Dog Cafe

On Sunday, Vickey and I went to a Dog Cafe. You see, most people who live in the city do not have pets. For those who would like to have pets but can't afford them or can't have them in their apartments, they can go to a Dog or Cat Cafe. The cafe provides juice or coffee for guests in addition to snuggle time with dogs. It was great! 

These two must have been brothers; they were always close together.
This guy didn't want to leave my lap for the rest of the evening.

Bugak Mountain

On Saturday afternoon, Vickey (my roommate) and I fled the city to enjoy some NATURE! I've never been so happy to hike in my life. Crowded streets, skyscrapers, pollution--all of these have caused my heart and lungs to cry out for a simpler and cleaner day! So off we went.

Bugak Mountain has many trails, but we took the path that would lead to the scenic view. Throughout our journey, we observed many intriguing things:

A bookcase and picnic tables for passing travelers
 to select a good read and relax in the great outdoors
Fun exercise equipment
A Buddhist Temple (on the way back down)

At last we reached our destination. The day was perfect: clear, sunny, warm . . . We walked around the 360-degree platform and surveyed the vast city of Seoul. Somewhere down below was our home. Everything that had seemed so impressive from the center of the city now appeared greatly inferior to the surrounding mountains. The Han River stretched across the horizon on the left. One of South Korea's largest water sources looked like little more than a light blue cloud in the distance. Man's genius and creations can never out-do the Creator's, for His are altogether lovely and perfect. 

Vickey and I

A dog!!! A rare species in this part of the world
Ready to fly
I can't wait for our next hiking adventure this weekend! :)

Week 2

I suppose that each week from now on will be a blur. Working 7am-9pm four days in a row will do that to you. I cannot remember many details from the past week, but I can list the highlights.

    Can you tell how happy I am to have semi-Western food?!
We teachers went out to VIPs on Friday for lunch. It is a restaurant known for its Korean version of Western food. There were Italian, Mexican, Korean, and American options. Everything was very different, but good. I ate at least four plates of food from the buffet! :) I had lots of fruit and different kinds of salad, kidney-bean burritos, spicy spaghetti, and crunchy, honey-glazed fries, among other things.

A Korean teacher and I agreed to an exchange: Spanish lessons for Korean lessons. So this week I started learning Hangul. I've memorized 16 characters and their matching sounds so far. Only . . . 24 more to go. Everyone says that if I can just read Hangul, it will be easier for me to get around.

I've started forming relationships with my students. I REALLY enjoy teaching adults and am considering getting my master's degree in either English or ESL/EFL so that I can continue doing so in the future. Actually, I will have an opportunity here in the coming months to get certified for TEFL/TESL. If time and energy allow, I'm going to take advantage of it.

My religion class is possibly my favorite of them all. We can practice English and talk about God at the same time. :) I have four Christians in my class and one Buddhist. That makes for some very interesting conversations, to say the least. We get along well and have a good time.

Most of the children I teach are very sweet, but some are simply not motivated to learn English. In an effort to encourage them, I started working with some other teacher friends in the States to create a video correspondence program, kind of like virtual pen-paling. I finished putting my videos together this week and am waiting to hear back from the other teachers.

And that, my friends, is the short run-down of the past week or so. A couple more blogs are forthcoming about places that I've visited recently.


Student Testing

I have been testing students' pronunciation and conversation all week. This has been a rather mentally exhausting process, but it has also really helped me to appreciate the linguistics class that I took in college! I'm very fascinated by all of the common mistakes that Koreans make when speaking English, essentially because they're just following Hangul's writing and grammatical scheme.

Anyway, I had taken two students out of class to ask each other a couple of questions, and they randomly selected four between them. One question was "Can you recommend a good teacher to me?" This was one adult student's answer:

"I recommend Kris Cool (they have trouble saying my name) because she's very kindly and strict, so if we study hard, we can improve our English pronunciation or . . . improve our English. So I can recommend you Kris Cool."

I'm not sure if she was trying to butter me up for the grade, but in any case, her words made me smile. :)


The First Week

My first week of teaching was . . . well, let's just start off by saying that it's over. I survived, and I believe that in the end, I succeeded by God's grace.

Most of my stress centered on the first day. I didn't know what to expect or what to do. My coordinator said to skip Day 1 in the schedule and just play some ice-breaker games with the students. Easier said than done. I like to plan and be prepared, and I had no clue what to do, but in the end, everything came together. I did the normal class routine for about 20 minutes and then separated the students into pairs to talk with each other. I switched the pairs 2-3 times and ended by handing out a Getting to Know You questionnaire for my own benefit. I talked with some of the Korean Junior teachers the day before to find out what they expected of me as well. On the first day, I worked from 7:00 a.m. to 8:35 p.m. 'Twas a very long day . . . and such will be the next two months before my schedule changes.

I am teaching three adult English Level 3 classes (There are 6 levels), one religion class, and six Junior English classes. One of them is only two days a week, thankfully. That is with a small group of middle-schoolers who barely know any English and are simply not interested in learning. However, they do listen to me and show me respect, and for that I am thankful. I actually had an idea about how to encourage them to learn: I have several friends in the States who are teachers. Why not establish a pen-pal or video correspondence system with our students? I've contacted some, and they have really liked the idea. The Korean teachers have as well. So next week, I'm going to start working on the videos! I'm excited, but not sure how I'm going to fit that into my schedule . . .

My favorite class, I believe, is my adult English class consisting solely of housewives. They have such cute personalities, and we have a lot of fun together! The juniors are fun, but mainly just funny. :) I've had a few girls, who are probably 10 or 11 years old, sneak up behind me, touch my hair, giggle, and then run away.

You see, Korea is not like the United States. The USA is a melting pot of many nations, while Korea is mainly a teapot of Koreans. There are a few other Asian citizens, but very few Westerners. Since Koreans are fascinated with Western culture and people, they are making every attempt to be Western-like: they dye their hair, get perms, wear short shorts and skirts, invest in plastic surgery (over 70% of the women my age have had plastic surgery already), and do even more to look "beautiful." I've already been told by many women that I'm beautiful. "Why?" I wondered aloud once. My roommate told me: 1) You're from the USA. 2) You have lighter skin. 3) You have curly hair that has not been permed. 4) You have a long nose. 5) You have a narrow face. 6) You are thin. 7) You speak English. Essentially, I am the Korean girl's dream all in one free package. This bothers me. In my eyes, many girls here are beautiful. But when you tell the women that, or even tell their husbands privately that their wives are beautiful, they say, "No. I'm not," or "No, she's not." It saddens me that the Western world has made such a negative impact on this society. But now I will step off of my soapbox.

The rest of the week went well. I feel like I improved as a teacher each day. I learned many of my students' names and had some brief conversations with some of them outside of class. My housemate and I have gotten along so well that I feel like I've known her for much longer than one week. She is from South Africa, and we have very similar personalities. I am very blessed.

Each day, God has had a word of encouragement for me in a book called Promises and Prayers for Teachers. I have needed those words every day.

Today was Sabbath, and I so enjoyed getting a rest from the regular routine and also having a nice, small church service with the other teachers.

A note about Friday: I went to Costco for the first time. I felt like I had stepped into my homeland for an hour, and I relished every minute of it. I bought way too much food, but it will last me a long time. I found pasta, beans, peanut butter, olives, fruits . . . Western food described in English!!! I was so overwhelmed with joy that I almost cried. You have to understand, I've only eaten rice, noodles, and spicy vegetables for the last three weeks, so a change in the menu was much needed. Vickey and Pastor Lee had taken me there. It was the most amazing place I've ever been. There were stair-less escalators to take you and your cart from floor to floor and a special elevator to send you and your cart to the parking deck. Craziness. But I loved it! The only negative was that when we got to the checkout and I handed them my bankcard, they started yelling at me in Korean. I asked the pastor to come over and translate for me, and he said that they only accepted cash or a Samsung card. I didn't have enough cash on hand for my large purchase, so he kindly paid my bill, and I later went to the ATM to get the money to pay him back. Now I know . . . when in Korea, carry cash--at least if you're planning to go to Costco.