The Tide is Turning

Woooow!  What a week.

*Moved out and in with a co-worker
*Closed my bank account
*Had my last days (MWF and T/TH) at work
*Had a pizza and wine night last night with my co-workers
*Caught a cold (not surprising–stress, being super busy and lots of sick kids…)

And here we are…my last weekend in Korea.

I’m actually not doing anything major to mark the occasion or anything.  I’m just exhausted from this week so just mostly hanging out around my friend’s place and grabbing coffee with a few peeps.

I broke down on Thursday when I was working 1-1 with one of my favorite girls.  We were working together on her homework and I ended up having to excuse myself because I couldn’t stop crying.  Er..
I’m not sure how I feel about crying in front of kids…I just felt like I shouldn’t at the time because I didn’t want her to feel worse or whatever, but then it also shows how much I care about her.  I mentioned that I would write to her if she wanted, and she came in the next day (Friday) and reminded me about it.  I didn’t want her to feel forced to when I mentioned it on Thursday during our 1-1, so I’m happy that she came up and said something yesterday.

Also, I just wanted to give a shout-out to myself.  I am sort of amazed at how much I’ve gotten accomplished this week.  Granted, I’ve worn myself into the ground and am physically and emotionally drained..but I got everything on my to-do list done.  Woo!  It was hard because I basically worked right up until the day of my flight and only had a few hours each morning to make sure that I got to each of the various government offices and sold everything that I needed to sell.  Just a few small things this weekend and…the flight on Monday morning (morning starting at 4am to catch the airport bus…hoo.rah.)

Anyway, this post is a grammatical mess and is as disorganized as my own brain, so here are some pictures.

 

And another favorite song:

All Of Me (Cover)–Max and Zendaya [John Legend]

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go…and More Thrilling Questions

I’ve had a lot of my mind recently and for me it’s always best to get it out in one form or another and then I will relax more and stop obsessing over ideas and thoughts.
So, here goes.  Just a heads-up, this may be a bit whiny/20-something-trying-to-figure-things-out, so if you’re not feeling it, steer clear.  In case you couldn’t tell by the title.  🙂

Let’s start with a bit of backstory and just general info on the hagwon (after-school academy system) here in Korea.
First, in it’s most basic sense, it’s an after-school “academy” or school that some kids go to after their regular school day is finished.  I work with elementary-aged kids and their main school day finishes around 1/1:30pm.  They’d go home for a snack or whatever and then off to piano/English/tae kwon do/math/singing/swimming/hapkido/Korean (Yes, extra school to learn Korean…)/Chinese/etc etc.
There are so many of these schools on a single block that it might make your head spin once you realize it.
The hagwons are meant to give kids an extra boost to basically get them better prepared for their future.

Anyway, for the past year or so I was convince that grad school was the next step for me.  I wanted to get a Masters in Education (M.Ed.) or a Masters in TESOL/ESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) had also been an option.  It’s still there, but I’m sort of second-guessing myself.  I enjoy teaching, but I think I’m just getting burnt out…or I dunno.
As we’re an after-school academy, we have a summer break (1 week) and a winter break (1 week) and all federal holidays.  I think it just gets to be a bit much.  I need more me-time or even just time to sort of clear my head and make space for new ideas.
It’s also frustrating because with this system, kids can come essentially whenever they want.  For example, in the same class, I can have kids that come every day (M-F at my school) or some just MWF,, or one girl is TWF.
It just gets very frustrating when you’re trying to teach and kids pop in or randomly go on a week holiday with their family.  I mean, it’s great that they’re going on a break and get family time, but when we learn new words on Monday, use them all week and have a test on Friday, and they show up on Thursday after a few days off–it really makes things tough.
In my younger classes we read two story books a week together and do two corresponding workbooks.  The older kids do one reading book and one workbook because they’re more difficult.  So if Johnny misses the first half of the week, he misses the prime day for new vocab (all day Monday), the introduction of the new story (speaking and reading) and then we have to play catch-up so he’s not just sitting there, and then it throws the pace of the class off.  Classes are two hours long.  I usually also don’t have any warning when a kid will be going on a trip/quit, so it makes it tough to do projects or anything too.
I think the other thing is that since we don’t have an official start date and that kids can sign up and drop in whenever, it makes it hard to plan new ideas.  My boss wants me to do “filler” stuff on Tuesday/Thursday so kids who don’t come on MWF don’t miss anything important.  *pause*  So, as my class is more reading based, I decided to teach basic grammar (nouns/verbs/adjectives/plurals, etc), but when you have a grammar day on Tuesday, and have supplemental worksheets that the kids are working on–what happens when MWF kid comes in on Wednesday and they finish the work quickly?
There’s a lot of copying going on as well, which I hate, but when we do 5 pages in the workbook and one kid misses the reading day and the 5 pages, not sure what else I can do besides pile it on for homework, which is heavily frowned upon.  They already get enough homework, and parents don’t generally approve of their kid doing classwork at home.

I dunno, I feel like I’ve taught nouns/verbs/adjectives to my higher level kids about 5 times now.  I keep getting new kids or kids who weren’t here and then we’re trying to do something that applies them and they have no idea.

Looping back to the grad school thing–I really like teaching, it’s just frustrating that I see these things happening and I’m doing my personal best to get over the humps, but I want training.  I’m not a trained teacher and I think going to school would help me see solutions that I’m not seeing right now.  Granted, the hagwon-structure is fairly unique and at most schools you typically get a roster of kids and it doesn’t change until the end of the year.  They move on and you get a new list the next year.
Another thing is that I have some kids that I’ve had for nearly a year and half now and I think that they’re becoming too comfortable.  I think it would benefit them to have another teacher with another style to continue to push them.  I enjoy my classes and I try and make sure my kids are learning different things and I try and keep it interesting, but I don’t think it’s necessarily helpful to have the same teacher for too long.  You can learn different things from different people.  The kids are kept in my class though because they say they like my class and also because it’s a business.  The kids like me, so the parents want them in the class.  If the parents are happy, they pay money and we stay in business.  It’s not hard to see, but it’s just another little thing.

There was something else but I can’t remember what it was at the moment.  I’ll have to circle back when I remember 😀

On a more positive note, I’ve got two things.  First, my cousin is getting married this summer and it just so happens to fall on the tail end of my vacation.  I got the approval for an extra two days of vacation so I can go (!!)–time differences/return flights–and it’s going to be amazing.  I have to miss a lot of stuff related to family and friends’ happenings since I’m abroad, so it’s awesome that I’ll be able to make it for this one.

Second, I’ve posted on Facebook a bit about this, but I’m pretty darn proud of myself with making the gym a habit.  I worked out a lot when I was living in the US, but fell off the wagon/horse when I moved abroad and found it hard to get back at it.  Anyway, I’ve been working out consistently since September and upped it a bit in Jan/Feb.  It’s now so deep into my schedule that I don’t see myself breaking this routine anytime soon.  It’s a great stress reliever and I’m feeling better and healthier for it as well.  It feels great to be back and the gym and I can see that I’m getting stronger too, which I love.

Ah!  The other thing.
My school has a massive English book library (rare for schools in Korea as English books can be expensive) and each book has a corresponding book level (based on the difficulty/amount of words in the book.)  The kids take books home each night, read them and then take a short comprehension test on it the next day.  The results are tracked in the computer and can be pulled up whenever.  Anyway, the parents obviously want to see proof that their kid is moving up in the levels (as do I) and can get upset if their kid’s number isn’t moving.  The thing is that they’re kids.  Not robots.  Some kids learn quickly, some slower than others and sometimes they stagnate.  I’m fairly strict with my student’s book levels (they have a range of three numbers that they can pick from) and they can change when they get a consistent amount of 80-100% on their tests. However, sometimes kids don’t read or they read and they didn’t understand it fully and then they get low scores.  Sometimes they get low scores multiple times in a row so I’d pull their level down a bit and they work back up.  Anyway, just got word that we’re not to put their level down anymore, just push upward.  Which I do 95% of the time, I just don’t want to push up and up and up if the kid doesn’t understand what they’re reading.  In my opinion, it’s ok if they’re at a certain level for a bit as long as they’re generally improving and working hard in class.  No need to rush.  Anyway, I think this one is actually pretty standard in many schools around the world, so there’s likely not much that can be done, just sort of suck it up and make the best of it.

Still thinking on the grad school thing…I just need more money and wisdom.  There are so many places I can go for the Masters–I just want to make sure that I’m doing the right thing as it’s an expensive decision.  I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be than a teacher though, so that might just be what I end up doing.

Oh and the cupcake/cookie thing from the Valentine’s Day post left you hanging, I brought in pink funfetti cupcakes.  No cookies.  🙂

I also have an English/Western manners week-long lesson in the works (Our storybooks/workbooks only last for a three weeks so I usually have an empty week at the end of the month where I’m supposed to create a filler lesson.)  I want to teach basic etiquette and Western-style table manners (including, but not limited to: how to properly hold/cut with a knife and fork–food lesson–yay!)  Just holding off until I finish the packet that I’m making and until I’m a bit less annoyed with kids randomly showing up throughout the week.  I incorporate manners in our daily classroom life (pushing in chairs, helping others, holding doors (struggle), etc. but I wanted to have a full-blown lesson on it.  Plus, I really wanted to do something with table manners.

Happy Tuesday 🙂
Hope you can walk better than I can today.  I did some deadlifts yesterday for the first time–nothing too crazy as I was mainly focusing on arms, but I wanted to give them a go before I left–and my legs are feeling them today.  Shoooooot. 😛

Thanks for the Motivation!

I’m having more issues with my school and this front-desk lady (whom is now “in charge of” the foreign staff and all teacher-related things–former boss now resides on the computer in the library).  I’m not being sarcastic or whatever–like really.

Anyway, a few things that have been grinding my gears:

1. I have a student in my second class that comes MWF and he’s the lowest in the class–low reading level/comprehension level/etc.  I went down to the library, where he goes on T/Th to “read/do homework/do book comprehension tests” and he had been wandering around for the 20 minutes that I was there with my previous class and was still wandering when I came down before my next class–his would-be class if he was registered.
Anyway, I asked him what he was going to do for his next two hours and he shrugged (as he usually does when asked questions).  I have seen him wandering on numerous occasions, not just this one, so I helped him pick out 3 books at his level and asked him to read them and do one comprehension worksheet (“book worksheet”) in the next two hours.
He said he didn’t have any paper or pencils today so I went up to my room, got some extras, came back down and got him sorted.  We agreed that that was what he would do.

Boss (who now resides in the library, as I mentioned) called me into one of the small classrooms in the library and told me not to give the boy extra work.  I explained that he was behind all the extra students and that he needed something to do during all the extra time he spends in the library.  Boss said his parents don’t pay us for you do to do extra prep work to help him.

Um.  I’ll wait.

I said that it wasn’t any trouble because there wasn’t really any prep work to do–I just picked out books with him (which he could technically do on his own, but I wanted to help him out this time around).  It was basically end of story, don’t help him.

I decided later to just give him and two other students in another class extra homework for the days that they aren’t in class.  Hopefully that will help him since I’m not allowed.

2. Ok, so I work 1:30-8:30 with a “10 minute break” between my 3 classes.  The first class starts at 2:30 and I’m expected to be in the room at 1:30.
I put quotes around the break-time because with stragglers from previous classes and trips to the bathroom, and when the next class comes directly into the room after you leave with the previous one, there is little “break time”.  Essentially under 5 minutes…if that.  I actually have a rule now (for my sanity) that the kids aren’t allowed to ask for extra homework papers, etc until classtime officially starts so I can get all my stuff done with minimal interruptions.
Oh, and add surprise new students to this “break time” and maybe you’re starting to get an idea.  I got 2 new students on Tuesday and 2 on Wednesday.  Some of which were just sitting in my room when I walked in–extra copies of classwork, getting folders and homework papers put together (I already have a stack printed).

Anyway, the thought of eating might not have crossed your mind, but shockingly, teachers do get hungry as well.  We (on all days prior to yesterday) were able to bring in a small snack or something to scarf down between classes or even get something from the convenience store downstairs.
Yesterday, I bought a small cup of ramen/instant noodles before my last class to tide me over til I ate a real meal after work.  I brought it in and put it on my desk (2 minutes til class started–dismissed the second class and essentially ran down to the shop to get it).  As soon as I walked in (I have brought in food countless times before, and many times I even bring in homemade stuff for my classes, or order pizza)–
ANYWAY, as soon as I walked in they were all like “ooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” and running out into the hall and around the room acting as though they hadn’t eaten for days and begging for some.
First, WTF.
Second, how rude.
Anyway, I called them out on their behavior and FDL (front desk lady, in case you’ve forgotten) came in and said that I shouldn’t eat that food in the room because of the smell.
First, this has never been an issue before that moment.
Second, I hadn’t eaten since about 11am.
Third, these are the same people that eat seaweed snacks (smells like the devil) in the classroom.

Anyway, it’s not like I walk around the room with my cup of ramen.  I eat a bite here and there when they’re doing group-work or taking reading tests, which the first 20 minutes or so of class.  Which is why it hasn’t been an issue.
She said to go into the office and eat it–she closed the door and started speaking Korean to the class–which Korean is not allowed in the classrooms.  I decided that it wasn’t worth it and went back in the room.  I said that we had a schedule to follow and that I would just eat later.  (Speaking Korean to my highest level class isn’t on the plan for today as well).
She went out and I had a chat with my students about why I was upset.  I said their behavior was rude and asked how many of them had eaten dinner before they came (all of them) and many of them apologized and they understood what I was talking about.  I broke it down very simply just to be sure and they all understood.
We carried on and it was as if it hadn’t happened.

As I was getting ready to leave, FDL came into my room and said she needed to talk with me.  She asked if I had time right then (I didn’t) and asked if we could talk tomorrow (now today) about what happened.
She said she didn’t want me to call the children ‘rude’ because they might be upset and not understand.
I told her that we had a big talk about it and that they did understand.
She seemed surprised and said “Oh, really??”

Anyway, we’re apparently supposed to talk about it today.  She has a habit of talking over people–usually at “staff meetings”.  There was another teacher who had an idea for a problem we were talking about at the last one and she literally spoke louder to speak over him.

I still stand by what I told the kids and I think it’s definitely within my right to call them rude if they’re being rude.  If I do not have a breaktime (and I think it’s bad form on my part to be eating away in the office while class is in session) and I work from 1-9 essentially…
They’ve learned a lot of life lessons in our class and I think learning not to beg others for food is a good one.
I also think that having all three of my classes at capacity with high parent approval shows something.

Anyway, TGIF.

Other lessons featured in my classes: (This is for my own personal enjoyment)
*Please/Thank You are required
*Pushing in your chair when you leave your desk/table
*Helping others: General Knowledge
*Helping others-Part 2: When someone drops their pencilcase/folder on the floor and everything flies everywhere onto the floor (AKA: Don’t sit there like a dummy and watch–come help!)–Note: I don’t use the word dummy or any equivalent.
*No pushing/wait your turn/Hands to yourself
*Clean up after yourself
*Hold the door for the person behind you
*Don’t laugh when someone else makes a mistake (especially a reading mistake/has trouble with reading…or you will receive my wrath.  JokingButNotJoking)
*Raise your hand to speak/don’t shout at me
*Ask questions.  Lots of questions.  Be curious.  Especially if you don’t understand or need help.  (This is HUGE here.  It’s considered essentially lowering yourself/”lose face”, but bosses are known to either make up something or lie rather than say they don’t know.  If my kids leave me learning one skill, I want it to be this one.  Don’t be afraid to admit fault and be curious.)

The Little Things

So, this week has been pretty good so far.

1. On Monday, one of the ladies at the front desk mentioned that my second class would be combined with another teacher’s class because they weren’t able to find a sub to cover the class.  (They’re more lenient with this because this other person is technically filling in for our co-owner who is in England currently with a bunch of students until February/March).
Anyway, I was given about 40 minutes notice, which is more time than I’m used to for such announcements…so although it was a bit challenging (and crowded) getting everything covered for two different courses in the same allotted time–got it done and felt pretty good about it after.
My second class is my favorite class because they’re quick-learners and they’re pretty friendly kids, so they would have been my ideal choice class to have anyone else be merged with had I a choice anyway.  So, convenient that it worked out that way.
Also that it fell on a Monday which is when we introduce new vocabulary, that was also nice.  Mondays are the easiest to sort of cram things in.  We just had to move the class fairly quickly.  Less chatting and more…military style, I guess you could say.  Finish one thing and quickly on to the next so the other class could get their vocabulary in as well.

2. I have a favorite coffee shop that’s near my school–mainly because the owner is super nice and also because the coffee isn’t horrendously over-priced.  The owner also speaks English which is a HUGE plus (and very, VERY rare.)  He also gives me free biscuits for my coffee and sometimes throws in a free cookie because I visit often.
Anyway, I’ve tried at other places to get a cafe mocha with an extra shot of espresso…and failed at it.  If you’ve been in Korea for any length of time (not sure about in Seoul), but having an order modified is unheard of.  Essentially impossible.  You order what is on the menu and that’s that.  Don’t like pickles?  Tough.  Want some extra cheese on that burger?  Too bad.  So, what typically would happen when  I’d order an extra espresso shot would be that I’d get the mocha AND an espresso shot.  Not in the same cup.  Tried translating and miming and it just ends in confusion.
Anyway, so I decided randomly to try it out today at my favorite place and he was confused at first but because he speaks English he was able to pass it on to the barista.  ANNNNND perfection.  That one little thing made my day.  haha
I think most coffee drinks come with about one shot of espresso in it here (two in the US) because I can barely taste the coffee when I’m drinking it.  Not so, today.  I’m wondering if my students noticed my extra energy today, haha. 🙂

3. My first (the rowdy bunch) class are also learning the ways of my room and starting to settle down a bit.  We’ve still got a ways to go, but there hasn’t been any yelling or ripping of things off the walls since that last incident.  Also, they’re getting pretty good about coming in and getting their work out, which feels pretty great, if I do say so myself.  😀

The only not so good thing is that I worked out before work today and my right knee feels like it’s in a vice.  It started toward the end of work today but headed to bed now so hopefully it’ll be good to go before tomorrow.  Might take some ibuprofen or something before bed.

Oh, also, I’m madly in love with Sam Smith.  That is all.  😀

Here’s a video to start/continue/end your day.

Life Plans

I’m currently planning to leave Korea in September…and I’m feeling a tad overwhelmed.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop doing research on a few of the ideas I’ve had rolling around in my head for the past 6 months or so about what I could see myself doing next.  These are some of the things I’ve thought about:

*Teach for America (application is filled out…just waiting on my own self to hit the submit button)
*A handful of universities in the US to get my degree in education (each offering something a tad different than the others with varying prices)
*Teach First (essentially Teach for America, but in England–and they accept foreigners :D)
*a handful of universities in the UK/Europe (cheaper than the US, but the application process and terminology is very different than what I’m used to here in the US…also daunting)
*Stay in Korea another 6 months to save up more money for the big move

Each one has its own wild path and I’ve asked for advice from several people and gotten a lot of responses, which I’m grateful for, but it’s also made things a bit more confusing as well.  I’m hoping that my research today will help me narrow down some of my choices so I can feel a bit more on top of things.

I’ve heard…less than stellar things about going to teach in the US, and I’m aware of the differences, but about 95% of the people I’ve spoken with said do not teach in America because it’s a huge mess.
I also really like teaching, and I know things will be very different than they are here in Korea.  I know that, and I’m really looking for something more stable than what I’ve got right now.  I want to put down some roots and feel more that I belong.  I think with the Masters (and speaking with a friend of mine helped me to keep this in mind), that it is a higher-level degree, so no matter where I do it (for the most part), it’s the same degree.
I also think that it will help to open more doors for me.
I currently have a bachelor’s in business-marketing, which I haven’t touched, but it’s opened the door to this Korea experience, which I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.  A Masters would allow me to teach in the country I got it in, but also let me teach English (or regular classes) in other countries aside from Korea.  Korea (and several others in Asia) only require a bachelors in something, but if you want to go elsewhere, many require a degree in English or Education.  Which I’d be getting…but it’s also insanely expensive (ie: $50,000 give or take a few thousand.)  FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.  My god. I just keep looking at that number and thinking how long it would take to pay back.  That combined with my undergrad and I’m locked into debt for the rest of my days.  *sigh*

That’s also why I’ve been looking at Europe and the UK–they offer Masters programs that are typically cheaper.  More research to do on these different programs, and here’s to hoping that they aren’t as suffocating and won’t rob me blind like the ones in my home country.

Anyway, I don’t think I’m really looking for advice or anything, just needed a bit of a vent and to get all of this off my chest.  It’s been swirling around in my head for the past few months and I’m ready to start making plans.

Oh, and ALSO, I could stay in Korea another 6 months or so to help save money for the next step…but I feel like it’s draining me.  I love teaching, but I’m feeling so worn.  We teach every day of the year with 2 weeks off–one in the summer and one in the winter and public holidays.  I love my kids to bits, but I feel like I need a 100-year nap.  I’d definitely need a break or something before diving into a Masters program.

Edit: I just stumbled across a really helpful site that converts the US grade scale to the UK’s grade scale.  Awesome 🙂

Being in a Classroom is Not Always Rainbows and Sunshine

Had a helluva day today.  (Helluva looks like some sort of hillbilly word…)

Anyway, I’m working on…er…training my youngest kids (first class) to the ways of the classroom (and how to not run around like psychos when I’m not in the classroom).  I had forgotten how far my other kids have come.  My other kids know to come in, take out their homework and talk nicely until class begins.  This first class…shooooot….I have my work cut out for me.

Our school (and most of these after school programs) are essentially a smaller space with classrooms cut into it.  It’s not like a full-size school or anything.  Anyway, we had a teacher’s meeting today at 1:30 and classes start at 2.  The kids started arriving around 2 or so, and were easily the loudest in the school.  The front desk girl (across from my room) didn’t seem to be doing anything about the kids running amok, so I ended up leaving the meeting early to corral them and get them on task.  One kid was running around and tore the decorations off my classroom door.  Not like we can really do much to them, because it’s a business as well as a school.
Anyway, I didn’t yell, but I used a very loud, stern voice and got them all sitting nicely in their seats with their homework our and waiting for class to begin. Quite quickly, I might add. I’ve trained my last two classes to where I could be late/walk out of the room for x reason/work at my desk/etc. and they’re self-sufficient.  This first class needs to have every breath monitored it seems.

They seemed to understand the gist of what I was getting at when they were scolded at the beginning.  Keep in mind, I have to break down the sentences to almost bare bones because that first class also has a very low English level.
The Korean teachers at my school scold in a very…nursy way.  Essentially “Ok children, please don’t do that.”
Anyway, I feel like I should record it for my own interests…I want to be able to show a before and after between now and in two months time.

Anyway, that’s probably why I decided to finally crack open this bottle of wine I’ve had in my apartment.

I do appreciate a good challenge,but I’ve got my work cut out for me with this bunch.


Also, I had a glorious reunion with my gym yesterday.  My muscles have been feeling it today and I feel like an old woman when I try and go down stairs.  Either way, it’s nice.
I know you’re supposed keep working out when you’re sore (slowly) but after today I just came home, watched House of Cards (my current Netflix obsession–did I mention that I just got Netflix?!  It’s amazing.) and ate Froot Loops.  Basically…being an adult.  haha.  In my own defense (not like it’s needed, but hey), I had every intention of making this baked mushroom chicken dish.
Back on the ol’ horse tomorrow.

Life So Far in 2015 (and bits about my trip home)

I’m back in Korea and settling back into daily life here.  I’m actually pretty happy because I’m doing a nice job of kicking jet lag in the teeth.  Thankfully in most part due to work, heh.  The first night I slept about 4 hours even though I was exhausted…(1 car trip to the airport in LA, 3 flights, an overnight sleep in the airport, a 2.5 hour bus ride from the airport and a taxi ride to my house). Yeahhhh…that makes for a very sleepy me.
Work has also been keeping me busy, especially that first day.  The first day I not only was on 4 hours of sleep, but we started our new term (new students, updating the classroom, clearing out stuff from any old students) and catching myself up from what the sub did while I was away.  We also just got our student rosters on the first day of classes (typical hagwon-style).  Then my classes, which are back-to-back.  So, by the end, I was completely wiped out.  I finish now around 8:30, but I stayed til 9:30 entering grades from the tests they took while I was away and updating my classroom for the new classes/students.

Yesterday was much better. I don’t mind staying late if it’s going to help make things run more smoothly for the following days.  Also, I bought two maps off Amazon while I was in the US–one world map and one map of the US.  They’re actually pretty big, which I was expecting to an extent, but I was still a bit shocked at the size when I opened them up.  I’m really happy with them now that they have a place in the room though.  I also took down our Christmas decorations yesterday.
Combined with doing laundry, unpacking, making meals and meeting a friend for brunch…my past two days have been crazy.  It’s also rough with new students because you begin again with everything, so I realized I took for granted how much my kids had learned and I’m working on teaching our routine to my newest bunch in my beginner class.  It’s a good opportunity to tweak things, but also exhausting when you need to explain everything again. My last bunch were (are–just in my next level class) fairly self-sufficient and now I’m going to be working on those skills with the new kiddos.

I’ve heard that jet lag goes away more quickly when you travel in one direction rather than the other, and it looks like it might be east–>west.  🙂  I was kept pretty busy at home too and I didn’t adjust any faster, I was just exhausted.  I know you’re supposed to ease yourself back into the time change–keep active and adjust your lifestyle to the new one–but go slowly at first…but life doesn’t always allow for that.  I’m just keeping an eye out for signs of illness now.

Anyway, so home was great…maybe a bit *too* great because coming back was a bit rough.  My mom took off work for most of my time at home and she helped me a ton by taking me to and from various places and treating me to meals at my favorite places.  I ate tons of great food, went shopping (and spent too much money…oops…), reunited with friends and got to spend my first Christmas at home since my last in 2011.
I bought my second cousin (we need a better term for that–this one sounds awkward) Jordan a personalized book from iseeme.com.  They have so many cute books there and the prices are reasonable.  Since I’ve ordered two (another for my friend’s nephew here in Korea) I get all sorts of discount codes in my email too.  My Korean friend said that she could tell it was a “Western-style” book because it encouraged kids to be whatever they wanted, and not only a doctor or scientist.

This one here.
The books are super cute and great quality.  If you’re poking around the site and debating ordering, I’m 100% satisfied with the books and will use them again if the need arises.  🙂

Next I went to Los Angeles to visit some friends and be a tourist 🙂  I’ve never been to the west coast, so that was pretty cool too.  I had a day flight, so I got to see some of the scenery from down below and the deserts were pretty awesome…Nevada, I’m guessing.  Maybe I’ll have to look at that giant map in my classroom, heh.
I spent 5 days there and saw most of the main touristy things there…and maybe fell a bit in love with California…
  
Walk of Fame                                                       Hollywood Sign!

Cool shopping center in Hollywood–This is one of the best locations to view the Hollywood sign (at least from where I saw anyway).  They have a hiking trail sort of by it, but you can’t get to the actual sign itself (saves it from vandalism etc.)

Venice Beach–It was a rainy and oddly chilly day in December, so there weren’t many people out.  The beach has a bike trail which I thought was awesome.  It’d be nice to be able to run/bike etc on the beach without having the sand flying in your face (and minus all the extra effort of running on sand).

Introduced to the gloriousness of deep-fried Oreos…


Venice Beach

Santa Monica Pier

I also went to In-and-Out, which everyone recommended I do while on the West Coast.  Overall another great (and delicious) trip.  For New Years, I went to my host-friend’s friend’s place and we had a party there.  It was basically a big bbq.  Anyway, that was cool too.

I thiiiink I’m all updated…I still need to upload those journal pics from my Japan trip, but my journal is at the gym and I don’t start up again there until Monday (wanted to get re-acclimated here and not need to worry about missing gym time on top of everything else).
I’ll take updated classroom pics when I get there today now that everything is all caught up.

Random Junk on My Mind:
**I got a new laptop battery and my laptop now lasts hours instead of 30 minutes when unplugged from the wall (hurrah!)
**Wishing my brain would stop with the decorating ideas for my apartment–trying to save for post-Korea (and maybe Budapest…)
**Signed up for ultimate frisbee again in the spring
**Munch-a-Saurus is back in my life (my hamster)
**PENPAL LETTERS made it to the US…finally…after like a month, sheesh.  That’s longer than a care package.  Such a huge relief though.  I think I’m still waiting on one more envelope (1 of 4), but all the letters are pretty much finished by the sounds of it and headed back this way.  We just changed classes around, so it could get interesting, but still relieved that they’ve made it over.

**Also must finish report cards by Friday…already ready for the weekend, but thankfully it’s Wednesday…
**I brought back a ton of stuff for my students too–Pixie Stix, Warheads (sour candy), maps, Mr. Sketch scented markers (which they’re amazed by… 🙂 ), Crayola crayons and colored pencils (Crayola wax crayons are about $10/box here) and a Magnetic Poetry kit.  I got my kit when it was on sale for Christmas though 🙂  We just put it out yesterday and it might be a bit hard, but better than the ABC letters that were up previously.  I’ll give them a few months and report back 🙂

*BREAKFAST IDEAS?–Any chefs out there?  We have like 4 kinds of cereal here and I’m getting burnt out with my oatmeal.  Help 😦  I’ve been doing combinations of fruit, yogurt and oatmeal, but looking for something else.  I was thinking of doing more eggs but they’re always too brown and dry and that puts me off making them.  (Plus, more mess to clean up.)  Fruit is expensive here btw.
Thinking about these breakfast cups...easy, healthy, quick and minimal mess.

Another doozy of a post.