The closest McDonalds is where!

Trip Start May 18, 2006
Trip End May 30, 2007

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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Well we have been in Gangjin for approximately two weeks now and have got to know the town real well and, more importantly, have survived, so far, teaching kids English.

The town itself
Gangjin is a very small town in the Jellanamdo Province, in layman's terms, we are situated in the arse end of South Korea. I have included on this entry a picture of google earth with the location of Gangjin.

It has about 20,000 people and to the best of our knowledge 7 are white. That is correct we are not the only crazy ones teaching English here. This town must surely be an example of what people describe as living in a traditional part of a country, indeed after a year here we are confident we will be able to say we have lived like a 'real' Korean. Though we can already honestly say that if it was only us here we would have gone 'stir crazy' as we have meet very few Koreans who can speak any form of English.

Over the last two weeks we have explored the city a lot and have been shown the 'sights', i.e. where to eat and drink and buy food. I (Mathew) must confess that the food here is great and cheap, especially the traditional Korean BBQ which will set you back about 7000 won and fill you up (and there is free ice cream at the end). Basically you sit down on a very low table minus shoes and the owner will bring over the uncooked meat and you cook it on a BBQ that is set in the table. In addition, more food will be brought over in little containers (i.e. Kimchi, various vegetables and fish) and you simple use your chopsticks to place the meat in a lettuce leaf, put some veges on that and eat the leaf. It is sort of like a sandwich but with a leaf instead of a bun. As I said above it is yummy, healthy and cheap. Regarding other food, we have two other restaurants that we eat at where we get a great feed for 4000 won, this usually consists of rice, meat and various veges (though we have been told one of the side dishes are 'pressed cows brains'). Regarding drinking 'soju' is cheap ($1.50 for 375ml bottle) and tastes like vodka but with a smaller percentage. We have also found a great bar with good tunes and cheap beer, the owner seems to not worry about our tabs and often a big night will come to $20 a person.

Indeed it is so cheap to eat here that in our two weeks here we have only cooked at home once and that was spaghetti which we had to travel approx one hour to get the ingredients, i.e. pasta and tomato paste...would have been great if we splurged and had of got some beef mince..( if that even exists I am not sure)

Regarding lunch, we are given that at school and it isn't too bad and for brekkie we have toast (from a shop called 'Paris Baguette') and cereal.

We have looked into buying a scooter but the land is slow flat and the town so small that it would be cheaper and healthier to buy two bikes. More so, the only scooter we can buy at the moment is a 50cc and I drove that sort of engine when I was 10 years old and a few kilos lighter. But you never know. Regrading travel, we live approx 2 mins away from the bus terminal (the high speed train doesn't come to Gangjin) and buses to Gwangju leave every 20 mins, take 80 mins and only cost 7000 won so we really don't need a scooter or car. Indeed, we can catch a bus and get to Seoul (i.e. the top of Korea) in 5 hours. As you can tell this country is very small.

Our Apartment
Not many people live in houses in Korea so I guess we are following the trend and living on level 11 of a 15 story high rise. Now in Australia we were told that we would get an apartment and when we signed the contract we were told that 'it was big' but never could we expect what we got. This place is easily twice as big as our apartment in Brisbane (for those who had been there) and consists of three large bedrooms, two bathrooms, two huge balconies (one with sea views) and a huge kitchen and living area. We have placed pics above for those who don't believe us. If any of you want to come and spend a while in Korea you certainly have a free room to stay in (two in fact)

In addition, the schools have fully furnished the apartment, so we have got a new bed, TV fridge, washer and furniture; all much better and bigger than what we had in Brisbane. I had a look at the costing sheet and they spent about 3500,000 won on the place (more than $4,000) and we hadn't taught one day!

As you can tell we have had the internet set-up and also got cable TV which has 80ish channels with 5 showing English sitcoms and movies often and of course CNN for my daily news fix. We are currently trying to find out how to get an English feed for the world cup, maybe use BBC radio for the sound??

Our Schools
After two weeks we can say that leaving our jobs and lives in Australia has not been the huge mistake we thought it would be and indeed it looks like this year (and maybe a few after that) will be a great life experience.

Mathew teaches 16 classes at the Gangjin Girls Middle School (years 7,8 and 9) Monday to Thursday (including two hours of teaching the teachers). The classes are 45mins each and the rest of the time (which is a lot) is spent in the teacher's lounge doing nothing except learn Korean or surfing the net. The only other work we have is preparing lesson plans. I have to prepare 4 a week (for each class year), but they only take a few minutes each as we just surf the net for pre-made ones. While we have teacher's books, they are shit and indeed out co teachers have said that also so we can pretty much do what we want. I just get a theme from the book and prepare about 3 games centred on that theme. For example today at the High School I taught about the 'future' and 'happy and sad' (see below). Next week we are both doing the 'world cup' for all our classes that should be fun and very easy to set-up.

My main school is a small school of 400 students and is about 10mins work from our apartment. While I wore a suit the first day to impress the principal, he said (via my co teacher) not to bother, as it was too hot. So now I am getting around school in a pair of jeans and t-shirt. Also, when you enter any school everyone must take their shoes off and walk around in a pair of slippers (with socks on). This is very funny as many teachers are walking around in suits with slippers. Another funny thing I have noticed is that after the last period the girls must 'clean the school' i.e. there is no janitor. The girls do a great job but for obvious reasons they never seem to clean the toilets well (or at all) so they are never in the best condition.

The few classes I have taught have been great and out of say 25 students in each class, most can understand 'some' English and a few have very good English. Thank god I don't have to teach them the "ABCs' More importantly, despite my prior predications I have not yet wanted to throw any of the children out of the window (yet) :) The wow factor that a new 'white' teacher arriving is beginning to die down but I regularly get flowers :) and shouts across the hallway (or even the town street) of 'hello' 'hi' or just plain giggling. More strange is the common occurrence of the Girls bowing to me when walking down the hallway.

On Friday, I also work at two other little schools. One is a high school and another is an ag college (I think it is like a TAFE). I have yet to go to the ag college yet as they have cancelled both weeks so I have had half days both Fridays I have been here which has been good. The high school kids are great even though there English is not that good (being a very small school).

Of note, in a lesson I did with them today, we were discussing 'sad' and 'happy' I asked them what makes them sad? A girl stood up and said in perfect English: I am sad when I put on weight! Also when brainstorming the boys said 'fat girls' make them sad! Regarding what makes them 'happy', one of the boys said 'playboy' makes them happy. I threw a bit of chalk at him and told him not to be stupid. In Korea 'whacking' a child is not considered bad. While I have not used it yet I cannot wait until I can make a child stand up and hold their chair up above him.

Nic's schools
I teach at 4 schools, 1 with 1000 kids, I take grade 6.
1 about 300 kids where I take grade 5 and 6
and 2 tiny ones with only about 50 kids where I take grade 5 and 6.

The big school is right next to our apartment which is awesome.. literally I leave at 8:30 and get there at 8:32. The next one is about 10 minute walk. And the 2 smaller ones I take a taxi to.

The smaller ones are my favourite cause I have between 7 and 14 kids in my class compared to about 30 at the bigger schools. It makes a huge difference it is sooo much easier to teach to less kids.

Teaching has been fun, I am definitely enjoying it so far..A few technical issues like my powerpoint not working - but u have to go with that sort of thing and just play a game or something. The kids are pretty well behaved...I disciplined a kid for the first time for ripping up some cards I had given them to play a game...he had to stand up the front with his hands on his head for about a minute...The Korean teacher often leaves me alone...and that is good and bad...the other day something was going on I had no idea - next thing this kid is crying....So I think I got to the bottom of it they were teasing I'll keep an eye on him a bit better next time - I don't want it to happen again.

I have a textbook and loads of resources to follow...which is great I don't have to do much planning. Eg. Topics are "May I help you " and "Can I have some water" so you spend about 2 lessons on each topic...the kids are pretty quick...they listen to it a couple of times repeat a a competition....then a review and hopefully they have learnt how and when to say a new phrase...

I also do what is called "English Camp" I had my 1st one just the other day ...3 hours each day for 2 days with the same kids. It went better than I expected - Matt comes up between 7-8 to give me a bit of a break and help supervise - it is really hard to keep an eye on 14 twelve/thirteen year olds boys or girls..!
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