Monday, August 19, 2013

And I quote...

“I see nothing in space as promising as the view from a Ferris wheel.”
― E.B. White
The Points Of My Compass

And I quote...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thank You for Smiling!

Today is one of those days that I love living abroad.  And... that I love Korea!

Sometimes I realize my Facebook and/or blog posts seem a bit negative, but I don't want anyone thinking that I haven't/don't enjoy my time in this country.  (I call it the "Yelp Effect"... for those that don't know, Yelp in an American based online review system for local businesses.  Pretty much it is a place to bitch, as very few people (comparatively) jump online and write a review when they are satisfied or happy with something.  Therefore, everything reviewed there tends to be skewed to the negative. I feel many things online get this same treatment.)

The last few weeks, and this week in particular have been hotter than hell here on the RoK, or at least down south, where I live.  I can't go outside for more than about 14 seconds without starting to sweat like a coke bottle at an August BBQ.

(click on pictures to enlarge)
check the "feels like" column... 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) 

To make matters worse, my English summer camp has been sort of rough this week; I have no budget for it, no co-teacher, and the computer at my school died completely on the 2nd morning.  Needless to say, I've been a bit agitated.

I've been able to leave for lunch the last few days since the cafeteria isn't serving food.  Today, I was craving a bagel... so I rushed out and caught the bus (there is nothing by my school) to one of my favorite coffee shops, located near the fish market.  As I got off the bus and walked through the outskirts of the fish market, I felt the full force of today's heat advisory.  While walking up the small hill, I was feeling an exceptional compassion for the vendors selling produce sitting out in the hot sun, but alas it was hot (so so so so very hot).  I walked the half block to my regular hang out and ordered myself an iced coffee and the delicious bagel I'd been craving all morning.

Usually during my lunch time and/or while I am at the coffee shop, I spend my time reading.  Today, however, my thoughts kept trailing back to the ajummas and ajusshis sitting on the hot ground, in the hot sun, just trying to make a living.

Imagine what they must have been through in their lifetimes, and now, on one of the seemingly hottest days of the year... they are still at it.  I made a decision.  I quickly slurped down my iced coffee and finished off my bagel.  I packed up my book and grabbed my bag.  I headed for the nearest convenience store (seriously not a lot of them in the fish market), but wound up going to a small restaurant.  I bought 10 bottles of ice cold water, and after impressing the shop owners with my Korean skills (I lucked out), I took to the streets.

First, I approached the lady who had visually had the most impact on me, her "stall" was on the sunny side of the road, and she crowded in the waning shade of her umbrella, vigorously fanning herself with one of the cheap hand fans.  I walked straight up to her and crouched down... all she had for sale was a few buckets of hot peppers.  She was sitting on a piece of cardboard, and had no cart to speak of.  As I approached her, she straightened up, and straightened her meager supply of peppers.  I told her (in Korean), No, thank you... it is very hot, and with that handed her the first of my bottles of water.

At first she was confused, but I told her it was very hot, and please (my Korean skills are quite lacking) and told her it was a gift.  She seemed quite happy and immediately began to drink the cool water.  I told her thank you, and moved on down the street.

Not the same lady from today, but this is one of the 
MOST friendly ladies in the fish market.
Despite this photo, she is always smiling and waves at me.  

I quickly realized that I could have purchased about 10 times as many bottles of water and still not had one to give all the vendors.  I sought out the more elderly, the more disabled, and those more directly in the sun.  I don't deal with praise very well, and I had a limited amount of water and time before I needed to head back to the school, so I quickly moved from stall to stall.  Everyone who was a recipient was over-joyed at the gesture, as were neighboring stalls that witnessed what was going on - all gave me huge smiles and thank yous.  Best 5,000 won I've spent in Korea.

Honestly, I did not do it for the recognition, although it was a gratifying experience.  It was just the only way I could think of to give a little back, and to convey that I see how hard they work, and hopefully provide a little relief on this hot, sweltering day.  Hopefully, I reminded them that there are caring strangers out there, and that they matter.  There are some amazing people here in Korea, and I thank this opportunity to remind me how good I've got it, how good we all have it.  It was an awesome and rewarding way to spend my lunch break.

I soon returned to the school to teach my kindergarten class, overheated and dripping with sweat.  As always, I was bombarded with hugs and high-fives from the adorable, little students, this time however, I felt I earned them.

Please stay cool everyone, and remember to keep an eye on the elderly in this heat.
And, most importantly, thank you for smiling!

Monday, August 5, 2013

And I quote...

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
― E.B. White

And I quote...

Friday, August 2, 2013

The 10 Stages of English Camps

Most, if not all public school teachers have to teach an English camp during the summer and winter breaks.  Essentially, it is a way to have school when the students aren't in school.  The camps are usually a half day of teaching and vary between one and three weeks (of course, everything varies by school).

The responsibility for planning the camp almost always falls solely on the native teacher.  For me, I have a week long, 5 day camp at each of my 2 schools that I must plan, edit, shop for, teach, and clean up after.  I am very lucky if I am able to use the same plan for both schools.  Usually, however, I have one school that does a low level and upper level class, and one school that throws 2nd through 6th graders all together for a much larger class that is twice as long... in other words a logistical nightmare. This year is my fourth camp, and I'd like to consider myself a seasoned expert on the stages one goes through in regards to these English camps.

Stage 1:  The great idea(s)

This stage hits early.  Usually about a month in advance for camps after you've finished planning and booking your vacation (priorities yo!)  A lot of people theme their camp to make planning easier.  I find that the idea(s) for camp usually hit when I'm supposed to be doing something else.

A-ha!  That would make an awesome camp!

Stage 2:  The planning anguish

This stage usually hit immediately after you present your awesome camp idea to your school or co-teacher.  An idea I've had rolling around in my head for a few weeks, started to plan, and gathered materials on, gets shot down.  This summer I wanted to do a poetry camp, my co-teachers said that the students don't know about poetry.  I know that is why I wanted to TEACH them. *sigh*  Instead after much debate the entire plan is changed, and approximately 30 minutes later they want the plans turned in (sadly, this is not an exaggeration.)  Then you'll get a text that requires you to immediately submit a materials list, nevermind that you are in the middle of class.  Then, you'll have to explain what some most of those materials are.  (Why have you never heard of tissue paper Korea?)  And possibly justify why you need some of the crazier items, like paper.  (Seriously, my school had more than a 300,000 won budget for snacks, and 14,000 won budget for paper!)

Sure, no problem... yank all my planning out from under me.  
Yes, due 5 minutes ago?  I think I can swing that.

Stage 3:  The high-spirited plan completion

Once you get over the panic and self loathing in stage two, your plans begin to shape up nicely.  You have presentations, crafts and food (budget permitting).  You're going to rock that egg drop/creative snack making/poster design/awesome craft project.  You just know you'll be the star!  The students will love you, everything will be great, and to be honest you're kind of excited.

We're going to make some crafts!

Stage 4:  The hopeful expectation

This stage comes immediately after Stage 3.  You've been told all the students who signed up for camp are high level.  You were never able to find tissue paper (seriously, Korea!), but you have found a nice alternative.  All your other supplies have been purchased.  All you have to do now, is teach your awesome camp, and how could it not be?  What a fun week it will be, it is, after all, almost vacation.

I'm going to teach the shit out of these high-level students!

Stage 5:  The reality realization

This stage usually hits within the first 10 minutes or so of the start of camp, sometimes sooner.  But yes reality hits, you realize the students are not who you deem "high-level", nor are they enthusiastic at all to be in an un-air-conditioned (un-heated in the winter) school on their "vacation."  There are many other ways reality can be shoved in your face, as well.  For example, I walked into a classroom where half the students were late, and there was a shrieking, crying girl, on the phone with her mom, asking her to come to the school to yell at the boy who had just fought with her.  We had to let her go sit in another room until she could calm down, and my co-teacher had to assure her mom that all was actually was!  A few minute later the principal came in and gave a 20 minute speech about, what I'm assuming was, studying hard, learning English, and being diligent.  I can't be for certain, because it was all in Korean, but he did gesture to me at one point.

Let the games begin...

ahahahaaaha......... oh, that's how it's going to be

Stage 6:  The pushy motivation

From this point forward, the stages move in rapid succession, I'm going to say about a stage a day.  So, let's call this Monday.  After you've recovered from Stage 5, you spirits are still high, there is still hope.  You spend a lot of time acting like a clown with a bad speed habit.  You know your plans are still awesome.

Woo! Students, aren't you excited?  I know y'all know soooomething...say it with me now, We're going to learn some English, and we're going to have so much funnnnnnnnnnnnnn!  

Yay! English! 

Stage 7:  The tormented angst

Once you've tired of looking like a speed clown, and realized that the students are only about 33% (and that is a generous estimate) as quick as you would expect them to be.  You build up some angst about just about everything pertaining to your camp.  You'll start asking questions that will just be left unanswered.  You'll question life choices.  You'll become irrationally angry at innocent school supplies.  You'll stop being able to deal with the norms of everyday life and begin rambling to yourself.
Why is it so hot? Is the air on? Why are the windows open? Why aren't the fans on? Whhhhhhhhhhhy am I dripping sweat at 10 am?  Why did it take them 40 minutes for a word search? Did that girl just STEAL some of my craft supplies?*  Is she really lying about it now?  Why does this computer require me to enter a password if I am away from it for more than 60 seconds?  Where is my co-teacher?  Does no one know how to use a trash can?  Am I the only one here?  Can anyone even hear me talking?
Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?

Stage 8:  The reluctant acceptance

If you can survive Stage 7, the rest are a piece of cake.  You modify or eliminate portions of your camp plans to accommodate the extreme amount of time everything seems to be taking.  The students have accepted their reality, and it is time you accept yours.  Only a few more days.

Sure, whatever, that looks great.

Stage 9:  The resigned indifference

Hand in hand with Stage 8, you realize it doesn't even much matter if you are there.  (Except it does, because you haven't seen your co-teacher since Monday, with the exception of when she comes in to drop off snacks.)  You are no longer stressed, worried, or enthusiastic.  At times, you've forgotten that you were even AT the school. (Easy to do when you're drunk.**)  This stage usually involves some largish individual project, which you have now realized will take the entire day, preferably one that needs minimal supervision, and/or a movie (be careful with this step as trying to find Korean subtitles could set you back to Stage 7.)

Here is some paper and glue... make something!  Try... not to 
include any references to Korea, the Hallyu wave, or Dokdo...
good luck with that, this should be fun!

Stage 10:  The elated finale

The final stage can be summed up in one word... freedom!  Congrats, it was a rough ride, but it is all done now.
What's that small child? Your friend is hitting you? You fell down? You're drowning in a river? Well, I don't have to care anymore because I'm on VACATION!!!!!!!!***


Learn the stages, know the stages.
It is within all of us to survive English camp.

Happy vacations everyone!

*True story.
**Not actually drunk.
***Unless you have another school, another camp... in which case return to Stage 4.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I'm going to pack my things and go...

I have officially and (mostly) unbegrudgingly have decided that I will not renew my contract in Korea.

I officially have 3 months left on said contract, and have now also officially been in Korea for 21 months! (Technically, my Koreaversary was the 29th, but my contract actually started on November 1st, 2011.)

Shit, that's a long time... so I have some bad news (I suppose that is good news for some of y'all.)

Sometimes I feel I've got away 
I've got to...get away 

Yep, it is time to pack my things and go
...I'll let Soft Shell take it from here....

Tainted Love might be asking yourself, just like a double rainbow, what does it mean? For the moment, I have no specific answers.  My plan is to trek around Southeast Asia, something along the lines of this...

(click on image to enlarge)

Here is my rough draft of a route through Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand....and then hopefully on down through Malaysia and Singapore... then over to Australia & New Zealand if I can swing it.  (I did have a nice zoomable map with info when you clicked on the little icons, but Google and I are currently having a fight... I'm sure Google will win but for now you are getting a screenshot of what I've worked on for hours now, which is essentially unshareable/embedable.  So take that Google, screenshot...ha!)  

But yay southeast Asia!

And after that... I'm still undecided, but I do have some exciting ideas.

For now, it is time for some unfamiliar paths.... so excited!  (Except for the packing part... I HATE HATE hate packing.)  

Don’t be afraid to take an unfamiliar path, sometimes they’re the ones that take you to the best places.

Love you all!

Hugs & Kisses,

P.S. Initially, I had planned to stay an extra 4 to 6 months to coincide my departure with the end of the second semester at the end of February (or stay until end of April to make it an even 6 months for contract purposes.)  However, it became quite obvious that I would have to jeopardize some things to make that come to fruition.  Tainted love, amirite?

P.P.S. I really am happy with my decision.... mostly... I promise!

P.P.P.S. I made the above quote image... can you guess where I took the picture?

P. P.P.P.S. I don't really have anything more to say, but that last sentence seemed like an odd place to end.