Thursday, May 31, 2007

Old Lady

Is it possible that you can't function as an ESL kindergarten teacher WITHOUT 10 hours sleep?

I chose last night to go out - NOT TO A BAR - but to a movie.

It was a long one - perhpas too long - and a late one but Jack Sparrow is always worth the time.

And I was in bed by 1am, which means since I get up at 9am, I still got a good 8 hours (everyone cheer for me because I mastered some math)

But now, after 4 kindergartan classes, I feel like I've gone 10 rounds with Tyson. Except no body parts have been bitten off. But my clothes are pretty drenched from the EXCEEDING AMOUNT OF TEARS today.

I've never done a job where I needed this much sleep. I like my sleep, I'm a bit of a hibernating bear, but I never used to actually NEED this much sleep to function.

I'm so tired that I actually figured you all might be interested in how tired I am today.

If that doesn't show mental incapacity, then I'm not sure what else would.

Maybe another whole entry about the weather?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Countdown

Scene opens: 10:30am with the kindergartens second class of the day, after a 5 minute break.

Teacher: Okay everyone, please sit down in your desk

Students: meeda meeda meeda meeda (Korean for 'continue-babbling-with-my-friends)

Teacher: Okay, sit down. Please everyone sit down.

Students: *clearly paying no attention to teacher* meeda meeda MEEEDA MEEEDA

Teacher: T-student, close the door please.

T-student: NO

Teacher: *blink blink blink*

T-Student: *cheeky smile*

Teacher: T-Student I said close the door.

T-Student: NO

Teacher: *smoke out of ears blood boiling over* 5...4.....3...

T-Students and others: *T-student-slams door**scramble-knock-each-other-over-to-get-to-seats*

The countdown. For when a simple 'please sit down' just won't do.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me

Every year, I get a LITTLE BIT EXCITED about my birthday.

I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's because I don't yet have kids of my own's birthdays to get excited about.

Maybe it's because I'm like Peter Pan, will never grow up and am eternally a 5-year-old.

As today is a national holiday in Korea, I was lucky enough to not have to go into work.

This means I continue my 8 year "no going to work on my birthday" streak that started after I graduated from university.

As they say in Korea, "Assah!" (Otherwise known as YEEEESSSSSSS!)

Although I am celebrating today by doing whatever I want, last night was the big mexican food party at my house. Followed by some singing in the singing room. FOR 6 HOURS.

I went to bed as the sun came up, begged the drink fairy to let me awake without a killer headache and a sore tummy and had a fantastic time.

The best part about birthdays is that it's a great excuse to get everyone out. Because, you can always make an excuse any other occasion, but when it's someone's birthday, people rarely bow out.

And then it makes for a good night.

And what a good night was had.

A nice big crowd of waegooks, eating their taco-loving hearts out, singing their norebang-loving lungs out, laughing their jokes-loving guts out.

Thanks everyone. You made a Korean birthday well worth the experience.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stranger in a Strange Land

On Sunday night, I felt this weird sensation when we got into bed.

Kinda like, I was living in a new house. Or living someone else's life.

It was so bizarre. Everything felt strange and unfamiliar.

Throughout my life, I have been known to have the occasional anxious moment where all you want is a big hug from you mom. And, I always took advantage of the hugging when possible to make the willies go away.

But this was different. It wasn't a scary feeling. Just more surreal.

We have recently started planning our next travel jaunt and this one is looking to be a big kahuna.

We're talking about places like Singapore or Sydney as though they were Toronto or Montreal.

We're deciding on whether to go to Vietnam or Laos first like it's a decision about chicken or steak.

We're discussing day long trips on trains across Mongolia and Russia like it's a decision about whether to walk or ride our bikes to the store.

All the names, all these places, that for so many years were far away and distant on a map are now becoming places I need to decide whether or not to pack a bikini or a sweater for.

I'm trying to remember the excitement when we decided to take the plunge around Europe.

Trying to remember how I felt then. Was it this strange? Did it feel this exotic?

Once we lived in the UK, it's amazing how someone's weekend to Madrid or Berlin or Amsterdam just became, well, so common. Like someone from Canada going to Daytona Beach for spring break or Muskoka for a summer cottage stint.

I got to the point, living in Belfast, that I figured I would simply just have to adjust to the fact that I would only have a few months to travel around Asia. Take it all in before heading back to Canada.

And now I'm here, living in Korea, feeling occasionally isolated but mostly quite Asian, talking about taking a quick jaunt over to Fukoka, Japan before we head down to a Malaysian beach.

All these places that I used to dream about in my grade 11 World Issues class. Little letters strung together as words on a big map with green for land and blue for sea.

And when I look at these places now with my students, it's my home that's far away.

Perhaps I felt strange on Sunday night as a reminder of how lucky I feel. How happy I am that I AM living this life.

That most days, I am pinching myself, wondering how I ever got here from a small town in the middle of the 401?

And I suppose, that's a great way to start the week that will end with my 31st birthday.

(what??? you thought you'd get out of it in this post? nice try people. nice try...)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Stronger Than Yesterday

When I lived in Belfast, I was kinda addicted to the gym.

I say kinda because it was in a can't-go-out-Friday-till-I've-pumped-it-up type of way as opposed to training-for-the-next-body-building-championship type of way.

I fell in love with Body Pump, a class dedicated to pump *clap* you up. (SNL? Anyone? Am I dating myself here?).

I always just felt so strong after a class and, as D could attest to, frequently walked around the house, checking out my biceps and asking him, REPEATLY to 'feel them, come on, feel how HUGE I am'.

I was glad to hear that in Korea, they had gyms. When I arrived, I realised the Koreans have a little obsession of their own with fitness and that maybe I would fit in just fine here.

They enjoy being healthy SO MUCH that in parks, there are actually OUTDOOR WEIGHT MACHINES. I mean, this is genuis! Run around the park AND get in your weight training all FOR FREE.

Alas, the gym I joined did not have a Body Pump class. So I was stuck singing the songs in my head and doing the routine in the 'grunting section' of the gym near the weights.

Until last night.

Korea E starting going to a Body Pump class at her gym and I tagged along last night.

It felt awesome. Amazing. Draining. Body Pumpish. Just good.

I'm ready to kick some ass. Just in time for my birthday.

(Reference 3 for those of you paying attention!!..)

Friday, May 18, 2007

My Super Healing Powers

I did not realise until I began teaching what an AMAZING gift I have.

Did you realise I can cure any and all 'boo boos' with a simple kiss-hand-touch-ailment trick?

If I had known I had such a powerful gift, I most CERTAINLY would have exploited it earlier.

It seems to be children who are alway more perceptive to those with special abilities. I mean, they're the ones that see ghosts and 'dead people'.

They certainly have a way of exposing us.

I'll never forget the first time I discovered what I was capable of. It was in a classroom, probably within the first month of me being here, and a small little kindy came up to me.

She had a tortured look on her face, one that made me second guess whether or not I should have asked them one more time to 'REPEAT AFTER ME'.

Then, she stuck her forefinger right in my face. To show me *gasp* what most people would say was the tiniest cut known to man.

But not me. Not the super healer. I suddenly realised SOMETHING must be done. And so, I reacted as anyone would seeing the life threatening wound, took my own hand, KISSED IT and placed it upon the poor little girl's gash.

Suddenly, she looked up at me. Peace had come across her face. She had been saved. She would not bleed to death. She would not succumb to infection. She would not die.

SHE WOULD LIVE.

All because of me.

She smiled up at me, amazed at my abilities and left with a perma smile that showed she KNEW she was among greatness.

So to this day, I continue bestow my powers on little children at school. And each time I come down with the mighty poweful kiss-hand-touch-aliment, they are overjoyed.

Ya, teaching is just my cover you see. How else could I get so close to the little people and their deadly wounds?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Teachers' Day Comes But Once A Year

I'm not we've tapped into this concept of Teachers' Day in North American but it certainly has it benefits.

I was able to sit on the beach yesterday, wade in the sea water and enjoy my book. This sounds like a nice way to pay back a teacher.

Perhaps if I had paid more attention to how I was applying my morning moisturiser - which has 25SPF - I wouldn't have come into school today look like I painted my entire forehead and nose red and my cheeks and chin white.

No need for pictures. I'll allow you to create your own image.

I was also given gift certificates to department stores. Almost a bit too extravagant. So much I wouldn't want to mention the amount but suffice to say I will enjoy shopping for my birthday next week.

(mention TWO on the blog of the birthday. there will be a prize for those who can point out how many times I can slip it into blogversation over the next week. cause I'm just THAT sad.)

I think the best gift though, was a letter I received from one of my students. She has really grown a lot in skill over the last year. She moved from one of my lower classes, to my highest class and is now one of the best students in that class.

She has also learned the key to sucking up.

After reading through sentences about how 'beautiful' and 'kind' and 'lovely' I was, she signed her name 'love, J..' and added one important sentence at the end:

"I didn't letter J... teacher and D... teacher so you no say J... teacher and D... teacher then they jealousy of you."

So either that she likes me best, she was too lazy to write us all OR the genuis of all genius, she wrote us all letters BUT told none of us to speak to each other on the premise that she didn't write the others because we were all individually 'her favorite'.

If her English begins to fail her, she's all set for a career in espionage.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down

Or do they?

I actually wonder if just a little part of me was EXCITED when this morning I woke to a grey day.

I've felt the need to be home bound recently. Just enjoying books or watching TV.

I'm preparing myself for cultural overload.

I know this is my mind's way of telling me that in a few months, I will have so many new and exciting things to see and do, that I need to prepare for it.

It sounds strange, coming from the girl who couldn't wait to get to the beach, but at the same time, there is something comforting in knowing you're not really missing out on anything if the weather has turned out in your favor.

I think I'm also aware that I have a day off next week. That day has already been allocated to relax in the sun. So I'm okay if today's activities will include surfing the web and singing in an individual karaoke machine box at the arcade.

Funny how, a year ago, that last one would have seemed so foreign. Now, it's as normal as kimchi and chopsticks.

*************

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms - and moms to be - I know out there, especially my own.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bye Bye Work Week

The weeks seem to go by faster then I'm expecting them.

Monday - well EVERYONE gets a case of the Mondays sometimes - and certainly that is the day I am most happy to be finished.

Tuesday - I'm finished early, well, earlier than on Monday Wednesday and Friday so it feels a bit like a holiday anyway.

Wednesday - It's HUMP day! Who doesn't like HUMP day? And who doesn't feel a great relief after lunch on HUMP day knowing that you're closer to the weekend than you were in the morning?

Thursday - again, early finish, plus the next day is Friday so all you tend to think about on Thursday is how happy you are that the next day is Friday.

Friday - and then there it is. TGIF. The weekend is dropping it's landing gear and looking for the runway. And by mid afternoon, well, the weekend has REALLY already landed.

I suppose what's not GREAT about this theory is that I am truly wishing my life away - you know, one of those phrases you hear in your head, your mother's voice, echoing time and time again. Somewhere in between 'You'll ruin your dinner' and 'Someday you'll be happy you have a sister and not want to kill her.'

Thinking of the upcoming travel is probably whats putting me in wishing-away mode.

I'm also looking forward to getting back to a place where I can take the politics and enoy the job I'm doing.

Children are wonderful, adventurous, curious, amazing little creatures to hang out with all day.

But the bureacracy behind their education can just become too much for me sometimes. That, and the fact that I can't REALLY communicate with those that control my fate.

Although we are ending on a very happy note this Friday. The powers that be have decided to give us next Tuesday OFF. Yes, that's right NO WORKING. NO TEACHING. NOT EVEN SIMPLY HANDING OUT WORDSEARCHES.

It's Teacher's Day here in Korea and we all just assumed that our Ebeneezer bosses would drag us in anyway. Turns out that students might want to give us gifts and there not too fond of that so they 've decided if we're not here we can't get gifts.

I don't really care why they don't want me here. I just know there is a bunch of sand and a little piece of ocean that would be happy to accomodate me and my magazines and the BEST TACOS IN THE WORLD from the taco stand for the entire day.

That also means one less day I have to wish away next week.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Who's Got the Funk? Gotta Have the Funk

Peaks and troughs as my Korea E friend says.

I'd say I'm definitely in a trough. A deep, hollow, Grand Caynon-like trough.

I was chatting away to Korea E last night, about various frustrations going on in our current state here, just discussing the roller coaster ride that is living away from home.

Your emotions are so very exaggerated. When things are great and you're happy, you're very very happy. But when things get low, they just seem insurmountable.

It's so very hard to overcome, to understand, why certain cultures act the way they do.

There was a disagreement at work on Monday. In the end, we got what we wanted. But the price was yet again a loss of trust for us in our employers and a lack of understanding why, for something so small, our employers would risk so much.

I realise I'm being vague but I'm not sure details would make it any clearer.

We also had a strange altercation with a taxi driver this morning. He almost ran us over. We almost kicked his car. And besides yelling back and for at each other in different languages, we were not really able to accomplish anything, other than to frustrate ourselves even more.

What's stranger, he followed us, found out where we worked and called our school to enquire details about us. I'm told the road raging taxi driver was fine at the end of the conversation but the fact that we just couldn't have had it out like this:

"Dude, you almost ran us over"

"Well, I'm a Korean driver and just simply go wherever I please! How dare you make kicking actions towards my car"

"Dude, it's a bit frustrating when someone almost breaks your legs"

"Yes, but my flashy black car.."

"F**k you"

"F**k you back"

And then we could have gone our separate ways - because I'm assuming this must be what happens in places like NY or LA where taxis and pedestrians must sometimes disagree. I'm also guessing there would be guns involved so it's technically even safer here to have a fight with a taxi man.

But the main point of all of this that it's not me, it's not Korea, it's not even the dodgy owner or the psycho taxi driverit just IS. This IS just the way IT IS when you live somewhere you are not from.

And so I've got to ride this one out. Not beat up on myself for getting frustrated and just focus on the happy peak that is bound to be around the next corner.

Either that or hop on the next plane home. Slightly melodramatic? No, NOT ME!

Monday, May 07, 2007

You Are Always On My Mind

Last Friday we tagged along with the kindergartens to see the Korean version of The Wizard of Oz. Part of me was confused why we had to go in the first place as we don't speak Korean and then the other part of me realised, that's EXACTLY why we should go along...because...well...sometimes it's very korean to do things that don't make any sense.

In the end we actually enjoyed ourselves, looking at the little kiddies eyes light up, learning new words such as "Dorashee" instead of the regular 'Dorothy'.

My favorite addition to the play, when they happen upon the Tinman, he seems to have his heart but longs to be a member of the circus as multiple chorus members, surrounded him on stage, dancing and contorting themselves as he enviously looked on.

There was lots of drumming as well, which I guess was a great distraction from the story line for 6 year olds but also made me immediately turn to D and say:

'I know who would love this musical'.

Almost in unison, we put on the voice we use for my Dad and said 'This is pretty good, you know. This is probably the best musical I've ever been too.'

My father, for those of you who don't know, is currently a jazz drummer. For my entire life he has been drummnig in various formats - rock and roll band, pipe band, accompanying all of our skits on video - but now, he plays in a jazz band.

My father has really always loved anything musical. He's just not always been a great fan of musicals. I remember fondly my mother dragging him to Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore with all of us kids giddy and singing along. He enjoyed himself but let's just say, he probably would have liked a little more drumming.

D and I laughed at our little private joke during the play and it got me thinking. So many times throughout my days, I tell so many little stories and anedoctes about the people I care about.

But they don't even have any idea. They are totally oblivious - and in this time zone probably half asleep - to the fact that I'm nattering away about them.

I'm not sure why this struck me. But I just suddenly wanted my dad to be there. To see this drumming filled version of a musical and love it, talk about it and add it to our collection of family experiences to share for years to come.

But then I realised, they must do this too. They must turn to people that I've never met and that they see more often than I see them and relate some crazy story about their itchy feet daughter or sister or friend and then laugh to themselves and wish I was there - mostly because it's easier to make fun of someone when they're actually sitting in the room as opposed to a couple of oceans away.

And I just felt a little closer to everyone I miss back home. Just imagining the stories they're telling or the stories I will tell about them.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

They WILL Take Over the World

One of the boys in my 10-year-old class brought in some noodles for everyone to share.

He brought in two packages, dried, that conveniently can come to life after some hot water.

I had met him in the market about 2 minutes before class where he informed me he was going to purchase 1 ADULT PORTION for each child in the class. I managed to convince him that ALL NINE CHILDREN did not need their own portion.

He looked up at me, a bit conflicted and said:

"My mother said if I can only have if I get for everyone."

And so, we compromised, purchased two smaller packages and I promised to bring small Dixie cups to class so we could distribute.

I was touched by his generosity, even if it was selfishly fuelled.

When we reached class, with the noodles and Dixie cups in hand, he carefully distributed sections of the noodles into the cups.

The most sought after bit was the flavoring. Once everyone was appeased with the amount of spicyness they would be consuming, it was off the to water cooler/heater to turn the dry noodles into soupy yumminess.

As they were away, I started to think about how exactly they expected to eat these noodles, as we didn't purchase any chopsticks for the occasion.

It only took a second when they got back to their desk to prove to me once again why someday I WILL be working for them.

Sissors plus extra cups equals perfectly shaped scooping devices.

I guess 10 hours of school plus hogwans does actually pay off.