Thursday, May 31, 2007

poot pashion

Today my coteacher wore no fewer than 6 pairs of shoes. She wore one pair (tassled white high heels) from her car into school, one pair (platform black slip-ons with a sequined bow) to teach in, one pair (sporty pink velcro sneakers) to walk her second grade class onto the school's "field" (and then walk straight back into school), the tassled white ones again from school to her car, one pair (raffia flip-flops) for driving, one pair (black heels threaded with ribbon) from her car to Yongok Elementary School where we had a workshop about ETAs, and one last pair (plain black slip-ons) while we were actually inside Yongok Elementary School.

Before coming to Korea, I didn't even own 6 pairs of shoes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

sports day

Several weeks ago (May 4th to be exact) was our school's Sports Day. It took weeks--and many missed classes--of preparation (the Provincial Board of Education came to watch, and our principal and vice-principal wanted ours to be the best Sports Day in the province), but it was all worth it. Everyone got outfits...cute little uniforms for the students and oversized blue polo shirts for the teachers, and we covered the school in flags and banners. The Day is nominally a contest between the arbitrarily assigned Red and Blue teams. The kindergarteners wore special yellow outfits to signify that their games were not a part of the competition, and the first graders wore either red or blue so they could remember which team they belonged to.

The day started with the national anthem, the other song we sing at every school assembly, and some whole-school aerobics. The little boy in the middle of the picture on the left is one of my funniest second graders. He may be only 6 years old, but he's already made important progress along the path to becoming a k-pop superstar. His little mullet is always perfectly coiffed--and sometimes even curled--and he never goes outside without visor, shades, gloves, and knee socks to protect him from the sun. Eunji (the girl to the right) is totally smitten.

I was actually surprised by how well-run everything was. Large games between grades took place in the middle of our "field" (can a dust/sandlot qualify as a field?), while races ran constantly around the outside. Each grade split into its red and blue components and played really creative and adorable relay-type games, and every single student participated in the races (a special volunteer was brought in to push one of our fourth graders, who uses a wheelchair). Points from all the games and races were tallied on a big scoreboard (I believe the Blue team scored almost 300 points to win, but I could be wrong about that). The transitions were pretty seamless, and they managed to run all the races without any problems. In the picture, it looks like Kiyeong is winning his race, but he was actually second. Kibeom did win his...a fact that he's still lording over his brother.

Tug-of-war was one of the most anticipated events. The vice principal made me fire the starting gun for the girls' tug-of-war (thus no pics), which was very stressful. Fortunately, I managed to avoid hurting anyone or making a huge fool of myself.

In addition to the obviously sporty events (races, tug-of-war, active games), Sports Day included several activities that required a more creative interpretation of the word "sport." These included traditional Korean things like a fan dance, baton twirling, and drumming performances, as well as the somewhat less traditional 1st grade sparkly matador outfit dance, other song and dance routines, and super fun English quiz--the grand prize of which was a gigantic package of toilet paper.

Sports Day also had events for the greater school community. There was a big mom tug-of-war competition...the moms got so into it that they went 2 extra rounds. In the final round, a group of boys (wanting to help their moms who had just lost twice) surreptitiously grabbed the very end of the rope and pulled their moms to victory. The picture on the right shows one of my absolute favorite parts of the day--the grandparents' relay. Two teams of grandparents faced off, each team with a fishing pole. At the gun, they shuffled over to the middle of the "field" and cast into a giant bucket "ocean", where two 3rd graders crouched in wait (you can see a little hand reaching for the fishing line in the picture). They tied a prize to the end of the fishing line--mostly bags of shrimp chips and tubes of pine-flavored toothpaste--and the grandparents shuffled back to hand off the pole. It was almost too cute to watch.

The picture on the right shows the most annoying part of Sports Day (as does the sparkly matador picture). During every single performance and game, parents had no qualms about walking right into the ranks of kids to take a picture of their child. In some of the performances with choreographed movements, photo-snapping parents bumped into kids trying to make fan formations or hold hands in a dance, and I saw one mother telling her son to stop baton-twirling and pose for her picture (peace sign! cutie!).

Friday, May 18, 2007


I found this picture today while trying to figure out our school's website:

I'm not sure what the deal is with the "quote" in the accompanying article. No one at my school could possibly have written I suppose either I did and don't remember (this is possible--my coteacher has approached me with random demands like "Write your dream. 2 lines," or "Write your think the vice principal, 3 sentences," on various occasions. I have to come up with something random on the spot, and since no one can--or cares to--really read what I've written, I don't worry about it enough to remember anything), or she just stole it from somewhere on the internet.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

korean fire drill

Yesterday was the culmination of what my coteacher described in my Propulsion Comments as "Emergency Earthquake Training the Violence," but could possibly be better described as "a fire drill." I say possibly because, while the exercise was definitely a fire drill, labeling it as such could give the extremely misleading impression that it was similar to an American-style fire drill. From what I remember in elementary school, in America the fire alarm goes off, the students walk calmly (or at least, that's the goal) outside, the fire department checks the alarm system while the teachers take attendance, and then the students go back inside the school.

At Gongju Gyodong Elementary school, we had two days of training before the "real" fire drill. (I didn't have to participate in the drill-of-the-drill, so I'm not entirely sure what that was like). On the third, official day, members of the Provincial Board of Education came to watch from a special tent set up for them on a platform in front of the school. At the appointed time (11:30--three separate announcements reminded us of this fact), alarms began sounding all over the school. These were nearly drowned out by the sound of 500 madly sprinting students. To my surprise, all the teachers were right behind them, urging them to run faster (they did, however, all stop to change from inside shoes to outside shoes at the doorways). When we got outside, I saw that red flares had been placed on the second floor windows for effect. We squatted in the middle of the "athletic field" in front of the school, in front of a giant pile of sticks and brush onto which the school handyman was pouring huge jugs of gas. The fire department arrived, doused the flares, and then ignited the pile of sticks. One fireman gave a brief speech while the flames and smoke rose into a bonfire thick and high enough to completely obscure the school. The students were way too excited to stay still, and--just when I thought things couldn't possibly get more dangerous--the fireman selected a student from each of grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 and instructed them to grab some fire extinguishers and approach and put out the blaze. One of the two teachers I was standing with laughed at the 3rd grade girl (8 years old!) who was scared to get close to the fire.

Three teachers and the fireman eventually took over for the kids, but they couldn't put the fire out either. We had to go back into the school with it still burning merrily in the middle of the field (the field is just a sandlot, so we weren't in immediate danger or anything). I'm not entirely sure I feel safer now...

My friend and fellow ETA Jill had a similar--although seemingly not quite so life-threateningly awesome--Emergency Drill Day. This is from one of her emails:

My school is having practice emergency drills today, which means making an announcement and the whole school running out at once. There is no order. Once they are outside, the students are forced to run in a horde from one side of the school yard to the other. They have already done it three times and it is only third period.

Monday, May 14, 2007

snakes, snails, puppy dog tails

Kibeom came home from the hospital (not as bad as it the Koreans I know, going to the hospital is as common as taking an Ibuprofen for most Americans) this evening with a neck brace on, and Kiyeong's first reaction was to whine jealously and taekwondo chop him in the throat. Little monster.