Thursday, August 27, 2009

Buy Buy Teacher

Yesterday I had to say goodbye to my favourite class in the afternoons. They were my last class on M/W/F and were super fun and intelligent. It was the one class where I could actually talk to the kids about their lives without getting 10 pairs of eyes staring blankly back. They would tell me about their weekends (a lot of camping trips, and a lot of study) and their lives in general, which are fascinating simply due to the difference between NZ tweens and Korean ones. The wee dears work so hard and they're still so young and have SO much to go before they can pass their high school exams (considered the hardest ever in Korea) to try and get into one of the top universities. Apparently it doesn't matter what grades you get in uni for most jobs, but where you went. So much pressure at a time I was still interested in Barbie dolls and making huts with my sister.

(from left) Samira, Don, Love (Samira's older sister),
Chester, me, Cherry, Sally and Adam. Such clever kids.

The class left me to go onto a higher level of English study at our other campus so I won't be seeing them around anymore (except Don, who is my director's son). They were super cute on my last day with them, they made me wait outside the class while they decorated the board like so:

And Cherry, Samira and Love were hiding in the closet with a gift of ice coffee and a letter for me, so sweet, and I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to them. My Korean co-teacher Janice got the same treatment, but she was appalled that in her goodbye letter they spelt "bye" "buy".

Cherry, one of the smartest in the class and very
chatty wee lady, she's super funny and always
tells me stories about her weekends.

Chester is hilarious. He's lowest in the class but
always tries very hard and some of his answers are
more than amusing. Potentially to be found on Korean
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in the not-so-distant future.

Today we got our new schedules and as expected my comfy schedule is just a little harder now... I don't want to complain and moan about it as I feel there is too much of it here, but it is a little annoying some of the changes. I'm here to work, obviously, and I do really enjoy the teaching on the whole but it takes SO much energy and I am worried I'm going to become a really grumpy irritable teacher all the time due to the lack of breaks. Most annoyingly, I've gone from one afternoon class Tues and Thurs to three, meaning I was finishing at 3.30pm, now it will be 5. Not the end of the world but doesn't give you much to look forward to during the week.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Just a few other random photos

Firstly CRUMBLY BISCUITS, aka Crumbles - the cutest and most amazing dog ever. He's my friends' Elaine and Patrick's dog and he's wonderful, so cute and a really nice manner.

Crumbles tries to attack Elaine's pet hedgehog
but can't because he knows the spikes will hurt him

Crumbles you are amazing.

Most amazing sunset a couple of weeks ago, lasted
just a few minutes but was incredible and luckily
Sara had her camera on hand to capture it.

A recent beach weekend at Daecheon. After a
day of lazing on the sand and bobbing around in
the water we went out for some food before
returning to the beach with some drinks and good
company. I LOVE this shot of the whole gang.


Here are a few photos from a night out we had with our coworkers. Our school (ECC, which had previously merged with Lyceum) merged in July with another hogwan (Wonderland) to become WEL, originally we were WELP, when it was still a "project" but they've settled on that as a name.

Chris, me, Grace, Ann and Laila

Me trying (and failing) to take a photo like a
Korean with Grace

Conrad, Carp, Sara and Janice
The merge so far has been fine, our new coworkers are fine, but the schools have been running as if they were two just in the one campus for two months. Next month we become one more officially, with the students being given a test to find their levels so they can be blended together, new books etc. At the moment it's very uncertain how this will pan out as we're not told anything (there is a hierarchy with these things, and native teachers are at the bottom of the pile) and we're all very worried at the extra work this is going to give us, particularly because we're already very busy, and we're losing Conrad and a Korean teacher at the same time.
On an UPSIDE, we're also losing Jeff, also known as the devil child in our kinder school. He's just a little upstart who thinks he is above the rules set for all others. He has serious psychological problems and is aggressive and rude, always hitting his classmates, often for no good reason. He and I have never seen eye to eye, and lately he's taken to scowling and seething whenever he's near me, as he spits "Sophie teacher BAD teacher" at me. Oh yeah, and he also hit, punched, kicked and BIT me for simply trying to get him INTO class so he could avoid doing the work/rip out the pages of his book/break all my pencils/cheat off his classmates. The entire school, I think, is rejoycing in the fact that as of Friday he'll no longer be at our school. Thank goodness!

Happy Campers

Very very delayed post, but before our non-holidays (three days is just a long weekend, not a holiday Korea) we had two days of summer camp with our kids. Lots of fun, lots of stress and two 12 hour days, joyous for us all, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Day ONE - involved a sleep over at school for the kinders, which was super cute. After a full day of classes the kids came back with their mums and I hosted a show and tell contest with the two youngest classes. Very cute, all the usual things happened, one kid shouted his entire speech, another spoke into his chest and put on silly voices and acted like an idiot, and one refused even to stand up and give his speech.
Then we had a huge dinner with all the parents and kids together. Mostly involved smiling politely as a lot of them can't speak much/any English themselves, but they are interested in how you look (let's face it, this is a very superficial society and that's important to them)
Then the kids got put into their pjs for a fashion show. The parents left at this point and there were MANY tears from kids about a night away from them.

Olivia playing

Abigail and Stephanie

Julie, one of my favourite afternoon kids
(she must be about 10 our age) * and please
note, none of us chose to wear the baby pink
polo shirts, it was forced upon us for camp, horrid.

Carp playing his guitar while playing
a game of freeze

Kai with a very serious face

Kai had recently broken his finger and
was all bandaged up, which my coworker
Conrad found very amusing

Mars class, our babies, Oscar, Sam and Daniel.
Oscar is hilarious, he just giggles and is always
in his own little world, Sam is super smart but
lately getting very angry and having huge tantys.
Meanwhile Daniel is not very intelligent, and not very
cute, and not very nice all round.

Kiddies dancing in their jarmies

Julie looking like a bit of a lunatic

Sara dancing with Rosie and Heidi

Day TWO - was a trip to Ocean World, Korea's largest waterpark, with some of our older afternoon students. Fun you say? Well, I thought it would be but involved instead hours and hours of stress at missing children. I mean, harm probably won't come to them in a waterpark with so many lifeguards around and all, but as a group, we had NO contingency plan for missing children, even AFTER I'd misplaced two of them before lunchtime. And it was camp day at the park so it was teeming with thousands of Korean children, all wearing matching lifejackets. I can recognise the kids I teach anywhere, but was given a group of children I didn't know from a bar of soap and I instantly lost them, it was like looking for hay in a haystack, it all looks the same.

Erica, Lynn and I on the bus, I teach these two
every day and they're very sweet, Erica can be
very bossy, and Lynn kinda strange, but I think
they're great.

Sara and her team

My team, which they themselves named Team
Crazy - which is a hugely offensive thing to call
someone here, but they picked it, and I think,
looking at this picture at least, it kinda fits!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer holidays on Jeju Island

I am feeling so relaxed and happy after a perfect few days away at the beach on Jeju Island, Korea's holiday paradise, and it really was. Karma seemed to be smiling on us as nothing was difficult and we kept getting many lucky breaks.

DAY 1 - Wednesday
Sara and I flew in on Wednesday morning and we both had that perfect sense of happiness you get at the very beginning of a holiday, all anticipation and excitement. Janine met us at the airport after spending the previous day travelling down to Jeju by bus and ferry - which was apparently incredibly stormy and slow and caused everyone to be very seasick. The weather was perfect, hot and sunny and lovely. We grab a cab and head off to find some lunch at this cute wee place on the waterfront where we shared one meal and somehow managed to get free icecream. We could instantly see Jeju was quite different from the mainland, everyone is so happy and smiley on Jeju. We got a great taxi again who took us to Hamdeok beach, our base for the next three nights and the driver even called ahead and found us somewhere to stay.

Hamdeok Beach

Our lunch spot on Jeju Island

Then we decided to go to Udo Island, a much smaller island off the eastern side, it was amazingly beautiful, very cute and quaint. We hired rickety old bikes and headed to the beach, although it was very cold so we all failed to actually swim, it was nice just to lie in the sun and relax.We went for a ride around a bit of the island where we were waved at by everyone. There were horses and some of the biggest dragonflies I have ever seen, I almost crashed my bike and ate one when it flew into my face. Quite surreal feeling.

I totally fell in love with this wee dog, which I named Scampy,
he came and accosted us for our snacks, and kept coming back
for cuddles, didn't seem to have an owner, and I was pretty smitten,
despite his need for a very good wash!

On the ferry to Udo Island

Riding bikes on Udo Island - so much fun.

Me, Sara and Janine on our fabulous rusty rental
bikes - all of which matched our outfits.

That night we discovered what became our regular hangout, Sea Blue, a great restaurant overlooking the water, which served the most amazing homemade burgers and the strongest margherita's I have ever tasted. The couple who owned it were so friendly and offered to make us breakfast the next morning, pretty exciting as you can't really get decent western breakfast here (eggs, bacon, homefries etc). Then we headed into Jeju-si, the biggest city on the island to try and find some bars talked about in Lonely Planet - yet again LP FAIL, the maps were rubbish, very hard to understand and the bars absolutely weren't there when we got there. But we found a place to sit and chat before heading off for a bit of Noraebang action. We'd given ourselves a 3am curfew but flew past that after almost THREE hours of singing, a whole bunch of fun, and we were totally ridiculous, amongst the repertore was Mmmbop, a whole bunch of MJ (he will permanently be on the menu at karaoke now, I am sure of it) and Sugababes - despite my North American buddies having no idea who they were - it was bizarre!
DAY 2 - Thursday
We wake up at 8am to a phone call from our friend Elaine who had just arrived on the island after a very early flight. She comes to meet us and we take a few hours before we can function and head off to Sea Blue for our amazing breakfast - it didn't fail to deliver, we were thrilled. We then headed down to the beach, rented an umbrella and spent the day in the sun and sea. Perfect day for me. Lots of swimming, a little tanning, a little napping and some reading. Sara however manages to fall asleep in the sun and ends up pinker than a lobster and some of the most painful looking burn I'd seen in a long while.
When we go into Jeju-si again, this time looking for this special galbi restaurant which serves black pig which is forcefed sh*t - it sounds brutal, but after some of the things that are eaten here (dog, horse, silkworm lavae) it doesn't really seem all that bad. Pigs eat everything so what's the difference if they eat their own poop. Our taxi driver takes us to this amazing traditional restaurant and talks to the owners there who look after us so well. We have an absolute banquet of poop pig - it was delicious, the nicest pork I've had here so far, and very moreish. Our friend Benusa meets us here after spending the day heading down on the train and ferry. Eventually we head back to Hamdeok, get some beers and fireworks and go sit on the beach for a few hours, quite lovely and lowkey.

Janine and Elaine loving the poop pig

Our galbi feast of different bits of poop pig, mushrooms,
prawns, garlic and kimchi, totally delish

Sara and I happy as pigs in... poop...

DAY 3 - Friday
Back to Sea Blue for another amazing breakfast and then we head to Seongsan Ilchubong - Sunrise Peak. This is an extinct volcanic crater which has risen straight out of the ocean and gives incredible views of the area. The inside of the crater has been overgrown with vibrant greenery, which makes it quite spectacular from the air, but when you're standing on the edge you don't really get the idea of if being a volcano.
Seongsan Ilchubong

View from the top of the crater

Me, Sara and Elaine at the peak

Jeju is known for it's mandarines and oranges, and they make famous chocolate with it - I have never been a fan of orange chocolate but this was rather incredible, as well as cactus chocolate, delicious.We had another great taxidriver who took us the scenic way on the way there along the coastline - so what should have been maybe 1/2 hour in a cab ended up more like an hour, so when we eventually got back to the beach in time to see Elaine and Janine off - they were flying home sadly because Janine had to work at a summer camp on Saturday.
Benusa Sara and I stayed at the beach for a very long time, it was just so warm and beautiful and as the tide came in the waves got higher and much more fun.
Korean beaches are rather random places - and especially on Jeju, the honeymooners island.
For starters you're hardpressed to find one who isn't wearing full clothing over their togs - if wearing togs at all. You see them in jeans, in plaid shirts, in SHOES even, it's pretty ridiculous. And then every Korean man there has their girlfriend/wife in an innertube - noone knows how to swim here.
They just like to loll about in the shallows and the lifeguards are sitting out in a boat when the water has barely gone past your chest whistling at anyone who attempts to swim out further. Pretty funny place.
And so many people came up to us to talk to us, they're such sweet people, very good at stoking the ego, they think big eyes and small faces are beautiful and they will always tell you so, the kids especially are just adorable and so nice, they love to practise their English, and they're very fun to tease (eg by asking if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend and then suggesting whoever they're with should be their boyf/girlf whether it be their friend, brother/sister or mother!)
After that there was lots of walking around trying to find a good restaurant - pheasant is another specialty of the island but our wee beach town didn't have anything like it. After dinner we sit outside a convenience store for hours playing cards and generally being pretty silly, a lot of fun.

Benusa and Sara


While we're there a Korean guy who was rather aggressive earlier in the night to Benusa after some misunderstanding gets his car maimed by a guy who musta been drunk on a motorbike who slams into the side of it. We figured Karma, but it was pretty amazing to see an accident as by and large the drivers here are CRAZY and yet accidents seem to be pretty rare.
- Red lights are a suggestion, not a rule. Taxis will rarely ever stop at them, buses never will.
- Likewise pedestrian crossings, they'll carry on driving even if there are people crossing.
- Seatbelts?! HA! In fact, taxi drivers are often offended if you do wear them because they think you think they're bad drivers.
- Speedlimit? How fast can your car go?! Sometimes scary fast.But the thing is they're all very good defensive drivers. They're very quick to respond when something happens or pulls in front of you, and even quicker on the horn.
DAY 4 - Saturday
Final day, pretty sad and a repeat of the previous days, breakfast then beach. This time we notice these wee cabana huts and decide to see how much they are only noone comes to talk to us for over an hour, then this woman in a bumbag sidles along and we watch as she inflates the price from 30,000 won to 50,000 won (roughly $30 - $50) - insane, and so obvious. Instead we head for some palm trees to provide shade. Spend as much time as possible in the water as is the last swim I will be having for a while. In all, a really perfect holiday, I am really keen to head back to Jeju again, it's pretty easy to get to by plane (only an hour and relatively cheap) and there's still so much more to explore.