Friday, March 30, 2012

Spa Day in Korea

Last weekend, feeling under the weather (everyone at school has been sick) I decided to venture into the spa part of my gym. I use the gym, Bobos Sporex, frequently, but have only peeked into the shower part of the locker room (it takes me about five minutes to walk home from the gym, so I just shower there).
Inside the locker room at Bobos, there are glass doors leading to shower area. There are rows of showers, some requiring you to sit on a stool, as well as a hot pool of water, a cold pool of water, and a steam room.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but spas are very popular in Korea. There are many public “jimjilbangs,” which can be used for only a few thousand won, and even slept in. One of the first things that foreigners will tell you when describing jimjilbangs is how “very naked” they are. Koreans of all ages use the facilities completely unclothed. I don’t think they would let you wear a swimsuit if you tried.
The spa at my gym is no exception, which was fine with me, but I was very aware of the lingering glances of the older Korean woman that were sharing the facilities with me that Sunday afternoon. I’m sure they were just curious as to what a waygook (foreigner) looks like unclothed. They were all polite, however, as Korean woman tend to be.
I was instructed by one of the woman to shower upon entering, which I did, and then relaxed into the hot pool. Meanwhile, the other woman meandered throughout the steamy, cave-like corridors, hair wrapped in towels, chatting with one-another.
It took a little getting used to, but was a very pleasant experience. I can see why this is such a favorable past time in Korea. I mean, after working like a maniac in frigid weather all week, who wouldn’t want to spend a couple hours at a spa with friends, naked and engulfed in steam?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

White Day

          Happy White Day everyone! For those of you who don’t know what White Day is, it is a Korean holiday celebrated on March 14th, exactly one month after Valentine’s Day. In Korea, it is traditional for girls to give their boyfriend chocolate, etc. on Valentine’s Day. Then, one month later, it’s the guys’ turns. I read somewhere that the guys are suppose to spend three times as much on their girlfriends as was spent on them.
          If you hadn’t already noticed, Korea is a very “couply” country. Relationships are very common, and couples like to celebrate their coupledom by taking an array of couple pictures, wearing matching outfits, etc. Here are some examples (the first couples' shirts say "falling in love, this is my boyfriend/girlfriend," in case you were wondering):

          In case you don’t happen to be in a relationship, never fear, because a month from now, on April 14th, there is “Black Day.” On this day, single people get together and celebrate their singledom by eating “jajangmyeon,” noodles with black bean sauce. I heard a rumor that this meal is suppose to help you attract members of the opposite sex, but don’t quote me on that.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The End of an Era

We are going through a transition time at school right now. The semester has ended, which was marked by the completion of our Kindergarten musicals, and a graduation ceremony. I was very sad to say goodbye to “my kids,” Salmon Class. I have been spent most of my mornings and early afternoons with them for the past six months. Some shots of them in their graduation gowns (taken in the classroom, with their parents in the background):

Lucy, Sophia, Julia

Eddie, Sonic, Chris

Salmon Class

They have made a lasting impression on me, and I hope that any influence that I’ve had on their young lives has been more positive than negative (which is all I can really hope for, right?). That being said, I’m also excited at the prospect of a new class, and having a fresh start now that I have a much firmer grasp on the art of controlling Korean kindergarteners.
Last week was Spring Break, which meant no Kindergarten, but the teachers still had to come in in the mornings to complete various mindless tasks. Mine was making conversation questions and answers for storybooks. The most challenging books to write ten questions about were the ones that were less than ten words. I just ended up getting a lot of my material from the pictures. (“What is Sally wearing?” “Sally is wearing jeans.”) etc, etc.
Next week, all the classes will be different. Some kids are leaving, new kids are coming, and the ones that are staying will change levels. This is true for both elementary and kindergarten. We have been given very little information about what will be happening text week, in terms of who will be teaching which classes and whatnot. Our school tends not to tell us what is going to happen until it is actually happening. This seems to be a general Korean tendency.
I do, however, know that I will be teaching Lobster Class for kindergarten, which will mainly consist of a class of kids that I taught once a week last semester, Blowfish Class. They are Korean six, which makes them four and five American age. My “sister class,” which I will teach once a day, will be Angelfish Class, the youngest class at EOS. They are two and three American age. They are SO cute, and SOOO small. I taught them once a week last semester and spent a good portion of the time baffling over the fact that these babies were in school, in uniform, sitting at the desk completing phonics worksheets.
Another change that is taking place is that about half of the teachers are leaving. All of the teachers are on a yearlong contract, and it is up to both you and the school whether or not you sign on for another year. There are four new Korean teachers and one new Native Teacher, Leanne, who is also from California. Represent. The new teachers have been observing these past few days and all seem very nice.
And so it goes…I have a little over five months left on my contract, and I’m feeling really positive about the rest of my time in Korea. I have formed some great friendships and have had some unforgettable experiences. With the end in sight, a lot of potential opportunities are presenting themselves and I look forward to seeing where this Asian adventure will take me.