Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Almost time

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I would have written nearer to the day, but it's taken me this long to de-bloat from the Thanksgiving buffet I attended. I did some research, in a desperate attempt to have some kind of feast last Thursday, and came up with two options: the $88 4-course bacchanalia at The Grand Hyatt, or the $30 buffet at a local bar named Gecko's. Despite my natural inclinations to grandeur, the pocketbook won out this time. I'm glad it did, though, because I suspect that the 4-course Grand Hyatt meal would not have offered such an abundance of food to shove in one's face, as is only appropriate on Thanksgiving.

As it was, I went to dinner at Gecko's with Daniel and John, and we had a great time. The place was fairly hopping with Americans when we got there, so I'm glad we went early. Barely pausing to throw our coats on our chairs, we rushed to the buffet line. It was a Thanksgiving miracle. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, 3 different kinds of gravy at least, roast beef, stuffed pork, teriyaki chicken, rigatoni in a creamy sauce with vegetables, salad, several different breads, and a decent dessert selection. I had only two complaints: the mashed potatoes were more like mashed potato soup, and there was no pumpkin pie. However, everything was delicious, and I was barely able to eat dessert as it was. So, no harm, no foul.

We each took heaping plates of food back to our table and dug in with enthusiasm. I couldn't believe how great it was after being here with crap food for so long. I ate faster than I ever have before! I believe I even consumed giblets, but no matter! My only regret was not having room for more. After we were finished, we could hardly walk out of the restaurant under our own power. I nearly had to be rolled to the taxi. It was wonderful...

Of course, there has been other stuff going on around here, not just gi-normous feasts. My friend Emma, from England, left to go back home. I'm really going to miss her! (But, we did plan to meet if I end up teaching in Turkey.) :-) She had a going-away party out at a latin dance club called Bahia. It was the cutest little place!

It looked like we were partying in somebody's basement. It was one small room, with mirrors on one wall, a bar on another, and the other walls had barstools or couches. In the middle was the dance floor, which was occupied by several Korean couples when we first came in. They were *amazing* dancers! I think they do dance lessons at this place, and these people seemed like they all knew each other, so maybe that's how. At any rate, I could have just watched them dance all night. In fact, they were pretty intimidating, so none of the 15 or so of us even dared to get out on the floor at first. However, once a round or two of drinks were downed, that changed. Emma and Ryan have taken lessons themselves, so they went first. After that, you couldn't hold us back. It ended up that all the Koreans left and we had the place entirely to ourselves for the rest of the night. There are lots of pictures from that night, so I'll only post a few of the best and a movie clip or two.

Do you remember me talking about my friend Kane, from New Zealand (the one who sings really well and looks like Justin Timberlake)? Well, he was in a contest out at a local Canadian bar, for the best acoustical singer. He has so far been in one heat, and he won it. My last day on the job (December 8th) is the finale. So, we'll all be going to cheer for him.

Work has been kind of crazy lately. After I turned in my notice, I expected to be punished by being given the crappiest classes. Well, the first schedule I got was for 24 periods of "Grocery Store" class in one week. This was RIDICULOUS. We were very busy, so it wasn't the amount of classes in dispute, but rather having 24 of the same one! Working at this job, one feels enough like a robot without having to do 7 of the exact same class in one day. It's frankly unacceptable when we've all taught 15 or 16 different classes since we've been here and can therefore be rotated through any of them. We had a big clash on this subject in our weekly meeting (or shall I say, *I* had a clash with one of the head teachers). Turns out a lot of people got scheduled that way (it wasn't just me being punished). We were all pissed. Scheduling like that is just sheer laziness, in my opinion.

Anyway, the following week (last week) was totally slow. I taught only 11 classes total!! So, it was a really nice break after 24 Grocery Store classes. :-) Unfortunately, this week and next (my last) are chock-full of classes. Thankfully, our boss took our complaints to heart (slightly), and so I have Grocery Store and Nature class this week, instead of just the one. Plus Nature class is strictly a sitting-on-your-ass Powerpoint presentation class, which makes a nice change from Grocery.

I do have some very encouraging news to share. I have been busy applying for teaching jobs in Turkey, and have now gotten some emails requesting phone interviews! In fact, I have an interview this evening with the best school I applied to. I'm so nervous!! I don't have specific interview times scheduled yet with the other schools, though. I'm kind of waiting to see how it goes with my interview tonight. God, how I hate interviewing. So, please wish me luck!!

OK, my break time here is almost over. Time to teach Grocery to a bunch of no-English-whatsoever kindergarten kids that are in for the day. Boy, I can hardly wait!

Talk to you soon! (And see you soon, too!)

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Damn Hard Work

I am almost too exhausted to be typing this travelogue! This week I was asked if I would be a teacher for the "Special Intensive Program", this new thing YBM is doing to make more money for themselves. The program has three sections: conversation, reading comprehension, and creative writing. There are three levels of students: low, intermediate, and high. And it is a big commitment for the teachers, because it's 6 classes a day, while the regular teachers will likely have maybe 4 or fewer classes a day. But, I was told that I could pick the subject and level of students, so I said yes to high level creative writing. Unfortunately, when it came down to it, all teachers had to teach all levels. And the low level kids are REALLY LOW. Team 1, the lowest, can barely write their own names. I was assigned to teams 2, 5, 7, 10, 13, and 15 (the next to highest).

I was terrified for the first day of teaching, because I knew that team 2 was going to be a real challenge (our special classes didn't start until Tuesday, so I had already heard from teachers on Monday about what a nightmare some of the low teams were). I could hardly sleep the night before; I just kept dreaming of how horrible it would be. The theme for the day's writing lesson was description. I was supposed to open the class by having a student come up and everyone has to describe them. Then, they had to look at these densely drawn pictures of different "worlds" (think "Where is Waldo"-type drawings), and describe them in terms of people, animals, plants, and things.

Fortunately, it didn't go nearly as badly as I thought it would. Team 2 was able to understand the basics of description, like color and size, etc... So, the day was not as scary as I had imagined. Wednesday was Poetry day, which could have been a horror, but surprisingly was not. I managed to get them all to write a simple poem. Here is the poem I wrote along with them:

I have a cat.
He wears a hat.
He likes to cook
And read a book.
His tongue is cherry.
His nose is very

After I wrote that poem with one of my morning classes, I read it to all of my subsequent classes as an example. Every time I read it, I would laugh at the end, and they would look at me like I was eating my own boogers. No one appreciates real art anymore... :-(

Anyway, today is "Write Your Own Harry Potter Story" day, and it's proving to be a real bitch. As much as the kids here are obsessed with Harry Potter, they seem to care less about writing a new story about him. I'm on break right now, and I'm not looking forward to next period, when I'll have to cajole team 10 into giving a damn. But, my last two classes of the day are high level kids, and it should be fun with them.

Tomorrow is "Writing from Memory" day, and I have a bad feeling about it. I mean, the high level kids will do whatever you tell them to, but these low level kids need something else entirely. I know they're planning on doing a program similar to this once a month starting after Christmas, so they're going to be coming up with adaptations for super-low kids. I think that's a good idea! Far less stressful for the teachers...

Anyway, I suppose I should announce that I have actually decided to call it a day at Seoul English Village. I turned in my resignation yesterday, and I'm feeling really good about it. I have just decided that Korea, in general, is not the place I really want to be. I am tired of "fat" comments from students (which I haven't *really* gone into here, but believe me, it's humiliating and never-fucking-ending because we get new kids every week) and the open-mouthed (literally) stares from grown adults as I walk around town. Also, I'm concerned about my health. I've never been evaluated here to my satisfaction in regards to my stomach issues. This is enough of a serious problem for me that it makes me very nervous to sit here twiddling my thumbs about it.

So, I will be flying home on December 11th, with a swing through San Francisco to see Stephan for a week, and then into Des Moines on the 15th. I'll be home for the holidays, time enough to be evaluated by some *real* doctors and submit my Italian citizenship paperwork, and then be back out into the world hopefully by the end of February at the very latest. I've decided that my next adventure will be in Turkey, which is as close to Europe as an American English teacher can get right now. I'm really excited about going there, since Europe is where I've always wanted to be.

Anyway, I hope all is well with everyone! Take care and I'll talk to you soon!