Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sorry I haven't been posting much. I'm still not in my own apartment and haven't been able to hook my computer up to the internet.

I'm teaching reading to middle school students, many of whom have lived in the States before. I observed classes last week and taught my first three classes yesterday. I felt as prepared as I could be and everything went well. The advanced kids are very competent and we can have good discussions in class. In terms of the class structure, the kids take a quiz for the first 15 minutes while I correct their homework. Then we correct the quiz and some of the homework before moving on to the first set of readings. We have a five minute break after the first hour and then return to do a second set of readings. They finish up with a 20 minutes essay, which they later have to revise for homework. While they write the essay, I finish grading and record the grades. It's pretty straight forward. I teach 4:30-6:30, 7-9 and 9-11 and we order take out for the half hour break.

When students enroll in our school, they sign up for a reading class and a listening class, for a total of 4 hours per week. They can also sign up for a writing class, an additional 2 hours, if they are advanced enough. In addition to our institute, many of the students attend other academies for English and or other subjects. One of the readings last week was about how important it is for kids to get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night. The students reported that they get more like 6 hours per night. They attend classes on Saturdays and Sundays and sometimes even on holidays. They are all focused on getting into elite high schools and are under a lot of pressure from their parents. When do these kids have fun and relax? I have no clue.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I made it!


It took 28 hours for me to get from Princeton to Cheongju. All in all, it really wasn't that bad. I slept through a decent portion of the 15 hour flight from Atlanta to Seoul and was otherwise very comfortable. It also didn't hurt that I had two empty seats next to me and could spread out. A nice Korean man was sitting at the other end of my row and we had a pleasant conversation. He even gave me his business card so that I could email him if I encountered any problems or if I had questions. The Incheon airport is well organized and nicely designed and I had no problems getting through customs. My boss was waiting for me and it didn't take us long to get out of the airport. I arrived on the Lunar New Year (similar to Chinese New Year), which is one of the largest holidays in Korea. It took us three hours to get to Cheongju when it normally would have taken two.

First night:

My apartment isn't opening up for another week and my boss wanted me to stay with one of the other teachers for that time. Unfortunately, the three teachers were out of town, traveling because of the long weekend, and my boss didn't have access to any of their apartment keys. So he dropped me off with his relatives instead. *ahem* The parents didn't speak any English and the teenage daughter spoke only a little and begrudgingly at that. I ate as much as I could the first night so as not to seem rude, but I really wasn't in the mood for kimchi, fried fish, and beef soup with rice patties (it's about 5am my time at this point). My boss leaves and I was left to watch Korean television with the daughter.

Second day:

I slept well and woke up to the smell of fried fish. Breakfast is rice, fried fish, soup, kimchi and other side dishes. The father wanted to show me around and we ended up driving to Muju, a famous ski resort, an hour and a half away. There are mountains everywhere, but everything is pretty drab because it's winter. The ski resort is modelled after an Austrian village and the main hotel has murals of dancing Austrian milkmaids on the walls...

Third Day:

The mother made me fried eggs, spam and toast for breakfast. Spam! Apparently it's quite popular in Korea; they think of it as a representative American food. This was my first and hopefully last experience with Spam! Luckily the teachers were back in town and I could move my stuff to A's apartment. I spent the night with her and then moved in with B the following evening.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

I love my Dad (and his 4 wheel drive truck) for driving me to the Korean Consulate during a storm so I could apply for my visa.

I love my Mom because she is hemming 3 pairs of pants for me.

(There are also other reasons!)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I need an E-2 visa to be able to work legally as an English teacher in Korea. This visa must be applied for and received out of the country. It's Tuesday and I'm flying out on Saturday and I don't have mine yet. This situation makes me a little anxious. Apparently the immigration office in Korea is still processing my work number (which I need to apply for the visa here). If I don't get the visa before I leave, I can still enter Korea as a tourist for 30 days. Then I'll have to make a visa run to Japan to get the visa within the first month. I'd rather just have everything settled before I leave!

Friday, February 09, 2007


I finally bought a digital camera. I was deciding between the Canon Powershot SD600 and the Panasonic Lumix FX01. Canon has a reputation for superior image quality but the Panasonic has a 28mm lens which will give me more versatility in capturing scenes. I chose the Panasonic and am eagerly awaiting its arrival so I can test it out before I leave. I will also bring along my old camera, an Olympus C-740 UltraZoom, because I love the powers of 10x optical zoom. Between the two cameras, I should be set!

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I am moving approximately 6860 miles away from friends and family. Not only will I be a foreigner in Korea, I will be illiterate and will have difficulty communicating basic things. I will stick out in a crowd. I briefly considered these factors when I was making the decision to come to Korea. They seemed like minor issues- things I'd learn to deal with- but nothing that would prevent me from going. Now I realize that these previously minor considerations will become the reality of my day to day life. But since I can't deal with any of those issues until they actually arise, I'm focusing on more immediate concerns, like studying for the LSAT and acquiring a digital camera. One worry at a time.