Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thoughts about Spring 2009

Ok, I'm trying to catch up, I really am. Over the next few days/weeks I'll be posting shorter entries about stuff that's happened between March and now. Hope you like...

When I returned to work after my two-month hiatus, I had a hard time getting back into the swing of, you know, working. Plus, my school asked me to start teaching classes on the 3rd day (the nerve!) so I was throwing lesson plans together in record time. I was excited. The first year students I had last year would be returning as second years and I felt I built a comfortable repoire with them. I was a little more nervous about the 1st year students. Whatever impression I made, these are the kids I would stuck with all year, and next year too. I seem to have done ok. All reports I receive from my principal and vice principal are that the students love me. Yeah, I'm pretty rad.

In March, the weather warmed up and brought with it "yellow dust" from China and subsequently I was sick for most of them month with what felt like a stubborn head cold. The drop in the quality of air had the same effect on a lot of the foreigners living here. Apparently it happens every spring. Still, it was an enjoyable month. We celebrated St. Patrick's Day at Elvis bar with our fellow expats (and a number of sleazy sailors, yeesh...). I also took in the Apricot Festival in Hadong with Jennifer. We had a great time walking around, enjoying the blossoms and snacked on Octopus Jeon (potato pancake). Every weekend there were festivals celebrating the arrival of spring and it's many flowers/blossoms.

Near the end of the month, my school held "Student Sports Days" for 3 days, where all of the student classes competed in such physically challenging events as Dodgeball, Tug-o-War, Dance, and Kick Baseball. It was a lot of fun. The weather was hot and sunny for all three days and the students really enjoyed the break from their normal routine. I really enjoyed it too. The students at my school are always enthusiastic about competitions, sunny weather and assemblies, so these sports days sounded like a Big Bang concert non-stop.

My birthday arrived, as it always does, on March 30th. I went out with my friends to dinner at restaurant that specialized in marinated pork and beef dishes. Very delicious, but unfortunately there was a miscommunication about the price of the meal and it was quite a shock to receive the bill afterwards. That weekend, my friend Jodie invited me to her apartment to help her with some baking she promised to do for a friend. So I put on my best sweatpants and headed over to her place with a couple of friends (suspiciously dressed very nicely, but I thought nothing of it). When we walked in, confetti canons exploded and I was shocked to see about 20 friends crammed into the Holmes apartment wearing a "lion" or "lamb" caricature around their neck. They had planned a surprise birthday party for Lindsey (who's Birthday was at the beginning of April) and I, following the old phrase about March: "in like Lion, out like a Lamb." I was a little embarrassed to be so under dressed for the occasion, but very grateful and genuinely surprised. We had a lot of fun!

See pictures of the party and other spring stuff here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2235464&id=122614903&l=386c8b11ba

This semester, I've been learning a lot more about just how hard high school students work in South Korea. In one class assignment I had the girls completing poems where they write about their past, present and future. More than one student likened their new high school life to prison. The students have to go to school for 8am and remain there until 10 or 11 pm (unless they have a private school to go to in the evening). The competition is intensely fierce for spots at the top Korean Universities. Students don't have part-time jobs, don't go to parties, and rarely (if ever) date. Extra-curricular activities are limited because students fill so much pressure to spend their free time studying. The high school at which I work is an Academic High School, so there are girls who have moved to Suncheon and live in the school dormitory's because their parents believe they will be able to get into a better university if they graduate from this school. Also the students sleep about 4 hours a night, especially before exams. There is actually a Korean rule of thumb here that parents tell their children: If you sleep for more than 4 hours a night (and therefore miss out on time to study), you'll fail. Now that it is close to exam time again, I'm letting my students watch movies during my class. They NEED a break.

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