Sunday, September 30, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Chuseok Luck

So it is the time of year again in Korea where the town empties out and stores close for the Chuseok holiday. But you know what? It's also my birthday and so I am a happy camper this Chuseok as I get to celebrate my birthday and also get a 5 day weekend!

Even though most places will be closed I will be out hunting for one that is open with friends in hopes of celebrating the occasion. If on Sunday this doesn't work out then I'll have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to celebrate. Plus there are festivities going on at the palaces (which will be free to enter) and with weekdays off next week I could do more exploring.

I'm one happy gal this Chuseok :) Thank you Korea!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Typography Exhibit: Tokyo TDC Seoul 2012

Typography: known as the process or art of arranging types and printing from them. Basically evolving from writing stuff down to making it available to the masses. Certainly the history of typography is something of interest, but why not check into a gallery celebrating contemporary works in the medium?

I did just that with Stafford from The Chosun Bimbo this past weekend, and enjoyed a nice exhibit titled "Tokyo TDC Seoul 2012" at the Samwon Paper Gallery in Gunja, Seoul.

This was an interesting space as to one side was the gallery and the other a paper shop. However, this juxtaposition was appropriate and the layout of the show was thoughtful. For the most part artists were laid out by style, with books on tables, posters on the wall and design kits along the center.

You could get the most sense that this was about typography through the books on display, but for the most part it felt more like a design exhibit.

Most enjoyed was a space set up showing Bjork's recent album Biophilia and the typography and design associated with it. Accompanying the set up was a hand written and signed letter from the artist.

When entering the gallery we were told that it was okay to touch "everything" and take pictures too. So in a way this exhibit was a bit interactive where you could feel the paper and get to know the design.

After enjoying the typography exhibit we entered into the paper store to see what that was all about, which turned out be mostly paper. However, it made for some fun photography.

And so this event is going on through October till the 27th. If you are in the Gunja area or would like to get out to see something different, I would recommend a visit. Take exit 1 and this place is right there in front of you.

This gallery space is just another reminder of how the arts are sometimes tucked in and hidden away here in Seoul.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Yook-sam building teacher! (field trip)

 It's been a while since my school went on a field trip and so we finally went on one last week. Our destination was the infamous 63 Building in Yeoido. This was my second time venturing to the building, as I visited it a while back with me ex.

As for this field trip I wouldn't say it was the best, as the building really only offers so much. However, the kids seemed to have a good time. Immediately we went to the top and enjoyed the view.

Thankfully, it was a beautiful clear morning when we arrived so the view was amazing. Seeing Seoul like this sure does remind you of where you live and what a highly developed place it is.

 After our fun times wondering around the top of the building, we went back down to the Imax theater. Here we watched a 3D movie about dinosaurs, which I thought was interesting. However, it seems most of the movies we watch on field trips are about dinosaurs, so I think we all have good knowledge of them now.

The kids were hungry after the movie and so we stopped by the cafeteria to take over the seats and grab a bite to eat. The kids brought their packed lunches and the teachers quickly bought something and ate it. Seems like the management of the building didn't want us to linger too long in the cafeteria.

Then we moved on to the aquarium, which is actually quite small. Here the kids ran amuck looking at the tanks of fish and other sea life. We enjoyed the synchronized swimming performance along with one involving seals.

 I think the kids got the most kick out of the small Doctor Fish tanks set up. This is where they put their fingers into a small tank and the fish nibbled on them.

 It was a fun field trip and not too exhausting like ones in the past. However, I think the group could have benefited from time spent in the nearby river park, as it was a gorgeous day outside. Wondering around the halls of a building is fun up to certain point.

 We will go on another field trip next month, yet I don't know where it will be. I have to say I have been with these kids for almost exactly two years now and they for sure have grown on me. I can't believe that in about 5 months I will be saying goodbye to them, as they move up a grade. I certainly hope they don't forget about me as they get older.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Detachment: I highly recommend it

When someone asks me, "What kind of movies do you like?" I have a hard time answering. I usually start off by saying I don't care for the Hollywood flicks, and then go from there. For the most part Korea gets only just the Hollywood "Blockbuster" movies from the West. While the more thoughtful and dramatic ones don't cross the ocean.

To get my movie kicks I first see what's up for grabs in iTunes and then take a pick. I recently decided to give the movie "Detachment" a try after feeling compelled by the trailer.

I did think that it would be another "teacher movie", where a good guy type teacher comes to a bad school and fixes everything up just right. But, boy was I wrong. For one the movie starts off like a documentary with profiles of several teachers spilling out why they became teachers. Turns out they became teachers because that basically was all they had to do. Even though I haven't been a real teacher back home, I know from other people's tales and what I read that it's a tough and thankless job.

For sure we all have heard about the teacher's troubles and the rotting education system in America. But even though this movie touches on the hardships of teachers and the education system, it mostly focuses on the human condition. 

I don't want to talk too much and end up causing you to not watch the film, because I truly feel this one is worth the time. 

The memorable parts for me are when the red-head actress, who is one of the teachers at the school, says something like, "When Friday comes I don't want to go home. What will I do without all those students in my classroom?" Something like that! Anyway, I feel the same way. I get so energized and alive in the classroom that when I'm out of it I feel like I'm missing something. 

Another dialog in the movie I enjoyed was how the main character was talking about how teachers don't really care. Like they are just floating from one period to the next. It made me think of our teaching job's out here, when at times it feels like your just trying to fill the space till the next class. However, I definitely feel I try my best to give each class the attention they need, all be it a very tiring task. 

Anyway, it's a "thinker" type movie and one that is quite on edge, so give yourself the brain space to watch it. If you have seen this movie I would love to get your feedback about the social issues raised and also any other thoughts.

Bonus: I also enjoyed the soundtrack to this movie. During one scene this song "Empty" by Ray LaMontagne came on. Now I'm a fan!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Seoul Cambridge Day XII

On a lovely early Fall day I headed to Sookmyung Women's University in the Yongsan area. This campus is quite lovely and set atop a hill near a park. If you ever get the time I would suggest exploring this area as there are many restaurants, cafes and dessert shops nearby.

I came for the event Seoul Cambridge Day XII, as suggested by the KOTESOL organization. This event brought together teacher's and professionals to hear lectures on Cambridge materials and teaching methods.

I arrived early and enjoyed light snacks while browsing the selection of TESOL materials and mingling with other professionals.

Throughout the days lectures we were promised raffle prizes, of which I won none. A Kindle Fire was up for grabs, but alas was not passed along to me. However, I took in the lectures and ambience as best I could.

First lecture was by Steven Gershon who presented us with a topic about Writing and how that is one of the most challenging topics to teach in this profession. So he gave his thoughts on how to tackle this by using a process based method of teaching. Although I don't teach writing directly I thought his remarks were quite useful in what challenges students the most with writing.

The next lecturer was Gary Anderson who brought everyone up to speed on how Technology works itself into the classroom. For the most part it was what we already knew, except for the Interactive White Board technology which I have yet to use. I think mostly he remarked on how technology can be useful both inside and out of the classroom, by having students build e-portfolios.

I stuck around only for the next lecturer and didn't hear Gary give his final talk. This person was Judy B. Gilbert who gave an interesting and entertaining talk about pronunciation and ways we can make it more interesting for the student. Before she started we were handed little baggies including a kazoo, rubberband and a feather. All of which can be used to help students understand stress points in words and their "p" and "b" pronunciations.

Overall it was a fun experience with many new things to think about when it comes to teaching English. I was impressed by the volume and scale of the Cambridge University Press materials, and noticed that I already had a few copies at home. They supplied us with kimbop, pastries and snacks during break time, which was thoughtful. I would definitely recommend attending this event next year along with joining the KOTESOL organization if you feel like further developing your teaching skills. Also check out this Cambridge English Teacher website which I believe offers resources and tips.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How to work and teach with tonsillitis

I'm actually doing much better now with all my symptoms practically gone. But it took some time and I didn't get off work that much when I was feeling like crap. Instead I trucked through my class loads and stuck it out. Working when sick in Korea is a given and you pretty much have to do it or you will look like a sorry person to your Korean colleagues. Here for you is how I got through teaching with tonsillitis and generally feeling horrible.

For one I learned that you need to pair down your lessons so that they are easy to get through and give the students stuff to do. When I came in and felt my worst I had a craft waiting to be made and so handed it to them early. I explained to my classes I wasn't feeling well and that if they worked hard and helped me out I would reward them with candy. Sure, bribing isn't the best way but in some situations it's handy. Thankfully the adjacent Korean homeroom teachers came in and told the kids to be good to me. That helped a lot!

When I took the day off I think that helped show the students I really was sick, because the next day they looked concerned. At this point I decided not to speak to my classes and keep my voice at rest. How was I to get through my lessons without speaking to a group of 2nd grade kids?

I put up a mini-whiteboard in front of the chalk board and used this as my "talking board." Also I made a short and to-the-point PowerPoint explaining my situation and asking for their cooperation. I also outlined what we were doing so they knew how to stay on task. I shortened my lessons to book work and then a game I could play with them that I could get away without speaking. It went well and I did my best to not stress myself.

That's the other big thing, stress. I think when one is sick they tend to really not want to work, but when made to things can get stressful. "How will I do this?" You probably think as your head is pounding and throat aching. I have to say just relax and let the classes flow. Don't hold the kids up to high expectations on behavior. In general you just want to get through the day and hopefully the target pages you need done. You can go back to your regular teaching self after feeling better.

I must also say that I got the most sympathy from the low-level students. Even one of these kids who is notorious for being a goofball, came up to me and patted me on the back. That was very sweet!

So don't put your stress out on the students, as they are just there and it's not really their fault. Find some filler games, worksheets or activities that won't require too much work on your part.

Since the homeroom teachers helped me out a lot I gave them a cold coffee drink as a thank you. They were very surprised to see this, and I think it showed I appreciated their effort. Even the Vice Principal at the school asked me if I was doing better everyday (she did it again today), and sometimes told me to go to the nurse to get my temp checked. So Korean people will definitely feel for you and want to help you, but prefer you work through it.

That's how I got through a week of a aches and pains at work. I'm glad to be better now.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mannam International a Cult?

There has been some buzz around the blogs lately about how Mannam International group is associated with a cult. I think for sure when you look at these articles you can see for yourself that this group is kind of sketchy in that they seem to really want to recruit foreigners and things do sound cult like. However, I attended a Mannam Volunteer event a while back and therefore have something to say. I went to their event where they painted the walls for a school for disabled children and I had a good time. I didn't know they were associated with these groups or this controversy at the time. However, I kept a skeptical distance the whole time.

Actually, I was approached by Mannam way earlier in the year. I was walking to my local subway station when someone stopped me in the street. "Excuse me, where are you from?" Every time this happens to me I feel like going back home and asking a random Asian person on the street (hoping they are Korean) and asking them the same question. See if you like it! So I engaged with this person and they ended up giving me a small card with Mannam events on it and the promise of free Korean classes. Since I have been in Korea for some time I know there is nothing as "free Korean classes." It's usually a trap of some sort. So I stuffed it in my pocket and moved on.

Yet, when that MBC video came out and foreigners were being painted yet again as a*holes and such I decided I should give back positively to the community. Also I had met someone earlier at a different group event who told me about Mannam. Nothing shouted "religious frantic" to me and I even asked this person if the group was associated with any religion, and she said no.

During the wall-painting event I didn't really feel like I was being used for publicity. Actually I was one of the few white-gals attending and the folks with the cameras never once asked for my photo-op or interview. Instead they seemed to focus on other members who gladly spilled away how happy they were to be there.

I honestly thought I was doing some good and now feel a bit of relief I didn't stay for their group photo at the end. I also have to say that the group, although friendly, was kind of split up. There were a large amount of Chinese students there who huddled together and didn't talk much with other folks. Did it feel like a cult the whole time? No, not really. But this was just a one time experience and I mostly focused on painting the wall and not really staying around after to talk with members.

So I think Scroozle and other folks are on to something here and I bet it is all somewhat true. So my advice is to maybe get involved but keep a safe distance. Or perhaps get involved just to spy on them! ;p

Whatever the truth is you have to be careful when any stranger approaches you asking to "join" their group. Seriously, would you just hop along if that happened to you in your home country?

Tonsillitis is not a friend

I'm home sick with Tonsillitus and swollen lymph nodes. I've had sore throats before but this takes the cake. Also I hate being home sick from work, as that is really taboo in Korea. Thankfully it was just my high levels today and not the 6 classes set up. Also I have work for the kids to do in my place. 

I hope to rest up and medicate so that I can return to work tomorrow. I might teach without that works exactly I'll figure out. Maybe make Powerpoints with instructions on it. Fun! 

But really, my throat aches, my ear feels like someone is trying to bash it in and swallowing leaves something to be desired. On top of that I don't have any chicken soup in the house or the ingredients to make it, so I'm going to scramble my resources and see if I can find something outside later. 

Don't get sick people!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Yeongsan River ~ Damyang

One of the more enjoyed parts of my trip to Damyang this summer was the simple time I had wondering along the Yeongsan river at dusk. Located near the restaurants and bamboo forest, it was a great place to relax and unwind.

You could rent family wagons to ride around in or bicycles if you like.

The river seemed to stretch on and on, I guessed you could keep walking for quite some time.

If you are in Damyang and have the time I would suggest taking a lovely stroll down this river path.
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