Friday, September 25, 2009

A Sample of Some Super-Excellent Things Students Said Today

We just finished a 3-day project on commercials in my first grade classes. I asked them for feedback. As always, their writing varies greatly in terms of skill level, but includes some incredible gems. I love my kids.

A sample:

Regarding the commercial project:

1. "It's fun, but there is not enough tool. So It was difficult."

Sounding it Out:

1. "I'm sorry to ended up this project this way. It's too crumsy."

Inadvertent Deep Wisdom:

1. I want to be happy. I'm very nervous because the exam is coming so fast. I have so many dreams, so I'm complicated to decide my future.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pizza Pizza

Dinner tonight -- will it be, like lunch, tofu miso soup, veggies with pepper sauce, and whole fish? Or will it be, like last night's dinner, kimchi, rice, and peppered tofu?

Wait - what's this? Ah - pizza! An entirely different continent of food awaits!

Above: A pizza awaiting its turn to be baked. I took care of the dough (harder here than at home, since this kitchen has neither rolling pin, nor cornmeal, nor pizza stone), did an example pizza to show the kids roughly how much sauce and toppings they could pile on before the pizza would get soggy, and then stood back and let them go to town. After they enthusiastically and artistically created a couple of masterworks, they got bored, so I took over again. This beauty is an example of my host brother's work, which I recognize by its insistence on tearing apart mozzarella singles rather than going for the apparently less-familiar shredded stuff.

The same pizza after encountering my host sister (no, I didn't have time to take pictures of ANY of the SEVEN pizzas as they came out of the oven, as they were mercilessly devoured with alarming speed). Pizzas tremble before the Kim family!

Monday, September 21, 2009

*Gasp* There's a Boy in that Kitchen!

Ways to impress your host mom:

1) Spend a weekend at "Jewish church" in Seoul
2) Bring back fresh whole wheat "health bread" from a bakery in Itaewon
3) See that she's feeling under the weather and offer to make dinner tomorrow night
4) Announce that you'll be making pizza. Realize that pizza is not something people make in Korea - it's a food that magically appears independently of human effort. Tell her that you'll start preparing tonight, because it's easier to just let the dough rise overnight than stress about it tomorrow
5) Get your 10-year-old host brother interested in what you're doing
6) Get your 10-year-old host brother to offer to help with what you're doing
7) Get your 10-year-old host brother so invested in the project that he declares, while kneading pizza dough, that "this is best ever toy!"

As surprised as my host mom was to see her daughter in the kitchen, it was nothing compared to the look on her face when she saw my host brother happily jamming his little plastic gloved- hands into a giant bowl of pizza dough and squeezing the stuff like his life depended on it.

It feels good to make some kind of tangible contribution to this household. I'm sure the last thing you wanna do when you're feeling crappy is be responsible for feeding a family of 5 (and, uh, I feel a whole lot better about eating food that I, rather than someone with an aggressive cold, have prepared). It definitely feels good to have some input on the menu - and ya know what? I like to bake. Seeing little bro having a great time with it was just extra cheese on tomorrow's pizza! :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lesson of the day: writing scripts for commercials
Idiom of the day: None
Video of the day: "wasabi" Budweiser commercial
Lunch: Curry rice, clear clam soup, dteok, kimchi. Actually, lunch was beef bokkumbap (fried rice) with curry, but the lunch ladies made me my own special non-beef steamed rice. I'm pretty over curry rice, but still, they're awesome for doin' it :)
Highlight thusfar: Breakfast -fresh challah french toast with maple syrup, coffee, & OJ

For today's lesson, my kids wrote scripts from the notes they prepared last time on making a commercial. Next week, we'll film their scripts. Hopefully this will go smoothly. Some groups are definitely really into it, and some groups, ones where all 4 kids are low-level speakers, spend a lot of time just sitting there and staring into space. Some commercials I'm looking forward to seeing performed and filmed: Sun Myung Moon (of crazy Moony cult fame) for Taco Bell, "Korean grandmothers" for Samsung cellphones (this group is all boys), and, courtesy of my sassiest kids, Miss Kaye for Jinsoh soju. Can't wait :)

My host brother is still sick, so my host parents are taking him to the doctor today. This sucks for at least 2 reasons: 1) my host brother is the most adorable kid in the universe, and it kills me to see him so totally miserable and 2)my host dad couldn't give me a ride to school, so I had to do the hour-and-a-halfish commute by subway and bus out to Gongju. Fortunately my first class didn't start until 9:30, so I could sleep in until 6:30 and still get there at 9 to prep. Unfortunately it made for a stressful morning, because the bus stop to go toward Gongju is a pretty considerable distance away from the bus stop I stand at every day to go home. Also, the bus number I take was not on the list of buses that stop there. So I was pretty stressed out for a while there.

Fortunately, my happiness about breakfast carried me through the stress. The importance of an American-style breakfast to my happiness cannot be overstated. I've always liked making or going out for big weekend brunches, and my mom made me french toast almost every morning though middle and high school. When I was growing up, my dad and I made frequent trips to local diners for weekend breakfasts, where he'd help me with homework or college applications, or we'd just catch up after a busy week. It's become a weekend tradition for Nick and me, too - creating epic brunches with fluffy ginger peach pancakes, buckwheat blueberry waffles, or crepes loaded with yogurt and fruit, omelets or frittatas, and muffins and/or popovers. Point is, brunch is the greatest meal of all time.
Unfortunately for me, the only place to get pancakes in Daejeon is McDonald's. Listen, I'm not saying I won't do it - because I have. I'm just saying it's not exactly ideal.

This morning, I hacked off a piece of that challah and showed it what it was made for. Oh, man, it was good. I'd planned ahead - at the grocery store yesterday, I bought everything I could possibly need, so I had maple syrup and raspberry jam at my disposal, too. It was amazing. It was food porn. I almost took a picture.

Last night I wrapped up some little challah rolls and a few slices of apple cake to bring to the principal, vice principal, and my coteachers today. It's pretty cute, they've got little ribbons and stuff. Only trick has been trying to find a time to give people stuff - I have a teacher class with my coteachers, so they're easy. But I have yet to corner the P and VP alone, so it won't be awkward that I only have enough for them.

As for the massive challah loaf - I hacked it in half. Since I'm leaving for the weekend and my host fam probably won't eat the whole thing (I'd be surprised if they each have a whole slice, they're definitely rice-based folk), I'll leave half with them and take the other half with me to Seoul. Hopefully it'll still be soft and good tomorrow morning - challah with a little jam and cheese sounds like EXACTLY the sort of thing one should eat for breakfast before a 9:30 service :)

I'm really happy to be getting out of here for the weekend. It'll be my first KTX (high-speed train) to Seoul adventure, an amenity that made Daejeon an ideal placement for me. Being in the middle of the country is great, so long as you're near a major hub like Daejeon - I can be in Seoul in an hour and Busan in under 3. So I'm excited to try out the Korean train system and to get the heck outta dodge. For whatever reason, this has felt like a really long week. Nothing unpleasant has actually happened - just nothing really great, either. Well, besides this morning's aforementioned breakfast. Anyway, it's gonna be great. I'll connect up with some of the Jewish community in Korea, most of whom I assume will be English-speaking, and maybe get myself set up to do some interviews for that article on Jewish life in Korea that I'm planning to write. Plus, I'll get to go out with some ETA chingus, and that's always a good time. We laugh, we whine, we keep each other sane. Can't wait!

Challah Back, Korea!

NB: If you're reading this on facebook, maybe I should point out that all of these "notes" are originally from an external blog that I set to import to facebook. Since I posted some of these pictures to fb, I thought I'd throw that out there.

Anyway, I just spent the night making traditional Jewish foods with my super awesome homestay sister, who was kind enough to bear with me as I tried to remember the relevance of honey and apples and why one braids challah. Since she wasn't in any way aware of the existence of Jewish people before I suddenly moved into her house, she was pretty interested in the whole thing. Probably didn't hurt that the cultural and history lessons were accompanied by honey apple cake and challah.
Korean kids don't cook or bake, which is totally alien to me - I loved baking with my mom as a kid. Actually, scratch that - mom doesn't bake. But I can't remember being so young I didn't have a decent popover recipe memorized.
Caroline had never cooked or baked anything other than instant noodles before (not an exaggeration) so it took some time to explain how to level off a cup or a teaspoon, how to knead dough, and how to follow a recipe. But in the end, we got there - and made some bangin' treats with a delicious jewy center!

Host sister with Chandi (who got an amazing/ridiculous haircut) and cake

The challah mini-rolls and apple cake (photo credits on this one go to the host sister)

Challah dough, lookin' good and ready to be baked. But will it do justice to what I set out to do? To show the kids that they could cook, to teach them a traditional food, and to have delicious bread in the house? Will it rise enough? Or did I leave out some crucial ingredient -- like, say, the second Jewish parent?, nutmeg or something? We shall see...

Success! :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Going to the Adventure

So a few weeks ago, I hurt my knee. I'm not sure exactly how. Let's just say that it happened between the hours of 2-4 in the morning, and that when the tae kwan do provincial champion is telling you to drink that in one shot, you do. When I got up the next morning, it was to both pain of the expected kind and a mysterious bruise on my knee. It hurt to walk, too - something was definitely wrong. But we were busy, and it didn't stop me from getting around. It hurt less and less, and even though it'd still twinge once in a while, I sort of forgot about it.

Fast forward to a few days ago, when I started working out at Curves. The knee went back to giving me a whole bunch of trouble, and was even a little swollen yesterday. Clearly, something had to be done. So yesterday, I asked my host mom if she could recommend a doctor or hospital where someone spoke English. Yes, she said, she knew the university hospital would have that.

So imagine my surprise when, 5 minutes ago, she announced that from my description of the pain, Western medicine would be a lengthy and ineffective process - we would be going to see a practitioner of "Eastern medicine." And then she asked if I was scared of needles.

We leave in 10 minutes. I'll let you know how it goes....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Remember in my last post how I was sort of whining that I only had one class today, and I still had to show up?

That class got canceled.

oh, and they knew that it would be canceled as of yesterday, they just waited until today to tell me.

The weird thing is, even if I'd known? Pretty sure I'd have had to show up anyway.

I mean, okay, it's not like I had other pressing commitments. Maybe I would have even used my time similarly, plopping down at Starbucks, lesson planning, and noodling around online for a few hours. More likely I would have done some daytime exploration of Daejeon, which is something I haven't gotten to do a whole lot of. Either way, I've gotta figure out a game plan for how to channel this into productive time. Like studying my Korean, or working on the musical (although that's tough to do without being able to say / sing anything out loud) or lesson planning for the next 50 years.

Harrumph. I'm grouchy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Super-Scandalous Speed Dating Lesson, and A Sample (thurs) Day in the Life

Lesson of the day: American dating culture and speed dating (interview practice)
Idiom of the day: Gut feeling / gut instinct
Video of the day: Speed dating video, same as for 2nd graders yesterday.
Lunch: ham salad sandwich, beef bokkumbap, fish paste soup, tiny plastic thing I thought would be lemon jello that ended up being lemonade. NOT a good day to be a vegetarian. I pretty much ate kimchi and some of the rice around the beef, and the "emergency apple" I'd been keeping in my desk for just such an occasion.

Today's News:

Some things I learned about young Korean dating culture while comparing it with young American dating culture:
Q: What is the average age Koreans start to date?
A: University (2 classes), high school (1 class)

Q: Where do Korean couples go on a typical date? (NB: the first time I asked this, I phrased it "what do Korean couples do on a typical date?" without thinking of possible consequences at a high school that's 80% boys)
A: noraebang (1st answer from every class!), amusement park, movie theater

Q: How long should you date someone before your first kiss?
A: 3-6 months (one class said "100 days")
The kids were all shocked when I said that around 3 dates was probably the American norm. Of course, I didn't have too many first dates in high school, so I pretty much made that up. The looks on their faces told me all I needed to know about whether they could handle the news that some American teenagers go to unsupervised parties where alcohol is served and kiss people they aren't dating at all. Guess I'll save that gem for next semester...

*Koreans were shocked and seriously envious to find out that American kids get their licenses at 16 (Koreans get theirs at 19). I think I might harness their interest in this subject for a debate topic later on.

*Talking about driving and high school dating culture led me to two very special vocabulary words - "curfew" and "grounded." It was pretty interesting to me no one had ever heard of these words. It tells me that they're not watching the same TV and movies that kids their age in America watch, or that if they are, they're completely shutting out the audio and just reading the subtitles. So I've been brainstorming movies that are about / take place in high school that are PG (like, actually rated PG). They've already seen High School Musical 1&2, but they liked 'em, so I can show them HSM 3 (I've never seen it). "Sky High" also occurred to me as a potential movie. Any suggestions would be welcome!

*We talked about the differences in how young people interact with the same sex and the opposite sex. I explained that it's normal for young Americans to hug or cheek-kiss people of both sexes for greetings and goodbyes. We made a little chart together - for Americans, it's normal to see a boy and a girl who are just friends touching or hugging. For Koreans, it's normal to see two boys who are just friends holding hands, hugging, or touching, but strange to see platonic opposite gender physical affection (okay, I used easier words, but you get the point).

*I bought a scale at HomePlus en route home. Scale, gym membership - now all I need is a couple of lunch days like today, and I should be on my way to being suitably Korean-style near-emaciation.

Tomorrow, Thursday, is my favorite and least favorite day in terms of school scheduling. I have exactly one scheduled class, officially a class for the school English teachers, which exactly 2 people come to. Pretty much we just chat for an hour. Sometimes it's cool, sometimes it's painfully long. Either way, there's absolutely no reason it couldn't be moved to a different day -- I'm pretty much just there all day because in Korea, being a good worker means you have to be seen putting in time. The work-life balance thing here is approached way, way differently. So while most of my days are spent doin' stuff (I spend quite a bit of time lesson-planning and preparing materials for class -- on some days, all of the hours I'm not teaching go into prep work), Thursdays just aren't....

6:30am Wake up, quick shower, put on a suit
7:10 Breakfast
7:30 Leave for school
8:05 Arrive at school. Insa (formally greet/bow to) principal, vice principal, head of teachers, head of department, and anyone else who comes along, in that EXACT order - or else!)
8:15 Try to socialize with teachers with whom I do not share any language, over hobbit-sized Dixie cups of instant coffee
8:30 Sit at desk in teacher's office. Think about lesson plans and get sidetracked reading wikipedia articles on Latin grammar. Think about lesson plans on Latin grammar. Facebook people from my high school Latin class.
10:00 wish I'd kept taking Latin. Or at least French. Look up French classes in Daejeon. Look up guitar lessons, cooking classes, and personal trainers in Daejeon. Google "what to do in Daejeon." Read the Korea Herald.
11:00 Check GMail. Check facebook. Check gmail again. Stalk self on facebook. Untag pictures. Retag pictures. Untag them again. Read front page of NY Times. Try to lesson plan for next week. Read other ETA blogs.
12:05pm Lunch
12:30 Students have lunch, teachers book it out of the cafeteria before the mad rush. Back to my desk. Check gmail. Check facebook. Read Jezebel. Read io9
1:20 Teacher class
2:10 Check gmail. Check facebook. Read whedonesque. Check ETAB. Try to lesson plan again. Blog.
2:30 Check gmail and facebook again. fall asleep. jerk awake as teachers insa incoming principal. Check gmail. Check Smith email, get angry that JCrew sent email about 20% off all sale items with free shipping and the damn website is blocked in Korea. Wonder what subversive action JCrew did to deserve this. Look up "proxy server." Clear cache.
3:30 Get up for another hobbit coffee, talk with physics professor. Decipher after 4 repeats / 2 minutes that he's telling me he's happy it's "hump day." Consider explaining that that is, in fact, Wednesday. Don't.
3:40 Consider reactivating neopets account. Wikipedia "neopets" instead. Hey, that guy from "Veronica Mars" owns Neopets? Wish I'd brought my DVD collection to Korea. Consider ways to include 'Newsies' as a lesson on American history. Clear cache.
4:35 Get stuff together, insa VP, walk to bus stop
4:45 Get on bus
5:15 Get off bus at subway station. Get on subway. Try to time nap so I don't miss my stop.
5:45 Get off subway. Walk home. Stop along the way to buy fruit or coffee, feeling the distinct pleasure of self-determined movement and absurd exchange rate-derived buying power. Relish the oasis of Starbucks, the magic of a transaction in which you can order a small soy chai and indeed receive a small soy chai.
6:00 Finally arrive at apartment, inexplicably exhausted. Marvel that this is my job. Despair that this is my job. Laugh that this is my job.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Video on punctuation

I'd like to start doing dictation with my kids, but before I can, I know I definitely need to go over basic punctuation with them. Since that's probably one of the driest subjects on earth, I started trawling around the internet for anything that could help liven it up.

I found this.

Now, god knows you it's tough to go wrong with Victor Borge and Dean Martin, but something about the old school video quality and squeaky cleanness of it made me think it probably wouldn't appeal to my kids. Well, maybe it won't, but I'm going to try it anyway, because this is HILARIOUS. Seriously, alone in my room, I laughed out loud like 5 times. I have no idea why it cracked me up as much as it did, but I'm definitely doing to include this in a lesson, and soon!


Today's lesson: American dating culture, Speed dating for interview preparation
Idiom of the day: several, all from the video of the day
Video of the day: Speed dating. Link to video 1, Link to video 2.
Today's Lunch: tofu miso soup and make your own kimbap, with rice, sheets of nori, pickled radish, crab sticks, and (uber-mayo-y) tuna salad. Not bad, actually. Oh, plus kimchi (the kind with the greens that I don't like). And a bottle of this sweet rice drink thing (not the canned yellow thing, something I haven't seen before).

Today's news:
Story #1: The unofficial school photographer sent me the pictures he took the first day:

Me and the principal

See? Cultural exchange is always good for a laugh.

This is about half of my kids, but it's what I saw on my first day here because the whole first grade was on a field trip.

Story #2: Going to the gym today. About time - with my "I'll try anything once (and twice if it's dessert-y)" Korean food policy, I've definitely been racking up the poundage. The last thing I want to do is try to shop in Korea! Plus, I spend WAY more time here just sitting around. I think I get why Koreans wanna go climb mountains-- in the city or at school, I spend at the barest minimum 45 minutes a day walking around. Here, I walk for 10 minutes from the subway to my apartment, and that's pretty much it. So...yay for not just sitting at a desk all day.

Story #3: Our school was getting 'evaluated' today. So there were men in suits with stern impressions walking around all day. But due to Korean cultural mores, it was perfectly acceptable for them to sit down at lunch with the principal and form a more perfect union of formidable 50+-year-old man slurping - and I mean SLURPING- their cabbage miso soup with the most incredible matching looks of absolute seriousness. It was pretty great.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Get Your Head in the Game

Today's lesson: Grammarball! A game to review the use of definite vs. indefinite articles and how to use articles with counting vs. non-counting nouns.
Idiom of the Day: "Get your head in the game"
Video of the Day: "Get Your Head in the Game" from HSM. Classic, even if it IS that conspicuously lip-psynched. Link

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dirty Pop

Because my school has requested I spend some class time preparing students for the TEPS tests (English language test focused on reading and listening comprehension that's required by many, if not most, Korean universities), I've decided to have an "idiom of the day." In order to make that less stiflingly lame, I've been playing music videos that prominently feature the idiom.

So far, I've shown my first graders the video for Jordin Sparks' "One Step at a Time," and my second graders that plus Abba's (the video is a clip from "Mama Mia) "Does Your Mother Know" to demonstrate the idioms "take it easy" and "cool it/cool down." Tomorrow I plan to talk a little bit about labor day, so the idiom will be "seize the day" -- obviously Newsies was the way to go there (then again, when is it not?). So far, it's been a pretty resounding success. The kids are exhausted because they sleep an average of 5 hours/night, but everyone is up and alert for the videos.

Some other songs I've thought about are "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" (Meatloaf), and "If I Had a Million Dollars" (Barenaked Ladies) for conditional clauses. There's plenty of Great American Songbook-y stuff ("If I were a Bell" / "If I were a rich man" for subjunctive, "let's call the whole thing off" for idiom and regional pronunciation, and loads more), but music from that era doesn't really come with a sweet music video - these kids are definitely multi-media mass consumers.

Anyone have any suggestions? Anything that comes with a video 16-year-olds might want to watch (ie, MTV and post-MTV era) is fair game!