A Travellerspoint blog

4 Weeks Down for "Gobb-Reel Tee-cha"

by gabrielle

sunny 55 °F

Today marks the end of my fourth week in Korea! I can't believe it! I'm proud to say I can now navigate the subway with ease, I know all the English channels on cable, I had a Korean American friend translate my washing machine for me so I can now do a load in under an hour and a half, I have learned to say "no spam, please" in Korean, and I even have a punch card at my neighborhood coffee shop... I'm such a local!
Here is a pic of my washing machine... what would you do??
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In this blog entry I am going to jump around and share any note worthy events/stories of the past three weeks so here it goes! First, school/work related stories and tidbits.

Kids Day Out
Each Friday of the month there is some kind of special activity such as a birthday party (for any kids who had their birthday during that month and whose parents chose to pay for it), a "special art activity", a "special cooking activity" or a field trip. My second Friday here we had our first field trip of the new school year which means it was the first EVER school outing for my students being the youngest. We found out the day before we were going to a children's museum but that's about all the briefing the teachers received. We helped the kids change from their indoor shoes back into their outdoor shoes and each piled onto 6 different bus/vans with our own students. I noticed as we were driving away from the school that I was so busy helping the kids change their shoes, i forgot to change mine! I was still wearing my slip-on indoor shoes! Not only were my feet cold all day, but all the other adults and some of the more observant students got a real kick out of it! Here is the Panda Class on the bus:
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Walking to and from the buses into the museum was quite a sight to behold. The kids have learned "make a train" where they put their hands on the shoulders of the classmate in front of them. Sure, they stay together this way...somewhat but since they are SO close they end up stepping on the heels of the kid in front of them, fall down and consequently knock down the entire line and all start crying! The best part was when they started getting distracted and wandering off I said "no, no, hands on shoulders!" assuming they would reassemble their train but instead they froze and put their hands on their own shoulders thinking i was trying to start the "head and shoulders, knees and toes" song! Ooops!
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I've decided that my favorite thing about school so far is riding the elevator with the kids. Our school is located on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the building so when we have bus duty or any special trip, the teachers ride up and down the elevator with the 11 or so students to and from the bus/vans. It's hilarious because they are packed in there like sardines with their little backpacks and puffy coats and it feels like you're knee deep in a sea of kids! I took some pictures of them while we were on our way to the field trip and tried to get them all to look up at me. I was moderately successful but the attempt made for one of my favorite pictures so far!
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Freckles
I have the cartilage in the middle of my right ear pierced (officially called the Rook of my ear) and a student named Yena was studying me curiously and asked why I have an earring in the middle of my ear. This a valid question I have never really stopped to think about so my lame response to her was that I just liked the spot. I then asked her if she wanted to get her ears pierced and she said she would when she's a grown up. I asked her when she thought she would be a grown up and she answered excitedly, "16. Are you 16?" I said no and she seemed very perplexed. She continued, "maybe you're 17? It's hard to tell because you have a whole bunch of little spots on your face." I told her they were called freckles and she may or may not have understood. :) I'm spreading the love of Angel Kisses across Asia already!

Gabrielle Teacher's Hair Salon
I had a discussion with some friends a few years ago who were telling me all about the frustrations and particulars that come along with having "black hair." They only half jokingly said that if I ended up in a situation where i needed to style black hair, I better have someone teach me how because it wasn't okay to put a little girl's hair up in a poofy ball and send her on her way. I promised them i would learn if the occasion arose ... and then there was third period in the Panda Class. Two of my little Korean girls started taking out their hair ties/bows/clips etc, giggled then looked to me to put their "do" back together. Asian hair is pretty slippery and fine but i managed to get Katie's ballerina bun back the way it was and Joy's pony tail and braid secure in it's place. As i was tending to these two, my little Crystal starting taking out her barrettes too. Crystal had a more intricate style going on with various kinds of twists and pony tails i have never attempted before. Of course the area that needed attention was right in front so I tried my best to make it look nice. I twisted a few pieces and braided a few others and reattached the barrettes to the best of my abilities. Luckily, she is so darn cute that i don't think my amateur hair styling held her back too much. It's hard to see in the picture but I'm so curious what her mother said when she came home! Either way, now I couldn't possibly agree more with my friends; styling black hair is no cake walk! Here's Crystal:
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Gobb-reel Tee-cha
I acknowledge that "Gabrielle" is a difficult name to pronounce, it's been a problem my whole life. I have been pleased with how well my coworkers and some of the older kids have done with the pronunciation. I think i have only had to say "no, it's a long "A"" once which must be a record for moving to a new place! My two American students caught on pretty quickly around the second week but week three is when it all came together for the Korean kids. I don't know what happened but i came in one morning last week to see a room full of hopping children and a chorus of "Gobb-reel Tee-cha! Gobb-reel Tee-Cha!" These three year olds are so stinkin' cute it just melted my heart (as my mom says :))! Now, at the end of week four they are all calling me some version of my name and remember to say "please" more often than not and I'm quite proud.

My "Kid's say the Darndest Things" award for this update goes to Aiden. Aiden is one of my Panda Class Korean students who I honestly felt hasn't taken to me like the my other students have. He is a bit too chatty (which i can relate to) and I am constantly getting after him for not sitting properly in his chair. He never clings to me at play time or hugs my legs like the other kids do and I couldn't figure out why. Luckily, before i could lose sleep over it, Aiden came in on Monday morning, put his finger tips on his head as if he were making the "M" from the YMCA song and boldly said, "Teacher, I love you!" He was then echoed (with the same YMCA "M" that i figured out is a heart) by three or four other students! Even though he is still too chatty and can't keep his feet on the ground, i feel our relationship has made some progress as he's made a habit this week out of this "M"/heat declaration of love! Awww, I'm such a sucker!

Here are some pics of the kids during "Happy Zoo Day" where animals are brought to school for them to pet.
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It rained for the first time last week and the kids were all decked out in their rain gear with umbrellas and these adorable galoshes! Leo even wore a poncho! I hate the rain but I can handle it every now and then if it means they wear these cute little boots!
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As for how I'm feeling about the job in general... things are improving but only because I'm getting used to things. If I am being perfectly honest I would have to say I don't like my job. However, I am grateful to have one, I am grateful to be here, I like the city and my coworkers and i really love the kids. My mom reminded me that I have a really important and influential job being with these kids so much during their developmental years and I take that seriously. So I will complain regularly, that's for sure but I am managing and I think this year will be a monumental learning experience for me. Good thing the kids are so darn cute! That helps!
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And now some fun, non work related things:

"So Asian"
There are a few things that stick out to me as "so Asian" and I mean this as a totally, completely, absolutely positive thing. An example would be flashing the peace sign when having your picture taken! Sure, it may seem excessive or unnecessary at times but in four weeks I have already gotten into it myself! Think about it... it's positive, non threatening, consistent and it gives you something to do with yourself when posing for a picture! Here are some examples:
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Another "so Asian" thing I've quickly grown to love is the cutesyness everywhere. People of all ages sport Hello Kitty and other overly cutesy things in the form of bags, supplies and even bank check books. My bank here is very nice and highly regarded yet they offer these adorable checkbooks splashed with little digi-critters of some sort! It's just such an explosion of fun!
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My number one fave cutesy thing here are the cell phone charms. Almost everyone has some kind of charm/object/ stuffed animal/bedazzled phrase, you name it hanging from their cell phone. There is no limit to the size or ridiculousness of the object. I have seen stuffed creatures that were larger than the phones themselves, mini drumsticks and other meat products, fringe, full statements, and every animal and character you can think of! The rule of thumb seems to be the sparklier the better! As soon as i knew I'd be living in Asia i have been dreaming up what my own adorable little charm would be and have had my heart set on a bedazzled bear. Each subway stop i pass through i scan the racks of charms looking for my perfect bear and have left disappointed as the choices were too flat or too large or too expensive. This past Saturday we went shopping in the main shopping area that has stores as well as street vendors and I had SOOO many charms to choose from. After combing through rack after rack and sticking to my 5,000 won price limit (about $4.75) I found my perfect charm am thrilled about it!
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The shopping haven is called Myeong Dong and it pretty darn amazing! There are stores like Forever 21, Gap and H&M as well as tons of Korean boutiques and stores I will love exploring throughout the year. Swhite and I wandered around for about 6 hours and had a ball! Being a Saturday the streets and shops were so packed but I still managed to sneak pics of some of the peculiar snacks the street vendors were selling.
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Let's start it off simple with this ENORMOUS ice cream cone!
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Moving right along to the heavily battered and fried meat on a stick with attached crinkle cut french fries on the right, or hotdog wrapped in bacon on the left.
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And here we have assorted dried foods including an entire squid! YUMMY right??
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I am not quite sure what this shop is selling but they should really fire their marketer because this mouth thing is horrible!
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One of my favorite parts about being in a non English speaking country is all the phrases that get lost in translation, especially on t-shirts. The most epic example of all was seen on a woman in Thailand this past fall at a 7-11. She was wearing a shirt that said, "my balls itch." I don't think that one will ever be topped but here are some of our faves from a a store in Myeong Dong:
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"New York To Rondon" (Swhite bought this one)
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"Stoic is necessary to do doing only now"
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"Truck Furniture Maker" (Swhite bought this one, too)
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"Fashion Must Goon!"
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"Maliubu 90265" Who knew that zip code mattered? Haha Love it!

Since the director of our school (and my boss) just had her baby yesterday she hasn't been into work for more than 10 minutes in my four weeks here which means my Korean coworkers are the re-layers of any information/questions/concerns. When i first arrived and they asked me how my apartment was I told them honestly that is was very dirty and it was missing lots of the furnishings i was expecting the biggest of which being a desk. The didn't seem to concerned with my desire for a desk but they did ask me about my toilet seat which only had one hinge so it kind of slides back and forth. I was trying to be selective about what i complain about and chose to focus mainly on the desk but they were all about the toilet seat. For the next three days they kept telling me, "your toilet seat will be here tomorrow" and eventually it did arrive...
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Yup, that's two classy bears holding tennis rackets and it says "Who knows? Maybe a bear doll you bring home will be a family treasure some day." What was going through the mind of the person who picked this out? Heck, what was going through the mind of the person who made this toilet?? Absolutely ridiculous.

As far as the desk is concerned I asked about it for the 4th time on Wednesday and was told it would arrive at the school on Friday. I guess asking for it to be delivered it my apartment would be too much to ask. And believe it or not, asking for a chair was too much to ask. When they said it would be delivered and told me i would have to take it home to assemble it myself i naturally asked about the chair too. They looked at my like I just asked them to donate a kidney and responded "was a chair in your contract too?" How do you respond to that? Do servers ask if you if you ordered a plate with you spaghetti? I was baffled! So it turns out "furnished apartment" although promised by my manipulative recruiter meant desk and chair, that is not what it meant to my boss and I was told I have to buy a chair myself if I want one. Since the desk is huge and I ride the subway home, I took a cab instead and shared the backseat with my new desk. Sigh.
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Lastly I wanted to comment on one Korean cultural aspect I really like, and one that drives me nuts! I have noticed that all of my Korean coworkers ALWAYS take the time to say "you're welcome" in response to "thank you" and i really appreciate it. My dad is a major grammar and manners buff and he has passed on his pet peeve of people responding to "thank you" with something other than "you're welcome" such as "no problem," "yup", "uh huh" or "sure." It took me hearing it all the time now for me to notice how rarely i hear "your welcome" back home. Since my coworkers are pretty much the only Koreans i know who speak English as this point they are the only examples I have but i think it may be standard here.

Ironically, my cultural jeer is the exact opposite and extremely not polite in my opinion. There is no chivalry in Korea! Korea as a culture puts males on a pedestal that women can't even see! Men don't give up their seats on the subway to women ever! The subways are so packed and i was flabbergasted to see two twenty-something boys sitting down with two elderly women standing right it front of them. The only time I have ever seen someone give up their seat was for a pregnant lady and there are signs that suggest that's some kind of rule so that hardly counts. And on elevators, men always get out first and they make sure of it. For example, if i were the only person in the elevator and an older man got on, he would position himself right in front of me with his back to me almost as if to block me. Men do not hold open doors either, not even the courtesy push to to keep it open a millisecond longer as they are going through. It drives me crazy! So thank goodness for the common courtesies we have back home!

Well, I think that's all I have for now! I have uploaded more pictures than the ones in the post itself so be sure to click on the "more photos" link on the right hand side to check them out too!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 04:49 Archived in South Korea Comments (2)

First Impressions

by sarah

sunny 50 °F

I know this is a bit late for ‘first impressions’ blog, but it still feels like I just got here so I’ll just start from the top!

My arrival was pretty similar to Gabrielle’s in that I was picked up by someone who spoke no English (turns out he is the Assistant Director, but so far all me and the other teachers have seen him do is drive the bus) and escorted to my apartment, and then told to be at work on time the next morning. I was told that I would have 3 days of training, which was quickly shortened to 1 day, and then only a half hour! I was given a brief overview of how things were run, told to watch one class, and then I was given a room of 12 four year olds to teach all by myself. My director was aware of the fact that I had no previous teaching experience, but they were extremely short staffed and needed me to start immediately. I was never given any more formal training, and just kinda had to figure it all out for myself. It’s been three weeks already, and I’m just starting to get the hang of it.

My school day consists of five 40 minute kindergarten classes and then four 40 minute elementary classes. The day actually goes by really quickly which has been a blessing. I really enjoy one of my elementary classes. They are a teacher’s dream, really! They are all very eager to learn and really well behaved. The other class, however, is full of terrors! I refer to them as my ‘naughty boy class’ because that is exactly what they are! I told my parents (who are both educators and know all about bad students) that it is like every bad kid from each class was put in one room and I got them. They have been a huge struggle for sure. The most difficult part is that there is no discipline in place as the school, and I get zero support from my director. It has been hard to keep them under control because of this. I tried to ask my director for help, and she told me to send them to her if they are really bad, which I tried to do, and she then rewarded the student with pizza for crying! It has been very frustrating. I know it will just take time though, and the boys need to get used to me. I have already started to see a slight improvement, which is very promising.

My entire school!
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Things at my school aren’t too bad. I teach mostly the ‘second year kinders’, which is normal kindergarten for us (I think…still figuring out the age thing here!). The most difficult part has, like I said, been because of my director. We are currently looking for another English speaking Korean, and actually went through 5 girls in 3 days! They quit on the spot, observed a class and then quit, or heard her demands from them (such as making the elementary lesson plans for the entire school!). The school is super disorganized and there are hardly any materials to work with. For each class I teach (Phonics, Theme, Story Time and Journal) there is only one book to get material from, and it usually fills about 5 minutes of time, so I have to come up with most things myself. It’s been easier than I thought; just a little annoying considering one of the main selling points for coming to the school was that the lesson plans are all prepared for you! Like I said though, I am starting to get the hang of things so hopefully it will just get easier and easier!

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My one last complaint is that Gabrielle and I have different vacation times! We were both super bummed when we found out since it had never crossed our minds that that was even a possibility. Turns out my director is notorious for choosing weeks that we either already have a public holiday in, or splitting the 5 work days up (like she has done for my ‘Christmas’ holiday) so that they are a Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday so that you only get one weekend with it. That was definitely annoying to find out, but again something I can live with.
I also have a TINY apartment, with no daylight so it is a little bit like living in a cave, but I’m even getting used to that.
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I’m pretty laid back and good at just going with the flow so things haven’t gotten to me too much yet. I have gotten pretty frustrated with my director a few times, but usually within a few hours I’m over it and able to move on, which is really nice. G and I have already realized that we just need to leave work stuff at work and have an awesome time the rest of the time!

The kids are pretty darn adorable too, so that has made things much easier! I already have a few favorites, but I’m trying not to show it too much! Today one of my classes had to write about things they like, and one little girl showed me her book and all it said was ‘I like Sarah Teacher!’ which was pretty cute. I was also teaching my elementary kids about how some animals have fur and some have feathers. The next day I was helping a kid at his desk and he started petting my arm hair saying ‘teacher’s feathers are so soft!’ Haha! I also have a little kinder that is so adorable and eager to learn that he repeats EVERY single thing I say. Like G mentioned, there are some funny names, and this little guy is Hans. I also have a Dino, which is cool! My youngest class always calls me ‘Minky Teacher’, and I asked one of the Korean teachers if she new why, and she said that Minky is a animated Japanese princess warrior that they all think I look like!

Hans
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Minky!
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Last Friday was my birthday and some of the kids found out, so I received two used Pokémon cards and a vitamin C as gifts! My director did get me a cake as well which was very nice! I then went to gabrielle’s and had more cake and lots of fun birthday celebrating!
As far as living in Seoul, I love it!! It has already been so nice living in a city where anything you need is within reach. Gabrielle and I are about 40 minutes apart, which sucks, but I’ve just been spending the weekend at hers so we’ve managed! The nightlife here is amazing and we’re already met some really cool people. This city is enormous and we’ve hardly scratched the surface so far, so I’m excited to see more and more of it. We did manage to make it to the huge shopping area and it was so overwhelming! We’ll need to dedicate at least two whole days to it in order to cover it all, but I think we’re both up for that challenge! As gabrielle mentioned we've both been loving the food here (I was a little worried that it'd be too spicy for me, but it is soooo good!) so it have been fun attempting to order things and have no idea what we're getting. We found a Tesco (English supermarket) and went there to get some grocery and discovered an amazing food court that we'll definitely have to head back to. We actually have plans to go there again this week! You select your dish from a display case (very helpful with this whole language barrier thing) and then are told which cook to go to.

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Seoul is also one of the safest cities in the world, with hardly any crime at all. Some people leave their houses unlocked and it’s not uncommon to see purses or bags unattended without any thought of someone stealing it. In a city of over 10 million people it is pretty impressive that it has managed to stay that way. It is also really refreshing to live somewhere that I feel so safe!

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I’m pretty oblivious to most things, and honestly haven’t witnessed too many cultural differences, so I feel like I’m settling into my routine nicely. I think the only time I really experience culture shock is when I return to the US after being gone a while, so I’m just loving being somewhere new again! It has also been beyond amazing to have Gabrielle here! There is only one other foreign teacher at my school, and we really get along, but he is purely here to save money and not really into going out and doing things, so I think it would have been pretty hard to meet people.

It’s pretty crazy how fast the week seems to go by here and I know that all of a sudden I’ll be in my last month instead of my first, so I just plan on making the most of my time here!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 04:21 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

Week #1: Roller Coaster of Emotion

by Gabrielle

semi-overcast 40 °F

I touched down in Incheon airport outside Seoul at about 6 pm on Sunday night. Even though I left Seattle at 1 pm the previous day I had only been flying for 11 hours... what a crazy time difference! After collecting my bags I quickly spotted a friendly looking older fellow holding a sign with my name. I acknowledged him and he nodded and immediately took over pushing my cart out to his cab van. Not one word was spoken and he didn't even make eye contact! Once in the front seat he asked me in Korean if I spoke Korean. When I said no, he said "teacher?" I said yes, and that was as far as we got during the entire silent 30 minute trip into the city! I found myself super embarrassed that I didn't even know how to say hello in Korean. I mean, who do I think I am moving across the world to a new country and not know one ounce of vocab? I was quite disappointed in myself and vowed to make a serious effort to learn key phrases asap!

The driver helped me carry my four bags up to my new home on the 11th floor of my 17 floor building located right on a main street in a surprising quiet area of the city. I googled my subway stop to see what my neighborhood is called officially and it's called Yeongdeungpo Dong, in Yeongdeungpo Gu (Dong meaning neighborhood, Gu meaning district). My google search said "what dong is Aeogae stop in?" and the unfamiliar words caused google to ask "did you mean: what song is algae stop in?" haha oh google! My apartment is at the end of the hall which I hear is lucky because those apartments are much wider than the ones blocked in on both sides. I have a big window with a nice view of the street and what I can see of the surrounding area. The room was not cleaned after the previous renter moved out (a mere 20 hours earlier I was told) so I had to do some serious cleaning and toss out some old bras, socks and other personal items. The place was not equipped with all the essentials I was promised so I have had to buy some things I wasn't expecting too but luckily they have been cheap and I am happy with what I have. Now I am settled and think I will be very comfortable here! Below are some pics of the new crib: my building, neighborhood and window views...
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A fellow teacher came to greet me Sunday evening who I have been emailing for the past two months and said she would be showing me how to get to school in the morning for my first day on the job. Our school is located in Apgujeong, or "the Beverly Hills of Seoul" and is a 40 minute commute by subway. The city of over 10 million is so huge, our commute is pretty standard and something many people do daily. I was introduced to the other 4 American teachers, as well as the 5 Korean women who make up the rest of the staff. The little cuties arrive on the bus (van) about 9:20 and class starts at 9:40 am. I must say I was blown away by how cute these kids are! There are about 65 students at the school which is considered a private kindergarten but is actually a 3 year preschool program. Of the 65, about 15-20 are non Korean. Mostly American kids with parents stationed here in the military. My home room class is the Panda Room and I have 11 three year olds, 9 Korean and 2 American. Koreans call babies one year old when they are born so when our babies turn one, theirs are turning two so my class is referred to as 4-5 years old when they are actually 3 and will be turning 4 at some point this year. My first day was spent shadowing my fellow teacher who has the other class of 3 year olds in the Koala Room. These kids are now being exposed to English pretty much for the first time and they are so young the just kind of look at you curiously and speak to you in Korean anyway. The day is set up with 6 periods lasting 30 minutes each, a one hour lunch and three 10 minute breaks. I have my home room class for 3-5 of those 30 minute periods per day and teach them phonics, vocabulary, writing and reading. Most of the kids leave by 2:20 but then there are two after school periods that last 40 minutes each and focus on specific subjects that parents can pay extra for their kids to take such as English math, music, tae-kwon do, story telling etc. Each of the 6 of us foreign teachers has a home room class and then a specialty that they teach to each class/2 classes per grade level once a week. Mine is arts and crafts which is fun but tough as supplies are extremely limited and I don't want to spend my own money. The 6 of us also teach specific after school classes to the various age groups. Mine are music on Mondays to the 3 year olds, storytelling to the 3 year olds on Tuesdays, and English math to the older two groups on Thursdays and Fridays. I have 3 periods off of the 30 during regular school hour periods each week.

The biggest and most outrageous curve ball so far is that we do not have a curriculum and are in charge of making our own lesson plans! Yes, you read that right. Apparently there are workbooks on the way that make writing lesson plans much easier but they are not currently in so we honestly search the web and use our own creativity to decide how to teach these kids English (flash cards, lots of coloring, simple songs etc). Tuesday was my first day on my own and saying I was extremely overwhelmed, exhausted beyond belief, uncontrollably frustrated and very upset would be a HUGE understatement. These kids are soooo young! Back in the States these kids would be in daycare, end of story but here I am expected to teach them a second language with no direction? What did I get myself into? From reading blogs and forums and from other personal travel experience I knew that things would be embellished in my contract and a lot of unexpected and unfortunate things would come up but I never imagined it would be to such a magnitude right off the bat. Essentially, I was devastated and feared for the year I was in for. Luckily, Swhite is here too and when we met up on Tuesday night I cried, then unloaded on her and felt 10 time better already. Turns out her school is outrageously disorganized too, actually even more so. The other foreign teachers at my school all seem to have a really, healthy, carefree approach to all the frustrations of the job which I think comes from having been here longer and having had time to adjust. I am so glad I have 5 such fantastic resources in my coworkers to help me through all this. From what I know so far they are all really great people and will be super helpful coworkers as well as some good friends for the next while. Tuesday night after parting ways with Swhite I tried really hard to collect myself and be positive and acknowledge this will be a huge challenge for me but I will get the hang of it and things would be fine. I reminded myself that change is hard and living in a foreign country is hard and in the past when I lived in the Dominican Republic for a semester as well as in Charleston, things weren't all rainbows and butterflies right away then either so I just need to calm down and take things one day at a time. I am pleased to report that this attitude worked out and Wednesday was an immense improvement from Monday and Tuesday. After 5 full days I feel like the kids are already starting to respond to me better and I will soon get the hang of lesson planning and become a better judge of the students levels and capabilities and can plan the lessons more appropriately. It's extremely tough with kids so young because they need to be constantly engaged but any activity, worksheet or game only holds their attention for about 5 minutes then they're crying or fighting or coloring or up out of their seat messing around! All I can say is it'll take some time. But enough of all that stressful stuff... here are some pictures of the little darlings so prepare for cuteness overload!!
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Since we are here on a working visa sponsored by our employer we had to have a health check for insurance purposes. I went early on Thursday morning with another teacher who arrived just 2 weeks before me. We were whisked around an impeccably clean doctors office at 150 miles an hour to various rooms for various tests including a chest x-ray, hearing test, EKG heart test, colorblindness test, urine assessment, blood test, dental screening which consisted of them sticking a fancy flashlight/camera in my mouth that projected to a computer screen where they claimed I have a cavity (which I don't according to my check up in Washington just 2 weeks before)! I have great vision but I had to do an impossible vision test in which the letters looked like like flees as my coworker pointed out. We were wondering "is this a joke??" you would have to have to be a superhero with x-ray vision to see those letters! Someone must have slipped them a $50 or something to get us back to school before class because the two of us completed all of these tests in under an hour! After the health check we rushed off to set up our bank accounts and a Korean teacher from our school was there to translate and help us fill out our application. When she filled it out our names had to be written in Korean so they just spell out our English names phonetically using Korean characters. I asked her to write mine out because I think it looks so neat! See??
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Realizing I have never had a real, consistent job with a full 9 hour day, I was absolutely pooped by Friday! I took a nap after work then Swhite and I took off around midnight to hit the town (the night life happens later here, leave a midnight on the last subway run, then return home at 5 am the earliest one the next day)! We were supposed to meet up with some people from work but since I don't have a phone yet we didn't connect in time so Swhite and I ventured out on our own. I read there are 22,000 foreign English teachers in Seoul and 28,000 US military personnel (I have since been told there are way more but the exact number is undisclosed) but the city is so huge that I have only seen 1 or 2 non Koreans per day this first week. However, Itaewon, the area full of restaurants, bars and clubs nearest to the military base is crawling with foreigners to the point that it's nicknamed "little America." Swhite and I decided to go out there since we knew we'd have a better shot finding signs and menus in English, something that will be problematic until we learn the Korean alphabet. We found a a fun Latin club with a really diverse crowd and had a lot of fun! We met a new Air Force friend who kindly showed us to another two clubs after the Latin bar closed at 3 am and we danced and had a great time until we took a cab home just after 5 am... a very successful first night out!

Saturday we met up with some teachers from my school to go to a St. Patrick's day festival in a really nice area of the city. As we searched for the festival we passed a Starbucks that had the name "Starbucks" written in Korean instead of English. Apparently it's the only Starbucks location in the world with the moniker written in another language but English!
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Swhite and I got lost trying to find the festival around three pm but fortunately ran into some legit Irish girls with Irish flags painted on their faces who showed us the way. It was "the luck of the Irish" that we found them one said in her adorable accent! The festival was a quad type area and was packed with just about every foreigner living in the city! There was an Irish jig band playing Dropkick Murphys and a U2 cover band! It was really fun! The best part was that the banner said "Sponsored by the Korean Irish Association"... who ever thought that that existed! The craziest part was that I ran into someone from Bellingham that my brother went to high school with! We chatted a bit and he is here to teaching English too but seriously! What are the odds of that?
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From the festival we went to a traditional, local restaurant where we sat on the floor and ate "family style" out of the pans of food on the burners that were on our table. So delicious! Fortunately we were with a co-worker who had Korean friends who came too, otherwise we never would have managed to order such a complex meal! Swhite and I both get lunch at school and are pleased to say we love the food! It's can be pretty spicy but it's full of flavor and never leaves you feeling heavy. Now we just need to learn the names of things so we can go to restaurants and order without pointing at pictures and playing charades with the servers!
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After only a week I have noticed, observed and learned of so many cultural differences and intricacies that I plan to blog about but I think I will save it for next time as this weeks "review" has become pretty lengthy! I do plan to always include a "Kid's Say the Darnedest Things" type section each post because I just know there will be many! So this week I need to talk about Jose, yes Jose. The Korean parents choose an English name for their child that is easier for the foreign teachers to pronounce and write, sometimes it's part of their Korean name simplified and sometimes the parents just google popular American names and choose that way, which is what we assume Jose's parents did! :) Anyway, this little guy thinks he's Rocky and spends most of his breaks stretching, doing push ups and asking you to feel his muscles! Well when I was doing an art project with his class on Wednesday he asked me how to spell my name, "are" and "best" and then presented me with a too cute drawing that says " I love you Gabrielle you are the best" and there is a hand with fingernails and a bracelet that says " i love you you are a (picture of a rainbow). TOO CUTE! I have it on my wall in my apartment :) Another little cutie in that same 5-6 year old class asked me to write "love" on the board and when I did he said "no, you have to make a heart for the O, that's how my mom says it's spelled!" ...bless it! Here is Jose...
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Swhite and I decided to do this blog together and will both post entries when we feel we have interesting things to share so look forward to hearing about her first week on a post coming soon!

Posted by 3ifBySEA 01:05 Archived in South Korea Comments (3)

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