Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Episode 56: In Which DFM Gets His First Sunburn Of The Season And Is The Topic Of Another Speech

Tuesday may have been my last day teaching, but Wednesday was the day of the school's big picnic and I was invited along.  The picnic was supposed to be last week, but the weather did not cooperate so it go bumped to today.  Although it had been windy and rainy all week, the temperature this day was in the high 20s.

My last weekend must have really taken it out of me, because I slept in over an hour this morning.  I woke up in a panic and shifted into quadruple time mode.  Miraculously, I managed to make it to the school only ten minutes later than I normally do, which lets you know how much I like to take my time in the morning.

My job was to help the poor play school teacher with her four year olds.  All I can say is that one four year old is hard enough to control, but trying to keep track of fifteen on a field trip is madness.

After 45 minutes of driving and almost getting ran over by a dump truck, we finally made it to our mystery location.  The children spewed forth from the buses, and then the fun of sorting the 125 some-odd students into their classes began.

The teacher I was helping asked me to walk at the end of the line and keep everyone in order.  She never explained to me how you keep four year olds in order when they're still learning their (English) name, let alone commands like "stay in a line."

To make matters worse, Daisy here (pig tails, no bow) decided that it would be fun to stand in the middle of the road with the "brakes on" and make me push her along.  At the same time two other boys were going in any direction but straight. 

Eventually the three Korean teachers and myself were able to get two classes of four year olds together for some strawberry relay races.  My job was to take a seemingly endless stream of boys to the trees to go pee.  On the plus side I learned the Korean word for pee - pronounced "she."

This picture is the perfect metaphor for Toby (white hat).  Everyone is looking to the right, but he seems to have his own idea.  Good luck little Korean rebel, don't let The Man get you down.

Lunch time came around not a moment too soon since I had not had time for much of a breakfast.  However I was a bit worried as I had not been able to pack myself a lunch either.  But, the lunch ladies at this school are always looking out for me and it turns out that they packed me a giant Tupperware container of kimbap (a California sushi roll, but the seaweed is on the outside and there are only vegetables and rice on the inside)

After stuffing myself full of kimbap I walked around and said "hello" to all of the other classes... big mistake!  It seems as though every second child wanted to give me something from his/her lunch.  I got to the point where I couldn't eat the kimbap fast enough and had a stack of eight in my hand.  Eventually a teacher took pity on me and handed me a tray to hold everything (but not before she had a good laugh).

Sticker Girl (bottom picture) was up to her old tricks again and played another practical joke on me.  She called me over and showed me her milk bottle.  She pointed to the label and proudly proclaimed "see?  milk!"  I was very proud of her, and was just about to applaud her when she flipped the bottle over to show me the bottom where it became obvious that the inside contained some green tea like substance and not milk, as had been advertised.  She knew from the look on my face that she had got me, because she burst into hysterical laughter and I thought her smile was so wide it might rip off her face.  Touche little girl, you got me this time.

You may have noticed that the children have these ingenious chopsticks that are hinged on one end.  They allow for the perfect pinch every time and show that someone was really thinking when he made them.

This boy even had his own personalized lunch.  Enlarge the picture to see that his egg man has the same hair he does.

("You mean you eat other kids lunches?  Stop it!")

It's never too early to be an ROK soldier.  The two boys in front used the remainder of their lunch time to practice "going over the top."

It seems that children love to fall into holes.  Any ditch or mud puddle around the picnic area was soon filled with children making themselves dirty.

Some of the children were smart/strong enough to jump over the ditches.

Mostly though, they just got stuck and I would have to go rescue them.  In hindsight I think some of the children were getting "stuck" a little too often for it to be an "accident."

After lunch the children had some pictures taken (by a professional photographer, not just me), and played with bubbles.  Some of the children had to learn the hard way that when you dump your soap out you can't blow any more bubbles.  In Canada we would have coddled these "less fortunates" by giving them some social welfare, but over in Korea I get to just let them cry.  As MandDFM would say, "it's good for building personal discipline".

I'm not sure if there's some secret chain letter that's being passed around the World's kindergartens, but it seems that children everywhere love to latch themselves onto my legs whenever possible.  Today they finally managed to hit a nerve at just the right spot and take me down.  The little monsters showed no mercy though, and attempted to try and... well, I'm not exactly sure what they were trying to do here, but they sure looked happy doing it.

After the picnic we dropped the kids back off at school where most of their parents were waiting for them.  A few of the kids did not want me to leave though and took turns blocking my progress all the way along the length of the second floor hallway and down the stairs to the exit.

Finally they pooled their resources and made their Last Stand at the doorway.  

Poor kids.   One little girl (not pictured) actually started crying when I left.  I'll miss them too.

No time to cry just yet though.  After teaching I hustled over to Ace Climbing Center for one last training session and a chance to say "good bye."

Thomas and I had made a hard route on the roof of this "cave."  We were having troubles finishing it though so I did what I always do when I can't climb something at Ace: I called Ji-Hyeun over.  She flashed it (completed it on her first try), and even campused the last part (climbed without using her feet) on holds that were very hard to grasp.

What made her feat even more impressive too, was that she had just recuperated (barely) from becoming the first climber in the gym to complete a new boulder problem that had been created.  Choi and a group of the gym's tallest and best climbers had set up a hard problem and were taking turns trying to "send" it.  The men tried many times, but it was 5'4" Ji-Hyeun who finished the route first.

After climbing Choi took me out for Samgyeupsal, since it was my last day climbing at Ace.  Some of the other members came along and Choi gave a speech about how I was special to him.  He told me that from when he first met me to now that I had learned a lot of Korean and that he was impressed.  Before I had to leave he gave me one of his personal key chains - a miniature "Figure 8" belay device.  I'll miss Choi and everyone at Ace Climbing Center too.

Episode 55: In Which DFM Has A Private Concert Performed For Him And Finds A Boy Who Had His DNA Merged With That Of A Strawberry (The Fly Style)

Today was my final day teaching.

Every Tuesday the children in my first block class will sing a song to start the day.  Many songs have been sung over the last month, but my favourite is "Baby Squirrel Song."  I requested that the children sing it on my last day, but they outdid themselves and sang a small concert for me.  In case you're curious, "Baby Squirrel Song" was the final song in the video.  Astute readers can find Kindergarten Cop regulars like Minnie-Mouse Ears Girl, Sticker Girl, and Lew ("Balance Boy") in this video.

After singing it was time to get down to work.  I'm not sure what they were making, but it looks like a forest to me (hey, this class stole my idea!)  

Sticker Girl is in the second picture with a small present I gave her.  I thought she would be able to put it in her back pack and hide it, but she just couldn't resist showing it off everywhere and I got in trouble with the kids when I did not have enough for everyone.

My next class spent the entire block making "love letters" for me.  I told them my Korean name was Dae-ho and they thought this was fantastic.  Many of the pictures they made say "Dae-ho I love you," or something close to that.  Some of them just have wet marks on them though.

I even had a second class make me love letters too (the phrase "I love you" in Korean has a slightly different connotation than it does in North America and is used by everyone as a term of endearment between friends).  The boy in the second picture went for the "realist" approach with is drawing though, and drew me as an astronaut with antennae.  Later he put his hands on his head like antennae and bobbled around.  He called himself "Andy the ant."  I was impressed that he included the word "the," since many Koreans I've met seem to have trouble with the articles the/a/an.

The four year olds were still working on their strawberry theme, and were wrapping it up today with a "strawberry foods book."  Poor little Daniel just couldn't stay awake though and was practically falling asleep sitting up (I've actually seen a kid do that before).

The other four year old class made strawberry cookies.  I was honoured though to receive the first one.  Mmm... delicious.

When Koreans latch on to something they do it DFM style - they go all the way!  Here, the proof is in the pudding, and strawberry boys are that pudding.

The five year olds were finishing up their ant unit with a giant ant collage.  There were bits of magazines and newspapers, colourful fuzzy balls, straws, beads and sparkles.  But, because everything was being attached with glue, it wasn't a surprise that at least one child thought it would be a good idea to put glue all over his hands and try to stick them together.

For my final Special Art Class, I finished up my forest unit by getting the children to make a cover for a book containing all the pieces they've drawn over the last month (in this unit).  I didn't really think it through though, and the poor Korean teacher had to bind all the books by herself.

One final picture of Sticker Girl and Fight Girl together for "old time's" sake.  In hindsight, if I'd noticed Sticker Girl forgot the 'f' in forest I would have made her go back and fix it.

Good-bye school.

After work I went climbing, but today was a bit different because Woojin wanted to come along with me (Sung Bok's friend, not the phys ed teacher).  He struggled like all beginners do when they start climbing, but I was impressed with his determination and he lasted as long as I did.  He later mentioned it was something he wanted to get into more seriously, so I was happy to be able to do my part in helping to increase the dismally low number of active young adults in Korea.

Episode 54: In Which DFM Throws Some Children In A Sack And Gets A Headache

It's my last week of teaching, but today I still have to get through the always tough Monday Physical Education classes.  Fortunately, today was a fun day.  It was a simple task for the children so they were all able to do it, which made them happy and me too (I did not have to help them  constantly).

On you marks, get set, go!  Jump in the bag, hop around the Woojin and back to the start.  Smiles for everyone, and the field goal is good!

Woojin told me that he promised the children last class that he would make them balloon animals.  I tried to make one too, but all I got was a headache.  Woojin blew up 53 of these; I was in awe.  They were a big hit with the kids, naturally.

In Special Art Class I've really come into my own as a teacher, and now have a small unit going dealing with the forest.  I gave a short lesson on the different animals in the forest, and then the children worked on drawing pictures of whatever animals they wanted in their forest.  Sticker Girl looks so pensive here because she just couldn't get her giraffe to look right.  She's a perfectionist like me.

After school I went to the train station to buy tickets for my tour with April.  I'm sure glad she was there, because it was quite a complicated process (I had to take four different trains).

After buying the tickets April took me out to the Cilantro restaurant at The Hilton again.  Apparently she eats here every day.  Once again the service was excellent, and this time we were joined by two of her former students who are now married and working for two of the big Korean corporations (to a Korean, that's the equivalent of "making it").  I'd tell you how amazing it was, but I was eating Korean food with Korean friends, so I think that speaks for itself.