Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sparks in My Head.

Today one of my favorite students Max said something that cracked me up. He told me his head was sick. I kept asking him questions as to what he meant... "Do you have a headache? Do you have a cold? Is your nose stuffy? Does your throat hurt?" All were answered with, "no".

He got very excited and was trying to explain. "I have sparks in my head."

"Oh. So it hurts? Ouch? Not nice?"


So we are off to Guam tomorrow. We need to get our working visas and have to be in the United States to get it. Since Guam is the closest part of the US to Korea, that is where we are going... and the school has to pay for our whole trip! Not too bad! We will be back to Korea on Sunday at 7am, so I'll be updating you when we get back!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Water is Peeing!

My students say a lot of funny things... I've decided to share a few with you. Most of these happened today...

While I was waiting for the students to finish writing in their work books... Andrew, a student who had finished asked me, "Teacher, Obama live in blue house?"

"No, Obama lives in the White House."

"Oh. I thought it was blue."

Many Asian people have problems with their r's and l's ... they often switch them. So when they say "classroom" it comes out as "crassloom". Well today our lesson was on words that have 'al' in them. One of the vocabulary words was "ballroom". You can understand why this would be a troubling word... but it was extremely intensified by the fact that the l and r were next to each other.

I only had two students. This is the class where they used to sit and stare at me with completely blank expressions as I asked them questions... they now have loosened up and are my favorite class. Our Principal said that this is probably the first time most of these kids have met a foreign person, so it is very intimidating.

So two students... and it took me over 30 minutes to try and get them to correctly say "ballroom". I had drawn pictures of how their mouths should look when saying an l and and r. We went through constant lalalalala's and rrrr errrr rrrr errr's. I finally got them to correctly say ball... and then room... but when I had them put the words together, it came out as "barloom" "balloom" "bahroom" "bal oom" "bloom" "bar oom". I drilled it and drilled it and finally I heard ballroom! Unfortunately, that was a once in a lifetime occurrence, and I never heard another ballroom all day. So over 30 minutes in to my 50 minute class and I hadn't even accomplished past the first word. Fail.

Later in the same lesson I showed them a flashcard of a waterfall. "water!" "water!" I said, "Yes, but what is the water doing? Where is it going? Is it staying still?"

Now, usually when you ask them tough questions like this, they do a ton of gestures, usually with "yes, it this... it this..." Well this was no exception. They kept trying, "down" "no down?" "down!" "water!" "under" "lake"

And finally Max had the most excited look on his face as he shouted, "Yes! The water is peeing!"

I couldn't stop laughing. My two students couldn't stop laughing. I finally told them it was a waterfall and they had an "ahhhhh" look on their faces.

As if ballroom and waterfall aren't tough enough words for beginner students, they decided to throw "waltz" in the mix. The flashcard I showed them was a cartoon drawing of a man and woman dancing. All of a sudden Amy can't stop laughing. It takes me a few minutes for her to calm down so she can tell me what she is thinking. "The man is very sneaky!"

"Sneaky? What do you mean? How is he sneaky?"

"Teacher, this." as she points her fingers accentuating his ridiculously thin waist and legs.


"Yes!" and the laughter continued...

In my very naughty class, we had the same lesson. I showed the flashcard of a picture of a mall. They looked at me very confused - and were shouting random words that made no sense. Finally I hear Sunny, my little shithead, yell "Mall!"

"YES! Great job!"

And instantly my whole class was in uncontrollable laughter, even my Korean speaking co-teacher. They laughed for about two minutes before my co-teacher told me he would 'splain lata'.

He "lata" told me that Sunny hadn't said mall... but he said the Korean word for mall, "mall-a". The kids were in shock that I: 1. let him speak Korean, 2. understood it (which I didn't) 3. was so excited that he knew it.

The other day one of Andrew's students pointed to the hair on Andrew's arm and shouted, "FUR!"

We had book reports due on Friday. While grading them we have had an extremely hard time trying to figure out what some of them are saying. I wrote down two to share with you. "Summer weather is hot in order to do in daytime to night there is a moon" Now try and correct that sentence.

And the other one I just found funny. He was supposed to list the five senses, touch was given to him as an example. He wrote "run, smell, spick z say, listen".

And the mistakes don't only happen in the classroom. Koreans often say "sh" instead of "s". So the grocery store that is under our school is called "Lotte Super" and they say "Lotte Shuper". Now you can imagine how funny it is when someone tells you to "shit in the chair".

Today our Principal was giving a meeting and was talking about a document. She was talking about a sheet of paper. Now try and keep a straight face when your boss tells you, "We don't have the shits yet, but we will have the shits soon. Tomorrow I think."

And I'm sure that won't be the last posting like this!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

On Saturday we decided to take a hike around the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. This is a massive wall that was built around Suwon City. It is sometimes referred to as The Great Korean Wall. It was built in the 1700's for several reasons. One reason was to protect King Jeongjo's father's tomb. Another reason was to protect the city during war. And a third motive was to potentially move the country's capital to Suwon, instead of Seoul.

The modern Suwon is now much larger than the "old Suwon" and is built inside and outside the walls. We live about a mile outside the walls near Hwaseomun, or the West Gate. The whole wall is about 4 miles long. The whole West and South West end is on Mount Paldalsan. Mount Paldalsan is 2,000 feet high, or .4 miles high. The climb up this part of the mountain was very tough. It was an extremely steep incline... you can see in the pictures how high up we had to climb.

The wall was damaged during the Korean War, but has been restored. There is only about 10% of the wall which has not been restored, which now has a very busy road going through it, this might be why they chose to not restore this section.

We have seen the wall a few times at night in taxis - and it is gorgeous. Every inch of the wall is lit and is like a shining beacon. We only walked half of the wall... it was extremely hot out and we got tired after walking for about 3 hours. We decided that within the next few weeks we will walk the other half.

Enjoy the pictures and random videos throughout! If you would like to view the videos larger on Youtube you can visit my youtube website. Click on that link and it should take you to my main page. There are also videos from my other trips in England, Jamaica and Australia.

Andrew and I also bought a Wisconsin phone number. If you call it - our computer will ring. If we are not by the computer it will go to our voicemail, so leave us a message and your phone number and we will call you back as soon as we can! If you would like the phone number you can e-mail me or my parents and we will give it to you!

Notice the gold statue on the left. This thing was massive! It is King Jeongjo's Bronze Statue.

Hwaseong Haenggung. This is the palace in Suwon. We didn't go in because we wanted to walk the wall. We are finding all Palaces look very similar.

Hwaseong Haenggung

Paldalmun - South Gate. There is a roundabout that goes around it! The road area is the remaining 10% that was not restored after the Korean war... everything else is connected.

Detail of the painting on Paldalmun.

It doesn't look like much from this picture, but it was a little intimidating in person. It is a .4 mile high very steep incline up to the top of Mount Paldalsan. It was definitely a work out - and I instantly wished I had brought my inhaler with me!

Approaching the wall.

And so it begins... Notice the round thing on the ground... that is a light... the whole wall is completely lit up at night... it is so beautiful! Quite a sight to see!

We had to keep stopping on our way up... it was so steep! Andrew is standing by an archery hole.

This is about half way up the climb...

Still half way...

zoomed in - you can see the Paldalmun from where we started. Can you spot it in the smaller pictures? Its like Where's Waldo.

About half way up the climb. Click play to see a 360* view.

We finally reached the top! This is Seonamammun... the Southern secret gate.

Just a look along the wall.

At the Seojangdae Tourist Information passover. Laney and I sitting on the edge.

At the Seojangdae Tourist Information passover. Laney and I sitting on the edge.

I'm sitting on the edge... haha.

Andrew and I are holding up Seo-Poru.

Bell of Hyowon.

We bought three strikes on the bell. These are the meanings of the three tolls.

Watch us as we take our three strikes! It was SO much louder in person! We could hear people striking the bell nearly a mile away.

After we had our three strikes.

A Korean family taking three strikes.

Andrew and the bell.

This is what you use to swing and hit the bell.

The swinging thing to strike the bell.

These men were walking around in traditional dress.


I thought this flower was pretty... with a blurred cityscape in the background.

We found the secret passageway which lead to a steep decline down the mountain.


People taking a rest in the pavilion. Notice they took their shoes off before entering, as is custom nearly everywhere.

This is a video... click the play button!

All of those highrises are apartment buildings.

Andrew takes a peak down from Seonodae... an archery tower/observation point.

Hwaseomun... the West gate. We live about a mile from this point of the wall.


Just another view of the cityscape.

In Korea people believe that if you walk backwards it is good for your health and you will live a longer life. We read about this before going and my friend said that if we saw it we should take a video... well we saw it! It's no joke!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A lesson on food, part 2

Okay, so after re-reading my last post, I realized I never did mention the food with the leaves. I have said it to a few people over the phone, so I thought I had written about it.

Koreans are very big into sharing food. A ton of food comes to the table, and everyone shares everything. One of our favorite foods is served over either hot coals, or a hot plate. Raw meat comes to the table, usually pork or beef. You then put the meat on the grill. Once the meat is done cooking you can dip it in to a few different sauces they bring to the table.

There are also a ton of other side dishes, including kimchi (mentioned in the previous post), random fermented veggies, fresh veggies, salads, rice, etc. You take a little of whatever you want and put it on a piece of lettuce or a leaf. Wrap it up, and enjoy!

The best part is that you pay for the meat, and all the side dishes come bottomless!

This is Howard, our Korean co-teacher - and Alaina, from boston.