Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Parade of Lights

Truth to be told, we didn't even realise that there was going to be a parade of any sort the evening we were at Everland. Almost all of a sudden, small children and families started disappearing from the lines of the rides we were walking by. We didn't really think much of it, we thought it just must be about that time for kids to be heading home to be tucked into their little beds, while dreaming of their Everland adventure. It was only when we finally stumbled across a huge group of people sitting and expectantly waiting that we realised that something was on the go. It was quite dark, so we didn't really know what to expect... and then we saw it coming in the distance... was it a bird? a plane? superman?

Nope! A parade!

It's almost here!

Naturally, we elected to continue to go on the rides while the parade was going, so as to take advantage of the shorter lineups, but not before I snapped a few quick pictures of the parade that was going by.

Here it comes!

Dancers danced through the streets, while princesses and princes kissed on their horse drawn carriages and Aesop's characters told important fables. There was also a smoke breathing dragon, because what Asian parade would complete without a dragon or two?

All it all, it was a pretty nice show... but then I wouldn't have expected anything less from Korea, now would I?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Everyday, day in and day out, I find myself dealing with a large variety of little monkeys.. ahem.. Korean children with a wide variety of personalities. I've got the keeners, the smarty-pantses, the kids who were probably accidentally dropped as babies, and the kids who seem to make it their mission in life to get me to say their name 100 times in 40 minutes.

Of all of these the most perplexing to deal with on a daily basis is the kid who tries really hard to be good, but because they are never quiet makes it really difficult to teach your class. You're trying to teach phonics, and they're trying to tell you about the really cool movie with dinosaurs in it that they saw over the weekend. On the one hand, its great that a kid is willing to prattle on in his or her second language, and you want to encourage speaking, so you really don't want to punish the kid. On the other hand... you just can teach under a constant barrage of noise, even if its well meaning noise, and somehow, it has just got to stop.

Sometimes my little monkeys are so ingenious that the figure out ways to battle their issues without any of my involvement. A perfect example of this behaviour is this kid, I'll call him Hector. He means so so well, and because of his zest for speaking he really is at the top of the class in terms of verbal ability. Sometimes, however, I need him to stop talking, and focus on his work.

Last week, he was one of the kids with an ingenious idea.

If I had done this, it would probably boarder on child abuse, but seeing as he did it to himself, it was actually pretty cute. His eyes lit right up once he realised that his lips were stuck together and he couldn't talk...

So, with nothing else to say, he got straight to work...

... and I was free to finish teaching our class all Tom, Tom's milk, and even English phonics!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Everland Resort: Land of Festival for 365 Days!

Saturday saw myself, Amanda, Janique and Janique's boyfriend AJ head to Everland for a fun-filled adventure. We decided to get the most out of our day, and therefor met outside our apartments at 8:30AM to make the trek, a little more than two hours from where we live in the west end of Seoul. Two hours was a long way to go, so there was a little skipping as we got our first sight of the park.
AJ doesn't look particularly pleased that I caught him in mid-skip...

...but Amanda and Janique are so distracted by the park in the distance, that they are oblivious to my picture taking ways.

First things first we had to fill our just-arrived-in-everland-and-must-take-silly-photos quota, and the girls needed their faces painted. I was afraid of a suntan in the shape of said face paint, so I declined to participate in that part of the adventure. I'm not gonna lie -- I was a little jealous at times throughout the day. Perhaps next time I shouldn't be so practical about it all.

We were so happy to finally get to Everland after weeks of planning and being rained out, and nothing was going to dampen our spirits. We spent more than 10 hours walking, riding, waiting, eating, riding, walking, waiting and eating, and by the time we left in the evening, we were pooped -- but very happy.
We road roller-coasters:

And saw tigers:

And even a parade, and fireworks!

By the time 10 o'clock rolled around there was still stuff going on, but we were pooped and headed for the buses. The waiting for the bus was much shorter than the waiting for the rides and before we knew it we were drinking our chocolate milk, and headed for home.

Chocolate milk is a wonderful invention.

All in all a very satisfying end to a very satisfying day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Women love to talk...

... we can't help ourselves, we're born this way!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ABO Blood Type and your personality...

I know that this cartoon is difficult to read, but the main idea is pretty straight forward, so you don't really have to be able to read the captions. It is a commentary on the different blood types, and how the personalities interact.

As you can see, if told not to cross an arbitrary line, Type A will absolutely not cross.

Type B will hop across the line while the teacher is still talking.

Type O will sneak across the line when the teacher is not looking and...

Type AB will keep an eye on the other kids, and then rat everyone out when the teacher returns.

Update: New cartoon -- should be easier to read.

What's your blood type?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Korean Snacks: Dried Squid

One of the most popular snacks in Korea, for children and adults alike is non-other than...

dried squid!

I knew that Koreans liked the stuff, its available everywhere here, but I didn't realize quite how popular it was until we went to Busan a few weeks ago. On Friday night after school we hopped onto the train for our Busan adventure, and we were seated next to a table inhabited by a mom, and two small children. When the snack cart came by the kids started clamouring for treats-- as kids do. We weren't surprised and smiled at the kids as they asked their mom for snacks.

What did surprise us what the dried squid that she handed them from the snack cart, and how happy they seemed to receive it. They dug right in and were happy as clams.

Personally its not my cup of tea, and seeing as my best friend didn't even really like it, -- he eats everything -- I don't plan on giving it much of a chance to be my cup of tea any time soon.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hi-Kids: 2

In spite of the low level of English speaking ability in SLP's Hi-Kids program, it is actually one of my favourite programs to teach.

By the time most kids hit the latter part of Hi-Kids 2 they have been at SLP for just over a year and are usually in Grade 2. They get frustrated with each other and bicker...

... but are very quick to make up, and if you play your cards right -- I try to, but I don't always succeed -- before you know it, everything is as right as rain.

The Hi-Kids program is one of the oldest, if not the oldest program at SLP and in terms of development and the resources that it offers you, its actually pretty terrible. There is a work book with photocopied pages from a mish-mash of other English programs and is riddled with sentences like:
Read the story in your Student Book again, and answer these questions.
For which there is no such story in their student book. If you don't mind a little extra work however, this kind of program is a gold mine for an ESL teacher. The curriculum is very easily personalized and as such I have really enjoyed making it my own, and I think my kids usually enjoy it too. We still cover all the material in the book, and I'll be honest, there's some days that I feel lazy, and I just give it to them without any embellishments, but usually we really enjoy going off on little tangents here and there.
I think the kids this age are actually my favourite. I always thought that if I was a teacher I would like to work with Grades 4-6, but I've changed my tune. The younger kids are wonderful. They don't have any of the social inhibitions that daunt the older kids and keep them from speaking and practicing their verbal expression. Classroom management can occasionally be a challenge, but if you're able to keep up your energy and stay ahead of the game, kids at this age are a lot like sheep. They get bored easily though, so keep on your toes. And remember, a little love and attention can go a long way.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Friends and Coworkers: Tara and Janique

Ma chère Janique is a fellow Canadian and also a frenchie... which of course drew me to her instantly. She also has the most beautiful curly hair when she lets it loose, which is also a draw. And giggles with me about people who have heads 'like a ping-pong ball' which makes her an invaluable companion. She also has a blog right here on blogspot, which you can get to by clicking on her name above.

Janique is actually the reason why I am where I am today.

Janique, you changed my life.

Aside from her incredible cuteness, the reason actually has more to do -- well, everything to do-- with her blog and the glowing reviews that she gave Gangseo SLP and all our staff members. There's a lot of negative feedback directed at SLP on the internet, to the point of it being casually referred to as the Slave Labour Program by job discussion forums. What new teachers don't always realise is that SLP is actually a franchised school system, so each individual school is going to be different from the last. I happened to luck out finding a good school, and Janique made that possible. I had given very serious consideration to declining my contract and going with another school until I stumbled across her blog one day. Merci Janique!

In the office, our desks are put together in groups of four much like they were in kindergarten or grade one. The desk I sit at looks like this.

Tara Dan
Meghan Me

I guess that this makes Tara my diagonal desk partner?

Like the other girls, Tara claims that being the subject of a photo-shoot is not her cup of tea, but don't believe her! Look at that smirk on her face, she is totally enjoying it!

Tara is a preschool teacher at SLP, and the best phonics teacher around. She is really fun, and we have shared many a laugh together. She is also my personal physician, and enjoys long walks to McDonald's followed by iced coffee or a sundae.

Tara is also a fellow Canadian, from Ontario and sometimes PEI, and that adds to her awesomeness. She understands me when I talk about Tim Horton's and old television shows. Let's face it -- Canadians Rock.

Tara sometimes believes herself to be a lumberjack when sitting at short tables in Canadian bars in Seoul. But that makes me love her all the more!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Welcome to the Rainy Season

The rainy season started this week and is predicted to continue into the middle of July or so. Although it reminds me of home, and is therefore strangely comforting at times, I can't say that I'm incredibly happy about it. The weather here recently has varied pretty much between oppressive humidity, and rain.

The humidity is not so bad, considering I spend the hottest and the most humid parts of the day locked in a classroom, chained to a desk and surrounded by complaining 8-13 year-olds. If only I had known this feeling when I was a child, I would have been much more gracious to my parents, and my teachers. My classes range on average between 8 and 12 children and no one ever seems to be happy. If the air conditioning is on, there are children who claim to be both too hot and too cold, and if it is off, everyone is too hot. The children who sit next to the air conditioner are always too cold but refuse to bring sweaters to class, and I feel like we are playing musical chairs every five minutes trying to find a happy medium of temperature. I don't know how my parents did it when my sisters and I were children, and better yet, I have no idea how my elementary school teachers did it with 30+ kinds instead of ten.

The rain also, would not be so bad if it wouldn't eat through my skin and cause me health problems later in life. In fact it is such a nice warm rain today, that I would really like to go play in it, and if I were in Newfoundland, I would. Not here though, not unless I want an entire-body chemical peel. I've never really understood, nor trusted those chemical peels, and I don't think I'm going to start experimenting now, especially not with acid rain.

There is a trip to Everland, an amazing theme part around an hour outside of Seoul, that we are trying to plan, but it keeps being thwarted by the rain. I'm really hoping to get there sometime soon. I love theme parks, I do.

Friday, June 19, 2009

For your reading pleasure...

It was a week ago today that I introduced you to my new Internet baby, Hub Pages.

I have been visiting hub pages now for almost two weeks, and I've gotta say that I've really been enjoying writing there. The community of writers there call themselves Hubbers, and its a really interesting set up, where you can even make a little money if you write the right kind of articles. I'm only a fledgling hubber of course, so I can't say that I've been making any money there yet, but I've got a few more articles running around there if you were interested to see.

In honour of my two week anniversary, here a few links to the articles that I've posted during the week.

The older articles from last week may still be found here.

Although I had myself convinced just before my undergraduate degree was finished that I really hating writing, over the past two weeks I have discovered that, well, that's really just not true. In fact I'm not sure that it could be further from the truth. I've still got some ways to go in making my writing more interesting, and improving my skills as a writer, but I feel like I've been putting my best foot forward.

I would really love it if you were interested in giving some of the articles a read, and seeing what you think. Constructive criticism is welcome!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Always building...

Living in Korea as a foreigner, is a little like living in an ants nest:

  1. There seem to be millions of Koreans everywhere you look.
  2. They are very hard workers.
  3. They eat some food items that I wouldn't even consider as, well, food.
  4. They are always building things.

When I came to Korea first, someone told me that Koreans love to tear things down and then build them again. Especially being a country that has experienced a relatively recent economic boom, I could understand how that would be the case. I also thought, that with the recession that's caused Koreans --as well as the rest of the world-- to tighten their belts a little, that it would stop for a little while, or at least slow down. Little did I know.

There is a popular joke that in Newfoundland we have four seasons:

  1. Almost Winter
  2. Winter
  3. Still Winter
  4. Construction

Although Koreans would argue that Korea has four distinct seasons, I would disagree. There is only one: Construction. It just keeps going and going.

Everywhere I go outside I see construction, or at the very least people tearing up and laying down new tile sidewalks. It's an epidemic.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Korean Barbeque: Galbi

As far as Korean food goes, there is not much better than Korean BBQ, otherwise known as Galbi.
Galbi, sometimes spelled kalbi, is a delicious meal of marinated beef ribs barbecued on a grill which is right in your table. Galbi dishes can also be made from pork, or chicken, although beef is the most common. It's a sort of do-it-yourself meal, where your server will bring everything you need to your table, after which you set about grilling your meal and getting all your fixings ready. When you order galbi you will usually receive a variety of sauces, garlic, kimchi, lettuce, and some soup along with your meat.

Occasionally, galbi is grilled for you and brought to your table, in which case it looks like this. This is a less common method than the grill-at-your-table method.

The grill-at-your-table traditional method is really neat, and personally is my favourite. Your server will bring you meat and then you'll slap it on the grill yourself, and grill it to perfection. Gabli is usually grilled over hot coals, and the grill has a hood to take away the smoke.

When the meat has cooked for a few minutes on each side, its time to cut it up into bite-sized morsels for eating. If you leave your galbi untouched for too long, your server will notice your shining white skin and come over and do this part for you, but its pretty easy, so you can do it yourself if you feel up for the challenge. Just grab the metal tongs that were used to put the meat on the grill, and that large pair of scissors that you've been wondering about since you sat down, but felt too embarrassed to ask what they were for. Pick up the meat with the tongs and start cutting with the scissors. Its not as easy as it sounds -- at least not for me -- but you'll get used to it.

The man in this picture is already going for the next step. Once the meat is cooked and you've cut it into delicious pieces, grab some lettuce and put a piece of meat -- dipped in your favourite sauce -- into a piece of lettuce with some rice, and maybe some kimchi, roasted garlic or bean sprouts. Wrap it into a ball, put the ball in your mouth, chew and enjoy!

Galbi is a delicious Korean food, traditionally only affordable to the rich and famous, but today available to everyone. There are Korean barbecue restaurants in most major cities in Canada and the US, and if you ever have the opportunity to try one, you definitely should. Delicious!

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