More observations from an 'alien'

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Daegu,
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Have just recieved my 'alien registration card' ... so I am now a legal alien in Korea! yay this means I can now get a phone... and internet! Life without these has been like stepping back in time.
This is my first week of teaching actual lessons >> and it has been so tough to work out the level of English I should be teaching! Sometimes the students just don't seem to understand … and it is SO difficult to explain what I thought were simple activities!! Then, in other classes, they seem to find my lesson much too easy and I feel like I’m not stretching them enough. At the moment I’m making constant adjustments to my lesson plans which takes a surprising amount of time! It’s all a learning curve. My TEFL training has taken me up to the point of writing lesson plans … and thinking of fun activities … but actually putting them into action is a completely different kettle of fish! But I seem to be getting used to making spontaneous decisions in class to do an activity or to scrap another activity. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of teacher mode – and other NETs (Native English Teachers) say the same thing – we find ourselves speaking slowly, repeating ourselves stupidly and using hand gestures to accompany everything that we say! I do a cheesy double thumbs-up sign or a negative cross sign all the time … I hope it doesn’t stick!

There are always surprises here – there are always treats going round the staff room (rice cakes, crackers, sweets) for one reason or another. Yesterday was 'White Day’ which is a second Valentine’s day {they have so many of these random celebrations}. On this day boys give candy to girls. Some of my students gave me bags of sweets and my Vice Principle gave me chocolate J Next month is ‘Black Day’ when apparently you must eat black foods to bring you good luck in love.

There are some funny characters at school. Last week one of the old PE teachers was trying to set me up with a new 30-something PE teacher because ‘he single and strong’. He invited me and my co-teacher (as a translator) to the PE office for coffee and we had a very strange gathering! He kept saying that we should be ‘like family’. It was amusing (if a little bit awkward!). I’m going to dinner with all the teachers on Friday which should be interesting… Ive heard stories of these social events from other English Teachers in which all the teachers got really drunk and did ridiculous kareoke! Koreans are very into community. Whereas in the West we tend to spend time with our families or close friends, they are into doing activities in work groups a lot. Also they are obsessed with hiking! I went to the mountains this weekend with some friends … most of us didn’t have the proper gear and were completely outdone by the older Koreans. All decked out with bright pink or lime green visors, jackets, boots and hiking poles, they looked the part! I was told that they think pale is beautiful (good news for me!) hence the visors… plus sun cream and sometimes even gloves. Hiking was very sociable – people were always stopping to say hello to us.

Spring has finally hit us – it feels much warmer all of a sudden. There is talk of the cherry blossoms (a national pride and joy) which will appear end of March / early April depending on which city you are at ... lots of websites have graphs predicting this – its serious business. More of a concern is the ‘yellow dust’ which should hit us soon … it is blown from China and contains nutrients for the ground but nowadays contains lots of pollution meaning that people avoid going outside and wear masks! Maybe I should get mine soon in preparation.
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