Archive for August, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

So, it looks pretty bad for New Orleans. This hurricane is stronger than Katrina. Thankfully, most people seem to actually be leaving this time, including my friend .

I’m also a little worried about my own family. Houston is in Gustav’s potential-path-cone, and having been through a couple bad ones as a kid, I don’t want to know what a category-5 would do. There have been a few close calls with our house being flooded before, and if Gustav hits Houston, it could be really, really bad. For reference, here‘s what Houston looked like after a heavy tropical storm, my senior year of high school. Here‘s other photos (and more).

So, please keep everyone who could be affected in your thoughts over the next couple days.

Update

The rumor was true.  My Supervisor from Hell™ is indeed being transferred to Naju, and so I am getting a new one on Monday.  I’ve already met the guy, and he’s awesome.  His English isn’t great, but it’s better than SfH’s, and he’s very friendly, has been to the states, and loves both Boston and the Sox.  So, this bodes well.  Maybe my luck is changing, eh?

First week of the new semester went well.  Korean kids spend much of their vacations in various other forms of school, so there isn’t as much of a post-summer rowdiness issue as I have experienced in teaching in the US.  But, there’s still some, so I took this week relatively easy for them.  Next week though, it’s back into the abyss.

I’m really, really enjoying my new scooter.  Makes getting around the island quite easy and pleasant.  It also makes it easier for me to get around to take photos like these:

Field of Sunflowers

Field of Sunflowers

and

Dolduksan

Dolduksan

I can theoretically drive it all the way to Mokpo, but I’m not quite that brave yet.  Maybe after another week or two, once I’m more comfortable with the highways.

Apparently, come October, I may be essentially the only foreigner on the island. They can’t find replacements.  The irritating Torontonian (or whatever they call themselves) left in August, and he taught at the high school. Lisa, who teaches at the “English Town”, leaves to go home to Nova Scotia in October.  There’s a guy who works at the local hagwon, and while I see him more these days, it’s still not really regular. That leaves me, that guy, and E. However, E is married to a Korean, and we (the other foreigners) don’t see her that often, and we’ll see even less of her when her baby is born in September.

According to the recruiter that works to find jobs for this area, nobody wants to work in rural areas, and they’re having a really difficult time finding anyone to come work here. Hopefully they’ll find someone soon, or I’ll have to recruit someone myself!

For anyone interested…

I have started a teaching blog:  My Students are Doomed

Twitter?

Are any of you readers on twitter?  If so, let me know and I’ll add you.  I’m over there as driftingfocus.

Please!

Next Monday is the day in Korea where new teachers get placed, and existing ones get moved.  I have heard rumor that my Supervisor From Hell™ (I have met no one, foreign or Korean, who likes her) is being moved to Naju.  If this is true, I honestly think I may do a little dance of joy.

Please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please!

School Stuff

Wednesday I head up to 해남 (Haenam) to take my driving classes.  It’s offered in English once a week there, and while I was annoyed at first at having to take the class, it would be nice to actually understand what the various Korean traffic signs mean, and understand what the rules are in terms of bikes.

My lesson this morning crashed and burned in the first 5 minutes.  They were even more rowdy than I had anticipated.  I ended up making a tally of how many people did which activities over the holidays, and then asked them questions based on their answers (like “Where did you swim?”, “What TV show did you watch?”, etc).  After that, I asked them to give me suggestions of some topics they would like me to cover in class this semester.  Korean students have essentially no control over their schooling, and I wanted to put a little power in their hands, for once.  They seemed baffled that I was asking *them* what they wanted to learn, but eventually they figured it out.  So, now I have some ideas of what units I should touch on first.  I ended with about 10 minutes to spare, and so we played hangman with the category being sports that were in the Olympics.  They enjoyed that, and it gave them a positive note to end on.

Tomorrow I go to 섴교, my least favourite school.  My co-teacher there corrects me in front of the class (and 95% of the time he’s wrong), and often will try to change my lesson as I’m teaching it.  I have talked with him about this before, but he’s an older teacher, and most older teachers tend to view younger teachers as below them, and thus have no problem with overstepping that classroom boundary.  It’s irritating, but there’s little I can do about it.

*Edit:  Oops, I was wrong, I’m going to 지산, the school I work at that doesn’t have indoor plumbing.  Nice kids, horrendous facilities.

Stuff.

Having the new bike is really helping with my mood, in general.  I hadn’t realized how much it was bothering me to have my travel restricted to the (very limited) bus service here.  I’ve been driving it around parts of the island I hadn’t even previously realized existed, and coming across people who I’m quite sure have never seen a Real Live Foreigner™ before, from their reactions.  It’s been enjoyable, and I’ve been getting some good shots.

That said, with the recommencing of school duties today, I found myself rather depressed this morning, for some reason.  In general, I do pretty well here – I’m not really sad, or lonely.  But, sometimes it does hit me broadsides.  I miss having Marc next to me when I wake up, I miss the forests of both Massachusetts and Virginia, and I miss being able to feel laid back.  The communication barrier adds a general level of stress to my life here, and while it is low level, it is constant, and that can begin to wear on me.  I’m hoping to go up to Seoul for Chuseok so I can attend Quaker Meeting again, as I think it will help.  I have found that attending Meeting really does wonders for my mood here, as it provides a reasonable amount of familiarity, something I sorely lack here most of the time.

Without further ado, here’s two photos from yesterday’s drive:

 

Seaweed Farmers in Paengmok

Seaweed Farmers in Paengmok

and

My bike at sunset in the most rural part of the island.

My bike at sunset in the most rural part of the island.

 

Classes start for me today at about 11am.  Since it’s the first week for the kids, I’m giving them an easy day.  I’m going to have them each tell the class three things about their vacations, and then I’m going to call on random kids and have them try to remember what other students did.  Simple, easy for me (I’m a little tired after spending 4 nights sleeping on someone’s floor), relatively easy for the students, and will help to ease them back into the idea of being in school again.  That’s this week’s basic lesson plan.

She needs a name…

I wish I could say this was unusual…

My supervisor is INSANE

So, my school just moved me to a house that is 20 minutes drive from anywhere, including the bus terminal that I have to get to to go to several of my schools. One of the conditions of me letting them move me so far away was that they help me get a scooter, as without one, I am SOL and unable to teach. Naturally, I have to get a license for my scooter/motorcycle. The driving school is at 1pm on Tuesday, and is 3 hours. Unfortunately, on Tuesday afternoons I have a 1 hour teacher’s workshop that I teach, though it’s quite informal and borderline optional. The teachers said they would be okay with moving it, but the supervisor refused to let me move it. Instead, she wants me to take the driving class that is on Wednesday at 1pm, and since the driving hagwon is an hour away, and I would get back from the classes at 5pm, approximately the time that the paperwork is due at the police station, SHE HAS CALLED THE POLICE STATION AND ASKED THEM TO STAY OPEN LATER. This woman is insane. My co-teacher kept telling her on the phone “no, she cannot take the class that day – the paperwork is due that day” but she kept saying that she’d call and get the police station to stay open an extra hour. Yeah, enjoy that pipe dream while it lasts, lady. 

Anyway, just thought you’d enjoy an example of Korean insanity. 

*Edit: The story gets even better! They’re letting me take that day as a “sick day”, to go take the classes. They won’t move a 1 hour teacher’s workshop, but they’ll let me use a sick day to get out of a full day’s work. What the hell?

How to fend off evangelical Koreans…

Korea, for some reason or another, has a tremendous number of various sorts of evangelical Christians.  There are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses galore, as well as your standard run-of-the-mill crazy Southern Baptist you-will-burn-in-hell-for-dancing type evangelicals.  And man, they are really evangelical.  Very persistent, and very bold in stating their beliefs.  In class the other day, we were talking about Tibet, and I mentioned that I have met the Dalai Lama, and one of the students blurted out “Some day I want to meet him and tell him that he needs to find God or he and all his people will burn in hell.”.  Those are her verbatim words.  I honestly didn’t know how to respond to such a thing being said in an academic setting, and so I just nervously changed the subject.

However, I digress.

I mentioned the high number (and high tenacity) of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses at the beginning, and that’s really what this (originally supposed to be humorous) post is about.  I get approached at LEAST 2-3 times a week by one or more of them (they often travel as families, and they all speak excellent English), and I have begun to find it downright irritating.

But recently, I have discovered a really hilarious way to deal with it.

They almost all start off by saying something akin to “Do you have a moment?  I’d like to tell you about my faith.” before they start off on trying to hook you or push their literature into your (generally unwilling) hands.  Well, I have begun to have a bit of fun with this.  After that first question/statement, they generally ask “Are you a Christian?”.  I have begun to answer this with “Well, I’m a Quaker.” (which I consider to be true, these days) when they ask said question.  They almost invariably reply with “What is a Quaker?”, to which I reply…

“Well, do you have a moment?  I’ll tell you about it…”

The look of panic on their faces when they realize their own tables have been turned on them is priceless, and they almost always begin to stutter and then eventually leave.  Yay for beating them at their own game.  It has become quite entertaining, actually.

crossposted to Shut Up and Listen

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