Posts Tagged 'life in korea'

Contract Renewal

Here in Korea, about 3-4 months before a teacher’s contract is finished, the school will go to the teacher and ask them if they think they want to renew. That’s a reasonable amount of time, as they have now spent 8-9 months here, and probably have a good idea of whether or not they want to stay.

However, yesterday my co-teacher informed me that they want an answer now, after only 6.5 months here.  Barring a breakup with Marc, I will be going home, but I don’t really want to close the door here just yet, not until I get back from winter vacation.  

I was told in the morning to make a decision by the end of the day, but since I had to judge an English competition in the afternoon, and then hold a meeting about the teachers’ workshop that I teach, I didn’t remember to email her back about it.  I did, however, receive an email from the provincial office saying that some schools may be asking early this year, but that we did not need to give them a decision until December 29th.  So, I figured that was that, and that I would give myself a couple days.

Well, I got a call at 7:30am this morning (thankfully I was already awake due to my internal clock being set on “Dali” these days), asking for my decision.  I explained that the provincial office said that I had until the 29th.  My co-teacher insisted that no, she needs an answer today, and that Tuesday or Wednesday will not do.

I told her to mark me down as “No”, but that that could change sometime in the future, potentially.  Really, though, it’s highly unlikely.  My school seems to exist in an alternate universe to the one that the provincial office exists in, and that really bothers me.  Even if I were to stay in Korea, I do think I would switch schools.  I like Jindo, but I think that this area has some major kinks to work out, and as an experienced teacher, I can be put to better use elsewhere, at a school that knows how to actually use their foreigners.

I’ve been feeling better about things here lately, but today’s early morning phone call, combined with the gray weather I’m staring at right now, has put me in a bit of a sour mood.

 

[Originially posted over at Teh Blog]

Freedom

My bike, at the top of one of the nearby “hills” at sunset:

stuff-6

One of the major advantages of having my “scootercycle” (as I call it, as it’s 100cc) is that I can drive around the island to get my photos pretty easily.  I have a tendency to just wander around on the little one-lane roads that form a spiderweb between the rice paddies and meander up the mountains.  I like the freedom of being able to stop at a crossroads and think “Hm… I wonder what’s up over on the other side of that hill…” and then actually go and find out.  My sense of personal freedom is very important to me, and I think I would have gone a little crazy by this point if I didn’t have my bike, and the ability to just “go” that it provides and represents.  I have lived in cities, and I have lived in the countryside, and I prefer the countryside, but what I did not initially take into account in my choice of Jindo as my location here in Korea was transportation.  When I have lived in rural areas in the past, I have always had my own car.  Here, the beauty in the surrounding countryside that I saw from the windows of buses was tempting me, but I couldn’t explore.  Thankfully, someone informed me that for $400, I could own one of the little motorcycles/scooters that all the farmers ride here.  It’s a bit of a POS, but it has taken quite a beating from me and it still runs quite well, considering.  The important thing, though, is that it’s mine, and it allows me to see what’s over the next hill, around the next turn, or at the end of the road.  If only it were so easy to do that with your life, eh?

Exam Time

Inspired by CowsByTheFence‘s recent post, I figured I should mention about teaching here during exam season.

Exams are the paramount part of the Korean education system.  Those exams determine how good of a middle/high school the students are able to get into, and they study for a ridiculous amount of time, both in school and at cram schools.  Toward the end, many of my students are out at cram schools until 2am – remember, these are middle schoolers.  What this means for me at school is that I end up with a severely reduced class schedule.  Usually I teach 3 classes or so a day at my schools.  When the students are studying, I don’t teach that class, and so I have been having days where I only teach once, or sometimes not at all.  That doesn’t mean that I get to go home though – two of my three schools require me to sit idly at my desk until 5.  Now, it’s okay, as I use that time to work on my blogs, my reenacting units’ websites, and to chat with folks back home.  But, to counter what I suspect will be cries of “but you don’t have to work!”, I will say that really, I would rather be working.  Sitting at your desk for 8 hours, with nothing particular to do, does get boring when it’s day after day, and I feel somewhat useless.

Now, technically that time is “preparation time”, but in reality, I only teach one lesson plan per week, and weird as it sounds, I tend to actually literally “dream up” my lesson plans as I sleep – I keep a notebook on my bedside table, in fact.  My co-teachers find this hilarious, but really, my lesson plans have been pretty popular with the students, so they don’t seem to care where they come from.  Since it looks like I will be teaching 2-3 weeks of camps during the winter holidays, I will soon start to use that time to plan activities for those, but until I have something concrete as to the length and preferred content of the camps, I don’t really want to put any effort into it, as it would likely just have to be discarded.

I am really surprised that my school district has decided to run a middle school camp this winter.  The camp they ran this summer was so unpopular that they had to pay the students to attend, rather than the other way around, and I’d imagine that they’d have an even stronger negative reaction for a winter camp.  Ah well, that’s Korean logic for you.

At least the new foreigner arrives today.  Everyone in town is greatly anticipating her arrival.

Huzzah!

I feel rather accomplished at the moment. I had a conversation, without using any English! Sure, I wasn’t really using full sentences, but it’s a start. I have translated my words pretty literally (as you can probably figure out from the choppiness).

While I was out walking to the ATM to get money for my oil, I saw a guy playing fetch with his Jindo. I waved and said hello. He spoke back, and it went something like this (Korean translated to English):

Guy with Jindo: This is a Jindo dog. They are very beautiful and smart. High IQ!
Me: Yes, Jindo dogs are beautiful and cute.
GWJ: Do you like Jindo dogs?
Me: Yes! I like Jindo dogs. Jindo dogs beautiful because orange fur. (playing with dog: Come here! Sit! Good dog!)
GWJ: Where are you from?
Me: America. (Migook) Boston.
GWJ: Ah! Boston marathon! Red Sox!
Me: Yes.
GWJ: Are you a teacher?
Me: Yes. Middle school English teacher. Teach at G******, U****, G******. Three schools.
GWJ: Ah! English teacher! Rotation?
Me: Yes.
GWJ: Difficult!
Me: Yes.
GWJ: Do you speak Korean?
Me: A little.
GWJ: A little?
Me: Very little.
GWJ: *laughs*
Me: Nice dog! Cute dog! Goodbye!
GWJ: Thank you! Goodbye!

As I walked away, I had a huge grin on my face. It really felt like a breakthrough. It was probably the first conversation (and certainly the longest) that I have had where I didn’t have to resort to English or gestures. I felt very accomplished. Sure, I’ve been here 6 months, but Korean is a very difficult language to learn purely by osmosis.

Meatpuppet Angst

Englishee!

This is probably the best Englishee I have found yet! I cracked up in the middle of the street when I saw this. Loudly. I seriously had tears in my eyes when I handed the guy the money.

I don’t use bags like this, but I absolutely had to get this, to document it. If anyone wants it, let me know.  I’ll charge you the $9 it cost me plus a couple bucks of shipping.

Hey, nice view…

There are definitely times when I really enjoy working out here in the countryside, “in the middle of nowhere”.  This was taken not 10 feet from my school’s front gate, and the others are from the snow we got yesterday.

snowday-1-5

The Human Popsicle

Oh my god. That was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life, I think.

I drove my motorcycle to school in this:

snowday-2

(that’s actually yesterday’s snow, but today was the same, possibly even harder) 

My WWII German parka got its trial-by-fire, and by the time I got to school, the formerly gray parka was completely white in front. Snow was plastered to my entire front, and I had to wipe off the front of my facemask every 5 seconds. I wish I had a photo, I must have looked hilarious.

In my defense, it wasn’t snowing until about 5 minutes into my 20 minute drive, so I had no idea.  I would not normally drive a bike in conditions like that.

Even wearing two pair of dense wool socks as gloves while I was driving, my fingertips still hurt, after 10 minutes in a heated room.

Here’s a video of the snow.  It’s choppy, but you’ll get a basic idea:

Oops.

Considering I live on “that island with the dogs”, this was bound to happen eventually:

leg-11

Yep, I finally got bitten.  It was due to my own stupidity, really.  Most Jindos, I have found, bark out of fear, and so when you step forward and show that you are not afraid of them, they actually begin to wag their tails and will come forward to meet you.  There’s a Jindo that I walk past almost every day that barks at my every time, and he seemed like the type that was in fact just “playing at” being a guard dog.  So, on Friday, I decided to step forward, rather than continue walking by.

Wrong decision.

The dog lunged forward and before I could take a full step back, gave me what I suspect was meant to be a “warning nip” on the back of my left knee.  When I had backed up a few feet, I looked down at my pants leg, and there wasn’t even a tear in the fabric, so I assumed I was okay.  Nope.  About 50 yards later, I could feel something wet on my calf, and pulled up my pants leg and discovered two dripping holes.  The good thing, at least, is that since the fabric didn’t tear, there was no way for any fabric to get into the wound, which is a major cause of infections.

I went back to my apartment, dropped off my bags (I had been at the market), and headed out to the hospital.  After sitting in the waiting room for 15 minutes, I was told that I had to go to a different hospital, and they pointed me in the right direction.

I finally found that hospital, and after waiting for about 10 minutes, they finally saw me.  They cleaned out the wound with iodine, and then stuffed two iodine-soaked gauze pads into the holes, and then wrapped the whole thing in a big bandage.  I also got a tetanus shot and either a penicillin or rabies shot, and a big bag of antibiotics to take (5 different pills, 3 times a day) and was told to come back every day until Monday to have the wound checked and re-cleaned, and that then on Monday or Tuesday, once they were sure the wound was clean, they would give me a few stitches in each of the wounds to close them up.

Well, I went back yesterday, but nobody had told me that the hospital closes at 2pm, so I ended up re-dressing the holes myself with peroxide and neosporin.  I will be going back today though, before noon, just to make sure that I get there in time.  I can’t believe I live in a town where the emergency room closes at 2pm on weekends.  What about all those farmers here who accidentally cut off a toe or something at, say, 3?  Korea is weird.

Anyway.  It’s less painful than it looks, though it is most definitely in an awkward location, to be sure.

Come on, say it with me: “awwww…”

This woman is quite possibly my favourite “character” here in Jindo.  She can barely walk (hence the big pole in her hand), and she does virtually everything from her scooter.  She has a Jindo who is extremely loyal and protective of her (he wags his tail and licks her, but growls at anyone who approaches her unless she says the person is okay) who rides around everywhere with her, on the scooter.  Jindos are known for extreme loyalty, and this is a perfect example.  I think they’d make excellent service dogs, personally.

When he was a puppy, riding around with him was relatively easy, but now that he is growing up (he must be almost a year old now, since she got him at 6 months) it is a bit more complicated. He dutifully rides along though, and it is absolutely adorable. Here are some recent photos:

A little chilly…

For for those of you unaware, Korea is actually rather cold.  It is also very hot in the summer, but the winters here range from cold to bitterly cold.  The warmest uniforms the US Army has ever produced are those that they made for the Korean War, including a fur-lined parka (which you can see a friend of mine modeling at a Korean War demonstration at a museum if you click here), which should tell you something.  Korea gets wind that sweeps down from the steppes of Siberia, and it is a very dry, harsh cold.  It has been getting progressively colder here, but mid-last week we had another wind storm (which usually foretell a temperature shift) and it has not gotten above about 60F (15C) here since, and most days are around 55F (12C), with a low around 40F (.  Jindo is one of the warmest areas of Korea (I think Jeju island beats us, but that’s about it), but it is still quite cold.  It doesn’t help that Jindo is, well, an island, and as such the air is quite damp, which makes it feel colder.

Seeing as that I ride what I have nicknamed a “scootercycle” to my schools, I have to wear even more layers than normal, on my way to school.  But, even for just wandering around town, I still bundle up quite a bit.  For anyone curious, here’s what I wear on an average evening, these days:

On top I am wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, a twill jacket, and a quilted vest. I really need to get some gloves soon.


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