Friday, November 13, 2009

The Last Friday

I have a sad, sad announcement to make to you folks. This is my first suitcase. I'm not leaving until tomorrow, but here she is all packed up and ready to go...

... I'm not going to lie to you good folks, I find it a little depressing. My days left in Korea are so numbered that I barely need the entirety of a whole finger, let alone a hand to count the fingers on. It makes me sad. I've grown very attached to this place, and to all the wonderful people that I've met here.

One of those very people is sitting right here in this very picture, although I know you can't see her seeing as she is so cleverly hidden behind her hand. Or perhaps she is hiding because she can't bear to see my first suit case sitting there all lonely at the post office, waiting to be sent off into the wide, wide world to face an unknown fate.

The process of mailing a suitcase is actually much more interesting than I had initially given it credit for. I wasn't really sure what we would be facing when we arrive at the post office on this drizzly Friday morning to meet Danny, about to send one of my suitcases off into the world by itself, without me,

**gathers up courage to finish the rest of the post**

but it was actually pretty cool. I wish I had taken more pictures to document the event, because I'm a dork, and because I've never quite see anything like it before.

What looks very simple in this picture...

... was actually quite a complicated, and yet blinding fast, process of huge sheets of cardboard, folding, measuring and copious amount of packing tape. I was very impressed! I should have taken a picture of the end product to, but it seems like I've failed you in this instance. I'll do my best so that it never happens again! Pinky promise!

After out adventures in post-officing Meghan and I went on my last -- soo many lasts these days, too many -- trip to Insadong to get a few last minute souvenir items and to keep my mind of seeing my kids for the last time today. We wandered around for a good while, although the weather was not being cooperative, and happened to stumble upon these little creations.

Naturally, I adore them.

A model airplane made from a 7-up can! How cool is that!

Beer cans as well naturally...

Only the fact that I was already going to be leaving some thing behind stopped me from buying one of these little trinkets. In hindsight, its probably for the best.

You don't have to say it out loud, don't worry, I already know I'm a dork. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Surprise! You can only have one suitcase!

This may come of no surprise to you readers who are regular travellers in the European union, but something took me quite by surprise today, and it wasn't the fact that my manager, Danny Kim, is a sweet heart, because I knew that already.

To make a long story short, I found out that I only get to check one bag on my way to Europe, and seeing that I'm leaving the day after tomorrow... was a little stressed, may have freaked out and started crying in the office, made a scene, was taken care of by my wonderful coworkers, and am now in the process of switching stuff around in my suitcases so that one can be mailed home tomorrow.


You know, its the kind of thing that wouldn't have been a big deal if it had happened with a little more time to spare, or even if I wasn't already about to crumble from the stress of leaving a place that I've really come to love over the past year, but as it was, I was a wreck. I'm so lucky to work for such a great school, and to have a guy like Danny save the day. I really owe that guy big!

~Thanks Danny!~

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Volunteer Teaching

Since August, Meghan and I have been teaching English classes at the local community centre on a volunteer basis. Every second Thursday we get up early, which can be a bit of a hardship after an active Wednesday evening, and walk over to the community centre about a 10-15 minute walk from where we live.

The folks at the community centre are a little older than our usual fare of elementary students, but we have a pretty interesting time teaching them. They are very motivated to learn English which helps them a lot, but at the same time struggle with shyness in a way that our younger students do not. We still manage to have a fair bit of fun with them of course.

They often bring us snacks to munch on during the class, which is pretty nice, because let's face it, I love food. This particular spread was to have a bit of a going away party, as it was my last day of class before I left Korea. It was kind of sad... a little bit of a preparatory session for leaving my younger students who I see more often, and have grown more attached to. Our class consists of mostly ladies, and a few men who are a little less consistent in their attendance.

What the men lack in attendance though, they often make up for in gusto. One particular student, Scott -- on the far right in the above picture-- is a lifelong bachelor who takes great delight in making others laugh. Although I didn't realise that student paradigms continue into adult learning to this same level, he is definitely the class clown.

This video really wraps up his personality in a nutshell. Although its not quite evident from the short clip (I wasn't quick enough with my camera) what is happening here is that not only did he show us his pop-dancing skills, he also repeated it a second time so I could capture this potentially embarrassing moment on camera. What a guy!

Monday, November 2, 2009

SLP Shopping Day

The reward system for good behaviour here at SLP, revolves around a system of what we call "stickers." The kids have a "sticker paper," a piece of paper with so many spaces, that when completed with either stickers, stamps or teacher initials, can be redeemed at the front desk for SLP Dollars.

Twice a year, at Children's Day in May, and at Halloween, at the end of October, the kids get the opportunity to go to the 'SLP store' which is set up in our multi-function room, to spend their dollars, and get some prizes for all their hard work, and diligent homework completion.

Needless to say, some kids have more bucks to burn than others.

Prizes range from the cheap, that any kid can afford, to the more expensive, that only the richest -- and therefor best behaved and most diligent students -- can afford to purchase.

The teachers are usually pretty lenient though, and the kids are encouraged to barter and ask for a discount.

First, the kids all come in and sit down while a teacher explains the most important phrases of the day, "How much is it?", "Can I please have a discount?" and, "Thank you for your help."

The kids tend to be pretty excited by this point, and are just barely hanging on to any explanations that you might give. It's time to let the feeding frenzy begin!

It's interesting to watch the kids shop, as it really shows their personalities, and probably to a certain extent their parents spending habits.

Some kids rush to the first table they see, buy the first thing that they can get their hands on, and then bemoan having spent all of their money so rashly, when they wander around to the other tables and see something that they wanted more.

Other kids, wander around to each table, see what there is to be had, make themselves a budget, and are finished shopping without making much of a fuss.

Still other children wander around with their dollars clutched tightly to their chest, and have a hard time parting with any of them, remembering how hard they worked to get them. Each child must spend every dollar they have, or forfeit its value, so this is a quite difficult task for these particular children.

The last stereotype of child spender is the one that amuses me the most. This is the kid that walks around with a mitt-full of cash, playing hard to get with the teachers about how much their willing to spend at each table. They take the bargaining advice to the fullest extent, and will barter and beg for discounts on the moderately priced items, even when they have enough cash to buy the most expensive items several times over.

As much of a hassle as it would be if every kid was so shrewd, these kids are the ones who tend to get the most out of Shopping Day, both in terms of items acquired, and English experience, as they are forced to talk a lot more, and must use more advanced vocabulary and grammar than the kids who just shuffle up to a table and pay the asking price with only a thank you.

It really amazes me that these, 'financial personalities' are expressing themselves in kids who are so young, many of them only in 2nd and 3rd grade.

Invariably, when we get back to class, I'll ask them what they thought of their trip to the SLP store.

"Oh, Teacher!," they'll lament, "Everything was soo expensive!"

If only they knew.
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