End of the semester

I love my 3rd graders. They are all so sweet and very eager to learn. It’s their first year learning English and are just now starting to learn phonics and the alphabet. We had so much fun today. This is the last week of the semester so I won’t see many of them again until September. I’m going to miss them.

June 23, 2011

Let’s fast forward to the present so I can tell you about the day I’ve had…

The students are all preparing for their final exams so all they’ve been doing in class is reviewing previous lessons and taking practice tests. My co-teacher and I had some time to chat today. The topics were broad and included fruit, Costco, the movie White Chicks, Texas, Las Vegas and In-N-Out Burger.

I mentioned how I can’t keep bananas in my apartment anymore because they attract fruit flies. It’s really sad because most other fruit here is really expensive, but it looks like I’m going to have to start eating fruit that I can keep in the fridge.


I was so excited last week when I saw blueberries in the grocery store, but the price tag kept me from buying them. They were 5,980 won ($5.50) for about half a pint. Yikes! I mentioned this to my co-teacher so she immediately pulled up the GMarket website (sort of like a Korean version of Amazon) to try to help me find cheaper blueberries. No luck.

I mentioned that I might try Costco this weekend so she started telling me all of my options for getting there (subway, bus, taxi). She even wrote out instructions for the taxi driver in case I decided to take a taxi. I posted them below if anyone is interested. The first line is a landmark near the Costco in Busan in case the taxi driver doesn’t know Costco. The second line is just Costco written out in Korean.


Later, my co-teacher confiscated a handheld fan from one of the students. You know… the kind you spread out and wave at yourself to cool you down. It was really cute (like everything here tends to be) and had 7 baby chicken heads on it. This led to her think of the word “chicks” and then she got really excited and told me that she really likes the movie White Chicks. She said it is “soooooo funny!” I don’t know why, but that warmed my heart. I love that she loves this movie! haha

She then started telling me about her friend (another Korean elementary school teacher) that moved to Oklahoma. She showed me pictures that she sent her and one of the pictures was her husband posing in front of the University of North Texas, which is the university I went to. I then tried to draw Texas so I could explain that UNT and the University of Texas are completely different and she laughed pretty hard at my drawing and said, “Really?” I’m still not sure if she was laughing because of the shape of Texas or because I’m terrible at drawing.

She also showed me her friend’s pictures of Las Vegas, which included a picture of In-N-Out. And that led to us looking at Korean blogs posted about In-N-Out… and then Five Guys. I told her about the In-N-Outs that opened in Texas recently and all the buzz it’s caused. After class I sent her the videos below, to which she responded, “after see the youtube, i really want to eat the burger, eh?”

After 4 classes, it was time for lunch. My first thought after walking into the lunch room was, “What the H is that?” I am pretty sure the rest of the teachers felt the same way. One of our dishes was some weird meat thing that was all smooshed… it looked like red mashed potatoes with little bits of peas and potatoes. It was actually pretty good, but looked rather sketchy. Sometimes I wish it wouldn’t be awkward if I took my camera to lunch with me.

So I feel like I have rambled on enough (maybe too much), but I was rather proud of one of my 5th grade students today. He decided to be clever and change the words of a Korean pop song to suit how he felt about today’s testing. He changed the words of Big Bang’s  “Love Song” from  “I hate this love song.” to “I hate this test.” I was impressed. At least he gets the meaning, right??

What a random day!

Pictures of my School

Here are some pictures of the elementary school I teach at in Busan, South Korea…

My main English classroom. We have a Smart Board!

The main entrance

The English hallway… and a student that really wanted to be in the picture

The back of the classroom

Curious students

English story books

Our school doesn’t have a cafeteria so each class eats together in homeroom. The food is kept in these lunch carts.

Together We Can Do It

Students are responsible for keeping the school clean

Entrance to the bathroom

Bathroom sinks

This is one of the toilets. You have to bring your own toilet paper.

The stairs… no outdoor shoes are allowed upstairs

More stairs (keep right)

The students leave their shoes here. The pink shoes are the girls’ indoor shoes/slippers and the blue ones are the boys’.

Character Building Room – I’m not sure what they do here, but this is the best named classroom at my school. First time I walked by this room there were students fighting. Talk about character building!

This is the view from one of the hallway windows

Another view from one of the hallway windows

English Teachers’ Office

English Teachers’ Office – This is where we sit and drink tea & coffee.

I finally have my own desk! But no computer yet. 😦

The view from my office. My apt isn’t far from the high rise apartments in the background.

Across the street from my school


School Zone

The walk towards my apartment

My First Day of School

I got sick the weekend before school started. I didn’t go to the doctor, but I had something that resembled a sinus infection. It wasn’t fun. I spent a few days in bed watching shows on Hulu and eating pieces of bread. On Monday I met up with my co-teacher to go to the immigration office to apply for my Alien Registration Card (ARC). I saw quite a few people there that I had met at orientation. When you walk in you have to take a number, then go fill out the application form. The place was packed, but the line was moving really quickly and we were in and out in about half an hour or so.

There was no school on Tuesday because it was Korean independence day. School officially started on Wednesday. The day was quite interesting. Let me start off by saying that I was a bit embarrassed on the first day. At school the first thing we do when we come in is change our shoes. We wear slippers or indoor shoes all day and then we change our shoes when we leave the school. I didn’t feel well on the days leading up to school starting so I never ventured out to buy slippers for school. The only shoes I had to wear were the two pairs of slippers that my co-teacher gave me to wear in my apartment. I decided to wear my shower slippers. I think the teachers got a good giggle out of that. I definitely brought different shoes for my second day on the job.

The first thing I did on Wednesday was go to the Broadcasting Room with all of the new teachers at the school. The principal announced us all, one by one, in Korean. I wasn’t really sure what to do so I just followed the lead of the other teachers. The tricky part was knowing when to bow. All of the other teachers could understand what was being said, but I just had to listen closely and try to find a cue word to tell me when would be an appropriate time to bow. I think I did okay. I ended up doing two bows. It was a little awkward, but I wasn’t the only teacher that did that so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Next, I had to help with the first day of school ceremony. Some students came out in matching outfits and sang and danced to some really cute songs, then the principal and vice principal said some words. All I really know is that I was in charge of handing out balloons to a class of 6th graders so they could pass the balloons to the incoming 1st graders. I was a little afraid that I was going to lose my grip and all of the balloons were going to fly through the air, but I only ended up losing one. It wasn’t really my fault… the string was really short and when what I assume was the Korean national anthem started playing, I wasn’t sure what I, being a foreigner, was supposed to do with my hands. Anyway, when it was finally time to hand out the balloons, I must have been going too slow because 4 other teachers rushed to my aid to hurry along the process. All in all, the ceremony was pretty neat. After the balloons were handed out, they were released into the air. The ceremony is supposed to welcome the 1st graders into the school. I am pretty sure the students were allowed to leave school after that. It was an easy day.

It was recommended to us at orientation to make PowerPoint presentations (PPTs) introducing ourselves and our country. A lot of my friends had prepared theirs before school started. I am so thankful that I didn’t because that was basically the only task I was given to do all day Wednesday. I couldn’t imagine what I would have done if I didn’t have that to work on. I was bored enough as it was!

Lunch time was a little confusing for me. My co-teacher told me it was time for lunch and then we started down the stairs. She acted like I was silly when I didn’t change out of my slippers. Honestly, I had no clue what was going on. I was a little confused, but I changed out of my slippers and then all of the teachers started leaving school. I was informed on the way that on the first day of school all of the teachers go out to eat. My co-teachers asked me if I had ever eaten tofu and they were excited when I said I had. They explained to me that we would be eating beef stew. I was a little nervous because I would be eating in front of all of my co-workers, including the principal and vice principal.

As soon as we walked in, the restaurant greeted us with a really pungent smell. I later found out it was some sort of fermented bean soup that is supposedly very good for you. I don’t doubt it, but I have noticed that people in Korea say lots of things are very good for you. We walked upstairs and had an entire room to ourselves to eat. We all took our shoes off and sat on the floor at long tables. Each table had a burner and was full of side dishes. The beef stew that my co-teachers told me about turned out to be seafood stew. It had all sorts of sea creatures in it, like shrimp and octopus (tentacles and all) and other things that I couldn’t identify. If you didn’t already know, I do not like seafood. I mostly ate rice and mixed a bit of the broth in to help the seafood stew go down a bit easier. I sat across the table from my principal. He was very interested in how I liked the food, as was everyone else. It wasn’t bad, but I’m sure I would have eaten more if  it wasn’t seafood stew. I did end up trying the bean stuff. It tasted a lot like it smelled so I only had a few spoons full.

At lunch I was asked by two different people if I am good at/like to play volleyball. The answer to both is no, but I agreed that I would play with everyone. I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. I later found out from other people that have already worked in Korea for a year that the elementary school teachers take their volleyball pretty seriously. They have matches against other schools and they are super competitive. I just thought it was for fun. I am wondering if I can retract my offer to play. I am not the competitive sports kind of girl. My hand-eye coordination is pretty much nonexistent. I don’t want to seem antisocial, but having me on the team doesn’t seem like a very good idea.

I spent the rest of the day in the teacher’s lounge/office working on my PPT. I was having a difficult time figuring out how I was going to talk about myself for 20 minutes. Lots of my co-workers were interested in my PPT and wanted to see it. They were a bit disappointed because I had to finish the PPT at home. The pages about my family didn’t have any pictures on them yet because all of my family pictures were at home on my laptop.

I work Monday through Friday from 8:40am to 4:40pm. My school is just a 10 minute walk from my apartment, which is nice.

Mary, I know you’ve been asking about the food we were eating at orientation was, but the truth is, none of us really knew. They didn’t label any of the food so we really just had to get food and guess what it was. Most of the food was a bit cold and I really didn’t eat a whole lot at orientation.