Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween

Thursday's sort of sneak up on me, and I'm not usually prepared, so then I end up winging my blog, and it probably comes out somewhat odd.  Well this one's no different.

It's Halloween tomorrow, which seems to be a holiday that is just being noticed here in Korea.  There aren't all the crazy decorations all over like there are in Canada.  But our school is going to have a Halloween party tomorrow, and everyone is dressing up.  I'm pretty excited.  I'm going to be a pirate - old and reliable.  And hopefully I'll find a way to scare my kids a little.
I've never been a big Halloween fan, but my favourite Halloween was in Harambee house in Grand Rapids.  I had an awesome time scaring neighbourhood kids that year.

The weather has gotten steadily colder.  It's still somewhat warm during the day, but there's a dramatic temperature drop every night.  I really like this time of year - when you can almost smell the winter in the air, and you have to add extra blankets to your bed.

My thumb is healing quite well as far as I can tell.  I'm starting to resent my cast more and more.  It smells pretty bad in there.  I don't think it'll last the weekend.

We have a new teacher at Poly, and it's neat to see how the staff dynamics change with a new member.  She seems really cool.

School is going well.  I'm continually struck by the unreal expectations that are placed on students here - at least the ones I know.  Our pre-school students are just 3 years old and they are expected to sit at a table for 40 minute at a time and learn how to read and write their second language.  I think that's pretty crazy.  But it's somewhat hard to argue with the results.  My kindergarten kids can read and write at between a 2nd and 3rd grade level and we have discussions in science that I've never had before.  So it's pretty interesting.

Here are some pictures of past events just to spice this blog up:

This was taken a couple of weekends ago on the hike we took up a mountain near Deagu.  I think it's a funny picture.

 This is Tim (a co-teacher) and I just before we raced.  I post this because this is the scooter that I've been driving around on, and I'm probably going to buy it from Natasha at some point - which is sweet.
 Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Being a gimp and school difficulties

  Thumb update: I now have a real cast on my arm.  It's a nice green colour, and I'm happy about it mostly.  But it makes me wonder if putting any part of a person's body in absolute confinement for any reason is a good idea.  I feel somewhat claustrophobic with it on.  I'd really like to bend my wrist and thumb.  But I'm not letting it affect things too much.  I'm getting pretty good at writing with a marker or pencil between my pointer finger and middle finger.  And I'm impressed by how well I've learned to use chop sticks with my left hand.  Also, I'm planning on playing in the soccer game this weekend.  So life goes on.  The doctor said it could take 2 or 3 weeks until the cast can come off, but they want me to get x-rays once a week to check on it (and I think because they are payed every time they have a patient come in).
  The situation at school hasn't been the smoothest lately.  The parents of our students do pay quite a bit for their students to go to Poly school and this means that they are very invested in their child's education.  This has it's positives, but it also have it's negatives.  Some parents aren't afraid to mention any concerns they might have to the school, which is ok, but in my opionion our directors try to please the parents a little too much.  The result is that the teachers are brought in for meetings with the directors every once in a while to bring up these concerns and many times these concerns contradict concerns that another parent brought up at an earlier time so that we as teachers are being told to do two opposing things.  There are other difficulties related to this, but this is one example of some of the stresses of the job.

  Things continue to go well overall though.  I need to make sure I keep remembering that being in Korea is a great opportunity for me to learn a lot, so I should keep on open mind.  Here's a picture of my cast and some pictures of the Pohang Steelers game we went to this past weekend.  It was fun.

A Korean co-teacher wrote something in Korean that means get better soon.

This is right before Pohang scored on a penalty shot.  We tied 2-2.  We were sitting in the loud section where the fans had drums and sang these cool-sounding songs and chants.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My thumb - it's broken

I broke my thumb.  The crack isn't all the way through so I think it's actually called a fracture.  It's hard for me to tell the story of how it happened because it's embarrassing, but here it goes:  So, on the way home from school we walk through an apartment complex that sometimes has donation stuff out near the road.  This is where I got my dresser.  On Monday we walked past this place and saw a pretty nice bookshelf.  We stopped to investigate and I also discovered a pair of rollerblades.  Now, I haven't been able to rollerblade since I've gotten here because I don't have mine with me, so I was pretty excited when I saw these.  I tried them on and of course they didn't fit (it's hard to find shoes here that fit most average North American men), but I could squeeze my feet in them.  I decided to rollerblade home for fun.  But then there was also the bookshelf.  I decided that since the bookshelf wasn't too heavy, and since I'm Canadian and awesome at rollerblading, I would just carry the bookshelf home on my rollerblades.  That's what I did.  And it was going great until I started to get quite a bit too confident and maybe forgot that I had a bookshelf in my hands and I wanted to practice my backwards skating.  In the end I hit a manhole cover, fell backwards and somehow had the bookshelf land on my thumb.
  I now have a temporary splint on and it doesn't hurt all that much anymore.  I was also given these little plastic packages with 4 multicoloured pills inside and told to take one package after each meal - that's 12 pills a day... crazy eh?  But apparently that's how they do it in Korea.  Others tell me that they get similar pill packages whenever they go to the hospital for something like a common cold.  And I don't even know what the pills do, they're just supposed to help.
  So that's my thumb.

  Today I had my first parent observation.  This meant that I had all my kindergarten's parents come into our class for two lessons and watch us.  It's sort of a big deal here because the parent's attitude towards Poly school, most of the time, is of the highest importance.  It's so important that it seems that these parent observations have, over time, evolved to student performances that your class practices for.  So I was nervous, my co-teacher was nervous, and the directors always seem a little bit nervous.  But I thought it went well, and more importantly my co-teacher thought so too.  It's nice to be finished with it.  Tomorrow we're going on a field trip to some botanical gardens; so that'll be good.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thoughts on not being new, loosing my Enlish, batting cages, and GyeongJu

I'm not the new guy any more.  Teagan, a new teacher from Philadelphia came this weekend.  He lives just below me and he's going to make a good addition to the school.  But it's taking a bit of a mental shift on my part to understand that I'm not the new guy any more.  Tonight I took him to "HomePlus" (the big grocery/everything store), and I realize that it wasn't too long ago that I was in his shoes.  I enjoyed being the new guy.  I could get away with being ignorant.  But now it's been 2 months, and though that wouldn't seem all that long before I came, for some reason it's a great deal of time here.  But anyway, change happens, and that's good.  We're actually loosing Alan teacher in a couple of weeks.  Alan is Korean-American, and he speaks both English and Korean.  He's been very helpful and wonderful to have as a friend.  He's also a good guy.  So it'll be sad to see him go.  But that will bring another teacher in his place, and that's exciting.

An interesting change in myself that I've noticed is my fluxuating English skills.  Now, you would think that being an English teacher would have a positive affect on my understanding of my native language.  While that is true to some degree - there are a lot of English grammar rules I'm learning, that I'd never thought about - in other ways my English abilities have also plunged dramatically.  I was a bad speller to start with, but ever since being in Korea I've become downright terrible.  I'm continuously questioning how to spell words, and it's not uncommon for me to tell my students how a word is spelt when I'm quite sure that I've spelt it wrong.  I've even had to rely on my Korean teacher to tell help me out at times.  Pretty bad eh?

On another note, a recent Pohanic discovery for me has been a sweet-awesome batting cage on the roof of the downtown arcade.  I'm not a big baseball guy but having the chance to take full swings at baseballs is pretty liberating.  It reminds me of my younger days playing pitch-and-hit with Peter.  I've never actually been to a batting cage before, but I've always assumed that the balls are always delivered at the same speed to the same spot.  That's not true for this place; you never know where the balls going to be, which I like.  So I'm excited to potentially make going to the batting cage a weekly routine.

This past weekend, Dan, Sheila, Natasha and I went to Gyeong-Ju.  Gyeong-Ju is the ancient capital of the Silla dynasty (57 BC - 935 AD according to wikipedia).  There's lots to see there so we'll have to go back to see it all.  One place we did see was the Numuli park.  It's a park with all these ancient burial mounds (Numuli) of Silla kings and leaders (see previous blog for Korean burial practices).  It was really cool to walk through a park with these large mounds all over the place.  We all thought it would be an awesome park to actually play in and go sledding in during the winter.  Unfortunately there are ancient kings buried underneath you and it would be somewhat disrespectful to use their grave sites as sledding slopes.  Also, I ate my first persimmon there.  We snatched a couple off a tree (which was probably also disrespectfully but they're pretty great).
We also went to the Bulguksa Temple which is the site of a very old Buddhist temple.  The temple has been largely rebuilt I think, but I always enjoy being in place that has a long history.  Here are some pictures:

So these aren't small unnoticeable mounds.  It's amazing to think about how much work it must have taken to make all of them.  They're mostly all rock.

Sweet eh?

This pond was outside Bulguksa.  In it were the largest Koi fish I've ever seen.

A very old pagoda. I don't know the posing couple.

Outside one of the temples is this spot with all these flat rocks where people have made a bunch of tiny rock cairns.  I made one too.

Who said Koreans have no creativity?
I didn't get any pictures of the temple buildings because there were a lot of people and they requested that you not take pictures of the inside of the buildings.  But this is a picture of the intricate wood work of the roofs.  It's crazy to think that people built and painted these roofs.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Life has pretty much gotten back to 'normal' (if I've been here long enough to say that), after the Chuseok trip.  And not much has happened since my last posting, except these two things.
We had our second soccer game of the season on Sunday.  They scored two late goals and we lost the game, which was a bummer, but playing on the team has a been a highlight for me so far.  There's a good group of guys on the team, so it's good to get to know them.  And it's really good to be able to play soccer again.
The other thing is that I have a sweet awesome dresser for my room.  Just yesterday I was walking back from dinner with three others and we spotted this really nice dresser out by the trash.  We were a good 3 km from my apartment but we couldn't turn this down.  So we lugged it all the way back to my apartment, with a little bit of 'help' from a lone Korean man.  Today, we all had sore muscles, and I've got a nice dresser in my room.
Here's a picture of it, along with the afore mentioned Machu Picchu poster:

Thanks for reading.