Korea – Week 3

This week started off with a stunted attempt to go to church. I wanted to visit Yeoido Full Gospel Church an Assemblies of God congregation with the world’s largest membership. For no good reason, the church doesn’t have exact directions on their English website. I guess, like, you know, they’re the biggest so of course everybody knows where it is, right? Right. Cut to act three, even if they do know, they can’t explain it in English if you get off the wrong subway stop! I spent a few hours at Yeoido community park watching people enjoy the summer afternoon. Further attempts to resume next week…

My first week of a real teaching schedule was quite an adventure. I had my lesson plans for the 1st and 2nd grades (US 10th/11th) worked out pretty well so those classes went pretty smoothly. However, Monday was my first teachers’ class. Basically, most of the non-English teachers haven’t had to use English since college and they thought it would be fabulous if I led a conversation class for them…except they weren’t really ready for conversation. In an American classroom, you typically jump in and ask people to challenge themselves from day one. Until recently (and still only 50% of the time) that wasn’t the case in Korea. My “fun” lesson plan fell flat. I’ll have something boring for them next week. ; )

I only had three days of teaching the girls this week because of special activities on Thursday and Friday. I think in general, most of us in the West buy into Asian countries’ PR campaign about how well mannered and studious the kids are. This would be a good time to point out that I’ve never seen so many kids going god-knows-where all times of the night on public transport on a weeknight (except NYCity.) I had the misfortune of teaching one of my classes without my co-teacher and quickly discovered that students have no qualms about brushing their hair, chatting and texting during lessons! I’m still deciding if I’m more impressed at their gall or offended that my lesson wasn't keeping their attention…

Wednesday night, Liz and I met another teacher living in our building. He’s a (tall) Mexican kid from Chicago who in four days of living here already figured how to get rid of his trash! While this may be an issue of common sense in the States, Korea has an elaborate trash disposal system a step down from Japan’s, in which food, recyclables (categorized by type) and general trash have to be placed separately. This, in addition to purchasing approved trash bags!

Thursday was my school’s anniversary. For some reason in Korea, that’s a cause for celebration. The girls were off the hook for a day. Students from different programs came up with activity areas. Student art and sculptures were on display. Some classes sold snacks. I spent some “free-speaking” time with the English Club. Some art design students offered nail painting with detailed designs. Japanese class students had a Japanese area. The hospitality industry girls were acting as waitresses and mixing cocktails. Yup, cocktails. Our school is serious about the hospitality! We have a mock hotel reception area, bedroom, ballroom and cocktail bar. (See Exhibit A.)

All in all, it was a pretty wild day at school. The only American comparison I could think of is an afterprom party. I decided to go ahead and leave at 415 or so. From what I understand, I missed the dance team, cheerleaders and teachers’ performances! Maybe next year. lol!

Friday was physical fitness day. Anybody else remember those horrid Presidential Fitness Tests we had back in the day? Same concept except they only have to run 50 meters! Once again, I had no classes. I spent most of the day hanging out with one of my co-teachers and occasionally timing the girls as they did push-ups. Since it was the day before Chuseok, the most major Korean holiday all year, we had a half day.

My super cool thirty-something coworkers treated me to lunch at T.G.I. Friday’s (again!) Thank God I love that place…then off to the movies to see Mama Mia. I was beginning to get a sore throat but I still felt ok.

On Saturday, I traversed down to check out a palace and be touristy. It was…touristy. Basically, there were very old buildings. And a conservatory built in the 1800’s or so. The most interesting thing to me was observing how the modern city of Seoul has built up around the palace site. Directly across the street is a large private hospital. Around the corner are several convenience stores. The contrast was notable.

Other than that, I spent Saturday warding off a flu/cold combination and wishing I was out having fun! I’m (95%) better now but “I was sick” was pretty much my resounding refrain for “What did you do over the holiday?”

And on that note, I’ll wrap it up. ; ) More to come!

Love and hugs,