All of the stars have faded away…

The other night I made a startling discovery. (Yes I have been here six weeks, but being observant is not one of my strong points.) There are no stars here. We were walking to dinner and I looked up at the sky and nothing. There was absolutely nothing. Well, the moon was still there, but other than that it was just black. Now maybe it’s just that I’m a country bumpkin at heart, having grown up in villages with at most a dozen houses, because apparently you can’t see the stars in any city because of the light pollution. And my goodness do Korean cities have light pollution; every little side street is like Times Square. But I don’t remember not being able to see the stars when I lived in Paris. It’s strangely disconcerting looking at the sky and seeing nothing…

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Meeting the parents

The dreaded meeting of the parents. Open class. Three open classes to be precise.

Today I had my first open classes at Wonderland. The time when parents get a completely unrealistic and airbrushed view of their little angels at work. Work that they have been rehearsing and learning off by heart for the last two weeks. After the lesson is over, the parents all have a meeting with the principal and we are ‘invited’ to talk to them for a few minutes and tell them what we think of the class. Although I’m pretty sure if I told some of those parents what I really think of their darling children I’d be trawling the Job Centre website instead of writing this.

The first one, Oak Class (my little angels!), went predictably without a hitch. At least, until after the class was over. I’d just had my meeting with the parents (cue the inevitable ‘how old are you?‘ and ensuing gasps) and we had a few minutes left until the next class started so, as you do, we decided we’d play ‘choo choo train’. Fairly self explanatory, we all choo choo around the school corridors pretending to be a train picking up passengers. All was going well until we had a little choo choo collision and one of the boys turned to me with blood pouring (yes, pouring) out of his mouth and a big gap where his tooth should have been. I went into utter panic, imagining his mum coming out of the meeting and discovering that I had broken her son’s face. Fortunately by the time they had finished I had managed to wad some cotton wool where the tooth should have been and mopped up all the blood so I think I got away with it. And he did say it had been wobbly for a while.

The second one this afternoon was pretty dull really after that. Out of all my classes this one has the least English and the parents don’t speak English at all so I was tempted to just talk utter rubbish to see if anyone noticed but I decided against it. It was also the one with the terrible twins so I didn’t want to do anything that could possibly spark another tantrum.

Two down, one more tomorrow morning, and then I can breathe a big sigh of relief. Until we do it all over again in three months time…

Kids say the funniest things

This was the highlight of my day at school, I thought it was hilarious, so I just thought I’d share it with you. I was doing a speaking class this afternoon and the topic was ‘Space’. We were talking about planets and I asked ‘do you know the names of any other planets?‘ to which one of the boys replied, in all seriousness, ‘Africa‘.

Halloween

I’m not normally a big fan of Halloween. In fact, I’m like the Grinch of Halloween. I don’t like horror movies, I’m scared of the dark and I’d much rather go out wearing a new dress and heels than a black cape and a witch’s hat. But this year I was in for a pleasant surprise.

I wasn’t expecting Halloween to be such a big deal here. However, the kids have been practising songs and chants for weeks, wearing a costume was compulsory, and, horror of horrors, we were actually expected to stay late the night before to decorate the school. So far it filled me with just as much dread as every other year. Then when I learned that I would be dressing as Juliet (as in Romeo and) the temptation to pull a sickie was almost overwhelming.

I admit I did feel a bit of a fool walking to work in a full length red and black velvet dress, complete with matching head dress, but as soon as the Snow Whites, the Supermans, and the wizards starting pouring out of the lift into school I genuinely started to enjoy myself. All the hard work decorating the school the night before was well worth it after seeing the smiles on their faces, and my Grinch-like feeling started to wear off. So off we went on our Wonderland Halloween parade, visiting all of the kids’ apartment blocks and performing their well-rehearsed songs and dances to their parents and getting shedloads of candy!

In the afternoon the fun really began. I finally got my chance to make a couple of those little monsters jump out of their skin! That sounds really mean but if you met them I’m sure you’d understand. We set up a ‘haunted house’ round the corridors with giant cobwebs and black netting, turned the lights off and lay in wait… We had to do this for every group of students that come in the afternoon, four in total, and it was brilliant.

After the haunted house, each classroom had various activities in them; orange (not apple, bizarrely) bobbing, piñatas, tarot cards, floor puzzles, etc. I was in charge of the secret box, with cold spaghetti, jelly, wet marshmallows and peeled tomatoes in. Then we rounded off the day by watching Scream. Yes, 12 year olds watching Scream, I thought it was weird too.

So it really was a day of firsts – the first time I spent a Friday morning dressed as Juliet dancing like a pumpkin in public, the first time I jumped out of a dark classroom and screamed at a group of 10 year olds, and the first time I can say I truly enjoyed Halloween!

One month in…

Well, I can’t believe it’s been a month since I arrived in Korea, the Land of the Morning Calm. Although I am yet to understand how it managed to get that nickname! Most mornings for me begin with waking to the sound of car horns or music blaring from a shop outside, a quick shower and a bowl of Tesco’s very own Rice Snaps (I actually did a little dance in Homeplus when I found these…on my second day here) and making my way, still bleary eyed, down the street to school.  Nothing wakes you up fully like screaming 5 year olds. I teach kindergarten in the mornings, and I love them. I’m already trying to work out how I can get 2 of them on the plane back to England with me. Then after my lunch break I come back to school for the elementary classes. These are a bit more of a challenge – I could think of many other words to describe them but I’m not sure they’re suitable for thepublic domain! That’s probably a bit unfair actually, the majority of them are lovely, and teaching them can be both enjoyable and rewarding as the level of their English is on the whole better than kindergarten. There’s just a couple of children who I swear must be the Devil’s spawn. They can go from 0 to tantrum in 3 seconds flat, and then back to normal again just as quickly. But the less said about them the better…

There’s a lot to get used to, I’m sure I am yet to experience the full whack of culture shock, but so far so good. Yes, there are some things which make me scream inside ‘but in England…’; sometimes all I want is to eat my dinner off a plate, using a knife and fork, sometimes I’m craving minty toothpaste, and I’d like never to see another cockroach for the rest of my days. But it’s during those moments that I have to remind myself that I came here looking for a completely new and different experience, that’s certainly what I’m getting, but I absolutely love it.