Sunday, July 26, 2009

Travel Mugs, First Days, and Pink.

Hello everybody!

It’s been about a week and a half now that I’ve been in Korea… and I am loving it so far!

IMG_0892This is one of the many phrases that I’ve loved discovering in Korea. It is on my travel mug. :)

Friday was my first solo teaching day, and it went fabulously. These kids are just so cute that my jaw has been super sore lately due to over-using my smile muscles. I teach six different groups of students, and each and every one of these kids fascinate me. They all have such different personalities and they are so full of life! In Canadian ages they range from about 5 years old to around 10 years old (I think?!), and they are pretty much brilliant. Remember when we were in Kindergarten and learned the Alphabet and how to count and stuff? These kids learn about “blends” and “special titles” and “homophones” and “compound words” and how to tell time and describe nouns and use effective adjectives and properly capitalize all months, seasons, days of the week and holidays. They are spelling words like "minute” (note: the use of this word was intended as a descriptive of something ‘tiny’) and “triceratops” and so forth. They write in full sentences, sound out spellings like pros and are completely capable of describing how the phonetic long vowel sound will affect the spelling of their words. Communication barriers are practically non-existent with my kids as they are pretty crazy good with their English (well, as much as young kids could be)… and did I mention how insanely cute they are?

Yesterday completed my 1.5 week break from reliable internet. I am so thrilled to have access to the web once more. Being in a foreign land is quite complicated when you don’t have internet maps to rely on, or ways to look up information! My now stable source of internet was made available to me upon moving into my official apartment :) That’s right! I’m HOME! This little place is all mine for the next 355 days (ish).

Any of you who know me know that I’ve never been the girl who whole heartedly embraced the color pink. Well, out of necessity, this has now changed. My life has become a vast sea of pink-happiness. I never intended to have pink as my primary life color, but it appears to be fate. This is what I found when I entered my apartment:


Well, to be a bit more honest, it wasn’t quite organized like this… but all of the pink things you see here were left in the apartment for these purposes. Well, except the apron. That was given to me by my Nannie Austin (thanks Nannie!). It just conveniently matched everything. For those of you who are very interested in the apartment, I shall include some more photos (though, Danielle, I confess I did not take one from every possible angle as requested :).


This is my very pink couch… and blanket. It’s pretty cozy, and it seems to match the rest of the decor rather splendidly :)


To the right here is my table and chair set. I’m actually rather fond of them. The lamp and telephone are pretty sweet and leave the room feeling just a little bit Asian retro. Snazzy!

This is the other side of my apartment. It has a wonderful wardrobe, microwave, kitchen and rice-cooker. Please note the pink tiles. Let’s zoom in on these shall we?


This is my pink cooking area. Marvelous isn’t it? The pink dish sponge is a lovely touch don’t you think? Korean kitchens don’t tend to have stoves, so I’m going to be getting used to using a gas-range stove-top for all my cooking needs. The lack of counter space is made up for by the awesome sink nozzle. It’s almost as bendy as a pipe cleaner. Off-screen: pink garbage bags.



And what apartment would be complete without a pink tiled bathroom, with a pink sink, pink toilet, pink loofa and a pink toothpaste cup? Certainly not mine. Notice the mirror: 360 degrees of pink here people. Be amazed. I sure was.


The other side of the apartment is a bit less pink. Aside from the pink candle, the desk only hints of its surroundings. Oh, and behind the map there is a room with a washing-machine that plays a full piece of music when it completes its load. Everything here has nifty jingles.


There is really only one place in the room where pink is upstaged. With a lovely hand-me-down comforter and bedset from the former apartment owner, I have created a sort of sanctuary. Here it is folks. My orange and purple haven:


I am actually growing really fond of this place! There is a children’s play park right outside my window and I love being able to hear the children playing while I type :)

Well, there have been a whole ton of other interesting things that happened this weekend, but this blog has already reached epic length. I’ll update again soon! The next instalment will probably be entitled “Humerous English phrases written on greeting cards, Getting lost while trying to find a specific Church, and My experience with Korean Jehovah’s Witnesses.”


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hospitals, Apartments and Parks

Since we’ve only got out once with the camera and only took 4 pictures, they will be randomly interspersed throughout this entry:


GDA seems to be quite the friendly place; nice staff (both Korean and foreign), cute kids, amicable decor. I’m temporarily living in a two-bedroom apartment with a fellow teacher and will be moving into my own place as soon as a one-bedroom becomes available this coming Friday. As my current roomie showed me to work on Friday morning, I was able to see a bit of the neighbourhood and discovered that it was quite the cheerful spot. There are a few corner stores around (one of which is open 24 hours), a little park and finally – GDA.


Jen’s already described it (see archives for her post), so I won’t go into much detail on the school itself :) My first day consisted of meeting the teachers and being informed that I wouldn’t be able to visit with the kids quite yet – they needed to have proof that I wasn’t infected with swine flu so that if parents called asking, they would have my medical record on hand and a clean bill of health. So off I went to the Korean hospital to have blood drawn, chest x-rays, eyes and ears tested, height and weight measured… the list goes on. Thank goodness for Mr. Park (one of the administrative people), who greatly helped as my escort and translator through the hospital. All-in-all, it was a fascinating trip through a Korean medical centre.

When I returned, I was told that I was able to head home and relax for the rest of the day… except that I didn’t know where I lived. So one of the teachers (who knew where Jen lived but not where I lived) showed me to Jen’s spot and Jen let me relax at her place until she got off work. Later that night, Jen and I got our first introduction to Seoul via the subway, bus and taxi systems - one of the teachers showed us around some sort of shopping centre place where I appreciated such t-shirts as “No Slept” and “Truth – the opposite of Love.” Upon returning home that evening, we found where I lived and attempted entry, only to discover that my key didn’t work and my temporary roommate wasn’t home. I was locked out!

Bungee Jumping

Thank goodness for Jen! We ended up running back to her place, where I stayed for the next couple of nights :) Good friends are priceless – she saved me from being homeless in Korea! Later that weekend, upon finding the roomie at home, we discovered that the key actually did work – you just needed to know how to use it. So, technically, I had never been locked out, but instead proved myself incapable of opening doors :)

Despite our attempts to find directions to the church we wish to attend, we were unable to figure it out before Sunday morning. We set out instead on a mission to locate a map, figure out where we are, and hopefully find some landmarks with which to navigate. We ended up touring a local park and getting some groceries. By Sunday night we were confident that we had some sort of understanding of our area and are hoping to reach the Church soon :)


My access to internet is extremely limited thus far, so I apologize if I’m not keeping up with my emails! I’m off for my third day of work soon, and I get to meet 2 new teachers who supposedly arrived in Korea last night – orientation day for the three of us today!

I hope you’re all enjoying life :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Airports, squat toilets and crosses.

Hello! I’ve made it safely to Korea, and have snagged brief access to the internet. So! I’ve got much to say, but now I’ll stick to the flight/arrival so as not to bore/overload anyone :) This is the Korean airport (from online advertisement):


My experiment had interesting results. I arrived at the Halifax airport around 5:20am, and proceeded to the checked baggage counter. Luckily, my lovely bags weighed in at 49.3 lbs and 49.4 lbs ~ SUCCESS! They were x-rayed and passed inspection. Proceeding onto security, excitement built as I stepped up for my turn at the counter. I smiled at the personnel, trying to appear as normal as possible. Perhaps that was my mistake, because instantly I saw hands waving at each other and a female security officer step forward. *Great* I thought, knowing full well what was to come. At least I wasn’t wearing anything metal – I’d taken great care to avoid metal in any form. I stepped through the gates, ready to pass the inspection with flying colors. The buzzer went off. “What?!!” Confused, I looked to my left, and noticed that my watch was happily resting on my wrist. All that effort wasted! The security man got out his wand thing and waved it all about, eventually allowing me to continue on towards the awaiting female officer. This search took the cake though. Not only was it the full pat-down, it was an in-depth shoe inspection and then a full bag search. Overall, the most thorough search I’ve participated in thus far. This officer seemed friendly enough, smiling as she put my fave stuffed animal back into my carry-on (“My daughter has one of these that she carries everywhere too!” – I never did ask how old her daughter was).

I passed through customs, endured my first and second flights (16 hours), and arrived in Japan around what would be 4am Atlantic Time, 4pm Japanese time. Security lines were huge, but it allowed me time to mentally prepare for the next encounter. I removed the watch, took my laptop out in advance, and stepped confidently up to the counter. The lady waved me through, and I was amused to notice that the guy who was supposed to be watching my gate was rather distracted and staring off into some distant land located to his right. I passed through without any acknowledgement from him at all, picked up my bag, and with a special thrilled feeling in my heart I pranced down to my boarding gate. I had, at last, gone unnoticed at an airport. *Joy!*

Having some time to wander the airport, I headed off in search of the restroom facilities. For those of you who are like me, be prepared for a bit of a shock here: not all toilets look like our toilets. That’s right. TOILETS are different. I experienced genuine shock. I had NO idea what to do with this:

Squat Toilet

While I was standing at the door peering in, the Japanese women found my confusion to be quite amusing, and kept repeating “squat toilets!” I told them I had no idea how to use the things, and they, again, laughed to themselves. Befuddled, I simply left. Ah well.

I made it to Korea around 8pm, managed to get through all the health-checks and somehow was able to prove that I was not infected with swine flu. By-passing the mandatory quarantine for all persons experiencing headaches, runny-noses and sore-throats, I made it through customs, retrieved my bags and met my taxi-driver. As I was making the hour long trip to my new hometown, I was amazed at the amount of crosses displayed Crossesproudly on buildings in the area. Lit with red or white Christmas-type lights, *hundreds* of crosses illuminated the skyline – there was never a time where I could see less than five crosses within eye-range, and usually it was more like 10+. I found out later that each of those crosses were placed on the rooftops of Christian churches, acting as beacons. It’s pretty crazy sweet and comforting.

I arrived at my temporary apartment around 9:30pm, ready for a nice night’s sleep ~lovely!

Well, that was the adventure of the trip over! I’ll write more about the area and my exciting first day in Korea soon (it involves me going to the Korean hospital and, later, being locked out of my apartment for the weekend ~ oops).

As soon as I find camera batteries, I will post pictures! We love to get emails from home (hint hint ;) and thanks to everyone who was praying for safe travels!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The last night in Charlottetown…

2321973-Travel_Picture-Prince_Edward_IslandWell, my last full Island day is over. 

This afternoon (Tuesday) I head off to Nova Scotia in preparation for my early check-in (6:30am Wednesday!) at the Halifax airport. My bags are packed and nestled silently in my dining room as I prepare myself mentally for the adventure that awaits. Soon, they shall be my sole allies in a world of airports, customs lines and security personnel. Within a single 24 hour time period (starting tomorrow morning), I shall find myself in 4 different countries – Canada, the United States, Japan and finally Korea. 

If I weren’t so horribly unlucky in airports I would probably feel much more confident… but as it stands its security personel – 5, Kate – 0 in terms of quick, non-evasive and efficient travel. That’s right; with every plane trip so far, it’s either been a full bag search or one of those ever-comfortable pat-down experiences. I must look really intimidating or something. I’ve got an experiment planned this time though – I am wearing absolutely nothing that has metal in/on it. Sure, I’ll look a bit frumpy in my oversized hoodie and sweatpants, but hey, at least the security people can keep their hands to themselves! I’ve actually rehearsed getting my laptop out of its bag quickly and have limited the metals in my carry-on to one pocket (for easy retrieval at the x-ray machines). This may seem excessive, but you’ve probably never traveled with me before. Bag checks and pat-downs take time… and I have very limited time between connections. I will post the results of my experiment post arrival. Be excited everyone! :D

In tonight’s “last night on the Island” thoughts, I compiled a sort of list in my head of the top things that I will miss about my homeland:

1. Poutine. Mmmmm, poutine.
2. Bathtubs. Oh, I shall miss thee bubble bath.
3. Clothes dryers. Toasty warm towels and sweaters in winter…
4. English. Due to the convenience factor really.
5. Friends, family and all those other awesome people who live here.

Maggie and Katie
5b. The dog. She may smell, she may eat my supper, but those big eyes just melt my heart.

Yep. Pretty sentimental eh? I’m sure I’ll think of a ton more once I arrive, but for now I’m pretty optimistic of the future.

I’m bringing the camera with me, so this blog shall soon get fancied up a bit, and visualizing our Korean experience shall become much easier!

Oh – a quick note about my packing experience:
To travel economy class we’re allowed two 50lb bags for checked luggage, and 1.5 carry-ons. The .5 is the so called ‘personal item’ that is allotted to each passenger in addition to what I assume they consider to be a ‘true’ carry-on *shrugs*.

Due to the unfortunate fact that I’m gluten-intolerant (can’t eat wheat, rye, barley, bran) and heading to a country where gluten abounds, I had to take food into consideration while packing. Thus, I’ve got one suitcase full of clothes, my pillow (yes, I’m bringing my pillow) and a year’s supply of deodorant (you can’t buy it over there!), while the other is filled with shoes and gluten-free soya sauce, flour, noodles, and seasonings. Oh, and Kool-aid. I can’t forget Kool-aid. My carry-on is carrying comfort and entertainment – my fave blanket, another pillow, my journal, books, toothpaste and brush and a change of clothes. My .5 carry-on holds my laptop, Ipod shuffle and pictures of home.

Due to the strange amount of food I am bringing, I’m not considering my packing to be normal by any means. If, in the future, someone is interested in coming to Korea and is wondering what sorts of things to bring I recommend checking out our more complete packing list, located somewhere in our achieved posts :)

In conclusion, I bid my Island home farewell, say “see you later” to all my Canadian friends and family, and thank anyone in advance who will pray for safe travels and successful airport experiences :)


Monday, July 13, 2009

Segment #3..... of First Impressions

So.....the kids and classes here at GDA....

I have a weird schedule which consists of me working mainly afternoons-early evenings while most other teachers have a morning schedule (as well as some afternoon and evening classes). This schedule might be changing at some point so that I have a regular one as well, but for now I am enjoying three mornings a week of sleeping in (Thursdays and Mondays being the exceptions)...

For future reference there are a few types of classes (in which there are different levels):
  • IK (Intensive Kindergarten--3 levels, I think)
  • AK (Afternoon Kindergarten--not sure how many levels)
  • Returnee (Kids who have been through some of our kindergarten programs and have returned for more!)
  • Speedway (advanced kids, usually around the ages of 10-12)
  • Tutoring (can be any age, usually just one-on-one)

So on Mondays I go to school for 9 like all the other teachers because there is supposedly a meeting for those teaching IK classes (which is everyone) because that is the main thing about GDA (their kindergarten program). This "meeting" is usually about 2 minutes long, if that. Then, because I technically have less teaching hours than the others and we get paid on salary, I am supposed to put in some administrative time from 9-12 (when my regular shift starts). However, they haven't needed me for admin yet so I have been using that time to prep for my classes and this morning I used it to start lesson planning for next month! (a whole other adventure!)...then from 12-1 I prep for my IK class. On Mondays I teach them math, Tuesdays is Science, Wednesdays is Social Studies, Thursdays is math again, and Fridays I work with them on a play as well as reviewing info and just having playtime or drawing time or story time....anyways, I have them until 2:20. There are eight kids in this class and they are SUPER smart but also SUPER energetic. They kinda get out of hand pretty easily, so I have already been working at laying down the law! Raising hands and silence when others are speaking is on the agenda for the next little while or play time! haha....Anyways, then I have to make sure I pack up their things, put on their outdoor shoes, handout GDA stickers (their rewards system here) and take them upstairs where they are herded to buses by the Korean support teachers. Then I get a break till 2:40 when I start my Returnee class (one of the lower levels). On Mondays I teach them Reading Street (basically reading a story and Practice book activities) for two hours. Then at 4:40 I am off!
On Tuesdays I come in for 12, do my lesson prep and start my IK science class until 2:20. At 2:40 I have an AK class for an hour. I teach them listening and basic vocabulary. This is followed by another AK class who I also have for an hour. I teach them phonics. Then I have a break from 4:40-4:50. At 4:50 I have my Speedway class for an hour. I teach them Reading Street (like my Returnee class but at a higher level).
On Wednesdays, I show up at 12 and do the same thing as Monday and Tuesday (except I teach IKs Social Studies). At 2:40 I have my first Returnee class again but this time I teach them science and listening/dictation. At 4:40 I have a break again and then at 4:50 I teach my second returnee class. I teach them Grammar and Science on Wednesdays. I have them for 2 hours so I am done by 6:50.
Thursdays, I go in for 9:30 because I tutor a girl from 9:50-10:50. Basically I just sit and read through stories in a book with her and do the corresponding activities with her.
Then from 10:50-1 I do lesson prep and repeat the process of Tuesday. Except I teach the IK's math....Then, starting this week, I will be tutoring a 12 year old girl at 5:50 for an hour. I guess she is very much a beginner English speaker so it will be very basic vocabulary and such.
Then on Fridays I start at 12, once again and go through the same process as every other day. At 2:40 I have my Returnee class for Grammar for two hours. I get my break and then I have my second returnee class for Reading street (same level as my Speedway class). Then I am done for the weekend by 6:50!!!

Ok so the names and class sizes:
  • IK kids: Gordon, Lu-Mi, Min-ki, Sally, Monica, Nathan, Brian and Emily
  • AK 1-5 kids: Rosie, Rin, Hannah, Jay, James, Sige and Andy
  • AK 1-10 kids: Angel, Yumin, Ray, Tony and Wina
  • Speedway 2.2 kids: Chaemin, Alice and June
  • Returnee 2.1 kids: Ellen, Sally, Maya, Richard, Gabriel, Hyeok-In, Gloria and Annie
  • Returnee 2.2 kids: Jenny and Christy
  • Tutoring--Thursday morning pupil: Stella (IK level)
  • Tutoring--Thursday evening pupil: haven't met her yet!!

So, other than remembering which classroom to go to for all these classes, that's about it! :) I especially love my Speedway girls and my Returnee 2.2 girls...they're a bunch of sweethearts and we just kind of chat for part of the class (as long as they are practicing their English, it's all good!!) ....but don't get me wrong, I like all my other classes too...they are just a little harder to handle sometimes, that's all! :)

Ok, folks...this has been such a long one that I took a break in between to clean my apartment (much needed!) and rearrange my furniture to give it a homier feel....and create a list of things I need to make it feel even MORE like home....however I will probably wait till I have money at the end of the month and till Katie is here to go shopping with me (which is in THREE days!!!)

Love ya'll!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Us vs. the Comment Box

Hello :) Apparently our comment box is being temperamental and not allowing some of our readers to post. I really have no clue how to fix it, and have since discovered that it doesn’t work for me either… if you want to email/facebook us we’d love to hear from you though :)

PS – if anyone knows how to fix this comment box thing, I’d love to know! ~Thanks!

PS#2 – As I was testing the box, I was dismayed to see that my comment to Jen wasn’t working – so Jen, “I love your last post :) I’m greatly enjoying sharing a blog/adventure log.”

Monday, July 6, 2009

Segment #2 of the Continuing Broadcast (wink, wink Katie)

Hello Everyone from little Bundang in Korea!
So the sad news is that I just wrote a nice long blog but my internet quit working so I lost the whole thing :S.... so this will be a shorter one.

So the school, GDA Junior, is eight storeys (yes, that's right, EIGHT storeys): Three are sub-levels (underground) including parking, swimming pool and something else (not sure). Then the ground floor is reception are and bus pick-up/drop-off. Floors 2-4 are classrooms and floor 5 is the teacher's lounge/staff area and gymnasium.

All of the classrooms are named after cities (Montreal, Seattle, Ottawa, etc) which is kind of confusing at first until you realize that they are arranged in alphabetical order. The classrooms are fairly small, given the fact that the cap for class size is 10 students. There is, thankfully, air conditioning in all the rooms ... much needed!!

The teacher's lounge area is pretty nice...everyone gets their own desk. Mine has a class cover on it so I put photos underneath it so now lovely and beloved faces look up at me all the time :) ...
There are two photocopiers, a printer, one wall of bookshelves filled with textbooks/lesson plan ideas/handouts/craft supplies and four computers.

Anyways, this is not a long one...I'm pretty wiped, as per usual....I hope this gives some idea of where I work and where Katie will be working in just under 2 weeks! :D

Peace and Loves!

Segment #2 of this Broadcast (wink, wink, Katie!) - The Deleted Edition :)

Hahahhaa, Jen, I found your previous post in our 'drafts' :) Here it is everyone:

Hello everyone, all the way from Little Bundang in Korea! As promised, here is the next installment of the Korea First Impressions series. :) Enjoy!

So the school, GDA Junior, is a 8 storey structure (yes, EIGHT storeys): 5 are above ground and 3 are sublevels (the lowest one is parking, then a swimming pool, and then something else--not sure). The first floor is the reception area and also where the kids get on the buses. Then floors 2-4 are classrooms and the fifth floor is the teacher's lounge/staff room and gymnasium. So yes, dear friends, that means five flights of stairs....or you could take the elevator ;) far I have tried the stairs as often as I can but humidity and strenuous exercise and teaching rambunctious kids does not always make for the best mixture. Just take it from me...that and the fact that my apartment building has no elevator and I live on the 3rd floor....yeah. I get my exercise...haha!

So anyways, each of the classrooms is named after a city (Seattle, Montreal, Denver, etc)....which is kinda confusing until you realize they go according to alphabetical order. The kindergarten classrooms are kinda small but equipped with air conditioning! :) The other classrooms are a much better size...The staff room is quite large....all the teachers have their own desks and there are four computers for lesson planning, etc (plus, we are allowed using them to check email and such if we are not busy or no one needs them for school business), there are two photocopiers and a shelves full of lesson plan ideas/handouts/textbooks/craft supplies. I have to say I love having my own desk. It has a glass cover that I have slid some photos underneath so I have lovely and beloved faces looking up at me all the time....I also have a little shelving unit for my curriculum books...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Korea!! Some first impressions....

Alright everyone! Here I am, in my small apartment in Korea after having finished my third day of teaching. Let me say, it is hard work, but very rewarding! I am currently SO joke, so I will try to write this as quickly as possible. I have several things to talk about so I will divide this blog into sections.

Section #1. Where I live
So I am in a tiny apartment...wood floors, single bed, armoire, desk/chair, fan (SO IMPORTANT because it is HUMID here), low coffee-table type thing, TV/cable, internet, a mold infested fridge, a two burner stove,a sink and NO counter space....a few cupboards and two shelving system things...all in one room. My washer is in a closet (no dryer) and of course my bathroom is in a different room. The shower is typical of Korean homes--just a drain in the middle of the room and the water sprays everything so I have to make sure the toilet paper and such are out of the way so they don't get wet!
Hmmm, what else...oh yes, I have a tiny window in the bathroom and a slightly larger one that is covered in tin foil (yes, tin foil...apparently, a lack of curtains or something) in the main room....these windows have a picket fence type thing in front of them so you can't really see in or out...sorta between the cracks. It's really weird and hard to explain and sucks a bit. But my time spent in basement apartments helps! haha...these windows are ALWAYS open. I have not closed them once because to do so would warrant an early death perhaps, due to not being able to breathe in the heat.
...oh and when I first arrived, I couldn't get the hot water to work so I had about 5 days worth of cold showers...which was interesting and not horrible because it is so hot...but I was glad when we figured the situation showers are definitely a luxury I don't want to overlook!

Apart from these things there is not much more to my living situation....I will write some more installments of first impressions as I find time and energy to do so!! I have not forgotten the reading audience!

The next few installments:
Section #2. GDA (the School itself)
Section #3. Students/Classes
Section #4. What I have explored

Peace All!!