Monthly Archives: November 2009

Great Week of Classe at Chung Dahm (South Korea)

This week, I think, has been a particularly successful week at Chung Dahm; maybe because the term is coming to a close, maybe because testing is over and the students are more at ease, or maybe I’m actually seriously getting the hang of this teaching Chung Dahm style. Whatever it is, I am thankful to whatever beneficent entity aligned the planets of teaching in my favor.

My Mega kids are learning about “Unsolved Science Mysteries” and we’ve been considering the possibility of life in outer space, particularly on Mars. I’ve supplemented the in-class readings with internet images of Mars’ surface as well as images of the various space vessels that have been propelled to that planet. The kids are not as amazed by these realities as I was when I was a child and space travel was still very new. They seem to have every confidence that scientists will in fact find life on another planet or at least discover a planet that is compatible enough for life that we earthlings will be able to immigrate to it before global warming fully destroys our earthly climate.

One of the “Critical Thinking Projects” involved envisioning life on Mars and drawing a picture of a creature from that planet. Most of their illustrations were based more on fantasy than fact and proved to be very imaginative. One group of students depicted alien life looking very much like Sponge Bob.

Monday night’s Bridge class only consisted of four students this week. Our subject was “Prehensile Tails.”

I started the class by asking the kids “if you could be any animal at all, what would you choose.” The answers were bird, dolphin, whale and cat. I showed them a couple of videos of animals with prehensile tales, namely a pangolin (a kind of anteater). Later, during the post reading (which was about prehensile TONGUES) I showed them a video of a chameleon catching a grasshopper with its tongue in slow motions, which quite impressed my students.  I then accused my students of hiding their prehensile tongues and tails from me, which they though quite funny.

The “Critical Thinking Project” for Monday’s Bridge class  involved considering attributes non-human animals posses that are useful and imagining what two attributes would be neat for a human to have. Everyone picked the ability to change colors, like the chameleon, but no one picked prehensile tails. We all drew pictures of our ideas and taped them to the wall. One student thought wings would be nice (the same student who said he’d like to be a bird), another student chose smelling as a preferred attribute because then she could easily find chocolate cake, which sounded like pretty sound logic to me. Two other students chose the ability to run fast so they could shop quicker and easier. I chose a turtle shell and wings, which my students found pretty fascinating. That way, I explained,  I could go to fa- away places and still have my home with me.

Tuesday’s Tera class involved the “Roots of Rock and Roll.” During this unit I played a number of youtube clips of Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, the original movie trailer for “Blackboard Jungle”  (which they really disliked) and finally a clip of Run DMC on “Reading Rainbow” (mostly because our text makes a connection between the rock movement of the 50s and the hiphop movement of the 80s in terms of cross-over music). They thought Fats Domino was ugly and had a hard time believing Chuck Berry was really black. DMC seemed to be their favorite clip. I showed the kids some 50s and 60s dance moves. They loved it when I did the twist.

I have two Birdie level classes, one on Tuesday one on Wednesday nights. My Tuesday night Birdies are a surly, sullen bunch, but I am starting to get through to them. I have of late been rewarded with a smile or two from some of the most surly. My Wednesday night Birdies are all girls and the atmosphere of my Wednesday night class is quite the opposite from Tuesday’s. I spend more time trying to get the girls to stop talking and focus on the lesson. But we all really like each other and, amidst discussions of pop music, shoes and movies, manage to get our work done every week.

I work really hard for Chung Dahm, and Chung Dahm demands it of me, but because I love the students it is worth it and I am thoroughly glad I’ve come to S. Korea.

There is also a chocolate museum and factory, where one can purchase Jeju Island chocolate. The area is famous for it’s orange chocolate, which make sense when you realize that the island is also famous for its delicious oranges.

November Already: NO NaNoWriMo for Me

Sunday again. These things come around like once a week or something. This particular Sunday is gray and rainy, but at least not terribly cold. Muggy is a better description.

Gary’s putting together a small bookshelf we bought at E-mart last night and I am puttering on the internet. I’m feeling particularly distant from all my people in the states; and lonely. Invisible. Forgotten. I’m also feeling particularly uncreative and uninspired, which interferes with my high-falluten ideals of writing a book before I leave Asia. I’ve been getting email from NaNoWriMo groups in Kansas, Albuquerque, New Mexico and even Seoul (I signed up when I arrived). I just delete them with a sigh of disappointment and try to “let go”  inevitable feelings of “this-is-not-what-I-expected.” I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a poem a day as part of the PAD challenge that Poetic Asides puts on every year.  I’ve drafted two poems so far.

I’ve canceled my plans to attend the Seoul Stitch-n-Bitch group today because Saturday got away from me and I don’t feel like I got anything done and want to play catch-up today.  Mondays loom LARGE and are always followed by equally difficult Tuesdays, which are in turn followed by long Wednesdays, so it’s hard to think of anything else but prepping for the week. Fortunately there are only three weeks left in this “Track-A” term, and next term’s Track B is supposed to be much (much) easier.

On a more positive note, we get paid this week (our 2nd paycheck) and have plans to do some shopping at Costco Wednesday (yes, Virginia, there is a Costco in S. Korea – several actually). They are running a sale on a 10 mp digital camera from Nov. 9th – 11th that I am hoping to buy. I haven’t been able to use my perfectly good digital camera since arriving because I screwed up the charger when I plugged it into a adapter without a transformer, thus blowing it out (I melted my culing iron the same way). A replacement charger and battery only costs $12.00 at Amazon, but they won’t ship electronics to Korea (no one will). So I’m just going to invest in a new camera.

So, this is where I am at the moment. Not much of a blog, but an update nontheless. Drop me a line folks.

Gangnam Style: Korean National Museum of Contemporary Art

Up until last Saturday, the weather in Anyang had been mild and quintessentially autumnal. The front that moved through on Halloween, however, drastically changed everything, and it has been very cold and gray since.

My friend Cereba and I  spent Halloween at the Korean National Museum of Contemporary Art, which is a great place to spend a rainy day, though we got plenty wet walking to the museum from the subway exit.  Had we come up at exit 2 at Gangnam Station, we could have taken the Elephant Tram and stayed relatively dry – so a word to the wise.

I probably cannot adequately  express how much I enjoyed the museum. Seriously, experiencing art in whatever form and wherever it presents itself is kind of like a religious experience to me. Sort of like a soulful coming home. I’ve been complaining for a few weeks that I needed to get in touch with some kind of artistic expression but didn’t know where to go. Life here has been mostly about working hard to “make the grade” and, in my perception, keep from getting fired. Everyday life in Korea is about working and then more working, and when not working, drinking or shopping; exactly the kind of lifestyle I try to avoid. I mean, I try to lead a more deeply meaningful life – journey not destination and all that. What I was really seeking is the Korean perspective and reaction to the Korean mainstream way of life. I’m happy to report that I found some of that at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

Even though the permanent collection at the MOCA is free to view, we bought tickets for the featured exhibit, “Peppermint Candy.” Besides entry into a fantastic exhibit, our museum tickets entitled us to a free bus ride from the museum to the subway. That is, a warm and DRY ride from the museum to the subway.

So, after a lovely day at the MOCA, and a mostly dry journey home, a trip to our local E-Mart for snacks and dinner at the “Food Box,” our trio headed home to watch scary movies.  After the first movie, we all decided to head to Happidus’, a bar in Beomgye that caters to foreigners which, we’d heard, was having a Halloween party. At Happidus’, I played a game a pool with friend and before we knew it the place was filled with costumed party-goers, many of them, it turned out,  co-workers. I wound up hanging out around until around 1:00 AM before heading back to finish watching scary movies. My friends an I all fell asleep while watching “The Exorcist”

As I mentioned, the weather has been quite cold since Halloween and in the meantime my fellow teachers and I have been very busy administering the IBT Achievement Tests to our students – THE test that determines if a student can “level up.” Word is that once these tests are over, the kids will be wild and difficult to manage – and we still have three weeks left in the term! I look at this week as the calm before the storm and try to have faith in my ability to direct these children in positive ways in the weeks to come.