Sunday, September 28, 2008

Extracurricular Overdrive

Last week was a big week for all my extracurricular involvements. I am a sponser for several TCIS student groups including Amnesty, Inkblotz (a creative writing group), and a new group called Phenomenal Women. I was very proud of my students this week for some of their accomplishments.

INKBLOTZ: My Inkblotz staff published their first ever print issue on Monday! Last year the group was exclusively electronic. However, in hopes of increasing circulation, we have transitioned to hard copies. This transition has meant undertaking all sorts of new things (like layout editing and more careful cropping). In the end, my students pulled off a nice 6 page magazine that got passed around through all the English classes. One excellent student video editor made a nice promotional film to air at our student assembly introducing our year's theme. Our editorial staff decided to focus our issues on a Ying-Yang theme---seven deadly sins vs. fruits of the spirit. Each issue includes one of each. Overall, I was proud of their first issue and know that their work will continue to get stronger and stronger as the year continues.

PHENOMENAL WOMEN: One of the high school counselors and I are sponsers for this new group. Basically the goal of Phenomenal Women is to build community and a sense of support within the females on the high school campus. Through a series of events, we hope to help students build relationships with each other and with staff. We have 10 student leaders who are amazing and helped us host our very first ever event Wednesday night! We had a girls night in where we cooked together, did nails, played bonding games, had some discussions about what it is like to be a female on TCIS's campus, and watched a chick flick. In the end, we had about 40 high school girls and 4 staff show up. For a first event, it was quite a success! See a few pictures below:

Cooking together:

Nail polish buddies:

Toilet paper fashion show:

Small group discussion time:

One of the music videos we made:

A short video of the girls at the end of the night:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ajima Encounters of Another Kind

In order to appreciate this story, I must first explain my understanding of the Korean word “ajima.” An ajima is technically a word people use for an older woman. Older is a certainly a relative term. However, the older women that I most strongly associate with this word are the 65 years + crowd of 4’8 hunched ladies who have lived more life than I can imagine. Many of these women grew up in a time where food was scarce and spent enough of their lives bent low over food, boxes, children, or garbage (many still sort garbage to this day) to permanently arch their backs. I see these women often shuffling the sidewalks or perched on street corners amid rings of plastic tubs holding fruit, vegetables, spices, or frozen fish for sale. In the vast majority of ajima encounters, I am met with indifference or a firm shove as the strong women move along their difficult paths. I have, more than once, been body slammed in a public bathroom by an ajima eager to get to a squatty potty before me. I have also been shoved off a subway two stops too early. I no longer doubt the punch that an ajima’s bony elbow can administer. I am no longer surprised by rapid scolding or endless persistence from a wrinkled vendor.

The ajima I met yesterday, though, was not your typical calloused sort. I was walking towards school in my gym clothes with a soccer ball in hand. It was a hot day and I was dragging my feet a bit, trying to psych myself up for a run. I was about half way there when I saw an ajima moving slowly towards me. This ajima looked to be in her upper 80s, back profoundly arched, glowing white hair, and gleaming eyes. Her lacy top didn’t fool me- I knew that the drapey shirt hung over scrawny yet beastly strong arms. I stepped to the side to let her pass with my usual smile and courtesy Korean hello. Expecting little response, I was shocked to see her lift her head and even more surprised to see a grin appear on her face. She said nothing, but shuffled closer. Her smile grew with each baby step. Soon she hovered only a few inches away from me. Her massive smile, beaming a good 5 inches below mine, expanded until it could stretch no further. Then, she reached into her back pocket and pulled out a massive fan. The tiny woman began rapidly fanning my face. Her laughing eyes seemed to ask me if I felt any cooler. We stood there in my ally laughing together for about 20 seconds before she snapped her fan shut and continued as wordlessly as she appeared. Dumbstruck I stood my ground for a few seconds before turning to watch her progress. She never turned back.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Playing in Pusan

This weekend is Chuseok (Korea’s version of Thanksgiving) and so I’ve had a nice long weekend. For the first half of the break, I went with 3 friends to Pusan. Pusan is along the southern coast of South Korea. It is one of the larger cities in SK. I had never visited this scenic city before and really loved it! The goal of our trip was just to relax, and relax we did! We got in late Thursday night and walked along the beach. We enjoyed a nice pizza dinner on a patio overlooking the pretty water and bridge. We spent some time at a deserted amusement park and admired a massive art exhibit scattered along the beach.

Friday we enjoyed smoothies at Smoothie King and then walked from the beach near us to another one about 2 hours away (it looked WAY closer on the map). Once we got to the beach, we ate delicious Indian food. While we were at Haeundae Beach we ran into two other families from our school. Korea is such a small place sometimes!! After lunch we did our cultural trip for the day and visited Beomeosa Temple up in the mountains by Pusan. The mountains created a beautiful contrast to the interesting architecture. Then we went to what Lonely Planet dubbed “Asia’s largest sauna” and spent several hours in the jimjilbang that can hold up to 2000 people at once! We finished the night with sushi, ice cream, and another long beach stroll.

Sat. was another lazy and random day. We perused markets and gawked at the endless seafood for sale during the morning. Random as always, Kirsten N. bought herself a funky black wig to blend in more with the locals. Midday two of our group members departed and Kirstin E. and I headed out for another temple. This one was tucked into a cliff side and was absolutely gorgeous! Tired from our “long” day of sightseeing, Kirstin and I spent a few hours in yet another jimjilbang soaking and napping. Then we met up with a Korean friend, Hoon, who I hiked Mt. Fuji with a month ago. He went with us to a Thai dinner and then brought us to his brother’s house for a family gathering. It was a fun bilingual meal after a meal (as much as we insisted we were not hungry, Hoon’s mom and sister-in-law kept bringing the food!).

Sunday was actual Chuseok. While Koreans gathered with family, I stuck to my friends. Most places in Korea are usually closed on Chuseok, so we stuck to the beach and orchestrated a picnic with another group of coworkers. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Coffee Bean was still open for the caffeine-deprived tourists for breakfast. Then we played volleyball in the ocean and bummed around on the sandy beach for a few hours eating Korean fruit. After taking in all the sun our skin could handle, we read in a Starbucks and relished the view until it was time to train it back to Daejeon.

Since I arrived back to Daejeon, I have been slowly getting myself ready for classes again. I have had one of my soccer girls who is an OCK (out-of-country kid) staying with me the last day. We’ve been having fun making pancakes, cooking, playing soccer, and watching movies.

All in all, a good vacation. Do I really have to go back to work!?!

Check out my facebook album with some more pics from my trip:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Artsy times...

Some beautiful coffee art at a nearby coffee shop:
Hearts on lattes:

Puppies on mochas:

Flowers on hot chocolates:

Isn't this coffee artist amazing?

And now, a few of my own recent artsy creations...
I made this lamp and candle holder!! Here are my attempts at two semi-traditional Korean crafts :)

Another image of my candle holder:

And some apartment decorating fun with art from around the world:
table runner from Beijing & mirrors from Bali:

Photograph I took in Japan, Korean roof tile, and Korean lamp:

Bali coconuts with lights:

Photographs from Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and Australia:

Pictures from trips around the world, Korean vase, and a plant grown by yours truly:

After this post I feel inspired to make some earrings :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some of the faces I see...

Below: 4 out of 5 of my classes this year :) Notice how wonderfully small my blocks are! That's one of the many reasons I love my school. When writing classes of 16 feel extra large, I know I am spoiled.

MIA: One of my English 10 classes (the biggest and most energetic class I have this year-- 23 spunky kids). They haven't stayed still for a photograph yet.

My other peppy yet reflective sophomore English class:

My two rowdy groups of sophomore writing:

And my one writing group of kind-hearted and adorable freshmen:

Different dynamics than last year for sure... but these kids are starting to really grow on me :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Retreat fun

I just got back last night from a retreat with all the staff and families from TCIS and GSIS (our sister school). We all filled a nice hotel in Gyeongju and spent 3 days together exploring the area and relaxing. It was my third time to this area, one known for its lush green mountains and historical monuments, and I opted to spend my Sat. making traditional paper crafts and laying on a beach rather than taking one of the cultural tours again. I had a lot of fun. I made a paper lamp in the morning. In the afternoon I enjoyed the sun and was lulled by the sound of the ocean. I filled all the nooks and crannies of time between events with conversations and laughter. It was a nice respite from school life :)

Pictures and updates on school to come soon.

For now, 2 pics stolen from google images of the hotel:

A few pics from my first trip to Gyeongju (July '07 with Sarah, Sarah, and the Yu cousins) that show a few of the historical monuments: