Friday, June 29, 2012

Soak up this cuteness, because soon they'll be screaming

Tuesday was a really strange day schedule-wise. The kids had national testing all morning and most of their afternoon classes were cancelled, except for mine. 
 So 6 2nd graders showed up 1 1/2 hours early for English. Normally when kids come into my classroom substantially early I make them leave or I leave, because they like to run and scream and fight, and I don't want to be around that for any longer than necessary. 
 They were obsessed with this microphone
 I must have been in a good mood or they must have been very cute because I let them stay. I was playing music when they came in and they were excited about it, so thanks to youtube we had ourselves a little dance party. Mostly featuring the band One Direction. Not many other music videos are 8-year-old-appropriate.
 More cartwheeling
  In one of the videos there was a blonde girl, and the girls looked at her, and looked at me, and their eyes got really big, and they pointed to the TV and said "teacha?!" And I said "yes!" I do in fact star in British boy band music videos on the weekends. 
 Cutest little face

 Gangsta peace sign

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This and that

2 kids asked me what the English word was for "water ghost." I have no idea what they were talking about. The only thing I could think of was the loch ness monster, but I'm pretty sure that's not what they wanted.

I went to Home Plus right away after school to get 3 things. I was in there for less than 10 minutes, and I saw 4 students, and an ajumma pushed her cart into me on purpose. These women are bold, but I honestly couldn't believe she was treating me like a bumper car. She's lucky I didn't have a cart too.

In my 5/6th grade class one boy, Sonic, sits at my desk chair because 1. there aren't enough chairs for everyone 2. he does much better when he can spin and move a little and 3. he runs the powerpoint, which is nice because I don't have to do it and it helps him focus on the lesson. Yesterday I ran down the hall quick to find out why half my class was missing, and when I came back he was full-on teaching the class, saying things like "repeat after me" and "one more time" and they were actually doing it! It was adorable. I might turn him into my assistant.

I wore my new feather earrings and almost every child said "teacha, bird?" and wanted to pet them.

One of my evening classes is called Jupiter, and there are 9 kids. Only one is a girl, and she's basically an angel. The other are the neediest, loudest 3rd and 4th grade boys I have ever experienced. One of them is actually named Puppy, but they all act like puppies. They all think they need your full attention right this very minute, and they will not stop saying your name or pulling on your arm until they get it. They want you to know they are done the second they finish something. They need to be told everything at least 3 times, in English and Korean. It's exhausting. But this week we played go fish one day, and they were all so excited and so sweet, and it almost made up for all the craziness. Almost.

My window is open and somewhere someone is playing the accordian right now.

Last year apparantly the power went out in the whole country for 20 minutes, so today we had a practice drill. I have many thoughts about this:
1. Where was I last year when the power ran out? I have no memory of this, and it seems like I should.
2. How does an ENTIRE COUNTRY lose power?!
3. Why are we practicing for this to happen again? The more logical thing would be to figure out a solution to the problem.

probably the most obvious question...
4. Why does anybody need to practice what to do when the power goes out? There is absolutely nothing you can do but sit there and wait for it to come back. 

5. And the most ironic part? There were sirens blaring the whole time. As if we wouldn't know the power is out. Also, don't sirens require electricity?'s times like this when I wonder how a country that is so intelligent can also be so foolish.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A glimpse into North Korea

This weekend I heard a North Korean refugee speak. I was expecting a man, and I was surprised when this small woman took the stage. She's about 28 or 29 years old. She spoke Korean, obviously, but it was so weird to hear a language I'm kind of familiar with come out of the mouth of someone I can't relate to at all. Before she talked we watched a video shot with hidden cameras and smuggled out of North Korea. It said the average 8 year old North Korean boy is 8 inches shorter and 20 lbs lighter than the average 8 year old South Korean boy because of malnutrition. It showed public executions, which apparantly still happen regularly. It showed corpses of people who had died of starvation lying in the street, and people walking around them, just going about their business. It has become so common that people are unfazed.

Then the woman got up to speak. She changed her name and we were told several times not to take her picture or video because if the North Korean government sees it on the internet they will kill her family. This was her first time telling her story in public. Her voice was shaky and she was obviously fighting back tears. She had a relatively normal childhood. Her father worked in a factory and her mother was a teacher. She went to school until the famine struck. It lasted 4 years and nobody knows for sure how many people died of starvation, but it was probably at least a million. During that time she spent the day wandering in the mountains looking for anything edible. She hoped for one meal every day. One time she tried to kill herself by eating poisionous berries.

In North Korea there is a system called songbun, which is the measure of your loyalty to the government. It determines your life: what job you can have, who you can marry, your military rank. They said only 28% of North Koreans have good songbun. And if one person in your family messes up one time, it ruins the songbun of your entire extended family for generations. This woman's grandfather's brother had bad songbun, therefore she did too, so there were not a lot of opportunities for her or her family. She said one of the reasons she left was so she could marry anyone she wanted - she would have had to marry someone with the same songbun as her.

Her dad developed some kind of brain tumor. Her mom and sister snuck into China to try to get medicine, and she never heard from them again. She has no idea what happened. She left about a month after her dad died. North Koreans need what is basically a travel visa to go anywhere in their own country, so she got one for a town closer to the border with China. Then she escaped into China. She spent 2 weeks running through the mountains, trying not to be caught by the Chinese because if you are found, you will be sent back to North Korea and put in political prison, which is basically a concentration camp, or you will be killed. She wouldn't talk about where she was or how she got help. I think there's basically an underground railroad for defectors and she wanted to protect it.

At the end there was a Q & A time, and somebody asked her about God. She said she had heard the words Jesus and Bible a few times, but she didn't know anything beyond that until she left. Like a lot of other things in that country, talking about God will get you killed.

She talked about how exciting it was that South Koreans are free to have whatever job they want because in North Korea your career is chosen for you. But she also said that she spent so many years just trying to survive that there are huge gaps in her education and she has a lot to learn before she's qualified to do anything. Right now she's taking computer classes. She said the technology in South Korea is making life a little difficult for her because she doesn't know how to use any of it.

Somebody asked her what North Koreans think about re-unification. In South Korea its assumed that it will happen. She told us most North Koreans want it and are waiting for it to happen. Her grandmother said she didn't want to die before the countries were re-united because she had family down here she hasn't seen since the war. Someone else asked how North Koreans know there's anything better than what they have - the government restricts all access to the outside world. She told us foreign music and tv shows are smuggled in and that's how people know that the rest of the world doesn't live like they do. North Korea spreads propaganda about lots of countries, lying about how terrible and evil they are. But apparantly propaganda is also smuggled in, and North Koreans will sometimes find fliers about how their leaders are really living and what the outside world is really like. People are supposed to turn that stuff in to the government immediately, but most of them hang on to it as a little piece of hope.

She painted a picture of a really desperate, hungry, dark country. People are starving in every single way. They're pretty brainwashed, and most of the people who are aware there's a better life for them in a different country are too scared to leave because of what the government will do to their family if they're caught. It was pretty depressing, but also pretty eye-opening. I'm glad I went.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lazy kids and a recording studio

Yesterday was not the best teaching day. 1st and 2nd grade was the highlight, and that's really saying something. 

I had 1 class of 5th grade and 2 classes of 6th grade, and they all thought they could show up and doodle in their notebooks and not pay attention. Yesterday's lesson was ridiculously easy...there was a dialog of 4 sentences that they had to listen to, repeat, and understand. And about 3 kids in each class remembered the sentences after listening. Oh no no no. When there are only 4 sentences you better know them. So I made everybody stand up and pass a ball around, and when they had the ball they had to say one of them. Some of the kids couldn't even do that! It was like trying to get blood from a stone. Co-teacher looked at me during class and said "Are you angry?" and I wanted to say "YES! Join me!" Days like that make me want to get out of here.

I needed to do something fun and easy with my little kids, so we read "Brown Bear Brown Bear" and they made their own little books. They colored animals however they wanted and wrote "pink fish" and they were SO excited about it. It was adorable.

Then I got to leave early and go record my voice for a listening test. I've done it before and didn't have the greatest experience, but this time was really fun. My old co-teacher Jenny was there, and the other foreigners were really nice and easy to talk to. And we had to say some crazy stuff. One of the questions went like this:

Man: Do you know where I am?
Woman: I'm sorry, I have no idea.
Woman: _____________ (kids listen and choose the best answer)

I don't remember the first 2 choices, but the others were:

I'm very hot
I'm a stranger here myself

It took 3 takes to get that one right because it was so funny, and we knew we couldn't laugh, which made us want to laugh more. Plus we shared a microphone, so we could see each other's faces...oh man. So good.