Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Pleasure or Pain, Sir?

I needed to let go of my yellow the other day and as I walked in to the men’s room I thought I heard someone in the toilet cubicle. Not all that interested, I just went ahead to the urinal.

The sound of my footsteps obviously alerted the man in the cubicle that there was someone present and he thought it a good idea to lock the door.

This begs the question, why wasn't it already locked?

Honestly, this still wasn't anything to worry about. It was just a little peculiar at most. The alarming part came when the man started making noises. And not softly either!

I really couldn't tell if the was in pain or grunting from pleasure. I had a mind to look over the door to see which two teachers were doing the dirty during office hours.

I can't wait for the day when I can enjoy myself in the cubicle like that.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Lost in Reality

This was likely the strangest day I’ve had at this school yet.

The education department's people came today and of course everything needed to look great. Problem is that everything in not this great, ever, and it was strange to be because I didn’t know that the department would be here.

The first thing I noticed was that all the students seemed to be busy with something in their classes. Normally early in the morning they run around screaming for no apparent reason whatsoever, until their classes start.

Today it looked a bit like they were busy with tests, but there were no teachers or parents to supervise. It was surrealistic, I tell you. What had gotten in to these little monsters? Why were they not running around and screaming?

The second thing I noticed was that I kept on slipping on the floor. After nearly breaking my neck a few time I saw that there was a distinct lack of dirt in the crevices on the stairs. They had actually cleaned the floors almost properly!

One thing that I have stopped doing here is care about what shoes I wear in the school. I wear the shambles because it is comfortable, but I don’t change my shoes to keep things clean. I would much rather walk barefoot outside than barefoot inside. Outside my feet will just be brown. Inside I will get black soles, I am sure.

The other thing that I found amusingly odd was the Physical Education class. I took a picture of it and will post it at the end of this post. The students were just so orderly. They were actually paying attention and sitting/standing in neat lines. Seeing this made me go: “WOW!” I just stood there for a minute staring just at them.

Can’t we have the department here every day? I can really live with this lack of noise.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

The Icheon Middle School English Competition

On Friday we had an English Language Competition for the Middle Schools of Icheon. I have been working with two students during the two or three weeks prior to this to help prepare them for the competition, or should I say I tried.

I was just told that they had to answer question and that one student will deliver a speech while both of them would be delivering a dialogue.

Even thought the speech was called the One Minute Speech I did not actually realise that they will have a timer and stop them after one minute.

The other thing that confused me the form the interview would take. I didn’t know if they would use the provided questions exactly, if the questions would be coming form the example description or if they would be from personal experience.

Basically I knew nothing. This didn’t help much for my motivation, I must say. I did what I thought best with what was provided, though.

One of the rules is that none of the students were allowed to have lived in a foreign country. I understood that that meant countries where English is a major language, so I think Germany, for instance, might not have disqualified a student.

By the standards of their age, both the students were quite good. The boy, however, is what I would call one of the better students in the school, overall. Both his parents teach English at an Academy and I have spoken to his mother. Her English is very good. Although he was born in the USA, I understand that he was brought here as a baby and that he grew up in Korea. Therefore he has been exposed to en English country in a way that would influence his language.

The girl was not that bad, but she just needed to concentrate more. When I would ask a question like “Do you normally travel by bus or by car?” she would answer “I prefer to bus”. I know she know better than that because eating a bus is no fun. I think this is a direct conversion from the Korean Language. Where you take a now and ad a “do” to is so that you basically say “I prefer to bus-do”

I must admit that I didn’t have that much hope for the competition because I expected the other student to be much better than they were. It turns out that they were not. Our two students handled themselves really when on the day and made a good showing of it. We came in third and I am very satisfied with that, considering I had no idea what we were doing.

The students who came in forth, I think it I know who it was, could easily have taken that spot, but based on that the judges saw, there weren’t better. I spoke to them outside in the hallway and they are good. They were twins and both has the same strange accent, though.

The top 25% of the students ware far ahead of the rest. I’m proud to say that third puts us in that group, if you cant figure that out for yourself.

In my opinion the pair that came in First was not the best. The one boy was very good, but the other one was no better than either of your students. He was very funny and entertaining, but that does not make him personality good in a language. The students who came in second were, in my opinion, the best. Both were very comfortable when speaking. Their speeches did seem a bit rehearsed, but it was well pronounced and their interviews showed their ability clearly.

All in all I learned a lot from this and I hope to be able to do a better job next year. I would just like to start earlier with the students.

One last note, the one minute speech turned out to be the 90 second speech. It would have been nice to know that in advance.

All in all, I think that was a good day at the office.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Children on Pollution

I gave my children a task to try and explain to me what they can do to reduce pollution. I gave each group a white boards and markers to draw and write with. This invariably produced some of those strange things only children dare come up with. I refuse to let go of my inner child because I don't want to loose my creativity completely .

These my favourites:

Science Fiction English Cafe

"I'm looking outside and I can’t see anything but eluminated white."

This is the scene I have had in my one office for a few days now.

I have three places in school where I work. The first is my desk in the Teachers Room where my laptop is plugged in and where I can use my Instant Messaging programs. The second is the English Lab which is basically my classroom. Here I have a nice computer with sound, but no MSN or YM. I can also save bookmarks there, though.

Lastly I have the English Cafe. This is a room set up with computers with the aim of being an English Environment, I guess. To bad the computers are allowed to display Korean. I sit here often and also do interview with student here. The interviews are for English practice, basically.

This last room is where I'm finding myself at this moment, and looking out the windows I see nothing but bright white. It gets a bit strange as it feels like I am in a science fiction film. It’s like one of those scenes where reality is suspended and you are caught between worlds or universes and have no way of getting out. Very, very creepy, I must say.

What on earth am I talking about? Now that winter is almost upon us and it is getting cold, we are getting fog in the mornings. Just like fog every where it takes a few hours to clear, if at all. The sun, however, does not stop shining and it lights up the fog to a bright white colour and this is what I am looking at outside.

The fact that this might this is the quietest of my places aw well as that I normally sit here all alone doesn’t help to displace that felling of being in a near dream world.

On a more realistic note, I saw the school’s thermometer dip below 10 degrees for the first time today. I am expecting this to me coldest winter ever and I cant wait.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Mean Wasps and Dying Children.

Orange, the mean Yellow Wasps:

Wasps are really mean little creatures and deceptively so. While walking home the other day I noticed a little wasp eating another insect. This is not one of those big wasps that make nests in the corners of buildings and attack as a group when they see you. Nope, this is one of those cute yellow ones that I think burrows in the ground.

I have started referring to this wasp as Orange, they Yellow Wasp. I am going to make a little Wasp sized t-shirt that reads "Meanness belies this Cuteness"

Anyway, Orange was busy chewing on the head side of another insect that was basically still alive. That I have seen before. They paralyze the insect and just stars to eat. This is one of the nicer things they do.

The really funny part was that the "face" of the insect was lying about one centimeter away from the body. With face I mean the eyes and antennae. It made me think of Silence of the Lambs, that part when he take one guy's face of and puts it on his own. I can only marvel at how quickly this wasp must have taken that face off and started eating on the rest of the body, because the antennae were still moving.

Just try and imagine the scene. Two insect eyes and antennae not connected to anything, but still moving. It look like someone buried too the head in the sand at the beach wearing a pair of those stupid big fly looking round sunglasses and a set of Halloween antennae.

As I am writing this I thinking that the little yellow wasp will be my new favourite insect.

The little Lees go to school:

For the teachers who might read this, I am not sure how many of you have noticed that children who don’t know you tend to "run away". This happens often with me because the Primary School in my area doesn’t have a foreign teacher. Having said that, I would like to relate to you the story of little Lee Kim Bab and her brother Lee So Ju

A few days back I was walking to school. It was normal time, around 08:10 in the morning. I noticed little Lee Kim Bab and her younger Brother Lee So Ju walking in front of me. They were clearly in no hurry because they were happily talking and looking at things next to the road or pushing each other.

Through all this I suddenly noticed from their reactions that they had noticed me behind them. Because this is a dangerous situation for them (everyone knows foreigners eat your Koreans) they made the logical decision to stop playing and start walking faster. Not being one to back down from a challenge, or a chance to torture the innocent by doing nothing wrong, I increased my speed as well. When they noticed this they replied in the expected fashion of increasing speed again

Do take note that little Kim Bab is only about 8 years old and little So Ju is only about 6 (Western Age), so their legs barely reach the ground.

It didn’t take long then for them to have to start running, or at least So Ju was running and his sister was walking VERY fast

Also take note that the two schools are right next to each other and on top of the mountain, so I was going to follow them all the way there, All the way up the mountain.

Considering all this you would think that Kim Bab would have a bit of sympathy for her little brother and slow down. OK, she did turn around to encourage him a few times, but that was all. No slowing down and pretending that the big bad man is just a human. By the time we reached the top of the mountain, just in front of the school, little So Ju was wheezing and coughing and had to stop completely to take a breather.

I can only imagine what he would have felt like, because I feel something like that when I start training after a long time of laziness. You have a headache, your tongue is burning and you want to throw up. It was definitely one of the funniest things I have seen in a while.

I know it is really mean, but come on. I didn’t really do anything wrong.

I am sure this will happen again soon to someone else and I can’t wait.

*By the time this Blog post is out you would have received four batches of photos in the email. I hope you enjoyed it and what you were looking at made sense.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Seolbong Park

We skip the next day, ignoring that I am also writing and sending on a next day, to Seolbong Park. Turns out the One World Music Festival was happening there. Why don’t people tell me these things in advance? I could have seen interesting music for the whole week already.

This is a festival that seems to be happening every year here in Icheon. They invite groups from all over the world to come and perform. I noticed that there is a Korean group every day, but that they are only at the very end. Don’t you find it sad that you have to try and trick people in to enjoying music from other countries? Isn’t the idea here for people to come and see because they want to? Why do they only have to come to see the Korean performers?

Maybe I need to get my information sites up and running and get a diary to plan things in advance.

When I left then house it really didn’t seem like the weather would be bad, s little cold, maybe, but that would be it, so I decided to walk to the park I also didn’t take an umbrella. As luck would have it the weather changed to produce this really annoying spraying rain. Not enough to really make you wet, but enough to make you cold and to have the musicians worry about their instruments. The whole show was in pause mode for more than an hour.

I did manage to see a few bands and take a few interesting pictures of children running around, but by 8pm I had enough of the weather and headed home. Luckily they were selling cheap rain coat inside the grounds. I got one just before I went out. I must have looked like a large condom walking down the street. At least if I was still in the grounds then I would have been with all the other condoms.

A useful result of the Festival was that I met a whole bunch of new people. I knew some of the teachers before but here they were with others I didn’t know yet. I’m thinking of trying to find them on Facebook

Honestly, when I look at what I just wrote here then it seems like it must have been the most boring day in my life. I didn’t even manage to write in such a way as to make it seem more interesting. This piece of writing is even worse than what I normally do, er?

Well, such is live and you will get some good posts and some bad posts.

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your week
Until next week

Go well

*Please note that the statements in this Blog are not intended to make anyone look bad. I do not look down on Koreans. I'm merely describing how amusing I sometimes find people and I am mostly describing it to other westerners. Feel free to come to South Africa and tell the world how crazy we are because heaven knows, we are.

Tuesday, 09 October 2007

Cultures all around.

For the most part, last week was just another week. Holidays that I don’t care much about in the middle of nowhere, class schedule that changes without e knowing and playing online games (Where I kicked a bit of arse). The fun stuff happened over the weekend.

Saturday saw me attending the Baekseong Cultural Festival in Anseong. It is an annual week long festival that displays mostly Korean Culture with a bit of spice from other countries. Koreans are just like peoples of the world. If you don’t shove other cultures in their faces then they will never make the effort to learn about it and they will still believe they are the best. This gives them a chance see that everywhere has something good to offer. Please don’t think I mean all Koreans are like this because they are most certainly now. Lots of them read up on the world and some tries their best to travel so that they can learn more.

Enough about them and back to me. It is, after all, what the Blog is about, isn’t it? This festival was an opportunity for me to learn more both traditional and modern Korean Culture. You would be surprised how much you learn here about things that most people will not be able to tell you about. Famous things that Korean know exist, but never saw before themselves. Think of it like South Africans who say “Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world”, but they have never been there because they go to Margate every year.

The two things that I found most interesting was the Rope Dancing and the activity display for rice harvesting.

With the Eurum (Rope Dancing) you have one guy that walks on a tight rope suspended in the air with large wooden poles. I have to say that the actual rope walking only happens very occasionally. What does happen more frequently is the banter between him and one of his troops members in the band. Even tough I couldn’t understand the banter, I still thought it was great fun. Most of the performance is about the banter and not the rope dancing. If this seems weird then think of it this way. You only need few minutes to run across, jump up and down and get off. That might be interesting in itself, but it is not most certainly not entertainment.

The group that does this is called Namsadang. The group was supposedly started in the Joseon period and have been around ever since. Maybe, maybe not. The name of the festival is actually names after a legendary leader of the group.

Part of the group’s activities include Pungmulnori (Hats. With Twirling Tassel Dancing) and Beona nori (Leather Plate Twirling). Think of them as the Circus of old Korea. You can see this often in Insadong, although I can’t be sure how often now that it is getting colder.

The Rice harvesting is something that we don’t really get to see in South Africa and I suspect that even if we do harvest rice, then it is done with some kind of automated system. Here, however, you can still find people who use a divider akin to comb, spinning wheel and a few other things that I don’t know how to describe the this time, to separate the rice from the stems ( I left my camera at home and that is partly how I remember what to write about)

Other areas showed you how to twirl plates, paint masks and anything you can think of that is Korean Culture and can be enjoyed.

Food wise there were stalls where you could buy street food, like the chicken pieces on a stick, dakpokki and other things I don’t know the names of, au usual. Ass to this the normal fair section where you give away all your money for a chance to win something useless, bridges over the shallow river and plays that I have no idea what it as about.

I suppose I should add in that I went with 2 South Africans and an America. Getting there with them was an adventure all on its own, but since I am not writing a novel here, I will not bore you with the details of that.

In the next post I will give a quick run down of the Music Festival that was happening the same weekend in Icheon

*Please note that the statements in this Blog are not intended to make anyone look bad. I do not look down on Koreans. I'm merely describing how amusing I sometimes find people and I am mostly describing it to other westerners. Feel free to come to South Africa and tell the world how crazy we are because heaven knows, we are.

Tuesday, 02 October 2007

Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix told my an 12 year old Korean

During the recent school vacation I had to do a vacation school for one week. One of the things I tried was to show a film or two and have them write a report, in English, about it. The trick was that I turned off the subtitles so that they will be forced to listen and get used to hearing English. Here follows one of the results.

Harry Potter

The nautical mile gun the true profit which it shakes off it did and it was kind and if the if country the nautical mile gun it will sprout and when like being placed in crisis it will do how???

If probably the country the nautical mile gun sprouts and like that le j i of abso luteness it appears not to being able it eats a cowardice in advance and it escapes, or, the situation the busy thing it avoids, it is same it is born but the nautical mile gun it will sprout and it will Follow the example and like that crisis will approach and must have the wisdom it will be able to evacuate that crisis must dispose all.

Up to now I have not been able to figure out what a Nautical Mile Gun is

Just for fun I include the interesting translation of Transformers. It has to do with the way the word is written in Korean. They rarely actually read the English name if they can see a Korean spelling

The Korean looks like this: 트런스포머
The closest direct translation will be: Tu-lan-su-po-ma (note the sudden singular).

On the back of the page describing Harry Potter she just started with Transformers when I took pity on her, but this was how she wrote the name…

thu Lance former

*Please note that the statements in this Blog are not intended to make anyone look bad. I do not look down on Koreans. I'm merely describing how amusing I sometimes find people and I am mostly describing it to other westerners. Feel free to come to South Africa and tell the world how crazy we are because heaven knows, we are.