Wednesday, July 14, 2010

29 hours...

...from now, David and I will be aboard a plane for Tokyo.

I. Can't. Wait!

Dear Ms. Kaye, From Second Grade

Last semester, my first graders were awesome. I thought it was something inherent in them as people, that we just got along great and they were supercool.

Now, though -- now, they're second graders.

And while at their best, they're funny and fun and smart, and there are individual students who are consistently all of those things...I have not had a single second grade class this semester where no students fell asleep.

Now, at first I thought it was me. So I made more active lessons. But it still happened, so I asked the other teachers, and sure 'nuff, they knew exactly what I was talking about. Apparently, the second graders are so stressed out that they're sleepy in every class (er, at least in all their English classes)

No word yet on whether they're hair-pullingly disrespectful in every class, though... even when 75% of the kids are happily writing and drawing letters, and then editing their work for grammar, it's tough not to focus on the 25% remaining who are being little punks.

If it's this much work to get them to write me a 1-page letter while listening to American pop music -- they've got 45 minutes to write this letter, mind you! -- I dread the months I'll have to spend getting them to do legit interview practice.

Fortunately, that's a problem for another time.

Last Day of Spring 2010 Semester

Today's Lesson:

Hour 1: Write me a letter
Hour 2: Watch Glee 1x13 "Sectionals"

After School:
I'm headed back to Daejeon to get some major packing done (hopefully, all of it). Elena is letting me keep a giant box in her room, and even found a home for my big suitcase full of winter clothes. Since I'm moving into her building in a month, that's an incredibly huge help.
Ashley is also generously letting me keep things at her apartment. I was so happy when I found out that she'd be here for a few days when I come back -- I'm gonna miss that girl! Without her, I'd be pretty stranded. I'd have to ship things to the Fulbright office, and then have to go back through Seoul when I land, carrying all my USA luggage, instead of being able to go straight to Daejeon. Huge. The Daejeon Crew has some epic (as well as EPIK) people in it!

Speaking of which, tonight is our last Daejeon Dinner with this year's crew (minus Kelly ㅠㅠ). As of now, the plan is to get together for kongguksu, a cold noodle dish that has julienned veggies and thin, slightly chewy noodles in mildly sweet soymilk. Summery and yummy. We've had such an incredible group of people here in Daejeon. I feel lucky to have had them here for my first year, sad to see them go, and hopeful that whoever gets placed in Daejeon for the next year is even a fraction as cool!


Days in school this semester: 1
Days teaching this semester: 1
Days in Korea this semester: 2.5

The office assistant just turned to me and said "summer! Chocopie?" and handed me a chocopie. She's the best.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I'd like to blow this up to poster size, to hang in my apartment next semester.
Any advice on how to do this in Korea?
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Days of school remaining: 2
Days in Korea remaining: 3.5
Days till David and I meet Billy in Seoul: 2.5

Suitcases packed: 1 (winter clothes, which stay in Korea)
Boxes packed: 2 (small box of books, big box of kitchen supplies)

Time is moving both too quickly and too slowly -- per usual!

New Workout: Baby-Lifting

These are the pics I was talking about.

Check the brutal battle over my hip happening on the right. She was originally on my back, piggy-back style, then decided to get down. She immediately regretted her decision and wanted to climb back up -- but access to all the places that I could possible have a child on my body were blocked. Solution: yank on the kid on my hip until a vacancy presents itself.

I also want to point out that this is not the first time such a confrontation has occurred. Here's how it usually ends:

The last couple weeks have required me to reconcile myself to my role as a big, white, foreign jungle gym. Two hours of an ever-rotating cast of little kids climbing me, I woke up sore on Friday morning.

New workout regime: Baby Lifting.

Memories Lost and Found

Last week, at our final day volunteering at the orphanage, we brought doughnuts. We picked up 30 doughnuts, along with some icing "pens" for the kids to decorate their doughnuts. It looked fun and easy in the pictures! And, okay, in real life the pens weren't so much pens as frosting glob dispensers, but the kids still had fun. Plus, either way -- doughnuts. Misshapen clumps of frosting or no, show me the 5-year-old who doesn't want a doughnut smothered in pink frosting.

Also, Yoojin had a bunch of postcards she'd brought from America. She had the inspired idea to write short, easy-to-read English notes for them. The little kids couldn't read theirs, of course, but we hope that the older kids will help them. The volunteers who are returning to America also plan to send some letters to the kids after they leave, so this would make for a nice transition.

Cuteness ensued, so I took pictures. A lot of pictures.

I also gave my camera to a four-year-old, who snapped some pretty decent shots (though she seemed to have a penchant for taking shots of butts, especially Kelly's -- do you suppose that's an eye-level issue or a personality quirk?). All around, some excellent stuff.

I couldn't wait to upload these pictures, but for whatever reason, I can't get my camera to talk to my Mac anymore. So I waited until this morning and did everything the same way I've been doing it all year: uploaded the pictures to my school PC, deleted them from my camera, saved them in a folder on the desktop.

But then, disaster struck! Somehow, the pictures disappeared from the folder I'd put them in. And I'd already deleted them from the camera. Oh noes!

Enter Mr. Moon, Chungnam Science High School computer teacher and techie genius extraordinaire. He didn't want to get my hopes up, but he said he had a program that might be able to recover the photos straight from the flash memory card in the camera.

Success! He did it. Whatta guy. I'm extremely grateful to him, as he's the reason that I can post them. More pictures coming soon...

Checkin' In, Countin' Down

This Semester:
Days left of teaching - 3
Days left at school - 3
Days left in Korea - 4.25 (ish? My flight to Tokyo is Friday morning...)

I'll be back in CT the evening of the 22nd. I'll probably be making cookies immediately upon my return (to the land of honest-to-goodness ovens!), if anyone wants to stop by :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New ETAs - initial thoughts

Just got back from Jungwon University, where I spent the last couple of days schmoozing with the new ETAs. This morning from 10am-12pm I gave a presentation on "American Pop Culture in the Korean Classroom," which taught new ETAs how to harness students interest in new American pop culture to teach lessons on more difficult subjects.

For better or for worse, their orientation experience is pretty different than ours was. In some ways, they really lucked out --our orientation site was older, and nowhere near as swanky. The food in the cafeteria during our orientation was pretty unappetizing (weekly "Western Breakfast" with a slice of white sandwich bread, a sausage, and bean sprout stew? notsomuch, thanks), while the food at the new site seems like a pretty respectable introduction to Korean cooking. But at the front and back gates of the university in Chuncheon were bars and restaurants galore -- streets filled with little language labs to practice what we were learning in our classes and transition from the cocoon of orientation to the greater Korea beyond.
The only thing as striking as the difference in environment directly off campuswas the dormitory set-up on campus; because their orientation is held at a religiously-affiliated university, men and women have separate living facilities on separate floors. There's even a men's elevator and a women's elevator. Our orientation would have been much, much different with that kind of rule, and I'm sure the kind of generally easy, relaxed relationships across gender lines that our 2009-10 class has enjoyed would have been much tougher to make. There is something decidedly infantilizing about living under rules governing when and with whom one can socialize. Being able to pop next door or down the hall and see if anyone wanted to grab a drink or ice cream after dinner, or just hanging out and watching American TV and movies in our rooms were important parts of our learning to socialize in Korea, and of forming a cohesive unit with the entire ETA class. I wonder how that will change their group dynamic vis-a-vis previous ETA classes.

It was nice to spend some time with Emilee, Christina, Derek, and the non- 2009 ETAs on the orientation team -- especially Christina, as she's not extending. The new kids are lucky, they've got some great people supporting them there. They've got their first Korean quiz on Monday, so they're gonna want the support...I vividly remember hardcore failing that quiz.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Volunteering at the Orphanage

This semester, Yoojin, Ashley, Kelly and I volunteered at an orphanage in Daejeon.

All photo credits to YooJin Lee.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thursday Stuff

I don't teach students on Thursdays (only teachers), and I can leave after lunch, so it's often my day for errand-running.

1:30pm Doctor's office, for the ENT guy to
a) suction ear wax out of my ear (ew) so he could see further into my ear
b) ask if I'm pregnant (turns out this was to prescribe the right meds, not accuse me of obesity)
c) prescribe MORE pills. 11 pills per day. Which look identical to the 10 pills/day I'm already taking (I have no idea what any of them are)

3pm Real estate agent's office, to signed the contract on my apartment for next year.
It feels really good to have that taken care of, since it's been stressing me out ever since my host father decided he wouldn't drive me to school next year.

4pm Dunkin' Donuts to buy treats for orphans. When I was there a couple of days ago to buy doughnuts for my third grade conversation class (there's only 5 kids, and they're all fabulous), I noticed that they were promoting icing "pens," to decorate plain or glazed doughnuts. We're having a little party at the orphanage today because it's our last week together this semester, so I thought that'd be a fun treat/activity. 30 doughnuts, plus a couple extra just in case. I think I'll pick up some little candy for them to use, too, like M&Ms or somethiing colorful and small.

4:30pm Maya Cafe, because I don't really want to go back to my homestay before the orphanage. I ordered an Americano, and today it came with a free little square of pineapple cake with coconut cream frosting. I don't actually want anything sugary, but free western-style foods make me feel all warm and fuzzy! Plus, tasty Americano.

I checked a lot off my list today -- life's good.

Next up -- 1) finishing organizing/preparing for my 2-hour workshop on using pop culture in the classroom, to be presented to the new ETAs this Sunday, and 2) PACKING.

Days of teaching: 3
Days at school: 3
Days in Korea: 8
Days until meeting new ETAs: 3

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lesson of the day
: Romeo & Juliet, basic plot and movie versions.
Video of the day: Clips from the 1968 and 1996 "Romeo and Juliet"s, "West Side Story," and "Shakespeare in Love"

1. Students recall the plot of "Romeo & Juliet," which I write on the board. I coach them to remember everything they can.
2. Students reassemble a cut-up plot summary, split up into 10 different pieces.
3. I pass out a copy of the prologue, in both the original and my Shakespeare -> ESL english translation. We talk about what it means, and how it tells you the main points of the story before it happens. Then we watch 3 versions of the prologue -- opening night from "Shakespeare in Love," the prologue of the 1996 Leo DiCaprio/Claire Danes genius version, and a 4 minute-ish clip from West Side Story. Man, I love a good dance fight!
4. Watch and compare/discuss clips of the party/love at first sight scene, balcony scene, and death scene.
5. In groups of 4, students are assigned one of 5 scenes to re-do. They make a scene summary and a dialogue translating a scene from "Romeo and Juliet" into modern-day Korea.
6. Students read the summaries and perform their dialogues.


Days of teaching: 4
Days at school: 5
Days in Korea: 10

Days until meeting new ETAs: 4

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

-Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

Photos taken this month at Greenwich beach by my mom, reprinted here with absolutely no permission.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Teaching Romeo & Juliet this week.

Tomorrow I plan to have them watch the balcony scene from the '68 version (and have them act out portions per JJ's genius lesson plan) and the death scene from "Shakespeare in Love." Haven't decided what scene to have them watch from the Leo DiCaprio version -- maybe the prologue? That movie includes the prologue, right?

Anyway, I'm using that as an excuse to re-watch "Shakespeare in Love." Man, I love this movie. Giant bottle of water + antibiotics + Stoppard screenplay = recipe for feeeeelin' goooood.
My coteacher was nice enough to take over my afternoon class, so I could go visit the doctor.

I've been sick for about a month, with various cold-related stuff. A couple weeks ago, I woke up at 2am with a sudden, wicked, pain in my ear, and went in to the emergency room. They diagnosed me with a middle ear infection, gave me a shot of pain meds and an IV of antibiotics, and sent me on my merry way.
The pain's gone now, but it still sounds like the whole world is under water. Plus, I've had a sore throat and a bit of a cough for most of that month.

So today, doctor.


Outer ear infection + tonsillitis. I asked him about the previous diagnosis of middle ear infection, and he says I don't have one. So either the original emergency room diagnosis was wrong, or I've had an outer and middle ear infection all in the same couple of weeks.

This'll be my 4th round of antibiotics this semester. I don't remember ever being on antibiotics more than once in a year before. Is this due to over-prescribing, or what?

My money's on a serious need for vacation in America. I think my homesickness may be manifesting as actual sickness.

Fingers crossed that I'm 7 days of pills away from tip-top health and stress-free Korean living.


Days of teaching: 5
Days at school: 7
Days in Korea: 10

Days until meeting new ETAs: 5