Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 2 of school

I met my T, TH, Sat classes today. One of the 4 is phenominal. Good students, work hard, listened, participated. The other 3 classes were more difficult than the M, W, F group was. But that is ok. I know that sometimes a class that starts out rough gets better and vice versa.

Since the slide show I put together yesterday didn't work so well, and because I don't have a ton of pictures, here are some photoes from today.

This is my homeroom class and my 4th period class on T, Th & Sat.

This is the class I have 1st period on T, Th & Sat. There were a few that were a little behind, but overall they are pretty good.

This is my second period class and they are AWESOME!!!! Smart, great English skills, attentive. Well behaved.

Yesterday we got into the cafeteria early. Today we were one of the last classes and the line took forever. Hundreds of hungry kids do not make for patient and well-ordered lines. But we survived.

Our cafeteria lunches have been great! Yesterday and today we had the same thing - Fried Fish with tartar sauce, rice with carrots and corn cooked in and a thin layer of egg laid across the top with some sweet brown gravy, and a cabbage salad on the side.
They always serve some kimchi and a tangerine and the yellow on the right is some kind of root - but I am not sure what. And there is always some chicken broth.

This is my homeroom class eating lunch. My Assistant is the one standing with the weird animal earmuffs on her head. Her name is YeaJi. She is very sweet and very capable! A great assistant.

This is the walk down the steps from the cafeteria. There is a really pretty fountain running down the middle, though at the moment it has no water in it, just the remnants from some snow a week ago.

This is the view up the steps. We climb all those steps everyday to get to the cafeteria. (And it is really even worse than it looks because the top two flights look like one flight in this picture and about half of them you cannot see because of the angle.)

This is my 3rd period class T, Th & Sat. They were very well behaved as well. We are studying the Age of Inventions in their class.

This is my locker just inside the entrance across from the elevator on the 7th floor where my tiny room is. I am learning to utilize it since A.) we cannot wear our shoes inside and carrying them back and forth is a pain and B.) my room is so tiny, that any way to keep things organized and neat is very appreciated. I have a key so I can lock it. So I keep some gloves, shoes, scarf, hat, etc. in there (since I have to put all that stuff on every time I go outside!)

Yesterday I did not spend any money at all. Today I spent about 10,000 won (roughly $7.50). I bought a can of coffee and a bottle of tea in the morning and this afternoon I bought a slice of pizza, a cream filled 'cookie bread' and a small loaf of mocha cream bread. The container on the right I was hoping was drinkable yogurt for breakfast but it turns out it is actually banana flavored milk, so I think I will eat it on my cereal tomorrow morning. I also bought a small pair of scissors so I can cut the yarn I am using to crochet.

I went to sleep about 10.30 last night but work up about 4.30 this morning so I am pretty tired (it is 7 pm right now.) I *think* I have found a friend to go to church with in the morning! I am very excited. Then maybe we will get to see something of Seoul. I just hope we don't have to leave TOO early in the morning, though I probably will be awake anyway.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dec 26th, Day 3 - My first day of class

I have put together a small slide show for my first day of class. I have a homeroom (which I also teach 4th period) and 3 other classes. The fifth period I rotate and make paper airplanes and do a paper airplane contest with whichever class I am in. The 5th Period is for my homeroom class to work on the 5 minute presentation that we will do for the closing ceremony. Most of my students are 10 or 11.
I teach one group of classes M, W, F (so that is today's classes) and a different group Tues, Thurs, Sat. (which you will see pictures of tomorrow.)

Their English is incredible! I really enjoy my classes. I like our text books. The kids are smart and fairly well behaved. It is so different teaching here than in the DR. In the Dominican teachers are often treated like expensive child servants and excelling at education is often not very important. Here the students are motivated, educated, respectful. They are still kids so they still do things they shouldn't but they respond quickly and they are expected to learn and make an effort.

So far, I am very satisfied with everything here. Yes, there are still moments of chaos, but it is not unmanageable. Everyone is very nice, the living accomodations are comfortable and I really enjoy teaching.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day - Day 2

I forced myself to get up and out of bed this morning at 8am. I wanted to sleep for a lot longer, but I know that I have to get on the schedule here so I made myself get up and eat breakfast (the yogurt I bought yesterday.)

I spent this morning in my room. Some folks went into Seoul, but after carefully thinking about it I decided not to join them this trip. I want to wait until I understand things here a little better. Also, money is tight and so I wasn't sure I wanted to spend so much right out the gate. (Individually, things are not as expensive in the states, but I am also trying hard to live on 200.00 this month, and so I need to be careful!)

I went to meet some friends at about 2pm. We walked into town, checked some prices and wandered around. It is really cold here and expected to be even colder tomorrow. It is not so bad when the air is still, but when the wind is blowing it is pretty miserable.

Prices here are a little bit cheaper on most things. Currency is roughly 1300 Won to the Dollar and many things are around 1000 won. I spent 32,000 won at the grocery store today because I bought shampoo, conditioner, a multi-plug so I could plug in many things at once, cereal, milk, several different juices and teas to try, lotion, etc. Right now I am wishing I had bought icecream.

We at Korean food tonight. Noodles in a spicy red sauce served cold with lots of veggies. It was good. I then got some bungeopang on the way home since it is my new favorite food. :-)

Here are a few observations on how S. Korea (so far) compares to Thailand:

  • There are not nearly as many motocycles. I see 2 or 3 for every 50 cars I see. And those are mostly errand runners delivering pizza etc.
    This country feels far more western. The food is still very different, and of course the language is currently outside of my comprehension, but the way peopple dress, the cars they drive, the stores we visited, etc. all feel very western.
    Everything seems very modern. (At least in the area we are in.)

I wanted to take more pictures of the area around me but my camera died. I managed to trick it into taking one more picture of dinner, but that was as far as I got.

One of the things I regret in hindsight about my trips to Thailand (and to a lesser extent the DR) is that I did not leave myself tools for remembering things. So, I have decided to keep a digital food diary. (With Pictures.)

Today I ate the vegetable cream soup (the powder that came in a package) for breakfast. A korean couple was in the kitchen when I went in to fix it and she very kindly helped me. All you do to the soup is add water. It came out wonderfully thick and creamy, and tasted fattening and yummy.

Currently I am sipping on some Chesnut Milk and eating a package of Oreos that came with one of our meals on the plane. It is very yummy but since I cannot read Korean I cannot tell if it is actual milk made from chesnuts (like almond milk, or rice milk or soy milk) or if it is just a chesnut flavored dairy product. I tend to think it is the former and not the latter because of the texture but who knows. The Oreos are, of course, as always, delicious. I have been resisting them for 3 days and finally I caved in.

I also tried (but have not finished) a bottle of apple lychee juice and guess what? It tastes like apples and lychee! I really enjoyed fresh lychee when I was in Thailand.

I also was given a bottle of soju which is a little like sake. The brand I was given is Jinro. I have drank only a few swallows of it. It is strong, and I am not sure I like it. The folks I went to dinner with had mentioned wanting to try it, so when they went and bought some they sent some over to my building for me to try. (Their apartments are across the street.) The funny thing about the Soju is that in most stores it is cheaper than a soda. So weird! It kind of reminds me of vodka.

Well, I am about to crash! Luckily, I am exhausted and it is only 9.20 so hopefully I will get a full 9 hours of sleep tonight!

I start classes tomorrow so look forward to a nice lengthy post about school and the kids and all of my fun adventures there.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The end of the wait

Advent is a season of waiting. A time to recall how long the children of God did not know the answers to the prophecies. To consider how discouraged we get with waiting and how faithlessly impatient. Children understand waiting for Christmas. They are often obsessed with what they will get when on Christmas morning they rush to the tree to see what Santa or parents have left them. They understand anticipation and they live in a state of expectation.

As a believer I too often mimic the antagonist in Malachi 3:14 - "You have said, 'It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.' " I don't live in a state of expectation but one of discouragement and disappointment. I understand the negativity shown by the Israelites. They had been awaiting a savior for a millenia and still they were oppressed and in bondage. Those who were righteous were outcast and those who sought their own good were exalted. Believing in justice must have seemed about as sensible for them as believing in Santa Claus is to adults. Sure, we would LIKE there to be a jolly old man who delivers our heart's desire once a year. We would like to be Virginia and believe there really is a Santa. We want to find, like George Bailey, that our lives really are wonderful and purposeful and precious. However, reality swoops in to remind us that there is no such person to 'fix' all our problems, we don't meet Clarences running around to remind us about angels and purpose and thankfulness. We come, as adults, to recognize there is no savior to deliver us from our oppressions.

The Israelites must have felt the same thing but so much more strongly. They had built their lives, their past-glories, their system of laws, their menus, their houses on the idea that following God's law would give them all their heart's desires. Their inability to abide by that law, to overcome their humaness led to constant oppression, enslavement, exile. Those who followed the law were lumped with those who didn't and continued obedience seemed guaranteed to reap more disappointment.

My heart aches for those faithful few who clung fast to their beliefs - those who wrote the scroll and pressed on towards the end of the waiting.
16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.
17 "They will be mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. [a] I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

They would wait 400 years more through the Greek Empire, the conquests of Julius Caesar and into the Pax Romana before there was an inkling of fulfillment, and when it did come, it came not as a mighty warrior but as a small baby in a time when Herod was bitterly jealous and killing children who would rival his throne. In a time when the Roman government demanded that Caesar be recognized as the god-head of the empire and the political organization of Judea was changing through deposement and reassignment.

What seems important to me is that God was answering their prayers in a way far different than what they expected and 30 years before the slightest idea of a following was existant. A child is hardly an answer to centuries of injustice. A child doesn't make oppression cease. A child doesn't re-establish a kingdom, fill an old throne or promise justice and righteousness from that time forth and forever more. When God did fulfill his promise and a messiah was born, he looked nothing like a messiah. More waiting. The child would have to grow into a man.

Christ began his ministry at 30 years of age. He was a political dissident, questioned the religious authorities, and was alternately hated and adored by the fickle following drawn to spectacular stories and revolutionary teachings. The disciples did not get it at all. They were still looking for a warrior messiah, but this man rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey. He stood before Pilate with neither bravado nor beligerance. He stopped Peter from physically protecting him when he was arrested. He was beaten beyond recognition and led to the cross without complaint. Like a lamb before the slaughter he was quiet and helpless. He died. This was the end to the waiting?

Three days the disciples cowered in fear, scurrying from place to place during the end of passover. Hiding in upper rooms with closed doors. The man who had taught to turn the other cheek had given up and what had turning the other cheek left them? Rending unto Caesar what was Caesar's, loving their enemies, living in humility - these had profited them no more than their ancestors in Malachi. The wicked prospered now more than ever. What now? More waiting?

A crowded room, a doubting Thomas. A reappearance. A risen Christ. Does this mean the end of the waiting? Many people saw Christ after his resurrection. More miracles. Then he left. The disciples almost to a person, church legend tells us, were slaughtered for their belief. The Roman empire sacked Jerusalem and burned it. The Israelites were physically exiled for another 1,879 years. Still, the nation waits for its warrior king.

At what point did the waiting end? We know that Christ's birth heralded the new kingdom. We know that His death fulfilled prophecy. We know that his resurrection sealed the new convenant that promised hope and deliverance to all who believe. But we, like children after all presents are unwrapped on Christmas morning, live in a state of disappointed expectation. The anticipation is no longer exciting, but wearying. We resign ourselves to wait until the emotion is renewed during the next Christmas season. But the truth is that regardless of our emotions or anticipations, the waiting IS over.

The waiting is over, and it has just begun. Where are our eyes? Like the faithless in Malachi do we live doubting the promise of justice. Are we discouraged as we plod through day after day of corruption? Are we the faithful few that write on the scroll of remembrance and hold fast to His return?

"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things," says the LORD Almighty.

"Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."

We live knowing that the waiting is over, and so we wait.

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son." Rev. 21:5-7

Day One - Yay Korea!!!

I slept from about 6 am til a little after noon. (10 pm est). At 2 we had an orientation meeting. There are real benefits to working for people who speak english as a second language - meetings are short! They showed us the buildings we will be teaching in, where the cafeteria was, etc. My TA's name is YeaJi (like yedge-y) and seems very sweet. Her English is pretty good because she went to an international school outside Bejing for 5 years.

The campus we are teaching at is built along the rise of a mountain, so it is a straight walk uphill from the apartments we are staying in. The campus is very pretty and looks down over the city. I will be taking many more photos. The buildings and landscaping are very pleasing. I am teaching the second level classes (so older elem. school kids) and I am using a National Geographic Text which I really like! This is one of the books I am using:

I also have one called Money and You, one about Columbus and the Americas and one about exploring the Northeast of the US (the Erie Canal, etc.) I think this will be fun material to teach (it is certainly fun for me to read.)
This is a view of one of the science buildings that the lower level classes are being taught in.

Here is a composite picture from the view of the Social Sciences Building where I am teaching.

This is not Seoul. Apparently we are about 2 hours away from Seoul by bus. I do not know (yet) the name of the city we are in or the name of the University that we will be teaching at.

The picture is not a good one of me, but it does prove I was here.

After our meeting a few of us walked into the city (with one of the bilingual Korean teachers named Jillian) to find a converter for our plugs. We thought it would be a quick trip but ended up being a 20 minute walk or so one way. It gave us a chance to begin to assess our surroundings. Here is my confession: I love Asia. This is not new news to many of you. I wanted to love Latin America as much but I just don't. I wish I knew why. It makes so much more sense to learn spanish. It is closer to home. The DR was warm and beautiful. It should have been perfect.

I walk around Asian cities and my blood just races. The writing, the smells, the colors, the excitement. I cannot explain why it always seems so wonderful. I get that in part it is just the excitement of being here, but I never felt this way about the DR. I wish, wish, wish I knew why this feels so much better to me.We'll see if I enjoy Korea as much as I did Thailand.

On our walk we stopped at one of the food stands along the road. Unfortunately, my camera somehow deleted a few pics while I was transfering them to the computer. (I am sure it was operator error. I have had this happen before. Not sure what I do to keep them from transfering correctly.) But I did get a few pictures.
These are some kind of Larva. One of the guys wanted to try them and so we all had one. (Yes, I ate it. I never would try the bugs in Thailand, but I recognize the older I get how short life is, so I went ahead and tried one.)

Here is Jonathan tasting his:

He actually ate about 20 of them before he decided he had enough. He was in mid chew when I snapped the shot; his expression was not as unenthusiastic as it looks right here.
They taste like a cross between shrimp, asparagus but a little more earthy. Kind of like there is a hint of bean sprouts. I only ate the one. I could eat more if it was necessary. They weren't horrible, but the thought is just too unappetizing. I had a pic of me eating them, but it is one of the ones that I lost!

We also had these fish shaped pasteries that have beans inside. (Another pic I lost). But here is an article about them (and a picture.) They were very tasty! Right up my alley! They pour the batter from a metal teapot into something like a waffle iron then with a spoon they drop some of the red bean paste inside. The batter is kind of like a waffle batter, but a little more on the funnel cake-flavor side. A little sweetish. They were a great hot treat on a cold and cloudy day.

Before our meeting this morning I ran across to one of the convenience stores. I have a fascination with asian convenience stores. It reminds me of walking into Toys R Us when I was a kid! Everything is colorful and there are so many fun things to look at. Here are this morning's purchases.

Some soup, some yogurt, a diet coke, some mint-hydrangea tea, hangers and a small notebook. They cost me 11,000 won ($8.50) I figured that would give me a little supplimental sustenance for the times when I don't want to track down food elsewhere. Side note: in every convenience store in every country I have visited you can always find Pringles and Oreos. I need to find out if they have them in Africa too!

This was one of this afternoons purchases. I am not sure how to describe it. There were yogurt sodas in Thailand that I love and that is what it reminds me of. According to wikipedia it was very popular in the early 90's but its popularity has since waned. I like it. I will probably drink it some more -- though I am hoping I can find different flavors.

I also purchased some flavored milk to try. It was satisfying. Like very milky coffee but not as sweet as the bottled coffees you get in the States.

Tonight some of the teachers are going to go into Seoul. While I would love to say that I partied in Seoul on Christmas Eve, I am not sure I am up for 4 more hours in the bus (2 there and 2 back) after the 4 hours we spent in a bus last night. I am still struggling to stay awake and think I might nap for a little while, try to find dinner around 8:30 and then call it a night.
All in all, I am well pleased. It will be alot of work, and I am sure I will be tired at the end of the day, but I like the area we are in, I am excited about learning more about the culture. I am happy to be gaining another teaching experience and I am just so thrilled to be back in Asia.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Have a Merry Christmas Eve -- and Stay Warm

My flight left Charlotte at 7am on 12/22. I arrived in Memphis to find that my flight from Memphis to Seattle had been cancelled due to the snow, so I was rerouted through Detroit, then on to Tokyo and finally Seoul. Every flight was packed to capacity, every flight was late taking off. Every connection I had to run to catch, but it could have been so much worse. The flight from Detroit to Tokyo is just too long no matter how you think about it, and I am sure I will be sore and achy tomorrow but it is done so the pain of that portion of the experience is quickly wearing off.

The real fun started when we got here. Several people do not have their luggage due to all of the chaos with the flights. I, ever sooooo gratefully, do have my luggage. I praise God because I know that if I didn't have it, I would be so stressed right now.

I had already met several of the teachers as I had journeyed through the different legs of my trip so it was easy to all get together at the airport. There was a man holding a sign that said "English Camp" so we all gathered. Our flights (scheduled to get in at 9.10) didn't arrive until after 10pm and we were not all on the bus until 11.30.

Our group was 21 people (I think) and we dropped off the first two people (to go to wherever they are staying) at about 11.50. It was strange. The bus pulled up, a few semi-bilingual Koreans met the bus, whisked away the teachers and then we drove off. A little disconcerting since no one knows where anyone is or how to get there.

Then... the bus broke down. I kid you not! There we sat in the middle of traffic in a broken bus at midnight! It gets better folks!
It is bitterly cold must be in the teens at night. The bus starts to cool down (before it was comfortable climate wise).

After 45 minutes many of us decided we needed a bathroom. Our first authentic Korean bathroom experience. I am an old pro at squattie potties. This was the one in my room in Thailand:

However, this was the one at the seedy gas station tonight:

Uggggg. But it is still better than sitting in a bus that was approaching freezing while trying not to allow your shivering to cause you to pee in your pants!

Finally, another bus came to pick us up. It had NO working heat. But it was 'festive' as shown in the picture here:

Why do asians (sorry to generalize) seem to think that cute is always ok. Side note Cute is NOT always in good taste. Especially in freezing cold, old, worn out busses at 2 in the morning!)

We dropped off the next two sets of people. By now it was almost 3am.

(If you look closely you can see the time on the clock on the upper right side of the picture.)

Finally, only a few of us remained. We started off on the last 45 minute leg of our journey. The bus was so cold I actually wondered if it was possible to pass out from too much cold!!!!

We arrived at our destination about 4 am. I know the girls I am traveling with are a little disappointed at accomodations. They are small, but they are clean and pretty. I am satisfied and grateful

Seriously, the room cannot be more than 6' x 8' which wouldn't be bad except the shower/bathroom takes up a good 4' x 4' hunk.

These are our shoes stacked by the elevator. (We are on the 7th floor.)

But it is a cute little building. Patterned (yes, cute) tiles. A nice little kitchen. My bedroom door.

Woooo so much more to tell, but I was only able to sleep about two hours total on the plane, which means in the past 70 hours or so, I have slept about 7.
Look for more pics and stories tomorrow!