Friday, August 30, 2013

The wonders of my school

Many of you have asked what you can send me.  I wanted to wait until I got settled in my apartment and in my school before I told you anything.  Now that I've seen what I can and can't get here, I can finally answer you!  I also know more about my students and what they need.  Here are some items that I would love to have if possible:

For my school:
  • toothpicks
  • shaving cream (to practice writing the letters)
  • Legos (just the basic ones)
  • magnetic letters
  • little rolling pin (for play dough)
  • ABC or alphabet books
  • Any phonics books or books for young children
  • the book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (love this alphabet book!)
  • Dr Seuss books
  • Sandpaper Letter Cards - these would be great for my blind students - you have to order them though. Here is the link:
  • anything else you think would be good for blind students to practice learning the alphabet and early reading skills
For me:
  • 3M Command Hooks
  • Pop-tarts (preferably the strawberry kind) - you can't find them here :( - Don't ask me why, but I miss them. 
  • flavored chapstick (I love the Bonne Bell fruit-flavored ones)
  • cinnamon - for baking cookies
  • my dogs....I wish! - There were THE cutest puppies at Petco in my neighborhood today.  SO adorable.  My friend couldn't even look at them and waited for me at the corner.
  • magazines - I never realized how much I would miss my People and US Weekly magazines
I don't want to sound like I'm begging at all.  However, I know that I can't just do boring alphabet and phonics worksheets the whole year that I'm here.  That's just not me.  So if you would like to contribute, I would definitely appreciate it, and I KNOW my students would absolutely love it.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My school address is:

Daejeon Dong-gu Gao-dong 171-1
Daejeon Public School for the Blind
Daejeon, South Korea

About my school...there is so much to tell!  The first thing I noticed is that the school is completely open.  There are big sliding doors that remain open all day long so anyone can come into the school, which is completely different than in the states.  All the schools in my previous district had gone through security updates to where you had to go through the office and be buzzed in and then sign in before coming into the school.  Here is a picture of the open doors:

Right inside each set of open doors are cubby-type cabinets where you put your "outside" shoes in your cubby and put your "inside" shoes on.  Everyone wears these type of slippers.  I totally believe that we need to bring this tradition to the states, don't you?  Here are my beautiful slippers:
The cubby cabinets
My awesome slippers
My classroom is on the 3rd floor.  There is an elevator, but the teachers don't really use it.  Here is the English classroom.  It's huge....literally like 2 classrooms in one.  There is air conditioning, but of course I'm the only one who pushes the button for it to come on.  They also have a fan for me behind my desk thank goodness.

That's my co-teacher.  She hates to have her picture taken.

I love this map
My teacher's desk
I have to tell you about Seora (pronounced So-ra).  She is my special friend who comes to visit me every single chance she gets (at least 6 times a day during every break between classes and at lunch).  She is a 17 year old girl who is visually impaired and has learning disabilities.  She doesn't talk much but says "Hello" and "Angela".  When she comes to visit me, she always runs immediately to my desk and puts her hands all over my face and hair (it gets messed up at least 4 times every day), holds my hands, and gives me full body hugs. She won't even let me go down the hall to the bathroom without other teachers prying her off of me. All the teachers say, "Wow. She loves you. I've never seen her do this with anyone." Thank you God for showing me that I am being a representation of your love to these students.  Today during one of her many visits, she was going to town with my hair that I just had to get out the camera.  Good thing my hair is curly and can be messed up!

She always wants to hold my hand or touch me in one way or another.
Yep, there goes the hair
And it got worse....
Still worse....
And now the face....this is all becoming a regular occurrence.  Why?  I have NO idea.

The last thing I want to share with you is my lunch.  Everyone eats the cafeteria lunch at school, even the teachers.  It's included in my salary.  The food is actually been pretty good, especially compared to the cafeteria food back home.  What's funny is that the cafeteria lady sees me coming and gets all excited.  I try to fix my own tray, but she will have none of that.  She piles on everything...from kimchi (this is served everyday....remember it's fermented vegetables with a tremendous kick to the gut), soup, side dishes, meat, and a huge honkin' pile of rice that only a giant would eat.  What do I look like?  Well, Koreans will eat that whole tray of food and they are only like 100 pounds.  So obviously they know something that I don't.  Here is the cafeteria.  Notice the rails in the middle of the cafeteria for the blind students to hold onto.
Going into the cafeteria.  It's in another building.

Here is the cafeteria lady who piles my plate everyday and where you get your food.  See this guy gets to make his own plate!

The first two days the food was SO good. Yesterday it was fish.  Now in Korea, there is no such thing as a fish fillet without bones.  They just give you the whole fish, bones and everything.  That was the case yesterday...big bones, medium bones, tiny bones.  And the soup yesterday had shrimp in it with the skeletons still on them.  In Korea, they eat the skeletons and think nothing of it.  This Texan doesn't quite get on with that theory.  At least not yet.  Today, we had fish again but it was worse.  It was the whole fish, and it was a small type of fish.  You know what that means.  Really small bones.  All throughout the fish.  So picture me trying to "fish" (haha get it?) the meat out of this fish using only my chopsticks.  I'm pretty darn good with my chopsticks.  Even the Koreans are impressed.  However, I've decided that this is a really good diet plan.  Order a fish with tons of little bones and then dig out the meat from the fish using only chopsticks.  Talk about eating super slowly.  And isn't that one of those diet tips?  Well, with this diet plan, you HAVE to eat slowly.  You have no choice.  And at the end, you decide that you're just really not that hungry.  Here is my plate today.

And the fish.....notice all the bones and how tiny they are?

And at the end, you pile all your unwanted food into your soup bowl like this and take it to the dishwashers.  They compost all their leftover here in Korea. 

As you can see, I had so much leftover food that my rice didn't even make it in the bowl.

Today was a good day at school.  Your words of encouragement were wonderful and really touched my heart.  Thank you.  I went into school today with a different mindset, knowing that God orchestrated this whole journey and put me at that school specifically.  Today, I got to sing songs with Seora and her best friend.  We even danced and did the motions.  We sang the Hokey Pokey, I'm a Little Teapot, Jingle Bells, Head and Shoulders, BINGO, If You're Happy and You Know It, and several more.  I had a really good time, and they brightened my day.  My lesson plans are made for next week, and I'm excited to be able to do even more with my students.  

God bless you for your prayers and words of encouragement.  You truly have NO idea how much they mean to me, especially when I'm over here on the opposite side of the world.  Love you guys!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My school

I can't sleep (it's 3:00am here), so I thought I would write a quick blog post.

I am teaching at the Daejeon School for the Blind.  I have been placed here because of my experience.  But let's be real....God placed me here.  He wanted me here.  I will wake up every morning and tell myself that because I am struggling a bit (a lot).  There are several reasons.  I am so used to teaching and having my own classroom....designing my own lesson plans and activities.  I am also struggling because I have never taught pull-out special education.  Basically, my co-teacher and I have 3-5 classes a day, from elementary 3rd grade to high school level, which includes adults.  This is her first year teaching, so she is learning how to teach just as a first year teacher does.  I, however, have 15 years of experience.  I am used to teaching in Texas to the big state test, going 90 miles an hour to teach everything in the curriculum.  So it will be a learning curve for me.  So please pray for me as I learn the best way to teach my students and make this a meaningful experience for them and for me.  Pray for me that I will be a shining example of God's love for them.

Speaking of God, he continues to show me that He is the driver in this whole adventure.  One of the students who graduated college and lives there loves to come visit me every day and speak English.  I found out yesterday that he was a student of Divinity and studied the Bible to become a pastor but later decided not to.  He has also visited the DFW area on vacation and mentioned "the big mall" in Grapevine.  How cool is that?  I needed that today.

Let me show you my school!
Daejeon School for the Blind
The main hallway where the teacher's room is (they all have their own little "cubicle" with their computer on it) and the principal's offices are.  It is Korean tradition for me to greet them every morning and to say goodbye when I leave every afternoon.  The principal is always happy to see me, so that's good.
The English room (my room)

The doors always remain wide open, so anyone can go in.  This is so not what I'm used to in Texas.  My school last year completely redid the whole entrance 2 years ago to add more security.  Especially with all the school shootings.  There is hardly any crime here though.  Most children walk to school on their own, including kids in 1st grade.  I have heard stories of people forgetting their wallet somewhere, and it was still there hours later when they remembered and went back to get it.  So not like the United States.

I will post more pictures tomorrow....showing you my classroom and such.  I have many more things to tell you about my school but for now I'm going to bed.  Night!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My apartment

Here is my apartment!  I'm on the second floor, right around the corner from a cute little coffee shop with free wifi.  I love my apartment and feel very blessed.  Apparently I will be known as THE foreigner in my neighborhood.  I am on the lookout for other ex-pat foreigners though!  There is a Home Plus, a huge Wal-Mart type store with 5 levels including a movie theater with English movies,  only about 5 minutes from my apartment.  There is a Starbucks too.  I'm on the lookout for other spots to visit too.  My co-teacher is awesome and took me for Korean BBQ last night.  A-MA-ZING!  And it's less than 2 minutes from my home!

It is huge compared to most people's apartments.  I was expecting a shoebox studio apartment, but mine actually has different rooms including 2 bedrooms and a living room/kitchen.  I love it!  The girl who had the apartment before me left tons of stuff including a queen bed she bought for the master bedroom, a desk, table and chairs, and 2 fans.  The 2 fans are the most important because the apartment has NO air conditioner.  Yes, NO air conditioner.  It's so much getting ready in the morning with sweat rolling down your back and all down your face.  I'm ready for the fall weather.  I slept last night with the 2 fans blowing on me, and surprisingly I slept great.  According to Koreans, I'm not supposed to sleep with the fans on because of fan death.  Yes, I might die if I keep the fans blowing on me.  Oh well!  You just have to read about this.  There is a myth that 2 elderly people died from hypothermia because they left their fans on.  Seriously!  Here is a link to tell about it.

Now remember, I haven't added anything to the apartment.  In fact, Rachel took these right before she moved out.  She cleaned the apartment and everything!  Love you Rachel!  I will add a video and more pictures once I decorate it.  And decorate it, you know I will. :)

Entrance to my apartment - you take your shoes off at the front door
View from the front door
My bathroom - notice there is no separate shower
The master bedroom
The second bedroom, which is being used as a storage room.  Maybe I'll figure out something different to do with it later.
The living room - the second bed is acting as the couch.  I will be adding lots of throw pillows.
The kitchen

My apartment is only a 5 minute walk to my school, which is awesome.  Here are some pictures on my walk to school.

In my next post, I will tell you all about my school, Daejeon School for the Blind.

Orientation ends :(

The bubble of orientation has ended.  I didn't realize just how much of a bubble it was until I was no longer in it.  We lived in the dorm, had our meals provided for, were surrounded by hundreds of other English speakers, and didn't really have to find anything on our own.  It's a whole other world when you're actually in your city.  More on that later....

I told you in the last post that I would share what is different about the bathrooms.  Where do I begin? First of all, you have to get your toilet paper from the toilet paper dispenser before you go into the stall. If you forget, bad news for you.
Julie is displaying the toilet paper dispenser
Then, you do not put your toilet paper in the toilet.'re not supposed to.  Instead of putting it in the toilet, you put it in the trash bin next to the toilet.  Korea doesn't have good water pressure.  I've done this in other Asian countries too.  Weird, but you get used to it.

Next is the soap.  There are no soap dispensers....only a soap stick.  Reminds me of soap on a rope, except this is on a spindle stick like a rotisserie chicken.  It's a little odd.  OK...a lot odd.

After washing your hands, you would normally look for the paper towel dispenser or the hand dryer.  Well, at the university there are none.  So you dry your hands on your pants or air dry them.

Last, I loved the signs for the girls bathroom at the university.  I don't know why but a rectangle head made me laugh.

What's also cool about the university (and my school has them too) are the filtered water dispensers.  There is hot and cold water for you to fill up your water bottle.  We loved them and used them often.  The only bad thing was when too many people got cold water...then it went to just cool water.

I was really surprised how much I like EPIK orientation.  Coming from a teaching background, having taught 15 years in the states, I was worried that I would be incredibly bored in my classes learning how to teach.  However, I did learn quite a bit.  Teaching English in a foreign country is entirely different than teaching math or reading in the states.  I learned a lot of new strategies and ideas.  However, many of those will not apply at my new school.  For example, we learned how to use Power Point in our lessons, and pretty much every lesson is based off of that with pictures, games, videos, etc.  My students are either fully blind and read Braille or are visually impaired and have to hold the book close to their eyes so they can read it.  My absolute favorite thing about orientation is.....meeting all the people.  I have made some wonderful friends that will be living around South Korea.  Many of those friends are living in Daejeon.  The friends that are living in other cities have an open invitation to come visit me, and I with them.  That's a pretty cool thing, especially considering that I want to see as much of Korea as possible.

At the end of orientation, we had to present a lesson.  Each team had 2-3 people and a topic with a particular grade level.  My team consisted of myself, Brandon (who has taught 2 years in South Korea), and Anna (who has taught 2 years in Japan and actually met her husband there).  Our topic was weather, and our grade level was 3rd grade, which is the first year they learn English.  We had to create a 45-minute lesson plan and present a 15-minute snapshot of our lesson.  We evaluated each other's lessons and then met with our class evaluator, Matthew, who is from Liverpool, England.  We got great reviews and were even voted by the class as the top lesson.  Woo-hoo!  Luckily, all three of us have had teaching experience, so we were pretty lucky and grateful.  We got a cool gift as our prize.

Our prize, which was a beautiful keychain

After our lesson presentations, we all met up with our MOE/POE (Metropolitan Office of Education/Provincial Office of Education).  There are about 55 new EPIK teachers in Daejeon.  I think we have the best POE.  They gave us a book on our city, a snapshot and pictures of our school, and brought actual EPIK teachers to talk to us about Daejeon.  No one else got that.  With my teaching experience, my Masters in Education, and my ESL certification, I am in the highest paid teaching bracket.  If I choose to stay and teach another year, I will get a big bonus, extra paid vacation, and a raise.  They really do their best to make their teachers happy and keep them here in Daejeon.  That's a new thing for me.

The last part of our orientation was the Closing Ceremony.  They make it a pretty big deal, and I really enjoyed it.  The food was amazing and it kept going and going and going.  I've never seen so much food at a buffet.  Some of the guys had their plates piled high about 5 inches tall...not kidding.

I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture of my plate.  So here's a picture of my almost empty plate.  Looks great, right? 
Our Class 2 group who sat together at dinner.  The guys color coordinated and forgot to tell us girls apparently.

They had some special dances, including one dance presented by the K-Pop class (EPIK teachers who had already learned some Korean) - my roommate was in this class and absolutely raved about it.  I was a bit jealous...I'll admit it.  Our class leaders got to go on stage and receive their certificates. The rest of us just got our certificates after the ceremony.  Here is our class leader, Patrick, receiving his certificate.

And more last pictures at orientation.  I already miss all my friends.
We have our official certificates!
With Kim, one of our class leaders

The last part I have to talk about orientation is the luggage.  We had to bring our big luggage down to the lobby the night before we left (after the closing ceremony) and put it in the correct area for our city.  The next morning, the whole lobby was filled with luggage.  It was total chaos.  People are saying goodbye to their friends and trying to get their luggage out to the trucks and buses.  Crazy madness.

Last orientation pic with my roommate.  I already miss her.... :(

We then all went our separate ways to our new cities and new lives.  Let the games begin!  And may the odds be ever in our favor....