Sunday, March 31, 2013

Have you heard of the house hippo?

My friends told me every Canadian child wanted one thanks to this advert.

Cute, it makes me almost want one, too.

My after school kids are currently choosing three of their favourite English words to present to the whole class. I noticed that a few of them have chosen 'hippo'. I think I might play this clip and watch their reactions and prompt some discussion. So, potentially another generation of young children could be leaving water, peanut butter and toast on the floor, and mittens in their closets for the sleepy house hippo's.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Talk about big love

Muuido Island
This weekend we visited Muuido Island, which is near Incheon just outside of Seoul.

I think we all expected it to be warmer than it was, we'd all been recently spoilt by the beaches and weather in the Philippines. One of us even bought their bathing suit, since we didn't remove our coats all weekend and I was extremely thankful I took my gloves, that remained buried deeply within their rucksack.

Muuido Island reminded me of some beaches in England, where there is a tinge of despair and dilapidated sadness. We stayed in tiny metal huts on the beach front, there was horse riding, atv's and a zip line. However, it was all slightly disappointing compared to what I had envisioned. I think it would be a nice place to visit in the warmer weather, but then it would probably be packed. 

We played Ultimate frisbee on the beach, and we visited the house from the K-drama 'stairway to heaven'. In the evening we were treated to a Korean BBQ feast, although I had the vegetarian option with tofu. It was delicious, and most of us had seconds. Without the afternoon sun, it was freezing again. So I was also glad the BBQ helped keep us warm for a while.    
Later, we retired to our tiny metal hut and snuggled as best we could under our duvets. Even, with the underfloor heater and makkoli, we were still freezing. We munched through our mountain of snacks and played cards. Later, Lady PP treated us to some fortune telling using the playing cards. We all opted for predictions based on past, present and future relationships. Her predictions were surprisingly accurate, this led to further sharing, bonding, and giggles. It reminded me of being young, care-free, and having outdoor sleepovers with your girl friends. That night, we topped and tailed. Despite the close proximity of our body heat, and the under floor heater, none of us slept very well. The hard floor was unbearably uncomfortable, and we were freezing. Consequently, we bailed on the 9am morning hike.

Although, I'm disappointed I didn't get to see Grimes in Seoul on Saturday night. It was nice to get away from the city and relax by the sea for the weekend. I enjoyed our coastal walks, explorations along the rocks, and girlie bonding time.

~ In loving memory of Abi ~

Friday, March 15, 2013

'Your face change colour'

"Your face change colour" were the first words my COT (Jenny 1) greeted me with when I went back to  School. I said "yes, I'm sun-kissed". Jenny 1, smiled and told me that she liked that expression. I was really quite pleased she appreciated this, because Koreans positively revere and desire paler skin, where as westerners tend to prefer a 'healthy glow'. Later the same day, one of the students said "Teacher, red face" in a rather concerned manner. I laughed, and told them I'd just spent two weeks in the Philippines.

I've not really written about teaching in Korea. Last August, I somewhat awkwardly started in the middle of a School year. Now we're commencing a new school year, it seems like a good time to try and explain a few things about my School life. I teach the whole 5th grade once a week (6 different classes) on Mondays and Tuesdays. Then, I teach the whole 6th grade twice a week (6 different classes) from Wednesday to Friday. This year I will teach four after-school classes, two with 5th grade (Tuesday and Thursday) and two with 6th grade (Monday and Friday).

Things have changed at school, mostly for the better. I am no longer based in a separate office. Jenny 1 and I, have moved into our English classroom. This means that we've had the opportunity to make it feel much more homely and like our own space, rather than the empty shell it was before. I have a new 5th grade COT, Jenny 2. She is 26 years old, and this is her first teaching job. She seems slightly timid, but eager to make a good impression. I've decided to refer to them as Jenny 1 and Jenny 2, because this is what happens when the students choose the same English name. Instead of making one of them change, they simply become 1, 2, and even 3.

The current 6th grade also seem nicer and more attentive than the previous students. The English names they've chosen seemingly reflect this shift, they all have pretty standard English names. The ones who've been a little more creative are called things like 'hero', 'nero', and 'genius'. A couple of students have also told me that they <3 me, ah bless. Although, they were in my after school class last year, so they've had longer to warm to me. But, one little boy who I'd not met before suddenly said "Teacher, you are kind". Then on White day (Korean Valentines day March 14, when males buy gifts for females), I received some gold coins and lollipops. It's looking like it's going to be a pretty good year.  

Yesterday, I went to my first official COT's dinner. During orientation, I'd been told this was something that might happen quite often, and I've observed other NETs do this regularly. However, in the previous six months I have only been to one School dinner with all of the School staff.

I had a nice meal at Ashleys, and I really enjoyed spending time getting to know Jenny 1 and Jenny 2 better in a social setting. Jenny 2 told us some more about herself. I really like her, she is the first Korean I've met who doesn't like seafood (much to Jenny 1's surprise), and nor does she love Kimchi. Thankfully, now I'm not the only one with strange eating habits. Jenny 2 told us that after dinner she was going to meet her boyfriend. We asked her if she was expecting a gift for White day. Jenny 2 said that she wasn't expecting anything because they had been together for a long time, and they didn't really give gifts. She said she hadn't given him anything for Red day (Korean valentines day February 14, when females buy gifts for males).

Jenny 1 surprised me when she proceeded to jokingly discourage us from getting married. In Korea every one wants to get married and if you are single they feel sorry for you, and tell you so. Jenny 1 told us that it is too stressful trying to keep everybody's families happy all the time. She also proceeded to share some mother-in-law jokes, some of the humour was lost on me but I found the general sentiment amusing. She also told us that when she was younger she had wanted to marry a butcher because she loved meat, although she's glad she didn't because she finds it slightly heavy these days.

Notice how I've mentioned Red Day and White Day, well there is also Black day. This is on April 14th. It's the Korean Valentines equivalent for single people. I like the inclusive nature, in that seemingly they don't like to leave anyone out of these celebrations.

Oh, and the following day Jenny 2 positively beamed at us as she produced, and shared some cookies her boyfriend had given her for White day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

TAL: Legend of Korea

We went to another Korean non-verbal martial arts performance, and again it was free for NETs. This performance was at the K-art hall in Olympic park. It was the TAL: Taekwondo absolute legend show, involving the Korean martial art of taekwondo, music, b-boying and traditional Korean dance. It was much less slap-stick and comical than the previous non-verbal performance we went to see in December. Yet it was still highly entertaining, we marvelled (and even flinched) at the abilities of the athletes and dancers.  
  Korea for the freebies, this time we got DVDs and cookies  
We even had the opportunity to have our photo taken with the performers afterwards. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Ultimate Saturday sunshine

We had a sudden freak weather spike, so we decided to make the most of it and headed to the Han river near Ttukseom resort to play some ultimate frisbee. 

Warming up
Ultimate action shot

After this burst of activity in the sunshine, which was slightly trickier than we'd anticipated due to the high winds, we treated ourselves to a few beers and a wee picnic. 
Ultimate father Ted concentration
We also discussed upcoming plans and feelings about renewing our contacts. Much to my delight most of my friends (except for a couple, sadly one of them being news beat) are now seriously considering renewing and staying another year. The general consensus is that there are too many things we still want to see and do.  
Other sports activites along the Han river

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bahala na

I really don't know how or where to start writing about the Philippines  We did so much in two weeks. I contemplated copping out altogether and just posting pictures. However, I've decided to post some snippets, quotes, and of course several pictures.
It's more fun in the Philippines!
I was under the impression we were travelling light, so I did. My rucksack only weighed 6.5kgs! My friends all caved and paid extra for checked baggage, so they were pretty impressed with my packing light. However, I failed to pack a handbag. This meant that I spent two days carrying my wallet, phone and camera around in a plastic bag (very security conscious), whilst a friend kindly carried my passport for me. I do not recommend this in Manilla, it's a pretty 'sketchy' area as my friends would say. The poverty is pretty visible, distressing and disturbing at times. We were constantly warned to be mindful of the street kids, who are prevalent purse snatchers. One of the ladies who worked at the hostel warned us to keep a firm hold of our bags at all times. She said that in the couple of years she's lived there, she's had her bag stolen seven times. A group of street kids approached us and tried to swipe my friends sunglasses off her head, before they ushered away by a security guard. Eventually, much to the relief of my friends, I treated myself to a swish little handbag from the mall of Asia. 
Jeepney in Manila

The security guards in Manilla look really scary because of their weaponry, but they are extremely friendly and helpful. The first gun toting guard I encountered said "Good evenin' Ma'am" in a light and friendly manner. "Good evening", I feebly replied whilst I thinking, oh my god, that's a big gun, and trying to avoid gawking too much.
Manila Harbour
Generally the people in the Philippines are extremely friendly, some of the friendliest people I've ever met. And even more so when you venture further away from the bigger cities. When we arrived at our hostel, we were encouraged to feel as though we were staying with family. The owner of the hostel knidly took a small group of us on a tour of Manilla. 

Haunted X-perimental Cinema building, Manila

'So is X-perimental cinema like porn?'
'No, it's X-perimental cinema with a storyline'.
'So, porn then'.

Bancas, Boracay

Boracay beach
'Bang, marry, kill? Superman, Batman, or Spiderman'. 
Sunset sailing, Boracay
'Watch out for those Korean kids!'
Jeepney, Loboc in Bohol 

Chocolate hills, Bohol
Nipa huts, Loboc

Our hut
Luxury accommodation

Ladyboy butterflies
'Butterflies mate for over 8 hours'
Ladyboy butterflies

Apo Island, Negros Oriental

When we arrived a Subli cabins Lady PP taught me how to play Pusoy dos (a Philippine card game). Springfield warned me that during the trip, she'd beaten him every single game. Despite not fully understanding all the rules and different hands (which are similar to poker), I became the pair queen and even won a few times. 
Springfield chillin' at Subli cabins, Palawan Island
Palawan Island

Here we met our lovely guide Jason. His tricycle had a picture of Spiderman on the front, so he was an immediate hit with me.
Jason's tricycle, Palawan Island
Flippy-floppys went to heaven.
Palawan Island
'I'm height-est, but otherwise I've no preference'.
Italian stallion 'Here I am'.
Palawan Island

After our trip to the Tiki bar in Palawan, Springfield couldn't stop humming this little ditty. I think I'll always now fondly associate it with this holiday.

One of the perks of teaching is being able to travel and explore within and outside of Korea. We have a couple of long weekends coming up in May and June. Hopefully we'll be making the most of those as well.