Wednesday, October 31, 2007

As Promised

As promised, here are some after shots of the school. They haven't completely finished yet and the result isn't as dramatic as I thought it would be.
They used the same color paint on the walls and ceiling but changed the trim to gold rather than green. The school smells of fresh paint which means we have to freeze as we air the place out. October is getting to be a little nippy.What renovations have you done lately?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jack O' Lantern

Today we got to carve pumpkins with our kindergarten class. It was so much fun and the kids had a blast. Korean pumpkins aren't the same as American ones but it still worked.
I didn't let them use the knife but they used the child proof saw that came in the kit and then got to dig out the guts.What's your favorite part of carving pumpkins?

School Picture Day

The last two weeks there has been a photographer roaming the school. They are trying to capture great teaching moments on film to be used for fliers, brochures, and someone said great big wallpaper for the school's promotion. All of our classes have been disrupted (teaching isn't really that important). They pull us and the kids out in the middle of very riveting lessons on conjunctions to pose a picture. Most of them are realistic but one of the classes had to pose with violins. Since when do we teach the violin at an English academy?!?

My own class was posed with phonics flip cards and insect posters. The kids were really good about it and did their best to ensure their perma-smiles while the photographer snapped away. They also did an all school picture with all the kindergarten classes and teachers. It was hilarious. Mrs. Lee stood up on a stool doing some sort of impersonation that was a cross of the Joker's laugh, Santa's chuckle and a witch's cackle. The kids were in fits and were to the point of laughing on cue. Here is the result.They're cute though, aren't they?

Monday, October 29, 2007


Saturday night Gimpo saw a little excitement when a building across the street from our school caught on fire. The entire second floor was destroyed but the rest of the building appears to be sound with only smoke and heat damage elsewhere.
On numerous occasions I have questioned the lack of fire safety protocol. This is the result. Fortunately it wasn't our building.

What fire safety precautions do you think are necessary?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Seoul Land

Stupid Tourist Saturday!

We've been talking about going to an amusement park for awhile and it finally happened. It was the perfect day too. The fall colors were beautiful and people were dressed up in costume to get a jump start on the Halloween festivities.
While still in the city, Seoul Grand Park feels completely removed. There are close mountains on all sides that cuts the park off from the rest of the city. The area holds a zoo, an amusement park, a contemporary art museum and a host of other smaller attractions.
Our first order of business was to take the chair lift over the lake to Seoul Land. The whole area is really neat in set up and lay out.
The park is a little Disneyesque with a gigantic ball curiously similar to the main icon of Epcot. Of course it was appropriately designed for Halloween.
The lines were long so we didn't get to do that many rides but we did have a bumper car battle, we climbed to the top of an ice mountain, we zipped around the entire park on a three minute roller coaster and rode the viking hammer. YT and I also had our caricature done. I don't think the artist had had a lot of practice with American faces because he acted a little perplexed when he was drawing me.
You be the judge. I don't see the resembelence.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mrs. Lee's Project

We had a busy week this week with our open houses and parents coming into the school all week. On top of that, it is curriculum writing week where we do all of our lesson plans and make our curriculum books for the upcoming month. I'm pulling double duty trying to get my November and December stuff done.

So, what better time to refurbish the school? I should have guessed it was coming. Mrs. Lee has been walking around with contractors for the past few weeks. Don't get me wrong...the school definitely needs it, but why do it during one of the busiest times of the year? Did she think there was a lack of undue stress on the teaching staff?

At first they were just going to paint the main lobby. Easy enough. Then it turned into the lobby and the gym. Then it turned into the lobby, gym and offices. Before long the entire school was fair game to contractors ripping down classroom decorations and reorganizing our curriculum books in a helter-skelter way.

We had to stay late and safe guard anything we didn't want paint on or things we didn't want thrown away. The school looks bare right now. I took some 'before' shots to show the school in this gutted stage. Stay tuned for the 'after' shots coming this next week.
Earlier in the week they wallpapered the doors and trim. I can't say I approve of Mrs. Lee's color coordination but then Koreans do have an interesting sense of fashion. I guess anything looks better than scuff marks and torn wallpaper though.

What is your latest remodeling project?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where Are They Now?

Open house week at KC. The stress. The formality. I'm just glad it is over.

Imagine a trumped up version of parent/teacher conferences in which the students have to rehearse and memorize an hour long presentation to demonstrate their English proficiency. Amazingly they all sat still for the entire thing.

All the kids' moms came in to watch and afterwards they had a Q&A with me which mostly consisted of me telling them how wonderful each of their students are while trying not to overshadow anyone.

It went well for the most part. The kids have come along way since I started working with them and it is nice to see the progression. I can't help but wonder what they'll be like in 20 years...when they are my age now.

I've been thinking about dropping a line to all my old elementary teachers to let them know what I've been up to. Some of them know. When I visit my parents, I see Mrs. B. at church and she still says things like 'There's my famous first grader.' Somehow, despite growing up, all of the hundreds of students she has taught are still her 'famous first graders'. I kinda like it.

Do your elementary teachers know what you grew up to be? I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Waiting for Heroes

My favorite TV show of the fall has to be NBC's Heroes. I have limited selection having to rely on those shows that are posted online and that can be viewed outside of the U.S. Heroes airs Monday nights in the States and while it is Monday night in Korea, Heroes won't be posted until Wednesday or if the hackers are really good, Tuesday. I've also been keeping up with Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, Ugly Betty and The Office.

Are there any others I should be watching? What is your favorite series of the fall?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

For Your Health

Today's was Gimpo's For You Health Run. Three of us ESL teachers and then three of the Korean teachers participated.
The race course started at the Gimpo stadium. We saw a few of our students there. At the end they gave away door prizes and then did a soccer ball/basketball throw. It pays to be the tallest one because JT and I each caught one. I gave mine to one of my students who was at the run.I don't think it was a true 5K course. It didn't feel near as long and I dropped my time by about five minutes. My speed has improved but not by five minutes.Afterwards they called the three of us foreigners up on stage and presented each of us with a box of soap. Either they were saying 'thanks for participating' or 'you guys really stink'. I'm not sure which.

What do you do for your health?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Take Two

Today we decided to tackle Bukhansan again. It was well worth it. The clear autumn day made the scenery perfect. There was a crisp bite in the air as if the color of the leaves didn't belie the season.

Friday, October 19, 2007

email assignment

Wednesday the curriculum covered how to write an email. As an assignment, I gave the kids my email address and asked them to write me some advice for moving. I got my first homework email today and it made my day. Below is the text. I left the spelling and grammar mistakes so you can get the full effect.

From: 황한나
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2007 5:53:52 AM
Subject: Advice about moving

Dear,Fett teacher
When you are moving you will pack thise thing.
- Pack your close.(your beautiful close)
- Pack your shose.
- Buy a food.
- When your shose are dirty buy the new shose.

Teacher but don't move plese~


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Having Fun??

This week has just flown by. I can't believe that tomorrow is Friday! The most eventful thing that has happened is that my problem child isn't coming to school any more. I think his mom ran out of money or was finally tracked down by creditors.

I don't know the full story. It is a little disappointing because he had come so far in a relatively short amount of time that the hard work was really starting to pay off. But...I get two extra breaks a week because I don't have to tutor him and my class has been sooo much quieter. Practice for our open house has been smooth and I actually found myself laughing with the kids instead of trying to keep him in line.

A pretty positive change, all things considered.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Last Ditch Effort

My boss had my plane ticket itinerary for coming back to America up on his computer screen today but he couldn't bring himself to click on the 'purchase ticket' button. He called me into his office to try one last time to convince me to stay.

I can't really explain why I don't want to stay. Maybe it is a lot of little reasons. It really has been a good experience and I would recommend it to anyone looking for some international experience.

I was as kind as I could be and told him to redouble his efforts on finding my replacement. I guess it is official now. November 18th I will board a plane and put an end to this year-long odyssey.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Tale of Five Countries

Today is international Blog Action Day and the theme this year is the environment.

I am really excited of the potential that of more than 7,000 participating blogs and 5 million readers can do to bring awareness to our environment. As humans I believe we have taken responsibility for our environment, but I'm disappointed with the actions (or lack thereof) we've taken toward that end of protecting and preserving our environment.

For my part I can share my observations of four countries I've visited in the past year.

North Korea:

This country might not have the pollution problems of the other four...yet. Being stuck in the comparative stone age, North Korea has preserved some aspects of their environment. But where they save the air from particulates and the water from excessive pollution, they strip the land bare of trees which caused the massive flooding of this past summer. The lack of capitalism might protect, but communism isn't the answer to environmental problems.

South Korea:

When 45+ million people try and squeeze into an area the size of Indiana you'd better have a good plan of how to handle waste and pollution. South Korea has an excellent recycling program. There are massive fines for mixing garbage. Garbage bags are very expensive which encourages use of the free recycling. Glass, plastic, paper and metal. However, despite their best efforts, they still fall short.


This pristine country is doesn't have the the obviously visual environmental problems of other developed countries in Asia. However, simple statistics can prove the downfalls of this country. Malaysia was home to 266 unique species of freshwater fish as surveyed by biologists. A recent biological survey as quote in Jared Diamonds The Third Chimpanzee, found 122 species of fish. That means that since first being discovered, 144 species (more than 50%) have become extinct. That is appalling and the sad part is that it happened without anyone even noticing.


Unfortunately this country has multiple downfalls. The first major problem is the air. Per capita their particulates output into the air is lower than most developed countries but there is an awful lot of people. Factories and cars put an incredible amount of pollution in the air. With the coming Olympics, Beijing has pledged to reduce the number of cars on the road by one million. But, yellow dust affects everyone from Korea to the Americas.

There was a glimmer of hope this year when locals claimed seeing a river dolphin researchers thought to be extinct. Pollution, fishing in the rivers, and the construction of dams killed off the majority of that species population if not the entire population.


Where do I start. I thought that blogging about the environment would be easy but as I try to compile my thoughts and observations about something I care very much about I realize how hard it is. I admire National Geographic magazine's ability to concisely relay the message of environmental protection. As a world leader, the U.S. should embrace environmental protection. Things like carbon sequestration, hybrid cars, wind and solar energy are all great baby steps but we need to have a collective effort that is greater than current actions. The plan needs to cross international boundaries and not be subject to lack of technology or lack of resources.

So, what can we do?
1. Recycle. Just do it. It is easy.
2. Buy recycled products.
3. Plant a tree. Carbon needs to be sequestered.
4. Support renewable resources....ethanol, hybrid cars, biodiesel, etc.
5. Educate yourself.
6. Educate others.
7. Do more.

How do you protect the environment?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yeouido Gospel

I decided to break from tradition today and check out the Yeouido Full Gospel Church. This is supposedly one of the world's largest churches with seven services each day and from what I could estimate, a regular attendance of 2,000+ at each service though they say membership is around 800,000.

Though they don't have an English service, they do offer translation services in English, Spanish and a few other languages. This is a mega-church and everything is high tech from the HD video display screens, to the song and dance praise team, to the 75+ member choir. You can even find all of the sermons online.

I give props to the church. The worshipers seemed devout and the service was uplifting and energetic. I was a little overwhelmed with the sheer scale of everything.

The founder and lead pastor of the church has some controversial points of view which incorporate a little of Korea's shamanistic heritage. I can't really blame him. It isn't the first time Christianity has incorporated pagan traditions to suit the needs of its constituents. Jesus wasn't really born on Dec. 25. The date is ceremonial and was started to replace the pagan Roman celebration of their god's birthdays.

At any rate, the sermon was decent and it was neat to just witness a huge congregation worshipping. What's the biggest congregation you've ever seen?

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Stupid Tourist Saturday!

What a day! We decided to rent a car and drive to Chuncheon (Yoon Teacher's (YT) home town) to look at the fall colors and just see the sights. Road trip!The adventure started Friday night. YT had been talking to the rental company on the phone. 'No problem to rent a car....come in Friday night. We'll set you up.' I walk in and they see that I'm American and they change their minds. They used some excuse that the contract was all in Korean and that they didn't speak English. So we had to go to Hertz Saturday morning. Which car is mine? Every car in Korea is either silver, black or white. At least I got to drive on the right side of the road.
It is approximately a two and a half hour drive to Chuncheon which is northeast of Seoul from Gimpo. It was a nice drive and the leaves were just starting to change color. Once there we hooked up with YT's sister and niece.We went to lunch for one of Chuncheon's two famous dishes...makguksu. It is a buckwheat noodle dish and we also had boiled pork and bean curd soup. Our second stop took us to a sculpture art display at the MBC building. Not exactly my cup of tea but it was a beautiful afternoon to walk around outdoors, so, no complaints.Chuncheon is intertwined with lakes and rivers and so we decided to take a duck paddle boat out for a spin. A para glider kept dive bombing us and other boats on the lake.After the boat ride, we went to the Ethiopian War Memorial for those who had fought in the Korean War. I had no idea the Ethiopian commitment in the war efforts was so great. It was a little surreal to be looking at Ethiopian cultural artifacts and learning Ethiopian history in Korea.At the war memorial we met up with more of YT's family and then went to the Gangwon Province Arboretum. We didn't have a lot of time but we did see the mineral and forestry exhibit, one of the greenhouses, and then watched the sunset over the city.We met up with even more of YT's family and went to a dak-galbi dinner. Chuncheon is known for its chicken farms and is the hometown of this famous spicy chicken dish. We even got to wear these stylish bibs.Finally, we headed home. The roads were relatively free of traffic until we got to Seoul. Today was the Seoul International Fireworks Festival. It ended at 9pm just when we were trying to get through. It took an hour and a half to go the 20 kilometers through Seoul. Yuck!
Are you enjoying fall?

Friday, October 12, 2007

I like...

I like dark chocolate.
I like smiling (it's my favorite).
I like standing on top of a mountain I've just hiked and feeling like I'm on top of the world.
I like cooking fancy dinners for family and friends.
I like the cold exhilaration of skiing on fresh snow.
I like going places I've haven't been before
and doing things I haven't done before.
I like comments on my blog.
I like supporting cancer research.
I like supporting youth education.
I like recycling.
I like that sense of accomplishment in reaching a goal.
I like getting my hair cut.
I like towels fresh from the dryer.
I like planning.
I like adventures.
I like talking about great new books I've read.
I like learning.
I like the tang in my cheeks after I eat a pack of Smarties.
I like sunrises and sunsets.
I like naps.
I realize how blessed I am that I can enjoy all the things I like.
What do you like?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Summer Palace

I wasn't in Beijing that long, but from my posting, you'd think I was there for a month. This will be the final installment of my Beijing highlights...the Summer Palace.This is one of the most frequented tourist sites in Beijing and well worth the visit. It is about twelve kilometers from the city center. The entrance is guarded by the dragon (emperor) and the phoenix (empress). Inside the grounds you can walk around the edge of the lake or take a boat ride across it. The lakeside path was covered but open air so it could be used no matter what the weather. The area is dominated by the main hill which has the palace on it. We didn't get to go inside because it was too late in the day but the outside was very beautiful. The architecture was very neat and it was a nice place to sit and watch the sun go down over Beijing.Where do you like to watch the sunset?