Sunday, October 18, 2009

LanGCon Academy

And here are the pictures of our school! I am going to take some pictures of the hallways in our building going in to the school because it is nothing that you would expect. We share the second floor with three restaurants, a nail salon, veterinarian clinic, golf shop, and a bar. Walking down the hallway there are neon lights and open shop doors everywhere.

It was our co-worker Lainy's birthday last week. Everyone chipped in 2,000 won (about $1.75) and we got her a fabulous cake, sushi, pears, apples, orange juice, and diet Pepsi. The cake was amazing - it had whipped frosting, and loads of fresh fruits on the top. The fruit consisted of kiwis, apples, grapes, strawberries, oranges, and melon. After surprising her and singing Happy Birthday, we sat down to eat - with nothing but chopsticks!

In this picture is Gina, Tony, and Sunny. Three Korean teachers. I share most of my classes with Gina (weird, I know) and Tony comes in to most of Andrew and my classes to assist. He is our translating tool when the kids just can't get it. He also helps lay down the law when they are being rowdy.

This is the teacher's room. My desk is the second from the right.

That's Lainy by her desk. Andrew's desk is the one with the orange jacket on the back.

My desk.

That wall there was not there when we first started. They put it up to block the sink and refrigerator from the surveillance cameras. Apparently it is rude to have your sink in sight of guests (aka: parents).

This is one of the two hallways. The glass room on the right is the meeting room. Parents and teachers meet in there.

This is looking the other way from the same spot. That is the front desk. The office that is in the middle near that orange strip is the office of what we would probably call the principle. The glass room on the left is part of the meeting room, and the computer lab.

The door on the left is the Teacher's room door. The door on the right is the Auditorium.

These pictures are the epitome of our logo and branding. Our school basically has a magical imaginary fantasy land with different characters. They are branded throughout the school. They are on the website, papers, book reports, banners, signs, worksheets, stickers, backpacks, etc. Our logo is the boy's hat. It is a Columbus hat (one of our class names is Columbus). The boy's name is Lang. The unicorn in the corner's name is Con. I think the little rabbit thing in the left corner's name is Cong. And i believe the girl's name is Ssang. (Kind of counterproductive on the English if you ask me).

We have stickers that we are supposed to give the kids if they are good. They have a sticker bank book that looks like a checking account register. They build up stickers and depending on how many stickers they have they can buy different prizes. Well the kids are usually shouting "I WANT CON!" or "I WANT SSANG!" for the stickers... I have yet to figure out which characters are which names for sure.

Also, another funny thing... all students get matching backpacks. On the first day of school we had to hand out LanGCon backpacks with their books inside. It is kind of nice, actually. Most students go to two or three, even four schools. This way they know they need to bring this backpack to LanGCon and don't mix up their books.

The way Korean schools are structured is they wake up at about 6:30. They go to elementry/middle/high school at 7:30/8:00 - 1:00pm. Then they go to a private academy (like our school) to learn English. They will then go to another academy after ours to learn something else; maybe another language or a sport. Some students will even go to a fourth school in the evening, maybe for music or art? It is not uncommon to be walking around at 10:30 pm and see children getting off of the bus from school. They then stay up until 1am or 2am doing homework, just to start it all over again the next day.

It's not my idea of fun... but that's why Asians have a stereotype for being very smart... but they definitely work hard at it! We would definitely think it sucks, but if that's all you've ever known to be normal, it doesn't seem odd.

This is the front desk. Notice the plasma TV on the wall on the left. All of our classes/hallways/ teacher's room are on constant surveillance. Parents will sit out in the lobby during their kid's class and watch what is going on. I'm glad I don't know what my student's parents look like... or I'd be nervous if I saw them staring at the screen during my classes!

That back wall is glass so you are looking through our glass doors. The back wall is actually a veterinarian clinic. We often see really cute puppies in the hallway.

This is one of the classrooms. There are 9 rooms in total. All of the rooms have different slap-you-in-the-face color schemes. This one is yellow, pink, and bright orange. The tables hold a maximum of 12 students.

This is the room from the other angle. The brown part on the wall is a massive Velcro wall.

This is another angle of the front lobby. The front desk is on the left. The tree is a reading tree. Kids that read a lot get their pictures on the tree. The cubbies on the wall is actually our "library". It is hard to see, but right next to the library is a table with coffee and tea for parents (and teachers) for when the parents watch our classes.

The kid in this picture is wearing what a lot of kids wear. A lot of schools have uniforms. This one is a gym outfit. They are often all yellow sweatpants. He might have had gym in elementary
school this day, or sometimes a student wearing something like this might have just come from a soccer academy.

This is the door going in to the auditorium. Our teacher's room is on the left. A classroom is on the right.

This is the auditorium.

The auditorium and the copy machines where we spend a lot of time. A projector screen comes down to play movies. That white wall is also a giant white board.

Another picture of the glass rooms... The left side is a meeting room for parents and principles/teachers. We also give the students speaking tests in there. It is hard to see it on the right, but that is the computer lab.

This is the shelf where you can find all of our teaching materials/attendance sheets/books/games/papers/materials/anything else.

This is the blocked off area in the teacher's room. It is kind of ridiculous because the wall gets completely in the way... but that's cultural differences for you! That's also another (mini)fridge and sink, microwave, a toilet paper dispenser (purpose unknown), and stacks of teaching materials.

Another view of the teacher's room. This is where we spend most of our working day. Andrew's desk is the one with the orange jacket on it. Mine is in the bottom left corner.

My desk!

This is the street outside of our school. We usually go out to eat here or do our basic grocery shopping. Most of the neighborhoods are completely lit up like this. We have joked that the sun never sets in Korea - because it is lit up so bright it looks just like daytime even at night. This isn't a very busy street... sometimes it can be neon sign after neon sign skying up 10 stories building after building. I have decided that Korea is basically a sensory overload.

Our Apartment!

So people have been asking us for picture of our apartment and our school... so here they are!

This is our bed. Our school gave us an orange and brown comforter and hot pink sheets. The window has a blanket on it because we are on the first floor and there is a bright street light that shines in our eyes when we sleep. Curtains are obnoxiously expensive over here (about $70 for the cheap ones and that wouldn't even cover the whole window) So we put up two hooks, a shower curtain, and bought a cheap blanket.

Also... notice the stepping stool on the ground under the window. That is because we have to climb up trough the window to go to our laundry room. It is only about 5" tall so we have to crouch over. Our landlord, however, has no problem standing up straight. The fan is in the window drying our laundry.

All of our windows are sliding windows, much like a patio door. That box on the wall is our air conditioner. (Can you spot our Spam gift bags?)

This is our TV. We use the drawers in the TV stand as our dresser drawers. The thing hanging on the wall is a table runner. I thought it was pretty and we needed some wall decorations, so we nailed that sucker into the wall.

This is our little kitchen table. We don't really have room for anything bigger. Those sliding doors go in to the entrance way/kitchen/bathroom area. That smoked glass and pattern is what is on all of the windows... which makes funky patters on the walls at night when the outside lights shine in.

That tall thing is our closet. The smaller brown one is supposed to be a shoe cabinet. It was by our front door, but we needed more space for our clothes because there is two of us, and we are pretty sure this is a one person apartment.

Another view of the kitchen table and sliding door.

The short little laundry room and our hanging clothes. Behind the clothes rack is a window which looks out to the front street.

The machine in the back is our small washing machine. Those windows are more sliding windows that go outside. They are open so the fresh air comes in to dry the clothes.

Stupid tiny laundry room. They probably didn't realize they would have the tallest person in Korea living in this apartment. Andrew pretty much has to be on his knees to fit comfortably.

This is the front door. The box in the middle is the door bell. There are also three locks on the door. That tiny tiled space in front of the door is supposed to be where your shoes are taken off. Our landlord walked in and yelled at us because we had our shoes on the wooded area near the door. People get really angry when you don't take off your shoes!

I'm standing in kitchen taking the picture. To the left is the sliding door in to the bedroom. To the right is our bathroom...

Our bathroom has kitchen tile on it. It has a bowl of rice, booze, and buns. Koreans are kind of crazy with their horrible decorating skills. Do you see the shower? Oh... its that hose connecting to the sink. We turn on the water in the sink. Once the temperature is comfortable, we flip a switch and it comes through the shower head. Don't forget to turn the switch back though, or next time you go to wash your hands you will actually get a shower.

The drain is under the sink. Also, the bathroom is raised up about 8 inches from the kitchen floor. This is so water doesn't leak out into the rest of the apartment.

This is the kitchen. Not very large.

Stove top - no oven. and sink.

The drying rack hangs above the sink. Also, this little silver space is the only counter space I have to cook. Not very convenient!

Our fridge is tiny, but we find that all of the fridges around here are this size.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Suwon Hwaseong Cultural Festival

Last weekend we went to the Suwon Hwaseong Cultural Festival. Apparently it is a very big festival that attracts a lot of tourists. We spent time walking around, viewing traditional dance shows, visiting the food festival, and watching an amazing parade!

The floats were massive and had a lot of pyrotechnics shooting out of them. Most of the bands and groups in the parade had over 100 each. There was definitely shock value with the massive amounts of people. The end of the parade had a recreation of the King's visitation of his father's tomb. The processional alone had over 1,500 people and a ton of horses.

See that building at the top of the mountain right above the right balloon? That's how high we hiked when we walked the wall a few weeks a go. That building is where we took a bunch of pictures.

We walked in to the tourist information center to find a phone and found out there was a traditional hairstyle and hat exhibit in the basement. We decided to check it out... I think I may have found some wonderful hairstyle ideas for my wedding day!

I think I could do wonders with a veil with this headpiece.

This is the back view.

Or this is a nice option. I especially like the purple cushion in the middle. I could coordinate my wedding colors in to the cushion! Maybe this could be better for my bridesmaids.

I think these hats would look lovely on our groomsmen!

Or maybe my dad could wear this one as he walks me down the aisle. Yes, I think that would be best.

This is a model of the Hwaseong (the wall) made out of croissants, cookies, and pretzels.

A traditional dance show.

Their hats have long ribbons on them and they twirl their heads in circles and the ribbon makes cool patterns. I have a video below.

Koreans are crazy about visors. They wear them so big that they are see-through and cover their whole faces. They handed out free cardboard visors at the festival. They folded up on the top to look like a dragon and ears.

And the parade begins! In come the flags!

This is a cart that takes you on a tour around the wall.

What's this lady doing?

Andrew loved the transformer.

They had amazing floats!

These people were probably important, but we don't know who they are.

Banging on the drums.

This is a creepy Statue of Liberty. It was actually a person who started moving.

These guys came to guard the crowd so they wouldn't block the parade route.

There are cannons on the front that shot out fire.

There were ambassadors from around the world wearing their traditional clothing. There was an American guy wearing khakis and a sports coat. Nice traditional outfit, America.

Ambassadors from Thailand.

Now see! There's that beautiful hair! I think that would look stunning on my bridesmaids!

He totally was blocking my view!

These are the King's concubines.

In comes the Queen being carried by men.

There she is!

And there she goes...

In come the King's two daughters.

Nice hats.

Pretty sweet band uniform if you ask me.

After the parade we walked around the food festival. For about $0.80 we could buy a cookie and decorate it ourselves.

Lainy's cookie is on the left, ours is on the right.

Stirring a huge pot of soup with my imaginary spoon.

This guy was roaming the streets.

There was a traditional dance show.

Enjoy these videos of the festival!

Taekwondo - wood breaking.

Taekwondo - wood breaking.

This was the grand finale.... so awesome!

At the end of this video you can hear me say "AH-NE-YO!" which means "NO!" because the lady just stood right in front of me.

I will upload more videos to my youtube account. I'll let you know when they've been posted!