Thursday, March 26, 2009

Breaking the Silence

Geez, sorry it's been so long since I've written anything substantial. I sure was wrong about the "Keegan's gone, more time to write" idea. He gets back today (yay!), and I have no new blog entries to show for his absence. But I have a lot of new Gilmore Girls knowledge, that's for sure!

So, what's new? Well, spring has come to South Korea, and it's very welcome! The weather has gone back to chilly and windy this week, but last week was gloriously warm and sunny. Gardens that have lain gray and quiet all winter are being turned and tended anew. Pea plants are growing like weeds. Cherry trees, azaleas, and forsythia are blooming in a profusion of white, pink and yellow blossoms, and flower shops have daffodils and other bright flowers spilling out of their doors. I am anxious to see what the next phase is for the rice paddies, but so far they remain dry. Many have been plowed, though, and look unkempt and forlorn filled with huge clumps of dirt.

Before Keegan left, we took advantage of the spring weather to go for a walk up the hill towards Okpo. We spent some time in the park on top of the hill, trying out the ubiquitous exercise equipment and looking at the DSME shipyard from the colorful pavilion. On the way back down the hill to Deokpo, Keegan pointed out a dirt trail forking off from the main road. We decided to follow it for a bit. As we walked along, we noticed row after row of logs next to the trail, carefully leaned against each other and covered in little holes filled with a white substance. We were confused until we finally came to a row of logs that had mushrooms growing out of them. Apparently we had discovered a shitake mushroom farm! I went back to the farm to take pictures later in the week. Keegan and I continued along the path, enjoying the views from the many gravesites along its edges. Finally we ended up on the hill overlooking Deokpo, behind Deokpo Golfland. We walked back to the apartment through the small golf course. We particularly enjoyed the part of the walk where we were in the parking lot under the driving range and could hear the golf balls thwack and whizz against the netting above.

Glenda and I also spent some time during Keegan's absence decorating our apartment. I had a whole box of pictures to be hung on the walls but a distinct lack of ideas for where they should go and a pronounced reluctance to try my hand at drilling concrete. Glenda was a definite help with both of these problems. So now, eight months after our arrival in Korea, the apartment finally has pictures on all the walls and looks a lot more homey. It will be fun to show Keegan our work when he gets back.

The kittens have been good company during the past week, but they are definitely in an ornery adolescent phase. Last week, Glenda gave me a cute little decorative birdhouse, complete with a little plastic feathered bird perched on the outside. The kittens clearly thought this gift was meant for them. When I woke up the morning after receiving the birdhouse, the house was on the floor, feathers were scattered all over the apartment, and the bird's body was nowhere to be found. It finally turned up days later, covered in toothmarks, behind the guitar in the study. Let that be a warning to any birds considering residence in our apartment! The cats also managed to break a drinking glass, and Pepper learned to jump from the top of Keegan's desk chair to the top of our tallest bookcase in the study. I am running out of places inaccessible to the beasts!

The weekend ahead is looking good. Tomorrow Glenda and I are getting together with our students for coffee and English practice in the afternoon. Then on Saturday, Keegan mentioned that we might be able to go see the Cherry Blossom Festival they're holding in nearby Jinhae. I'll try to be more prompt in writing up those experiences for my loyal audience.

Monday, March 16, 2009

We're Coming Home!

For a little while, at least.

We bought our plane tickets for our trip to visit the States this summer. We'll be arriving in Washington, D.C. on June 26 and staying in and around VA until July 17th. We have so many people that we want to see and so many things that we want to enjoy and to buy and bring back with us! So the countdown is on.

More is coming soon - Keegan leaves for sea trial tomorrow, so I'll have more Internet time, and I have lots to post about.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Poor Choice for a Business Name

On Thursday evening, Keegan and I went to Home Plus for a quick Korean dinner at the food court. I've discovered a Korean dish that I really like: it's called Dolsot BiBimBap. It's a heavy, scalding hot stone bowl filled with rice, vegetables, seaweed, and an egg on top. The bowl is so hot that it cooks the rice in the bottom into a tasty crunchy crust, and they serve the hot sauce on the side, just how I like it. We finished our dinner and had some ice cream at Baskin Robbins. On our way out of the store, we saw this sign advertising a new furniture vendor on the second floor.

Would you buy furniture with this label?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Teaching Update

As most of you have heard, I currently have a full schedule of students, in other words, five students, with two more on vacation and wanting to continue lessons when they return to Korea. Since each student has a lesson twice a week, that means I teach two lessons each on Monday and Wednesday and three lessons each on Tuesday and Thursday. Since we also have our Korean lesson on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, that makes for busy days. I'm really happy to be busy, though. When I'm not busy with work, I tend to spend my time watching TV and surfing the Internet, and then I feel lazy and unproductive at the end of the day. Teaching gets me out of the apartment and stimulates my brain.

I currently have three beginning students, one intermediate, and one advanced. It's a good mix. With the beginning students, I'm busy teaching the present tense and present progressive and doing vocabulary for family members, food, body parts, and visiting the doctor. My intermediate student and I are slogging through all the verb tenses and studying idioms. My advanced student and I spend our hours in conversation, and I take notes on her pronunciation and grammar errors. She and I have only met a few times, but we get along quite well. Last week, we discovered that we have the same birthday, May 31, 1979. I can't remember the last time I met someone exactly the same age as me!

It's nice to talk with my advanced student because her English is so good that we can communicate easily about all sorts of things. It's odd that I've known some of my beginning students for months, but I am still learning new things about them because of all the barriers to communication between us. The contrast between my interactions with the beginners and the more advanced students is a good reminder of an important truth about teaching English. When you teach beginning language students, it's very important to remember that their language skills in English don't reflect their full personality and intelligence in their native language. I think it's natural to associate a nascent language ability with a child's nascent intelligence, but of course that's not accurate when you're teaching adults with a plethora of interests and skills that they simply don't know how to communicate to you. I'm continually reminded of this when I'm invited to join the Brazilian community for a party and I'm the one who is mute while my students chatter easily in Portuguese and laugh at jokes that have gone straight over my head.

So, all in all, I'm happy with my full schedule, my fascinating students, and my growing experience with teaching and with how students learn. I think that I'm a much better teacher now than I was during that first overwhelming job in Poland seven years ago, and I hope I continue to improve.