Tag Archive: Chojeon Elementary School


Friday, April 30:  Today, the fourth and fifth grade classes at Chojeon Elementary School go on a field trip to Daejeon to visit the National Science Museum.

The National Science Museum is a museum which studies and exhibits scientific materials. At its center is the Astronomical Hall, which is the largest dome in Korea. From here you can vividly see the phenomenon of the celestial sphere and the human development of space.  It re-creates a night sky.

the kids line up at Chojeon Elementary School

the kids line up at Chojeon Elementary School

one of my favorite little students

one of my favorite little students

There are exhibits featuring about 4,000 items based on nature and natural science at the Permanent Exhibit Hall. There are also exhibit halls featuring Korean nature, weapons, and folk musical instruments. You can see the stages of collecting energy from nature, and its use in transportation. Outside the Hall is Cheomseongdae, a weather evaluating machine from the Goryeo period; models of plant-eating dinosaurs; and a steam engine. The exhibits help to easily understand the theories of science, and the wonders of nature (Official Site of Korea Tourism: National Science Museum).

the National Science Museum in Daejeon

the National Science Museum in Daejeon

Mr. Son

Mr. Son, the 5th grade teacher at Chojeon

the two 4th grade teachers: Coffee J on the right.

the two 4th grade teachers: Coffee J on the right.

4th and 5th graders

4th and 5th graders

Mr. Son on the right

Mr. Son on the right

the National Science Museum

the National Science Museum

me with some of my students

me with some of my students

the ubiquitous peace sign

the ubiquitous peace sign

fun-loving boys

fun-loving boys

more cute boys

more cute boys

and some of the girls

and some of the girls

inside the Science Museum.  The human body unveiled....

inside the Science Museum. The human body unveiled….

muscles of the human body

muscles of the human body

a human on a bicycle

a human on a bicycle

... and another cut in half

… and another cut in half

a bubble show

a bubble show

more bubbles

more bubbles

tiny bubbles

tiny bubbles

and big bubbles

and big bubbles

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Monday, March 15: I teach at two elementary schools in rural Seongju County, but I live in the city of Daegu. So… each day I have about an hour commute each way to work; luckily I’m able to carpool with some of my fellow teachers.  Otherwise, I’d have a horribly inconvenient trip by city bus and then by rural bus which could take me 1 1/2 hours and 10,000 Korean won/day.  The teachers offered me the option of carpooling with them during my first week.  I think it may have been a temporary offer, but now, much to their dismay, they are stuck with me; I’m like the guest they can’t quite shake, the visitor who is overstaying her welcome.   I’m playing dumb as long as I can….

Welcome to Seongju

Welcome to Seongju

Carpool #1 to Chojeon Elementary (M, T, F): I ride to work three days a week with three funny guys: my co-teacher Coffee-J, Mr. Yun, the PE and head teacher, and Mr. Sun, the 5th grade teacher.  During the entire drive, they talk together animatedly in Korean, laughing, making hand gestures, cracking crazy jokes; it’s high jinx.  Despite the fact that I can’t understand a word they’re saying, I find myself laughing along as if I understand their jokes.  I want to belong to their little group, but clearly I don’t.  Being the only woman and having very limited Korean speaking abilities, I mainly stay quietly amused in the back seat.

Coffee J, Mr. Yun, and Mr. Sun

Coffee J, Mr. Yun, and Mr. Sun at Chojeon Elementary School

I don’t know quite what to do with myself.  Some days, I simply fall asleep when my mind wanders off into an imaginary land where Englishy is spoken….inside my own head. (Koreans add “y” to the end of many English words: Englishy, lunchy, clothies, etc.) Sometimes I pull out my Korean flashcards and mutter words incorrectly to myself until one of them overhears me and corrects my pronunciation. (Odee, Yogi, Chogi – Where? Here. There.)  Other days, I stare absently out the window at the miles of vinyl houses where the yellow melon is grown. Other days I just can’t keep quiet and I start yapping to Coffee-J in English, probably taxing the poor guy’s mind first thing in the morning.  When I do that, of course, Mr. Sun and Mr. Yun become the outsiders, as they can speak very limited Englishy.  I don’t like to do this too much as it disrupts their camaraderie and may get me ousted from the carpool.  That’s something I DO NOT want to happen.

This past Friday afternoon, Coffee J and I got behind a slow-moving vehicle and he impatiently tried to get around.  He said, “What do you call this, this slow-moving car?” I said, “Hmm… I guess you’d say he’s pokey.” He said “porky? like the food?” I said, “No, p-o-k-e-y, pokey. Not a food!  You’d probably call him a slowpoke.” He said, “Oh, ok, a slow-pokey! That’s funny!” Then he kept saying that word all the way home.  “Oh, another slow-pokey. Haha!”

Tuesday, March 16: Carpool #2 to Byeokjin Elementary (W, Th) : My other carpool is with Mr. O, the 2nd grade teacher at my other school.  He is also my “manager” at Byeokjin.  I was excited before I met him because Coffee J said Mr. O has a Ph.D. in English.  However, Mr. O speaks very limited Englishy!!  As a matter of fact, hardly anyone at Byeokjin speaks Englishy; I honestly have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing at that school!!  Apparently Mr. O got his Ph.D. in English many years ago and, like many who study foreign languages, learned to read and write but not to speak.

Mr. O

Mr. O

The first day Mr. O picked me up, Coffee J met us in his car at the pick up spot.  Coffee J and Mr. O got out of their respective cars and Coffee J introduced me to Mr. O.  I promptly got in the front seat of Mr. O’s car, but first I had to move his briefcase, his phone, and his jacket to the back seat.  It happened to be snowing that day, and Mr. O drove very nervously and slowly to Byeokjin.  I could tell he was quite on edge, between the snow, trying to speak to me in his very poor Englishy, and having a strange woman in the car with him.

On Friday, I was back in my regular carpool with the Chojeon guys.  Coffee J’s phone rang and there was a very loud voice on the other end.  Coffee J held the phone away from his ear and then thrust his phone into the air so everyone in the carpool could hear what the other party was saying.  The three guys were laughing their heads off, but I was clueless as usual. After he hung up the phone, Coffee J said, “That was Mr. O.  He called to say that the next time you ride with him, he wants you to sit in the back seat. He can’t concentrate with you in the front seat and he feels very nervous!”

What???

The next day, I dutifully got into Mr. O’s back seat when he picked me up.  I figured since he wanted me to sit in the back seat (despite the fact that a perfectly good front seat was available!!) that I could just mind my own business in the back seat.  I planned to busily occupy myself putting phone numbers into my new Korean phone, looking over my lesson plans, reading emails on my blackberry.

Surprisingly, Mr. O talked to me non-stop.  He told me a story that went something like this: “I don’t like autumn.  It remembers me of my girlfriend in college.  She was rich and liked to eat (some kind of food I didn’t understand). She was the brother of my wife.  OK? You understand?”  There was some other stuff about the girlfriend eating a lot of some kind of food.  I tried so hard to understand what he was trying to tell me.  Did the girlfriend get fat eating all that food?  Did she leave him or did he leave her because she got fat?  Did he meet his wife through his girlfriend’s brother??

Vinyl houses for growing the yellow melon

Vinyl houses for growing the yellow melon

a typical rainy winter day waiting for the carpool on the main road from Daegu to Seongju

a typical rainy winter day waiting for the carpool on the main road from Daegu to Seongju

I patiently tried to process his convoluted tale.  Then Mr. O said, “By the way, I talked to Mr. Kim (Coffee J) and he told me you are a lot of fun, that you like to drink alcohol and soju.  So one night, I want to drink alcohol with you!”  Huh???  Now that’s an experience I can’t wait for:-)

Monday, March 29: Today, I’m informed by Coffee-J that our carpool is going out for dinner and drinks tonight after work.  This seems to always be the way things work in Korea.  No one asks if you might have other engagements; they simply announce some plan and expect you to follow along.  Usually, because I’m a foreigner and hardly anyone speaks English, I’m always the last to know.

Tonight we go out to a Korean restaurant in Daegu and eat bulgogi.   On this outing, it’s just the Chojeon car pool teachers; Mr. O is not included.

Mr. Yun and Coffee-J, making a toast with soju

Mr. Yun and Coffee-J, making a toast with soju

Bulgogi is made from thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef.  Before cooking, the meat is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper and other ingredients such as scallions, garlic, onions or mushrooms.

Bulgogi is traditionally grilled, but pan cooking has become popular as well. Whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions and chopped green peppers are often grilled or fried with the meat.  This dish is sometimes served with a side of lettuce, which is used to wrap a slice of cooked meat, often along with a dab of ssamjang (a thick spicy sauce made of soy bean paste, a red chili condiment, sesame oil, garlic, green onions, and optionally brown sugar), or other side dishes, and then eaten together. (Wikipedia: Bulgogi)

Mr. Yun, Coffee-J, me and Mr. Sun at our bulgogi dinner

Mr. Yun, Coffee-J, me and Mr. Sun at our bulgogi dinner

As always at any Korean gathering, the meal is accompanied by huge amounts of beer and soju, a distilled South Korean beverage traditionally made from rice.  It tastes similar to vodka but sweeter (Wikipedia: Soju).  There are always some bottles of Fanta also floating around.

Me and Mr. Sun

Me and Mr. Sun making a toast with soju

In short order, with all the soju and beer going around, everyone is quite drunk.  We laugh a lot and I feel like these carpooling co-teachers of mine are becoming good friends.

Mr. Sun and I have a race to see who can drink our soup the fastest

Mr. Sun and I have a race to see who can drink our soup the fastest

Mr. Yun doesn't speak a word of English, but he's always a jolly fellow

Mr. Yun doesn’t speak a word of English, but he’s always a jolly fellow

After dinner, we go to noraebang, where we all have a grand time belting out songs, both Korean and English.  Crazy times!!

me, probably singing Hotel California, always my song of choice! :-)

me, probably singing Hotel California, always my song of choice! 🙂

me and Mr. Yun singing in the noraebang

me and Mr. Yun singing in the noraebang

Tuesday, April 27: Today, I’m informed once again that we’re having a carpool party, this time including Mr. O from Byeokjin Elementary.  After work, we head to a restaurant between Seongju and Daegu.  As always, the meal includes a lot of beer and soju and as always, there are lots of laughs and high jinx.  This is typical Korean culture that I experienced too many times to count!

Coffee-J's face always turns bright red when he drinks

Coffee-J’s face always turns bright red when he drinks

me holding a bottle of soju

me holding a bottle of soju

Coffee-J with chopstick teeth

Coffee-J with chopstick teeth

the typical Korean pose with the V-sign

the typical Korean pose with the V-sign

Take one down and pass it around, 99 bottles of soju on the wall :-)

Take one down and pass it around, 99 bottles of soju on the wall 🙂

a pose with bottles of beer and soju

a pose with bottles of beer and soju

Friday, April 23:  Today I take some pictures of my 6th grade class at Chojeon Elementary School.  I divide the students into teams and challenge them with a scavenger hunt; they have to follow directions throughout the school, finding little treasures hidden at the spot where each clue leads them.  At that point, they find another clue that leads them to another clue and so on.  These pictures are taken as they study the directions to the next clue.

my 6th grade class at Chojeon Elementary

my 6th grade class at Chojeon Elementary

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

This was a large class of 30 rambunctious students.  The teacher couldn’t speak much English, but he seemed to be a very good teacher himself.  It was always a challenge teaching them because of their lively energy, but some of them were incredibly smart.

Monday, April 5:  Today, I take some pictures of Coffee-J’s 4th grade class at Chojeon Elementary School.  They are a wild bunch, as you can see from the pictures.

Coffee-J's 4th grade class

Coffee-J’s 4th grade class

Coffee-J's 4th grade class

Coffee-J’s 4th grade class

Boys will be boys and then...

Boys will be boys and then…

boys will be boys.... :-)

boys will be boys…. 🙂

and kids will be kids... :-)

and kids will be kids… 🙂

March 14, 2010Coffee-J:  I could write a book about him!  He is simply AWESOME!  He is my Korean co-teacher and his real name is Kim Jun Hyun.  He told me to call him Coffee-J because he LOVES coffee.  Finally he admitted most westerners botch his name, calling him “Hun.”  He said at school I should call him Hyun; he made me repeat it several times to make sure I got it right.  So now, to his face, I call him Hyun.  When he’s not around, I call him Coffee-J.

Coffee-J at the school teacher dinner

Coffee-J at the school teacher dinner

Like all native English teachers in the Korean public schools, I am paired with Coffee J as my Korean co-teacher; he manages me while I am here.  The co-teacher helps me with everything from getting situated in my apartment, to getting the elusive “alien registration card,” to getting internet and phone.  He is my main source of communication with everyone who doesn’t speak English.  In the elementary schools, this means most of the staff, including the principal and vice-principal.  As my co-teacher, Coffee-J gives me my schedule, co-teaches his 4th grade English class with me, provides me my textbooks and other materials, and helps me with basically anything I need help with.  Right now I have a toothache, so I’ll need to ask him how to find a dentist.

Coffee-J at Chojeon Elementary

Coffee-J at Chojeon Elementary

As an English major in college, Coffee-J’s English is very good.  He’s been the driving force behind getting English teachers in Seongju.  He has been working toward this for three years and I am the culmination of his efforts.  I feel a lot of pressure to meet his standards for the vision he has.  He loves the English language, loves English literature.  And he can spout off more English idioms than any native English speaker I have ever known!

In discussing how many Korean won I should contribute each month to the carpool, he said, “We need to have a heart to heart.  Let’s just call a spade a spade.”  He asked how much I think is a fair amount.  “Fair is fair,” he said.  This is how he talks.  One idiom after another.  This is such a high level of English speaking….unheard of in Korea!

Coffee-J sings "Top of the World"

Coffee-J sings “Top of the World” at one of Chojeon Elementary School’s noraebang sessions

I told him that he is the man with the plan!  He gets things accomplished in record time.  In one Friday afternoon, he found Myrna and me apartments in Daegu.  On Saturday, we had all our furniture bought and delivered.

Coffee-J, Myrna's co-teacher and Myrna buying furniture for our apartments

Coffee-J, Myrna’s co-teacher and Myrna buying furniture for our apartments

On Sunday, he took us for a shopping spree in E-mart to purchase necessary household items such as dishes, pots and pans, drying racks, hangers, etc.  This is a man with reams of self-confidence and assertiveness; he knows how to get things done.

In gratitude for all the work it took for them to get us settled in, Myra and I treat our wonderful co-teachers to samgyeopsal at What?  Samgyeopsal consists of thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat (similar to uncured bacon). The meat, usually neither marinated nor seasoned, is cooked on a grill at the diners’ table.  Usually diners grill the meat themselves and eat directly from a grill. It is often dipped into a spicy pepper paste (Wikipedia: Samgyeopsal).

What? ~ a Korean restaurant in our neighborhood

What? ~ a Korean restaurant in our neighborhood

Myrna and I treat our co-teachers to dinner at the restaurant What? after all their hard work.

Myrna and I treat our co-teachers to dinner at the restaurant What? after all their hard work.

Coffee-J is married with two children, 6 and 10.  He is happily married, but he also has that yearning to be free.  He wants both worlds and straddles the two to the best of his ability.  He likes to be in the company of westerners, but he has his Korean guy pals with whom he drinks soju frequently.  And on weekends, he is faithfully at home, being a good father and husband.

Coffee Jay & Sunny: I don't think she's pretty.  But I like her.

Coffee-J & Sunny: “I don’t think she’s pretty. But I like her.”

At dinner one night, Coffee-J asked our fellow carpooler, Mr. Sun, what he thought of Coffee-J’s wife.  Mr. Sun said she is very beautiful.  Coffee-J said, “I don’t think she’s pretty. But I like her!”

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