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3 days left . . .

23 Feb

Wow!  I can’t believe that this is my final week in Korea!  What a blast it has been!  Tomorrow is my last day at my school en then on Saturday is goodbye Korea.  This past week I have had and still get many panic attacks about packing everything and seeing everyone!  It’s hectic!  But amidst all this craziness I still had time to reflect.  Coming to Korea was something that I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time and I am still amazed at how quickly the time has flown by!  Korea is the third country I have lived in and by far the most challenging.  But all in all it was a fantastic year.

I was placed at a, how would the Koreans put it, ‘notorious’ school in a very poor area.  My area and middle school has been referred to as the Harlem of Daegu.  So yes teaching at one of the worst schools in Daegu was, let my put it this way, challenging.  I wanted to give up.  I wanted to pack my bags and go home.  But I didn’t.  I stuck through.  And that to me is a great accomplishment! Yes you might think how hard can it be to teach English to some of the most intelligent people on the planet, and in one of the best education systems in the world.  Well, I experienced another side that spectrum.  The majority of my students will not go to High school.  My school has one of the lowest academic ratings in the whole city and the kids’ behaviors attest to that!  My year started off pretty bad with the whole apartment saga, and then one of the students threatened another teacher with a knife.  Not the best introduction i’d say! I mention these things because I’m giving myself a pat on the shoulder.  Well done, you did great!  And I did.  I was a great teacher and the kids (well most of them) really loved me.  It was tough, really tough, but I made it through and now I am a stronger person.  I grew so much this year and that my friends, as MasterCard would say, is priceless.  I learned so much about myself and what I can accomplish.  I managed to live in a country where I don’t speak the language, am not to fond of the local cuisine and had my issues with the whole culture shock.  But I managed, no in fact I flourished.  Even so that I started to get really fond of Korea!  Not that I would want to live here permanently but Korea definitely has it’s up sides!  And there are so many things that I will miss dearly!

To my co-teacher I would like to say thank you.  She stuck by me and was always there when I needed her.  To all my new and amazing friends, damn, I’m gonna miss each and everyone of you so much.  It’s amazing how close you can get to someone when you are all experiencing the exact same thing.  If not for all my Epiker friends I would not have made it through this year!  And then to my school I would like to say, so long suckers!!!!!!!!!!  I will definitely be doing cartwheels in my heart tomorrow when I leave the Faksan behind!  But I will  wipe a hypothetical tear (i’m not much of a crier) when I board that Singapore Airlines flight on Saturday!

Korea, even with our love hate relationship I will never forget you or what I have learned this year.  It has truly been one of the greatest years of my life and I will cherish this experience forever.  To my fellow Epikers who decided to stay behind, good luck and enjoy every minute.  Before you know it your time here in Kimchiland will be over!  To the other Epikers returning to their ‘normal’ lives, the best of luck to you and I wish you all great success (Borat voice) upon all your future endeavours.

Korea, you made me laugh, you made me cry, you me scream and you made me jump!  I will never forget you!

Kimchi, to you I want to say, you can suck it!  I never want to see, smell or taste your ugly face ever again!

Cheers from Kimchiland!  It’s been good, real good!

Fighting back!

9 Dec

It’s getting colder and colder here in Kimchiland.  Last night as I walked home the first snow flurries fell.  It is absolutely freezing.  And to be honest if everything isn’t covered in white then this weather is just not worth it!  The whole open the windows and switching on the heater thing is still going on.  It is as if they have to either freeze to death or melt to death during the summer!  We are looking for a balance people.  An equilibrium!  Oh well, what can you do.

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So as month ten is almost over I am progressing in standing my ground here in Kimchiland.  Koreans (in general) are not too welcoming or accepting of foreigners, so for us to be treated with a little dignity over here can sometimes be a battle!  But nothing major to run home about.  It’s just different.  Get over it or get out.  Or get even!  I go for get even!  On Monday night we went out for dinner for a friends birthday and on our way to the restaurant (in my neighbourhood) all of a sudden an old woman (Ajuma) shoves me out of the way.  Now I know she cannot speak English and ask politely “excuse me” but there is no reason to shove me out of the way when there is more than enough room to pass.  It’s ridiculous.  So I retaliated and decided to through her with my gum!  Unfortunately it only hit her shoe but it was good enough for me.  Next time I’m aiming for the hair.  That’s right you evil Ajuma’s – I’m fighting back!!!!

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So this past week I have been reading in the Korean times and on an English teacher Forum that our jobs as Native English teachers might be in jeopardy here in Kimchiland.  Yes tha’s right the government has developed a multi-million dollar robot to replace all english teachers.  I guess it was only a matter of time before this happened in this high-tech asian country.  And if this is at all feasible then go ahead, because ultimately the government will save money.  Native English teachers are an expensive investment.  Our flights are paid, we do not pay tax for the fist two years, we get housing, we get severance pay and half our medical aid is covered by the school.  But can the robot really replace the person?  Especially in such a personable field susch as teaching.  But then again, the Korean English curriculum basically trains these kids as robots.  They memorize instead of practice.  And that is no way to learn a language.  Oh well Goodluck to robot 2154458-998!

 

That’s all for now, Cheers from Kimchiland!

 

Korea, oh Korea!

11 Nov

This is just another one of those weeks.  Where everything is just too much!  And it’s times like these that Korea work on my nerves more than ever.  The kids running wild in the teachers office seem to give me instant hard-burn as opposed to just hot flushes!  Students completely and utterly ignoring and disrespecting their teacher makes me want to drown my sorrows.  And lastly patriotic ignorance makes me want to hurt someone, hurt someone real bad!

This week I am doing a travel and tourism lesson with my second graders.  I start the lesson off by showing them a five minute tourism promotional video from South Africa highlighting all the major tourist destinations and activities.  The students have to write down everything that they see.  After the video I discuss all the relevant terms with them so that they have a clear understanding of travel and tourism.  But then the bomb drops.  The creme de la cream of blatant ignorance reveals itself.  I ask the students to list the top 10 tourist destinations in Korea.  I mean how hard can it be.  80% of all the students list Kimchi as the number 1 tourist destination.  Are you kidding me.  How stupid can you be??!!  I don’t think I have ever been as close to a nervous breakdown as this week!  First of all who lists food as a destination and secondly Kimchi will make more people (tourists) leave Korea!  Their patriotic nationalist ignorance has reached a new level!

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red, yellow, green

9 Nov

For the most part I think Autumn has departed.  Even though the red, yellow and green leaves are reminiscent of Autumn the snatching cold tells a different story.  I am enjoying the cold weather very much. The only downer is that It get’s dark at around 17:50 which sucks!

 

This past weekend we made our way to Palgong mountain to see the autumn foliage.  It was nice to get out of the city and be one with nature!  Our little adventure started down town Daegu where we had to wait for the Rapid city bus to take us there.  The bus was packed and we barely had room to stand.  And at every stop more people just got on without ant people getting off.  We assumed that everybody was on their way to the mountain.  One thing as certain and that was that it was going to be a long bus ride.  The 1 hour and 45 minute bus ride wasn’t the most enjoyable thing I have ever done in my life but in the same breath it made me smile a couple of times.  Koreans love hiking and the outdoors.  Especially Koreans above middle age.  The love hiking so much that they wear hiking gear everyday.  In fact I don’t think they own anything other than hiking clothes.  And not just any hiking clothes – brightly coloured ones.  The interior of the bus looked complete like a brewing pot of rainbow vomit.  And these feisty Ajuma’s don’t take any crap, as they’ll shove as hard as thy can t get past you even though it is humanly impossible for you to move an inch!

At the mountain we walked around, took the cable car up and took way to many photos of leafs.  It was beautiful.  But as with everything else in Korea it was extremely crowded.  Everywhere you go it is crowded.  There are people everywhere.  It get a bit much sometimes,  I mis wide open spaces and driving for miles and miles without seeing any traces of civilisation.  Is it possible that I am longing for a weekend in the Karoo or even the Free State?  It’s time to get out of here, I am going nuts.

 

The leaves were beautiful and the colder weather is wonderful.  Korea can be beautiful, it’s a pity that it only lasts about a month of the year.

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They are out to get me

2 Nov

We are pretty much half way through the second semester and just as I thought that kids are not all from hell they proved me wrong.  Yesterday was one of those days.  The kids just got on my nerves and unfortunately my nerve ran out!  Now I must admit that things have been going much better here at the juvy.  The second graders are nothing compared to the horridness that are 16 year old’s.  But the year is getting long and somewhere along the way the kids are losing their manners!  I think in general Korean teenagers don’t learn any manners.  Yes they bow to older people and their language is respectful – but that is it!  Their actions say something completely different!
So yesterday i tried to teach a class on numbers because many (most) of my students cannot count to ten.  unbelievable right?  I know it’s kind of a boring lesson but I did try to spice things up a bit but the kids were horrible.  They kept on talking, standing up, walking around whilst the korean teacher is doing absolutely nothing.  I tried everything but they did not listen!  So about ten minutes before the end of class I just couldn’t do it anymore.  These kids were blatantly ignoring me and my co-techer just stood there as if she was part of the decorations!  I threw the white board marker in the direction of the kids and said “i’m done!”  I took my folder and left.  I just couldn’t.  I took a walk outside because I was shivering with rage.  Yes, I get teenagers and I get that they are ‘tough’ to work with.  BUT we are two adults with them, one of which speaks korean!  Why is it such an impossible task to discipline these mongrels.  If I don’t get a heart attack before the end of this year then nothing can kill me!
This morning my co-teacher came to me and asked me how I felt!  I said I’m fine and she apologised for the student’s behaviour.  I don’t want damn apologies I want them to effin listen!

Just another day here in Kimchiland!

This past weekend was Halloween and we went to a Halloween party here in Daegu and it was awesome!  I love Halloween and I really had fun going out in costume and even randomly scaring a couple walking down the street!

Cheers from Kimchiland!

Hallo Halloween!!!

28 Oct

I have always ben a sucker for this holiday!  Well not always, but as a kid watching American movies I always had a fascination with it.  I wanted to be part of this holiday!  So to make up for the lack of ‘trick or treating’ I love going to Halloween parties.  Last year Nicola and I were Zombie brides:

and the year before that I was also something dead!!!  It is so much fun!

So obviously with Halloween approaching I had no choice but to incorporate it into my lessons.  Because my second graders have speaking tests this week I did their Halloween lesson last week.  With my first graders I did the Halloween Bomb game that I made (on my lesson Page).  With my afterschool class I have been doing Halloween the whole month of October.  We covered absolutely everything!  It was great!!!!  So this week was the last time I saw them before Halloween so I arranged a Halloween party for them.  I went to Homeplus and bought two pumpkin candy buckets for dirt cheap.  I asked them to bring lots of candy with them to class that day and they did.  I wanted to make each of them a candy apple but my little supermarket down my street only had like 10 apples.  So I decided to only make seven and give them to the winning team.  We played a super fun game where they had different tasks to complete.  The team that lost was really not happy so I decided to make it fair Korean style I would have to let them settle it with a round of Kai Bai Bo (Rock Paper Scissors).  The winning team was super excited about their apples.  The losing team was heartbroken.  One girl started to cry.  I could not tell if it was real or not because Korean females are VERY melodramatic in general!!!  After the game I made them go trick or treating.  In pairs they knocked on the classroom door and as I opened I taught them to say ‘trick or treat’.  They had so much fun and so did I.  It was a first I think to all of us.

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Happy Halloween from kimchiland!!!

The final season!

28 Oct

I started Korea off in the last stretches of winter.  I can remember my first glimpse of Korea I saw snow everywhere.  Leaving a nice hot summer behind I knew that me freezing my ass off is only minutes away!  But the two months of winter we had wasn’t that bad, and we had a great snowfall in March!  Spring came and it lasted a full two weeks!  Summer started, bringing with it endless suffering!  I really struggled through this summer!  It was extremely hot and humid.  I never wanted to go anywhere because I feared I might just melt!  I had a little hand fan that I took absolutely everywhere with me.  Even as I taught I fanned myself.  The fan also came in handy for hitting naughty kids on the head.  All the classrooms in my school has air conditioners and roof fans.  Now the roof fans are pretty useless as they just blow around the hot and humid air.  But the AC’s were rarely switched on.  In fact only for two months and only after lunch.   So during the pre-AC times all the teachers and students would close all the windows and the doors of the classrooms as if to prevent the heat from coming in.  Makes sense yes, but they forgot about the 40 hyperactive kids that will be radiating heat in the class!!! Teaching during the summer months in Korea was hard and damn hot!

Fall came and for the first time in months I could breathe.  The humidity went away.  The weather was really pleasant.   I was happy!  And then the three weeks of fall was over.  On Monday winter crept up on us like a serial killer in a horror movie.  I must admit I was wishing for winter all through summer but it caught me a little off guard.  This whole week I climbed straight into bed when I got home from work!  I do realize that this was just a sudden cold front that moved over the peninsula and that it is warming up again but still it is freezing.  Now the strange thing is the Koreans open up all the windows of the school!  heaven knows why!!!!!  As soon as I get to class all the windows are opened.  When I get back to the office all the windows are open.  I’m like people seriously it’s below 10 degrees – CLOSE THE DAMN WINDOWS!!!!  My desk is right by the office door and because this is Korea kids roam freely in the teacher’s office.  And kids are stupid so they do not realize that a door that was closed should be closed again after opening it.  What am I saying, not just the kids, EVERYBODY at my school is not used to this.  So I had my co-teacher print out a paper that said close the door please in Korean and I stuck it to the door.  But obviously I work in a school where reading was never taught!!!  So as I am typing this the office door is open, all the windows are open and I am freezing!  oh well!!!


With this sudden winter weather comes winter illnesses.  And everyone at my school is couching so much it feels like I am in a quarantine zone for the SARS virus in one or other horror movie.  Now when they are sick they usually where these little masks.  But they don’t wear them while they are getting sick.  I state this because Koreans never learned to cover their mouths when they cough (just like they never learned to chew with their mouths closed etc etc etc etc)  and thus spreading their contagious germs all over the show!!!  I have breathed in so much cough breathe this past week it’s not even funny!  Korean logic never seizes to amaze me!!!

So as winter is manifesting itself here in Kimchiland I am happy that this is the last season.  The final change I would have to go thruogh in my year in Korea.  I had winter, spring, summer, fall and now back at winter again.  It’s gonna be a cold one – bring it!!!

 

Cheers from Kimchiland!