Love letter, bad english, student love

11 08 2010

Ah, this brings back some memories.

Its a love letter that one of my students asked me to try and help him write. He did this initial draft all by himself, pretty impressive actually. Obvious heavy use of dictionary or internet translations.

The story behind it is that the girl he was interested in spoke excellent English, so he figured that an English language love letter would impress her. I think it worked 🙂

To my lovely XX
Hi XX. You are a girl who is being written on someone’s diary and I am a boy who cannot but look at the picture of the girl everyday. Probably, I may be the boy and You must be girl that I always think.
I’m holding a pen at night when a lonely star is sobbing saddly.
Before one knows, the paper was fulled with loving you.
The blue sun in the dark has left for me. New sun which will rise tomorrow is waiting for me.
If you have me, you love me, your sun will be forever.
It’s true for me to give up my life by loving you. I cannot live without loving you. That I was born is only for you. AND! I’m really capable that you will be happy.
Please pardon me who send my mind with a letter. I hope to know whether you want me or not. I wait your answers forever. Can you receive me?

I actually have the original hand written version around somewhere. I need to dig it up and scan it. Its brilliant.

Did I mention that he was only 15? Not a bad effort at all.

November keeps getting stranger

2 11 2009

Wow, its only the 2nd and odd things keep happening.

Firstly, and most amazingly,



Its been snowing since about 9am, so about 4 hours so far. It’s not really settling yet, but it is damn cold and the kids hare having fun being idiots (as usual).

The other unusual thing was lunch. Having been here for over 3 years I thought I’d seen all of the various lunch options. Today was a surprise. Not sure if its because its a new month and the budget has reset, or if its a special welcome back lunch for the VP, but it was special. An absolute mountain of mussels. I don’t even like the things but everyone got a heaping serving of them to go with the rice, kimchee, mini hotdogs in sauce and the miscellaneous stewed fish (yurgh). I think I was given about 15 mussels. Pretty impressive for a school lunch.

November starts with a bang

2 11 2009

While not technically the first day of November, its the first school day and surprises all round.

1. First snow of the season. Well, not quite snow in the town, more rain/drizzle but up at the O2 ski resort there was a light dusting. Hopefully this bodes well for the season ahead. Also the coldest morning to date, being about 1 degree when I left home. We’ve had colder nights but usually its been warming up during the days.

2. I arrive at school at my normal time, about 8.45. Usually Mondays my first class is 3rd period, so about 10.50. This gives me time to get organised, have a cup of tea, do my photocopying and catch up on whatever I need to catch up on. Today? Nooooooo. Nothing of the sort. I walk into panic stations. Seems one of the English teachers has got the dreaded swine flu. Not my main co-teacher but the other English teacher. This obviously means bulk changes to the timetable, giving me some extra classes and moving them forward. No big deal. Then as the bell rings, 9am, start of classes, the timetable changes again. I’m up first class, with one of my worst behaved classes, with nothing prepared. Oh well, 5 mins at the photocopier with a convenient “Reading Builder” book and I’ve got material. Luckily my main Co-teacher, Mrs Kim, helped me out. I’ve never walked into that class to silence before. Throughout the whole class the kids were well behaved, no swearing, no hitting, even no sleeping. Unbelievabubble. Whatever she did to them was magic. They were back to the fun they were last year. Hope it stays that way.

3. Swine flu. We’ve got teachers sick, we’ve got students sick, I feel sick, many people have a standard seasonal cold/flu. Whats going on? What will it take for the government here to do something about it all? Swine Flu is here, now and spreading. We’ve had the local elementary school closed for a week or so after over 300 kids were absent (out of 1600). Schools in other cities are starting to close. Its not just the kids mingling at school thats the problem. After school they all go to private academies and PCBang (Internet Cafe) where they mingle with kids from all the other schools in the area. It doesn’t help either that now its cold everyone is staying in their sealed warm classrooms. Every class has a few kids off sick. Swine flu or otherwise. I’ve heard stories of kids having Swine Flu but their parents not wanting to look after them at home so sending them to school, sick, so the school can look after them. Can we say “Crazy”?

4. Finally, after 8 weeks or so, the school has a Vice Principal again. He’s been away for 2 months on a Principal training course at one of the Education Universities. Good for him. It means he should become a full principal soon. Now that he’s back, a few of the odder things that have been going on here should get back to normal.

5. Procrastination. I have a uni assignment due on Wednesday. Nothing like putting off uni work to make you do other things 🙂

I’m sure there are other things that will only be revealed as the day goes on. Oh well, as the Koreans say, “Fighting!!!”

Mountain Climbing Day (or ouch, my legs hurt)

21 10 2009

October, oh October. Month of limited classes, ridiculous numbers of exams and those strange, odd and crazy days. Days like “sports day” and school “climb a mountain day”. Last week was very much a standard October week.

Monday? Completely normal. I taught 2 classes, both 2nd grade, both EVIL. Noisy, sleepy and downright annoying.

Tuesday? Exams for 3rd grade. Exams again? Didn’t they have exams 2 weeks ago? Yup, more exams. And more to come in another 2 weeks. Guess which grade I teach on Tuesdays? Yup, right again. 3rd grade. No classes.

Wednesday? Still 3rd grade exams. So just one class for me. Another bunch of evil evil 2nd grade students. How can 2nd grade contain both the best kids in the school, and be on average the worst to teach?

Thursday? Sports Day! No classes for me. Just sadness and depression, RIP canon 40D, I loved thee well. My camera decided to not love me any more. Yup, it broke, and with it my enthusiasm for the day.

Friday, oh Friday. TGIF, or not. Climbing a bloody mountain. Yeouch.

1st and 2nd grade got to climb Taebaek-san, our local famous spot. But 3rd grade? No, they need something different, something more challenging, something more fitting for their growing bodies and emotional requirements. We went into Cheoram (another of the Taebaekian towns) and climbed there.


Thanks to GoogleEarth and my GPS, I managed to map where we went. All up the blue line you can see is about 9.3km, starting with a brutal uphill section to the lunch spot.

9km to go

I saw, for the first time in this region, some ruins that might be Korean war related. Most of the war bypassed this area because of its mountainous nature. Not to say the locals didn’t fight, they did.

War Bunker?

From the lunch spot, 4km into the hike, you are confonted by this depressing sign. Either way and you know it’ll hurt, but we went left.

Painful Decisions

Being on top of the ridge line gave some fantastic views of the mountains and the results of Autumn. The golden foliage was in full colour, and the light was stunning.

Autumn Valley Views

Autumn Light

The new camera even gave me a few surprised. I’m used to the lens flare from my DSLR and its lenses, but this was something completely new and unexpected. I actually like the effect it gives.

Crazy Flare

The 2nd half of the hike was the worst. Mostly downhill on dry, dusty trails that were both narrow and covered in dry leaves. It was difficult wearing decent shoes to get grip, so I don’t know how the kids and their “fashion” shoes managed to survive with no broken bones.

On the way down we passed a traditional tomb. These “body bumps” are the tombs of a families ancestors and are lovingly tended during varions holidays and festivals throughout the year. Tombs like this can be found all over Korea in the most unlikely places. This one is about 4km from the nearest road, up a mountain.

Korean Tomb

Upon finishing, the kids all left to walk home, or at least walk to the bus stop, another 1km or so. Teachers? We piled into cars and just drove home. The legs really were a bit sore for the next few days.

Fun? Yes. Something I want to do again? Not soon.

The many signs of the crazy Kids

11 10 2009

What a week. 2 weeks ago I went along to a demo class conducted by Matt and Mrs Yun, my old Co-teacher. They conducted a lesson based on signs, different kinds, colours and finishing up with the kids creating their own signs.

I took inspiration (ok, ok, I basically copied) the lesson idea and here I am, posting the results.

I gave each class approximately 25 or 30 minutes for the sign creation, working in groups of 2 or 3 kids. These are my favourites so far. The good, the great, the terrible and the downright WTF! Please enjoy, click on any image to be taken to my flickr page with the pics in much higher quality and size.

Becareful! BoNoBoNo No Study Don't Sleeping in My Class Teacher, No Kill Student

No Love in School Don't Eat Chewing Gum Don't Touch Me Don't Say You Love Me

Don't Kiss No Frustration No Killing Don't Study

No Escape (From Hamtae Middle School) No Big Earrings No Naked No Drinking Soju

No Anger Don't Draw Signs No Make-Up No Sexy Girl

No Crazy Be Careful My Friends No Make-Up No Crazy

Don't Poo Don't Sleeping Don't Crossdress No Head Shot

No Vomit Don't Killing No Self Camera No Pissing

No Ddong Chim No IceCakie Don't Ddong Chim No Killing

No Alcohol No Farting

As you might expect, generally the quality of the artwork from the girls is better than the boys. The boys did most of the killing, naked, farting etc. I know I had a blast doing this with my students. I’ll have to dig up some more of their Engrish artworks to show.

Strange goings on of the week, or Swine Flu and my school

1 10 2009

Crazy week. At least its almost finished, and finished with a bang. Its Chuseok, or the thanksgiving holdiay. A long weekend where everyone goes back to their hometowns to spend time as a family. Where the women cook and clean all day and the men drink soju and play games.

But I digress.

Last week was the start of Swine Flu in my school. It all began on Thursday, with one first grade girl being diagnosed. Friday was even more peculiar, with some sad school related news and some more swine flu. We were up to 6 confirmed flu cases, all girls and all within the same class.

Now, which of these 2 events would you consider to be most important. 6 kids (about 4% of our students) coming down with swine flu, or the funeral of somebody who most people at the school haven’t met.

Yup, the funeral wins out. The school is closed early to allow all the grieving teachers to drive to Wonju, maybe 90mins away, to attend the funeral. Swine flu? meh. All they did is call a guy in to singlehandedly spray random bits of school with a random liquid.

Now, this week. Exams. Sitting on my arse watching youtube video’s and generally being frustrated that everyone is so busy and stressed and I can’t do a think about it.

Did I mention youtube video’s? I found a new favourite. Its called “Mr Belly Man”.

Anyhow, exams are now over as of 9.55am this morning. 6 exams total, spread over 3 days, with a 4 day long weekend at the end of it. Could be much worse. Many other schools are having their exams after the long weekend to give the kids extra “study time”. Traditionally that has been my schools approach but this time round they gave the kids a break.

As of today our swine flu statistic stands at 9 diagnosed. 8 first grade kids and a single third grader. Any bets on if it will get better or worse?

I do find it a bit ironic that after travelling overseas we were subjected to a 7 day quarantine period, just in case. While now this school has 9 confirmed cases, meaning that everyone has been exposed to confirmed cases, but nothing really happens. Actually, thats not quite true. I was given a beautiful blue face mask to protect me. Its uncomfortable and hot.

Still, long weekend, into Seoul, delicious foods, some touristy things, hopefully some great pics. Should be fun.

English Village a Gogo

9 09 2009

The unbelievable has happened. Its finished (almost at least). The English Village is finished (or should that be finishy?).

Before I went on vacation the decision had been made to change our newly refurbished computer room into an actual English room. Of course this all occurred after the datacenter style raised flooring and cabling all went it, but so be it.

From Hamtae English Village

They’ve spent a huge pile of cash, to redo the room for my exclusive use. We have all the new toys to play with, and not a single explanation of what the toys are or what they can do.

From Hamtae English Village

The idea is that the kids come to me for our English classes. No more me travelling around the school, into classrooms where the computer may or may not work, where kids spend half their time sleeping or ignoring me. Finally, POWER!!!!!!!!

From Hamtae English Village

As well as the classroom elements, we have an extensive library. Well, extensive compared to our previous English library of 1 book (actually I lie, its 2 books. They split the first Harry Potter into 2 volumes). They even gave me some sofa’s to sleep/study on.

From Hamtae English Village

Another wonderful thing they gave us are 3, just 3 computers for the kids to “search” with. Of course nothign in English, only Korean. Oh well. Could be worse.

From Hamtae English Village

Overall its been a success so far. The kids are excited to get out of their normal classrooms, and usually barrel in 10 mins before class begins. Luckily my office is next door so I can ignore them until class begins. Its also fantastic to finally be able to rely upon a computer being there, working, with sound etc. The number of times you think it’ll work and then it doesn’t are enough to drive me even more exotically crazy.

Next challenge. Keep it clean in working order when my cleaning crew consists of 3 very giggly 1st grade girls 🙂

Back into it again, finally

8 09 2009

Finally, I’m back into it. After soooooo long of no classes I’m back into my normal schedule again.

I looked it up, my last normal classes were July 16th. Since then I’ve had my 4 weeks vacation (woo hoo), 1 week of swine flu quarantine, and then it was into school exam periods, meaning most of my classes were cancelled so the teachers can concentrate on improving the marks.

What made this exam session worse than most is it was a provincial wide set of Middle School exams. Translated, a competition between schools, with the Principals jostling to be the best in town. Unfortunately this meant ridiculous numbers of extra classes, weekend classes, night classes, extra study etc for the kids. And all so the principals can show off to their principal mates. I don’t even know how much the results actually matter to the students.

Even crazier is the kids have school mid term exams at the end of this month for a few days, then 3rd grade have an important set of exams mid October, followed by another set of 3rd grade exams at the start of November. This is all finished up with school exams for all in December followed by High School entrance exams a week later and then a national testing day just before christmas.

And this is for Middle School. Its much much worse for High School. No wonder these kids are going crazy.

Maybe things have changed in Australia since I was at school, but I remember starting school about 8.30, finishing about 3.30pm. Maybe some after school sport or cadets or something and then home again. Monday to Friday. Sometimes sport on Saturday, but never classes. Exams were once a term, with very occasional state wide or national tests.

Here my poor students rock up about 7.30am, go home about 6pm, Monday thru Friday. Then go straight to private study academies for a few hours, then maybe a study room, then home and to bed maybe 12 or 1am if they are lucky. Saturday school happens every 2nd Saturday and is a day full of exams. Again, these are Middle School kids. Academic High School kids rarely leave school before 10pm, 7 days a week.

I blame the mothers here for all the pressure. They are the ones forcing the kids to study so much, pushing the schools to provide extra classes for their sons or daughters, so they can sleep less and study more in order to get into a good high school so they can hopefully go to a good university.

Oh well. Its their system. I just try to fit around it as best as possible. We can’t change it, but the best we can do is at least make English conversation classes more fun and relaxing, allow the kids to be kids and have a laugh. If they enjoy it, I enjoy it. And they are such a nice bunch of Kids too.


This is Nadia. One of the best and funniest girls. She’s going to kill me.

PS, end of rant.

Long Time, No Post.

24 08 2009

Wow, its been a while. I’ve been busy. Yes really. Well, busy and vacation. Can’t be busy all the time can I 🙂

Well, we are back from Turkey and a great time was had. I’ve been slowly working on photo’s, lots more required but I’ll get there.

For now you can see the pics I’ve uploaded so far on my Flickr page. Mostly just group shots or pics of the people on our tour.

We arrived back into Taebaek late Sundey night last week. I’d already been told before we left that quarantine would be required. Yes, for leaving the country we got given a bonus week of paid quarantine time, just in case we picked up swine flu on our travels. Not that we went to Mexico or anything, not even like we went to a country with pigs (Turkey is mostly muslim so pork is completely out). Still, extra week it was. Who can say no to that?

Even more crazy, I was told to get a flu test from the hospital before turning up at work, just in case I really did have swine flu but didn’t know it yet.

Of course like all of these ideas, it was made with the best of intentions but little actual knowledge of the facts. We fronted up to the hospital for our tests, spent quite a while trying to get across to them what we were after, got examined by a doctor for about 30 seconds (all that happened was he took our temperature) and that was it. They can’t or won’t do the flu test for us because we are not symptomatic, and the test takes a few days to process (take swab in Taebaek, send to Seoul for processing, wait, wait, go back to hospital for results, get paper certifying we are flu free) before finally go back to school.

We did manage to get an official receipt from the hospital for our “consultation”, all of W1100 or about AU$1.10 which the schools treat as an official test result document. Crazy.

Bottom line? back at school teaching again after about 5 weeks. Its good to be back, but I think every single student is making a joke asking me if I have SI.

Even the VP told me, in English, to wash my hands all the time. Nice thought, but still no soap in the bathrooms.

Korea, Sparkling.

Giant killer bee’s of doom!!!

1 06 2009

These things really impressed me. Yeah, sure it was a while back, but I’m getting round to posting it now. OK?

Imagine the scene. 4th period, just before lunch. About 12.15pm or so. Hot summers day, so windows open, fans on. And buzzzzzzzz, buzzzzzzz, squeal. Yup, the giant bee of doom had entered the classroom and was buzzing around the girls near the windows. Not all that surprisingly they freak out. This aint your ordinary honey bee. Its over an inch long and looks like demon spawn.

One of the boys is their knight in shining armour. Well, not shiny and not armour, but you get the drift. Anyhow, he arrives from the other side of the classroom, sandal in hand, a killer look in his eye.

Splat. Bee is not so happy anymore with part of it smeared on the window. The rest is tossed out of the 3rd floor window onto the footpath below.

Lunch comes and goes. Luckily I remember that I brought my camera, tripod and extension tubes today.

So there I was for a while, grovelling in the dirt trying to get in focus pictures of a giant killer bee of doom being eaten by ants.

Giant Bee of Doom

Giant Bee of Doom

Giant Bee of Doom

The combo of a canon 50mm f1.8 lens and some extender tubes really can work. Even having to be my own autofocus it was possible. Tripod really helped keep it all together.