Sunday, November 22, 2009

Random Rant

This won't take long...there are no pictures to enjoy...or tales of great travel to be told. It's just a brief venting period...

So, one of my students Kyle, yes, the same after school boy that I Karate chopped a few weeks back for strangling a poor boy in my class is at it again...

Last week, the week of November 16th, after school English class started off like any other. After the first hour, I always give the kids a 10-15 break to read their comics and eat their snacks (2 hours of English after school is entirely too long in my opinion). Anyways, the break time was over and I asked all the students to return to their tables so we can begin the second half. As usual, the other students in the class obeyed and came scurrying back to their seats, a little chatty but they were there. Kyle on the other hand was not. I ask for him to take his seat so that we could begin class.

(I forgot some key information. My co-teacher was not there and we are having class in the library. The tables where the kids sit are in the front of the room and there are book shelves in the middle with an aisle down the middle so the kids can easily get to the tables...just to set the scene a little bit.)

So back to Kyle, being the pain in the butt that he is, he decides to walk at a snails pace while weaving through the books shelves as opposed to walking normally through the middle. He begins to utter something in Korean, (which I'm sure isn't polite) and is seriously barely moving with his eyes locked on me. I'm like...ok "Kyle, please pali pali! (hurry hurry in Korean)" He continues at this ridiculous pace and holding up class. So I just looked him in the eyes and thought two can play this game. So...I let him ramble and baby step all the way to his seat. Once he got there, he pulled his chair to sit. I looked at him and said, "No, can't sit. You didn't listen to me. Please pick up your chair and come to the front." He looked at me and said, "Bad Teacher." In my head I was like, "You're the most annoying kid ever, so call me whatever you want. (At least this insult was in English)" So he brought his chair to the front and began to sit down. I said, "No, Kyle. Lift the chair over your head until I say stop."

Ok...I know you are thinking this is so cruel, but it is a very mild form of punishment. I will admit that I felt a little bad when he started whining, "Ahh...ahhh...ouch...hurts." But then I would look at him, and I just wouldn't feel bad anymore. I only made him stay that way for a few minutes, but he behaved the rest of that class so it was a success. I don't think he'll be snail walking anytime soon...

I hate to say it...but it's true...sometimes authority is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Flu, A Bike and Pepero

Let me give you some important background information before I tell you a story. The weather in Ulsan has been very pleasant, upper 60s since about October. There have been spurts of cold weather here and there, but they seem to blow by just as fast and they blew in.

So last Monday and Tuesday, November 2nd and 3rd, it was oddly cold. The temperature dropped into the mid 40s and the wind was blowing hard and cold as heck. I went into school wearing jeans, a long sleeved shirt and my black fleece (the warmest 'coat' I brought) and realized there was no difference in temperature from the cold outside to the chill inside. As I walked up the three flights to my office, I noticed that everyone still had on their coats and scarfs and gloves. Well I soon discovered why. It felt rather drafty and I realized that they had all the windows open like it was summer again. I was so confused because it was freezing outside, why do they insist on keeping them open.

My first third grade class began and the kids were literally shaking. All the windows in the room were open and it was absolutely freezing. The kids had on their winter coats, hats, gloves, blankets on their legs, and hand warmers! Yes, that's right...hand warmers! The little one-time use packets that we would use in the USA to make it through a cold football game. But these kids were using them in the classroom! I thought how ridiculous. This is not a good learning environment and these poor kids are going to catch a cold.

After two days of this madness I finally asked Johnson why are the windows open in the winter. He simply said, "it keeps kids from spreading the swine flu. This way there is constantly fresh air entering the classroom." At this point, more than 10% of my school has the flu, so clearly this theory is irrelevant. I just kind of laughed to myself and asked if he was serious. O, he was and he didn't seem to see my humor in his theory. I asked Andrew if the scenario at his school was the same, which it was, and he too asked why. We compared notes, and it's true. They keep the windows OPEN to keep OUT the swine flu.

I just let it go...I'm in Korea and I will do things their way. But I just want to say something. Ok, so having fresh air is a positive, and I no longer have to be concerned with what shirt I am going to wear to school since I never take off my coat or scarf (two points for the Korean Theory). On the other hand, kids cannot write well with wool gloves on, they are going to catch colds or even hypothermia thus turning into the flu, and the blankets and hand warmers belong at an outdoor football game, not in the classroom (six points me). PS: If you have any of those mittens where the top folds back exposing the fingers, please send. It would make typing at my desk a lot easier....and warmer!

This past Saturday, November 7th, Andrew and I decided to take advantage of some beautiful weather we were having. It was sunny and about 70 degrees so we decided to take a picnic lunch to Ulsan Grand Park. It's about a 15 min taxi ride from our apartment and we really didn't know where we were going (as usual) since we had never been there but we were excited. We got out of the taxi and the first thing we saw were thousands of beautiful flowers! They even had "Ulsan" spelled out at the entrance. The park was absolutely gorgeous...and crowded! The leaves on the trees were at their peak of beauty and the large pond and waterfall caught their reflection. We took a seat on a bench by the water and began eating. It didn't take long to notice that so many people were riding bikes. We realized you could rent them so we did what any nerdy foreign couple would do after a picnic in the park...we rented one...that's right one...a tandem bike to be exact, a nice bright yellow one! I was so excited since I had never ridden a bicycle built for two. Needless to say, it took some time to get use to but once we got the hang of it was quite an experience. We had few close calls but we blame it on the fact that one of the breaks was broken, our gears barely switched and our front tire was flat.

Later that night we went to dinner and decided to ride the famous Farris wheel that lights up the Ulsan skyline. It wasn't until then that I found out Andrew was slightly afraid of I enjoyed the view from above, while he closed his eyes and directed me on what to take pictures of to show him later :) Overall, we had a really great Saturday on a beautiful fall day.

November 11th, or Pepero Day! This has to be one of my new favorite Korean days! It is named after a Korean snack, Pepero, since the date (11.11) resembles four sticks of Pepero. It is similar to Valentine's Day I guess, because young people give these candy sticks, both bought and homemade, to their friends (and in my case teachers). It is said to have started in 1994 by some middle school girls in Busan who exchanged Pepero sticks as gifts to wish each other to grow as tall and slender as a Pepero stick! It's interesting, and I have enough Pepero sticks to ensure that I won't grow as slender as the candy stick.