Sunday, October 14, 2007

T-minus 2 weeks..ish until Japan - Also: Koreans, teaching, and sandals

The trip to Japan is the 31st, which makes it about two weeks away. I can't wait. I anticipate that the trip will be a hoot, but I'm also looking forward to just breaking the monotony of school. There's not much to do at Handong. My time breaks down this way: Sleeping, Class, Studying, computer. There's nothing else. When I'm not obligated to do any of the other three, the only option, really, is to sit at my desk in front of the computer. There's just nowhere else to go. I could go visit somebody in their room... and stand behind them while they sit at their desk. Or watch a movie- but the only way to do that, really, is to have multiple people trying to squeeze onto one bunk so they can see the laptop on the desk.
This paragraph is all 'in general' . Koreans spend all their time in the library studying. I think there may be some kind of giant misconception that the library is the only place where studying is allowed, because I have yet to see a Korean study in their room by choice. Koreans study until their eyes bleed, forsaking all else to just read, reread, study, over and over again. I'm sort of at the other end(not studying very much), but I think it's safe to say that Koreans study way too much for their own good. They bring toothbrushes to the library when they study, because most of the time they're going to be there way past midnight and want to brush their teeth at 'bedtime' that isn't really bedtime. The library is open 24/7 during midterms. In all truth, there are some that will stay up all night and study, every night. They study until they pass out in the library, getting 1-2 hours of sleep, go to class, and sleep all afternoon-then beat themselves up because they slept instead of studying. It's not healthy. Most of the time, when I ask a Korean if they have any hobbies, they don't know what I mean. It's like that scene in Robin Hood. The king/sherriff/nobility guy is riding with some peasants to do some deed. Feeling obligated to get to know them, he asks them if they have any hobbies, and fails to convey the concept. "What do you do in your leisure time?" "What time?" "Leisure time." "What is 'leisure'?" It's that scene every time. Koreans don't have free time because they spend all their time striving for a goal that someone else has set for them. I've just spent a whole paragraph discussing how the Korean way of doing things is wrong, so I should throw in a disclaimer: I may be wrong, not have seen the whole picture, don't get offended, yada yada yada.

Anyway, the first week of teaching went okay. Not great, but not terrible. None of the new teachers had any idea what was going on. It was mass confusion. I went by the rough lesson plan that was handed out and I couldn't really fill the 45 minute class with meaningful material. To boot, the language barrier is huge. Most of the kids don't understand what I'm saying, so they don't know what I'm trying to instruct them to do. In each of my classes, I tried to get the students to break up into two groups to do an activity. Each time, it really took some convincing for the kids to understand that yes, I really do want you to pick up your desk and move it. One class just made a big giant group, and I just had to go with it because I couldn't think of another way to express "make two groups". I hope we get some more training on how exactly to teach the class, because it's the first time I've ever taught anything(in a classroom, anyway) and I don't really know how to act the teacher role. LU has a 4-year program on how to be a teacher, and all I've got is a few documents and what I've seen from the other side of the desk.

My new sandals haven't come yet. I hope they come soon, because my flip flops are almost on their way out, and don't provide much insulation from the road anymore. There's a well-formed impression of my foot, because the soft foam that they're made of soft foam rubber that has both worn away and compressed over time. As neat as the impression looks(I have arches, apparently), it only gives me 1/8" of material under my feet where it counts.

Also, I'm losing weight still, thanks to the Korean food(or lack of it) diet. According to Chris' roommate's scale that I sneak in and use, I'm 127.7kg, or 281 pounds. This spring, my physical pegged me at 316, and I wasn't too much less than that when I arrived. So hooray for being surrounded by unappetizing food!

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