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Field Trip to the Robot Museum



    Once a month, our school goes on a field trip.  After hearing some horror stories about the last disastrous field trip to a local folk museum, I was concerned about this Thursday's plans.  However, it turns out that they had a trip planned for the Robot Museum, in Hye hwa!  I thought that this meant actual industrial robots used maybe for the production of goods or machines, but actually it was a museum showcasing the history of the idea of robots. 

   










LCI Teachers rocking the 80's 3D movie glasses

We saw displays of action figures such as superman and the robot character from the Jetsons, watched a 3D movie about robots and the creation of the universe, and regarded "sexy" robot pinups...?  I thought that was a bit inappropriate to the whole robot museum topic, especially for kindergarteners, but maybe it was just me. Then we went to the park for lunch, and an older gentlemen brought our school an army of pigeons.  We let them play in the square and help chase away the hundreds of pigeons before we had to pile back onto the bus again.





    The same day of the field trip was our belt test!  I have been taking Tae Kwon Do with Kirsten and Abby at an English Tae Kwon Do school, and we tested for our orange belts this Thursday.  We had to break a board, too! haha.  It was so nerve-wracking being put to the test, but we passed with flying (orange) colors! 





Abby was really proud of her achievement.
(She says she's ready for her black belt)


    Master Heo, our instructor, skipped us from white to orange belts (usually you go from white to yellow).  He even said that if we work hard we might get our green belts in a month or two!  Master Heo is really nice and he takes the class out on the weekends from time to time.  ( This weekend was one of them.  We ended up in a Noraebang room singing karaoke!).  He also gives us a small Korean lesson at the end of class every day.   Tae Kwon Do is turning out to be a pretty neat hobby for us.  Not to mention, at the end of the day if we have a lot of pent-up stress from school, we can kick it out on our breaking boards or punching bags!

Introducing: My Korean Class

This is my kindergarten class (well, some of them):


From left to right:  Ann, Ted, Joshua, Sally, Roy, and Mark
(Missing from this picture:  Danny A, Danny 1, Oliver, and Louie)


Art Class

Not mentioned before but in the picture here (on the bottom right with the big grin) is one of the Danny's... "Danny 1".   Oliver and a second Danny recently joined our class, so we had to change Danny's name to "Danny 1", and the new Danny became "Danny A", since both Danny's had the same last name as well.


    
This was for Science class. We learned about catching wind and making wind boats.  A lot of the science curriculum is kind of silly, and involves many ambitious and complicated projects that involve me cutting paper and taping things together for the kids the entire class.    I am now, believe it or not, the official Science teacher for all classes at LCI Academy.  Don't ask me how it happened.



This is Louie on his birthday.  Birthdays at LCI are a big, big deal.  Teachers are expected and almost required to go and buy their student a birthday present.  Every kid always brings gifts, and the class gets a birthday party celebration in the afternoon with more junk food than any normal kindergartner could possibly consume.


It is also very funny trying to get my class to do a pose.  It reminds me of a pack of very young puppies or kittens.  You can place them some place, tell them to stay, and they kind of flop around the general vicinity for a while until you lose their attention.  You have less than a minute:

A. two seconds:
  

B.  Ten seconds:


C.  Thirty seconds:

On the very top left is Oliver, and on the top right is Danny A, the two new students (who I mentioned before).

Playtime and Snack time:
   
This is Mark.




 
This is Sally.  She is cute but she has attitude!



Sally and Ann... the only girls in the class. Ann (right) is the little girl who we thought got lost after school one day after her grandfather said she was big enough to find her own way home.  She was found safe and sound, playing at Louie's house.




So now you can see what I am up against every day!  Haha.  I am kidding.  I love my kids, and they make my job so much fun.  I will write more later... it is getting late here in Seoul.


P.S.  Here is a picture of a random Korean guy wearing a dinosaur hat.  I asked for his picture.  (His friends all high-fived him afterward.)



Goodnight!
    Just as the beginning of my week began with nights of very little sleep, lots of traveling, and nights on the town, my weekend's pace has slowed to leisurely walks, tea and pancakes.

Saturday was a rainy day, so Abby and I decided to visit* a traditional Korean Tea house.  The atmosphere is so peaceful and beautiful, and the tea so distinct and tasty that it is worth the 6 or 7 K won that it costs for a cup. 



*************************************************************************
*Side-story:
Walking there, Abby and I were sharing an umbrella, and two men came up to us to ask if they could walk under our umbrella because he didn't have one.  Knowing this was more likely a ploy than a real need (it was hardly raining), Abby pointed and said, "Look, there are lots of umbrellas sold in that store over there.  Why don't you go buy one?"  Still persisting, she tried again, "I'm sharing with my friend, so there really isn't room under here for another person!"  They didn't catch our subtle hints and continued to follow us down the street until we turned to our tea house road.
************************************************************************




On Sunday, Abby, her friend, Annie (who we call Hopper), and I had found out about a church south of the Han river that had an English church service.  So, this morning, Abby and I took an hour's subway ride to Hopper's apartment in Samgakji.  Hopper recently moved to Korea with her husband, Matt, who works with the army base in Seoul.  She and Abby have been friends since college.  I got to take a tour of her fabulous new place.  It was amazing.  I wish I had thought to take pictures of it.  Compared to my tiny (but functional!) place, it was a mansion.  She also has access to anything American from the army base.... like REAL pancake mix and fresh blueberries!  So, we made blueberry pancakes and eggs for breakfast... with the delicious tea that Abby's mom had sent her from home.  It was so wonderful to be in a nice, comfortable space and eat  familiar things with friends for a change. 

After breakfast, we headed down to the Yangjae stop, south of the Han, for church.  The service was made for Koreans who want to work on their English, so we were actually the only real native speakers at the meeting.  It was also fairly small, which was fine.  We were able to meet everyone and had lunch together.  I didn't find the service especially challenging, but it was nice that we got a chance to visit a church service in a language we could understand.  We'll try and go back again next week.

After the service, Abby and I wandered around the Gangnam area for a while.  Colin has been considering a job there, so I am always interested in exploring the area.  It's fairly affluent and there are a few neat buildings to see and places to shop around.  There were some galleries we wanted to visit but they were closed today.  On the way back home, we spotted an advertisement for Krispy Creme Donuts and had this idea that maybe there would be a Krispy Creme near us in Suyu (a subway stop away from our home stop, Ssangmun).  We walked a long time to look for one.  There wasn't.

Deciding to walk back instead of taking the subway, we happened across a park area that followed a little stream. 


                                 

Since the clouds had parted to let some sunshine brighten the day, everyone was out, playing in the water, having picnics, riding bicycles, exercising, talking, and rollerblading.  Sunflowers, wildflowers and Weeping Willows lined most of the paths and the mountains looked so beautiful, crowned with puffy clouds and bursts of light.
                                  

Who can say that God doesn't exist when they see such spectacular beauty?  It was such a perfect thing to end our day.

It has been a good break, but I am more than ready to go back to teaching classes on Monday! 

Welcome to my Korean travel blog!

    This entry may be long, just because I need to catch everyone up on what has been going on here.
I have been teaching kindergarten and first grade at LCI Academy, in Dobong-gu, Seoul, S. Korea.  To sum things up:  I love my job at the school and I love my kids.  It is so refreshing to be in a new culture and to learn so much and experience something different every day.  There is so much to learn.  I have been slowly working on my Korean (I can read Hangul, and know at least some of the essential phrases so far), and exploring the city of Seoul. 

Everyday things:  I climb a hill every day to get to my apartment.  My bathroom is a shower.  You always drink the filtered water from the machine on the second floor, and you are encouraged to use the rooftop for your activities and to hang your laundry.
Everything is cosy and tiny.  A man at the grocery store selling fish outside always says hello in Korean and then tries to say "have a nice day" in English as we pass by.  We frequently get accosted by crazy elderly men who either try to judo chop us, give us headbutts in the stomach, or sell us delicious chicken.  Little girls run outside to practice their English with us... usually they can only say "Hi! My name is....... (then you say "Hello. How are you?")... Fine, thank you, and you?"



This week, all the teachers at LCI Academy have paid vacation time!  Not only is this the first real paid vacation time (What?!  Paid for doing nothing??) in the history of Renae, it is the first vacation time I have ever spent in South Korea!   This weekend, Kirsten, Paul, Abby, and I  (all teachers at LCI) went to the beach at Busan with Paul's soccer team.  Busan is the second largest city in Korea (Seoul being the largest), and it is located on the southeastern coast, next to the East Sea.  Basically, it is on the opposite side of the country from where I am living right now. 

Our bus driver had been hired by Paul's team manager once before.  He was notoriously bad about getting us lost, adding extra hours to the travel time, taking long breaks, playing chicken with competing traffic and almost falling asleep at the wheel.  I didn't ask why they decided to hire him a second time... I imagine it was because he would get us there for a good price.  I didn't mind the long drive, because I was getting to know a lot of new people and also getting to see some really brilliant scenery from the roads.  We were definitely what you would  call a "motley crew".  There were people from everywhere.  Together our group covered Malaysia, Iran, Nigeria, Mexico, Ivory Coast, Korea, Canada and the United States.  I met a friend who speaks French, so now I have someone to practice with here!  Everyone was so nice, fun, and obsessed with soccer!  The boys took that soccer ball with them everywhere and bounced it off heads, shins, necks, knees, walls, floors, strangers, babies... everything.  They tried playing it on the beach but they got in trouble.

Speaking of the beach, how strange!  The beach was completely coated in blue and red umbrellas, all with mats underneath.  Asians avoid tans like the plague here.  It is cool to be white here like it is cool to be tan in L.A.  Hats are sold everywhere.  I guess that's healthier anyways.  A lot of the women wore stilettos on the beach.  I saw a girl walking up to the sand with these crazy grecian stilettos with the leather laced up to her shins and a tall, tall heel on the end... and when she reached the sand the heels just sunk right in and she looked just like she could be wearing flip-flops.  I didn't really see the point, but then again... Koreans wear stilettos to climb mountains, too. 

The other strange thing was that in the water, you only saw a mass of yellow tubes floating around.  I don't know if it's only a tradition, or if it is because Koreans don't swim very well, but everyone just kind of stood around in the water, and floated idly on the yellow tubes, squealing at every weak wave that went by!  In contrast, you would have seen our group splashing around in the water, racing up the coast, playing games, and flipping off the yellow tubes.  Everyone stopped what they were (or were not) doing to look at us like we were the traveling freak show.   It is said that foreigners are watched like fish in a fishbowl, but that kind of made us feel it in the more literal sense!

After the beach, (and after our bus driver got us very lost again for a while), we went to the top of Busan tower to see the whole city.  The sun had just set, and it looked so beautiful with the moon over Busan and all the lights flashing in the city below.

When we got back, I moved into a new apartment.  It is a little bit bigger, has a lovely view of the city and has an internet connection!   I feel much better being more settled in to a place that doesn't make me feel claustrophobic.  I have been taking Tae kwon do lessons for a little bit now, but I had to miss one the other day when we went to Lotte world, a theme park kind of like Disney World. 

Well, it is getting late.  A la prochaine!

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