The Best Field Trip Ever

26 09 2008

At my school the curriculum maintains that I must teach out of something termed the “Theme Book” everyday. This book is, to the best of my knowledge, supposed to be a fun learning experience, while adding all sorts of random English practice to my student’s everyday lives. The vast majority of this book is far too random and misguided, doesn’t fit with any lesson plan ever, lacks instructions on how to carry out the “activities” on the page, and last but definitely not least, is more often than not riddled with horrendous English. All the negatives aside, occasionally Theme Book lends me the opportunity to actually do something worthwhile.

Around about last week Theme Book randomly decided that the children should learn a smidgen of safety rules. They learned the numbers for emergency, practiced making emergency calls and a number of other safety rules relevant to 5 year olds. (Although I might argue that stricter enforcement of the “NO RUNNING INSIDE” rule would solve all of MY safety issues….)

Anyway, my co teacher decided that learning safety was just the thing for them, and asked me if she thought we should go to the fire station. Should we ever!! (I love field trips.)

After one rain out and some last minute projectile vomiting (thanks for that, Brandan), somehow we made it to the fire station. Let me tell you, this was the best. fieldtrip. ever. I’ve been to Safety Days where you put on the hard hat (and the jacket if you’re lucky) and climb up the stairs of the fire truck, but this field trip kicked Safety Day’s ass.

First off, they had miniature versions of their fire coats for every kid. Neon yellow, no less, with red hard hats. The next part of the experience was a video and chat session in Korean, so I had no clue what was coming next. As we’re about to move on to the next safety related activity, the Korean co-teachers start speaking English, urging the children to “be brave, no crying!”.  Needless to say I was a little hesitant about what was about to happen.

Turns out, this particular fire station knows how to throw a Safety Day. They had part of a fire truck hollowed out and set up as a house inside, with a fog machine blaring to similate a fire experience. The kids had to navigate through the dark and smoke and do as they were taught. Of course the smoke wasn’t actually going to hurt them, but can anyone say liability? I love Korea. After the “near death” experience in the smoke house, the children were treated to a death defying belay from 20 feet in the air. No shit. My best guess (again, everything was in Korean) is that they have pulley systems in the apartments here and the children had better learn to use them in case of a high rise fire emergency. So we proceeded to scare the living hell out of our students. Surprisingly some of them actually loved it, and the ones that were too timid didn’t have to go. But seriously, how sweet is that? It almost makes me want to be in an apartment fire. Or y’know, just go to the fire station every time I need a little thrill.

Today, I really wanted to be a Korean schoolchild.

Bonus: Even after walking past the Bulgarian restaurant I couldn’t figure out what it was called. BUT! It is next to La Vigna, can’t miss it. K-something, I think. Anyway, go up the stairs and eat there, it’s good. Also, internet should be up Monday. Fingers crossed.


1 week in… rave review

21 09 2008

One week into our new Itaewon home and everything is lovely. I love the restaurants, the proximity to the bars and most of all I love the small twisting back alleys where I can discover new treasures everyday and walk my dog without worry of cars. In short: I ❤ Itaewon.

On Thursday night I went to a fabulous Bulgarian restaurant (back to you on the name, maybe I’ll even snap a photo) with my fabulous coworker and had some seriously fabulous food. I had chicken stuffed with spinach with a sweet creamy sauce and vegetables that were to die for. The best meal I’ve had in Korea, no contest. Top it off with some white sangria (a little weak but still delicious) and we had just about the best Thursday night we could have without breaking my rule of NO HANGOVERS ON SCHOOL DAYS (I’ve been good, honest! I’ve only been close once!). Afterward we headed to the Bungalow for a a cocktail (for me) and a glass of wine (for her). The Bungalow has to be one of my favorite places in Seoul. They make strong martinis without a hint of tonic water (don’t ask) and have rooms featuring sand covered floors and swings to sit in. Swings… in a bar! For someone who is 22-going-on-8 like me, that’s just about the best thing you could put in a bar.

More great times were had this weekend at places of note in Seoul, but then I’d have to venture out of my Rave Review: Itaewon focus and I will save that for another time.

To recap:

  • visit that Bulgarian restaurant (seriously, will add the name soon)
  • have a cocktail and a swing at the Bungalow
  • thank me later

Walk it out

20 09 2008

It’s been a week of frenzied activity here in Seoul. Daniel and I moved to Itaewon on Monday, I celebrated my first Korean holiday (Chu Seok!), went on the first of many field trips with my class and basically turned life upside down. One of the biggest challenges to our new location is the commute. After almost two months of living within 15 minutes by walking to my school, now I have an hour walking commute. It’s slightly faster to take the bus, but I decided to jump start a healthier lifestyle by walking. After only four days I’m feeling stronger and more energized.

Truth be told, I’m terrible about exercise. I will do it if I have an “easy” option. Walking to school (which will be increased to intervals then running to school) is something that can easily be fit into my routine. I have to be there anyhow, so turning the commute into exercise works for me. I have a tendency to get control of my health in waves, committing for awhile then getting derailed by a vacation or a routine change. It’s finally starting to catch up to me. Damn it if I don’t know better, but sometimes it just seems like so much work.

I’m happy with this new routine and I’m sure it will help me on many levels. With more energy I can be a better teacher, have more self-confidence and positively impact my future. I’ve often used moving or the start of a new season to jumpstart fitness routines or healthy eating, but if I continue moving every year or two I know I will need to prioritize these things if I’m ever to stick to it.

How do you stay in shape while traveling?

you should be in my space

9 09 2008

Updates have been few and far between from the small studio on… oh yeah, I don’t know what road I live on. The one where if you go back from that main street back to the one behind it, and then hang a right at the orange sign with the stars? yeah. that one. Man, Seoul is a weird place for directions. Apparently some of the streets have names. SOME.

I ventured from my original point already, which given my normal lack of direction isn’t so hard to believe. Anyway, I’m excited to report that at the end of the week it will be goodbye to the small apartment absolutely NOT made for two (three with the dog!) and helloooo to a nice roomy 2-bedroom apartment in sketchy sketchy Itaewon. While it isn’t the ideal place to live, the apartment is (comparitively) huge and I’ll be getting some forced exercise with the morning commute. Plus, no cab rides home from nights at the Loft! (I know, I know… but they give free drinks to ladies… ALL NIGHT!)

I’ve taken to life as a teacher. It was the last thing I ever saw myself doing, but I’ve slipped into the routine with few bumps in the road. There are the obvious miscommunications with the Korean co-teacher, but we get along so problems are easily hashed out at the end of the day. I’m starting to learn the basics of teaching phonics, reading, writing and communicating with children… that last on the list being my biggest hurdle to leap. I can make speeches in front of large groups of adult people with not a hint of nerves, but give me 12 small faces staring at me in confusion, and all of a sudden I’m over-explaining and using language far too complicated. Thankfully, those moments are getting fewer and more far between. I’m learning what to say and how to get them to answer questions! And chatter excitedly! And LAUGH!

This isn’t so hard, and in fact, it’s a pretty good life.