Thursday, March 22, 2012

Overworked Students and Food Food Food

So, my third week as a teacher is almost over and some things have happened.

First of all, I was sick all week thanks to one of the little munchkins, and I hope this doesn't become a pattern because teaching while sick is a major bummer.  It's hard to lead a class when you don't have a voice, and harder still when you have to duck out of the room every five minutes to blow your nose (I overheard my co-worker telling her class "Either Andy has a cold or there is an elephant outside!).  But as Friday rolls in, I'm finally feeling better, so I figure a blog post is necessary.

Today I'll finish working through the books that we were given when we first started, and so yesterday I went and asked my principal what book I should begin using next week.  "Oh, just look through the library, we have lots of books in there."  So three weeks in and I have complete flexibility on what I can teach my classes.  This is exciting, and daunting at the same time.  I have a really hard time judging where a lot of my students rank in their English speaking ability, and after looking through a ton of different books I'm still not sure which one to pick.  So I've decided to experiment with various ones, and hope I land on one that works and that students also enjoy.

Speaking of students' enjoyment- they don't enjoy much.  The poor kiddos come to me after a full day of school, and many of them go to other private schools or after school activities before I see them.  So by the time they plop down in their desks in my little classroom, they're all hungry, cranky and tired.  I played hangman with a class last week and one student chose as her clue "I hate Kim Yong Jin English Language School."  I had to commend her on her English ability, but I felt bad for her at the same time.  It's a big struggle to get a lot of my students engaged, and I can tell they don't want to be here at all.  It's hard to strike a balance between being a 'fun' teacher and actually teaching them worthwhile information, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to perfect it.  But as long as I can get my students smiling just a little bit while they use English, I feel a bit better about forcing them to learn.

On other fronts, living in South Korea is great.  The food continues to be shockingly cheap, unless its western food.  For example, we bought a huge bag of lettuce, 2 pounds or so of carrots and a large bushel of green onions for only 5,000 won (less than $5.00).  However, it costs the same amount to buy one small tub of cream cheese, so we're struggling to change our habits while still retaining some of the comforts of home.  So while we've had to cut down on our bagel intake, we've upped the amount of eggs we eat tenfold (we go through about 30 a week).  Bread is much more plentiful than we expected, but almost all of it is very sweet.  Lots of things that shouldn't be are sweet actually, as Ashley says "everything is sweet here except the desserts!"

The weather also plays a lot bigger role in our days than it did back home.  Because we don't have a car and walk 20 minutes to work each day, rainy days are much more frustrating and sunny days that much more welcome.  I was able to steal an adorable bright yellow umbrella that one of the students left behind, complete with plenty of "Konglish" (Korean-English) phrases and a lovely orange frill.

But enough about the weather, and more about the food.  Eating here is a daily adventure, as we can only read about 25% of any given menu.  Last night we found an orange shop with an English menu and we were in heaven.  We'll definitely be visiting that one again.  Orange shops are everywhere here- they specialize in a food called kimbap that looks like sushi but has no raw fish inside.  Instead, its typically made with spam, processed fish cake, pickled radish and carrots all wrapped in rice(bap) and seaweed(kim).  They have them with many other types of fillings, but the one I just described is always available and always super cheap (less than a dollar).  They also have plenty of other standard Korean fare, and its never over 4000 won (so less than 4 dollars for a dish).  It's a little like American diners in that they always have about the same menu, but they're much healthier (or so I like to imagine).  I've fallen in love with one dish called yache mandu ddeokbokki, basically the ddeokbokki I mentioned in an earlier post with dumplings and vegetables thrown in.  YUM.  Here's a link to a translated menu if you A: want to know what kind of food you can get for cheap when you come visit me or B: stumbled upon this blog while living in Korea and would like to navigate the complicated orange shops yourself.

That's enough babbling for now, more later!

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