Sunday, September 6, 2009

Embrace The Random!

Soon after writing the last post and sending it to my mom to put online, I saw on Facebook that Alex, a girl I met at orientation, had extended an invitation to everyone to join her at a meditation class at a Buddhist library downtown. I decided I wanted to go and she said that she would meet anyone interested on the platform of the Anguk station on line 3. After doing some research and talking to my co-teachers, it was decided that there was no way I could make it home after school and to meet her on time (and I usually like to be early), so I would go straight from school.  I left my office a little later than normal...

And walked leisurely out of my school....
And over towards the Jamsil station...

I took my time, and it was a lovely day.  It took me about 40 minutes to get to Anguk and I arrived around 5:45pm, a half hour earlier than planned.  I set up camp standing againt a wall where I was sure to see anyone leaving the platform and I waited.  I waited...and then waited some more.  Around 7:00pm I got back on the train and rode 45 minutes home to Gil-dong.  The lesson I learned during this misstep was that when in Seoul you ALWAYS pick an EXIT NUMBER to meet at.  Meeting on the platform is absurd, and clearly ineffective.  Later I got a message from Alix saying that she was sorry if she missed me, she had waited until 6:40pm and she had to get to class. We probably looked past eachother 15 times.  Frustrating!  Oh well...

Thursday was a rather uneventful day at work.  I spent more time in the office doing basically nothing.  Then after school Sienna took me over to Aju Elementary where I will be working in the after school program (which is an awesome gig...).  I met the vice principal and the woman in charge of the program.  I also met the 4 other teachers, Peter from Wales, Evan from Canada, Sinead from Ireland, and other guy (whose name escapes me) from California.  Get this, for the next few weeks I will be raking in the dough to teach...drumroll please...FUN BASED ACTIVITIES.  So basically I am getting paid like $30+ an hour to play games, do crafts, and sing songs.  Awesome.

We split up the kids and each interviewed around 18 kids to determine their level of English proficiency.  We were given a scale of 1-10, one being no English at all, and 10 being perfect.  It was very interesting to see all the different levels the kids represented.  I had two children that were 3s, meaning they only knew a few words.  Most kids were between 5 and 8.  I had one 9, and one 10.  The boy who I gave a 10 to was fantastic.  His accent was perfect and if I didn't know that he was speaking English as his second language, I never would have guessed it.  It helped that he spent five years in Singapore learning English from age 2-7.  It was cool to see the kids and they will all be split up by ability level and rotate through our stations.  The others stations are debate, science, social studies (which turns out to be US history that is being taught by a Welsh guy...I offered to switch, but he said it was okay), and one other thing that I can't remember.  It should be fun.

I came home on the train (I hit three lines on my way home from Aju, which is kind of obnoxious, but whatevs) and grabbed some food.  Just as I was done eating, Laura came across the hall and we talked for a while about a variety of things related to teaching, Korea in general, our apartments, etc.  Then I went to bed relatively early.  I slept terribly as I could barely breathe.  Hopefully these antibiotics will kick in soon and kill this sinus infection.

Friday I went to school and spent a rather productive day planning out my syllabus (complete with descriptions of each activity) for my after school class for the whole semester.  Our theme is "World Wide Fun" and we are going to spend 3 weeks on each continent (except Australia/Oceania which only gets 2 weeks...sorry!) learning games/crafts/songs from those areas of the world.  I had to change some games to include more English speaking, but I think it will be great. I also spent a few minutes in a classroom observing Sienna teach.  I would say 80% or more of what I saw was the kids learning English in...Korean.  They only said the target phrases, there was no real conversation or speaking.  That is why they get us in there, I guess.  It will be interesting to see how they respond to me in the classroom on Monday (and the rest of the week).

After school they threw me a little "Welcome to Korea!" party, complete with "pizza" (one had corn, peppers and potato chunks as the toppings, and the other had sausage, corn, and ham on top), and ice cream (a pack-your-own-pint thing that had the following layers: cherry, mint chocolate chip, blueberry, green tea....whaaaaaat? so random, and yet, delicious).  We also had the GIANT concord grapes that they have here.  They smell like wine and are soooooo gooooood.  I have eaten tons of them!

I came home and I was so out of it that I managed to not pay attention and get on the wrong line metro, so that added some time to my commute.  I finally got here and relaxed a little when Angie knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to have some dinner with her and a couple other SMOE people.  We went down and met Tom and Sal at the Gil-dong station and looked around for a place to eat.  We ended up eating at a chicken and beer place right down the street which was just what I needed.  We had hilarious conversation, good beer, and good food.  After dinner Tom had to leave so Sal, Angie and I decided to go get some ice cream at Baskin Robbins.  (By the way, I had apple mint ice cream, which is surprisingly delicious.)  While sitting there, I looked out the window and saw a guy in a bright green spandex body suit dancing and posing like a statue.  Then there were two more guys in crazy wigs and outfits dancing and holding up flyers at the window.  Apparently B-Boys and hip hop dancing are VERY big in Korea and this was the "Mad Mans" b-boy group trying to recruit an audience.  Thanks to Sal's prodding, we decided why the hell not.

The green guy's name is Sebastian, and he was really chill.  He spent some time talking to us before the performance and his English was pretty decent.  He translated most of the menu for us.  We ended up just getting a pitcher of beer to split and watching the show.

Mad Mans B-Boys from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.

We headed home around midnight, after quite an adventure.  Angie had planned on doing laundry Friday night, and I had planned on going to bed early.  But sometimes, you just have to embrace the random, and take the opportunities life throws at you.

This morning I got up and metro-ed out to meet Natasha and Brigid for a day on the Seoul Bus Tour.  It is like the Tourmobile in DC where you pay a flat fee (significantly cheaper here than DC!) and you can get on and off at will all day.  The first bus driver we had was a really jerky driver and I got SO carsick.  I had to send Brigid up to the front to ask for a plastic bag because I really thought I was going to throw up.  On three separate occasions I broke out into a cold sweat and thought for sure I was going to be "that girl."  Thankfully I wasn't.

We started off the day in the Namsangol Traditional Korean Village where we walked around and enjoyed the old architecture.  Pretty much nothing in Korea survived the invasion of the Japanese, so most of the older structures are reconstructed and are only about 200 years old.
Posing in the traditional village with the North Seoul Tower behind me on the mountain.

After finishing at the village, grabbed some lunch at a little cafe and we headed up to the North Seoul Tower that overlooks the whole city.  We had to climb an absurdly steep hill (like I am talking about this kind of incline: / ) to reach the entrance to the tower.  We went way up and got to see a 360 degree view of Seoul. 
There are high rises pretty much as far as you can see in all directions.
Looking towards home.

After we came down from the tower we spotted some ColdStone ice cream (which we quickly ordered and devoured).  As we were walking around and eating our ice cream we stumbled upon the section of the gate where everyone puts their love locks.

Couples write little notes and "lock" their love for all eternity.  I love the idea, and some were really creative and beautiful.

We also saw this delicious item being sold.  And by delicious, I mean horrifying.

When we were done at the tower, we went over to the Gyeongbukgung Palace, one of the largest palace complexes in Seoul.  It was the official principal palace of the Choseon Dynasty and it was really beautiful.

Natasha, Brigid and I at the main gate.

Beautiful architecture.

Colorful hallway.

Reminds me a lot of the Forbidden City and Summer Palace in Beijing.

Super peaceful little pagoda.

Throne room

Group pic at another building.

I am adorable.

After the palace we got back on the bus and headed towards where we had picked it up in the moring, Gwanghwamun Station.  We asked at the tourist information booth where we could get dinner and we were directed towards an AWESOME restaurant where we had fantastic bibimbap for quite cheap.  I took the metro home and just as I was about to get ready for bed, I thought "I should just check and see if there is some wireless network I can get on real quick..."

3.5 hours later, here I am.  I talked to my parents on video chat for a while and sent them some pictures before settling down to update this bad boy.  Hopefully this was a little more interesting with the pictures. If you want to see a larger version of the pictures, just click on them.

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