Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Day off

Back home I'd never imagine that things could ever be so hectic and unstable in a school! But you know what? You get used to it and it doesn't even matter.

The new semester starts today. So yesterday I was informed that one of my class was cancelled and instead I get an ABC class.

Fine. I realize this is still a great schedule compared to the corporate world - and here I get a decent salary, rent included. But it screw up my schedule. Now Tuesday/Thursday I start at 3pm, finish at 5pm, then start again at 7:30 and finish at 9:40. Beurk.

On the bright side i'll have time to eat a decent early meal for dinner - thing which I haven't done since I got here because I always get off work at 8 or 10.

But... ABC??!! Teaching phonics?? I've done it before and it was alright but it sucks a lot of energy. Those kids are so young and they don't know a single English word! Anyway.

Yesterday was fun. Worked out in the morning, then we met for sushi, dropped by the school (everyone was soooooooo busy!!), then we took a walk and went to the movies. Ok this is a freakin' good suspense that i'm sure eveyone will LOVE!

It's called "the departed", directed by Martin Scorsese, with Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlburg, Martin Sheen and Leo DiCaprio. All the actors do an AMAZING job and the story is really confusing and intense. Love it. Plus DiCaprio is sooooooooooooooooo hoooooooooooooot in that movie! I usually don't think much of him but I was really surprised.

Then we went groceries shopping and came home to cook dinner - a wonderful tomatoes/cheese/oranges salad, and I cooked my famous shrimp cury. It was a lot of fun and Chris came over after 9pm cauz she was stuck at work. Man, i'm glad i'm not part of the Korean staff!!

Twyla and I looked for a trip to Vietnam for lunar's new year... 5 days at the beach, hiking in Vietnam, taking those cool little boats... Seems like we're gonna go, I'm so excited!!

Tomorrow night we're all going to Paganini with the new teachers. They seem alright. I won't go to bed too late since i'm going to Deokjeokdo early Saturday morning. Fresh air, the beach and hiking should do me good!!!

Gota go to the gym now if I don't wanna see Mr. Creepy! I wish y'all a wonderful day :)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Land of confusion

Good news: JeeSoo, my VP, finally let me keep my "6th floor with giant windows" classroom for next semester.

I went up to her, saying that since i'm back on the 6th floor I might as well stay where I am and not have to move at all! She thought about it, discussed it with Janie and told me it's possible. I was so damn excited that I gave Janie a crown hahaha!!!

The only thing I don't get is... why all the drama? In the end I am this incredibly thankful person who basically did not get anything more than she already had. Weird.
But nevermind - this Korean staff is awesome and I really like them. They work their ass off all the time and get things done. They're funny and efficient. Some teachers and other people complain about them but I don't really think it's fair... but then again, they've been so nice to me I can only love them!

I spent almost 3 hours at the gym this morning because the owner was there... he really likes helping people out but he's too creepy.
On the bright side he showed me how to work out in a more efficient way because he's Mr. Muscles or something... I especially like his haircut LOL Anyway i'll try to avoid him in the future. Plus big muscles kinda scare me... hehe ^^

Tonight we went out to "Miller Time" for Johanna and Jannah's going away party. Was all right but I wasn't really in the mood.

Today was my last day of the semester so the kids and I reviewed, ate pizza (sweet potato pizza!!! incredibly good but sooo Korean) and watched "The Devil Wears Prada" It was fun. They said they're going to miss me!

Catherine, a new teacher, was observing my first class so I had them read, we discussed world war one, and then played Jenga - but I created a new version.

Every time a student would take out a piece, he/she had to name and describe a korean food to Catherine (since she just got here), a national holiday, a Korean custom, or simply ask someone else a question. It was great.

Not working tomorrow - we get a day off between the two semesters.
We'll meet for lunch (there's a shushi buffet!) and then go to a lake park about an hour from Seoul. I gota finish reading "the old man and the sea" and practice piano and guitar. Plus we might go to the movies at night. I know, the good life.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A change would do you good...?

I had a very moody day!

Today and tomorrow are the last days of this semester so we review with the kids and have snack parties. That means every kid brings disgusting chips, nachos and any sort of candy filled with sugar that’ll make ‘em hyper for the rest of the day!

As for me, I ordered them greasy pizza so they went crazy. It's actually a very special Korean kind - it has potatoes and sour cream on it and it's soooo good! But you know what? I’ve been eating a lot healthier since I’ve been in Korea and it actually hurt my stomach!!

They were going nuts but we had fun. I even got a wonderful present from Jennifer’s grand-mother who made me a necklace! How sweet is that?! The kids brought me so much food, even a green tea cake (delicious!)

And once again they drew me on the board ;)

But then my VP came to me with the schedule for next semester and I almost cried.

Well. The schedule is totally perfect – she gave me higher levels, which I was told means she really thinks that I’m a good teacher. Plus I get extra money for those! So kamsahamnida a lot JeeSoo!!

But you should know that they’re closing the school’s “Test Preparation Center” so all the teachers from there are coming into our building. As a result, they need to find new classrooms and everyone’s being moved around.

Right now my classroom is on the 6th floor, right on the corner so I get 2 giant windows and it’s AWESOME! I love it!!

Now that's Brian and he always does that thing with his eyelids because he thinks it's funny but don't mind him.

Look at my view! And the window goes all the way on the left, plus on the right it does the corner and keep going until it reaches the wall. I tell ya I never get excited about rooms but... that's a killer classroom!

BUT next semester… it said I was gonna be on the 3rd floor, in the smallest classroom ever and with NO window at all!!! I was freaking out.

My VP said it’s because there are less students in advanced classes so they need the big classrooms for the lower level teachers. Didn’t make me feel any better.

She went on, joking about how it’ll be wonderful because her office is right next to it so she’ll see my smile every day and feel my charisma hahaha. Didn't work. The Korean staff said it’s because they want to have me closer and see me all the time. Didn't work. I really got the big “numero de charme”, with all the touching, holding hands and hugging but… didn’t work either. I was totally depressed!

Got off work at 8:30 and I walked for about two hours. I found a nice park and walked into a small forest until I reached the top and sat down in a gazebo. I was staring at the city lights and realized how stupid I’ve been lately.

I’ve been too involved in my life and forgot about “real life”. I’ve been so much into my work, my friends, and my materialistic world that I totally filled every part of me with crap. I miss solitude, nature...

On my way back home I decided to go away next week-end and get time for myself. Maybe it’ll help me get some perspective. I got home, worked on Mike’s scripts and just when I was going to take a shower Christine called.

Guess what?! People at work felt so bad that they re-organized the whole classrooms plan and they got me one on the 6th floor! It’s not the one I have now, but I got my window and the view!!!!!

They’re awesome. Really awesome. Chris called after 11:30pm cauz they were still at work since it’s the end of the term. They work so hard, and of course it's just the Korean staff that stays so late!! I gota thank Janie too, you’re a sweetheart my Sharon ;)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

In a sentimental mood

Seoul really feels like home now; got my friends, killer apartment, great job, everything I need is here. And I am totally in love with Korean culture.

Nonetheless, I was on msn last night and spoke to a lot of friends from back home. Also got a phone call from Annabella in Madrid, and I spoke to friends in Quebec and my sister too. I didn’t really feel homesick, but I certainly had countless memories flashing before my eyes.

I remembered so many things and with the memories came the feelings. Unfortunately, images are not really worth a thousand words… well sometimes, but we can’t imagine all the history behind ‘em.
A lot of pictures aren't on my computer so you should know that not everyone's there but it doesn't mean that I don't love y'all. Oh and the pics aren't in order!

With my mom at the aiport before leaving for France

Guillaume and my big brother (left) sur la Cote d'Azur... isn't he cute?!

Alejandro the artist! A really good friend I first met at Champlain. Went to see him in Mexico, where I had some pretty tasty food and practiced the Spanish I am now forgetting.... Alex is a psychologist so you can imagine how our conversations went!

The most surprising and hilarious summers I ever had were when I worked at Le Village Quebecois d'Antan!! We'd sing, play piano, serve beer and food, clean everything including bathrooms, then later be tour guides, musem guides, work at the ticket booth... we did it all! And with the damn costumes and no aircon. It was hell but we had A LOT of fun both at work and outside work!!!! Plus I had the big Moulin Rouge phase with Marie-Michele (right).... my gift is my soooooooooooooooooooooooooong ;)

Billy, the man who literally broke my heart before I left a year and a half ago. Back at McGill we'd have great nights out, discover new restaurants, great talks, good friend. His Neil Young rendition of "My my hey hey" is pretty awesome. Check it out ;) (yup, I did it and not feeling guilty man!!!)

With Rosane, a great great friend from my hometown!!! We used to work together at VQA and she's gonna be a lawyer one day so watch out!

Youri and Genevieve when we got to Chiang Mai in Thailand. That was a wild summer!

My beautiful sister (left) on our way out of Kenzo's!

With my best friend Pete! He got me a crown... and countless laughs throughout my university years. Thanks to him I passed my Chinese class, spent rent money at the Casino, broke my favourite pair of jeans, got crucified in the hallway of my apartment building, paid for his birthday dinner at Pacini's, and much, oh so much more! Doesn't he look smart?!

Me (left! like the haircut?!) and my best friends at our graduation. I spent 5 pretty wild years at that college...! Boarding school is the best :)

The cutest, sexiest and most muscular boss I ever had! Working at Sports Experts was probably one of the greatest job i've ever had and Louis, you are the best manager ever!

That's actually where I met JF - with whom I spent the craziest times of my life! I still remember when he helped me move to Mont Tremblant for the summer, such a sweetie. Later that summer we drove from Montreal, singing like crazy in the car, stuck in traffic jam. We had the greatest day just hanging out by the pool, having beers and cooking on the BBQ.

My favourite drag queen!!! Skinny, yes, but he can certainly dance!!

Aurelie!! We've known each other since forever!!! Right after she came back from her internship in Senegal (thus the short hair) she visited me in Tremblant for a couple of days. Iit was really great!

Can you believe this view? That's where I used to live in Ardeche for about 9 months. And that's Roxie - the most wonderful dog in the whole world. She came with me everywhere and every night we'd go for a hike in the mountains - but of course it's the countryside so there were no lights and I didn't need any either because she showed me the way. It was awesome to have that quiet, lonely moment with the starry sky and ... pure air (as opposed to Seoul's polluted air)!

I miss her so much!

My big bro (left) and Dave - my sister's boyfriend. They're getting married in Cuba on New Year's... can't believe i'll be in Korea and my brother in Thailand!!

My two roomates in Cegep - Marie-Eve and Mireille. We had the best time ever and I LOVED living with them. Mireille has the most beautiful personality. Every week we would meet with friends around a bonfire in the forest right by the river and we'd play guitar, drink, talk and sing. Great times!

Julie, Cynthia and me in our apartment back at Champlain. Best roomates ever!!!! Had so much fun! We also lived with Arezo, a great friend from Pakistan who's studying some very complicated science stuff at McGill... crazy girl!

In Paris with really good friend Bella, Bastien, Orchidee, Cedric... Orchidee's place was pretty awesome and so was that night actually!

Elodie - my mentor in Le Cheylard! We had pretty great parties until she got pregnant! She actually just gave birth to the cuttest kid in the world!

Cedric, my man in France! I miss you a whole lot! Thanks to him I learned a lot about wildlife... like how not to die while kayaking ;)

With the most amazing girl from Vancouver and Miranda - who's doing at masters at Harvard. Guess the subject? Her grand-parents' life!!!

How can I forget them? Thierry (left) and I used to date. He's a great musician and just got married. As for JC, this guy is just hilarious!!! They're both from Africa - Burundi and Rwanda.

Marie was an exchange student and we met in sociology class (crimino). We had SO MUCH fun together!! Remember that time we went out looking for Mike?!

Me and my bro before I left for Korea. Do you see his new ipod? That was my birthday gift to him... his first technological item ;)

That's JP!! French but Algerian too and really cool guy. We used to have our weekly fiestas with other friends, I really miss those evenings. Hope you're feeling better man!

Cyrille!! I still think about you whenever I listen to Mexican music!!! He is Cedric's best buddy (they're both gym teachers) and he is also a really cool guy - really authentic, zen and open minded.

Carmen (right) is a beautiful Rwandan woman! We met in Spanish class at McGill and became really good friends! She is smart and so great!!! Tara is also an awesome girl! That day they both took me out of sociology class to spend the afternoon on Tara's balcony, enjoying the beautiful afternoon with our "friend" Corona, a guitar and our usual existential discussions!

That's Kevin!! My best friend in Lennoxville - he is hilarious!!! That was his Halloween costume... he was dressed as "Curlman" hehe

Isn't he adorable??? Cedric's son Paolo, he'll definitely break some hearts when he becomes a man !

Oh Lionel! He's in Japan now with his Japanese girlfriend! He is a sweetheart!! We met while I was working at McGill language lab and he taught me a lot of stuff about life and computers!

My sister, the teacher! Isn't she pretty?

Those two are my beloved godmother/father. They were somewhere in the eastern provinces and they just love seafood! Claude is a REALLY funny man, they are both great and have supported me a lot over the years.

Mona and my dad. He's a handsome retired lawyer! She dates (still I think??) my brother and she is WONDERFUL!!!! Every time we get together we have so much fun!!

Ok... maybe an image can be worth a thousand words!!! That's Patrick after he fell off when we went skiing in the Alps for Christmas last year. See the blue sky, white snow and the mountains? It's gota be what paradise looks like!!!

Marilene you're crazy but I love ya! We had some pretty memorable moments and parties back in college! She's the greatest!

That was a few days before I left for South Korea. Ah my lovely grandma!

Right before I left for Dominican Republic we had such a great night together!!! I really love my Pete, he's the best - smart, hilarious, open-minded, wonderful friend!!!! Of course he had sent me a hate mail a few days earlier but it was all my fault!! For you francophones out there check out Marc's website, it's pretty cool

Ryan is a cool bass player! We actually met while working at Sports Experts ... remember our endless walk, wandering around Montreal?! He plays in the band Shamus now

Sarah and I in Italy... that girl is so adorable!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Messing with my head

Good news first. I got my "ipod shuffle second generation" today and it is AWESOME! It's just so tiny! (for those who don't know, ipods are MP3 players... and if you don't know what is an mp3 player uuuh... you're helpless!!!! ;)

For those of you who have never seen a Korean 1 000 won bill, I thought while we’re at it I might as well include it in the picture.

Same size as the twenties back home so it gives you an idea how small is the ipod. That thing will come in handy at the gym cauz you can clip it on and it weighs almost nothing.

That was my materialistic moment of the day. I'm ashamed but what can I say...? I'm living in the kingdom of technology!

Oh and another news is that Ben, a new teacher, arrived yesterday. So last night they put him in my classroom to observe while I’m teaching. I was told by one of the staff that it’s because I’m a really good teacher. It certainly made my day!

Tonight Chris and I went for samgyeopsal after work and it was good. But damn, eating fat pork at 9pm is not such a good idea…

I was feeling really down today and still now… it’s hard for me to explain why.

In my Shining Star class Billy hadn’t rewritten his diary. It was the fourth one and I had warned him many times. So that was it – I told him I was calling his mom.

After the break I found him with his head in his arms, crying like a baby. The other students had no idea what was wrong with him and he wouldn’t tell me either. So he spent 40 minutes crying… hardcore!

When the bell rang, he didn’t move. But he did talk to me.

He said that he was afraid because his mom would hit him if she found out he hadn’t done his homework. He wouldn’t stop crying. And you know how I feel about that stuff… I had no idea how to deal with that.

Finally, I gave up. I told him that I wouldn’t call his mom but that he MUST show me all the diaries on Friday. He agreed and went home, still crying.

After that I went to my Janie and told her not to call the mom.

The students in the next class asked why Billy was crying (he cried so hard that the table was all wet!) and I told them the whole story. They said it’s his responsibility and that I shouldn’t feel bad or guilty.

But then, they went on about how parents and teachers punish them. They described the actual methods and stuff. I was speechless.

Especially when they said that they believe they need corporal punishment to ensure good behaviour and outstanding achievement at school. They don’t like it, but they think it’s necessary.

During the break I spoke with my VP. She actually thought this was pretty funny. She said that children usually exaggerate because they know that foreigners react strongly to corporal punishment.

The way she talked about it, it’s more like a “love punishment” and both the teacher/parent and child know it. She said there’s no way would a mom actually “hurt” her child.

She said that we should actually call Billy’s mother because otherwise, if she finds out, she will complain you know? She’ll say that I don’t check homework and I don’t care about the kids. Ironic, I know.

After work I went to Janie and Ashley. They’re both Korean so I figured they might help me calm down with a rational explanation. Young Ha, the school’s president, was also there.

Both Ashley and Janie didn’t really believe that Billy’s mom might hit him. They think I overreacted, that I’m too sensitive.

Young Ha, on the other hand, explained to me that it’s part of Korean tradition and it’s not as bad as it used to be. According to her, maybe 0.01% of the parents actually hit their kids in an irrational way. But most parents and teachers do it in a “loving and consequent” way.

But then, I asked, how do you know if the kid’s mom isn’t one of the 0.01%? I don’t want him getting hurt.

We never actually solved the issue. I left work feeling really depressed.

Why do I care so much anyway? It’s really weird. I never thought of myself as such an emotional person. Honestly, I almost feel pain when I look at those kids and try to imagine them getting hurt.

But I refuse to believe that the Korean society is a violent one.

Thus corporal punishment is probably not as excessive as I believe it is…?

Nevertheless, it was shocking to realize how the Korean staff at school minimizes the issue. They said they’ve all been hit with the “love stick” when they were younger and it didn’t kill them. Well, everyone except Young Ha actually.

Maybe I feel terrible because I overly criticised their culture? Maybe I would be a better person if my parents and teachers would have hit me when I was a kid? Actually according to Korean culture anyone family member could have punished me. Like my aunt for example.

At school they could have
1. made me stand in a chair position, without a chair, arms in front of me, for about 40 minutes
2. put my hands and feet on the ground, butt in the air, while they’d hit behind my legs with a stick
3. plunged their elbow in the hollow of my shoulder
4. pinched me
5. hit me with a book on the head
6. made me hit my forehead outside the classroom during recess time so other children could make fun of me

I guess I just don’t know whom to believe. Yeah… it’s probably not as bad as I think. And the Korean staff is right, kids tend to over dramatize. I know I certainly did when I was younger.

Wow. I feel like I was really… weak today. The good thing is that at least I’m definitely not a cold-hearted bitch. But some Koreans might say my love is not strong enough if I’m not willing to inflict a little pain in order to ensure greater joy in the future.

I am so confused.