Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Well I thought I should maybe write a blog about teaching in Korea, afterall it is what we came here to do! Although, so far only one of us can do it!
I work at a hagwan, which is an after school academy for learning English. Since my hours are from 4-10pm, you can imagine that some of these kids have been at school since 8am and that presents some new challenges on top of the regular challenges of teaching. Working 4-10 took some adjusting for me! During the first week, I wondered if I would ever stop falling asleep at 9:00! But now I am adjusted and really enjoy having the days to myself and working the evenings.
My first couple of weeks have been full of learning (FOR ME) and getting to know the kids. I was surprised to find that children here have to pick an English name. Since I cannot remember their Korean names, and when I try to pronounce them it results in a lot of pointing and humiliation for the child whose name I am attempting to say, picking an English name just may be a good idea. However, the students are allowed to pick their own name....and it can be anything. Some pick normal English names. However, I have taught a Marvelous, Mr.Wonderful, Duck, Goose, and today I have my favourite.......Doughnut. Doughnut is a small grade 4 who has braces. He is adorable. Since the class is over full, he shares a desk with me. Last week was my first week with him. As I sat at "our" desk, he smiled a big metal smile and said in a litte squeeky voice "Hello, my name is Doughnut." My heart melted.
The weirdest things have caused problems in my classroom. MANY times the children have errupted into laughter as I say an English word that somehow resembles a bad word in Korean. While reading with some grade 5s, I stopped to explain what the word "shiver" means. Well, apparently in Korean it is equivalant to the f-word, and this caused extreme chaos and children falling off their chairs.
Last week, I was helping a grade 6 correct her writing mistakes. As I pointed to a spelling error on her page, she yelled "Teacher! Your fur!". I looked at her with a blank stare. Huh? "Your fur!" she continued "Why is it so white?" She then rubbed the hair on her arm and said "Black". This lead to me having to explain to the whole grade six class that some people have body hair that is a colour other than black, and usually it matches their hair. HAIR. NOT FUR.
Yesterday I had my most energetic class. Some classes have no energy at all. Some have too much. This class has way way too much. They are grade fives, and I really love teaching them. I was asked by the head teacher to keep an eye on one particular boy, Tom, who seems to be struggling with English and may need to be moved to an easier class. The class went as it usually does. Lots of shouting out answers, rolling of wheely chairs, playfully teasing each other, making fun of the teacher. I called on Tom as much as possible, to try to assess his understanding of English. When I asked him how his weekend was, he explained with a HUGE grin that he had a good weekend because he got a errrrrrrr.....ummmmmmmm.......hamster! A big deal for Tom. We all asked him questions about his new furry friend, and then we moved onto our reading assignment. It took my best teaching skills to get the class to remain still and quiet so that we could read. I picked Tom to give it a go. As he was stumbling through his second sentence, a boy at the back of the room jumped out of his chair and began yelling something in Korean. I started to tell him to sit down, but was overpowered by three other boy at the back who also jumped up and started screaming something in Korean. They were all pointing at the fire extinguisher which is on the floor in the corner of the room. I was at the front......saying "what? WHAT?". The girls then jumped up and screamed. They were not saying anything in Korean, just screaming. Finally I heard one student say "A mouse-uh, a mouse-uh!". Tom calmly put down his book and walked to the back. He moved the fire extinguisher and pulled out a small box from behind it. The box had a hole chewed in the side. He then picked up his jailbird hamster and plopped it back in the box. After a conversation about not bringing your pets to English school, we then used my stickers to patch up the hole. This did not work very well. The hamster escaped again a half hour later. Tom spent the entire class watching the hamster box to make sure the cute little guy stayed in there, and I had to explain to the head teacher why I had not had a chance to assess Tom's English skills.
I wonder what will happen today.
The festival comprised the usually stalls, dried seaweed, ginseng, leather goods, etc. As well as various craft centers where you could purchase puppets and make your own masks. Entertainment included Korean rappers, girls wrestling (don’t get excited guys) and traditional music.
We hadn’t been in Andong for very long when we began to notice that we were getting quite a lot of attention from the Korean festival goers. Even more than usual. We noticed that people were actually taking photographs of us! This rose to celebrity like levels when we started to get involved with one of the traditional activities.
It is a Korean tradition to write a prayer on a strip of paper and hang it on a piece of twine. We don’t know any prayers but we figured we would do our best to write our name. We weren’t to know that this would create a frenzy of Korean Kodak enthusiasts who began to push and shove to get the best vantage spot to take the ultimate snap of what was obviously a very exciting moment for them.
I went first and a few people had began to take out their arm length cameras, but by the time Cindy’s turn came around they were telling her where to stand, what to do and how to do it. One lady even told her to ‘Stop laughing’(which as we all know is very hard for Cindy).
It was actually hard for me to get a picture of Cindy, although I had already decided that the media gallery was far more interesting than what Cindy was doing anyway... The frenzy eventually subsided and we all went on our way, although for the rest of the day we often noted large camera lenses pointing in our direction.
The other part of the festival was traditional maskdance performances. We were enjoying the dancing and the costumes and happily taking pictures of the show. There was around a thousand people sitting in the amphitheater and for some reason... I must have stood out. One of the dancers stepped into the audience saying ‘Sir-a, Sir-a’, took my hand, lead me out onto the dance floor and put a giant mask on my head. I then danced my way around the stage, past the media gallery and back to my seat.
All in all, an exciting day for Korea’s newest celebrity couple....
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The number one position on my countdown couldn’t possibly have been awarded to anything or anyone other than my curly haired girl, Cindy!
The past nine entries were only as memorable as they were because I had the privilege of sharing them with someone special. All those fantastic Canadian adventures would not have been the same without the company of the most fantastic Canadian.
Apart from showing me the sights and sounds of Ontario, Cindy has been amazingly patient and supportive through this eternal quest to get my work visa. I think most people would have cracked months ago!
Cindy’s ability to laugh at anything at anytime is possibly the one thing that makes me laugh the most! We can be sitting on the couch and she will burst into uncontrollable laughter because she thought of something that happened three days ago. This can happen a number of times until she moves on to something new!
Cindy is the number one, best thing about Canada!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
After many weeks of finding excuses to not workout (some were actually legit, some not so much) I have returned to running this week. I have heard that there is a gym on my street, but we have not been able to find it yet. With all the flashy signs here, everything pretty much looks the same and the last thing I want to do is wander into some place odd, thinking it is a gym, and have to use my best charades skills to explain my unexpected presence to the surprised Koreans inside. I have decided just to go running until I have someone to show me where this hidden gym is.
Running in Korea is a strange thing. Anyone who knows me knows I have no sense of direction. Since all the streets here look the same, I am very worried that I will get lost and never ever find my way home. So I simply run in a straight line for now. I have been running up and down the same street this week. It is a long highway, with lots of things to see.....and unfortunately smell. But that is not the strange part. Every time I go for a run here I attract a lot of attention. I think this is for a few reasons. I am a fair bit taller than the women here. I am an "outsider". I am wearing shorts and a tank top, and that is considered to be a big fashion boo boo in September.....shorts and tank tops are only in style until the end of August. And I am running, which I have not seen any women do here.
Today I strapped on my i-pod and headed out into the cooler weather (thank goodness we are getting a break from the humidity). I first encountered a group of women and teenage girls getting off a bus. The women all pointed. The teenage girls yelled "hello", some waved, many giggled and were commenting on my height by using their hands to indicate how much taller I was than them. I smiled and waved, grateful they were not commenting on the size of my behind (or at least they waited until I could not see them). Next I passed a man who was selling grapes alongside the road. He jumped out of his chair and did a half bow and said "hello". A few minutes later another man smiled and waved. A group of older women wearing face masks and sun visors pointed and chatted amongst themselves. As I ran past a gas station a young couple on a scooter was pulling in. The girl yelled "hello", and this made her boyfriend look and then yell "Oh hello hello!".
I feel like a superstar. I have not yet decided if I like all this attention. I miss the days that I could just run without all the stares and comments. I also miss feeling safe on the sidewalk......scooters, bikes, and small motorbikes use the sidewalks here, so running has become somewhat of an adventure sport. My i-pod has to be on low and I have to be ready to jump out of the way at any given moment. What I can say for sure is that running in Korea is never boring. And that's a good thing since I have to stick to the same street.
Monday, September 22, 2008
If there has been one thing that I have experienced in Canada that I would want to share with my friends and family back in OZ it would be SNOW! The Canuks reading this are probably cursing and calling me crazy right now but to an Aussie boy who had never seen the white stuff in his 25 years... it was pretty special.
The snow in most people's front yards was around head height by the end of winter. The snow blowers would cut a path through so the sidewalks could be used which left a scene that reminded me of when the “Cat in the Hat” did the same thing in one of the books I read when I was a child.
Driving in the snow was an interesting and somewhat dangerous experience. Nearly everyday you would see people crashing into each other or running off the road. I even passed a transport truck on its side on my way home from work during a snow storm.
The only time I wasn't thankful for the snow was when I locked my keys in the car during a snow storm. I tried for about 20 minutes to brake in with a coat-hanger but after the first 10 minutes I couldn't feel my fingers so there wasn't much point continuing. I had to catch a Taxi to get the spare keys from Cindy who was at school. The worst part was I had left my coffee inside the car!
Other enjoyable snow activities included snowboarding, snowshoeing, snow-ball fights, building snowmen and snow forts, and making snow angels.
Much to Cindy's, and the rest of Ontario's disgust, I am eagerly awaiting the next snowfall!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Although we have left Canadian soil I still have three more places to reveal on my count down of Canadian highlights, memories and icons.
Taking the bronze at number three is 'Cottage Country”
In WA many people have beach houses and coast huts most of which are fairly basic dwellings built by old fishermen with whatever they could get there hands on reasonably cheaply or for free. In Ontario, peoples holiday homes are called Cottages. This refers to any residence built on a lake or river and does not necessarily refer to the size of the abode. In fact, some of these so called cottages are more like mansions than anything else. Some people live in their cottages while others use it purely on weekends and holidays.
We we're very lucky to be friends with some folks who had awesome cottages. We have had some excellent times with Leanne and Shaun on the Trent Severn Waterway and Judy on Six Mile Lake. We were even privileged enough to be able to house sit a beautiful cottage on Lake Simcoe for a week. Thanks Nancy!
Most cottages not only have a private waterfront but their own dock and boat house as well. Some people even have there own island. Many cottages are only accessible by boat and therefore remain vacant for the winter until the lakes thaw. Most cottages are connected to power but some do not have sufficient heating to allow them to be used in the winter.
Cottage life is made up of boating, jet-skiing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, campfires, music, drinking, eating and relaxing with friends and family. It doesn't get much better than that!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Once upon a time there was a young couple named Cindy and Brett. They wanted to teach in Korea. They applied for many jobs and had many difficulties to overcome, but finally after many months they were on their way.
On the day of their flight, they woke up at 4am, and Cindy's parents drove them to the airport. The check in for the Air Canada flight went very smoothly. Cindy and Brett were very happy. They passed through customs and security without any problems. Cindy and Brett did a happy dance. Their flight boarded on time and took off smoothly. Cindy and Brett celebrated. Despite the old and crabby flight attendants, who wore chunky shoes and gave people one-eyed stinky faces, Cindy and Brett were very content and were enjoying their in flight movies and drinks.
Eight hours later, the captain of Cindy and Brett's flight made an announcement. They were flying over Alaska. The captain wanted Cindy and Brett to know it was beautiful there, and sunny there....and warm there.......and.....they....would.....be .....landing.....THERE. WHAT? The captain then said “Blah blah blah blah TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES.....blah blah blah blah....MALFUNCTION.......blah blah blah LANDING IN ALASKA.....blah.....HAVE A NICE DAY. Cindy and Brett were sad for the delay, but were certain they would soon be on their way again. Cindy had a migrain and hoped the old stinky flight attendant would bring her some Tylenol, but the old stinky flight attendant only made old stinky faces at her from the other side of the plane. Hmmm, most unpleasant.
Cindy and Brett and their fellow travelers were then divided into nationalities, finger printed, photographed, and locked in a room for five hours. The old stinky flight attendants stayed on the plane. Cindy thinks they were having drinks and dancing. Cindy and Brett were not even allowed to use the bathroom without being escorted. When water was delivered to the locked room of passengers, it was like dropping a chocolate bar on the floor of a kindergarten room....MASS CHAOS. It reminded Cindy of the footage she had seen of rice being delivered to third world countries.
The Alaska Airport then decided that the people from Cindy and Brett's flight could wander the airport for their last 3 hours (that makes for a total of 8 hours).
It was then announced that at 9:30 Alaskan time, Cindy and Brett and the other passengers would be flying to Vancouver. The flight would land at about 2:30 am. They would spend the night and fly out again the next day. When the announcement was made in English, everything was quiet. When the announcement was made in Korean, an angry mob rushed the poor girl who had to translate the message. Shouting began. Tension rose. Cindy and Brett were very uncomfortable.
At 8:30, people began boarding the flight to Vancouver. Cindy and Brett being the patient people they are, decided to wait until the angry mob had boarded, they had a seat afterall so there was no rush. Much to their surprise, the lady who checked their passport as they boarded then said it was OPEN SEATING. It was a smaller plane, with an angry mob, and open seating. VERY UNPLEASANT. Many passengers had loaded up the seats beside them with their bags, and refused to move them when asked by another passenger who NEEDED to sit there.
2:30 am (5:30 by Cindy and Brett's watch) they landed in Vancouver. Cindy and Brett ran. They knew that the time they would get to bed was directly related to how fast they could run and how many other passengers they could beat to the line for the hotel vouchers. They quickly collected all of their heavy bags and rushed through customs and ran as fast as their tired, grouchy legs could carry them to the voucher line. The voucher line was being served by 3 Air Canada employees who moved at the pace of an elderly turtle on sleeping pills. Cindy and Brett were about 25th in line and watched all the other slower runners pile up behind them. In their heads they thought that all their time in the gym finally payed off. When finally at the front of the line they were given a hotel voucher and told that they would be flying Singapore Air to Seoul the next day, and that Air Canada had also rebooked the connecting flight they had with Air Korea that would take Cindy and Brett to their city, Daegu. HOWEVER, Air Canada's ticket printer was not working and everyone would be given all their tickets the next day when they visited an Air Canada desk.
4:30 bedtime. 8:00 wake up time. Cindy and Brett head back to the airport. Found the Air Canada Desk. The Air Canada employees had no idea what Cindy and Brett were talking about. Two employees later, someone checked the computer. Cindy and Brett were given tickets to Singapore Air, BUT there was a mix up with the connecting flight. Air Canada forgot to confirm it. Cindy and Brett did not have tickets. The manager told Cindy and Brett he did not know what Cindy and Brett would do when stranded in Seoul, and he did not care because he had other customers to deal with. Cindy and Brett were unhappy. Cindy and Brett vowed to never fly Air Canada again. Cindy and Brett went to the Singapore Air desk and checked in and told the Singapore Air lady they were happy to not be dealing with Air Canada anymore. The Singapore Air lady replied “Oh yes, they are TERRIBLE”.
It was a very nice ride with Singapore Air.
Cindy and Brett took a bus from Seoul to Daegu, It was a five hour ride and they slept the whole way.
Cindy and Brett now happily live in Daegu. They are enjoying the experience. And they will never ever fly Air Canada again.
-we had three jobs fall through before finally securing the fourth
-we had to get criminal record checks, and have them signed by a notary (costs money!). Brett had to find a way to get an Australian police check , and get it signed, and sent to Korea. Thanks to his dad, this was possible.
-Brett's university does not know about sealed transcripts. His dad had to visit the university a few times for him before finally attaining a copy of his transcript in an envelope that was stamped over the seal.
-We sent all our documents to Korea (including our degrees out of the frames on the wall).
-Brett's Australian police check was sent from Australia. Since Brett's documents arrived from two places, and they arrived 3 days apart from each other, immigration in Korea thought something may be fake and asked him to send a letter explaining why his Aus police check arrived later, and what he was doing in Canada
-we were then finally allowed to apply for our visas......where Brett was declined. Even though we had emails from the Toronto consulate and the Australian consulate stating that Brett would be able to get his visa at the consulate in Toronto, they still declined him based on the fact that he was not in his home country. AHHH! You see, part of the visa process in a one minute interview, and they wanted him to do the interview in Australia.
-the Australian consulate agreed to interview him over the phone but only if he was on Australian soil.
-we had to move out of our apartment because we were supposed to be in Korea already and a new tenant was moving in. Thanks Leanne, Shaun, and my parents for letting us stay with you!
-days of research by Brett led to him finding an agency in Korea that stated that if you get your university education verified by them, you can apply for your visa anywhere in the world. The consulates in Toronto and Australia confirm that this is true.
-Korean immigration says the agency in Korea is only for university teachers and not for Brett.
-This was when we started thinking we may not go. We had so many signs that this adventure was not for us. We thought that maybe all these road blocks were for a reason...and the reason might be we should not go!
-Korean immigration then changed their minds and told Brett he could get his education verified by this agency and get his visa from anywhere.
And then we were off!.....but not before being told that we would not have our own apartment in Korea, that we would have to stay in a temporary apartment because they did not find one for us...yet.
Phew! If you made it this far in this long blog, you deserve a drink! Sorry about the long ramble....but seriously that is the short version of the story!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
We have made it to Korea. We had a very difficult time getting here....plane malfunction, missed connections and such, but we will write about that in the next blog. Today I am just happy to say that we are here, safe, happy, in a nice (but temporary) apartment, and our bellies are full of real korean food (not ordered by us....since we just stared helplessly at the menu. I am sure there were large question marks in thought bubbles floating above our heads).
Tune is again soon for some photos of our happy faces as we left Toronto, grumpy faces as we waited in Alaska and then Vancouver, and sweaty faces as we explored our busy little neighbourhood!
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
It has been one hell of a ride so far! Once we settle in we will tell you the whole drawn out story of what we have had to go through to get to this point.
For now, wish us luck! We are heading for the "Land of the Morning Calm". South Korea here we come!
Thankyou to everyone for you comments and good wishes. We love you all!
Monday, September 8, 2008
Again, I have already posted a detailed account of the awesomeness of Niagra Falls. Please see our post titled "Niagara" for the many reasons that it earns the number four position on my countdown.
We are now down to the top 5 on my countdown. Rounding it out at number 5 is "Algonquin".
Pines trees, lakes, moose, bears, beaver and otters.. it doesn't get any more Canadian than that!
I have recently written about our adventures in Algonquin Provincial Park so for more details please see out post titled "Mizzy Lake Trail".
Sunday, September 7, 2008
The number 6 position on my Countdown goes to “Canadian Wildlife”
It is always great to see an animal in it’s natural habitat for the first time. Although to most people here they are just pests or rodents, Canadian animals have provided a great deal of excitement and interest for me. My favorites are squirrels and chipmunks! You can find squirrels pretty much everywhere... in parks, running across the road, in your yard, even in downtown Toronto. They can be black, grey or a reddish brown. I like the grey and red ones the best! Chipmunks are probably cuter but you don’t see as many of them... sneaky little rascals!
This is a list of Canadian animals I have seen in the wild.
Squirrel, Chipmunk, Skunk, Otter, Deer
Canada Goose, Loon, Hummingbird, Woodpecker
Blue Heron, Blue jay, Beaver (dead), Eagle
Bass, Carp, Sunfish, Chickadee, Sparrow
Frog, Rabbit, Porcupine, Raccoon, Groundhog
Garter Snake, Trumpeter Swan
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Hi! Brett here,
For those of you that have just joined us I am counting down my top ten highlights, icons and memories of Canada, specifically Ontario. The number seven position goes to Toronto!
Toronto is Ontario's Capital and the largest city in Canada. It is an hours drive south of our home town of Barrie. Toronto is known to be a vibrant, energetic and diverse city swelling with art, music, sport and multiculturalism. Many blockbuster movies are filmed in Toronto and then passed off as other cities. The restaurants are fantastic, the shopping is great and the overall vibe is one of excitement.
Some of the major attractions that we have visited include the CN tower, Toronto Zoo, Hockey Hall of Fame, Royal Ontario Museum and Casa Loma. We rocked out to Bon Jovi, Daughtry, Matchbox Twenty and Alanis Morrisette at the Air Canada Center. Took in the Dirty Dancing stage show and attended the Second City comedy club where the likes of Mike Myers, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and John Candy started there careers.
The TTC subway is a fantastic facility and can take you safely to wherever you wish to go within the city. Toronto is one of the safest cities in North America and you can ride the underground subway and not see any vandalism, violence, garbage or transit guards!
The one thing about Toronto that wasn't a highlight but definitely left a memory was seeing such a large amount of homeless people. On nearly every corner of the downtown area you will see someone sleeping or begging for change. They literally roll out their sleeping bags or whatever they have right there on the sidewalk while people step over them on there way to work.
All in all, a great city and the number 7 position in my countdown!
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Since arriving in January I have been fascinated by the continual change of the Canadian landscape. I never realized how dynamic the change in seasons could be. In Australia, although we see a slight change in the colour of the grass and a variance in temperature and rainfall, the visual differences are minimal. In contrast, each season in Canada provides vast differences in the landscape and the way in which people conduct their lives.
I arrived in the middle of one of the longest and most severe winters on record.. nearly 2 meters of snow When I left Perth it was 41 degrees C and when I arrived in Toronto it was -21 degrees C. The trees were bare, the lakes were frozen and everything was white. The snow ploughs do a reasonable job of keeping the roads clear but that still leaves you to shovel the snow from your driveway, dig your car out and chip the ice off your windscreen.
Spring approached and within the matter of a few weeks the snow melted and the trees began to show hints of green. The white blanket disappeared and revealed the landscape that had been hidden beneath. It didn’t take long for the flowers to bloom and the trees to generate a dense cover of foliage. The birds returned from the south and the animals came out of hiding. It even seemed as though the locals came out of their own wintery slumber.
Summer brought excitement to the air and the waterways and
lakes started buzzing with activity. Folks headed to their cottages and the trip to Toronto that would normally take an hour could take 3 on a Sunday night. It is as though people need to fit a years worth of the outdoors into 4 months. The landscape is green and lush and teaming with life, the temperatures are warm and the water is clear and calm.
We are now nearing the Fall and the leaves are beginning to change to orange, red, yellow and brown. We will not be here for the complete onset of Fall but from what I have been told it is the most beautiful time to be in Canada. The leaves eventually fall from the trees, the temperature drops and locals start preparing for the next 4 to 5 months of hibernation.