Today is a bullet point, cut-to-the-chase kind of post. It's beyond me why I always wait so long between posts because things just build up and then I word vomit without really saying anything in my posts. Fail.
Three weekends ago was the ETA Fall Conference in Gyeongju. Here were key highlights I want to mention:
-There was cheese. It was delicious. The KAEC staff stocked up on goodies and snacks for us everytime we had a break. There were also apples. Those were good too.
-Since the Jellanom-do crew is so big, we took up all but 2 seats on the bus from Gwangju to Gyeongju.
-Upon arrival, we went to the hotel where we would be staying and where the conference meetings would be held.
-At the beginning of conference, we wrote down on a piece of paper what our biggest struggle was and what our biggest fear was. Then we put them on a wall and could respond to each others' posts. It was great to know that everyone was going through similar issues.
-There were Large Groups, a few talks by Mrs. Shim, Korean co-teachers, etc, and Small Group Discussions led by ETAs.
-The Small Groups were probably the most helpful but the one by Sonia about Phonics was the one I got the most out of. I went to it because I want to use Phonics with the NKD students I volunteer with. Their English level is way, way, way below their peers so I'm starting from scratch and teaching them how to read (or trying at least).
-It was really good to see all the ETAs.
-Gyeongju was beautiful. We had a tour around the city (historical sites) since Geyongju was the capital of Korea back in the Silla Dynasty. We saw a lot of random stuff. It was a long day for the tour and there's too much to say about we saw but it was a good tour.
-After conference ended Monday morning, a bunch of us went to the Gyeongju Rice Cake Festival. There was a large group of us but we all broke off into smaller groups to walk around.
-I bought back Gyeongju bread with me for the teachers at my school. It was pretty pricey but that's Gyeongju bread is what Gyeongju is known for so I decided it would be worthwhile. It was a huge hit at my school. The teachers were all really receptive and really appreciated me bringing back something for them.
-When I gave my principal bread, he invited me to his office to sit and chat for a little bit. He said I was getting prettier and it must be the school. He said that he thinks the school is good for me. HAHAHAH It took everything not to laugh in front of him. Little does he know how much stress and emotional turmoil these puberty-riden kids give me...
-When I came back, one of my second year female students 소명 came in and chatted with me. She's the class captain for 2-6 and has really good English. She's also really good friends with the host sister for last year's ETA, Daniel. She said she hadn't seen me in a while (since I missed Friday and Monday) so I felt the love. It's one student, but it means a lot to hear it from someone. To be honest, I realized I missed my kids. There is something endearing about them.
The week I got back from Conference was a bit weird. I came to school Tuesday, but there was no school Wednesday or Thursday because of School Picnic and School Foundation Day, respectively. I had to put together a "throw away" lesson of sorts for my Tuesday classes. On Wednesday, the 17th, I went to Gwangju's Family Land with the first and third years. Mr. Cho is a homeroom teacher for a first year class so he invited me along. My co-teacher, Mr. Lee isn't a homeroom teacher so I wouldn't have gone otherwise (I would have just had the day off).
So, here are some notes/mentions about the School Picnic:
-The first and third years went to Family Land in Gwangju, an "amusement park". I say "amusement park" in quotes because it's actually like a carnival. It's small as heck and the rides are not at all exhilarating. It really is like a kiddie park.
-The second years went to Yeosu, where the World Expo was held but it was already over so the kids went to the aquarium and stuff. I asked them how it was but most of them thought it was rather boring.
-I was on the bus with Mr. Cho's homeroom class but when I got to the park, I mostly hung out with my third year students since I don't teach the first graders.
-The weather was BRUTAL when we first got there. It was super windy, gray, rainy, and cold. I was only wearing a long sleeve tee and jeans so I was freezing. Luckily my host mom gave me a poncho and that gave me some wind protection.
-The people handed out wristbands to the students and the teachers were supposed to get these tickets where you can go on three rides. The teachers weren't going to go on any rides so they were going to give all their tickets to me. That wasn't necessary since one of the people who were putting wristbands on the kids came up to me and put a wristband on me since I look like a student. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or bad thing. I guess I look like I'm 16...
-At first, I was with the teachers and then they were like, "Go play!" since I was going to go on rides (or so I thought when I still imagined it was an amusement park) so they left me alone. So I wandered by myself for a little bit. Then I would see some kids and they would say hi but it didn't seem like they wanted me to join them. I felt kinda out of place for a bit since I was wandering around for a bit by myself. The thing is, I would see kids who like me (I think) and they would be really excited to see me and say hi and stuff but that's as far as the conversation would really go. I finally found three first year students who always come to my desk to visit and asked if I could wait in line with them for the ride. It was a pretty long line so I ended up walking up and down the line to talk with all of my students. So I realized in that line, my kids like me and want to spend time with me (again, I think) but their English is so limited that they don't can't really have a deep conversation with me. I would ask a few simple questions but didn't want to make them feel like it was an interview. Otherwise, I just stood with them. I was closer to the front of the line and the guy was asking if anyone wanted to sit in the middle (most people wanted to sit on the sides; it was a ship ride that went back and forth). A few of my third year girls were sitting in the middle and yelled at me in the line to join them. So I left my first years and cut the rest of the line. I was the last one walking up the walkway so all my students saw me. I could hear them ooh-ing and ah-ing in the background since I don't think any other teachers have gone on rides with them before. I think they were impressed haha. So I sat with my girls on the ride and it was fun. This is how I know they like me and want to spend time with me. But then right after the ride, they were like, "Bye Teacher!" and peaced out to the next ride. That made me sad. Anyway, I know my students enjoyed my company but they just didn't have much to say.
-Around noon, I went to a building where I was to meet up with all the other teachers for lunch (it was a packed lunch from the school--hence the "school picnic day" part). Afterwards, the teachers lounged about and told me to go back and ride some more "rides" (again, these were kiddies rides, at best). When I was leaving the building, I heard my name being called and I turned to find some other third year girls. They asked me to go on a ride with them (another clue they like me!). I joined them and it was a repeat of the day--I walked the line and chatted with students who were all excited to see me, went on the ride (kids were shocked I was going on a ride), etc. Afterwards, those girls also left me for another ride and I found another group of my girls who wanted me to join them. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
-It turned out to be a sunny and beautiful day after a few hours so it wasn't too miserable.
-There was almost NO crowd at Family Land except for the schools. There was a show and there were 5 people in the seats watching. It was almost completely empty. To be honest, it was a bit comical to me.
The next day, Thursday, October 18th was the school's Foundation Day so we also had the day off. When I was at school chapel the week prior to this, I sat down to a teacher who bust out in English. His English wasn't spectacular but we made some conversation. He asked me if I liked trekking (hiking) and I said I did so he invited me to go hiking with him and a bunch of the male teachers on the 18th. Apparently Mr. Cho was in charge of it (go figure). Dan actually told me that Mr. Cho is the cool kid on the block and he's really funny; I guess I share the office with one of the popular teachers.
Anyway, here are some highlights from our hike up 천관산:
-There were 7 male teachers and me. Mr. Cho and Mr. Lee were among the male teachers. The rest were random teachers that I have seen and not seen before. All were sweet though and really inviting as I joined them for the day.
-The hike was supposedly gonna take 45 minutes (according to Mr. Cho) so I thought it'd be an easy, short hike. It took 3 hours or so to get to the peak. I'm not complaining since it was fun for me but I definitely think they need to recalculate things in Korea.
-It was a gorgeous, cloud-less, clear day so we could see tons of mountains and islands in the distance. It was beautiful.
-After we reached the bottom, I was asked if I wanted to go to the sauna. Apparently, they always go to the spa after a hiking trip but they wanted to make sure it was okay with me since I was the only female and would be hanging out by myself. I told them I'd be down and off to the spa we went. The 7 men went off to do their own thing and I relaxed by myself...next to ajummas.
-When we got back, I was told we would have dinner and other teachers would join us. They failed to mention that it would be only male teachers to join us. Dinner was delicious regardless though (we had duck). Long story short, it was a day full of men and me. I must say though, 정 was definitely built. I feel a deep connection to the guys I hiked with.
I taught classes on Friday but all the kids were antsy since they hadn't had school for two days and it was the weekend the next day. I saw my competition kids for the last time. So since the last post, I was training one student from each grade for an English speaking competition in Mokpo. I interviewed all the kids and got to select a kid from each grade to represent their class and our school at this competition. The competition was held on Saturday, October 20th at Yudalsan Middle School. I was planning on going to cheer on my kids so I was gonna stay in Mokpo for the weekend. It worked out perfectly since a bunch of people came to Mokpo that weekend. A bunch of the Gwangju and Naju ETAs were actually judges for the competition and Maggie came down from Hwacheon to visit us. Anyway, I met up with my competition kids in the mornings and helped prep them for the competition. That Friday was the last time I would see them and I was kinda nervous for them. Mr. Lee was the "supervisor" or main English teacher contact for our school so he was also going; he picked me up in the morning and we drove there together. I saw my kids in the morning and gave them last minute tips and a custard cake for luck. Once the opening ceremony was over, the kids were ushered into the main building and none of us were allowed to go in with them. So I told Mr. Lee I would go get treat him to coffee. Long story short, we built a lot of 정 that day. Mr. Lee actually spent a month in Michigan, at University of Michigan on the Ann Arbor campus in 2004. He was there for an English conference for Korean teachers (no joke). It's a small world. He also told me about his family (awkward situation since he said there were some marital problems going on), and random other things. I felt like I got to know him a lot better as a person which is helpful in understanding him as a co-teacher. After lunch, he went to school and I met up with Maggie. My plan was to go home around 2pm since our family had a promise at 3:30 with the neighbors (at least that's what my dad said the night prior). I get a call from Mr. Lee around 10:30am, after hanging out with Maggie for about half an hour, saying that my family said I didn't have to attend the promise. He then asked if I had lunch plans and I said I didn't, so he said we would get lunch together. I didn't think it was too weird since he's my co-teacher but I thought we had already spent a lot of time together in the morning so I was running out of small talk and questions to ask. He drove us to a beef place where we had raw beef (it was delicious) and when I thought we were done, he asked me if I was still hungry and we ordered a grilled beef dish. I had already set in my mind that I was going to pay since I haven't really done anything super special for him as my co-teacher. The bill was HELLA expensive--65,000 won. That's about $30 per person. I was shocked but tried not to give it away. It's a one time deal so it's fine. Like I said, 정 was built so that's all that matters. Anyway, Saturday was a rather interesting day. The competition ended up being awesome. My kids were texting me throughout the day, before they went to tell me what order they would be going in, and after they went to tell me the topic and how they did. All three of them thought they didn't do well. They were wrong. The results came out the following Wednesday. My first grader got bronze. My second grader got gold. My third grader got silver. I was and still am very proud of them!
On Sunday, Tracey and I went with Maggie to Gwangju. From there, she was heading home. Tracey and I went to the Biennale. It was actually really interesting since we got an English tour (for the two of us) and so we actually understood a lot of the art that was being portrayed--which is rare when it comes to modern art since it's so abstract sometimes. We also went back to the frozen yougart waffle place we went to the first time. We were hoping to get some delicious froyo waffles. The problem was, the place stopped selling froyo. We were SO disappointed. It put a damper on our entire day but at least now we know...
I got sick that following week (last week). It's been getting chilly in Mokpo so I caught a cold. Luckily, I went to sleep at 9pm one night and got up at 8am (on a day I was teaching late so I was going into school late). It was a hibernation night but it was needed.
This past weekend, I went to Busan with Tracey. The Busan Fireworks Festival was going to be held on Saturday and we wanted to see that. Tracey and I got in on Friday; she was staying at Payal's and I was at Hilary's. We went shopping in Nampo on Saturday and I must say, I went a little overboard but I don't feel guilty at all. I work really hard for my money--those kids give me a run for my money. I got a leather jacket from Zara (best purchase), a really cute top from H&M, a dress from H&M, a headband, bow clip, and a loose cute top from a smaller shop on the street. I was really happy--retail therapy works. We were planning on hitting up the fireworks after shopping on Saturday. Problem was, it was POURING like none other. While we were in H&M, we found out that the fireworks were cancelled for the night and would be held on Sunday night instead so we wouldn't be able to see them. It was a tad disappointing but I know we would have been miserable if we had stood in that thunderstorm watching fireworks. Regardless, I was really happy with all my purchases so it was a trip well spent. We also met up with everyone who was in Busan (Kathy, Katelyn, Jason, and the Busan ETAs--Payal, Hilary, Monica, Amy Liang, Daniel, Frank). On Sunday, Payal, Hilary, Tracey, and I spent the morning with Hilary's family at a mountain park-thing. Then we went to Costco and picked up candy for our kids for Halloween. It was glorious at Costco--seeing familiar items, tons of American products, etc. It was really nice. Then Tracey and I headed to the bus station. It was a huge traveling weekend for people so Tracey and I couldn't get on the same bus. I got back to Gwangju about an hour after her but we went back to Mokpo together. I got home pretty late, around 11pm, but it was a fun weekend.
That brings me up to today. Now, I found out last week that I will be observed by parents tomorrow for two of my classes, 2-3 and 3-1. I am terrified. Class 2-3 is my ABSOLUTE worst class ever. I would say that 2/3 of the kids in that class do not listen to me, not respect me in any shape or form. I have no idea how tomorrow will go. The other teachers are freaking out too. Mr. Cho asked me to review his lesson plan and I've been asked for tips from all the English teachers about different methods to use and such. I don't think they realize that I'm not certified in teaching... regardless, I'm nervous. My host mom is going to observe my host brother's class tomorrow but she said she would come to my class and observe me too. That just makes things worse. She also told me to dress pretty tomorrow. Oh gosh. I hope it goes well--I'm teaching Conditionals...
So now that I'm caught up on the Korea stuff... it's time to address the elephant in the room (or at least the elephant in my room). My grandpa passed away last week (a little ironic since I did a bucket list lesson with my kids last week...) He was pretty old and I saw it coming for a while now. I actually remember when I was visiting him this past summer before I left for Korea, I thought that it would be the last time I would see him alive. I wasn't wrong. I blogged about it and that memory has still stuck with me. I just had a feeling it was the last time. I was hoping it wouldn't be but reality set in. So I told my co-teacher about it because I wanted to go home but I only got Thursday and Friday off. I would have flown home Wednesday night and landed in New York Thursday morning. Then I would stay for the wake and the funeral (early Saturday) and then have to fly immediately back to make it back to Mokpo Sunday night. My mom and dad both told me not to come. They said it was really expensive and the travel time was long. My mom told me that grandpa understood since she had talked to him about it before he passed. He knew I was going to be in Korea for the year and even he knew there was a possibility of his passing while I was abroad. So... I stayed. I did my own grieving and I don't feel guilty for not going. My grandpa knew I loved him. I did my best to give him all the respect he deserved while he was on this earth and spent a lot of time with him. My grandpa was a great man. I like to think he lived a full life and had a lot of friends. There were a lot of people at his wake, according to my brother. He will be greatly missed.
RIP Grandpa 10-21-12