Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Open Letter to Starbucks Via Cinnamon Spice Coffee

At first, I looked down on you. Why, I asked myself, would anyone spend money on sweetened instant flavored Starbucks? You go to Starbucks for a badass cup of drip coffee, and if I want the pre-sweetened flavored stuff I work in an office full of Mocha Gold.

Oh, how wrong I was.

You -- hot, dark, and sweet -- you are perfect for me. I pour a little milk in my travel mug when I leave the house, and you are waiting for me when I get to work, all compact in your cute little Via packet. After I race around making copies, prepping materials, and dealing with the inevitable morning crazies, you're there, ready. You don't even get upset with me when I sometimes get in the mood to dabble with your friend, Mocha flavor. You know I love you best.

So thank you, for being not too sweet, not too overly flavored, and not weirdly burned and bizarrely barbecue smokey like the Italian Roast. I'm not afraid to say it -- I'm glad you're in my life.

Sincerely,

Kaye Teacher

Monday, March 28, 2011

Commercialization

Today's Lesson: Commercials (day 1)
Today's Videos: Britney for Pepsi, V8, Budweiser "Wussup"
Today's Lunch: rice, cabbage kimchi, shrimp tempura, seaweed & potato soup, individual silken tofu pack w/ soy sauce.
Today's Outfit: black Gap stretch slacks (remember shopping at Gap? I wonder how long I've had these...), Anthropologie white sleeveless blouse, pink RL sweater (thanks for the sweater set, mom!)
Days Since Coming to Korea: 631.

Even though I've only been in Korea for two years, the fact that the school year sort of runs with the calendar year (starts in March, ends in January) means that my 4 semesters span 3 school years. Because of that, today was the third time I've taught my commercials lesson. I had to up my game and make it significantly more difficult this time, because the kids are really, really talented. Of course, there are some students, probably half, that are at the same level as last year's incoming first-years were, but as I have several outspoken, talented leaders in each first-grade class this year, I feel like they're challenging me to challenge them.

So this time, I added a bit where they have to decide what timeslot they'll show their commercial in, and explain how it helps them reach their target audience. So far, it's going super well.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Double Oops

Oops #1: I told JJ that I was thinking about chicken for dinner, but didn't tell him that I was going to the grocery store after school. About 20 minutes after I got back, he came back...with a chicken. And also fresh mussels. Ooops.
Oops #2: We have leftover sweet almond paste and cherry jam from making hamentaschen, so I picked up a can of peaches thinking I'd make upside-down cake with all of those things. I couldn't find a recipe for peach-cherry-almond upside-down cake, so I went back and forth with a few recipes and made it up as I went along. Somewhere in the back and forth-ing, though, I managed to use nearly TWICE the butter I should have. Oops.



Dinner tonight:
1. fresh mussels with rosemary and garlic
2.Spanish rice (read: rice with sauteed onions, cumin, salt & pepper, chicken stock, and 1/3 of a salsa jar)
3."Mexican" chicken (read: Chicken smothered in El Paso taco seasoning)
4. Baguette from Tous Les Jours
5. Giant way-too-buttery Ginger Peach Cherry Marzipan upside-down cake.

I'll let you know how it goes -- I'm gonna try the cake anyway, because I'm curious whether the flavors go together. In addition to the fresh grated ginger, canned peaches, cherry jam, and homemade marzipan, there's also cinnamon, the crushed contents of 1 coriander pod, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Schedule Change

When my coteacher said there had been a schedule change, I feared the worst. But fear not -- my sacred Fridays are safe!
The change involves a small shift in my Monday and Tuesday schedule, with a couple of classes back-to-back rather than spread out, but I'll still arrive and leave at the same time and teach the same number of hours. The major change is to Wednesday & Thursday, where my Wednesday morning classes have been moved to Thursday afternoon. So I'll get home later on Thursdays, which means I can't run errands on Thursdays like I usually do, but I'll have more prep time for Wednesday and Thursday lessons. I definitely won't miss the marathon of 3 back-to-back 2-hour lessons. Those were exhausting, and I'd always spend Thursday psychologically and physically recovering.

I'm hoping this will mean that I'll have enough time to prep the best-ever lessons for my second graders, and avoid the attitude deterioration and cycle of frustration that can happen when they realize their other classes are more important for university applications and they check out. Maybe if I more fully accept my role as edutainer for the second graders, we'll get through it relatively unscathed! So say hello to more and better organized games and music video-based lessons than last year's second graders got.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Foodaism: Purim Edition

I loved making hamentaschen with my host siblings last year. It was pure silly fun, and the cookies were fantastic.

This year, Dave and Sonja came over to make cookies. We had quite an array of filling options, including cream cheese, marzipan, chocolate, jam (strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and thanks to Sonja, apricot), and prunes. Few things make me happier than baking with friends, and one of those few things happens to be finally beating JJ at Wii. The guy has a gift, and it was getting to be embarrassing watching my little Wii avatar crumple in despair after every game. Or match. Or whatever, tennis is weird. Anyway, I totally beat him, and Dave. Finally!

Back to the cookies. The winning combination, in my humble opinion -- and let me say I think I sampled every possible cookie combo -- was marzipan + cherry jam + prune. Tart, sweet, and overall fabulous. I also bought these little cheese things that seem to be the Danish version of Laughing Cow, but taste a bit sharp, like some aged white cheddar snuck in there. That + raspberry jam was a distant second-placer.

Extra cookies went home with Dave and Sonja, and extra extra cookies went to coteachers. Extra extra extra cookies went into my mouth.

Pics on JJ's blog here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fridays Off

One of my favorite things about my life in Korea -- maybe even my #1 favorite thing -- is that I haven't worked on a Friday since my first semester.

I like going to school, and I like my job, but I love sleeping in. This morning, I spent the first hour of the day watching Rachel Maddow and eating oatmeal brought from America (thanks, mom!)

Steel-cut oats (Scotland via USA) with almonds (California via Korea), raisins (Korea), diced persimmon (Korea), Peanut Butter & Co's cinnamon raisin PB (NYC), and brown sugar (Korea) -- delicious global breakfast!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ickle Firsties are Super Legit

So the incoming freshman class at CSHS is intense. There are several who are crazy good at English, and when I put out the word about having an English-only lunch, the response was overwhelming.

This is a whole different animal than the friendly, casual hangout sessions I shared with the third grade students last year. First of all, there are 13 people instead of 5. And these first graders, man, they want me to prepare stuff. And they looked at me like I should have some kind of syllabus or itinerary or something. One kid was there unabashedly just for the doughnuts.

Here's what we decided at the end of the meeting (when did this turn into a "meeting" instead of just "let's hang out and have lunch together and chat in English?"):

1. Next week, we'll meet in the English classroom from 12:50-1:20, which is after everyone's finished eating but before the next class starts
2. Students are going to think up a name for the English Club (apparently we're a club now?) and we'll vote next time.
3. I'll choose a recent news article and print out copies to distribute on Monday. They'll read them and we'll discuss it at our next..."meeting" I guess
4. I asked everyone to come up with a Korean vocab word to teach me. They have to write out the word, a definition in English, and use it in a sentence. One of the girls asked "what level Korean?" and I was like uhhhh yeah I have no idea. So we'll see where that goes.

Also, I made flashcards with their names and pics. So that's gonna be helpful, I hope...?

Korea Herald Article

My article for the Korea Herald about volunteering and the PC Project was printed this morning. See it online here!

Monday, March 14, 2011

White Day: Not as racist as it sounds


In Korea, Valentine's Day is the day when girls give boys candy.
Boys wait until White Day, one month later, to give girls the goods.

I always thought that was completely ridiculous (like one hallmark holiday isn't enough?) until this month, when my very long day concluded with me coming home to this:


Actually, when I got home it also had "HI" spelled out in Peppero boxes. Yep, it's been official for a while now, but it bears repeating: my boyfriend is the cutest.

White Day

GRAMMARBALL!
Okay, for some reason (it may be that I couldn't get the TV to connect with the computer to play "Get Your Head in the Game" to pump everyone up at the beginning), they are not as enthusiastic about the majesty and elegance that is GRAMMARBALL as previous generations have been, but it's okay. Even without peak enthusiasm, this lesson is still awesome.

Also, thank you students, for the lollipops, and thank you office assistant guy, for the chocolates!

Aaaand it's 3/14 pi day, which means that whoever knows the most digits of pi in the class will most definitely be getting a sticker. So far, no one has beaten me....3.14159265358979. Put that in your pi-pe and smoke it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You're Free to Hydrate

Best Day Ever: THEY FIXED THE WESTERN TOILET IN MY SCHOOL!

I Have Too Many Babies

So if you know me, you probably know that I like babies. Of any species. And midgets. Anything small, really -- but it all stems from an essential part of me that is happiest when there's a baby in my lap.

Since it would be mega-inconvenient to have one of my own for the next few years, I've taken to borrowing babies. Babysitting (you mean they'll pay me to do this?), teaching, volunteering -- just give me something little to snuggle, and I'll show up and do whatever it is that I'm officially there for.

Which is why I was so surprised at how exhausted I was after volunteering yesterday. I've never been so out of it with them before -- usually all of that kid energy buoys me up, but this time I just felt overwhelmed.

I can discern two reasons.
First, this orphanage visit was less organized than usual. Last year, I lucked out by volunteering with 3 Korean speakers. This time, there are only 2 other volunteers, and only Esther speaks Korean -- which means that JJ and I have to call out to her to run around and translate everything. It's stressful for her, for us, and for the kids, who are too little to grasp the concept of languages. I'm pretty sure the kids just think JJ and I are being uncooperative or uncaring when we can't respond to their questions or requests -- they don't understand that we just can't understand the vocabulary they're using, regardless of how loud they repeat it.
Second, this visit is the first since we rescheduled. We had been coming on Thursdays, and now we've switched to Mondays. Add that to the fact that I'm now volunteering in Seoul every other Saturday teaching the rambunctious 5- and 6-year-old children of North Korean refugees ("teaching" is actually a pretty generous word, in reality it's about 40% English instruction and 60% trying to get the kids to stop running to the window and dropping paper and spitting on people walking on the street below). Thanks to a confluence of scheduling stuff, that put me volunteering with children who don't speak English on Thursday, Saturday, and Monday.

It was exhausting.

Because they can't understand me most of the time, I get the frustration of communication challenges and of good old fashioned disobedience.

I think -- I hope -- that there is a cure for this problem. Preparation. Next week, not only will I have a less intense schedule, but I'll also go in better prepared. JJ and I will bring a children's picture book so we can start off the volunteering session with a relatively calm and focused activity.

For a while now, I've wanted to start a mini- English library at the orphanage. If all goes well with the reading time, I'll apply for a small grant from KKOOM to buy some Dr. Seuss, Babar, and other classics that we can read with the kids and then leave at the orphanage.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Best Semester Ever

Listen, I had it pretty sweet last semester. But here are some improvements:

1. One less teacher class (down from 4 hours/week, which was more than any other ETA I know)
2. I don't have to go to Monday morning teacher meetings anymore (good, because I don't understand anything they say, and I always need that 20 minutes to print something)
3. I retain the hour of prep time before classes on Monday and Tuesday, but my schedule gets bumped up an hour after lunch, so I finish at 3:10 rather than 4:10.

I'll use those hours that I'm saving on Mondays and Tuesdays for the killer commute to Seoul for my new volunteering gig, teaching the 5- and 6-year old children of North Korean refugees. They know their A-B-Cs, numbers to 20, a few colors, and some non-useful words presumably off of an A-is-for-Apple poster (like, say "alligator").

New schedule for the orphanage, too. Mondays at 5:30 this semester. Esther, JJ and I are going today, and we're planning to teach them a little hand clapping game. Wish me luck!