Monday, June 25, 2007


1 week left of school...

note from a 5th grade girl:

Cara..Hi~ I'm Ji Young

I'm so sad..Because..Cara leaving to Korea
I'm happy..Because..we're together! ^^
I'm funny..Because..Cara's talking a me. <3
Cara! Don't forget me! ㅋㅋ
me too..Don't forget Cara..
Bye Cara..happy too meet you..

Goodbye <3

Cara <3

from one of my most irrepressible (and favorite) 5th grade boys:

hi cara teacher
my name is O Do hun
Thank You for teaching me and Im sorry I'm not a good boy in English class.
I, hope you always happy in your countny. English cless game and sing good time.
I'm Happy
I love You
Thank you good-Bye cara teacher

Friday, June 22, 2007

weekends in seoul

fake river!

Cheonggyecheon, called "the fake river" by me and Margaret (even though it's a stream that doesn't even try to pretend to be a river), is a man-made body of water that runs through the center of Seoul. I recently spent two weekends in a row in Seoul...a large part of each of which was spent at the fake river.

The first weekend, I was in Seoul to help proctor the Certified Financial Analyst exam, administered by Fulbright (I had to make the announcements, somewhat stressful). Rohit and I spent most of the day/evening before the exam at the fake river. Near the beginning of the fake river (it starts with a fountain and a big fake waterfall), a group of young people was handing out plants and telling people to go plant them. I planted mine outside the CFA test site the next morning.

We also participated in a community graffiti project--making our own graffiti (Rohit wrote his name in Korean in red, I wrote mine in Chinese in yellow) and watching artists create a graffiti mural. Farther down the river (you can see in the pics, the fake river progresses from orderly and clean paved lines in the first picture, more "natural" and "wild," like on the right), we got to have a mini bongo drum lesson with a huge circle of people, led by a very fat Korean man with dreadlocks.

The next weekend, I was back in Seoul to meet Katie's friend from college (visiting Korea on her way home from 3 weeks in Japan). After soundly defeating Katie and Mary in the "get interviewed/photographed/videotaped by Korean middle-and-high-schoolers for English class homework" competition, shopping a lot, feeding Mary our favorite Korean foods, watching traditional drumming, and journeying to the top of Seoul Tower on Saturday, we spent Sunday at the fake river, playing on the stepping stones and in the water with the (stocked) fishies.

the fake river and her parasol make Katie so happy

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

snakes in a school

Our school has been invaded by poisonous snakes. I just watched a 6th grade teacher kill one who was hiding in the small, dark space next to the water dispenser. Students like to cram themselves into this spot in order to ambush one another in water fights. My coteacher just told me to "be careful of snakes. There are many in the school. They will bite you, then you die."

I'm really happy that my only protection against these snakes is a verbal warning. Also that no one is doing anything to protect the children who roam unsupervised all over the school.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

summertime and the living's easy

Summer is in full swing in Gongju. The cherry blossoms and rhododendrons that used to cover the city have given way to dark pink roses and big, yellow-faced flowers. The rice fields are once again a patchwork of fresh green plants and mirror-flat water--beautiful but chock full of baby mosquitoes. Most of all it's unbelievably, wickedly hot and humid. Breathing is enough to make me break a sweat, so arduous tasks like walking to school, teaching class, or climbing a set of stairs all leave me red-faced and drenched. It's extremely embarrassing, since Koreans (or at least the ones in Gongju) don't seem to get sweaty without really serious physical exertion, whatever the disgustingness is quite the spectacle. The worst part, though, is at night. Our apartment doesn't have air conditioning (I suppose it would be a little weird to have a/c but not heat in the winter), and my host family doesn't let me go to sleep with the window open or my fan on. This is not a passive aggressive way of telling me to hurry up and return to America, but rather out of concern for my wellbeing. Most Koreans believe that sleeping with a window open is asking to get sick, even on the hottest summer nights. Sleeping with a fan is even more dangerous, as it can result in the dreaded fan death. This means that every night, I go to bed with my fan on and window open and wake up several hours later, sweaty, to find them off and closed. In the morning, I often get a lecture about how the fan can kill me. I think my host family believes in the vortex theory described in the article, because the lecture is often accompanied by graphic charades of a vacuum sucking air away from my face.

Yesterday (Tuesday), I didn't have any afternoon classes and left school early (I usually stay and lesson plan/prepare stuff for classes). This meant leaving at the same time as the kindergarteners...students I don't get to teach and to whom I'm still completely alien (Kindergarten has it's own wing of the school, so I almost never even glimpse them). The first little boy to see me gave a full bow (most students just wave...they think it's exciting I don't expect them to bow) and insa-ed in Korean. When I answered with, "hi," he ran flying from the shoe area, shouting the Korean equivalent of, "Oh my God you guys! The English teacher just said hi to me, in English!" Immediately I was surrounded by an army of tiny Koreans, each demanding their own hi. When I finally started walking off school grounds, one of the little girls trotted after me. "English teacher, are Japanese people bad or not bad?" she asked me, very seriously (in Korean). I was caught a bit off guard by the total randomness, but answered, "not bad." "Oh...well I'm Korean," she answered with a frown. "That's okay," I said, awkward because my Korean-to-person-of-lower-status is always really awkward. "Korean's aren't bad either." Fortunately this satisfied her and she took hold of my hand until we had to part ways.

i can't wait to be a vegetarian again

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

new family pet

This afternoon, Kiyeong came home from school with this cunning "little" guy:

Beetles like our new one are the pet of choice for many Korean youngsters. Many of my students have them and bring them to school fairly regularly. Parents like them because they're extremely low maintenance and don't smell, dirty, or damage a home--they're kind of like the beta fish of Korea. Kiyeong introduced us by coming into my room and tossing his new pet onto my arm. His feet are kind of clawed so it hurts a bit when he crawls around on bare skin. So far he's been put on my arm, my lap, all over my "bed," my wall (he can cling to vertical surfaces with his little claws), and in my hair. The poor guy spent most of the day being placed on his back by Kibeom and Kiyeong (so they can watch him flail around trying to flip over) or put on random things (usually me or themselves). When they pick him up again, they have to pretty much rip his little claws away from whatever he's on. I'm trying (by positive example and disapproval of their roughness) to teach them to be gentle with him, but it's only a matter of time before one of his legs gets ripped off.

The yellow stuff in the pictures, which we refer to as "jelly," is supposed to be his food. The white container--which he can crawl right out of--was supposed to be his home, but after imagining myself rolling over and accidentally crunching him in my sleep (possibly one of the grossest things I've ever imagined), I convinced the boys it would be fun to build him a house. We emptied out a cagelike marker container and went outside to fill it with dirt, leaves, and sticks. In addition to keeping him from roaming the apartment, his new home so far serves as protection against the boys--watching him play around with his dirt, leaves, and sticks (by "play around with," I pretty much just mean "hide under." Pet beetles are about as exciting as they sound) is almost as fun as torturing him, so they've backed off considerably.

We're trying to come up with a good name for him. Any ideas?

Monday, June 04, 2007