Chili Pepper Bridge

Chili Pepper Bridge

Monday, August 29, 2011

First day at school

    Woah!  Finally I got to go and visit my school for the first time!  Its really nice looking.  I got to meet my Principal and Vice Principal and they both seemed really nice.  The VP could speak some English but the Principal could speak none at all so my mentor teacher had to translate.  I got a tour of the school and got to see my classroom.  Its simple but quite nice.  I have a white board, lots of at supplies, and a computer that hooks up to a big screen TV so I can use power point for lessons and play videos from the internet.  I was hoping for a Smart Board, but no such luck, oh well!   I also got to meet a lot of the 3rd grade students.  They are so cute and nice!  Meeting the students made me feel a little less nervous for my first day of teaching on Thursday.
    I ate lunch in the cafeteria next and the food was actually really good.  Pretty much all the teachers, even the Principal and VP eat the cafeteria food.  We had fish, greens, some beef and bean sprout soup, and of course....kimchi and rice!  My Principal and VP were very impressed with my ability to use chopsticks, lol.  Also the kindergartners where eating lunch in there at the same time and they all kept staring at me and waving, I think the only English word they know how to say is HI!  After lunch I went up to my classroom and did some basic lesson planning for the week.  The first few days is just going to be a lot of review so I can see what level the kids are at.
     Next I got to use my settlement allowance.  So in my contract it says that when I arrive I will receive a 300,000 won (about $300) settlement allowance, which I assumed would just be cash given to me.  But... no.  What it is is my mentor teacher took me out shopping for things I needed for my apartment, and we had a 300,000 won budget cap.  It was still good, but I was hoping for cash.  Anyway we got some extra bedding, so my floor mat is a little more comfortable, some floor cushions to sit on so me and my room mate don't have to sit on the floor, and a toaster.  We didn't spend all the money so once I think of some other things I need I can get a few more things.  Well that's all for.  I teach my first classes on Thursday so I'll be sure to give you and up date then with some pictures!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Provincial Orientation and moving into my apartment

     So the time at SungWoo resort flew by, well I we only really stayed there for two night so that makes sense.  We had a few lectures that were more specific to our province, on things to do and places to go, where the hospitals are, and how to get around on the buses.  They also gave us a handy schedule of all the local festivals, I am personally looking forward to the salmon festival where you can catch salmon with your bare hands!  Also, yesterday we took a field trip to Alpensia resort where the winter olympics will be held in 2018.  Its only about  20 minutes away from where I live in Jinbu!
     Well anyway, today we had one more lecture on practical lesson planning and then our mentor teachers came to pick us up.  I was really nervous waiting for her to come because I had had no contact from her and did't know what to expect.  She was really nice though and friendly.  She is the English teacher at my school so she  can speak very well, which was good.  So peoples mentor teachers speak little to no English.  We dove past my school, she told me a little about it, and then took me to my apartment.
     So, my apartment... I had no idea what to expect.  Most people get a little one room studio, of varying levels of cleanliness.  I was much more fortunate.  First off I am going to be living with another TaLK scholar from my program.  His name is Kevin and he is from New Zealand.  He's really cool and i think we will get along very well.  Well, because we are living together, our schools and pool our rent money and get us a nicer place.  We have a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment on the 18th floor of a building.   We each have our own individual outdoor patios that go out from our rooms and the view is amazing!  Its such a nice place.  The only down side so far is that there is literally no furniture at all here.  No tables, no chairs, not even beds.  We have mats on the floor to sleep on.  So hopefully in the next week or so we can see if our schools will buy us a few things to put in our place.  But other than that life is great, the apartment is probably one of the best ones anyone will get in the entire program.   Also, my city, although small and rural is still decently sized and there are several other foreign teachers who live nearby.  Kevin and I met a girl who is currently a teacher through the EPIK program which is run by the same people as TaLK.  She took us around the city, showed us where to buy food and random apartment things and even bought us dinner!  So anyway im gonna unwind and read a little and enjoy the country air.  GOOD NIGHT!

                                      The view of Jinbu at night from my deck on the 18th floor

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Goodbye Jochiwon

     Well, in a few hours I will be leaving the lovely University of Korea campus at Jochiwon and on a bus to Gangwon-do province.  I can't believe how fast these three weeks went by!  It's been a crazy experience so far. I've learned tons of stuff about teaching, and lesson planning, and also made tons of new friends who are going to be placed all over Korea.  Although I will miss this place I am definitely ready to leave and start teaching.  I got a little taste of it yesterday when we went to the Global Village English Camp and I got a group of kids and taught for 3 hours.  Well,  I gotta take off, I got 3 days at SungWoo Resort before I go to my school! See YA!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another week down

   Well, week two of training is now complete.  It was long but I got a lot of useful information.  We did workshops of lesson planning and curriculum development, and we were also given a lot of teaching resources to supplement our text book, which on its own is a little dry.
     Probably the most exciting part about this past week was on Friday when we got to meet out Provincial Office of Education Supervisors.   They are essentially the bosses for the education system in their province.  I was a little nervous because basically this guy is my boss, even over the principal of my school.  He ended up being really nice though, although he spoke pretty much no English at all.  We had to have a translator the whole time.  He told us what schools we are going to be placed in and some information about them.  The school I'm going to be working at is Jangpyeong Elementary School, in Pyeongchang.  Here's the website if you want to check it out  (its all in Korean though).  Its a pretty small school, only 125 students total, covering kindergarten through 6th grade.  I also found out I wont be getting a Korean co-teacher.  Most people in my program get a Korean university student who helps them run the classes, but I guess for whatever reason I wont be getting one.  On the plus side I think will be getting paid extra since I will be running my own class room.  They also gave me the email address of the previous TaLK scholar who worked at the school, but apparently that email doesn't exist anymore so basically I will find out everything when I actually arrive at my school.  Hopefully my apartment is close to the school, I know some people have commutes of up to an hour to get to their schools.
   Well, anyway I have one more week at Korea University for training, then I go to my province, Gangwon-do, for another orientation, but only with the people who will be working in my province.  I am really excited for this because we will be staying at SungWoo Resort for a week.  It looks awesome!  You can check out the website for this place and be jealous  (on the left hand side there is a button that makes the page in English).   Then after our resort stay someone from my school will pick me up and take me to my town.   Then I will finally get to see what kind of apartment I will be living in, as well as how close to work I will be.  Well that's all for now, time for lunch.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

first week finished, relaxing weekend

     Well the first week of orientation classes is finished, thank god.   A lot of the classes were really interesting and useful but man, 6 hours a lecture a day, 5 days a week!  Needless to say I was exhausted.  A lot of people in the TaLK program decided to go into Seoul this weekend, however I decided to remain at the University in Jochiwon to relax, catch up on sleep, practice Korean, and go on the free day trips they have planned for us.
     Today we went to a Buddhist Temple (Kaspa Temple I think it was called) up in the mountains.  It was AMAZING!  All the buildings were beautiful and the scenery was killer.  Trees, flowers, and waterfalls and pools that you could swim in and hang out.  Swimming in the waterfalls was my favorite part.  It was very calming and peaceful, plus it was really hot out and the water felt great!  There was also some time of ceremony going on with Buddhist Monks chanting and lots of people praying.  I couldn't tell what was really going on but it was really cool to see.  After walking around for a few hours we had a lunch provided by the temple of Bi Bim Bop.  It was delicious and really spicy!  I feel bad for the people in my program who don't like spicy food, the British people especially seem to be having a lot of trouble with it.  Good thing had had all those years of eating spicy Mexican food to prepare me.  Anyways, after lunch we got to talk to one of the monks and we made prayer bead bracelets and we also made posters where we had a engraving, and we put ink on it by hand and pressed down to make a copy of the picture, its was pretty cool.

    So now I'm back in my dorm room at Korea University writing this and it just started pouring rain outside.  At least the weather was nice earlier, I would have hated to miss out on the Temple because of a little rain!  So tomorrow we have another trip called the "Mud Experience".   I'm not really sure what this is but I think its going to involve me getting completely covered in mud, so I should have some funny pictures of that soon.  Until next time!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day in Seoul and First day of lectures

     So yesterday was the first official day of my training in the Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) Program and it started off with a bang.  Well actually the first day didn't involve much training at all, we took a field trip to downtown Seoul where we embarked on a photo scavenger hunt!  Seoul is a beautiful city, with lots of cool buildings and shops and restaurants.  The most beautiful part about Seoul I think is the close proximity of the very modern aspects to the ancient Korean monuments.  All over there are high rise buildings made of glass and steel yet right next to it could be the ancient Imperial Palace that has stood for thousands of years. Amazing!
     However it is still the rainy season here in Korea so the whole trip it was very windy and wet (that didn't stop us from having fun though).  I saw several peoples umbrellas get torn to shreds by a strong gust of wind, luckily mine held up.  Anyway, me and my group had about 3 hours to walk around get our photos and eat lunch.  Our pictures included the Imperial Palace, stone statues, a Korean Starbucks, the river, some crazy purple statue that looked like a sea shell, and a statue of a a famous emperor.  I'm still trying to figure out how to get more than one picture on this blog (can you tell I haven't done this before) so hopefully soon you can see them.  We ate lunch downtown which was an interesting experience because several of the girls in my group couldn't eat pork, and trying to find a dish without pork, or even just explaining to a Korean person that they couldn't eat pork proved very difficult.  But in the end after a long and confusing conversation with lots of pointing it all worked out.  After we returned from Seoul we went out to celebrate one of the other TaLK scholars birthday at a norea-bang (singing room), which is just a room that you rent out with a karaoke machine in it.  Lots of fun!   Then headed back to the dorms since we had our first "real" day of training to look forward too.
     So today the lectures began.  The schedule is pretty intense, 5 to 6 lectures a day from 8:40am to 5:40pm everyday for the next 3 weeks.  Man right now I am exhausted!  The lectures today were pretty interesting though.  We learned about Korean history, coping with life in Korea, how to deal with culture shock, travel tips, and got to talk with a current TaLk scholar about his experience teaching over the last year and a half.  Very informative but man, I am tired.  Its been over two years since I've gone to classes like that!  Anyway, tonight i am just gonna take it easy.  Just practice my Korean and spend some time learning how to read and write Hangeul (the Korean writing system).  More updates (and pictures once I figure this out) soon to come!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cicadas, Sunspots, Peppers, and Peaches

    Wow, ok its been a very long but eventful two days.  One thing that you notice right away here is the constant sound of the Cicadas buzzing all around.  Seriously, non stop.  although by now i have mostly gotten used to it and find the noise almost relaxing, but it definitely took a little getting used to.  These bugs are HUGE too, and they are everywhere.  So as you read this just imagine a constant sound, almost like a high pitched buzz saw ringing consistently throughout.
     Well anyway, I'll fill you in on the weekend.   So Saturday started early; breakfast at 8am and by 9 we were on the road.  We drove about an hour and a half to some mountains that we would hike up in order to reach an observatory at the top.  The scenery was beautiful, however until we reached the top the thick tress blocked any real views.  Once at the observatory we got to look into this huge telescope that was pointed at the sun and look at sunspots.  It was really cool!  We also go to watch some 3D movies that were kind of strange and I'm not sure what they had to do with astronomy at all, but they were interesting none the less (even though i couldn't understand anything they were saying).  Oh yea, I also used a Korean vending machine for the first time...I got some pineapple juice.
     After the observatory we went to a little place to get lunch.  However it took almost 3 hours for us to get served because we didn't have reservations and the cooks had to make food for 40 people!  However, once the food actually came it was delicious.  We had Bi Bim Bop, which is essentially mixed vegetables with rice.  It was also served with Kimchi (of course), bean sprouts, a soup, and some seaweed (at least it looked like seaweed, I'm just guessing) dish.  It was most excellent.
     After our long, long lunch we headed over to the Cheonjangho Suspension Bridge.  This bridge was really cool because in the middle it had giant statues of chili peppers!  actually everything in that town was decorated with peppers.  The bridge was neat because it was for pedestrians only, so we could all walk across.  It also was on ropes so as you walked the bridge swung back and forth and you kept getting tossed from side to side.  I was very surprised to see lots of elderly people jaunting about and going across the bridge.  But I guess it makes sense why Koreans stay so healthy, they eat tons of vegetables and go hiking in the mountains all the time!
     We headed back to Korea University, rested up a bit, and then decided to explore the town of Jochiwon where we are staying.  And guess what, a Peach festival was going on!  It was crazy, tons of food vendors, fire works, live music, and even a beauty pageant, all in the name of peaches.  A few of us courageous ones even tried boiled silk worms (not a gross as it sounds, but probably wont be eating those again, haha).  After several hours of gallivanting around the festival me and a few other people decided, well we are at a peach festival, lets get some peaches.  So we bought a box of 18 peaches for only 15,000 won (about $15) and ate away.  Let me tell you, they were delicious!  And we even had leftovers to eat at breakfast the next day.  After that we headed back to the dorms and went to bed, as we had another jam packed day ahead of us. 
     So Sunday, started much like Saturday, we had breakfast at 8am (only this time with fresh peaches!) and were on the bus by 9.  Today we were headed to the Korean Folk Village, which is basically a replica town of an old style Korean country village.  We saw live music, and acrobat tightrope walker, flower gardens, live animals and all kinds of other things.  Lunch today was much better as well, mainly because this time we had reservations so we were served right away.  We had some type of sesame beef dish served with vegetables and rice.  On a side note, I'm also starting to get pretty damn good with chopsticks, which in Korean restaurants  are metal, instead of the wooden ones I am used to seeing.  
     Well after lunch me and my group got some ice cream and and then rested/napped in this gazebo type structure (they have lots of these all over the village) where you have to take your shoes off.  We just sat there in the warm humid air, eating ice cream, full from lunch, and listened to the hum of the cicadas before nodding off for about half an hour.  This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the day, just pure bliss.  We then headed back to the buses and came home, where I am now writing this.  It's has been two completely full days and the official orientation hasn't even started yet!  Well anyway, time for me to run to dinner and then perhaps pick up another crate of peaches.  Anyeonghi jumuseyo!  (good night)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Long day of travel, arrival in Jochiwon

Well, after a total of nearly 16 hours of traveling, the long trek from San Diego to Incheon South Korea is complete (although my connecting flight in San Francisco was nearly missed to the damn fog!).  The flight itself, not so bad, just very...very...long...  But anyway I made it (although I did have a brief stint of getting lost at the airport)!  But any now I am shacked up at Korea University in Jochiwon in the dorms for our 3 week training period.  It's a pretty nice campus, at least from what I've seen of it in the dark (I didn't get in till after 10pm), but tomorrow I will explore more.  Anyway just a brief update for all you people.