Our first post!

August 31, 2008 at 11:49 am (Uncategorized)

Annyong haseyo!  Welcome to our Korean weblog where you’ll find our Canadian take on the zany Korean way of life including the wacky (but delicious) foods, insane drivers, and a complete disrespect for personal space when travelling in crowds. 

Dave and I have been here exactly one month, so we’ve decided it’s time to post our thoughts, videos and pictures of what we’re experiencing on a day-to-day basis. 

We work at Kid’s Club, (http://www.nwkidsclub.com/) a franchised private English school in a city north east of Seoul called Nowon.  Over the last month we’ve slowly expanded our comfort zone beyond the neighbourhood streets of Nowon and have ventured into Seoul and discovered some amazing street markets, fantastic restaurants and lots of great bar scenes. 

Although there were many times over the last month where I wanted to hop on the next plane back to Canada and say to hell with this whole “broadening our horizons” life experience, I think we’ve started to find our groove in school and in Korea in general. 

Here’s a quick re-cap of some of the events from the last four weeks:

The plane ride over was ridiculously long, hot and packed.  We’ve met people who were able to stretch out over three or four seats and sleep the whole way – a luxury that we definitely weren’t afforded.  I forgot to pack allergy pills in my carry on bag and was constantly shoving Kleenex up my nose to try and stop the waterfall from my sinuses (a lovely mental image, I know), and sleeping while sitting up is definitely much easier said than done.  We arrived in Incheon feeling disoriented, sweaty and more than a little scared. 

Our boss, Mr. Park picked us up from the airport and we made the hour long journey through to Nowon.  I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t in a dream, that I was actually in South Korea – the whole thing felt very surreal.  Mr. Park took us to a chicken restaurant near the school and we had our first authentic Korean dining experience.  They layed out huge strips of chicken over a hot grill in the middle of the table; once everything was cooked everyone took a piece of chicken and put it into a lettuce leaf then topped it with garlic, red bean paste and kimchi.  The whole thing was then smooshed together and stuffed into your mouth.  Yum. 

We hauled our luggage up the five flights of stairs to our apartment and had a first look at our new home.  We have two bedrooms (a little unnecessary), plus a common room, a bathroom, a small kitchen and a lean-to for the washing machine.  We have a teeny fridge that holds a bare minimum of food and a stove with two gas elements – these are actually considered perks for the average teacher in the Seoul area.  Strange Korean fact #297 – Koreans don’t use shower curtains so our bathroom is always in some state of dampness.  Our salvation is definitely our air conditioner – it is pretty damn hot here all the time.  For the first two weeks we sweat more than we breathed.  It cooled down a bit, but now we’re back up in to the sweat zone, and it looks like we’ll be here for a while.  We’ll post a video of the apartment soon so you can take a look around. 

So on to our work experience.  We went in the day before and Mr. Park gave us a very, very brief overview of the school’s policies and our schedules.  We walked in the first day with barely a clue what we were supposed to do with our classes, and, without any further instructions, were told to start teaching.  The kindergarten classes are divided based on age, not skill, and are named after planets.  My first class, called Venus, was with two five year olds who obviously spoke barely a word of English.  Then it was on to Jupiter class – a group of rowdy and wild six year olds, then Mars class with slightly more sedate seven year olds.  By the time lunch came around I was sweating from all the adrenaline and close to tears from all the frustration of not knowing what the hell I was doing. 

My afternoons are with older students who can at least speak English with a little fluency, so for the first few weeks they were my saving grace.  The younger kids have the attention span of a goldfish and often lose interest in classes as the week progresses.  The older kids recite lessons based on tapes and book work, so if I’m having a particularly rough day I can just give them some worksheets and zone out for 40 minutes.  It’s a little harder to tune out the younger ones, so we often play games or sing songs if they are overly rambunctious.   

Assigning grades and providing feedback to the students is particularly touchy because parents pay for their children to attend these schools.  We just completed progress reports for kindergarten last week and were not allowed to give even the worst students below a C in any area, which is ridiculous considering some of them cannot recognize letters of the alphabet.  Attending English school is a huge status symbol here, and no parent wants their child to fall behind the curve.  We’re forced to drag the weak students along through classes they don’t understand while the more advanced students get bored and restless by the slower pace.  It’s incredibly frustrating. 

Instead of rambling on more tonight I’m going to end here and pick up again later in the week to talk about what we’ve been doing on our weekends.  I’m so glad we finally got around to starting this blog, and I hope you enjoy following us in our year-long journey.  We miss everyone back home so much and we think about you every day.  I’ll post again soon!

~Lisa

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2 Comments

  1. Wayne the ninja said,

    So here I am sleeping around 5:30am, but left my computer turned on and the speakers still loud from the last time I used it. And then that msn email alert blast a sound so deafening that even Jesus would yell “holy fuck” and then slap his bitch around a bit for leaving the speakers at such an obsene level, even though he knows that he was the one that did it… ah Jesus, you make me laugh.

    Anyway, you guys sound like you’re having an rollercoaster ride of emotions, so hope things keep getting better!
    Peace out dawgs…

    -Wayne

  2. Matt Clements said,

    Nice post! It’s nice to see that grade inflation has been an export from North American schools. Looking forward to your next post.

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