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March 7th 2009
Published: March 7th 2009
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No better way to start the week off right than with a broken boiler. That's right, no hot water and since we have gas heat, no heat either. It broke sometime Sunday and since Sunday was the weekend, we knew it had to wait until at least the next day. Mike tried to fix it and even after searching around online to figure out how to read the thermostat (yep, that's in Korean too) and fix the dying cyborg cow that is our boiler, we were definitely going to be waiting until someone came to fix it. Needless to say we took old school showers on Monday morning. That's right my friends, we heated up the water on the stove and then took it into the bathroom. I knew all of my grandpa's stories would be good for something. 😉 I love you, Pappy!

Monday came and went and there was no news of when there would be a man coming to fix our boiler. Mike and I were joking that when the boiler man did come he would see all the garbage that we had in the apartment (it is gone now, at that time we were still buying things and cleaning everything out) and he would exclaim, "You idiots, you stuffed it with garbage, no wonder it doesn't work!" Monday night we were sitting at the table eating dinner when we heard someone at the door. Mike opened it and a confused looking Korean man wearing a work uniform and equipped with wrenches came in. He looked first under the sink in the kitchen and when he didn't find what he was looking for, he stood up and looked around confused again. Mike showed him the boiler room, assuming that was what he was looking for. He was not interested in the boiler so I thought that maybe he wanted to see the thermostat. He looked at the thermostat and just turned it off. Then Mike realized (after all, unless he was going to club the boiler into submission, what did he bring the wrenches for?) that he was here to fix the leaky sink in the bathroom. He quickly fixed the leak in the bathroom and then tried to tell us something about calling someone about the boiler but we couldn't understand what he was trying to tell us at all. After a few attempts, he just laughed awkwardly and distraughtedly and then motioned that we should just finish our dinner and left. I sent my co-teacher a text message about what happened and she told me that the boiler man would come on Tuesday. Another morning of stove water showers. YES! :P I was sent home from school on Tuesday to let the boiler man in. I could have hugged him.

Now lets back up to the first day of school. I report to school at 8:20am (report time for all of my school's middle school teachers, terrific, huh?!) I went upstairs to the teachers office and sat down. I found out that the freshman ceremony (7th graders are 1st year middle school students and are called freshmen) was at 10, I was supposed to be outside before 10. I wasn't exactly sure where I was going so I asked another teacher if I could follow her outside. I found out later that she is one of the other teachers that I will be co-teaching with. When I got outside all of the students were standing in straight lines on the soccer field. The students had already been outside for at least an hour (keep in mind it is winter here too) when I got out there. The 3rd graders(9th grade in the states) were on the far right side, the freshmen were in the middle, and the 2nd graders (8th graders in the states) were on the far left. The man with the microphone would at times call out what had to be parade rest and attention because that is what the students did. The principal and vice principal both made speeches. Before the speeches the students would bow to the speaker and the speaker would bow back to the students. They also played the national anthem and the school's alma matter.

Two students (representatives from the freshmen class were called up on stage. They ran up onto the stage, bowed to the principal, said something and raised their right hands. All of the freshmen students responded and also raised their right hands. Then the two on stage read something from a book, bowed again, and ran off stage back into their place in line. After this, half of the freshmen students turned to their right and half of them turned to their left. The upperclassmen turned to face the freshmen and they bowed to one another. Afterward, the new teachers at the school were called up on stage. For such a small school there were about 12 new teachers. (I'm still trying to figure out why they do this, but in Korea, a teacher will only be at one school for five years. After five years they switch them to a different school. This is done to all teachers.) The principal announced all of the new teachers. When your name was called you were to step forward and bow. The whole time I was up there I was hoping and hoping that I would be able to understand when he called my name. After all of the new teachers were announced, third grade students ran from their spot in line and grabbed a rose from the box by the stage. Each student presented a rose to one of the new teachers. It is currently decorating our kitchen counter.

The first day of school I was not exactly sure when lunch time was. I was given a schedule of the days events, however, it was in Korean. Around noon the whole teachers office pretty much emptied out. I peeked up from my seat and started looking around the room. The vice principal noticed that I didn't have a clue what was going on and the PE teacher took me downstairs and showed me where the lunch room was. The teachers have their own cafeteria room. When you first walk in the door there are trays, bowls, spoons and chopsticks on the table. Then there are pots with the day's meal in it. The food at my school is much better than the cafeteria food at orientation was. Actually I haven't really eaten anything at school that I haven't liked. All of the teachers go down to the teachers room for lunch and I haven't seen anyone that packs a lunch. Even the principal and the vice principal come and eat lunch with us in the teachers room. The first day, I was in line right in front of the principal and he told me that the woman in front of me was an English teacher. I sat with her at lunch and she invited me to come with her to her class after lunch. (I won't have an actual teaching schedule until 3/9... all of the classes I got to go to this week, I was invited by the teacher.) Of course, I said yes. Towards the end of lunch the principal and the vice principal were leaving the cafeteria and they stopped at my table. He looked at me eating with chopsticks and said, "where did you learn this?!?" hah! 😊 After cooking with Val, she's from Hong Kong, in South Africa, my chopsticks skills are pretty solid. The other teachers at lunch were also giggling about how I was already able to eat with chopsticks. 😉

After lunch, I went to class with Miss Gwak (or Katie). It was a 2nd grade class (remember, 8th grade 😉. The students went crazy when I walked into the room. Katie told me that I should introduce myself and then she will go over some things with the students. My introduction included asking the students to guess things about me, such as where I'm from and what I might like. The students did not respond to my questions as quickly as I would have thought given their level of excitement. I was glad to see this though as it gave me a better idea of what to plan for the students on my first day of actual teaching. I really enjoyed working with the class. After I was finished, Katie told me that I may stay and watch the rest of her class or that i may go back to the teachers room. I was so excited that she was willing to let me stay for her class. From what I've been told, most Korean English teachers don't feel comfortable letting a native English speaker watch their classes. I was definitely excited just to get into the classroom.

On Wednesday, Katie asked me if I would like to go see that same class again and try out the lesson plan that I showed her. In that lesson I played two truths and a lie with the students and then had them write down their own two truths and a lie. Then I had the students pick English nicknames or write out their Korean name in the roman alphabet for me. I also had them write down what things that they were interested in so that I could catch up on the things that Korean teenagers are interested in. 😉 Later I can use that info to help me plan my lessons. I got the biggest charge out of teaching that class. They have such a good sense of humor! I can't wait to start teaching next week!

I also got to see two third grade classes this week. I went to these with Lisa (my main co-teacher that I absolutely adore!). She had the kids play a sort of bingo game where she gives them nine words and they have to write those nine words in the 3x3 boxes on their paper. Then they have to create questions to find out what the words are about. For example, one of the words she gave them was September. The students would have to ask, "when were you born" She would answer, "on september 6". They went through the game with Lisa and then they did it once more with words that I gave them. The one that generated a lot of laughs both times was I used the year 1958. It is the year that my dad was born. The reason that it was funny was because when I first put it on the board, the students were like, "were you born in 1958?!?! You look so young!" :P That's right, I'm a baby face!

I think everyone's first week of school contains a food blunder of some sort. I did fine up until Wednesday. On Wednesday, I went to lunch with the teacher whose desk is beside mine in the teachers office. She is a really super nice lady. I was trying to figure out where everything should go on the lunch tray and what food you put on top of what food and then you mix what together and.... well.... there was a whole bunch of vegetables that you were supposed to put on the bottom of the bowl. Then you put rice on top of that and hot sauce on top of that. After I saw her do that, and then did it myself and made it to the soup, she had already finished and went to sit down. I looked at the soup, looked at the bowl, looked at the rest of the tray, looked back at the soup, and based on how they seemed to put soup on everything during orientation, I thought that the soup was supposed to go on top of everything that I already had in the bowl. I went to the table to sit down and realized that I was not correct. The teacher looked at me, eyes wide and went..."oohhh, no." hahah she smiled and took my bowl outside to dump it out. Of course, everyone in the room wanted to know what just happened... great. haha The English teacher that I had not met until this moment was standing in line for food, she handed me a bowl and said, "try again."

I don't think that I have mentioned the squat toilets at all yet. Much as their name implies, they are basically a hole in the ground and you squat. At first, I was quite disturbed by this but now that I am used to going into bathrooms that are not heated (they don't heat bathrooms or hallways in the school, in fact the front door just hangs wide open) I prefer the squatter to the ice cold seat toilet. Just beware, in public restrooms there isn't always toilet paper.

Yesterday on my way to school I ran into my next door neighbor and his daughter. We got onto the elevator at the same time and they talked to me on the way down. Both of their English was quite good. I found out that she is one of my freshman students at the middle school. She was probably the sweetest kid that I've talked to so far. I talked to her the whole way to school and even stood outside talking to her for a little while before she walked her laps around the track (all students walk laps on the track when they get to school in the morning. The PE teacher is outside waiting for them when they come in.)

Last night Mike and I went to the Ariana hotel for an EPIK teachers dinner. The hotel was on the complete other side of the city from us. We had bits and pieces of directions from half a dozen people but we still weren't exactly sure how to get there. The problem was that there are like a million different bus lines, we don't know what anything looks like, and the whole bus system is in Korean. So even if we know the name of the stop, its hard to know exactly where we are. Lisa gave me directions to get to the hotel from the subway, so the tricky part was going to be to get from our apt to the subway. We got on the bus in front of our apt and essentially were going to hope for the best. Luckily for us, about half way into downtown a couple from Virginia got on our bus. We asked them if they knew where the subway was and they showed us where to get off. Honestly, had it not been for them we would have been soooooooo lost. We got off of the bus and went underground. It was much more difficult than I had expected, since there was a mall on top of the subway (so it was underground, but above the tracks). We walked around until we finally found out how to get down to the tracks. When we got downstairs, we tried to use Mike's transportation pass (a card he got for the bus) to get both of us through, however, just like in DC, everyone needs their own ticket. When I tried to get through, the thing started beeping and a man that spoke no English came out and tried to tell us what to do. Fortunately for us, a woman walking by spoke English and helped translate back and forth between us. The man showed me where to buy a subway pass and then we were finally able to get on the subway.

From there it was easy, get out of the subway and hail a taxi. We caught the taxi with two other EPIK teachers that we ran into on the way out of the subway. Total travel time to Ariana Hotel: An hour and half. :0 Dinner was quite good and there were Korean singers who sang some English covers. They were really good and did a better job covering some of the songs than a lot of native English singers. :P haha We didn't stay very long though. The buses stop running at 10:30pm (which I think is absurdly early for a city). We left the hotel at 8:30, got back to the subway station, couldn't figure out how to get back out of the mall, caught the bus in what we were hoping was the right direction and got home just before 10pm. We were both so unbelievably exhausted. This was a long week. Good, but long. 😊

Tonight we are going to go back into the city for dinner and to look around. Can't wait!


7th March 2009

I think its really funny that it was posted on March 7th, but its still only the 6th here. I'm glad everything is going well for you. The truth/lie thing reminds me of my history class when we did the same thing.
7th March 2009

Haha, great writing, again!!!
If you keep going like this you’ll be able to publish a book in a couple of months… no kidding!
29th March 2009

Yay stories
Hey I finally got chance to read some and see what you are up to. Sounds like you are having quite the adventure and doing well, good to hear!! It seems soo different there it is hard to imagine and I am glad I dont have to squat to pee haha. The grades seems confusing, but I am sure you get use to it. I hope yoru classes are going well, seems fun to play game! Take care :)

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