Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to you and yours. I'll be spending the holidays working. We've no days off for either Christmas or New Years. In addition we are rewarded with a return to work after the new year with winter intensives, so January will be very busy for me. Not in a good way either, just simply working. Fortunately, my school is rewarding us handsomely for our efforts. I hope you all have a great 2006! I know I will!


Speech Contest

The owner of my school decided we should have a speech contest for December. Aside from the obvious irony of a school named 'Reading Town' having a speech contest, this contest was very poorly planned and all the teachers, myself included, expected it to be a disaster. However, despite our pessimism everything turned out fine and it was actually an enjoyable event. I'm still amazed at how wrapped up in these children you become. When my students stepped to the mic in front of a room full of people I may have been more nervous than them.

Before the contest began. The contest lasted two days, Thursday and Friday.

My students mugging for a picture. Korean people in general love having their picture taken and nine times out of ten with give this same obligatory 'V' sign.

Lynn, my manager, preparing to start the contest. She served as emcee for the two days and was forced to kill time between contestants by making up ridiculous questions. A job I would not liked to have had.

Thomas, who was quite sick at the time, giving it his best. My favorite thing about this photo is the girl in the bottom right hand corner who is clearly not paying attention.

I'm disappointed in the way this picture came out, but this is another of my students, Sarah (who always spells her own name wrong: Serah) doing her speech. Sarah, it should be said, is the slowest writer in the world. It seems that each letter she writes is a masterpiece that must be perfect.

Michelle always draws really cute pictures of me and her with captions that read "'Michelle is very beautiful' Jocob said" or "Jocob is very good teacher. I love you.". Unfortunately, she is moving to America next month and will no longer be in my class. By the way, the misspelling of my name is intentional. None of my students seem to be able to spell my name correctly. This is possibly due to the fact that over time I've discovered that to Korean children my name sounds very much like the letter 'J' plus the word 'cup'. So, it's become my custom to teach children to pronounce my name in this fashion. When given a test or book report that requires the students to write in the teachers name many of my kids simply write a capital 'J' followed by an illustration of a cup. Much to the annoyance of the librarian, I am sure.

An anxious crowd awaits. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera died and I was only able to get pictures from the first round of speeches. Several more followed. As I said, it turned out to be quite fun and we got to leave work early on Friday, which is always a bonus.



Now that my camera is working I'd like to share some photos of my apartment.

My apartment is basically one room. Though the kitchen is somewhat separate and the bathroom, obviously, is in it's own room. What you see in this picture I really hope to change soon. I'd like to move the fridge into the kitchen, throw out the desk, turn the red shelf into a computer desk and put a couch where the desk is.

My bed, TV and mirror. This may be the smallest bed in the world. It's also very uncomfortable and has no sheets. I put one blanket on the bottom and the duvet on top.

Here's the kitchen. I very pleased to have a somewhat real stove this year. Both of my previous apartments came equipped with only a camping stove.

The bathroom. Note the lack of a bathtub. Most Korean apartments don't have a bathtub. You can't see in this picture, but on the right is a shower head. The whole bathroom is basically the shower. Also, the hot water is quite sketchy at this place.

I love this picture. It encapsulates so much about Korea. This was taken just outside of my kitchen window. The wiring system in Korea is very haphazard.


Food and computers

One of the best things about living in Korea is that nearly every restaurant will hand-deliver food to your door. The streets of Seoul are packed with young men on motor-scooters hustling in and out of traffic (and on the sidewalks) delivering food. Often the foods arrives in real dishes that you place outside of your door when finished eating. Another young man then comes by on his scooter to retrieve the empty plates and bowls.

Of course, not speaking the language is a hindrance to calling up and placing an order in the first place. So, it's especially nice when my girlfriend is over at my house because I can have her make the call for me. However, sometime last week I was home alone and starving. The temperature in Seoul has dropped tremendously lately, so I didn't want to venture out into the cold for something to eat. At the same time I was chatting with my girlfriend, who lives an hour away by subway, via text message. Swallowing my pride and taking a chance I sent a text message asking if she would, from her home, call a restaurant, near my home, and order some food, to my home. It was an all new low. But being the kind girl she is she simply chuckled and agreed. However, she added that the next time we met she would teach me how to call and place an order myself.

And so she did. I practiced several times with her before she forced me to actually make the call. Of course, it was a disaster. I'm very shy when it comes to speaking Korean in the first place. Having a Korean girl next to me laughing while on the phone doesn't help. Nor does the fact that the particular restaurant I called didn't deliver to my area (something she had not prepared me for). After telling me in Korean that they couldn't deliver and me not understanding a word and saying back in broken Korean "Sorry, I don't speak Korean well", the nice man on the phone simply said in English "Sorry" and hung-up. She tried to get me to call another restaurant but, by this time I was sufficiently embarrassed and my head was pounding from trying to remember my address in Korean.

I did not give up there, however. Tonight, home alone without the shame of her looking over my shoulder, I successfully placed an order and had it delivered to my door. I'm afraid though the whole process was slightly anticlimactic, since the food I ordered was not some exotic Asian cuisine nor did it come in proper dishes I could place triumphantly outside of my door. No, I just ordered pizza.

As a quick note, expect to see this site updated more frequently as I now have a computer in my home (an early Christmas present to myself, thanks Mom) and no longer have to sludge through the cold and into a smoke-filled PC room whenever inspiration strikes. Also, I have to cable to my camera now and can start adding pictures again.