Thursday, July 30, 2009

Teaching, Cooking and Konglish

Wednesday was my last day of teaching at Camp Fulbright. Instead of teaching 12 and 13 year-olds, I taught 14-16 year-olds with pretty advanced English abilities. What shocked me most was, for how similar their English skills were, how differently I had to teach the classes. And really, it was only a one-year difference in some cases. These students had a completely different mentality/"maturity" level. The lesson went really well; I taught table etiquette for Thanksgiving meals (i.e. which fork to use, where to put your bread, what to talk about, what not to talk about).

The kids were really exhausted (Camp ends on Saturday) but the reacted really well to my lesson. They had a wonderful sense of humor and were hundreds of times more creative than the younger class. I'm still blown away that the difference was only 1-2 years!

A little funny story. I was going over vocabulary. One of the words was "Host." I asked if they knew what that was. The students said, "Yes, Teacher! Bye-rus!" It took a second, but I realized they were trying to say "virus" and were referring to a recent Korean horror movie. Oh children.

That night I had my second (and last) cooking class. We made Dong rae pa jun (동래파전) - green onion, scallion and seafood "pancake" - and Dak Gal Bi (닭갈비) - spicy stir-fried chicken.

My partner and I made the pancake without seafood, but I did try our neighbors pancake with some squid (I like squid, but nothing else sea-foody). I prefer the seafood-free option. The spicy chicken mix had cabbage, potatoes and Korean rice cakes (REALLY hard to describe. They are the thick noodle-looking thing in the pot. It's kind of like eating bread before it is cooked [i.e. while it is still rising]. Maybe Youngmee could offer a better description.) So I ate those things while my partners ate the chicken. :) Boy, it was SPICY! You didn't notice it at first, but it caught up with you after a while!

My plate

I'm a good cutter

It's official. I broke down on Tuesday and bought peanut butter, bread and green apples. I noticed that I just wasn't recovering after runs and was feeling pretty tired a lot. Going from a cheese-intensive diet to a dairy-free world was a really big shock.

The only peanut butter at the store. I think it's charming.

Okay, finally, we get to talk about Konglish! Konglish = English + Korean. You see a lot of it when something doesn't translate well. Youngmee touched a little on this from my last blog. I am definitely seeing a lot of Konglish. It's always pretty amusing. The most shocking was a shirt that said, "Cock Thrasher - 1981." Not sure what they were trying to translate there...

I bought a Konglish shirt - The Salvation-Army-looking logo is actually an oddly placed pocket.I will go into more specific examples as they come, but here are some common examples:
  • There is no "F" in the Korean alphabet, so they substitute with "P" or sometimes "B." So, when you ask, "How are you?" you usually get, "I'm pine thanks!" Or they call my roommate "Jenniper"
  • "L" and "R" are the same sound, so words like "lollipop" or "sorry" are usually pretty interesting.
For this reason, F, L, R and TH make really good lesson topics. Okay, that is enough for now.

I am really busy tomorrow (Friday). I have to give a 4-5 minute speech (in Korean). Yikes! Wish me luck! Then I am off to a KEY club retreat (the Korean-English Club). The homework is as heavy as always. Good thing I'm done teaching. :) Alright, Fun Riders 1 Again signing off.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Teaching Tongue Twisters

Today I taught my second lesson. It was on tongue twisters. I had each student make a tongue twister. I then split them into teams and they said their tongue twisters three times fast. The team that completed all of their tongue twisters the fastest wins. It went pretty smoothly until I got them out of their seats. Then, everywhere I looked, they were doing something bad. Ugh. Kids. All in all, it was fun.

This camp attracts a wide variety of students. Most English camps attract a lot of wealthy kids, but this one is a little less mainstream and offers assistance. Most of the students have a pocket translator that they use throughout class. One of my students didn't and was really struggling with generating words for her tongue twister. My heart almost broke when she said, "Teacher, can you help me? I am not very smart." But, after a little guidance, she whipped out a pretty intense tongue twister. I think (I hope, I hope, I hope!) she was as proud of it as I was.

On a lighter note, all ETAs teach with another ETA. One teaches for the first 50 minutes, the other for the next. Ben, my co-ETA teacher, taught his lesson first. His was about honeymoons. He gave the kids a mad lib and had them fill in places, verbs, adjectives, etc. Well, the very last kid read his mad lib. The last sentence went like this, "My favorite part of the honeymoon was the free woman."

Ben just kind of stopped and stared. The actual teacher and I did a double take. But Ben, being Ben, said, "Okay, the free woman." After some squabbling on the students' part (and some pick-your-jaw-up-from-off-the-floor-ing on our part), the creative mad-libber realized he meant "Lady Liberty." (Statue of Liberty)

It was pretty hard to keep a straight face for a good couple of minutes. Well, that's all for now. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pirate Obstacle Course

Today I led the Pirates of the Caribbean obstacle course for Camp Fulbright. The camp is made up of 150 campers between the ages of 12 and 16. The goal of the camp is to learn English.

ETAs are involved in one of four weekend activities, and mine happened to be the obstacle course. Another ETA and myself planned the event and then depended on 22 other ETAs to make it happen. It was a TON of work! It was also a lot of fun. I definitely learned a lot about dealing with large quantities of kids. Especially Korean kids. I think, overall, it went very well.

The campers broke up into 12 groups of 12. The goal was to move through four stations, complete the activities within the station and receive a coin. The first team to turn in four coins wins and breaks the Pirate curse (yeah, we were really original). Below are a few pictures from different stations:
They had to pass a bucket of water down a line. Once they passed, they had to run to the front of the line.
We put them into straight lines and blindfolded everyone except the first and last person, who had to communicate direction and obstacles to the blind followers. (This one was called "I Lost Me Eye!")
"Walk the Plank"

A type of "Red Light Green Light"

Whew. It's time for a nap.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Camp Fulbright Weekend!

So, our weekend officially has begun. But that does not mean that we are resting. Instead, we are helping out to run the Fulbright English camp. Me and another ETA planned a obstacle course/scavenger hunt for Sunday. It was a lot of work. We have to keep 150 kids between the ages of 12 and 18 occupied for 2 hours. Yikes!

Well, nothing new to post, but we had an awesome sunset tonight. I think some rain is moving in, so we got some sweet clouds. :)

This is the view from my window.

I also uploaded a bunch of pictures to Facebook, so have a look!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Parents' Entry Into School to Be Limited

Article from The Korea Times
22 July 2009

By Kang Shin-who
Staff Reporter

A ruling-party lawmaker proposed a bill Wednesday to restrict the entry of parents and other people into elementary and secondary schools.

Rep. Cho Jeon-hyeok of the governing Grand National Party submitted the bill in order to protect teachers from violence by parents or strangers. To enter a school, they would be required to receive prior approval from schoolmasters or teachers.

``The bill is to prevent sudden visits by parents or strangers that may result in teachers being attacked. We need to protect teachers’ rights in order to protect the students’ right to learn,’’ said Lee Pyeong-gi, secretary of Rep. Cho.

So far, schools have remained vulnerable to violence by parents, and have been unable to keep strangers off of school property, as there are no legal grounds banning outsiders from entering.

However, some parents and civic groups oppose the move. Whether the bill will be passed at the National Assembly remains uncertain given the outcry.

``Restricting patents’ entry into school is too much. Parents have the right to discuss matters involving their children with teachers whenever they want,’’ said Choi Mi-sook of the group Parents Who Love Schools.

The bill also introduces measures to protect teachers from slander and defamation. It seeks to create a mediation committee to deal with strife between teachers and parents.

With the growing number of assaults on teachers, teachers’ groups have called for the government to establish a law to root out violence in schools. The Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association (KFTA), the largest organization for teachers in the nation, has been campaigning for the law in recent years.

Last year, elementary and secondary schools saw a series of teachers attacked by parents and students. For example, the father of a middle school student attacked a teacher because he was unhappy with the teacher’s handing of a scuffle between his son and a classmate. The teacher sustained injuries that required over four weeks to recover.

First Time Teacher! Oh. And Cooking!

Today I taught my first lesson! I wasn't nervous, but then I got nervous for not being nervous because everyone else was nervous. But then I realized how irrational that was and was totally over it. It happened in about 30-seconds, but it was the worst, most nerve-wracking 30-seconds of my life.

I taught Beginner (Special) meaning 12-13 year-olds who have spent a considerable amount of time in an English speaking country/environment. Basically, these kids were pretty fluent. My lesson plan was about lucky objects (It is St. Patrick's day at the camp). The students debated as to which object was the most lucky. It sounds pretty lame, but the kids were really getting into it. They're pretty competitive.

All throughout orientation, former English teachers have come in to share their classroom experiences. It was interesting today to actually see the crazy things they talk about. For example, schools (or at least classes) are usually divided by gender, so the kids almost never have any interaction with opposite-gender classmates. It's almost comical to see how terrified they are of each other.

Tonight I had cooking class. We made Tofu Kimbab [두부 김밥] (my adaptation of the name "Soybean Curd Kimbab") and Job Chae [잡 채]. My kimbab is pictured below.

Haha, yeah right. There is no way anything I touch turns out like that.

Yep, that's more my level. :)

It was fun and delicious. We have one more class next Wednesday. Tomorrow is crazy-busy as usual. Our placement surveys - the surveys where we indicate where we would like to go - are due tomorrow. Everyone is pretty stressed about them, but I'm just gonna opt for "No preference as long as I can run." Peace out and thanks for reading!

Monday, July 20, 2009

I passed!

This isn't really blog-worthy, but I figure I really need it.

산생님 (my teacher) found me in my room, gave me a big high five and said, "You did very very well on your test!"

That, my friends, is very good news. If you get a 70 or lower (like my first one), you have to go to "supervised study time" (fondly called detention).

Alright, that's it. :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Songnisan - In Summary

We have returned safely and restfully from our time in Songnisan. I didn't want to leave! It was the first time in the two weeks we've been here that I did not have any obligations. Yay!

We first arrived to hear a seminar on Buddhism. It was given by a Buddhist monk, so it was pretty cool. He then took us to the Buddhist temple (literally on the hotel grounds) and gave us the 4-1-1 on Buddhist temples. Actually, during the time we were there the monks rang the (what I call) suffering bells. The bells are rung in the morning and at night.

There are four bells: the first is really a huge drum. Beating the drum is a call to end suffering to all land animals. Then the bird bell is next (to end suffering for the animals in the air) and then the fish bell (for animals in water). It ends with 33 rings of the human bell (to end human suffering). In the morning the human bell is rung 28 times for the 28 heavens. At night it is rung 33 times for the 33 rulers of heaven. It was actually really cool.

There was this beautiful gold statue of "Baby Buddha" (the Buddha reincarnate) in the middle of the temple. And the temple is surrounded by green, misty mountains. Absolutely beautiful. The temple at one time housed over 3,000 monks (now only 50-80) and they have on display the rice pot that cooked rice for 3,000 bowls. It was crazy big! I could not imagine stirring that!

The entire first four hours of the weekend were incredible. Not to mention that one of the monks is straight from Chech Republic and recognized the "Benes" name. He kept telling people that they were in the presence of an aristocrat. Ha. Yeahhhhh, maybe not quite.

The next day we decided to hike in the forest that surrounds the temple. I thought we'd just be strolling through some nice paved trails. Oh no. My group definitely decided to climb a mountain. I'll let the video take care of that adventure.

There were some pretty incredible stories along the way. So many that I can't really fit them all in here. I'll briefly highlight a few:
  • 4 is an unlucky number, so the hotel floors go from 3rd to the 5th.
  • My everyday Korean really got a boost since most of the shopkeepers didn't speak English
  • The food was incredible and I miss it already
Well, as much fun as the trip was, now it is back to orientation. I have a quiz tomorrow and I teach my first lesson on Wednesday. I'll let you know how that goes. The lesson topic is "Persuasion" and the theme of the day is St. Patrick's day. I will be teaching advanced elementary school kids (kids that have spent considerable amounts of time in English-speaking countries). Hoohhh boy, I hope their English isn't better than mine. :) Check up on Facebook where I'll post more pictures of the weekend. Bye!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's Sunny!

Megan, this one's for you. :)

So, it was a very beautiful day spent mostly inside at seminars. Boo. :( Oh well. I spent the evening doing Hanji - a Korean paper art. It actually is just a complicated form of paper mache. Not really my thing. It takes a long time and mostly involves blowdrying your craft. In this case it was a mirror (pictured below).

So I now have a little hand mirror. :) Tomorrow morning we leave for Songnisan and I cannot wait. Even if it rains the whole time, I'm just going to enjoy relaxing. We have the entire day on Saturday to do whatever. I kind of hope to squeeze in some hard core hiking if the weather allows. I will be without internet, so this is probably the last post from me until Sunday morning (States time). Thanks!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Samulnori - Traditional Korean Drums

Today I took the first (of two) classes on samulnori tonight. It was a lot of fun and a little tiring! (My poor arms!) The class was held a little bit off of campus in a random basement.

Our 선생님 (Sohn sang neem / teacher) was this little woman. One you could hardly picture carrying around drums, but she knew her stuff.

Samulnori is comprised of four instruments, which is where it gets it's name. (Sa = 4 in Korean) I played a double drum (pictured in front of 선생님 on a stand). The guys played a smaller, deeper drum, which, essentially, kept a bass beat. 선생님 led us with a metal plate-looking thing. It had a sound similar to a small gong. The fourth instrument is the hanging gong pictured.

Each instrument is suppose to sound like something different. Once again, I didn't take notes, but I think it was something like this: deep drum = clouds, double drum = rain, mini gong = thunder and big gong = lightening. I might have mixed up the gongs...

The double drum had two drum sticks: one that had a little ball on the end and the other that looked like a scrap piece of a 2 x 4. Our "sheet music" consisted of 선생님 writing the sounds of each stick on the board. For example, "kong" "kong" "cheep" "tong" meant both, both, small stick, big stick.

We actually made some really cool music. We learned one song that lasted about two or three minutes. I'm not going to lie, it felt really good to smack the drums with all of my might. Good stress relief!
Yep, thought you would enjoy another action shot.

Nothing else is too new. It rained super hard all day. It makes for a wet walk to class. And I feel like my feet have been wet for the past two days. Oh well, only three more weeks of monsoon season. Then we get to move on to the hot and humid month. Joy.

The course work is really picking up, so everyone is just a little bit stressed. But we are all holding onto the end goal: a trip to Songnisan this Friday. Songnisan is a secluded Buddhist village. Boy, I can't wait to relax!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Traditional Tea Ceremony

Last Thursday I participated in a traditional tea ceremony. I really had no idea what to expect from the ceremony, but it ended up being a really cool experience. Thank you to my roommate, Jennifer Li, for the pictures. I learned that drinking tea (traditionally) is actually more of mental and spiritual exercise than a way to refresh and entertain.

A group of 10 sat around three different "tea stations." We were led by a really sweet lady. I like to refer to her as the master tea leader. The process begins by, simply, "purifying" the dishes. So we kind of poured boiling water in each cup and pot.

Warning: super-embarrassing story coming.

Each tea station had a host. And, by luck of the draw, I was the host for my station. Well, I purified everything pretty well; no problems there. The next step was to pour water from the big pot to the big cup to the tea pot. Well, I poured a little too much water into the big cup, so when the tea pot started to fill up, I stopped pouring. The translator said, "You must use it all." Helpless, I tried to pour more in. Next thing you know, my tea pot was leaking water out of the top and spout. Not to mention that I still had extra water in my cup. Epic fail. Master Tea Leader made some surprise-sounding remarks and instructed me to pour the excess in the waste bowl (why didn't they tell me to do that earlier?).

All this happened after the translator/Master Tea Leader said that the pouring of the tea illustrates your sense of control. Fantastic.

From the tea pot, you fill the cup to your right first and you fill each cup 1/3. Then you add an additional 1/3rd, and then one more. In theory, you will take three equal drinks to finish the cup. Forgive me, I should have taken notes, but with each sip you should focus on a specific thing. I think it was something like taste, quality and control (or something spiritual like that).

Well, my embarrassing story doesn't stop at the tea pot. I started pouring the cups with my left hand (thanks, Mom) which warranted another shocked string of words from Master Tea Leader. Might I add that it did not help to be at the tea station right in front of Master Tea Leader.

It is also a little bit tricky to be grabbing and pouring everything with the non-active hand resting on crook of your elbow.

Each person's tea cup tray looked like this:
The pink and green balls are the rice dessert. They were so good! Even though I made a big deal about my mistakes at the tea ceremony, I really did enjoy it. In fact, I think it was one of my favorite things I've done since coming to Korea. And Master Tea Leader, as it turned out, had a wonderful sense of humor. Whew!

We finished the tea ceremony by learning how to bow on the most formal level. This means, essentially, touching your forehead to the floor. As simple as bowing sounds, there were actually a lot of steps involved in this bowing process. More for men that for women.

So that was my exciting tea ceremony story. Funny enough, I thought of Dad a lot during the tea ceremony. Not sure why, but I'm pretty sure he would have liked it. :) Tomorrow I am attending my first of two samulnori (traditional drumming) sessions. So hopefully I will have something exciting to post about that. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Who's Hungry!?

So, let me tell you about the food in Korea. Keep in mind that we are living in a university and eat every meal in the school cafeteria. All meals pretty much look like this --------->

This particular meal was breakfast. Starting in the upper left corner and working clockwise we have - Kim Chee (phonetic spelling), a dish to mix with rice, dessert (in this case, tomato's), soup, spicy roots and rice. Kim Chee is served at every meal. It's essentially spicy cabbage. I'm not a fan.

The dish to mix with rice usually has a sauce, meat and vegetables. It's hit or miss with this one. Sometimes it's really spicy so I try to avoid that. Breakfast tends to be less spicy than the other meals.

The soup is usually my favorite. The broth is just water and the soup can have anything in it. Sometimes it is spicy, sometimes it's not. Sometimes there's meat, sometimes not. We have a theory that the soup contains whatever wasn't eaten from the day before. There's also a running joke: always dig to the bottom of the soup pot to find interesting treasures. One of our more interesting soups is pictured below.

She dug very deep in the soup pot and got this. That's right, folks. The pale sqwiggly things are intestine. There were also fish eggs, lung and another unidentified organ. She's such a trooper; she tried them all. Other interesting delictables include, but are not limited to: octopus, squid, unknown meat and unknown green plant stuff. Octopus and squid are pretty chewy and don't really have much flavor. I usually eat around them.

Food outside of the university is very very good. They have some American things (like french fries, crackers), awesome fruit dishes and a lot of noodles. They have these wonderful little dessert pastries. The pastry part is made from rice and has a texture similar to a wet Gusher (soft but chewy). The pastry is filled with sesame for sure and perhaps sugar also. The whole thing is about the size of a large marble. Yum!

Some shout-outs to American food include a Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins (right outside of campus...about a 15 minute walk), burger fast food, a french bakery, a bar called "Western" and a bar called "Bucks - Milwaukee." I am proud to say that I have not been to any of these as I am trying to embrace the culture. We'll see how long that goes on for.

So the food is actually very good here. The only limiting factor is the language. My friends and I cannot just go out to eat because we really don't know how to order. Luckily, there is a Korean-English club (KEY club). The students in the club take us out and order for us for now. It's a great time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Bank

It has been a wild four days in this incredible different country, but I thought I could entertain you with a post about a visit I made to the bank.

Well, by the end of Tuesday, I had 5,500 won to my name (around $5), so a trip to the bank became absolutely necessary. Before I continue, a little cultural background -

Insa - the phrase for "greeting." This includes bowing and exchanging verbal greetings.

Passing objects - all objects exchanged from one person to another should be done with both hands. Using both hands is very formal. When among friends, you may pass with one hand while the other rests between your wrist and elbow.

As I entered the bank, I insa (ed) with the security guard. This means that you have to stop, with feet together and hands at your side, and bow while saying "Anneonghasayo." The guard asked me the nature of my business. After I explained, he gave me a number and directed me toward a chair.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of a teller line. Instead, they just had a bunch of personal bankers. There were two distinctly different areas with chairs and couches holding waiting people. Above the desks was a computer monitor flashing the number being served.

When my number was called, I approached a smiling banker. I insa (ed) again and explained my purpose. I passed him my checks and passport - with two hands, of course. The entire thing took about 20 minutes (Kind of long? I think so.)

The best part came at the end. The banker, who had been making very small small talk with me throughout the transaction said, "If you ever need anything or any help, please feel free to call me."

I kind of laughed to myself thinking, "Hm. That was bold." But instead, I politely asked his name. He gave me his business cards - with two hands, of course. Upon leaving, I insa (ed) to the banker and guard once more.

Crazy, huh? I can't wait to go back!

Sunday, July 5, 2009


One of my fellow ETA's came down with a nasty stomach flu early this morning. So now the entire group is under isolation for 24-hours. We have to eat at special times and cannot leave our rooms to go around campus. We can, however, go to the grocery store off of campus.

I took the language test this morning and will know which class I am in by 7 p.m. I signed up for Hanji - a Korean paper art. Classes start on July 13th. I am looking forward to that. I'm not sure if I should sign up for Taekwondo ( 턔 권 도 ). I don't really like fighting and punching, but it's a HUGE culture thing in Korea. I guess I'll have some time to think it over. :)

Summary of a very long Day-1

Hello from Korea! It's been an interesting 24-hours here. The plane ride was fine. Most of the Fulbright ETA's flew out of LAX with me, so it was nice to spend the layover getting to know them.

We arrived in Incheon/Seoul arround 5:30 a.m. July 5th Korea-time, or 3:30 p.m. July 4th Chicago-time. I'm not going to lie: July 5th was the longest day of my life. I took some ironic comfort in the fact that there was a Dunkin Donuts at the airport. I guess America is not the only one that runs on Dunkin.

I lost a bag, but it was the one that was suppose to go into storage during my orientation, so I guess that's fine. We took a 2-hour bus ride to the university (KNA). We arrived at 9 a.m. but it felt like late afternoon. Awesome.

We unpacked, showered, had lunch, went to a lecture, took a campus tour and had dinner all within the following nine hours. One thing I noticed almost immediately is Korea's green-mentality. Almost everything is recycled and a lot of packaging has a sort of government seal that designates the package as "green."

Funny story: They fed us moon pies on the bus to the university. On the package there was a picture of a doctor supporting the product as "healthy." The only somewhat healthy thing I saw was the small amount of calcium from the marchmallow and milk chocolate. Healthy is a stretch.

The food is average. We eat all of our meals in the school cafeteria, which serves the same thing three times a day (I think, I'm about an hour away from my first breakfast, but I have a sinking feeling that it will be rice, spicy cabbage and soup.) The biggest change is the bathroom - I guess the pipes are too small for toilet paper, so after you wipe, you just have to throw it in a wastebasket. It's a little hard to get used to, but I'm mostly worried about getting un-used to it when I go home. :)

After yesterday's activities, a large group of us went exploring the Sunday night life. We found A LOT of bars but only went to one. We were all exhausted. The bar was very different. I guess you can't really go in and order only a drink, you have to order food. So we had fruit, nuts, vegetables and beer. All for $3 a person.

By the time we got back, it was FINALLY a socially acceptable time to sleep - it was 9:15. I slept like a log and woke up extra early just to write this for your enjoyment. Haha.

We have our language placement test today, so I am going to go cram. Wish me luck!