Gaya-san summer camps
Work, work and more work. I returned home from my two-week trip to Turkey on Wednesday night, August 4, close to midnight, exhausted and dirty. By the time I unpacked and got organized, it was 2 a.m. At 6, I got up and went to work. And I worked the rest of the summer, teaching summer camps: 1) a 2-day camp at Chojeon Elementary School, where I teach during the regular year; 2) two 3-day camps at the Seongju English Village; and 3) two camps at Gaya Mountain ~ one 2-day middle school camp and one 4-day elementary camp. On the 3 days not booked with camps, I reported to Chojeon to put in my 8-hour days doing “lesson planning” (i.e. writing my blog and goofing off on Facebook).
Funny thing this. Regular teachers in South Korea get only a 6-week summer vacation – a lot less than our 2 1/2 months in the U.S. However, many of the teachers are required to work for all or a good portion of this “vacation.” I surveyed different Korean co-teachers after the “holiday”; some had off a month, others not a single day! As a native English teacher, my contract specifies I get a total of 18 days in a year: 8 in summer and 10 in winter. I took my 10 in summer, so I only have 8 remaining. We also get a couple of national holidays, but those don’t amount to much. Yes, WORK is the order of the day in the Korean school system.
The Gaya Mountain camps were overnight camps; we stayed and taught in the classy Gaya-san Hotel. It was definitely not “camping!” The middle school camp was supposed to be 3 days, but one day was cancelled because of heavy rain. A nice reprieve, to get a totally unexpected day off! Rare.
Overall, the camps were high jinx and a gave me a different lens through which to see the students. I don’t normally teach middle school; my “comic strips” camp lesson was a little over the kids’ heads. I thought they would be more advanced.
In the elementary camps, I taught the song California Dreamin’; I played a Power Point Jeopardy Game I made up, simplified Boggle games and another 5×5 word game. In one camp, I read the book Balloonia, about an imaginary land where balloons live above the clouds, then I had the kids make up a travel brochure for a land they made up themselves. Finally, I played a drawing game where I reviewed body parts & descriptive adjectives and said sentences like: He is a tall boy with three eyes, big ears, and short curly hair. Two teams competed to draw pictures incorporating every item in the sentence.
The best thing about the camps was this: I wasn’t the sole English teacher. Usually, during the regular school year, I’m the only native English teacher in my school. Except for Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the Korean English teacher, my friend Julie, shows up, I have no one in my schools with whom I can just hang out and shoot the breeze (except Kim, who I talk about below). I am always the lone “native.” But here, at these camps, we bonded. I got to know the other English teachers in Seongju who I barely knew before. The teachers at the English Village were great: Suzanne and Manny from South Africa and Danny from the U.S. I already know Anna, Seth and Kathy of course, but it was nice to work and hang out with them in a different setting.
After our two-day middle school camp, we also worked at a 4-day elementary school camp.
We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together (all the while complaining about the Korean food and wishing in vain for a western breakfast with coffee); we hung out and played poker and drank beer at night. I loved and valued this camaraderie with my fellow teachers and native-English-speaking friends more than anything else.
We also had some free time in the afternoons to take mini-hikes on the grounds of the Gaya-san Hotel and on Gaya Mountain.
Actually, now that I’m back in my own schools to begin the second semester, I’m feeling kinda lonely and blue. 😦
my korean friend kim
Thursday, August 5: I do have one other close Korean friend besides Julie in one of my schools. Her name is Kim and she teaches the first-graders at Byeokjin, the ones with the animal names. Her English is excellent and she’s one of the nicest people I know in this world. She is deep-thinking, intelligent, kind, soft-spoken and shy, but also worldly (she’s traveled a number of places outside of Korea, which is almost unheard of!) She always tells me she loves talking to me because she likes older people, for one, and because I always teach her something new. She says I encourage her to be more adventurous, because lately, in her life, she feels she’s in a rut and doesn’t much step out of her boundaries. I am always happy to meet her for dinner every couple of Fridays or so. She loves to eat pasta, and we end up going most often to VIVA where we have a glass of wine. I’ve also dragged her along to Sydney Street, where she doesn’t feel too overwhelmed because there are never many people in there.
Kim is 42 and unmarried; this causes her great consternation. Mr. O pronounced once that Kim is “old” and “not married.” In Korean eyes, this is a bad combination. She dated someone she loved very much for 15 years, off and on, but no longer speaks to him. I know she would love to meet him again, or to meet someone new and kind-hearted and loving. I wish this for her as well.
She always listens patiently to all my crazy or sad stories, my dreams, my disappointments and my irritations. She’s always there to listen when I am struggling. She never judges; she just listens and speaks her wisdom. I like her so much. When I leave Korea, I will carry her with me always, close to my heart.
hanging out with friends
Friday, August 6: Tonight, Myrna, Anna, Ben and I went out for pizza at our neighborhood pizza place after a week of teaching summer camps.
hangin’ & chillin’ with movies & games
Tuesday, August 24: Anna & Seth provide the house, games & movies for our entertainment nights. As a married couple, they have the biggest apartment of all of us, with couches and chairs and even a coffee table! We singles lack these simple things. Always generous, they open their home to us and we congregate and play games, watch movies, or just hang out and eat dinner. They also host our Bible studies.
It’s so funny, when they came to Korea, Anna & Seth paid an exorbitant sum for all the games, movies, books, etc. that they brought in their extra luggage. But thank goodness for their foresight in bringing all this entertainment. These things have given us many hours of pleasant companionship as well as some hearty competition. Our favorites are: a cool railroad strategy game called Ticket to Ride (that Seth always wins!), Wii, Scrabble, poker with chips, and most recently, Spades.
I had Mike mail me some of my movies from home, including the 5-hour 1995 PBS version of Pride & Prejudice (starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy), which we started watching in June, and will just finish watching this Friday. And we’ve watched the 2002 Catch Me if You Can with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
We’ve had a couple of taco nights and just last week, Anna wanted to treat our Korean friends to some American food. We worked together to make steak and potato fajitas…. delicious! Shihwan was so funny; Koreans love their food spicy and he said, after eating half of his fajita, Do you have any spice to put on this? He looked a little bored with the whole fajita….
hot fun in the summertime
Here is summer in Daegu. Unrelenting heat & humidity, sticky air. Huge cicadas screeching at all times of day and night. Swarms of huge dragonflies in pockets. A never-changing 90+ degree temperature, day and night. Clothes sticking to your skin. All I can say is I can’t wait till it ends and the cool crisp air of fall arrives. 🙂 Ahh, cool relief, where are you??