Saturday, December 8, 2012

첫눈 "First Snow"

It's been a pretty eventful work for the ol' Davey, but one of the highlights has been the first snowfall of the season which occurred this past Wednesday. The temperature has been steadily dropping over the past few weeks, the lights have been going up across the city, and now there's a whole whack of the white stuff to get the kids frolicking outside and the Davey all excited about the holiday season.

However, the snow has made it a challenge to get to work without breaking myself. The sidewalks here are inexplicably littered with decorative smooth concrete that looks and acts like marble - especially in rain and snow. Forget about mom's back-breaking sidewalk cracks, step on one of these bad boys the wrong way and you're going to be spending Christmas in traction.

But, the snow mostly means kids at my school running around with kimchi-eating grins on their faces. Their collective good mood is a huge lift for us teachers. The students might be gazing out the window more often than usual, but looking at lazily falling flakes is a step-up from punching and slapping each other during class time. Thank you, winter!

And for those mistletoe connoisseurs, walking in the first snow in Korea also means that you are creating optimal conditions to meet your true love. Everyone basically stops what they are doing and they run out to enjoy what they will likely be cursing in less than a month. I'm all for it. I've already met my true love, so the first snow is a chance for me to look more peacefully at the world and move through it a bit more slowly. It's also all kinds of romantic. Glad the rabbit thinks so too.

Hard to believe that it's December 9th already. If I had an advent calendar, it would already be a third open.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Three's Company

It's been a few days since my last post - mainly because I've been busy as all heck with school, random stuff, and a house guest.

Maria and I are splitting hosting duties while our Australian friend, Andy visits for a post Japan one-week Korean stop-over before heading back home for the holidays.

Korean apartments are generally on the small side - office-tels (what we are in), even smaller. But, we were glad that we could provide a warm floor for someone who is more than used to sleeping on one - what with all of his years spent in Korea already.

Unfortunately, we really didn't have a great deal of time to go out and see the sights as rabbit and I were both working and in the middle of planning for other things, but it was okay as Andy really had few sights he needed to check-off his list.

What it was, was a good time to reflect on that curious aspect of international friendships that originate overseas - it doesn't matter how different your view points, pasts or future trajectories might be, it's still comforting to be with people you know.

I suppose I'm tied to a number of different eras, generations, whatevers, here in Korea. I've been here since August of 2007, and in that time, I've developed approximately 5 constantly shifting circles of friends. The size of the circles shifts based on where you are, what you're looking for, and what you're willing to go out and get. I guess it's mostly about what you need, but it's hard to know what you need until it's right there in front of your face or ripped unceremoniously away from you with a contract ending and plane ticket back home. Anyway, cramped as it was, it was good to connect again with a friend who likes arcades, has plenty of board game loving friends, and who also finds value in reconnecting. Andy is a part of my history here in Seoul, and it's reassuring to know that ended contracts and plane tickets don't need to mean "goodbye".

With three of us in an apartment where we can sleep more than two only if we don't do laundry, I was reminded of a poem from my youth. I got it from a cheap decorative plate and wrote it again with a jiffy marker on the interior wall of a playhouse that our dad build for my sister and I in our backyard. The poem read:

Our house is small, 
No mansion for a millionaire.
But there is room for love,
And there is room for friends,
That's all I care.

Happy trails, Andy. Until next time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

양말 냄새 (sock smell)

I like to make the wee student folk in my classroom react in strong and interesting ways. It's pretty easy to do - sometimes it involves just taking my glasses off. Other times, I reach into my bag of Storybook theatre broad character tricks and make faces or gestures that invite a response - it helps to make stories come alive or illustrate a language point that isn't making it across the bridge.

My socks have also featured into my classes from time to time. Recently, I acted-out a scene from Heckedy Peg which involved me taking my school sandals then my socks off. That resulted in a chorus of delighted screams and, likely, stories home to mom and dad about the zany waygook teacher at school who takes his socks off in class.

Most recently, the socks came off (and were thoroughly laundered) to be a part of a grade 4 activity. The 4-part chapter has centered around shopping and we decided to end-off the lessons with an auction activity. The focus language changes somewhat from "How much is it?" to "How much is it worth?"

Groups of four students each get $68 in play money which they will use to purchase items from our front table. They don't know the "worth" of the items at the time of purchase, but they know that each group must buy at least one item. The actual "worth" of the items will be revealed via PPT in the last five minutes of class. We add the remaining cash plus the "worth" of the items to see who the most effective buyers were.

Well, of course my socks end up being revealed to be "worth" $45.00 - by far the most valuable item in the collection (which included my Donkey Kong stuffy, a bottle of Vitamin C drink, a bottle of hot sauce, and other miscellanea - revealing each one from a bag at the beginning is also a lot of fun).

Of course, the groups who all regretfully avoided that item up for bid in the first class decided to stop the next class in the hallway and tell them all about the $45 socks that they should all buy in the auction today. I was warned by my co-teacher who overheard this and so I took a couple of minutes with the screen off to change all of the prices in the PPT - the socks dropping significantly in price and the Vitamin C drink going up to an inexplicable $27. Heck, it's all in good fun.

Well, wouldn't you know that two zealous young lads gladly out-bid their own group members to spend exactly $45 on a pair of socks which they proceeded to play with and smell deeply of like they were stacks of American green-backs. They even slipped them on like sleeves and used them to bid for other items using their group's remaining $13.00.

I only wish I had taken a photos of their faces when it was revealed that the sock price had been changed from $45 in the previous class to $2. That's what you get for trying to pull a fast one on Teacher Dave.

 Good-natured little guys they are though - they took it all in stride and were giggling about it before the bell rang.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

South in Sanbon

Spent a good chunk of the weekend south of the city in Sanbon with my Seoul Canadian family. What a couple of cute ankle-biters reside there. This time, even the smaller of the two was in a super friendly mood. She seemed to enjoy calling me "daddy", and when she was corrected, she switched to "uncle daddy" which we were both satisfied with.

It was a great chance for my friend and I to catch-up, throw some darts, drink copious amounts of 맥주, have a spirited FIFA tournament on our iphones, and get approximately 3 hours of sleep. Yeesh...

Then it was back to the apartment to decorate the wee tree with my wee rabbit. Heck, it's almost the end of November...

Monday, November 26, 2012

I want to...

Spent the last couple of hours marking worksheets that I prepared for my grade 5 students. It's one of those situations where, through recently gained experience, you simplify an activity so much that you think there's no possible way that students can do anything but succeed with it. Oops...

Anyway, from a lesson targeting the wishful future conditional of "I want to...", I went for a "bucket list" kind of approach - showing first my Korean version (things I've done so far, like make kimchi, visit Jeju-do, etc., as well as things I still want to do, like make pottery and climb Hallasan), then showing my "Big Bucket List" - containing such dreams as traveling to Africa, and seeing a FIFA World Cup match. I also threw in "I want to meet Ban Ki-moon" (the UN's current secretary general and the pride of most self-aware young South Korean academics).

Student work sheets asked for only five sentences using the "I want..." model. I suggested two ideas to get them started ("I want to meet..." and "I want to travel to..." and the remaining three spaces could be filled with whatever "wants" their little hearts desired. We borrowed a whole whack of Korean-English dictionaries from our school's library to help the students along.

Overall, I admit that I'm disappointed with the quality of the majority of returns - I'm okay with the never-ending parade of the "I want to meet (insert name of generic K-pop band here)", but largely, the whole idea of "dreaming big" was lost and replaced with generic sentences from previous lessons - the "I want to take a rest" or "I want to ride a bike" kind of deals. Sadly, many incomplete worksheets had also been returned to my Korean co-teacher during her solo-teaching efforts.

Among the responses that I did get though, there were these gems:

- I want to be a barista.
- I want to meet boyfriends.
- I want to eat French cheese.
- I want to get a watch.
- I want to buy a bus.
- I want to spy on England.
- I want to eat beef.
- I want to meat the president of Japan.
- I want to buy some Russian house.
- I want to eat all of the foods.
- I want to eat a whale.
- I want to eat a snackhouse.
- I want to meet Zeus.
- I want to eat century soup.

and, my personal favourite...

- Bring some water quickly. I'm sorry?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sound Logic

A discussion had back in the early part of the month...

Co-Teacher: You are wearing an Obama shirt. Why? You are Canadian.

Me: That's true, but what happens in the United States affects the rest of the world.

Co-Teacher: I think so, and I will join the military next month, so I want Obama to win, too. I think he is more peaceful than Romney, and Obama is smart. Anyway, Romney is Mormon. His religion is crazy, so I think he's crazy, too.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Squirrel Path

I feel very fortunate to have met-up with a former student of mine last night. Some of you might remember that I taught two semesters of the Nambu (south Seoul) district's Critical Reading & Writing Program - offered to cream-of-the-crop high school students with high English proficiency and outstanding academic records.

For me, it was a chance to be involved in a level of teaching that I now sorely miss, as well as a chance to meet some very cool people, and certainly some of the city's youngest, best, and brightest.

Anyway, I was truly honoured and touched when one of my former students (who calls me "Gagnier") messaged me back in late September to welcome me back to Korea and to invite me out to his university to look around the campus and catch-up.

Gene was accepted into Korea University - one of the top three in the nation - and is majoring in History. This is one brilliant young man, who not only embraces his inner nerd and is (to the best of my knowledge) unapologetic about it, but he also happens to catch for the Korea University men's baseball team. I hope to be seeing him in action next spring.

Before an Indian dinner at a nearby restaurant, Gene took time to show me around the campus - which is huge. I regret not going in the day as it is a beautiful campus and night shots won't do it justice, but we managed this one shot lit by street-maps - yellow.

Next time, I hope to make it when the sun is still out so that I can capture "Squirrel Road" - an urban legend among the students that involves fateful crossings of paths by a squirrel. Should a student be walking this tree-lined hilly path alone, and a squirrel crosses his or her path - expect three more years of "being solo". If it occurs in front of a couple, then the relationship will be long-lasting. In other words, if you dig on being with someone, don't walk Squirrel Road alone.

In February, Gene will be interrupting his schooling to complete his two years of military service - something mandatory for all Korean males between the ages of 18 and 35. I am pleased to know that for this period, Gene will be lending his gigantic brain to the National Defense Center in Jongno where he will be working to uncover and archive records from the Korean War. This, as opposed to being a floating target for North Korean buffoonery.