Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hiccups, Miss Hyde, and Wardrobe Malfunctions

If the title didn't already give it away, let me tell you, today was one of THOSE days! It was a collage of "memorable" moments and "just plain ugh" moments from the moment my eyes first opened.

The day began with me severely oversleeping. My alarm woke me, but it was the wrong alarm. It was the "you have five minutes until it is time to leave" alarm on my phone. I got to bed extremely late last night (technically it was this morning), and somehow fell asleep while in the process of setting my alarm. I wasted an entire valuable minute staring at the clock in bleary-eyed disbelief, convinced that I had to either still be dreaming, or reading the numbers incorrectly (after all, math has never been my strong point). Once I realized that it was, indeed, 10:41 am, I bolted into a frenzy of activity, and was successfully out the door in four minutes. Broadway quick-change artists would have marveled at my speed in getting dressed!

Since skirts are quicker to put on than slacks, I opted for a very full, ankle-length black skirt with a cute top. This becomes important later on in our story. As I was wearing a skirt, I opted to walk/run to school. I made it with five minutes to spare, but with miserable consequences. The morning rush gave me hiccups.

A few words about hiccups: There are several kinds of hiccups. Some women get the dainty, cutesie kind that pop up here and there for a few minutes, and can be gracefully dealt with with a few girlish giggles. Some people get hiccups that can be easily cured with a glass of water. Other people get the kind that are painful and embarrassingly loud - the kind where everyone assumes alcohol is at the root of it, and which stick around for hours. Guess which kind I get.

Yes, I get the kind of hiccups that leave one begging the Almighty for mercy. Today's hiccups, fortunately, only lasted for about an hour, and thoroughly delighted my youngest students. It's such a pleasure to know that I can always bring smiles to the dear faces of children.

Today, of course, was one of those blessedly-rare days where my kindergartners decide to make me grateful for not having children yet. Both classes featured a phenomena that I refer to as "popcorn students." It's when the bottoms of the students are unable to stay on the seats of the chairs for more than three seconds at a time. The only solution for this problem that works well is for me to stop being Miss Jekyll and let out Miss Hyde. I switch from the smiling teacher that they are accustomed to into a glaring creature that barks commands: "Sit! Stop! Quiet! No! Bad!" Miss Hyde can usually restore order pretty quickly, and then Miss Jekyll is able to come back. Today, Miss Hyde needed to stay a bit longer.

When I came home for lunch, I went straight to the computer to work on a project. While I was thus occupied, Jasper decided to redecorate the apartment for me. He has recently learned that he can pull objects off my short table, so he set to work quietly clearing it. Then, after artfully arranging everything from the table onto the floor, Jasper raided the trash can and found some tissues and paper to shred into a new carpet. Miss Hyde decided to make a house call.

My first afternoon class (E2-C) had memory homework for today, which I had assigned on Monday. It is the same way every week, so there was absolutely no excuse for only one out of eight children to have memorized the short assignment (especially since I practice their memory homework with them in class each day to make it easier for them). Miss Hyde informed them that all but one student (the one who did his homework) had homework for tonight, and that they had forfeited their game day tomorrow. Two students sneaked Nintendos into class, so Miss Hyde confiscated those and gave them to Jackie (one of the Korean teachers) after class. Jackie's Miss Hyde is even more impressive than mine.

A half-hour later, I had a big final oral test to administer to my E3-C class (one of my two favorite classes because the kids are normally so awesome). These kids are very smart and quick to learn, so I was dismayed to find that none of them had studied. Normally kids get all As on my oral tests (I drill them with review games and practice tests beforehand, so the correct answers are second-nature). Today, only two out of eight kids got As. Believe it or not, it really isn't fun giving low grades to kids (unless of course they are little beasts that you can't stand...).

After school ended, I had some errands to run, so I decided to ride my bicycle. Does anyone remember what I was wearing today? Yes, a nearly-floor length and exceedingly full skirt! I figured if women could ride bikes in the frocks they wore in the gay nineties (1890s), that I should be able to do the same now on a much more stable modern bike. Hmmm....

I have concluded that the photographs of women in long dresses on bikes are all frauds! Either that, or they neglected to show all the bruises on the women, and had them change their dresses before the pictures were taken. Bikes and long, full skirts should not even be in the same sentence!

I got my skirt caught in my wheels about six times. It repeatedly got in the way of my pedals. Finally, I got sick of being a lady and tied the outer part of the skirt in a knot around my waist. Don't gasp so loudly; the skirt has an inner part to it that comes past my knees. Of course, it rode up quite a bit since I was on the bike, but I wasn't showing nearly enough leg to cause my dear mother any panic. I was still relatively modest; I just looked really stupid. Since it was dark out by this time, no one but a few curious pedestrians got much of a glimpse of me, for which I was grateful.

I concluded the evening's performance with a graceful dismount that almost landed me on my face (luckily I grabbed the side of the apartment building and managed to remain upright). Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Please Pray for South Africa

I have a request to make of all the Christians who read this blog: please remember to pray for South Africa. Their president just resigned, and there's potential for a lot of trouble now. I have three South African friends, and believe me, that country has produced some amazing, wonderful people. I'm sure they would really appreciate our prayers in this difficult time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Word about Meetings...

Rome did not create one of the greatest empires in history by having staff meetings. They did it by killing all who opposed them.

That's all I'm going to say on the subject.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Terry's Composition

In E5-B, my most advanced class, I teach the kids writing and grammar as well as reading and vocab. The current unit in their writing books is about weather, so today I had them write short weather reports. First they worked in teams, writing about today's weather. Then, I had them work individually and told them to make up a weather report. I invited them to be as crazy as they wanted, hoping they would have fun with it. Terry did not disappoint me. Here is his weather report (complete with a few errors in grammar):

Today is December 25. It is Wednesday. The weather is very cold. It is not pleasant. Today, a big hurricane come to Gyeongju. It is very windy. You should stay inside and watch TV. Some people go outside and play badminton. They are blow away and never seen again anywhere. Have a great day!

The Cooking's Good, But Maintenance Stinks...

I really need to fire my current maintenance workers (me and me). The cook at my establishment (me) does excellent work, the maid (me) does satisfactory work, and the chauffeur (also me) may have a no-frills approach (bicycle), but I still get to work on time. My personal shopper (me) usually forgets something vital each time, but still manages to keep food on my shelves. Really, though, the maintenance workers! Their lack of motivation is simply appalling!

After the kitchen sink spent all weekend clogged, I finally convinced the plumber (me) to deal with the issue today. The plumber isn't very good at plumbing; she's skilled with clogged shower drains (she can do wonders with a wire coat hanger), but kitchen drains are quite a challenge for her. I have hopes that professional help will not need to be called in. Perhaps I'm too much of an optimist.

The electrician (me) still hasn't changed the bathroom light, even though it died weeks ago. She keeps coming out and looking at the light, muttering, and then deciding to put it off a while longer. One simply cannot get decent help these days! Oh well, at least I employ a reasonably skilled gardener (me).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Cat

Yesterday was the thirteenth anniversary of one of the happiest days of my life. It was the day a very special young lady came into my life...

I was eleven years old, and I was outside playing on my swingset when my dad came outside and told me we needed to go to the hospital. My sister, who was about a week over-due (you just can't rush Jennifer), had finally gone into labor.

I'll never forget the first time I saw that little angel. She wasn't at all cute that first day (poor thing had a rather rough time coming into the world), but I thought she was gorgeous. She was red and splotchy, with a remarkable cone-shaped head, but she was ours. Cassandra Marie Williams (aka "Cat") made her debut.

Within a few weeks, she transformed into a cutie. By the time a few months had passed, she was was a pudgy little dumpling that Mom and I liked to refer to as "two-ton." Holding her was about as close to Heaven as we'll ever get here on earth. Every time she smiled at me, I felt like I had won the lottery.

I'll never forget the time Mom, Dad, and I took Cassandra with us to Menard's when she was just a few months old. I was pushing her in a cart around the store, while she looked in amazement at all the fascinating things in her new world (things like electric lights, fat men, fans, and plywood). The excitement wore her out, and she fell contentedly asleep. However, I couldn't see her chest moving, and worried that she wasn't breathing. I soon became convinced that my darling little niece had died and began poking and prodding her until she finally woke up and let out a reassuring scream!

I remember, too, the time we all (Mom, Dad, Jennifer, John, Cassandra, and I) went to Niagara Falls. Cassandra was a year old, but still didn't have any teeth. Regardless, she was determined to eat real food, and put those tough little gums to work at every meal. One night, at dinner, Cassandra insisted on trying to eat a slice of lemon. She was wincing and tears were streaming down her little face, but she kept right on trying to eat it!

I have so many wonderful memories of that child, that I could sit here and type all night. There were the times I babysat her in the summer, and we would take long walks together. There were the vacations where I sometimes wanted to trade her in for a different model! There were the countless times when she was mistaken for my daughter (starting when I was about thirteen years old). There were the sleepovers, and the times we made cookies, and the times I sat in school and just thought about her. For thirteen years, I've been blessed to have this little girl in my life.

One of the hard things about growing up and moving away for college was leaving Cat behind. I miss out on a lot of the special moments in her life now. I've been gone over all but one of her birthdays in the past six years. But even now, more than 10,000 miles away, I'm thinking about her and loving her.

Happy birthday, Cat. Congratulations on becoming a teenager. Life awaits you, and it's going to be an amazing ride. On one hand, I wish I could keep you a little girl forever. But on the other hand, it's so exciting to watch you grow up, even when I have to do it long-distance. I wonder what you'll be like in ten or twenty years. And I can't wait until I have kids of my own that can repay you for the time you whipped my shirt up in the middle of a store!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Jasper Vs. the Cereal Box

Tonight Jasper discovered an empty cereal box that I was planning on throwing away when I leave to meet friends later tonight. I took a few pictures of him playing with it, and even got a few cute shots of him halfway inside the box, then turned back to what I was doing (researching places to visit in Ireland).

I heard Jasper continuing to growl at the box and wrestle with it, and I laughed to myself while I was looking up historic sites in Dublin. Then, inexplicably, I heard Jasper whimper. I turned around, and at first saw nothing but the cereal box, now standing upright with a strange bulge. I was a bit confused at first, until another whimper led me to discover where Jasper had gotten to.

Yes, the cereal box apparently won the wrestling match. I grabbed the camera:

The next few minutes were among the most amusing of my entire week, as I watched Jasper attempting to free himself from his box captor. First, he pushed his butt up in the air, but that didn't seem to help, so he managed to turn himself over and then looked to me for assistance.

Yes, I did finally stop taking pictures and help the dog get out of the cereal box. Yessir, that's my boy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

2009's Great Adventure

Today I had a huge stroke of luck. After months of searching and planning, I found an unbelievable deal on round-trip airfare and booked my flights for my big 2009 adventure. I am beyond stoked!

I have wanted to go to Morocco since I was about fifteen, and I have wanted to go to Ireland ever since I was about four years old and found it on a map I was playing with. In 2009, I will kill two birds with one stone! I am going to be flying in and out of Dublin, spending a few days in Ireland, and spending at least eight or nine days in Morocco. I had wanted to take a massive 30-day trip, but I just can't justify the expense now that I'm planning to go back to grad school. So, I'll "make do" with a brief, two-week trip (March 31 to April 15).

Why Is There So Much Blood in My Classes?!

I am really glad that I took that American Red Cross first aid training years seems to be paying off in spades. For some reason, my dear, eager young pupils can't seem to stop bleeding in my classes!

Two weeks ago, my sweet little Grace in E2-C lost her tooth during a game. Then, two days later, the poor angel had a nose bleed of Biblical proportions (I honestly didn't know the kid had that much blood in her). Luckily, I know exactly what to do for nose bleeds, but it still took a while to get it to stop. I have to give Grace credit; she never shed a tear and was completely trusting of me to "fix it" for her.

A few weeks ago, Tim, one of my boys in E2-A, had a horrific gash in his leg (the sort of thing I would have done as a child...okay, as an adult, too) that he had gotten over the weekend. Unfortunately, his wrapped bandage kept coming off in class over the course of the week. So, every day Tim would come hobbling to me to fix his bandage (I've had LOADS of practice).

I also get more than my fair share of kids running to me with paper cuts, bite wounds (from classmates and occasionally siblings - for the record, the actual biting has never occurred in my classes), over-scratched insect bites, and, on one field trip, four kindies with skinned knees (that was almost comical - they were walking in a line and one in back fell down, causing a domino effect).

Today I had two blood-sightings. Sam wanted me to "fix" his bleeding finger (which Jay had either bitten or scratched between classes - the story was a bit hard to follow with seven children telling me at the same time). Then, when I was right in the middle of telling the children the story of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," Liz lost her tooth. That's the third tooth to fall out in one of my classes in less than a month! I told Cate that at this rate, all of my students are going to be toothless!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Have Been Known to Eat Small Children

One of my kindergartners, Erin, informed me this morning that she had a dream about me last night. Apparently, she had a dream that I turned into a monster and ate her.

"Erin, do you think I am a scary teacher?" I asked, feeling concerned.
"Oh, no, Teacher," Erin reassured me. "You are very nice teacher, but very, very, very scary monster."

I'm glad to have that straightened out. Has anyone seen my dental floss?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Script of a Morning

Our story begins as the resplendent rays of sunlight awaken our sleeping heroine, Stephanie. She lazily rolls over to check her phone (which doubles as her alarm clock) to see how many more luxurious moments she has until she needs to be up. The clock calmly states that it is 9:30 am. (Cue frenzied music)

Our heroine bolts up in bed (note: this would be much funnier if her apartment had really low ceilings). 9:30?! The clock has betrayed her! It should have gleefully awakened her an hour and a half ago. Our heroine must now race against time...

Following a shower that will go on record as being one of the fastest (complete with the "fun" safe-cracker routine in the beginning to correct the water temperature), our heroine makes a startling discovery: She forgot to iron her clothes when she brought in the laundry the day before.

Stephanie: "Alas! What foul calamity hath befallen me!" [Artistic liberties have been taken with the dialogue, since "DANGIT!!!!" does not sound very eloquent.]

As Stephanie gathers her clothes, iron, and ironing board, she is overcome by a wave of dizziness, and abruptly sits on the floor. Apparently, her blood sugar has decided to crash (for those who don't know, our heroine is hypoglycemic and has permanently low blood sugar). Gone is the former plan of skipping breakfast and grabbing a chocolate milk to drink on the way to work. Our heroine needs protein!

Feeling particularly ambitious, our heroine decides to cook breakfast and iron at the same time. (Cue ominous organ music, indicating trouble ahead)

Many of you are anticipating that our heroine will burn herself with the iron. Not this time! The cunning iron fails in its mission to burn all humans who dare to use it. The crafty stove also fails its identical mission. Our heroine safely navigates both potential threats to her well-being and is instead defeated by...the broom?!

Yes, the broom. In her haste to grab the iron moments earlier, our heroine knocked the broom slightly off balance, sending it to the floor. Feeling bitter, the broom now finds its opportunity and grabs the foot of our heroine, sending her, too, to the floor (the low blood sugar is also partially to blame). Fortunately, Stephanie's breakfast is still safely on the stove.

After devouring her breakfast in a frenzied, unladylike manner, our heroine races against the gleeful clock to dry her tangled mass of hair, find a matching pair of earrings, and get her contacts in without permanently blinding herself. When all three feats are accomplished, the winner is...the clock. Stephanie should have left five minutes ago.

Stephanie: "Alas! What further foul calamity hath befallen me!" [Artistic liberties have again been taken with the dialogue, since "DANGIT, DANGIT, DANGIT!!!!" is far from eloquent.]

(Cue appropriate spy-movie theme music) Our heroine fights her daily battle with the bike lock (which is determined to fulfill its sacred duty of preventing anyone, including Stephanie, from taking off with the bike). Once on the bike, the still-dizzy Stephanie frantically peddles as fast as possible, bravely navigating the dangerous streets of Gyeongju. The cars of Gyeongju perk up at the sight of their favorite prey and the hunt is on! Adjumas and small children do their best to block Stephanie from using the sidewalk, forcing her onto the streets, where the predatory cars wait to strike. Through skillful maneuvering of the bicycle, our heroine arrives at school undamaged.

The stairs, another formidable daily adversary, eagerly wait to claim their victim, but somehow the now-extremely dizzy (and slightly nauseated) Stephanie makes it up all three flights without harm to herself. She has just enough time to call out greetings to her boss and her boss's husband, grab the kindergarten textbooks and stickers, and convince the stubborn copy machine to yield four copies of an activity page. It is now time (cue "da da da dum" music) to face the kindergartners.

Since our heroine's low blood sugar (for some reason, breakfast has not raised it) is making her brain foggy, she opts for as many sitting activities as possible. The first class goes along quite well until it is time for the craft project. Stephanie, in her low blood sugar stupor, gives scissors to the young children and expects them to cut out the puzzle pieces on the clearly-marked lines. (Cue the ominous organ music again)

Stephanie: "Harry, what are you doing?" (This question never has a happy answer.)
Harry: "Teacher, me cut!"
Stephanie: "Yes, I see, Harry, but you were supposed to cut on the lines. See, like Stephanie-Teacher did."
(Harry's lower lip begins to tremble)
Stephanie: "It's okay, Harry. I can fix it. Wait a minute..."
(Stephanie fetches the tape from the office, trying to ignore the dizziness that hits her as soon as she stands up.)
Stephanie: "Okay, Harry, let's tape it up. Oh, thank you, Jay, you're going to help, too? Oh, and Amy wants to help! Okay, you two hand me tape, and Harry and I will do the taping..."
(The whole process takes four times as long, owing to the three eager young "assistants.")

After surviving the second class, the still-dizzy Stephanie rushes home for a fast lunch, then back to the school (again braving the Korean drivers who clearly want her dead) for the mandatory Tuesday teachers' meeting. She arrives out of breath, and definitely worse for wear. Stephanie and her co-workers idly chat for ten minutes, waiting for their boss to come upstairs. Finally, the usually-prompt Cate arrives.

Cate: "Oh, I forgot the meeting today! Okay, we'll wait till next week!"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

This Is Driving Me Crazy...

Okay, I'm going to own up to something. I actually watch Project Runway. I like to see the creations, and it's nice mindless entertainment. However, one thing has been driving me crazy ever since watching episode 8 (the Diane von Furstenberg challenge) from this season.

Repeatedly, the contestants, the judges, and Diane von Furstenberg referred to the inspiration for her fall line: the 1948 film A Foreign Affair. According to them (and several sites on the internet), this film starred Marlene Dietrich and was about an international spy journeying from Berlin to Shanghai.

Am I the only person in the world who has actually seen the 1948 film A Foreign Affair? I’m beginning to think so. First of all, Dietrich did not play a spy in the film. Second, the film took place in post-WWII Germany and Shanghai was never so much as mentioned. Third, Dietrich was not the lead character - Jean Arthur was. Fourth, spies didn't figure in the film at all - it was about a congresswoman investigating suspected moral corruption among American soldiers in occupied Berlin. Dietrich played the former mistress of a war criminal - and believe me, it was not her finest film. Did Diane von Furstenberg ever actually watch the film before modeling her line on it? I have doubts. I doubt she realizes that she based high fashion on a film set in a poverty-stricken, occupied country!

If you’re looking for a Dietrich film involving her going to Shanghai, try the 1932 film Shanghai Express. Honestly, you'd think a top designer would check her facts before opening her mouth! Every time they talked about the film on the episode of Project Runway, I burst out laughing.

Since I was feeling a bit bored, I decided to email Bravo TV about the error, just to see if they'll respond. I mean, it was a pretty big error to make!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Hilarity of Games

My students are too funny! Here are some of the things they said (and did) today during the games I played with them:

Today's game was "Life" (the board game). I taught it to the kids last Friday, and they have begged for it every day since then. They keep forgetting the name of the game, so they refer to it as "the payday game."

After the boys' car landed on the "Get Married" space, I gave them a little pink "female" peg for their car. They stuck it next to the "male" peg at first, but then a minute later stuck "her" in the very back of the car.
Me: "Boys, why is your wife in the backseat?"
Ray: "Because we fight and she hit us."

The boys' car landed on the space where you have to pay $5,000 per child for school. As they had 4 children, they were not pleased about the expense. Toby "solved" the problem by flipping over their car.
Toby: "Step-anie-Teacher, very sad. Car crash, my kids die. No school!"

For this class, any game that involves reading, writing, and/or running is an instant hit, so I created a fast-paced writing game for them today. They were divided into two teams - boys vs. girls.

Ben found the spelling aspect of the game way too exciting and could not stop spelling the words aloud, which was annoying the other kids tremendously. Finally I told Ben, "If you spell out loud, boys will lose one point." The next time I called out a word, Bart hurriedly clapped his hand over Ben's mouth before he could say anything. Then, on the next word, Andy grabbed Ben's head and held his mouth shut for the next two rounds! Fortunately, it was all in fun and Ben was amused (otherwise I would have stopped them immediately).

Today's game was "Apples to Apples," one of the favorite games among all my older classes. For those who haven't heard of this game, it involves matching noun cards with an adjective card. The best match wins.

The first green card (adjective) was "cute." Chris (bless that kid's heart) put in the red card (noun) that read "my teacher."

For the "happy" green card, Leon put in the "smoke" card.
Me: "Smoke?"
Leon: "Teacher, when my dad smoke, he is happy."

For the "tasty" card, Evan put in the "Big Bird" card.
Me: "Ummm, Evan, Big Bird is on a USA TV show. We don't eat Big Bird."
Evan: "Teacher! In USA Thanksgiving eat big bird!"
Me: (laughing) "That's a turkey!"
Evan: "Turkey is a big bird!"

The green card was "exciting," so Leon put in the "fire" card.
Leon: "Teacher, you touch fire and it is very exciting!"
Me: "No kidding!" (My family can vouch for this; I've had more burns than I care to recall.)

More Cooking with the Kindies

Since today is Friday, we didn't have kindergarten lessons today. Cate wanted to have another cooking day. Cooking days are great for four reasons: 1.) I get to come in at noon, 2.) The kids love to cook and usually reward us with excellent behavior on cooking days, 3.) I don't have to make lesson plans, and 4.) I get a free lunch and charming people to eat it with (Cate and Angel, as well as the kids).

Today we made a special type of stuffed rice cake called song-pyeon (not really sure of the spelling, but that's how it's pronounced). You make them by taking a little bit of dough (smashed rice), rolling it into a ball, forming the ball into a little bowl, stuffing it with filling (we used a sugar and peanut mixture), and then sealing it. After that, they are steamed in a huge, special pot. When they are cooked, they get a little bit of sesame oil on them.

Along with the song-pyeons, which were delicious, we also had kimbap, kimchi, pickled radishes, and spicy rice cakes for lunch. As an added treat, Cate brought a sweetened rice beverage (which I can't recall the name of). It was an excellent lunch, although I chose not to partake of the kimchi. I'm really not a fan of the stuff, although I will occasionally eat it. It's disgusting, but strangely addictive.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


It took much longer then I care to admit, but I was determined to get a good picture of Jasper tonight and I finally succeeded:

I took Jasper back to the vet today, where he got two more shots and had his ears cleaned out again. Thank goodness, the vet says the ears are getting much better, as is the cold. Jasper has one more round of medicine, and then he'll go back for another vaccine next week. In just two months or so, I'll be taking him in for surgery. You know, "THAT" procedure.

Today was a pretty exhausting day. This weekend is a holiday (Chusok - Korea's Thanksgiving) and I think the excitement is responsible for the number of hyper kids with no interest in lessons that I dealt with today. On the positive side, two classes whom I had assigned memory homework to had 100% of the kids reciting perfectly for me. I also had a pretty fun "jam session" this morning with the older kindergartners, when I got all seven of them to sing "Yellow Submarine" for me.

I'm really looking forward to my three-day weekend this weekend. Originally I planned to go to Japan, but since I waited too long to reserve flights, I missed the cheap airfare I had found. So instead, I'm planning to join a bunch of other foreigners in a rooftop BBQ on Saturday, and hope to dedicate a sizable portion of time to finishing a few stories I started writing ages ago. I've decided that I need a new policy: If it's still a "work in progress" after two years, it's getting deleted and forgotten!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Difference a Braid Makes

I wouldn't say that I normally look like slightly-warmed death on most days, but I'll admit that I am quite lax in my appearance most of the time. There just isn't much sense in wearing make-up and dressy clothes when you spend two hours of each day chasing, lifting, hugging, and restraining kindergartners. Plus, I usually have at least one crier each day, so my shirt gets damp. Today I was even more casual than normal, wearing jeans and a t-shirt because I was running late this morning. My hair was being rebellious, so I stuck it in a braid.

Now my hair has only just now gotten long enough to braid, so this was the first time I have gone to school with my hair braided. The kindergartners could not get over this strange transformation in their beloved S-tep-anie-Teacher. Every single kid told me over and over "Teacher, hair is beautiful!" or "Teacher, hair is princess today!" Never mind that my attire was more befitting a bum than a teacher, the hair was a hit!

Playing with the first class mussed my hair a bit - which I really didn't care about, so long as it wasn't in my face. However, the Korean kindergarten teacher, Angel, decided that the situation must be dealt with, so she french-braided my hair. Wow! The kids' excitement multiplied tenfold. All my afternoon classes started with student-initiated discussions about just how much the kids liked my hair - and even the boys commented! It was like being in an episode of the twilight zone! I haven't seen this much excitement in the kids since the first time I wore a skirt to class!

The Cake Story

Last night was my cell group night, which is my favorite night of the week. The four of us have benefitted imeasurably from these meetings - we find the rest of the week so much less stressful than before, and we have new vitality after each meeting. I highly recommend cell groups to any Christians who live abroad.

Since last night was Diane's birthday, I thought it would be fun to surprise her with a birthday cake (Koreans make the best cakes). So, on the way to her apartment (she was hosting the meeting last night), I stopped at a bakery to pick up a cake. It is important to mention here that I was riding my bike, and that I already had a heavy purse containing my Bible and notebook (among other things), as well as the dog carrier with Jasper in it (he has a standing invitation to all cell group meetings). Now, in the mental picture that you have right now, add in a cake. Crazy? Yes.

I would like to go on record saying that carrying an overfilled purse, a dog, and a cake while riding a bicycle is a feat that should only be attempted by pros like me. Scratch that. In Korea, it should be attempted by no one. As you may recall from my comments in several other posts, Koreans drive to kill. I may as well have a target painted on my back when I'm on a bike!

Somehow, I made it to Diane's apartment with the cake, the puppy, the bike, the purse, and the Stephanie all intact (although Jasper did get a bit more jostled than usual on the ride). Beau and Michelle arrived just as I was locking my bike in the front entrance of the apartment building. As soon as Beau and I saw each other, we burst out laughing. Apparently, Beau also thought it would be nice to surprise Di with a cake! So, between four people we had two cakes!

Disception: An Excellent Teaching Tool

To encourage good behavior in my kindergartners, I use sticker charts with both classes. Good behavior gets one sticker added to a child's row on the chart, okay behavior gets one sticker, and bad behavior gets no sticker. If a kid is really terrible, I'll even remove stickers, although this has only happened twice. Usually the kids are good enough to earn two stickers.

Last week, I ran out of the little stickers that I use for the sticker charts. The only stickers I had were the larger ones I occasionally give to my older classes for good work in their books (I have one class that is absolutely nuts for stickers). I decided to attempt a little deception with the older kindies to see if I could get extra good behavior out of them. So, I announced to them on Monday that if they were "extra, extra good and very quiet," I would give them big stickers instead of the little ones. My ploy worked. I had seven little angels that day!

I tried it the next day with the same result. On Wednesday, I decided to add in some bribery, since the kids were having a hard time settling down. I've learned in teaching that rewards are much more effective than punishments, so I told the class that if they earned big stickers for that day and the next, I would bring them candy on Monday. Bingo! Seven little children closed their mouths, folded their hands, and sat silently in their little yellow chairs. You could almost see their halos gleaming in the light. Those kids would face a den of lions if there was candy at the end of it! And of course, they had no idea that the only stickers I had were the big ones!

I forgot the candy on Monday, so I brought it on Tuesday - just one little piece per child, not enough to turn them into crazy demons of destruction. The kids were so delighted with me for giving them candy that when I went around asking each child how they were feeling that day (it's how I like to start class), I got the exact same response from each kid:

"I am VERY S-tep-anie happy today!"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sandals Are the Enemy...

At least, according to Jasper. He has it in his head now, apparently, that my sandals are the enemies of civilization and must be destroyed. Every time I turn around I catch him growling "ferociously" at them and trying valiantly to rip them to shreds (with his tiny teeth, he can't do much damage...yet). I've been trying to convince this crazy dog that I really don't need him to defend us both against a possible sandal-onslaught, but to no avail. He's convinced that they are evil.

Jasper's other favorite toy at present is the bright orange face massager that I got for free when I bought some face scrub at The Face Shop here in Gyeongju. He looks pretty funny carrying that long orange thing around! Right now he's deep in battle against the face massager, and it's hard to say who is winning.

Honestly, I hate to recall what it was like around here before I got Jasper. That adorable little gender-confused (see an earlier post) puppy adds a lot to my life!

More Pictures of Jasper

By special request from my parents, I am posting a few more shots of Jasper:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Beware of Questions

I've often pondered the question of what would happen if my grocery bag broke on the way home. Silly me! I should know better than to ask questions - too often they lead to answers. Like today.

Yup, I got just a few steps out the door of Lotte Mart and the shopping bag broke. Here in Korea, we have to pay for plastic shopping bags, and even though it's only about 550 won (roughly 50 cents), I don't like to waste money on extra bags. I try to do without the bag altogether whenever I can. So, I made up my mind that no matter how hard it was to transport those groceries home on my bike, I wasn't going to buy a second bag.

My parents will recall that I have a particular gift for tying knots. I utilized this ability and made enough knots to precariously hold the bag together all the way back to my apartment. I even made it up the four flights of stairs without the bag bursting, although it certainly wanted to. There's a certain satisfaction in knowing that I saved fifty cents and a bit of plastic. Plus, it was kinda fun "living on the edge," seeing if I could make it from Lotte to home without a grocery avalanche.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Teaching Small Children to Set Fires

On Fridays at my school, the kindergartners do not have lessons. Instead, we do fun things with them, like crafts, "science" experiments, cooking, and field trips. Today we took them to a small playground, where we had "Science Class with Stephanie."

Cate rigged me up with a microphone so that the kids (and random passers-by) could hear me better outside. Today's "science" lesson was about magnifying glasses (this whole thing was Cate's idea, by the way). I taught the kids a few words, then showed them how to burn holes in black paper using only a magnifying glass. They struggled a bit at first, but pretty soon my eleven kindergartners became accomplished firebugs.

Later, we let them play. While they were throwing a few plastic balls, they got one stuck high up in a tree. Then it became "Game Time for Teachers!" Cate, Angel, and I spent the next fifteen minutes throwing balls, rocks, and sticks at the ball, trying to dislodge it. It was a divirting game, to say the least. Finally, the wind knocked the ball down!

Attention! Blog Update!

Yes, I can see the intrigued, excited expressions on the faces of my avid readers. What have I done now to make this blog better? Gee, thought you'd never ask!

If you look in the left-hand column, you will notice under the blog archive that I have now sorted my entries by category. Now you can search my previous entries both by date and by topic. Am I nice blogger, or what? For the record, sorting and adding labels to over 230 blog entries is not an amusing diversion for a Thursday night!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I Have a New Pet!

Yeah, that's right, I now have two pets sharing my apartment here in Korea! My new pet's name is Theodore, although I'm almost positive (if I remember correctly from my college biology class) that "he" is actually a female. I didn't actually invite Theodore to move in; "he" chose me.

Theodore, for those who were wondering, is a larger-than-usual, voraciously ravenous mosquito. He is not a courteous houseguest. He moved in about three days ago, and liked it here so well that he decided to host a convention the other night, featuring an all-foreign-food menu (me). Theodore and his friends found my legs to be the greatest delicacy, although they also showed appreciation for my forehead and wrist. I'm starting to look like I have been visited by some form of Biblical plague.

To add to my new "skin landmarks," I also have a miniature Mount Vesuvius rising out of my ankle, courtesy of a pair of dress shoes that I neglected to wear pantyhose with. I couldn't remember why I never wear those shoes, so I wore them yesterday. Now I remember.

Mamma Mia!

A recent informal poll among us female foreignors revealed that a surprising number of us are ABBA fans. So, last night about fifteen of us went to see "Mamma Mia," which has finally arrived in Korean movie theaters. Of course, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Farrell certainly added to the attraction for us...

The movie was cute, mindless, and fun. The only thing that really bothered me about it was that they took one of my favorite songs from the Broadway soundtrack - "Thank You for the Music" - and hid it in the closing credits. Overall, we had a great "Girls' Night" at the movies.

An added bonus last night was getting to meet two new girls who have just arrived, both of whom are quite nice. We just recently had to say farewell to a few fantastic people, all of whom will be missed. That's one of the few downsides of life over here - you meet great people, but they can't stay forever!

Earlier in the day (on Wednesday), I had a discussion with the kindergartners that simply has to be repeated. I am currently teaching the older kindies about fruits and vegetables. To generate some conversation, I was asking the kids about which vegetables they liked. Below is a "transcript" of the conversation that followed:

Me: "Amber, do you like carrots?"
Amber: "Yes, I do."
Me: "Do you like onions?"
Amber: "Yes, me like EVERYTHING, teacher. Me pig!"
Sam: "Me EVERYTHING, too, teacher! Me elephant!" [He just had to one-up Amber!]
Lynn: "Teacher, me too EVERYTHING! Me is...[there was a long pause while she tried to figure out what would trump an elephant]...Teacher, me is DINOSAUR!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Best Days...

In book three of his Georgics, Virgil made the very keen observation, "Optima quaeque dies miseris mortalibus aevi / Prima fugit." Translated to English, this means, "The best days are the first to flee from wretched mortals." When looking through photographs tonight, I could not help but to reflect upon these wise words, written nearly two thousand years ago. Here are a few treasured moments that the camera caught and preserved:

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Test Days Are the Best Days

Today I gave my E5-A class their oral test that I spent all last week preparing them for (I also wrote the test). I was holding my breath today, since a test is not only a teaching tool, but also the best indicator of how one is doing as a teacher. Would the test prove that I needed improvement? I was delighted to have a 94% as the lowest grade. Huzzah! I think I'm more excited than the kids were about the good grades!

Today, being Tuesday, was also the day for our weekly teacher meeting, in which a different person has to teach a lesson to the other teachers each week. This, naturally, was my week. It's a little nerve-wracking teaching to your coworkers, but I did a great job. My coworkers, and particularly my boss, had only positive things to say about my lesson and my teaching style. What a relief! I'm still in shock to find that I'm actually somewhat capable as a teacher.

As if the test and the teaching lesson weren't enough, tonight was cell group. Guess who was hosting and in charge of the lesson....yep, me! I taught a historical lesson on the book of Exodus last week and wanted to do a second part to it this week covering the crossing of the Red Sea. I was so relieved that my lesson went well and that my friends appreciated it and benefited from it.

I feel like I've been center stage all day today! Finally, at almost midnight, I am out of the spotlight and can relax. Don't assume that I'm complaining, though. Today was a great day. Constant spotlight and all. I actually really liked having all the pressure on today, even though it got the adrenaline pumping. It felt a little like being back in college, and showed me that I am ready to be back in grad school.

Monday, September 1, 2008

More New Students - Yikes!

I got three new students today, without warning. I don't mind, but it would have been nice to be told in advance that I was getting new kids. Particularly since two of the newbies joined my biggest class (E3-D).

The two girls who joined E3-D are a mixed blessing. On one hand, I'm really glad to have two more girls, since the ratio before was eight boys to four girls. Now team games will be a bit more even. Plus, the two new girls are quiet and well-behaved, and seem to be even with the rest of the class on their reading level. The trouble is, now I have fourteen kids in that class, which makes it harder to control and harder to give individual attention to students. Doubtless the teachers who have class sizes of 18-30 are probably shaking their fists at me for complaining. Sorry! It's just that with teaching immersion English, smaller sizes are necessary. With the bigger class sizes, a teacher cannot effectively correct and guide each individual student the way they need to be when learning a language.

My other new girl joined my last class of the day, E5-A. She is a welcome addition to the class, and I could not be more delighted with her. Rachel is a sweet, smart, well-behaved girl. In other words, she's a teacher's dream.

E3-C also got an addition to the class today, although not a new one. Our Sarah came back from her long vacation at last. She can be a bit naughty at times, but I still missed her. Aside from the fact that she's generally quite likable, she also evens out the class so that there are once again an equal number of boys and girls. Believe me, for team games, this is important.

Gyeongju by Twilight

We rarely see sunsets here, so I was pretty excited to catch two of them last week. They didn't last long, but that just made them more special.

E2-A - The Monsters!

These kids may be cute little second-graders, but they are also my toughest class. They are a high-energy bunch that loves to be loud. I love the little monsters, but they sure make me work!

"Normal" group shot. Facing the camera, left to right are: Jinny, John, Edward, Megan, Anna, and Linda. The kids behind them are Ryan, Brian, and Sam. Tim and Ricky were absent that day. Megan and Edward are twins.
This crazy group shot is actually a more accurate idea of what these kids are like!
Anna, Linda, and Jinny.
Megan, the shy and quiet one.

Friday Field Trip

On Friday last week we took the kindergartners to a science museum in Bomun. They loved every minute of it! After viewing and playing with the interactive exhibits, we took them outside for a picnic lunch of (you guessed it) kimbap, and then took a long walk through the beautifully landscaped area surrounding the museum.

The outside of the museum.
A group shot of my eleven little munchkins. From left to right: Issac, Amber, Lynn, Cali, Liz, Amy, Eddy, Erin, Sam, Harry, Jay. Cali, Amy, Jay, and Harry are my younger class, first-year English students. The other kids have already had one year, so they understand quite a bit even if they can't always speak in sentences.
Another group shot.
Every time one kid finds something interesting, the others immediately come running and form a huddle around the object of interest.
Cate (my boss) with Erin and Liz (Liz is the one wearing the bag that says "Erin").
Erin and I in a room that projected our movements as colors on a big screen. I look fat in the picture because I was wearing baggy shorts and a bulky sweatshirt. :)
Little Amy was too short to reach most of the exhibits! Don't worry, I picked her up right after I took the photo.
"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"