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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Conversation of the Day

At the beginning of class I ask them random questions about the date, the weather, how they are, etc. So I ask Molly how her day has been. And here's the conversation:

Molly: Teacher, my grandpa died yesterday.
Me: Oh Molly I'm so sorry. Do you need a hug?
Molly: No.
Me: So he... died? He is not living anymore?
Molly: Yes. He had a headache.
Me: He had a headache?
Molly: Yes.
Me: And then he died? Because he had a headache?
Molly: Yes, teacher.
Me: Oh... I'm so sorry. Are you sad?
Molly: No. I am happy. My grandpa was bad.
Me: He was mean?
Molly: Yes. He is very scary.

Oh Koreans.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Language Barrier

The most popular question I got when I told people that I decided to move to South Korea to teach English was, "Do you know Korean?" I would then explain that I don't need to know Korean, only be able to teach English. That is true. I do get around quite well not knowing Korean. There are times, however, when messages get lost in translation. These are a few humorous examples...

#1: Whose baby? - My co-worker Jenn has had a particular student in her class for a while. One day the former supervisor teacher from my school came in with the little girl and another little girl. Quick background info: The woman is the sister of our director. She was... I guess let go... just before I came because of some chick fight with my supervisor at school... So she comes in with these two kids. Jenn mentioned that she wasn't aware that she had kids. Or was married. (In Korea it's very shameful to have a child out of wedlock). So she asks Elly, my supervisor if Ruby is the girl's mom. Elly replied yes. Hmm. So Ruby gave birth to the little girl? Yes. The little girl lives with Ruby? No. Hmm... But at the end of the conversation it was understood that Ruby is, in fact, a mother to both little girls.

Today the girl's parents came in. Her other parents... After today's conversation it's now understood that the girl has two sets of parents?

#2: Bank Business - I'm at the bank with my supervisor opening an account. I went to this specific bank because it's easy to transfer money home online. So the bank lady is talking to Elly in Korean. (I made up dialogue in my head) and Elly would talk back, etc. My interpretation of facial expressions flagged a conflict. Whatever the bank lady told Elly didn't sit well... So I continue watching back and forth like a tennis match. Hmmm.

Elly eventually translated for me. She explained what she understood. Luckily there was a brochure in English. (Not the same...)

So as an American, I have a given name, a middle name and a family name - in that order. It's the same order on my alien card and passport and the way I write it. Well somehow at the bank today my middle name ended up first, and first name second. I pointed this out to my supervisor who translated and confirmed that it's correct on the bank account. I was assured that it was alright. Hmm... Koreans. Incredibly laid back and inefficient. In all situations.

#3: Have you seen the pizza menu? - We're getting ready to take a vocab quiz and I always say "Numero uno" instead of number one. And every day, my students are confused. So I explain "Numero uno" is "Number one" in Spanish... So today after I explain it again one of my kids gets really excited. Like you KNOW  light bulb just went off in his head. I figured he remembered it from a song or a movie or something. Then he shouts (in perfect English) "HAVE YOU SEEN THE PIZZA MENU?" The random comment would be funny coming from a  kid who speaks fluent English but it's slightly more hilarious coming from a kid who only puts together sentences that make sense 40% of the time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dragons = Domination

Friday was summer camp for kids at Kid's College. We "hosted" an overnight camp for the kiddies at this "inn" (my supervisor called it an inn but they basically rented out some cabins and an open yard about 40 minutes from school).

Not gonna lie... when I found out about the even I wasn't thrilled. It meant I had to go to work a little earlier and even though we (American teachers) didn't have to spend the night with the children, we still stayed relatively late. After the fact, however, I'm really glad we had to go. It was a lot of fun!

The kids were already there by the time I got there. The boys played soccer, the girls played on the teeter-totter and chatted. Then all the kids split up into teams. The teams were a mix of all the students so it gave me the opportunity to get to know kids I see every day but didn't know.

First thing was first - we needed a team name. The kids shouted out ideas. The girls came up with names like "Kittens" and "Purple" (to which the boys shouted "TEACH-UH, NOOOOOOO") and the boys wanted "Soccer" and "Moon"... I made the executive decision when I heard the word "dragon". So we were the dragons.

Kickball kicked off the first of the competitions. Dragons dominated. Then a mission race. Kind of like a relay race. They had to run to the other side of the field, pick up a piece of paper, read it and then do what the paper said. For example, if the clue said "find a girl wearing glasses" they had to find a girl with classes (duh) and run with her back to the other side. Jenn Teacher and I went head to head for the last round. I won! (Unfortunately the individual she had to seek out ran from her!) Dragon domination!! (Kid's got a sticker when we won.)

The rest of the evening included eating Korean BBQ, killing bugs, a slapping game with girls (it was a weird game they taught us), charades, a speech contest and other fun games. So all in all, it was a very positive experience. But not something I want to do on a regular basis. Have I mentioned that Korea summers are super hot? Very comparable to St. Louis summers...

Then on Saturday I went to Daegu (1.5 hour bus ride) to watch a baseball game. Like a traditional summer baseball game, it was disgustingly hot. The Samsung Lions didn't have nearly as many fans attending (their biggest section was like a fraction of Busch Stadium at home). They were no Cardinals but at least they won 8-2. Meanwhile, the Cards were playing the Cubs so I supported in my Cardinals attire. AND I sang "Take me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch (there wasn't one so I made one...) and definitely replaced "root root root for the home team" with "root root root for the Cardinals." (Good thing I did, too. We beat the Cubbies 6-3!)

Thursday is my birthday. Plans are in the makings for BBQ and girls night! It will be different not seeing my friends and family. But that's the good thing about birthdays... there will always be more, as long as the good Lord allows it!

Above: Kid's College Summer Camp Kiddies! Below: Final score for the Samsung Lions game, Dragon team huddle and the massive amounts of Korean fans who show up for pro-ball games.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Life, as I know it..

Once a new and exciting adventure, Pohang has now become... life. An exciting and adventurous life! I like my job. Even though I'm completely exhausted by the end of the day, hearing, "Heather Teacher, you're beautiful," (sounds like "beeeoooteeeful") then "No! Heather Teacher, you are VERY beautiful," "VERY VERY beautiful," (etc...) from 3 year olds makes it all worth it. And today one of my babies fell asleep in my arms. Good to know Kindergarten wears them out too!

But I definitely live for the weekend. Pohang has good cultural stuff to do (hiking, temples and waterfalls etc), some good beaches, and good night life. There is a base in Pohang so there are usually a lot of military at the bars I frequent. Sometimes military guys are... well d-bags... but others are interesting to get to know.

And by adventurous let me just explain my Saturday. First, three friends and I ventured to a beach that was a good 20 minute cab ride away. Great sun, great water and for a few, an even greater sunburn. I am proud to note that I am a bronze beauty this summer. (Side note: my students always comment that I'm browner. One student called me "black". Understand that not-pasty-white skin is considered unattractive in Korea. So it is common to see Koreans at the beach with long sleeves, long pants and under an umbrella fanning themselves... The best Korean moment at the beach was seeing a girl in full Sunday church clothes, complete with denim vest, long skirt, etc in the ocean with a parasol and her grandma in tow.)

"Long sleeves? Check. Pants? Check. Hood? Check. So glad the sun will not touch me at all while I'm at the beach."

Anyways... beach Saturday. Then it's decided that after beach-ee (story for later on Koreans and extra syllables) we'll go to Burger King for food. The Burger King is on the campus of a university. None of the Pohang vets I was with have been there. We get on the bus to head to the campus (we don't know which bus to take so Chad tries his best Kanglish - a little Korean + English and the Korean he asked responds in perfect English, "Take this bus.") We're on the bus and see a Pizza Hut sign. We rush off the bus, not wanting to miss the stop. I mean Burger King MUST be by Pizza Hut, right? Wrong. So we take a cab to the campus. Cab driver drops us off in the middle of nowhere. He didn't understand our Kanglish ("Hamburger. American Hamburger. Way-gook hamburger" ). We walk around aimlessly - no Koreans are in sight to try to ask. We contemplate just going back to Pizza Hut but flame grilled Whoppers loom in our American memories... Finally find a security guard who shows us a map. And we make it! Adventure. To find a fast food restaurant. Typical American... (the Whopper was DELICIOUS by the way)

Sooo to wrap up, I love my life and my new home. And krazy Koreans.

PS If you read this you HAVE to leave a comment. Even if it's "Hey, I read it." PLEEEEEEASE!