Ups and downs

My newly-acquired mad teaching skillz were put to the test the very next day. Upon my arrival at school my co-teacher informed me with a smile that she had teacher training or something and so I’d been teaching all the classes myself. “But their homeroom teachers will be there!” she assured me.

Well, they were there, technically, but only for about five minutes. I somehow managed to hold it together and conduct two reasonably instructive and orderly classes with the grade 4s and 5s.

One of the techniques we learnt at orientation was the power of the silent death stare – which I used extensively that morning and found it to be highly effective. Turns out all those years of deathstaring creepy guys in nightclubs were paying off!

I got given a banana by a kid. I don’t normally eat bananas but it was very cute. (The kid, not the banana.)

Kid: “Do you like banana?” Me: “Um, banana? Do I like it? Uh…” Kid: “Here. It is present.” Thanks, kid.

In the afternoon on the way home the bus was overcrowded, as usual, but an old man in the front made the high school boy next to him stand up and give me his seat! Amusing but very sweet. When the old man got off he took an enormous bag of freshly-harvested onions with him: the smell in the bus improved markedly. (You know you teach in a rural area when…)

On Friday a mostly uneventful day at school passed, although I was saddened to find that while some teachers had taught their classes English while I was away, others had not, meaning I was left scrambling a little, but I did my best to “just roll with it”!

Funny moment: a grade 6 girl saw my ancient iPod. “Teacha! Your iPod beeg and heavy. Mine is nice and sleeeem!”

Sober moment: during a conversation with one of the smartest sixth graders he told me he was leaving school at 5pm, to go off to hagwon (afterschool academy) for three hours. On a Friday night. And they have school on Saturdays! These kids have too much school.

In the evening I curled up with my laptop and watched (most of) the Royal Wedding, along with Twitter and half the world’s population. Modern technology for the win!

I spent the weekend catching up on lost sleep and lost alone time. I finally found my postbox and the bills it contained – sad. (Yes, finally. The boxes had an odd numbering system. It confused me.) On the day I went to pay the bills and visit the education office to claim my transport remittance from orientation, I ran into Sylvia and we ended up having dinner at the fabulous Raj Mahal – just what I’d been craving! They really do make delicious food there.

Wednesday was an exciting day – a little boy wrote my name in Korean, very cute, we had emergency drill (which consisted of a fire in a drum on the field and the older kids taking turns putting it out while the teachers stood around. Yes.), and my PARCEL arrived! I was terribly excited. It contained: clothing, a fitted sheet, Easter eggs chocolate, COFFEE, tea, Jungle energy bars, and things my mom had bought for me while she was in England.


I showed my parcel to four grade six girls who happened to be around – they were almost as excited as I was to see the contents. They were even more excited when I gave them each a marshmallow Easter egg: “Teacha! I love you!” they beamed, making hearts with their arms around their heads.

Thursday was a public holiday (Children’s Day. They get presents and everything!) which I spent chilling at home and discovering the awesomeness that is the Skype for Android app. On Friday the school was practicing for Sports Day, which meant I didn’t have to teach at all. The only thing I had to do was a run-through of the English true/false quiz (known in Korea as X/O – you make the respective hand movements) – and no, I do not know why they have an English quiz at Sports Day.

The very next day was Sports Day – yes, a Saturday. It was quite rainy at first but it soon cleared up. It was a very strange Sports Day to me – no high jump or long jump, no egg and spoon races, sack races or three-legged races. Instead they ran relays that the whole school took part in: so two kids ran at a time, matched for age and boy/girl-wise, starting at grade 1 and moving up to the fastest sixth grade boys. Each race took quite a while to complete!

Note the giant balloons in the background.

There was a variety of novelty races involving parents and teachers, and giant balloons. There was wrestling and mothers’ soccer and the English quiz, and several group dances, including a skipping routine. It was all very interesting.

The principal hula-hooping during the English Quiz.

There were also so many tiny adorable Korean kids running around, I nearly died.

Seriously. How cute is this little girl with her balloon??

I adore this kid.

There was a picnic lunch in the middle of the day: we teachers ate in the cafeteria, but many of the children came to bring us food. Winning! The day eventually ended around 3pm, and after helping to clear up, the teachers went off to dinner at a restaurant I was repeatedly told was one of the most expensive on the island. They serve Korean beef, you see, which is much more pricey than imported beef, because there is so much more imported beef than Korean, you see. The food was quite delicious and I managed to hold off on the soju – until, that is, the vice-principal came over to toast me. She is really very sweet. She told me that she feels very motherly towards me and just wants me to be happy. Aw!

The laptop story. I’ll make it quick, because it’s very sad. I knocked a full mug of tea over my laptop keyboard one evening. While I did everything you’re supposed to: switched it off, turned it upside down, left it off for 24 hours…it was to no avail. Everything but the keyboard still worked, which was incredibly frustrating as it meant I couldn’t access any of my files. I could still use it to watch series though, and fortunately all of my important files (music, videos and photos) are backed up on external devices. But I really needed a working laptop.

Our school computer repair people had a look at it one day and said I needed to replace the entire keyboard. I was quite distressed about this at first because I honestly had no idea what to do or where to go, while if I was at home in SA, I would just have asked my dad! Plus it was my 21st birthday present from my parents, and I’m rather ridiculously sentimental about such things. Finally, I took it in to the “repair centre” in Seoul when I was there in early June. Sadly, they refused point-blank to fix it. The fact that it’s a Japanese-German hybrid may have had something to do with this. Sad as I was about this (and mad that I’d lugged it all the way from the island for no reason!) I realised that I was standing in an enormous, five storey electronics markets, and I may as well make use of the opportunity. So I bought a shiny silver laptop (Samsung. They can hardly refuse to fix that, now can they?!) with which I am very happy, for a very reasonable price. Poor Lawrence the Laptop is currently languishing under my friend’s bed in Cheonan, and I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen to him…

Next time: Olle trails and Buddha’s birthday.


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