The end is nigh

20 02 2010

It’s Sunday. In Seoul. Long weekend. Unemployed as of today. FREEDOM!!!!

What a week. I had thought that packing up our lives in Sydney was one of the hardest things to do. Yes it was hard but nothing like packing our Korean lives up. That was physically and emotionally draining on all levels.

When we left Sydney we thought we were only leaving for one year. We would be back soon and would see all our family and friends again relatively soon. One year turned into over three but we have returned to Sydney multiple times, seen the people and places. Packing up and leaving Korea feels so much more permanent. We won’t come back in a few months to settle back in. We might not see any o our friends , Korean and foreign, again. We won’t be able to visit Seoul for the weekend again. It’s much more permanent a move his time around. And that makes it so much harder to do.

The past week has been a blur of packing and sending some things home. Sending much more to the bin. Selling some things online and some to friends in town. Every night was a farewell dinner of some kind. Teachers dinners, dinners with Korean friends and their families, dinners with the foreigners, generally saying goodbye to everyone. Much more difficult than leaving Sydney ever was. I guess as foreigners finding our place in a small country town we have put down deeper roots than most. Still, I wouldn’t change any of it. Comingto Korea was the best decision we ever made.

Next. Mmmmm. Next. First is frankfurt for a few days. Then on to Istanbul for a few more and then we head west. Wear until west is finished. And then, who knows.





Monday monday monday I hate mondays

30 11 2009

Yurgh, Monday. Worst possible combination of things. The end of the weekend, the start of the work week and worse, 2nd grade students.

Making things worse, we didn’t really have a weekend. We worked a camp for 2 days. About 30 students, 1st and 2nd grade, boys and girls, too much candy and coffee. Fun fun fun. Actually it was fun, mostly.

The obvious problem when you take 30ish kids is that they separate into 4 distinct groups. 1st grade boys, 1st grade girls, 2nd grade boys and 2nd grade girls. Usually its an absolute struggle to get them to combine at all into any form of team. This camp was better than usual for that. All sorts of fun activities, games, movies etc were planned. We almost managed to stick to the plan too, however the study time for the kids really didn’t work out too well.

We’ve both worked many camps. We’ve learnt from past mistakes. We know not to even bother attempting to sleep at the same place as the kids as sleep is not what the kids want. Usually Sunday morning arrives, we roll up about 9am, the kids look like zombies. A few hours sleep if they were lucky. Ha ha ha. No sympathy here.

For me, the saturday was a struggle. I was off sick for most of Friday with a stomach bug (mental note, don’t drink blue powerade when you can’t keep anything down). Saturday I was completely drained, but the kids were fun and I struggled through. Sunday was shorter and better.

Today, Monday? The worst. I got about 4 hours sleep last night for no apparent reason. 2nd grade are the worst classes I have to teach. They are at that middle stage; the’ve been in the school long enough to think they know everything, they are not the youngest, but neither must they work hard to get into a good highschool. So they just drive me crazy. Evil munchkins, most of them at least. I can’t believe that my best students and my worst are all bundled together into 2nd grade.

Today also marks the start of the next course of my online uni stuff. This time round its “Managing the Transition to eBusiness”, which promises to be interesting but kinda awkward as I’m probably the only one participating who isn’t involved in any kind of online venture at all at the moment. Teaching kids is decidedly not eBusiness, about as far as I get towards eBusiness at the moment is internet shopping, something Korea leads the world in.

I also finally managed to get the “avante of power”, the car, in for its snow tyres. Probably should have done it a few weeks back but we’ve had no snow in a month and its been a busy busy month and I only just got round to it. Lets see what that costs this time around.





Late to school? That’ll hurt.

17 11 2009

Oh my poor students. This has got to hurt.

Punishment for being Late

I’m not 100% sure what time the kids are supposed to arrive at school. Its before me for sure, and I arrive usually at 8.40am. I think its closer to 8am. Unluckily for them sometimes they are late. Usually its not a big deal, just a few words from their homeroom teacher, maybe some extra cleaning duties or the like.

Not today. Every now and then the school goes on a lateness campaign. A teacher, usually a PE teacher, waits at the school entrance and directs all the late kids into the corridors of the school where they must kneel down with their hands above their heads. Usually only for 5 minutes but sometimes much longer.

Punishment for being Late

Punishment for being Late

Did I mention that it was about -8 celcius last night and about -4 when this was happening? And the school isn’t heated except for the classrooms? And thats cold cold concrete they are kneeling on? Ouch.

But wait, it gets worse. Depending on the day, the teacher and the level of their hangover, corporal punishment sometimes rears its ugly head. They are made to assume the “downward dog” position, hands and feet on the ground, bums up. Then the teacher (usually PE teacher, again) comes along with a love stick and administers a few “taps” across the cheeks. Nothing hard or violent but intended to be a physical reminder of not being late.

Punishment for being Late

This isn’t too bad. You should see what happens when they get caught smoking……..





November keeps getting stranger

2 11 2009

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

Firstly, and most amazingly,

ITS SNOWING!!!!

PB020135.JPG

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.

CheoramMountain.png

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.





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.