit down when they say either one, two, or three words from the sentences on the powerpoint. It's random, whoever decides to go can go, but only one student can talk at a time. So if two (or more) people say the same word at the same time, they're all out (and YH had them stand up under the TV).

9:01 - Many boys have some sort of silly puddy/play dough stuff and they're playing with it during the whole class. I'm not sure if YH really hasn't noticed yet or doesn't want to say anything. I find it distracting; the kids aren't looking at us because they're playing with the silly puddy. But they get to keep playing with it all class because they're not told otherwise. Some kids in our later 5th grade classes have it too, and play with it the whole time.

9:43 - Between classes YH and I somehow get on the topic of drunk driving, and I ask what the law is in Korea (because they drink a lot so often at work dinners, I'm curious how everyone gets home...).  He told me that in Korea there's a sort of driving agency you can call. They drive you home (in your car), and then take public transportation to get back to wherever their home base is or something. I'm glad they've got this in place in addition to taxis. That driving service is what YH used last night.

10:20 - YH ends the game and there are still 10 minutes left of class. He has them sing two random review songs, and then talks some more about the grammar of "What a (pretty/nice/wonderful) ~." in Korean until the bell rings. With my other co-t we never finish lesson material that early, nor have such variance between classes (first class ended on time, this one finished 10 minutes early).

I really like YH - he's a wonderful person, always smiling, good attitude, tries to keep me in the loop and translates stuff to me when Korean teachers are conversing, but I'm obviously still trying to find a good balance/routine for co-teaching with him. It's only been eight classes together now since the new school year, but it feels way less like I'm co-teaching and more like I'm just there to help out. Today I don't get to explain the game or activity instructions in English, he just explained it in Korean right away.  He hasn't used me yet for listen and repeat stuff at all, but I think it'd be better if they heard my pronunciation instead of his. There are many other small details about how class is run that have really irritated me.  I need to just relax, not get so annoyed in my head and know that things will be a bit different on Thursdays and Fridays. In the grand scheme of things, it's really okay. I'm fine. The kids are fine. We're all fine. It's not the end of the world if the kids only get to listen to the "Look and Listen" video clip just once before being asked the check questions.

11:23 - I run to the bathroom between classes as YH is scolding a student back in the empty English classroom. I always feel a little awkward when one of my co-teachers is scolding a naughty kid after class and I'm just standing around in there, so I usually leave for a few minutes until the student has left.  On my way out of the office that same first grade girl from earlier this week sees me, a smile lights up on her face, and her arms are outstretched. Before I know it she's giving me a hug and I feel wonderful. I hope her excitement upon seeing me doesn't ware off... I'm loving these hugs!

12:10 - Lunch time!

Kimchi, rice cake with cheese and some type of sauce (perhaps with meat?) -- I really like this side, green veggie we usually eat,
purple rice, soup (new flavor) with potatoes, greens, and beef. A really fantastic lunch.

One of the teachers arrives much later than the rest of us, which I'm so thankful for. Everyone else was finished super early, but I got to keep eating because the late-arrival teacher still had most of her meal left.

12:36 - My co-teachers YJ and YH tell me "Let's take a walk". So we go outside a front entrance (yes, wearing our indoor slippers) and walk around the dirt field in front of the school and back. It's so nice out. I never got to go outside in the fall after lunches, so I hope these walks become a regular thing.

12:58 - Tea time next door. They tell me some teachers will play volleyball outside this afternoon at 2:30. But I've got two daycare classes from 2:20 - 3:50.  I mention the Badger win in the NCAA tournament. A first grade teacher who's new this year comes in and we talk for a while. It's nice, because last school year I never got to see many other teachers (my office was in the English classroom last fall). YH says that this first grade teacher will come to the teacher's English Club, which will start next week. It'll be on Thursday afternoons at 3:30. Just a time that teachers can speak English together. YH will prepare a topic and handout so we have questions to go from though. I'm excited to get to know more teachers through it this year.

14:02 - Leave YJ's office because I must prepare for my first and second grade daycare classes. I'm not sure what we're doing today.

14:26 - First grade class arrives six minutes late. I wondered if I had the wrong start time at one point while waiting. It goes alright. I only have this class once a week, so we reviewed "What's your name?", "How are you?" and learned a few classroom commands today. I need more material / activities next time.

15:08 - First grade class ended at three o'clock, but their teacher comes back up now with a sheet for me to sign. From last year I know that this is what'll get me paid for my extra classes in March.  I sign for the three Fridays I've taught them. That's the second sheet I've signed so far for March, so if all is right my other first grade after school class on Monday will have me sign a sheet for March, and then I'll get paid as I should.

15:14 - Second grade class was supposed to start at 15:10, but nobody's here.

15:17 - Did they forget? Should I go find YJ and see if she can call their teacher? I wait it out some more, super tired and not in the most ambitious mood.

15:20 - Should I go find YJ now? If I do, she'll probably be surprised I waited ten minutes before doing anything. I don't want to entertain the possibility of being asked "Why didn't you come sooner?" so I just keep waiting around.

15:21 - I hear some noise and look in the hallway. It's CM - one of my favorite little second graders. He's a real handful; the one who sneaks around and clicks on the computer while I'm leading the class in a song, the one who hides under the teacher's desk or writes on the chalkboard while my attention is elsewhere. Always out of his seat and usually causing trouble, but when he's not he is so sweet and cute. He has a huge smile - it's hard not to have a soft spot for him.

15:22 - As he walks towards the English room I put my hands out and shrug like I'm asking a question and say "Where is your class?".  He points down. For a second I dread oh no, do they think I'm teaching down in their room? Do I have to take all my stuff and go downstairs?".  But CM goes into the English room and hides behind the shelves, saying "Shhh teacher" while putting his finger to his lips.

15:23 - I hear the sound of the second graders. Their teacher says "Sorry" when she walks in, and I think she sees on my face that I'm doubting the starting time, so she says "3:10" and I'm reassured that my copy of the schedule is correct. Some of the boys have coloring notebooks and comic books today. They sit at a group farthest away from the TV and are doing their own thing most of the class. Okay, whatever, but hard when you've got that extra noise and they're not participating in the activities. Today was another crazy day with them. It felt really sloppy. They're hard to plan for. I have them four times a week, but the dynamic is a little different each time (though usually some variation of crazy) depending on which kids are there. Attendance varies greatly each day. Over time hopefully I'll figure out more activities/games that they can handle.

15:53 - Most of the kids with their teacher leave but two boys are still sitting and coloring in their drawing pad. I get them up and moving. All of a sudden CM pops out from behind the shelves -- had no idea he was still in here. Goodbye!

15:54 - Friday's nearly "here". Time to get the desks back in order and clean/sweep up. I turn on some music while I clean up the room. I pick up a pencil left out on a desk and sweep up paper bits the boys have left all over the floor.

15:59 - Two second grade boys come back into the classroom. They're looking for something. I ask them what, and thought they said pencil. What color? Blue. I show them the pencil I just picked up from the back desk. No, they shake their heads. Really? They're looking hard. Finally it seems they're going to give up, thought they seem really bummed about the loss. So I ask one more time, a blue pencil? And the boy points at my hand - yes! That's it! Huh? I've got the broom in my right hand and dust pan in my left, but I must have picked up this long blue "crayon" while cleaning and had it in my left hand when the boys first walked in. I feel stupid - was it really in my hand the whole time? Hope the boys don't think I was trying to pull one over on them, I simply didn't remember ever picking it up and forgot it was in my hand I guess.

16:12 - Head back to my office. Can see some male teachers outside playing volleyball. The principal is sitting on a chair on the sidelines with his suit jacket off, but must be hot in the long sleeve button up shirt and pants. He has a whistle. It feels a little strange that he's sitting on a chair watching them play, not joining in.  I'm totally wiped from the day and welcome the last fifteen minutes alone in the office.

16:28 - I realize I have no idea what we're doing on Monday in 6th grade. Did YJ tell me what pages I should cover or not? Meh, no sense in getting into it now. I'll figure it out Monday morning I guess.

16:32 - Leave school. Stop at the grocery store, pick up some hot seasoned chicken made in the grocery store (the lady gave me a lil discount!), and these leaves I love eating. Usually I put a little rice, some meat, and this soybean paste inside the leaf and wrap it up, but I decided to eat them with the chicken just because.


16:47 - Walking home, I hear a "Hello" from a small body. Turn and look - it's CM! (The second grader I mentioned earlier). He asks me something in Korean and I shrug. He points to where he's going, a few yards away, and I follow - not a far detour from where I'm going. He asks if I'm hungry by touching his stomach and saying hungry. I show him the chicken I just bought at the grocery store and say "chicken". Now we're at the Chinese restaurant and I guess he's walking in. I have all these questions now. What is a second grader doing there by himself? Was someone inside waiting for him? Does his family run the restaurant? What would have happened if I'd said "Yes, I'm hungry" but didn't have food on me? Did he want me to eat at the restaurant? I may never know.

16:56 - Huge surprise for me in my mailbox from my friend Catie! Completely unexpected and I'm overjoyed at the thought that went into it. Great letter and new stationery from Japan sent to me from California! Highlight of the week, no doubt. So much gratitude I'm feeling.


I'm super exhausted. Eat the chicken and leaves as I watch the latest episode of Girls. Read blogs for a while. It takes every ounce of energy to start writing this post, but I've been writing for a while now. Was going to watch a movie -- I have Moonrise Kingdom streaming in another window, but it's 21:39 already and I might just pass out after I answer today's questions.

Day 5 Questions:

1) What's your favorite part about Korean culture/society?

The food!  I've kept it no secret that I look forward to lunchtime every day.  The food is delicious, varied, and healthy. And I love eating it with metal chopsticks.

I like lots of small things too, like the fact that I don't have a set of keys -- my apartment building and my door are both opened with a keypad.  I also like how hiking is such a common past time here, though it makes sense when 70% of your country is covered in mountains.  I love the public transportation; the T-Money card is great. You use it on buses, metros, and rails, and you can add money to it at any convenience store in addition to the metro stations.  And get this, when I went to Busan one weekend, I could use my T-Money card from Seoul/Gyeonggi province on Busan's metro!  I also like my bank book, being able to pay bills instantly at an ATM, and the cutesy stationery you can purchase cheaply in stationery shops.

2) Have you been able or wanted to keep up on current events in the US - new movies, your favorite TV shows, news, etc.? Also, how do those things differ in Korea? What topics are covered in the news? Are people there as interested in TV/movies?

Any TV show I've wanted to watch from home I can stream online here, usually watching via putlocker, no matter how recent. Same with movies. I watched Frozen at home from a quick google search. I'm not really aware of big movies that are coming out, but could find the information if I was interested. I don't know what songs are on the "Top 40" radio in the states right now, but I'm probably a better person for it, hah. News I get online, usually from NPR or BBC, though I didn't check very often until the recent MH370 happenings. So it is easy to be completely oblivious to some news items back home, especially local news - non-national headlines, because I'm not going to hear about them from my co-teachers and I don't like spending time on Facebook.

You'll have to read my fellow BBB bloggers' answers to find out about differences in Korean news/TV/movies because I couldn't tell you. The one thing I can say is that any North Korean news you read about in the states would barely be mentioned here. The U.S. media really likes to make a big deal about North Korea, but South Koreans are not worried about them at all.

BBB 2014 Bloggers


Abby @ Bodging For Apples II

Ashley @ ...meanwhile in Korea...

Maggie @ The Traveling Flamingo

Drew @ The Hungry Partier

Vicky @ Outside the Pyxis

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