Travel Updates–Part Deux

AHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Just booked my summer trip for the wonderful island of Bali, Indonesia!!!  Booking now because there are some good deals going on.
Man, I’m ready to sit on the beach and sip some fancy drinks.  🙂

I had just the beach lounging in my mind (ideally going to keep it a relatively cheap trip), but…then I found that apparently Bali is a surfing mecca.  And.  I’ve wanted to learn how to surf for ages.  Sooooo…. yep.  Might be crossing that off the ol’ bucket list too!  🙂
So so so excited!
I found a surfing school and for 2.5 hours of instruction, it’s $50. And they say that you’ll be surfing by the end of the lesson.  🙂

😀 😀

Travel Updates

I just booked my flight to Japan for May 26 🙂  I have another good friend teaching there, so I’ll be able to spend some time with her and see her neck of the woods 😀
I got a really good deal on the flight too.
I have a 3-day weekend (oh dahhhhling…Looks like I’m off to Japan for this extended weekend…toodles!) and I kept toying with the idea of going because the flight can be pricey…and it was only 3 days.  Also, trying to find good flight times was also a hassle.  It seemed all the flights left here in the late evening and then the return flights left really early.  Complete opposite of what I’m looking for.

I’ve been keeping an eye on it though, and managed to find a good flight at a reasonable price ($200 cheaper than when I first saw it), so I jumped on it.  I feel better about it because the times are good and I got a good deal on the flight prices.  🙂

Back up plan was to go to the World DJ Festival (basically a giant rave–a huge concert where a bunch of DJs from around the world come together and put on a weekend-long concert/show) and then to see the Lantern Festival in Seoul that Sunday.
I still want to go to that, but I think this will be great too.  Anyway, there’s always next year for that other stuff if I still plan to stay an extra year.


Actually, this is the DMZ post.  heh.  Didn’t want that last one to be an obnoxiously long post.

I left Daejeon with some friends on the weekend of the 13th–very early Saturday morning.  We took the train to Seoul and met up for our 9am tour at the USO office.  We left a big bus with about 30-40 others in our group.
Blech.  I really don’t want to write out all of this.  Probably why I’ve been procrastinating.
Anyway, I went to the border between North and South Korea (and stood across the line for a few minutes!–I was in a UN building, so all was fine.)
Our tour guide was kind of terrible because she kept apologizing about her poor English and seemed shy and embarrassed.   Which, I’m usually a pretty understanding person, especially in a foreign country…but, why be a tour guide then?  If you’re shy and nervous and think your English is crap…why give a tour to 40 English speakers?  ESPECIALLY if we’re paying $80-90 a person.  How is that fair?  I went so I could learn more about the area (and to step into N. Korea), and she didn’t tell us any stories or anything (as with other guides) because she was too embarrassed.
It’s kind of a weird area because they have gift shops and such at the DMZ area…and it’s technically a war zone…weird.
However, I felt the tension more when we went to the JSA (Joint-Security Area) where you can actually see the line that divides the two sides and each country has soldiers guarding the border.  They also have you sign a waiver before you can go visit that portion (and not all tours go up this far.)
They also have rules that prevent you from taking pictures in certain directions or against making gestures or pointing when you’re out on the steps looking at N. Korea because apparently they can use that as propaganda.

Interesting tour and another thing off my list, but I REALLY wish that I had a better tour guide so I could have learned more.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pics Include:

*me at the DMZ building–there’s a historical museum and the entrance to The Third Tunnel (which we got to go in)
*me at the JSA (standing next to a S. Korean soldier–apparently the highest honor.  Best marks in school, military and a black belt in at least 3 forms of martial arts)
*me on the steps of the building facing N. Korea.  (Only could face cameras straight ahead).  So that building was actually in North Korea.

Homesickness Strikes Again

I finally have some time to write my entry on the DMZ, so that’s in this post and also more homesickness.  Blech.

As far as the homesickness thing, it definitely comes and goes.  It feels a bit like a plague or I guess…a bit like being in quicksand.  I know it’s happening, but I just feel like I’m suffocating and I can’t bring myself out of my funk.  I’m going to work on making working out more of a priority, because I enjoy it and two, hopefully it will create more structure in my life and help keep the homesickness at bay.  Once the feeling hits, I don’t feel like doing much of anything.  I was in a complete fog yesterday at work and the thought “this culture is so stupid” kept crossing through my mind no matter what kind of thoughts I could think up to counter it.
It sort of takes over.
Yeah, the quicksand visual seems to represent it the best, IMO.
As far as Skyping people from back home to relieve it, that works to an extent, but then it can also backfire and make me miss home even more.
I’m having a good time, but there still is a really long adjustment period.

The thing is, I think most people here are stressed out because of the “work, work, work!” mentality, and the culture is a drinking culture. Drinking for fun and also going out with the bosses.  I’ve only really been a social drinker back home, and that’s not a habit I intend on picking up.  However, it could be really tempting if you’re not careful.  Stress + the fact that it’s so prevalent…
I just don’t want that for myself, so I need to rely on other means of coping.  I think the fact that I’m aware of this will help me though.  I know what I want out of this experience, and I tend to pretty good at (if I do say so myself) making things happen if I want them to.

Anyway, I’m feeling better (ish) today.  Ready for the weekend though.  I really wish I could have packed my mattress when I came over here though.  An extremely firm (ie: like the floor) mattress is the standard here.  People here often still sleep on the floor (hence the heated floors) or on a mat on the floor, so the mattresses tend to be pretty close to that.
And…if you’re a westerner…um.  It’s awful.  I need to look around for a good massage place.  Anyway, feeling better, but couldn’t get myself to fall asleep last night.  Went to bed at midnight and didn’t fall asleep til around 2:30am.  :-/  I watched the rest of ‘The Pursuit of Happyness” and felt tired enough to sleep, but the negative thoughts from the day were still rolling around in my head.

Oh, and I made a new desktop wallpaper for my computer, and that’s helping too. Anytime I look at it, I feel better.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Anniversary! (+ Haircut)

Today marks my second month in Korea!
Can’t believe it’s been two months already!

10 more and I’ll be back home…crazy.

I got my first haircut in Korea yesterday, and I was just a wee bit nervous about that.  I have layers and side bangs and all sorts of stuff going on, so trying to explain that when there is a language barrier…yeah.

Anyway, a co-worker told me where she got hers cut (and hers is curly, so it takes the extra skill to cut curly hair.  And uh, in case you weren’t aware…Asian people don’t have curly hair.  So you have to find the right hairdresser that knows what to do with it).
Thankfully, I don’t have curly hair–just really thick.  (Love it though).

I was immediately stunned when I walked into the hair salon.  Chandeliers and 5 or 6 people ready to welcome you into the place and take your coat and belongings.  They put them in a locker and gave you the key.  Then you were taken to a sitting area where you could get a few types of juice or water or whatever.  There was also a giant flatscreen tv and a popcorn machine!   Girls were running around taking peoples “orders” on clipboards for what they wanted done to their hair.  Did I mention the chandeliers??
ALSO–sidenote–a haircut doesn’t exceed 12,000 Won here.  (a bit less than $12 USD).

^Waiting Area

I waited about 20 minutes in the waiting area and a girl came over and took me to the chair.  I worked on explaining what I wanted (lots of gestures and Google Translator).  Went to the area to get a shampoo and 2 notes here:
1. Their shampooing chairs are much more comfortable (plus neck support)
2. You get a scalp MASSAGE when they do this.  Not just shampoo in and shampoo out…but a massage too.  Yay!! 🙂

Went back to the chair and she confirmed what I wanted.  Pretty sure this is when my breathing stopped.  We were having communication trouble and I kept hearing words like “color” and “curl” and I started to panic.  Part of me wanted to just get up and leave.  I mean…who needs a haircut anyway.  Heh.
I still don’t know what she was asking, but I kept saying “No color..just cut”.  I have no clue if she was asking if I colored my hair or if I wanted to color it.  Or if I wanted her to curl it at the end (they style it for you too) or if I wanted a perm.  I have no idea.
Anyway, she walked away and another girl came up and started cutting it.  Then the other girl came back up and she and another guy dried it.  (Each person seems to have a team of people, lol.)  I liked it…yay.
THEN, she took me to this little sideroom and put up this weird magnifier to my hair roots and said “dry” “no good”  “very dry.”  She then quoted me a price on a treatment they could put on it to add moisture.
It was only an extra 10,000 Won (like $9), so I said sure.

Went to another set of chairs and I couldn’t see exactly what she was doing…I knew she wasn’t coloring it, because I specifically heard those words “dry” “no good”.
She rubbed some creamy stuff into my scalp and gave me a magazine to “read”.  Took 5-10 minutes then took me back to the hair-washing station.  Washed all the stuff out.  We went back to another station (regular..with mirror, etc)…then she took this tiny spray bottle and started spraying stuff on my scalp.  Then she dried it…I could already see a very visible difference.  SO SO shiny and soft.  My gosh.  😀 😀
She then straightened it and escorted me back to where I got my coat and stuff at the lockers and I paid. (No tipping here).

All that for 24, 000 won.  AWESOME.
A bit of a nerve-wracking experience, but very worth it.

I got an OVEN!!! Ovens don’t come standard in kitchens here, so I knew by coming to Korea, my love for baking would have to be put on hold.
HOWEVER, a co-worker and his wife are heading back to Canada in two weeks and I’m buying it off them (and baking pans etc etc).
YAY! 😀 😀

It’s not a standard oven–bigger than a toaster oven, but small enough where I can carry it in my arms.
Now…just trying to find a spot for it in my tiny kitchen…

Classroom Update: Video

As you may or may not know, I’ve been working on making my kindergarten classroom a little more interesting and fun…and on their level.
I’m still not finished yet, but this is where I’m at as of right  now.

The “Before” Video:

^I started a bit into the makeover already, so it’s not a complete “before” video, but you can get an idea.

Update on my apartment:

*Reason 412 to get in shape:  I hate erasing the board and having my arms jiggle.  Blech.

*I had a sad moment the other day (or an “I feel old” moment…whichever.)  I was talking with one class about the planets, and I asked them how many there were and they were all shouting out “8! 8!!”
Poor Pluto.

You know you’re a kindergarten teacher when…

*your brain thinks up classroom decorating ideas and bulletin board themes in its down time.  (Or basically…anytime outside direct classroom time…when I COULD be thinking of other things…or relaxing.  No.  My brain doesn’t remember how to shut off anymore.)

Sidenote: I did think up a cool bulletin board idea earlier that I’m really proud of.  haha  🙂  I’m thinking of doing a Starry Night of ABCs theme.  ha.  I’m sick of looking at the current bulletin board which has a bunch of alphabet trains on it.
This one will just be a dark background with some trees or something at the bottom, and the alphabet letters (in yellow) mixed in with some stars and the moon.

Ooh!  And I could print out some pictures of some little girls and have them “stargazing” up at the ABCs…

I love myself some days.  This sounds brilliant.  😛

Too bad report cards are due soon and I have to do those instead.
OH…AND..I still haven’t finished that TEFL course.  I have less than a month to do it, so that’s (and school) partially why I don’t update as frequently these days.  (DMZ post is coming!)
The TEFL course is a teaching certification course.  I’m doing mine online and it’s um..involved.  It takes ages to even get one lesson done, especially since I’m so tired after a full day of classes.
However, I did pay for it…it’s not required to have one to teach here, but you can get paid more, and hey, it might look good in the future too.
I just basically need to suck it up and get it over with :-/

In other news, the weather has been BEAUTIFUL here.  Apparently this is what Spring is supposed to be like.  Who knew it wasn’t supposed to be 95 degrees and humid and then snowing the next day.  (ie: back home)  ha 🙂

That’s all for now…adios!

Also, you know you’re a kindergarten teacher when:
*You seem to have the alphabet stuck in your head more often than not
*You’re very familiar with the tune to Elmo’s World…and this also gets stuck in your head.

I also just needed to talk about how hard my life is here…just for one quick second.
My phone bill is $28 this month.  (AHHH!!! hahaaha.  How cool.)  It’s actually only that low because I just signed up and this isn’t even a full month’s bill.  But hey, have to celebrate the small stuff.  🙂

Discipline in my Classroom

I’m on my lunch break now and went to a BURGER place with a co-worker.  We have a Burger King across the street (and a Starbucks), but I mentioned I had been craving a real burger for awhile.  So we went to a burger place (REAL BURGERS…none of those flat “burgers” from fast food places) and it was wonderful.  And it’s right down the street. 🙂

*Classroom is coming along nicely too 🙂  Looks much better with fun stuff on the walls.  I’m trying to cover it with more of their projects and stuff relevant to what we’re talking about.  I’ll post pics/video when I’m satisfied with it 🙂  (Head Teacher and the Owner’s wife are happy with it too 🙂 hoorah!)

I also wanted to make a note of the type of discipline I use in my classroom.  I used to send my kids to the Korean teachers if they were really rowdy, but I heard/saw that ours don’t really do much to help the situation.  I love my Korean co-teachers (they also teach different lessons), but I’ve found (and was advised) that it works better if I do all my own disciplining.  And it’s been working wonders since then.
Discipline in Stacey Teacher’s classes:
*Anyway, I use M&Ms as a form of positive reinforcement in all of my classes.  I used them more at the beginning of the year, but I’ve been weaning them off as the year has progressed.  The school also provides the kids with sticker books, and we give them stickers also to reinforce good behavior (turning in homework, following directions, being a good student etc).  If they are all being loud or if someone is disrupting the class, I’ve found that it’s more effective to stand there with your arms crossed than to be like “Quiet!! Be Quiet!!  Listen to me!!”  They tend to shut up pretty quick. ha.
First, I’ll warn them a few times and use verbal cues that they aren’t behaving properly.

Then I’ll either take the students and have them stand against the wall or stand outside the classroom (depends on the situation) for like 5 minutes.  I’ll continue on normally with class during this time and explain to the student and the class why I’m doing what I’m doing.  (Works well with all ages, but really helpful with the beginner students)

Or, I’ll put homework pages on the board and explain that I will add pages if they’re behaving poorly or if I have to keep stopping the class.  This works really well because they see how their behavior corresponds with a consequence…in very real time.  Also good if there’s one or two students acting out in the class, because if the rest of the students see that those kids are causing them to get more homework, then they jump on them telling them to be quiet.  Good stuff.  🙂
^My most recent tactic 🙂

Anyway, headed back to work.