Tuesday, August 9, 2011

4 months in...

Wow, it's been a long time since I've been on here! I've recently hit the busy season at the Village which means working a couple of 12 hour days and teaching 7 hours a day... It's been crazy when I look back on my life in the past 4 month, and not just culturally, but also professionally.

4 months ago I was scared to death of having to teach a new class I've never taught or seen before... now, I go into classes completely blind and figure it out as I go along. I've now started to develop "tricks up my sleeve" and ways to maneuver my way through a 45 minute class. I've learned that often times Korean teachers have too high of an expectation of what their student's English ability is, which unfortunately then becomes my problem because they've been stuffed into a class that is way too difficult for them. That Grammar for instance... How the heck do you teach Grammar to Korean kids? In the schools Grammar is taught by a Korean because its nearly impossible to explain what a subject, object, verb, adjective, past tense, present tense, and all that other stuff that I don't even know how it works without using Korean. Imagine being 12 years old, sitting in a French camp (where you've been lectured and yelled at saying you can only speak French in the classroom) and your teachers don't speak a word of English, but only French. Boy are you screwed! I see it in the kids eyes every time they come up to me and mutter something to me in Korean and my only response is, " Hanguel moh mal tamneeda." (I don't speak Korean.) Sometimes they just immediately give off a large sigh realizing that they aren't able to communicate their frustrations, and sometimes, the students don't realize what I said but only recognize that I spoke Korean... Therefore I MUST speak Korean! (geessh) 

I do find it amazing though that sometimes these children can have conversations with me. I think back to when I was there age and I was going to Girl Scout Camp or 4H camp having fun and doing crafts, not going to ENGLISH camp! Korean children go to school for an ungodly amount of hours, but to top it off their parents send them off to camp to LEARN. Thanks Mom and Dad for never subjecting me to that! BUT when I was there age, I didn't know a foreign language. Especially not well enough to attempt to have a conversation with a native speaker. I can't even have a conversation with a Korean past, "I'd like this." or "Good job!" and I've lived here for 4 months! Every time I go shopping and the sales ladies come up to me jibbering in Korean and asking me questions I get that same blank stare across my face as the 7 year old students in my classes... The I-don't-have-any-freaking-idea-what-you-just-said-so-I'm-just-going-to-nod-my-head-at-you-and-say-thank-you look. 

4 months in and I've learned...
You can do almost anything except find a doctor and book ferries without knowing Korean. Thus far I've been able to navigate throughout the city, book hotels, travel on buses, hail a taxi like a champ, and read a menu (kinda...) I've learned how to work and live with the person you love, which is probably one of the hardest things I've had to learn. Usually work and love are separate, but when you work side-by-side with the person you love it can become tense. It can also make you personal life rather boring. What are you going to talk about when you get home from work when you've been working together all day??? 

In 4 months I've learned that Korea is still unpredictable. You can't assume that you've finally seen the sunlight, because 10 minutes from now there will be a typhoon and you're world will be upside down. You also can't assume that after the rain it's going to cool down, because inevitability it will become even hotter. In 4 months I've learned a lot about myself, teaching, my relationship, and Korea, but in the grand scheme of everything, I'm the same as the kinder kids in my class room "tada hasayo-ing" after the foreigner in the front. I've barely even begun...

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