Chuseok

September 24, 2010

Chuseok has been described as the Korean Thanksgiving, and it is a pretty accurate analogy.  It is in the fall, everyone goes home to eat lots and lots of food, and every housewife goes, “Holiday? What holiday? I’ve been cooking and cleaning since 6 am”

Our school has a very long holiday, but I didn’t have many plans, only two big ones. Tuesday I was going to take a long bike ride with my co-teacher, and spend the night, and then on Wednesday go with her to see her family for an official Chuseok. She had even planned for a cool night-time outdoor concert.  Well.  Monday night it was raining and I thought, cool.. it will be nice for our bike ride. Ha. Tuesday it rained in torrents and deluges. I came down in sheets. Cats and dogs were drowned.  So I went to my co-teacher’s house and we ate in, and watched some movies on TV.

Wednesday was quite nice, but cloudy.  We woke up and went to her brother’s apartment. He lives quite close to her, and I thought that is so nice. Her family is very nice, and her father is very kind. He was very concerned that I would be able to eat all the food (it was no problem)

Early we first attended a ceremony to honor her family’s ancestors. First they set a special table, with offerings of all kinds of food. Rice, tea, and vegetables, soup, meat and fruit. The lit incense and my co-teacher’s brothers and father bowed to each of their ancestors. Then they “fed” the ancestors by giving them rice in a bowl of water.

After, her nephews decided I was the designated story reader. I had offered at first to do my part to help by keeping the boys busy instead of tearing around making lots of noise.  Instead I created a story devouring monster. I don’t feel too terrible about that.

After the ceremony everyone gathered to eat, and it was awesome. Her family is not only extraordinarily kind, but awesome cooks as well. It was perhaps the best kimchi I’ve had.

When you go to your family’s house on Chuseok you should bring a gift. My co-teacher brought gift fish, but the one thing that I think is a bit weird, is the gift Spam. Yes, that Spam, the canned meat that only Hawaiians love more.

Afterwards I went home, and had planned on going to my friend’s house to pick up my sewing machine that is languishing in her living-room. But she was feeling a bit sick and I felt tired, plus I had a big day on Thursday.

Thursday I did something that I think I’ve obviously lost my mind to sign up for.  I joined a rock  climbing school for one of their beginner’s group trips.  There were five of us, a German couple, who had some experience and an American who had done the indoor climbing and another American who had experience in the States. And me. Who was woefully out of shape for the ordeal.  I felt kind of bad because just getting up to the climb site made me out of breath. I think I seriously worried one of the young climbers.  But the leaders were very patient, and kept telling me to take it easy and go at my own pace.

Eventually we got to the climb site, and the leaders went up and got the ropes to the rivets and anchors in the rock.  Then they gave us a fairly intense safety lecture and showed us how to get our belay set up and the harnesses and how to tie the ropes. They were very concerned with safety and checking and double checking everything.  That made me feel pretty good about the whole thing.

Then we all got a chance to climb up.  Most of the others got to the rivets and anchors, I only got half-way up, and I did learn how to be a good belay partner.

It was so awesome! (although quite exhausting)


Days go by

September 20, 2010

Sorry I haven’t written in a while.   Mostly it is this last week was incredibly boring. Sad but true.

It seems if you come to Korea you should be having an exciting adventure everyday. But. Usually, I wake up, go to school, work, have fun with my co-teachers and students, go home, study Korean or math, and meet friends. My life isn’t that much different from if I had stayed in the states.  Although I do feel I have many more opportunities for adventure than I did in the states, I think I shall forgive myself for not taking each and every one.

This week is Chuseok week, and I will try to have a good post on the holiday. I’m meeting one of my co-teachers for a bike ride, then I will spend the night at her house ( a mini slumber party if you will)


flamenco, a festival, but no fortresses.

September 12, 2010

Yes. I do like alliteration, why do you ask?

I was going to see Sangre Flamenca on Thursday night. But. I was tired and it was raining. It was raining hard, a deluge that made wanting to go back  out once I made it home somewhat problematic. So I took a rest.  Friday it rained some more, and I didn’t go salsa dancing. I braved the rain a bit, but my friend canceled, so I went back home. It rained Saturday morning, but I was determined to see the show. So I braved the rain, but by the time I left for the theater, the rain had lessened to a depressing drizzle.

I’m so glad I went. I’m also glad I went to the matinée, because the evening show was sold out.  The theater was beautiful, and fairly close to my house, at the back entrance to Children’s Grand Park. I got nosebleed seats, but I could see most everything. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take pictures. Actually it made concentrating on the dance much easier.

The dancers were beautiful, and passionate. The opening had everyone on the stage, and the music was plaintive and haunting (I asked for the soundtrack, but they didn’t have any CDs)-  The second act had one woman dancing with both the stars – two men.  When I usually think of Flamenco, I think of a beautiful woman, back arched and eyes flashing with pride and disdain. I also assume the guitar player is her lover.  I don’t know where I got this image from, but the dancers on stage disabused me of all preconceived thoughts I may have had.   Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriguez were the stars (they are also the choreographers) – Angel Rojas did an incredible solo, that took my breath away – It was energetic and passionate and beautiful. I like to think I have a good grasp of words, but really I feel quite inadequate describing the movement.  – Carlos Rodriguez followed with his solo, and then the whole company took the stage again. There was also a duet by the singers, and a solo by the violinist.  I felt both exhausted and energized by the show.

I had always thought Tango was the sexiest dance, but I’m now undecided. Flamenco is certainly in the running.

I’ll let you decide.

Sunday I had originally planned to do a city hike around the old fortresses around Seoul. Part of the hike would have gone behind the blue house ( the Korean equivalent of the US white house). But when I woke up, you guessed it.. it was raining.

But by 10:30 the rain had stopped and the weather was almost good.  I had made plans to meet a friend/ math tutor in Gwangwhamun, but she had to postpone by one hour.  I decided to wander around a bit, and what did I find? A festival.

Along the Cheonggyecheon river there was a festival celebrating traditional handicrafts and food. Two of my favorite things!  I walked around and sampled some food, took a bunch of pictures, and even tried my hand at beating material to make it soft.  After I met up with my friend/math tutor for coffee, then we went down to Kyobo bookstore, where I should not be allowed to go with a credit card, and walked down to Insadong, one of my favorite places in Seoul.

Despite a rather glum and depressing start to the weekend, it turned out pretty good. Now I have to go and do my math homework and my Korean homework.  sigh.

For your enjoyment, pictures of the festival.

and yours truly


On good girls and bad boys

September 9, 2010

We are continuing our cult of personality in class this week.   I gave my students a long list of personality adjectives, and I even translated them into Korean (with help from my most awesome co-teacher) and had them do a worksheet where they decided which traits were good and which traits were bad.  I then gave them a worksheet where they chose the 5 best traits for a friend, a father, a mother, a teacher and a boyfriend.

I always make the students give a presentation after they fill in the worksheets; I do let them work in groups, and I try to get them to use the time to speak English,  but as soon as I’m out of sight, they start speaking in Korean, this happens even in my best classes, so to make sure they speak a little bit of English, I make them stand up and present their worksheets.

I was shocked at how many students said “mean” and “cold-hearted” are good traits for a boyfriend.  I asked, and they all said, ” bad boys, mmmm good” or some variation. As a teacher who both loves her students and is not immune to bad boy charm, I was in a bit of  a pickle. I do understand, but when I think of a bad boy, I don’t think of mean, or cold-hearted.  I think of a guy with a motorcycle and more than one girlfriend. Fun while it lasts, but something you usually outgrow eventually. The problem was explaining this without scandalizing some of my co-teachers ( I have 5 this semester).  1/2 of my co-teachers would be sympathetic, but some … hmm I’m not so sure about.  So I settled on – A bad boy will take you for a ride, and a bad man (cold-hearted and mean) will take everything you have.  I think that is a good explanation.

In my advanced class, I also have them do a dialog using the new vocabulary words. I was not surprised that the students who liked bad boys would come up with this exchange:

A: “I am sad. I got into a fight with my boyfriend”

B: ” It is obviously his fault”

Because if he is a bad boy, his fault is obvious. Obviously.

I was also a bit surprised but not shocked that students in the advanced and high intermediate classes liked a bossy and strict teacher, but students in the low intermediate and beginner classes liked an easy-going teacher.

Sometimes I have way too much fun in my class, but then I’m very easily amused.


Yet another reason I love Seoul.

September 5, 2010

Living in the city it is easy to suffer from concrete overload. It seems everything is paved over, and choked with car exhaust and pollution.  And there are so many people, all over, all.the.time.

So it is nice to get away and back to nature. Here in Seoul, you don’t even have to leave the city.  Seoul is surrounded by mountains, and even in Incheon and Suwon, there are many places that are green and beautiful, and you can walk trails surrounded by trees and fresh air.

Saturday I went on a meet-up in Incheon. I took a friend and we went to Jung-dong station in Incheon, near Bucheon.  The station is small, but they had a cool display of insects, and some were quite humorous. My favorite was the battle of beatles in front of a castle. I also liked the butterflies.

At 9 am we all met up, and started for the hills.  It was an easy climb, and it was early enough, but the heat really took it out of everyone. I started getting out of breath and sweaty fairly early.  But I persevered and was rewarded with a gorgeous view of Incheon from the top of the hills, and although this is Korea so even the mountains are fairly crowded, there still were places of quiet and green beauty.

After climbing, we went out to eat, then I bought a sewing machine from a girl who is leaving this week. I also snagged a bunch of spices, unfortunately they are all jumbled up, and I don’t have any labels. I think dinner is going to be interesting for the next few weeks.

I felt virtuous enough today to only take a quick bike ride, and after I had a pretty good lunch. I liked the name of the restaurant (noodles in the kitchen) and had a chicken and peanut fettuccine.  It was an interesting combination that worked very well.  I didn’t expect to go there, I was originally going to get bosam ( boiled pork that is wrapped in sour kimchi – it tastes way better than it sounds) – but the place I thought was bosam was really just  an army ji gae –  or spam with noodles in hot sauce – not exactly what I was looking for. Anyway I didn’t bring my camera, so no pictures of the chicken and peanut fettuccine, but it was awesome. Then a thunderstorm came up just in time for me to be able to watch “inside man” without too much guilt.

Sometimes life is good.

Some more pictures for your enjoyment – because I love you.


An easy going person always smiles.

September 2, 2010

So this is the second week of the semester.  The first week back I thought my students had used all of their summer break forgetting everything I taught them last semester. But this week they were back in the swing of things.

I have one student I quite like, even though she is a bit prickly and stubborn.  She has made it clear, I am not a good teacher. The story:  Last semester we had a speaking test. It really wasn’t a speaking test, more like a test for memorization.  The students were given 5 dialogs to memorize, and were graded on a point system 1-10, with 10  a perfect score.   This is the only test I actually administer.  This student did pretty good on the test. I gave her a 9.  I wanted to give her the 10 she asked for, but she made several mistakes in the beginning.  I let her start over, and she did excellent, hence the 9. I couldn’t give her a 10 because that is the perfect score, and she did have to restart the test.  ( She is one of the lower level students, and although I don’t like grading on a curve, I am a bit more lenient for the lower level students than I am for the upper level students).  Anyway, I digress. She was most unhappy with the result.  She did make a valiant attempt to sway me, but I was unconvinced. I was then informed that I was a very bad teacher. She wouldn’t speak to me for the rest of the semester (she did do all the classwork I asked for).  This semester, she decided to forgive me. Until today.

This week we are discussing personality adjectives.  The worksheet has two parts: The first part is a finish the sentence exercise, and the second part is opposites.  The first one is: Kind is the opposite of__________.  I let her group use “unkind”.  10 minutes later I hear “Teacher, finishee”  I know, I am trying to get them to pronounce the final d, but I think it is a losing battle.  Anyway, I digress. I  thought it was rather quick, especially since the lab (upper level) students took much longer.  Well, they used the rule “un” = not, but I had to break it to them that unstingy, unhonest, unrude, unlazy, and unshy were not real words, and they couldn’t use them.  She was most upset.  I am back to being a bad teacher.  I met her in the halls between classes and she turned her face away from me so hard she almost hit the wall.  I am a bad teacher, I did laugh. She tried really hard to not laugh then decided to be angry with my laughter.  I don’t think she is going to talk to me the rest of the new semester.

I do love the way my students use the language though. Sometimes even though it isn’t “correct” it is still pretty cool.  I usually put them in groups and have them struggle with the words and their meanings, or the sentence structures. I want them to own the language, not just get the right answer.  In English, there is more than one way to express something, and I want them to have that power.

So some of the sentences my students have come up with:

A stingy person has a selfish mind.

A lazy person doesn’t like to wake up in the morning/ doesn’t like to endeavor.

An honest person  speaks only truths and does good things

An impatient person tells everyone to hurry up

An ambitious person only wants passion for work, not to be happy. ( I like this explanation, even if it would never show up in the dictionary)

An arrogant person is not modest

A shy person doesn’t like dangerous things. (maybe not, but it is close enough)

An easy-going person is a cool guy /doesn’t like to be upset.

My favorite opposites are:

Kind is the opposite of bad

Stingy is the opposite of shopping/ helping people.

Honest is the opposite of tricky/ illegal action/ hypocrisy

Rude is the opposite of courtesy/decorum

Lazy is the opposite of industry/liveliness/ diligent

and

Shy is the opposite of friendly/stately

I know they are using their dictionaries so some of them don’t really understand the nuances of their word choice. I also know “that’s very creative” is high praise in my upper level classes, so I am getting through to some of them.  My goal is to make English something they can use to express themselves, and of course, have fun. Plus it makes me smile when I grade their papers.