Thursday, November 29, 2012

'Magic pants' made my Thursday

Today one of my Kids requested to change his name to 'Magic pants'.
I agreed, because I found it as hilarious as the other kids did. Following his name change, he was ever so keen to participate and answer questions in class, just so I would keep saying it. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why so serious?

This is a phrase my kids say a lot. Initially I didn't understand it, I thought they were implying I was too serious. Although, I guessed that they were mimicking something, I just didn't know what.
Confused I thought to myself I'm your teacher, I can't be an entertainer all the time, I'm meant to be trying to help you learn some English. Then, I told myself to chill out.
I've now come to the conclusion that it's actually quite a good rhetorical question.
'Why so serious?' 

I've also since discovered it's a lyric.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I don't know what I'm taking....

I'm feeling a little snuffly, slight sore throat and I have a bit of head cold. Until now, I thought I'd been doing rather well at avoiding sickness bugs. This evening I decided to venture into a chemists near Hankuk University. The Chemist was really nice and helpful, he spoke quite good English, and he gave me these. He instructed me to 'take one, two times, three times a day'. 
Cautiously, I only took one. Lets see if they do the trick...

Other medication that I have, is for headaches and various other aches and pains I believe.

I think the bright red capsules actually look slightly scary.

Perhaps I'll have to start wearing a surgical mask like the Koreans do. Originally I thought they wore these to avoid getting sick, but now I understand they also wear them to try to avoid making others sick. Considerate, huh?

In true Korean style, you can get them in all sorts of colours, and cutesy themed styles.

You get the idea...

Ha ha!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Three months down, I live in Korea...

No really, I do... I've had my alien card for a couple of months now, but it's finally starting to sink in and feel real. Today was my three month anniversary! I finally know my home address, although I still don't know how to write it in Hangul. Actually, I'm starting to feel rather embarrassed by my limited knowledge of Korean. I really must try to study a little harder, but, there are always so many other things to do and learn that it tends to get put on the back burner. Not knowing Korean means that certain things take me longer, and life a little more difficult at times. For example, tonight I have spaghetti arms again, not from playing badminton this time, but from carrying my newly purchased microwave the 20 minute walk home. I can only manage to ask taxi drivers to drop me by my nearest subway station, and I figured it was too complicated to try to explain where I live, so I would just walk and carry. What a superb decision that was, please don't let there be spaghetti for lunch again tomorrow!

Teacher Shannon told me that Korean's actually count days and celebrate numerous anniversaries, with 100 and 300 being particularly poignant. 'How do they keep track?' I asked.
She said 'oh, there's an app for that'.
Der, obviously, silly me!
So next week for our 100 day anniversary, we (some fellow SMOE teachers and I) should hopefully be going to celebrate this very Korean, and important relationship anniversary. Perhaps we'll even buy some matching clothing! Joking aside, it feels quite symbolic in that I'm finally starting to feel like I'm making some good friends.

A lot could change in the coming months, but I've gone from contemplating coming home for Christmas to seriously considering renewing my contract for another year. Bearing in mind that I am thinking about this despite the challenging students, and sub-zero teaching conditions (it's minus degrees now, and my school still haven't turned on the heating). There are definitely some negatives to living in Korea, but there are also many positives. I keep meaning to write about some of the wonderful, touching and entertaining experiences I've had with some of my students, but I think I'll save those thoughts for a future post...

So many little things to smile about, presently watching the Spider-painter working on the apartments near school brightens up my morning/afternoon walks.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Can you tell me ten words that you'd use....?

My Idlewild nostalgia has been re-ignited. Roddy's voice still gives me goosebumps <3 
At the time, I felt ready for their hiatus, but now.... I can't believe there isn't a better version of this on YouTube, or that I may never see them again. I'm going to incorporate this phrase 'Can you tell me ten words that you'd use to describe......?' into my future lessons. Hopefully some of my students will try harder, or possibly not, but at least it'll make me smile.

Friday, November 9, 2012


A few weeks ago, I was describing how I was feeling a little down and slightly anxious, to the point of just wanting to be alone. 'Oh, you're feeling homesick' came the response and general assessment. Followed by assertions, that they weren't feeling homesick. I interjected, 'I don't miss or want to go home'. Then, I continued to explain that although I've been pretty busy, and I've made lots of new acquaintances, I don't feel like I've really connected with anyone. 'Oh, you don't have a best mate'. 'Well, I don't usually have a best mate, more like a few good friends'. The conversation kind of floundered there, I felt like they didn't really understand me, although I felt a little better for sharing.

Later, I had the realisation I'm probably feeling a little friendsick. You see now I'm far away and on my own, those connections are important to me, from them I derive some of my sense of belonging, identity and worth. For the first few months, I've been busy settling into my new life, but I haven't  forgotten about my friends and family. Particularly with the readily available access to Facebook, which amongst other somewhat irritating things does allow me to keep in touch with people I care about. However, there’s quite a difference between a 'Like' and a Skype call. So, recently I've made more of an effort to Skype and message people. I've also been buying little gifty things to post to them, which has helped me feel a little happier, and more connected to those I love.

Hopkin's astute analogy made me laugh this week. When I mentioned how I've been feeling, he said 'it's natural, like breaking up with somebody, I'm sure you'll get over it'. So although I was the instigator, I'm still experiencing some feelings of loss and separation.  

This evening, another teacher messaged me to say that she was now feeling similar, and she sought assurance that these feelings would pass. Being a confident and advisor is a familiar role to me, and it felt nice being able to oblige and assist.

So tonight, I am having a restful night in with my old friend LD, and my new friend makkoli :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Shhh! Shhh! It's oh so quiet...

Today, I couldn't quite believe how quiet Seoul actually was... School didn't start until 10am, which meant I had a nice lie in. This was because the high school students were taking their KSATs, the equivalent of English A-levels or American SATs. All schools and government employees started at 10am to reduce the volume of rush hour traffic, so students wouldn't be late for these extremely important exams. 

In Korea, schools tend to be clustered together, there is a middle school and high school next to my elementary. Usually we have tinkly little tunes to notify us that classes are starting and ending, but not today. The children didn't go outside to play, and there was generally an eerie quietness throughout the city. 

I'd heard that a no-fly zone is enforced, so I asked my COTs about this. They said 'oh yes, during the listening test'. They also proceeded to tell me that the exam lasts all day, and if students fail they can't re-take their exam until next year. I explained this is similar in England, so they continued to tell me that apparently Americans can re-take their SATs several times. 

I asked them what the high school students will do afterwards, they told me they will probably go out drinking and celebrating, although the legal age limit in Korea is nineteen.
(It's oh so quiet, it's oh so still, you're all alone and peaceful until....).
I explained A-level students like to let their hair down after their exams as well. However some students will be of legal drinking age because this is 18 in the UK. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Combat cold

As mentioned previously, it is pretty, pretty cold here now. Yet still no sign of the windows being shut, or the heating being switched on at school. My co-teachers and most of my kids wear their coats inside. Due to the constant drafts, (and corridor gale tunnels), it's colder in the building than out. Honestly, I've actually seen people remove layers when they leave. Today, they actually asked me to turn off my computer so there was more electric to power the heater. Excuse me, but how does that work exactly? Then when it got warm, they opened the window, huh? So, tonight I went shopping. I bought some gloves and a scarf. Combat cold has commenced! All the smart blouses, dresses that I bought with me are about to get drowned in fleece, and woollen layers. Not quite what I envisaged pre-korea...

You see the different coloured tips on the glove fingers, only touch screen friendly aren't they, how cool is that? Perhaps these have been around for a while, I just never knew before. I figured taking a picture whilst wearing them was a good test of their effectiveness, haha!