Sunday, August 9, 2015

Health Check or Spa Day?

Looks like I finally have some down time, everyone, so you get to hear about my interesting health check experience. Yay!

To be honest, it was kind of exciting... for a health check. This was the third health check I've had since coming to Korea. The first was in a gym, the second in a small hospital over in Sintanjin. This latest one was at Sun Healthcare International. The swankiest hospital I've ever experienced.

The reason it's so nice is because people go there for medical tourism. This means they travel to Korea for medical reasons, whether it be cosmetic medical reasons or more life-threatening ones.

I wasn't there for either.

First of all, this checkup was required by my school for all the staff. It was also paid for, which is probably the only reason I got to go to a place that looked like a 4 star hotel. Otherwise, I'd probably opt for a more affordable one, where it's perfectly normal to carry an open urine sample across a hallway (yup).

Sun Healthcare was a pleasant surprise after the first two. Before you begin all the screenings, you're lead to a changing room where you find the locker that matches your wristband number. The wristband is your key for the locker and for later (getting to that). Just hold it up, it unlocks, and change into some baggy scrubs (aka pj's) and slippers.

Next, blood sample time. I'm not particularly fond of having my blood drawn. I have a thing about needles being poked into the crook of my arm, call me crazy. But it certainly was the least terrible experience I've had. The sign up list is electronic for every test area. The wristband I talked about earlier? You just hold that up and your name goes on the list. I've heard that there is a similar system in many spas/saunas/jjimjilbangs in Korea. Made waiting to be jabbed by a needle seem more luxurious.

Once that was done, it was urine sample time. You'd think there wouldn't be much to say about this, or that I wouldn't want to talk about peeing in a cup, but you'd be wrong. Like I said, my last checkup involved peeing in a paper cup and carrying that cup across a hall. I could have tripped, run into someone, all kinds of disasters could have occurred. At Sun Healthcare, they have a two-way cabinet in the stall. You pee, put the cup in the cupboard, close it, and it "magically" disappears. Nice, right? No one has to see your pee but you and the professionals.

Everything else after that was pretty routine. Hearing test (done in a sound proof box), sight, height, weight, blood pressure, chest x-ray, and dental check. I have great teeth, by the way. I might have had to go through the awkward braces and tooth-gap phase in high school, but at least genetics has given me plaque resistant teeth (Thanks, Mom and Dad!).

Last thing, I had a short doctor visit. I was not expecting a guy close to my age, of reasonable attractiveness, to ask me personal questions, but hey, it's got to get awkward somewhere. Once that was over, my co-teacher and I headed out for a bite to eat. Easy Peasy.

I finally got the checkup results last week. Wasn't really surprised by the results. Could lose some weight (in my defense, I'd been on 2 flights a couple days prior, but still), but otherwise I'm in the normal range.

So, that's my story. One of these days I'll actually go to a spa or jjimjilbang here and tell you about that too.

Thanks for reading! :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Camp (And some stuff on MERS)

I am so behind on updates it's ridiculous.

So. MERS. I'm sure most of you back home haven't heard much about it. Google it, freak out on my behalf and then PLEASE take a deep breath. I'm alive. My school has stopped checking everyone's temperatures in the morning, while class representatives line up with signs and face masks (creepy, imho).

All's well. Sort of. Well, it could be better, but the situation has been improving. So, think positive!

We're about a month away from summer break in Korean schools, which means one big thing for me -- English Camp!

I was nervous my first time planning, but after finding my mojo during winter camp I'm pretty excited. I've heard of other English teachers stressing out over it, and I do admit that planning will come with some level of stress, but I look at it like planning any other children's activity group -- just with English language and Western culture thrown into the mix.

Another note, my co-teacher pretty much took the lead in planning our first camp together. I was still new to it, and whenever I made a suggestion it didn't go over very well. But, the next camp I wrote out this detailed plan of activities and a theme, and sent it to her in advance. It was my way of showing what I was capable of, and I was successful because this year when I mentioned I was planning the summer camp she trusted me to work on the details alone.

So, let's say you're planning an English Camp in Korea for the first time and have no idea where to start. Here are some of my thoughts on the whole planning thing:

Movies: Some say yes, others say "you're lazy". I say, it depends. I've used them in a way that compliments the English/Culture learning. English camp is not just about learning words, but also familiarizing your students with the world they come from. Lazy? Only if you don't have any reason to show a movie other than "to fill up some time". If your school is fine with it, why not?

Themes: You can apply things to a theme that might not always appear to connect at first. Do a little creative thinking. Just like a good story has multiple layers to it, your camp can too. I don't mean make it complicated, but just look at your theme from a different angle. Take Christmas as a theme, for example. You can stick with Santa OR you can talk about Santa Claus and Claus figures around the world. Then, you can jump off from there and do even more. Also, sometimes there are things about your culture that are very new to your students even if they're old news to you. Use that to your advantage.  

Prep-Work: If it's something the students could do themselves, in most cases you should just let them do it. You don't have to cut everything out and assemble it for them. This is camp, not a birthday party. You have time and the kids are happy to do it. Turn on some music, and let them go at it.  

Materials: Sometimes things that are cheap back home are pricey and hard to find in Korea. This means looking for alternatives or simplifying your activity. We made dream catchers last year, which we made with small plates, yarn and paper. It doesn't have to be the aesthetically best of the best. It just has to keep the kids entertained and busy.

Efficiency: Your students don't have to be doing something "planned" every minute of camp. At least mine don't. I've always enjoyed schedules that had some elbow room. Plus, there's always the chance that something you planned ends up being a flop. It's easier to let go of the failures and move on to something else if you're open to the idea of failure and hiccups.

Ok. Thoughts, done. Thanks for reading. It's probably not a very fun post to read, but hope you found it useful.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The first day of the rest of my year

Hey everyone! By the time I post this, the majority of you will be waking up on the other side of the world, maybe hitting the snooze button a few times and giving yourself a pep talk to get out of bed. Sounds like my morning, actually.

Moving on...

Today was the first day back to school for the new academic year. I kind of wish that US school years ran a similar schedule, just for the fact that it can sometimes be confusing to keep track of what year you were in which grade. Plus, as an Arizonan I wouldn't mind a long winter vacation vs. summer. 

We spent the first day without classes to teach, but we kept pretty busy. First there was greeting the vice-principal, tea time, greeting the principal, finish up tea time, early lunch, talk about co-teaching plans, cleaning, meeting and the surprise arrival of some former 6th graders (in their middle school uniforms and uniform hairstyles, I might add). Busy day. I was so wiped out by the end of it all, I felt like I'd just gotten off a 12 hour flight.

I have one new co-teacher this year, and so far we're hitting it off pretty well. I'm actually feeling sad about the fact that she'll be leaving in October on maternity leave, especially since that means she's going to miss how gleefully insane I can become during that month. The co-teacher she replaced was on maternity leave up until the week of Halloween, and she missed out on my Halloween lessons too. Sigh~

Looking back a year, I can safely say I feel more comfortable and organized than I did the first time. I remember being shown to my desk, handed a pile of books and materials, and nervously blinking my way through planning sessions with my co-teachers. Orientation hardly prepares you for your first day. They might cover some lesson planning and "what to expect", but I can't help but think about the story of the blind men and the elephant when thinking back to orientation. You never got the whole picture, and in our case the blindness was induced by ambiguity.

Now, I understand how the textbooks work (for the most part, still can't read half the text since it's in Korean) and I know more of what to expect or what to ask. I was a little frazzled by the idea of working with a completely different co-teacher this year for half my classes, but we communicate like we've known each for a lot longer.

I'm also surprised to say that I'm not so easily surprised anymore. To clarify, one of my coworkers is very.... unique. I met her my first day at the school, and had no idea what to do. I kept saying yes when I meant no, feeling like I'd been caught in a compromising position when I hadn't, and just plain awkward the rest of the time.

So far, I'm just rolling with it and it's working. She might have asked me to come with her to the bathroom today and hand-fed me a piece of chocolate, among other things, but I managed to laugh it off. Which is good, because I have more important things to mull over than what unusual thing she'll do next. What important things? Tune in next time.

That's my way of saying I'm still mulling....... (Don't worry, it doesn't have anything to do with a secret boyfriend, marriage proposal or anything a wild imagination could cook up)

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yeah, I Got Moves

It's been a while since I last updated. Last time you heard from me, I was nervously waiting for word of my renewal. My CT and friends here told me I didn't have to worry, but... I'm a worry-wart.

Good news! You've probably already learned this (I mean, if you're reading this you're most likely family or friend, and word has likely spread on FB, haha), but I was renewed and even signed my new contract and got my bonus days, yes! I'm about one week away from visiting home for a good chunk of the month, but I thought I thought I'd talk a little about living in Korea. After all, I'll be here a while longer.

Living in Korea as a Mormon is... different. An interesting, and maybe a little bizarre, different. Many aspects are the same, and then there are things like YSA (young single adult) dances. I attended one in the Summer (did I mention that?) at a YSA conference I impulsively decided to attend at the last minute. I remember people telling me, "our dances are different here," and they certainly weren't wrong.

For those not familiar with LDS Church dances in the US, let me paint a picture for you. The lights are dimmed, the music is blaring. If you're from Arizona, you'll probably get a mix of pop songs, swing, country and Spanish music. There will be clumps of friends collected around the gym floor maybe dancing, maybe pretending to, and the occasional couple who glide by who actually know their left foot from their right.

Korean Mormon dances are nothing like this. In the Summer, I walked into the building we were holding the dance in and saw all the lights on, genders basically self-segregated and music playing in the background, but no one even half-haphazardly bobbing to it.

Less this...

When I discovered KMormon dances were like this, I couldn't help thinking about the old musical film, Calamity Jane. I don't know why this particular movie came to mind in that moment. It might have had something to do with the fact that I had a bingo paper around my neck that reminded me of Calamity's dance card at the ball.

More this.
Instead of letting us loose to put shame to the word "dancing" (you know it's true, fellow US Mormon dance goers), we were partnered up and LEARNED choreographed dances. Some of them were really confusing, at least for me, and some were really fun. I managed not to step on any toes and I actually felt... a little glamorous?

Fast forward to December 27th. I didn't really know what to expect. I'd heard one thing here, another thing there. It's a ball, it's line dancing, it's funk. It was all of these and more. It was like the Summer dancing, but with more music and a couple of the dances changed. I managed to do the first dance (in heels, might I add). The second one, cha cha, I .... pressed forward until it was done. The waltz.... managed to trip on some tarp material by the dance floor and stumbled RIGHT onto my partner's foot (still VERY sorry about that). We also learned a line dance to the song Sunny, found here.

During the dance, it was pointed out to us that there was a "confession note" table set up. If you were interested in someone (I'm not sure if it was for both men and women), you could write a letter to them and it would be delivered to them later during the event. Interesting....

When I went to the last dance, there was one other foreigner. This time, there were four of us in total. We shared in our awkwardness, and maybe because we were in this little "foreigner bubble" it made us bolder. Near the end we decided to "American Style" it up. The song "Happy" was playing, we'd just consumed pizza and a few cups of soda, so I also blame it on that. I'm not sure what everyone thought of this circle of Waygookin girls in the center of the room, just doing whatever and laughing like crazy people, but I know I was having fun. We had a couple Korean friends join in with our insanity, and even a leader. So.....

(Except the injured foot of a certain gentleman...)