Monday, April 2, 2012

Email update #2

The second email home was a lot more positive :) 

Hello all!

So I've decided that this is actually so much easier, and although therate of emails will decrease thoughout the year, there is so much totell at the moment that a bulk email is easier. If you don't want toget these emails (and I won't be offended) then just tell me and I'lltake your name off :) OK, admin, done.
Saw this on Facebook today and thought it was super appropriate:"There is no oil if olives are not squeezed; no wine if grapes are notpressed; no perfume if flowers are not crushed. So if you feel underpressure, don't worry, beacuse God is just bringing out the BEST inyou".

Hearing back from some of you has been amazing, and I have enjoyed afew Skype sessions with friends and family - yes I got my internetworking. BOOYA! So please, keep the emails coming, I want to knowwhat's happening in the very sunny and warm SA.

A lot has happened since we last spoke and I didn't want to leave youall with the image of me stuck in a shabby little apartment getting myfeet wet every time I brush my teeth for too long. Yes, my apartmentstill sucks. But, I'm making it feel like home and am adjusting. I'myet to find out where exactly I live (address wise) but am hoping thatby the end of the week I will be able to send and recieve post (andcare packages, hint hint ;)) Yes Nanna, this means you will begettting a hand-written letter from me soon! My city is lovely - Ifeel it is the perfect size. Big enough to explore and not get toobored in but not too big that I can't find anything. I walkeverywhere, and on a few occassions I have found myself withsnowflakes in my hair, as it has been VERY cold here lately. There aremore foreigners here than I expected and have met a lot of new peoplewho don't live far from me which is amazing. It's a tight, very closecommunity of 'waygooks' (foreigners) who live here so it's great.There are only 1 or 2 pub places to go to but plenty of restaurants.Things defiitely are NOT as cheap as I was hoping...but maybe once Iget paid that will change. Fruit especially is such a luxury here, andKorean pears are amazing!

I've overcome some pretty big challenges: I was sent to get my 'AlienRegistration Card' on my own (usually a co-teacher comes with) and itwas a 2 hour bus ride to the immigration department and a whole dayspent trying to figure out what on earth I needed to do. I'vecommunicated via my charade skills that I have a cold and needmedication, and it seems I was given the right stuff cos I can breatheagain (go me). I have caught a train and multiple busses. I haveconnected my internet. I have taken out the trash (yes, an easy thingin SA but here there is such a process and 'wrongful recycling' is acriminal offence - recycling is not something I ever thought I'd bescared of the cops for). I have sung 'Lemon Tree' and 'Hey Jude" withmy staff, had soju with my Vice Principle, eaten 'cow stomach' andpretended to like it and most of all, I have survived my first weekteaching. This is not to blow my own horn, but to show just how farI've come in the 3 weeks since arriving. The one teacher at schoolcalls me "Brave Girl" which I quite like. I think I'm either brave orstupid, and I'm going with brave here.

So let me tell you about the teaching. HwaDang, my main schol, is tiny(as I have mentioned) and my biggest class is 6th grade - 10 students.My smallest is my 5th graders with 5. My after school classes combine1s and 2s, 3s and 4s and 5s and 6s so there I have more but also havethe freedom to do what I please. I feel like I'm settling in there,and although I often sit and can see that everyone is talking aboutme, I feel like the staff and children have warmed up to me. My VPgoogle mapped my house the other day and I was told I live in a'palace' (nice work, dad). My co-teacher is lovely but not much help,and my principle hardly acknowledges my existance - but I think thisis normal. My 5th graders are verry difficult as their english levelsare low and I do not have a teacher in the class to help control them.The only words they know are game and bingo. One kid in particularmight cause premmature aging but I'll find something that works. Myother classes are great and I'm given the freedom to run the lessonshowever I want. The little ones are adorable and watching them dotheir ABCs is too cute. At both schools I only start work at 8.30 andfinish at 16.30, so the mornings aren't too early.
Today is my first day at my new school - Paegun Elementary (they havea website if you feel like reading some hangul). I'll be here onTuesdays and Thursdays. It's bigger and a lot more equipped. Here Ihave bigger classes, a relief for group work activites, and the staffare younger. I have massive touch screens to work off of, whichprovided the 5th grade with much amusement as I couldn't get the damthing to work. The kids are also very different - I was bombarded withlittle hands and curious faces, tons of hello's and nice to meetyou's. They speak a bit better and don't seem as cautious around me. Ihave already been asked twice why I'm not black but from SA, and toldI'm beautiful (no wonder I like it here more haha) and one 5th gradergave me a sucker. However, here I am going to be taking an afterschoolclass once a week for teachers. This scares me half to death, but I'msure I'll find something to do with them. Lesson planning keeps mevery busy, but I'm loving the teaching. It's hard to prepare yourselffor the language barrier and I expect the kids to know more than theydo but I'll get there.

Still really enjoying the food - had strawberries for dessert today!!!School lunches are usually great and eating out is delicious. I'vebeen to two neighbouring cities - Chungju and Danyang to do somesightseeing and am always struck by the beauty of the area. I cannotwait for summer and all the cherry blossoms and apple trees to startblooming. Am going to Seoul this weekend for St Paddy's which is goingto be very different - I expect lots of English and waygooks whichwill be a nice change.

I'm starting Korean lessons this week as they offer free lessons atthe community centre so am excited for that. My kids ask what Korean Iknow and they often try to get me to say things but no Ming-ju, I'mnot going to stand up and say "I'm an idiot" in front of the entireclass. The teachers are always impressed when I whip out a'gahmsamnida' or 'annyongheseyo' and am told I speak Korean well. Somaybe by the end of the year I'll find navigating around this land alittle easier. My kids' english names are disappointingly normal -have heard there are some 'internet explorers' 'transformers' and'lord voldemorts' out there. I just have Lucy and John haha.

Am still getting used to the stares; when we travel in groups it's notunusual that people stop traffic to take pictures of us. The ajimas(old woman) are crazy and scare me a bit. Oooh and they say here'aiboo' or something that sounds just like 'haebo' back home (myspelling of all these things probably sucks, sorry) and I love it whenthey say it. "Ag Henry, I love it when you speak foreign" hahaha sorryrandom thought. What else can I tell you....need to get used to notsaying 'bless you' when someone sneezes.

So all in all, Korea has opened her arms to me and I'm feeling a lotbetter than when I typed that last email. Yes, I miss home and holyheck I miss being a student - on Monday I wasn't feeling well and it'sa tough life when a cold can't keep you in bed ;) Heads up mom anddad, I'm coming home to start studying again haha. Eternal studentlife for me thanks. The real world is a big scary place but man is itexciting. I feel teaching may be where I eventually end up, and on thedays when a year sounds like forever and I just want to come home, Iremind myself that it's already been a month and come next yearJanuary, the experiences I'll be coming home with are going to be outof this world.

So keep in touch everyone, hit me up for a skype coffee date and neverforget how much I miss you all.
Sending all my love from a very cold Korea,Bronxxxxxxxxx

PS: Please do not judge my English teaching ability on any errors inthis email :)

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