Friday, February 27, 2009

Introduction to the Stars of GEPIK

Just what the heck do we teachers end up teaching out here in Korea?

As for GEPIK we are given a set of books for each grade. There is the teacher's guide (in Korean and English) and the student book, which is full of pictures and writing activities.

But there is one part worth mentioning, and that is the star characters inside the book. I did not take pictures of the books due to fear of copyright blah-blah.

However, we don't just use the books in class. Accompanying our lesson are videos.

To get an understanding of all this let me break down what a typical lesson looks like:

Sample of a Lesson:
  1. Each lesson is broken down into 4 parts. So day 1 of class goes over the first part, and so on. Here for you are those parts.
  2. Look and Listen: Children look at the video screen. A cartoon is shown where there is a dialog of the lessons main point. For example: "I Can Swim." Lesson will feature the characters swimming and speaking the lines.
  3. Listen and Repeat: Students look at a still screen and repeat the dialog. Usually the lines refer to what was said in the the "Look and Listen" section.
  4. Let's Chant / Sing: There is a chanting session or singing session. Chanting turns out to be more fun than singing due to that songs are very cheesy.

5. Look and Speak: This is where the characters come to life. But often the English that is spoken is not clear and is spoken fast. Also the production of these videos comes out very cheezy. A lot of times the kids and myself laugh at the videos. I found this blog that seems to poke fun at these videos, but I still give the government credit for trying. This part is also the most important because it is where we find our stars.

6. Let's Write: This part is just writing exercises that are usually very quick.

7. Role-play: Here students watch a short cartoon that has a cute story and then are asked comprehension questions afterwards.

The Stars of GEPIK: Taken from the 5th grade book, most of the characters live throughout the whole series.
  • Jinho
  • Nami
  • Mrs. Smith
  • Bill
  • Ann
  • Joon
  • Peter
  • Zeeto (my favorite but is in the 3rd grade book.)
Look and Speak: Live action English at its best!
  • You don't have to take off your shoes. This video lesson highlights a cultural difference between Korea and the West. And that is indoor shoe-wearing. It's a big no-no here in Korea. When I went over this lesson with the kidlets, they had shocked faces at the thought we westerners keep our shoes on. Featuring: Nami and Ann.

  • Mismatched Voices: What should a kids voice sounds like? High pitched and cute right? But maybe not for all kid's voices, especially if that character is a male. Take a look and see how not only do the high pitched voices sound wrong, but also at the placement of the words. Featuring Peter and Nami.

  • Adults using English: Often times you see the characters parents having conversations. They got the voices right, that is they sound like adults. But again the voice over is totally off cue. Hey does anyone think the Dad isn't bad looking? (just kidding) Featuring Jinho's parents.

  • Awkward Moments: Speaking a foreign language is awkward enough, but hey let's make it more awkward by creating moments that are strange. In this clip Joon (boy on the left) talks about Peter's sister and there is an awkward feeling between them. Featuring Joon and Peter.

I think you get the gist of it all after watching those videos. As a teacher you end up seeing these clips about 4 times a day and in some cases 8 times a week. Sometimes I go home and I find myself singing the song of the day.

What always leaves me wondering is where they picked of the western actors. Because they shot these videos in Korea, so I wonder what these kids are doing here.

And remember this is Elementary school level. I don't know if Middle or High School kids get the same stuff but with older actors / characters?

There you have it the characters that I get to know here at school. I hope this introduction gave you a light hearted feeling. Sure the government has room to improve with the quality of their material but for the meantime it makes for good culture shock.

Ch ch ch changes

March must be the golden month at teaching facilities in Korea, because for me it means a new coteacher and a manipulated schedule.

These past few days I have been sitting back waiting for these changes to come in. As is the custom, I have found it better to let information come to me than seek it out. Of course I go looking for answers when it is necessary.

A new coteacher, I feel, is like getting a new captain for a ship. If I were the crew member then I would want to know if my captain is going to steer us clear of danger.

Day 1: First Impressions

New coteacher arrives. First impression is all right. Turns out she taught English in Daegu for three years and has experience working with foreigners.

But our meeting was very brief, as she spent most of her time getting briefed about the classroom with my ex-coteacher.

From this small bit of information and meeting I feel that she will know what to do and that communication won't be so difficult.

But I am apprehensive because we didn't spend time talking. On monday classes resume and her and I did not go over what we will do. Sure there is the book to start teaching for the classes, but usually each lesson doesn't fill the whole class time.

If she is relying on me to have a rock solid what-to-do plan for next week, then she better rethink that. I have the lesson plans ready to go, but as for how we teach it is up in the air.

I am guessing it will go something like this, where we start the class and figure out what to do as we go along.

Of course though I am worried about what she expects from me. Does she expect me to teach everything and she just do something now and then? The ideal situation I feel is that we share the teaching time and keep it fun and interesting for the kids.

Ah well I guess it is another just wait and see scenario.

Revised Schedule:
My schedule didn't change much day to day. It is more like they made little shifts here and there. Let's take a look. Keep in mind the schedule for all of this is from 9:00 - 4:30 pm (each class is 40 min long).

  • 4-1
  • 4-2
  • 4-3
  • 3-1
  • No change here.
  • 5-1
  • 5-2
  • 5-3
  • There use to be a 3rd grade class at this time but no more.
  • 6-1
  • 6-2
  • 6-3
  • 3-3
  • There use to be no 3rd grade class and just planning time.
  • 5-3
  • 5-2
  • 5-1
  • 5-4
  • This 4th - 5th grade class is new, so that means we will be teaching an extra helping of older kids.
  • But generally the class hours for Thursday haven't changed.
  • 6-1
  • 6-2
  • 6-3
  • 3-2
  • 5-4 (After lunch)
  • Activity class
  • Change here is the 3rd and 5th grade slots. Friday remains to be the busiest day.
As you can see these changes aren't that big, compared to if I were still at the hagwon. There you get an entirely new schedule.

Certainly my new coteacher will have concerns of her own for starting her new job. From what I gathered our Principal isn't the nicest guy out there towards the teachers. Also I wonder if she finds our classroom to be a technological downgrade, due to that we have an old big screen TV, chalkboard (some classes have an interactive white-board) and no classroom computers. If so then maybe she will work hard to get the class upgraded! (I need a faster computer)

Anyways I am going to try my best and go with the flow. Get to know her and the style in which she teaches. I am a little scared because I am still new to teaching and don't have all my skills yet, so I hope she can see this when we teach together.

We will see. ~

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Anniversary Date

One year.
So it was last Friday that BK treated me to a special night out on the town, for our one year anniversary.

Our destination was the North Seoul Tower, a famous spot on Korean dramas and a site you can usually see when you are around central Seoul. I was looking forward to it.

I realized as we got out of the subway station that I don't have many night shots of Seoul. Therefore, before we headed up the hill to the tram I took some shots of the scenery.

To get to the North Seoul Tower you have several options. You could walk up the winding road, take a bus or ride the Namsan Cable Car. Guess which one we did?

We rode the cable car of course! In this picture you can see the cable car's station where you buy the ticket and board the car. I was excited because I recently watched the Boys Before Flowers episode where the main characters ended up spending the night in the cable car.
Riding the cable car was exciting as you were lifted up above Seoul and could look out onto the city. But the ride was rather short lived and before you know it your at the top. After you get off you walk up a flight of stairs to come upon the North Seoul Tower all lit up. (Sorry my camera and my freezing hands were having a hard time with night shots.)

Built in 1969, and opened to the public in 1980, the tower measures 236.7 m (777 ft) in height (from the base)

There are several options of what to do when you get to the Seoul Tower, and it depends on what level you decide to hang around.

At the very bottom: B1f
  • Ticket Booth
  • Walk around where you can get outdoor views of Seoul
  • Souvineer shop
  • Cafe
Bottom Middle:
  • Food court
  • Cafe
  • Internet
  • Panoramic views by a window. This was where couples sat with each other to gaze out the window. BK and I did the same.

When we were done drinking tea (me) and hot choco (BK) we used our elevator pass and went up to the Observatory part of the tower. Again sorry for the blurry photos.

This is a circumambulatory room where you work your way around enjoying the scenery. This area and the ride up the elevator reminded me of going to the Empire State Building, which I also did at night time. Except the Seoul Tower's observatory deck is enclosed.

As you walk around each window has on it a city's name that is located in the direction which you are looking. When I came upon San Francisco's I was very excited and homesick.

There are actually two parts of the observatory, for the first floor (the one pictured) has the names of faraway cities. The second part has the names of places in Seoul and Korea on the windows.

Also at this level are some fancy restaurants including one that rotates. I would love to catch a meal in that place, because there are so few rotating restaurants left.

We made our way back down to ground level where we had dinner at the Plaza Restaurant. OOoo romantic~
After our night out at the Seoul Plaza we got into a taxi and made our way to a really nice hotel. Known for its luxurious rooms, we were in for a treat. I think all I cared about was that it had a bathtub.

When you enter hotels here (in this case, yes it was a love hotel) you usually go through a veiled entrance way. Not always, as there is a front door from the street. But if you were to drive in you can park and no one will see your car inside.
The next day we headed over to Apgujeong to get lunch at our favorite place Butterfinger Pancakes. Of course the wait was long, but I think worth it.

Pancake, hashbrowns, eggs, bacon and sausage for me.

Waffle, egg, potatoes, and bacon for BK.

The food was great and the date the night before was awesome as well. It was by far the best night date I have had in Seoul. I would like to come back during the daytime and when it will be warmer out.

All in all, if you have done everything else in Seoul then make your way to the N. Seoul Tower and see the sites.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Graduation Ceremony

March is just around the corner, which means a new semester here in public school teaching land. This is the time of year when the kids graduate up one level. So it was goodbye to the 6th graders last week.

It was obligatory that I attended the graduation ceremony. This occurred the day after Wala Wala died so my mood was kind of somber. Anyways it was interesting to witness the Korean way of graduation from Elementary school. Although, I can not remember what my graduation was like back then. I think we just went to a ceremony in the cafeteria had some cake and went home early.

The students, teachers and family were put into the assembly hall room, which is next door to the English room.

The kids wait patiently...or not.
Here my current co-teacher comes to take her seat. Flowers were for the students.

The ceremony consisted of the Principal's giving lectures followed by intermittent clapping and bowing.
That kid on the left there, he always slept in class. Also some awards were handed out to the brightest students.
As I watched I tried to see if any of the students were shedding tears. Not all of them will move on to the same Middle school. But I couldn't really find any teary eyes. I think they were mostly feeling a sense of dread, seeing how it is that in Middle school they will be the newbies and the testing is harder.

I will miss them and hope they do very well at their next school. It would be great if I can see them again when they are more grown, but I don't know if that will happen.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rest in Peace

Sunday, February 22nd 2009.
Here lies Wala Wala. (Under that pile of rocks on the right)
Beloved fish.
Forgive your master for what she hath done. Be at peace under this tree.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Koreans Going Vintage

In high school most of the clothing I wore was from thrift stores. In fact this trend of mine lasted through college until my last few years.

This Korean Times article focuses on how places inside Seoul are catering to the desires of young folks looking for that one-of-a-kind.

I am very curious as to what these shops will have and would really like to go see them.

The market may seem chaotic at first, with the maze of stalls that look eerily similar and the narrow aisles jammed with people. A musty scent fills the air, while stalls are overflowing with heaps of used clothing, bags and shoes. (Pay close attention since some ajummas were spotted sleeping on top of their wares.)
Ooo, sleeping that has to be worth the trip!

It seems that the article highlights how you can find vintage brand names. I would be more interested in searching for something that is vintage from Korean culture. Not a hanbok, but more like something kitsch that was left over from the budding pop-music generation of the early 2000's.

Thrift store shopping is all about looking at everything and finding something that calls out to you. Then taking it home and realizing it is just an old piece of junk.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Worst Thing in the World

Wala Wala is dead.

I had a bug problem.

Yesterday I had a pesticide guy come and he sprayed my house with a mist. I put Wala Wala outside in the hallway to be safe.

But today I was cleaning his tank and accidentally put him in his other bowl. Big mistake! It was exposed to the toxins.

So when I came home from work there was no happy Wala Wala.

I AM SO SORRY WALA WALA! Please forgive me~ ><

God, what a tragedy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

1 Year

Today marks my one year anniversary with BK.

I know in a previous post I mentioned how he gets angry easily.

Let me say people that there is more to him than just that, and he is NOT angry all the time and is for the most part a patient and kind boyfriend.
  • Helps me so much with living in Korea.
  • Listens to me when I need to talk to him.
  • Generous
  • Caring
  • Warm
  • Funny
  • I feel safe with him.
There you have it just a short list of the many reasons that I love BK. Thank you BK for a wonderful and meaningful year!

So one year in counting and I hope for many more. I love the man and I am happy to be by his side whenever he is happy or not.


Holy Crabapples!

In March I am getting a new coteacher. My current one is leaving to teach grade 3-2 at the school.

At first I was a little surprised but then felt like it confirmed my suspicions. Working here you can't really sit back and relax and expect it will always be the same. Especially, now that the kids are moving up a level and a new semester is going to start.

I have no clue who the new coteacher will be but here are my heartfelt wishes:
  • Creative and fun.
  • Works together during the lesson and doesn't leave me randomly.
  • Communicates fairly well.
  • Desire to get to know me.
  • Alert me of new events early enough (a very hopeful wish)
Either way I guess it will help keep things interesting here at my job.

Who will they be?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Girl and Boy Scouts at School

It is nearing graduation time at my school. The 6th grade kids have been preparing for their ceremony.

Lately, though, I have seen many students dressed in Girl Scout and Boy Scout uniforms. I guess they too are having ceremonies. They look so cute in their uniforms and it makes me nostalgic for the days when I was a Girl Scout.

I am curious though what these kids do and how it is different from what the GS kids do back in America.

Good or Bad Image?

This video describes a popular video on youtube of a woman in Hong Kong airport going crazy over missing her flight.

It caught my attention because I feel it is going to add on more stereotypes of older Asian woman. They don't bother to check what it is she is yelling or a statement from her as to why she grew hysteric, besides missing her flight.

Plus I think missing a flight from one foreign country to the next is something to go crazy for, because taking international flights is a daunting task in itself.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Walk Around

Last Saturday, I woke up a bit early and got my American phone calls out of the way along with other chores. It was Valentine's Day and so I expected that I would meet up with BK soon. However, he called to say that he needed some time at home before coming out here. Also, he was in a tiff because he was trying to help me send money to America, but the Internet banking site was giving him grief. (He gets angry easily.)

So I told him to go eat his bop ( was lunch time) and to cool down.

But I needed cooling down too. When he gets angry, like that, it kind of scares me. I think it is because I am a sensitive person. So I really didn't want us to be in a bad mood on Vday, of all days.

With nothing really on my schedule, till BK would come, I decided to find something to do. I connected with a friend I made at the Winter Camp. He lives in Geumcheong, which is just one train stop away. Now, don't get in silly ideas people. He is the kind of guy that teases you for pleasure. In other words, friendship is all I am looking for...period.

I decided to contact him via facebook.

He has two dogs so I suggested that he take them for a walk and that I come along.

The weather was pale gray and a bit cold, not exactly leisure walking weather. But when you got something bothering you mentally (BK's eruptive anger) you kind of want to vent off some steam.

Don't get me wrong, BK is not angry all the time. And when these episodes occur usually after about 30-60 minutes he realizes what an ass he was and apologizes. I have learned to be patient and not take it personally. When we talk about it he tends to lean on that Korean's are easily angered, and well he is Korean. Which, is not all together made-up. Sometimes you do get the sense that Korean people have a hot and flashy temper, that you don't want to get between.

Anyways, back to the walk.

I usually just whisk pass Geumcheong when riding the train, so I never really thought of it as a stopping place.

My friend said that there is a river park nearby and we should go check it out.

However, he didn't really know how to get there. So we ended up taking a longer walk than I expected.

What made the journey interesting is that our walk was landscaped by scenery not all too pretty. It was mainly industrial shops and junk yards. You could see welders welding inside one shop, while another had a lady sanding down a door.

Imagine, if you will, that our path was like an elongated loop. So when we turned around and headed back in the other direction we walked pass even more dirtier industrial shops. This time they had grimy dogs chained up out front to bark at passers-by.

Sorry that I didn't take a whole lot of pictures. I have the tendency to not take out the camera if my fingers could get cold.

But when we were passing under a very large and tall highway I couldn't help but take a few shots.

It's not like I've never seen structures like this before, it was just that it's grandeur was overwhelming.

I would like to go back there and get better shots, someday.

Well after that we headed back to the train station and sad our goodbyes. I felt a lot better, after my walk, and could approach BK with a clearer head. Also, it was interesting to see a different side of Korea, the dirtier side that is.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Essential Video

If you are considering entering Korea and being a part of the education system here, whether public or private, then please watch this video. Which I originally found out about through Kimchi Icecream.

It highlights the education "culture" and business here and how intense it all is.

Let me remind you that the children, the younger ones, do not really want to be bussed around and going to school at all hours of the day. I would bet even the teens, although may benefit their test scores, probably would rather be doing teen stuff than being stuck inside a classroom.

According to the video Korea's English ability is the worst amongst Asia.

Who is responsible? The students or the teachers?

Which leads me to my next point about this video. That there weren't too many foreigners pictured, I mean Foreign teachers. I think it would have been beneficial to get our opinions and experience listed within the context of English education in Korea.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wala Wala News

Tales From the Fish Tank

Wala Wala is happy to report that Momma got him a lovely new fish tank, last week. This one provides him with a lot of swimming room and even a heater.
He thinks the gravel is somewhat too tiny and would prefer some attractive large smooth pebbles or marbles.

Also he likes that there is a plant but would rather it be alive than plastic.

Since he doesn't really know what is in Korean tap-water he appreciates that Mommy went out and bought some expensive water conditioning formula.

Otherwise, Wala Wala is not feeling that lonely due to having Momma around to keep him company.

He says Momma is doing well these days, although he sees her doing too much cleaning about the outer-tank environment.

Also he is looking forward to his first visit with BK, who is always making that strange device ring.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seonyudo Park

Love is in the air, what with Valentine's Day steadily approaching and our 1 year anniversary. Good feelings and warm heartiness have been my mood lately. Although, some of the kids at school were a little too feisty this week.

BK has been less inclined to trek it out to where I live, so we have been meeting in Seoul on the weekends.

Last weekend we met at Hapjeong station, which is near the Han river.This trip included a visit to the Seonyudo Park. The weather was mild and leaning on the cold side, due to being near the river. But it was a clear enough day to enjoy the scenery.
After doing some reading about this place I can tell you that it has both historical and modern history.


as a popular spot for seonbis (gentleman scholars) to immerse themselves in composing poetry and painting. During the Japanese occupation, most of the rocky cliffs were extracted to reinforce the riverbanks against floods and for construction of the Yeouido airfield.


In 1978 it housed the Seonyu Water Purification Plant and once an area of industry (i.e. not pretty to look at.) This plant closed in 2001.

It was transformed into an public park in April of 2002.

The Park Includes:
  • Four gardens, including aquatic plants
  • Elevated paths.
  • Concrete leftover from the Purification plant
  • Water Play area
  • Small amphitheatre
  • Rusted Valves as public sculptures
  • Hangang exhibition hall
  • Basically it was a site of industry but turned into a space that tries to glorify the water purification process.
Although, while we were there I had no clue the significance of the grounds and that it had an exhibition hall. Neither did BK, but we seemed to enjoy poking about and wondering what was what.

With the history of the park aside, just getting a nice panoramic view of Seoul makes for great scenery.

Hehe, I caught him while he was turning around.

Seonyu Bridge:
Seonyugyo (Seonyu bridge), which links Hangang river’s Seonyudo Park & Yangwha Area with Seonyudo is made of environmentally-friendly wood. The arch-shaped bridge, also known as a Rainbow Bridge, gives out an exotic light every evening. The bridge is one of the beautiful night views of Seoul.

This bridge seemed to be the main attraction. Before you cross it, to the left, is a deck like area where you can look out onto the Han River. Also on the railing people have inscribed their love to each other. I did the same with my trusty purple pen and took a really great blurry photo of it.

As you walk up the bridge you look out across the Han River. This time of the year is great to catch site of migratory birds. I think these were some kind of geese and not swans.
And of course more views of the city, here we can see the "63" building.

After you cross the bridge you can take the stairs and enjoy the park. Here families and couples came out for picnics, fly kites, fishing and I guess whatever you can do at a park.

One interesting thing I noticed is a 7-11 placed in the middle of the park. I told BK how odd this looked and he just said "Why?!!" haha I guess it makes sense to him.

Love Shadow
We walked near the Han river and around the kite flyer's, then sat and watched some teams play soccer. But it was starting to get colder out so we headed out of the park.

On our way out we crossed a bridge to get over the highway. This bridge was covered and so the light was pretty nice.
We hopped on a bus and went to Sincheon, where we came across this store that sells foreign goods. They had the usual pasta sauce, pasta and cereal, but I think their selection of hair and face products was pretty decent. Still the prices were high.
Can you guess where this terribly blurry shot was taken?

I will give you a hint, it is where couples go....and its not a love motel.
I really enjoyed this day because it was nice to get out in nature. Again it looks like a great place to revisit in the spring or Summer, and I think I should take a closer look at the work they put into cleaning up and creating this park.
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