Monday, July 10, 2006

A little bit of catch up

Time for a long-overdue update on here. And no, the internet has not yet been hooked up in our rooms (I would rather have had that before the hot water, but I guess that's just me!) so I've decided that I will just bite the bullet and re-type on here everything I've been writing on my laptop. Wish I had a little data stick (what on earth are those things called??) but I don't and can't spend precious money on one right now. Happily, I *am* a fast typer, so it shouldn't take too long.

So, let's begin, shall we? I started writing a couple days after I got here. We'll lead off with that:

"Let's start with the overall look of the place. First of all, the construction is not completed. Mostly completed, but not entirely. Kids have been coming here for a day program for the last few months, but the stay-over kids are coming for the first time on Monday the 3rd. Therefore, construction goes on almost around the clock to get bricks laid, systems (like air conditioning) up and running, and all the little details completed. It is LOUD. My room is near where they're doing a lot of work, so I end up feeling like I'm living in New York City of something. However, once completed, this will be a very nice-looking place. It's clear that a lot of money has been spent on the project.

The layout of the village is very compact. I guess I had been envisioning little buildings where the bank would be separate from the hairdresser, etc. Not so much. There is one main building where the "classrooms" are set up like a bank, hairdresser, doctor's office, etc. It's not a bad idea, and it *is* air conditioned! There are about 40 different "classes" for the kids to attend. The other buildings on site are the cafeteria, student housing (each building named after a continent, i.e. Europe), faculty housing (named after oceans-I live in Arctic), and then at the top of the most ridiculously steep road I have ever ever ever had the misfortune of being required to climb is the huge swimming pool and recreation area. I'm not kidding about the road; this is not just a lazy person's perspective. It is so steep that I was sliding out of my shoes on the way up and fearful for my life on the way down. I'm a head teacher for this first week (I'll get into that later), which means I'm required to give a tour to my "team" of students. Technically, I'm supposed to walk up there with them, but as of right now, I think I might just be pointing up the hill instead of climbing it!

So, as you will remember, when I first got here on Wednesday night, things were quite depressing and I felt like coming home immediately. Well, by the light of day on Thursday, things seemed much better. 10 hours of sleep didn't hurt, either. I had to be to orientation at 9:30, but I was up by 7. My god, it was so humid. Thank you Jesus for my red Spanish fan!!! With no air con in my room, all I could do was open my balcony door and prop open my main door. Still, not much circulation. Even the main building was hot. So, it was a whole day of sweating it out with everyone. We were all in a pretty bad way, but at least I had my fan!

The other foreign teachers I'm working with are an interesting mix. Too many Americans. Lots of Kiwis (New Zealand), some Australians, a few Canadians, and two English. I don't really know all of them yet, but of the ones I do: Michael-Kiwi, "Global Nomad" as he introduced himself, been traveling around the world continuously since the late 80s, really cool, mid-40s, heavy drinker. Emma and Ryan-English, college friends from Yorkshire, never traveled or taught before at all, but they like Poirot and the West Wing, so I think we'll get along fabulously. Cane and Eva-a couple from NZ, young and hip, very sporty, bounded up the steep road like it was my driveway, very friendly, great accents. Vanessa-crazy Canadian chick, way into drama and asking questions, talks too much, reminds me of Elizabeth, but the only other person to bring a fan-although hers is a cheesy little lace number. Daniel-from New York, young and hip, my next door neighbor, very cool. John and Josh-American friends who totally fit the fraternity/kegger model to a tee, John plays rugby for Seoul and taught in Korea last year, Josh's nickname should be "Moose"--although friendly, these are the kind of guys (particularly Josh) who sometimes give Americans a bad name. Kyle-senior teacher born in Korea, raised in the States, absolutely great with the kids, friendly, and sings a mean karaoke song when he's shit-faced. Cade-American guy from North Carolina, very friendly, looks kind of like Stephan. Siamak-Persian guy from Canada, completely obsessed with soccer (football), wants everyone to watch the World Cup games with him, the Korean girl teachers giggle over him constantly because he's pretty cute, although he pretends not to notice this. There are a lot more, but I don't really know them well enough to comment at this point!

Last Friday night was a highly interesting experience. We observed classes all day long and then were going to have a traditional Korean "Welcome" barbeque. The day had been torturous because there was a day group in from a preschool. These kids were tiny! And spoke almost no English. Let me just say that the Seoul English Village (SEV) is definitely NOT designed to handle kids who speak no English. So, the day was a total wash because it was all about how to keep the kids from running around and screaming, not teaching them English. And they must have been from a ritzy school, too, because a professional photographer followed them around all day! I observed them in both the "Restaurant" setting and the "Doctor's Office". Nightmare. So, suffice to say that EVERYBODY needed some drinks by the end of the day. Luckily for us, free beer and soju was provided at the barbeque. (Soju is the national drink here, and it's kind of like vodka, but not as strong.) Let me just add here that giving free booze to people who work with children is not always the best idea. But anyway...

Dinner was interesting. They obviously went to a lot of work to set up each table with an array of traditional Korean dishes. Roasted pork (that was so fatty I could not touch it or even begin to imagine what cut it was from), kimchee (delicious and spicy!), lettuce and veggies that you were supposed to roll up with the pork and kimchee to make a little wrap that you dipped in one of three sauces, fried chicken legs with honey mustard (they ran out of this one fastest, no surprise there), two different fish omelets (one of which was on skewers and sitting in hot broth), kimchee soup, and fresh fruit. I ended up eating a couple chicken legs, veggies dipped into one of the sauces that was so good I definitely do NOT want to know what was in it, and the fresh fruit. And then, of course, there was the beer and soju.

Let's just say that Koreans (in general) and teachers have one thing in common: they can fucking drink. It was about 6:30 when the barbeque started, and by the time it was over at 8:30, almost everyone (including myself for the first time in years) was totally shit-faced. Beer flowed like water...there were empty cans EVERYWHERE, thrown on the floor, crushed underfoot, even stacked in pyramids...and let's not forget the soju. The table of just Korean men were doing shots like there was no tomorrow (always pouring drinks for a friend and never for oneself-it's bad luck). The foreign teachers were mostly going for the beer, but then we were told that mixing a little soju in with the beer makes it taste better. I was drinking soju and Coke, soju and grape Fanta, soju and piss-water Korean beer. But, I didn't get sick somehow... Imagine mixing vodka into your Bud Light! Makes my stomach turn just thinking about it.

Anyway, the best part was that the very head of the school, this old Korean guy in a suit and tie who could barely speak English, showed up to wish us well. He stayed for dinner and more than a few soju shots of his own. Let us just say that by the time Kyle started singing "Twist and Shout" over the mic, the boss-man was out on the floor dancing with several of the foreign teachers (girls and guys!) in a way that would prompt a lawsuit in the States. It was awesome. We all sang along with Kyle for both "Twist and Shout" and "La Bamba", a truly memorable rendition. The whole night was just so much fun! And I was sloshed, so everything was hilarious. Daniel and I were sitting next to each other, and we had a great time being funny drunks. Some people went out dancing afterwards (it *was* only 8:30 after all!), but I was too tired to venture off-campus. Besides, it was important that I remain coordinated enough to pick my way through the construction debris to my room."

--So, that's my first catch up entry. There's lots more, so I'll post them separately--that way you can read them at your leisure. By the way, the lack of pictures is due to the fact that I was in a total stupor my last day in Iowa and forgot to load my digital camera's program onto my computer, and I can't make it work without it. I can download the driver from online, but not until I can hook my personal computer into the internet (we're not supposed to add programs to the school computers). So, when I get pictures to go along with everything, I'll update the entries so you can come back and check them out.

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