I am a bad, bad blogger. Part of it has to do with the busy-ness (business?) of this semester…I’m teaching more hours than before and taking more responsibility for those classes. I’ve learned to effectively challenge my co-teachers and take control of my teaching plans and the lessons that result. This means I have a much better relationship with my students as their teacher (rather than some kind of curiosity or exotic teacher’s aid) and that I’m more involved in the educational process, but it also means I tend to hoard my free periods and spend them relaxing rather than blogging. The other cause of my general bloglessness seems to be that I feel more settled here in South Korea. I feel like a lot of my day-to-day experiences are less noteworthy. The constant wackiness of my first few months here has given way to a wary contentment. I often feel like there is nothing new to report. I realize that this is not really the case, however, and I am so, so grateful to those of you who have patiently hung on (that means you, Dave!). So here is a brief update of the last few months, with lots more (I promise!) to come.
1. Every school in our area received a government grant to build a new, state-of-the-art English room. Having my own classroom has made such a difference in my teaching. I have trained the students to wait outside until the bell rings and I can invite them in. I also make them clean up after class, and they can’t leave until I say so. This has made a world of difference to my school experience and has gone a long way in addressing the problems mentioned here. I am convinced that the subtle issue of ownership will always be relevant.
2. Since April I have been in charge of an extra-curricular English class full of some of my favorite first graders. We have written a book about a super-hero called Trashman who drinks alien blood, and whose offspring eventually destroy the Earth. It is brilliantly illustrated. I had each student record the page he had written, and now we have a book/CD set. I couldn’t be happier with the results, and soon it will be added to our new English library!
3. Summer on the east coast follows a cycle of sunny and gorgeous, then terrifyingly windy (our apartment complex is built like a wind tunnel), and then rain for days. Right now it’s pouring, and walking up the hill to school is becoming more and more treacherous. Also, every time it rains my students go nuts. I’m not sure what it is, but the pressure drops and I just stand back and watch their brains explode.
4. I still go to yoga every week. I’ve picked up a lot of useful vocabulary, like inhale, exhale, slowly, straight, side, and how to count backwards from five. Learning to practice in Korean has developed a purely physical dimension to my practice that I’ve never had before. I’ve learned to be more present in class, and much more patient with myself. My teacher is more familiar with my body and my limits now, as well. She calls me “Eden,” and I figure that’s close enough. I’ve been trying to think of a good present to give her when I leave in three months.
5. In Korea, teachers finish university, then do student teaching, and then (ideally) get jobs. After teaching for three or four years, they have to go back to class to become fully certified teachers. Mike and I have been invited to teach on listening and speaking in the English classroom at one of these seminars this August! I am so excited!! I have a meeting with the coordinator this afternoon, hopefully to pin down exactly what is expected of us. On the phone, the coordinator told me that we were invited because we have a “good reputation” in Gangneung. I’m not sure what this means or who she talked to, but I was proud to hear it.
6. Koreans are scared of Swine Flu. They call it “SI” and schools have already been closed down for suspected cases. There are quarantine locations set up in Seoul. I currently have a sore throat, body aches, and a stuffy nose. The school nurse took my temperature and assured me that since I have no fever, I can’t have swine flu, but my co-teacher keeps looking at me funny and asking if any of my friends have recently traveled internationally. I’m tempted to fake it so I can get a week off.
7. We’re going to Bangladesh! My dear friend Josh Buning is getting married on August 15, and we’ll be there to give him all our love.
8. I’ve become a regular at a local Korean bathhouse that’s out near the beach. It’s only 5000 won (which is just a few cents over $4.00 US) to soak and scrub to my heart’s content. Jim Jil Bang is definitely at the top of the list of things I will miss when I go home.
9. We lost our cellphone, which was incredibly inconvenient. Finding and purchasing a replacement was easy (and cheap) enough, but getting the new phone activated was surprisingly difficult. We were shuffled around to multiple stores, told to come back another day, and finally had to sign some other document. I hope I haven’t extended my service contract or anything.
10. I miss summer in Michigan. I miss Bells beer and bare feet and hot dogs and Higgins Lake and the sweaty armpit that Lansing becomes in July. I miss you all! We’ve got our tickets home now, but it will be September before we’re back. Keep the place warm for me, eh?