Archive for the ‘yesan’ Category

Chungnam Bound and Yesan Proud

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

As much as I love my new school I do miss my old one, which is why I’ll be heading to Yesan on Thursday night, immediately after school! I have no school on Friday due to testing, so I’m going to go to Sapgyo High School on Friday and shadow this year’s conversational teacher as well as just loiter, then hang out with my host family for a little bit on Saturday. It’ll be good to be back in Chungnam^^.


Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Summer is here, and just when I thought the weather couldn’t get unbearably hotter, I was proven right by what seems to be a veritable dump of all of the moisture in the atmosphere.

It’s rainy season again. I somehow completely forgot about monsoon season, and how while it barely rains in Korea for 9 months out of the year, it makes up for it in the summer. Apparently monsoon season starts today, which is awesome as my umbrella is broken. On a positive note, the heavy rains means that the students can’t practice recorder outside, and there is so much wind that I can’t hear the students practicing in their homerooms. On a negative note, the table-tents that my students set up on their desks that have their names and their stamps (my reward system) on them have flown off like six times, and my shoes are wet.

Seriously, look at this beast!

Billy Collins

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

This does not have a lot to do with Korea, other than the fact that I rediscovered my love of Billy Collins while at school one day, but I really love the poem “On Turning Ten”

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Recently I’ve been feeling like an old grumpy teacher. Believe me, dear blog readers, I know for a fact that I am not old and I am in the prime of my life… it’s just a feeling, quite like Billy Collins’ narrator at 10. I feel that I’m not quite as relaxed and fun as last semester, and instead I’m channeling an old, grumpy tenured teacher. You know, the one who complains about “students and their baggy pants these days” and shakes her ruler at them as they gallop down the halls, except for me it’s their crazy perms and eye-tape (in Korea many girls put double-sided tape on their eyelids to create the appearance of double-eyelids… I don’t think it works particularly well as it just looks like their new double-eyelids are encased in cellphane. And yes when I say “perms” I’m talking about girls AND guys). Even though it’s only a half year later, these new students just seem so much younger!

There are days that are awesome and teaching just flows and the “teaching persona” (how I present myself as a teacher) I have works really well, but for the new classes I’m having issues finding a persona that works. If I’m too nice they sleep/take advantage of my niceness, but if I’m too hardball they don’t want to participate. This isn’t always an issue, just with certain classes and generally on Thursdays. So please forgive me just for today for being old in my mind, if not in my body. 

Darn teenagers.

My Life in Bullet Points

Friday, November 19th, 2010

A LOT has happened so I’ll update you in bullet form and expand in blog entries later.

Recent wins:

  • Woke up at 5 am yesterday to go with underclassmen to cheer for the 3rd graders (high school seniors) taking the 수능 (Suneung), which is a test that students start preparing for in elementary school. If you don’t do well on this test you can’t go to the college you want (or even college at all in some cases). Most of my students in the academic track stay at school until 10 pm or later every day doing self-study… pretty much just for the Suneung, and even the kids that are not in the academic track stay late and study. I was there before any of the teachers (got there at 6, most teachers got there at 7:30/8) and got to hang out with my students in the freezing cold. Apparently foreign teachers never go and cheer for the suneung so my school was really shocked (and very happy) that I went, and since I went with my host sister and not a teacher apparently they didn’t even know I was coming.
  • Almost finished with book 2 of piano, going on to book 3 in a few days.
  • FINALLY figured out how to do a dora chaugi kick in hapkido (watch the video, he does one at 0:24).
  • Went to the hapkido night class one day instead of my usual afternoon class and saw one of my trouble maker students. This kid is about 6’4″ and has to weigh at least 250 pounds, he’s massive. We had to practice blocking practice and I was paired with him and I completely took him out. I can now say I beat up one of my students.
  • I’ve been practicing with a core group of 7 students for the English competition (we have to sing a pop song) that’s coming up and today we finally nailed the difficult harmonies in the chorus. My students were so happy!
  • I taught a lesson on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog to my advanced kids.
  • I bought some sweaters so I won’t die!
  • Discovered a duck pond in my “downtown”
  • Went to Daegu/Busan with friends last weekend and built a sand-castle.
  • Tomorrow I’m going to the United States ambassador to Korea’s house for a Thanksgiving dinner with most of the first-year F*bright English Teaching Assistants.


  • I’ve been sick.
  • I lost my VOICE which is absolutely awful if you’re an English conversation teacher.
  • Korean vocabulary has recently been stagnating and grammar is definitely getting worse.
  • I STILL don’t know what I’m doing for Winter Break.
  • I feel like I’ve hit a wall in my relationship with teachers at school due to the language barrier and I really want to build deeper relationships but I don’t know how/I’m too tired to keep trying.
  • I have had 5 times as many spam comments as actual comments on my blog. Hint hint.

More later, I promise. As well as actual pictures eventually.

Lack of Ice Cream Anonymity

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

I went to the Baskin Robbins in Yesan yesterday with my host sister. The woman working there told my host sister that she recognized me, not just from living in Yesan and because I walk around a lot, but specifically because I had gone to Baskin Robbins “a lot.” I haven’t gone to Baskin Robbins in 2 months. So either this means that I ate a ton of ice cream in August/early September, or what I had suspected is true and everytime I get ice cream everybody knows and remembers.

If Baskin Robbins remembers me I would hate to think what the GS 24 near my apartment thinks of my ice cream eating habits o.O


Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Compared to many of the other ETAs I’m relatively isolated, or at the very least it feels that way. I’m definitely not as isolated as Megan up in North Korea (just kidding parents, she’s just relatively close), nor as isolated as some of the ETAs that are further south, but relatively speaking I’m isolated. I’m the only F*lbrighter in my county, there’s Joelle who is one county over and 20 minutes away by bus but after that it’s Sam who’s 40 minutes, Katie who’s… something, I’m not sure (she’s more rural than I am and her bus system’s a little wonky – haven’t attempted that trip yet) and everyone else is an hour away or more. I try to keep it in perspective by reasoning that for many of the city ETAs who are technically near each other it can take up to an hour for them to meet because they’re on opposite ends of the city. However the city ETAs seem to have a “crew” if you will, and seem hang out together rather frequently, or at least once during the week. Maybe it’s because I’m in a rural location but we here in Chungnam don’t seem to a crew. Even though I’m only an hour from Cheonan, which again is about the same amount of time it takes many city ETAs to meet, we don’t have weekly Cheonan meetings. I’m not bringing this up to complain, just to state a fact that during the week I don’t see people. Joelle and I are trying to change that and make a once a week coffee sanity date, but thus far it hasn’t worked too well. I do end up seeing people on the weekends a fair amount because I travel, but it’s these long weekdays that are difficult. I’m really lucky in that I really like everyone that’s placed close to me, however they’re a little difficult to get to. When I have a really rough day at school due to either students misbehaving, or a cultural misunderstanding, it’s sometimes difficult coming back to my apartment and knowing that I don’t really have a “crew” that knows what I’m dealing with in terms of students, or understands my American perspective, that I can call to meet up and decompress. I just have to either be content with videochat/email/gchat etc, theoretically (I haven’t done this yet – too long of a trip to make on impulse) check and see if Joelle or Sam are free and navigate the rural bus system (i.e. sometimes the buses don’t. freaking. come. I hate the 7:20 Yesan-Hongseong bus. Also buses don’t run very late… I’d have to leave Sam’s place at 9 at the latest, and Joelle’s at just after 10) or just suck it up. I’ve never been good at isolation, I’ve always been a people-person, so this is a very good experience for me. A difficult one, but a good one.

What this does mean is that I value my time with people more, and I see people I probably wouldn’t otherwise. If I had a crew I’d probably stick with them at least a little bit (it’s easier to stay within your city than to go to another one, right)? As practically everyone is an hour away from me that means that it’s almost as easy to go meet people across the country as it is to go to Cheonan (the largest city near me).

So what am I doing this Friday night? I’m going to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with Joelle the rural way – Instead of partying under big city lights, or meeting up with my crew, I made chocolate chip cookies and we’re going to pop “V for Vendetta” into Joelle’s laptop and chill. And honestly? I’m really, really excited.

My Everyday Life

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

So people have been a-clamoring to know what my daily life is like. Sorry, I suck at blogging. Without further ado, here is the super long blog post that will probably go into more detail than you care about:

I live in a homestay, i.e. I live with a family, and they’re all really nice!  The father is the Ethics teacher
at Sapgyo High School and drives me to work every morning (we leave at 7:30 am, ugh). The mother is a a piano teacher at an academy, and she has started giving me piano lessons! Last but certainly not least, I have two homestay sisters who are honestly probbaly the best thing about my placement. Their names are 밀림 (Mil-lim) and 영림 (Young-lim), and they are in 3rd and 1st grade at Sapgyo High school. Cultural note: middle schools in Korea are 3 years long, so high schools in Korea are only 3 years.  So a first grader is roughly equivalent to a sophmore and so on. Currently Mil-lim is finishing up studying for the University Entrance Exam (more on this in a later blog post), which is a big test that all of the high schoolers who want to go to college have to take, similar to our SAT but much more intense and important. As they are high schoolers I don’t see them very often, but when I do we have a lot of fun. My homestay parents speak very little english, so either I speak Korean, or my sisters translate. I try to speak Korean as much as I can because I want to learn and also because I feel guilty having my sisters have to translate.

On my first day at school (a Saturday when I was getting to know the school and not actually teaching) they asked me to give a speech in Korean to the entire student body. That was nerve wracking. It was super simple, along the lines of  “Hello everyone it is nice to meet you.  My name is Emily.  I am from America, from Virginia which is below Washington.  I am an English teacher.  Thank you!”  However the entire student body burst into applause after I said “hello” so I think I made a good impression ^_^. I’m the first native teacher Sapgyo HS has ever had, so I get a lot of what was referred to in Orientation as “rockstar status” – 9 weeks later students still yell at me, run down the hall just to say “hi,” make hearts with their hands, etc. More on this later.

The Korean school system is intense!  There are classes M – F from 8 am – 5 pm and then on two Saturdays every month. Luckily I only teach on weekdays. On Monday – Friday most of the students (at least the college-bound ones) do self-study after school until 10 pm or midnight (including my two adorable host siblings, and then they go to school on Sunday and self-study from 8 am – 5 pm as well.   I teach 12 classes total: 2 advanced, 2 high beginner, 8 beginner, 2 low beginner. The beginner classes are a bit of a challenge, as they don’t always understand what I’m saying, but I’m trying to do my best to teach them.  To put things in perspective:

  • Taught my advanced class a lesson on protests and made them make up protest chants. Very extensive vocabulary, and good grammar, however don’t know how to use it all the time.
  • I teach my high beginners a harder version of my beginner lessons
  • Beginners get taught mostly grammar and vocab. Recent lessons have been “comparative and superlative adjectives” (thanks Josh! – you’re rad), “government words,” “singular vs plural” etc.
  • Low Beginners get a much easier version of the Beginner lesson. Some of my kids can’t read English, and two of my kids are completely illiterate (can’t read Korean). My most difficult (and thus my most rewarding) class is grade 1 class 6… it’s my lowest level and there are only 10 students in the class. When I come into class most days they’re asleep, but generally they’re really pumped up by the time I leave and they try SO hard.

Average class size is about 20, with my largest class at 30 and my smallest class at 10. I absolutely LOVE having smaller classes – it makes discipline much easier and I can give students individual attention.

I leave school between 3 and 4 everyday. I’m allowed to leave at 3, however depending on my teaching schedule and whether or not I miss the one bus that comes every 20 minutes, I leave at differen times everyday. That’s right, there’s one bus. I LITERALLY could not get lost going home unless I a) was on the wrong side of the street or b) got off the bus way too early. Bus takes about 30 minutes, and then every day M – F I have hapkido from 5:30 – 6:30. Hapkido is a “is a dynamic and eclectic Korean martial art. It is a form of self-defense that employs joint locks, techniques of other martial arts, as well as common primitive attacks. There is also the use of traditional weapons, including a sword, rope, nunchaku, cane, short stick, and staff (gun, bō) which vary in emphasis depending on the particular tradition examined.” It’s freaking awesome, I feel like Mulan. I am by no means great at it, but it’s a lot of fun and I have my yellow belt test on the 29th!

That’s generally my life right now. Sorry about the delay in updates.