Tips for surviving your first year in Korea

Two of my friends are getting ready to come to Korea. They asked me to write a blog on how to survive your first year here. It’s been a while since it was my first year so I took to Facebook to ask my friends. I was astonished at the replies I got back. There are so many things that nobody tells you before you come here. Hopefully we can sort some of that in this blog.

1. Language: Although English is widely taught and spoken by some people here, you should learn Hangeul. You simply won’t survive without it. And the best thing is that so many words are the same in English and Korean, you just need to be able to read out the Korean to understand.  You can learn your letters and a few basic words before you arrive. Although it looks super complicated, you can learn your letters in a number of hours. Here are some useful websites;

http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/

http://rki.kbs.co.kr/learn_korean/lessons/e_index.htm 

2. Culture: Know what’s expected of you in the workplace, when you visit someone, greeting people etc. A simple Google search will provide plenty of articles to read on this issue.

3. Supermarkets: The good news is that there are small supermarkets everywhere but for the bigger things there are two big supermarkets Emart and Homeplus (in Korean). You can buy everything from clothes to household items in these two places.

A tip is to buy with your card. I don’t know the ins and outs with this but it’s preferred to avoid the taxman.

Other tips from my friends include;

“You need to get stickers on your fruit on veg bag before you go to the register” (talking about loose items)

“Know the seasonal fruit and vegtables”

3. Transport: The bus, subway and train system here are excellent.

Subway;To make it easier for you, it’s a good idea to download the jihachul app so you can navigate the subway. system. You can figure out running time and waiting times for subways on this app. And yes, it’s in English.

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For those not living in Seoul, remember that the subway finishes well before midnight so if you live outside the city and you stay out, you should consider alternative transport home.

There is a jingle at transfer stations and end of line stations.

A Tmoney card is the name of the transport card in the Seoul and surrounding area. You can buy them for a few thousand won in most 7-11 and convenience stores. Then use the machines at the subway systems to load them with money or at a convenience store. The average cost of a journey can be calculated approximately using the jihachul app.

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Buses: There are different colour buses depending on where their destination is. Here is a site that explains just about everything transport related, http://www.kias.re.kr/sub06/sub06_06.jsp

You can also download the Seoul Bus app. Unfortunately, it’s in Korean but if you know the bus number you can check where on the route the bus actually is.

You can use your T Money card on the buses also or pay in small cash or coins.

Taxis; Taxis are EVERYWHERE. The regular ones are silver or orange. The should have a meter and the drivers information visible.

The black ones are more expensive. Supposedly they are more luxurious.

In Seoul, you can use your T Money card or a bank card to pay for the fare. You can also get a receipt. Outside of Seoul depending on the place, you can’t use a T Money card. You should have some cash to pay for the journey.

Here’s a nice little article on the whole thing, http://www.visitseoul.net/en/article/article.do?_method=view&m=0004007002011&p=07&art_id=39543&lang=en

4. Banks 

Everyone wants a bank account straight away because they come loaded with money. It’s always preferable to wait until you get an Alien Registration Card to do this. The main banks in Korea are;

Nong Hyup

Shinan

KB*B

KEB

Woori Bank

Some schools make you open an account in a particular banl to avoid transfer fees etc.

Banks are opened from 9-4 Monday to Friday. The exception are the expat banks like KEB who have branches open on Sundays for certain hours.  You should consider this if you have a 9-5 job.

At least 2 of these banks have excellent expat services (KEB and Shinan). You can set up internet banking and download an app on your phone to check your balance etc.

Most banks have someone that speaks English especially the ones with expat services so don’t fear going in alone to set it up.

KEB also have an account called an Easy One that will lodge money straight to your overseas account.

* I should note that other banks potentially offer the same service but I have my account with KEB. You should bring all the details of your home account for registration.

Bank Transfers; You can transfer money from your account to another Korean account  by using either online banking or going to a bank machine. It’s very easy and the machine has English language so you can’t go wrong.

Paying your billshttps://whatawaygook.wordpress.com/how-to/pay-your-bills-at-the-bank-machine-in-korea/

Insurance: Should you need car insurance, travel insurance, health insurance etc, you can contact the Samsung Insurance rep who can speak with you in English. You can reach him at byung625@gmail.com and his name is Byung. I have my car insurance with him and travel insurance and it’s always great value and he speaks perfect English.

5. Apartments; Apartments here are generally a one room or two room for single people. Unless you really luck out in which case you’ll have a few rooms.

You will have a washing machine and  heating to navigate in Korean but fear not, I already have blogs done on how to use them.

https://whatawaygook.wordpress.com/how-to/use-a-korean-washing-machine/

https://whatawaygook.wordpress.com/how-to/use-the-heating-in-a-korean-apartment/

6.Rubbish disposal; This is a tricky one. Every place and every housing complex has a different system. If you live in a huge housing complex, they have one day a week where everyone leaves out their rubbish. This rubbish is separated by recycling, food and other.

If you live in a random apartment this is how it usually works;

1. Go to the supermarket or local shop and buy the rubbish bags. The yellow ones are for food rubbish. The bigger ones (blue in my area) are for general waste. Then I also have recycling. I leave recycling out in a box or a paper bag.

2. Look on the street for other rubbish that is waiting to be picked up. Leave your rubbish here and it’ll get collected.

If you have a bigger item like a chair that you want to get rid of you can either 1) Leave it out and let someone else take it and use it or 2) Go to the supermarket and get a sticker for it. Put the sticker on it and leave it outside with your rubbish.

7. Post Office: The postal system here is extremely efficient and safe. If you wish to send something in country then just put the senders details on the top left corner and the receivers details in the middle. Then send it either the quick way or the regular way. It’s pretty cheap.

If you want to send something home, there are two options 1. Land 2. Air.

Land will take between 3-6 months to reach it’s destination. It’s cheaper than sending it by air and it’s good to send home clothes and other items that you don’t want but are in no great rush for.

Air takes only 7 or so days to get to the destination. It’s the fastest way to send things home.

The Korea Post website is in English so you can go ahead and check the rates and fees etc…..http://www.koreapost.go.kr/eng/sub/subpage.jsp?contId=e1010601

The post office is open from 9am-6pm .

8. Alien Registration Card

Your alien registration card is the card you get when you become officially registered with immigration. You will need this card for the following;

  1. Visit to the hospital
  2. Visit to the dentist
  3. If you’re stopped by the police
  4. Entering and leaving the country
  5. Opening a bank account
  6. Making a loyalty card
  7. Getting a phone contract

It’s so important. If you lose your ARC you must immediately report it missing with the police and then go to immigration and apply for another.

9. Expat websites and finding groups

There are some seriously useful websites out there for expats. I’ll list a few here;

http://seoul.angloinfo.com/

http://www.korea4expats.com/

http://www.iherb.com/

http://global.gmarket.co.kr/Home/Main

http://english.11st.co.kr/html/en/main.html

http://www.thearrivalstore.com/

For the teachers among us……

http://www.waygook.org/index.php?wwwRedirect

For the Irish;

http://iak.co.kr/

http://seoulgaels.weebly.com/

https://sites.google.com/site/busangaa/home

https://www.facebook.com/daegu.fianna.3

Also USE FACEBOOK! So many areas have their own Facebook pages. In my area we have Geumchon Crew, Ilsan have their own page and so on. You get the drift. Google it or Facebook it and you’re bound to find some groups.

10. Random tips;

You have the option on taking over a phone contract from someone who is already here. Keep that in mind before going off and starting one of your own.

Olive Young sells lots of foreign brand cosmetics.

Don’t open your gas valve all the way. Open it just enough so the meter turns otherwise you’ll have a big bill.

Bring a huge towel with you.

Go to cineinkorea to find out what movies are showing in a theatre near you.

Just go with the flow if you have no idea what’s happening.

You can call the tourist information people on 021330 if you need some help.

In the deep winter, don’t leave your heating completely off if you leave for over a week. If your pipes freeze and burst, your entire floor will have to be taken up and replaced. No one wants that………..

Never trust the green light when crossing the street. Pedestrian crossings are out in the stupidest of places so always look left when crossing and don’t take the chance if it’s a bus approaching.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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*If you want to add something to this list, leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stories from inside the classroom.

There are days at school when the students annoy me so much that I want to walk out the window and take my chances. But other days, they are so funny, I almost can’t remember the bad days.

I’ve learned so much from the students and whether they learn anything is beyond me. When first I started at this Kindergarten, I didn’t speak much Korean. Since it’s a Korean kindergarten and I’m the only foreigner, I wasn’t too long learning!

One day at the start, I had a five year old class and no assistant. Everything was going really well until this boy kept repeating something to me in Korean. I had no clue what he was saying so I just ignored him, hoping he’d stop. But he didn’t, he got out of his chair and made a gesture which made it quite clear that he needed the bathroom. I let him out and three minutes later, he’s standing at the door, butt naked holding a piece of tissue! Of all the days not to have the assistant!

 

I’ve learned that no matter how close to five the four year olds are, you probably shouldn’t give them scissors. I learned this the hard way. To be fair, they get scissors in art and other classes so I thought it was a fairly ok idea. I just let them off to cut the paper and when I turn back around one child is holding a clump of his hair. My only thought was ” I am such a failure”.

That’s a thought I have every day though. When one child is spread eagled on the table and another looks like he’s going to use his pencil as a weapon, I feel like a failure.

Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder what the children are thinking about when I give them a task. Today, their task was to draw their family. Ryan called me over and said; “Teacher, this is what people look like on the inside”

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He went into some serious detail about how the blood works with the veins and arteries so I looked at him and said “What does this have to do with your family? It’s my father”, he replied. Insert a shocked silence here.

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Just when I think I’m getting through, I realise I’m totally not. The above is supposed to say “This is my father” etc. But the student just did it phonetically, as in Korean so it ended up as “deesmebab” Quite clever if you turn the B’s around. At least he’s making an effort.

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This picture is the “family” of another student. I think that’s him in the middle, the dominant male. I have no idea who the other people are although the person on the right yielding what looks to be an axe looks a little malicious.

The most enjoyable time of day is just after lunch.  The children line up, class by class and brush their teeth. Since the staff room is on the 3rd floor where the four year old’s hang out, they are who I see most of. It is the funniest thing you’ll ever see. They get toothpaste on their faces, in their hair, on their clothes, they let it fall on the floor and then pick it up and brush their teeth, everything. If they eventually manage to brush their teeth, they “rinse” their mouths with water. This means the water ends up on the mirrors, on the floor, they just drink it, they spit it at each other, they try to talk with the water in their mouths, everything. At the end of it all, most of them have soaked themselves and their clothes have to be changed. Funny times.

You should see what happens when they get to play soccer in gym class. The gym teacher throws the ball to them and they try to kick it. What actually happens is that they just miss the ball and then they can’t figure out where it is so they run in circles looking for it. It cracks me up!

I know I’ve made it out that I work in a jungle or somewhere but we have a lot of fun and despite what I actually think, they do learn English!

 

 

CCTV in the classroom- pros and cons

The first thing I thought when I heard we were getting CCTV in all the classrooms was that the parents could access it and every day would turn into our very own drama. Thankfully, only the boss has access but it got me to thinking about the pros and cons of having cctv in the classroom. Before I talk about the whether it’s a good idea for my school, let’s take a look at some of the general pros and cons.

Pros;

1. Can prevent bad behavior- If the students know they are being watched, they might be better behaved. This might prevent bullying and intimidation. It can also prevent inappropriate behavior from teacher’s/ care givers.

2. Accidents- If a child gets hurt, the footage of the reason/cause can be seen.

3. Teachers-  Can use footage to improve on classroom management, problem areas etc. Teacher evaluations can be done using video footage.

4. Parents- feel more secure knowing that the classrooms are being constantly monitored.

5. Security- Students and teachers possessions are secure.

6. Protection- Teachers and students can be protected from false accusations.

 


 

Cons

1. Privacy- One could argue that CCTV in the classroom is an infringement of both the student’s and the teacher’s privacy.

2. Trust- Installing CCTV sends a clear message that no trust exists between the principal and teacher and between parents and school.

3. Performance- Constantly being watched might affect a teacher’s performance.

4. Parents- Turns already picky parents pickier.

5. While it might prevent bad behavior, it might also just encourage students to take their bad behavior to areas not accessed by camera.

6. Can lead to a “guilty until proven innocent” attitude.


We’ve all heard the horror of children and teachers being mistreated at schools around the world. It happens. Everyone has their own opinion on whether a school should have cameras installed. This blog looks at my situation here in Korea.

I work in a Korean Kindergarten that takes children from Korean age 4 (western age 3) to age 7 (6). In September, it looks like we’ll open a 3 year old class. We have over 100 students over 2 floors so that makes for a lot of little people walking around at any one time.

Parents tend to be extremely picky here. Everything from the condition of the chairs in the classroom to the temperature we set the air con to is questioned by one parent or another.

With this many students, accidents happen. The younger classes have an assistant in the classroom with the teacher at all times but even that isn’t enough to prevent a child falling or a fight or whatever. No matter how small the injury though, we are always the first ones blamed.

For this reason, I believe CCTV in the classrooms at our school can be a good thing. Parents can come in, see the footage and the situation can be solved faster than it could have been previously without the cameras.

New parents are put at ease when they discover the classrooms have cameras so it encourages them to send their children to our school over another.

One of our classes has also turned into a fight club this year. It’s very difficult to get through the class without at least one fight starting. For whatever reason, the children are woefully behaved in that particular class but when the teachers complain, the parents can’t possibly believe that their little angel could be capable of the things we’re had to witness.

Now, with CCTV, we can show them exactly what happened and hopefully do something to stop the bad behavior.

The cameras are only picture, no sound. If a parent was to review footage, they can only judge on the physical actions and this can be interpreted differently. One could argue that their child only behaved in a certain way because they were verbally provoked by another student.

However, most of the teachers feel that installing the cameras screams that the boss doesn’t trust us and as a result the atmosphere could be cut with a knife around here. Everyone is afraid to do anything close to fun for fear that it would be seen as a negative thing and used against them.

The school has turned into Big Brother. The second you walk off the elevator, there are cameras. The only place minus a camera are the bathrooms, the corridors and classrooms are all monitored. This is a great thing for keeping the children, the teachers and all our possessions safe. It also acts to deter any thieves etc that might be hanging around.

On the other hand, privacy is something that doesn’t exist here, neither does trust. At the end of the day, while this is a kindergarten, it’s also a business and money is the bottom line. My boss will do anything to keep a child here, I’ve seen that before. Parents don’t particularly trust us, and head office haven’t trusted us since day 1.

We’re only a week into this so I’m still on the ledge about whether this Big Brother style school is more good or bad.

*Everything in this post is my own opinion*

If you want to share your, leave a comment below.

 

 

 

1st week of the new term.

This isn’t my first new school term. I’ve been teaching here  long enough to know what to expect. As a kindergarten teacher, the first days of the new term bring out the best and worst in every child. It’s an adventure to say the best and in my opinion these first few weeks are the most important. It’s your chance, as a teach to get them into a good routine and good habits in the classroom and hopefully they’ll learn a bit of English along the way.  Students are generally one of three types;

1. The usual suspects– Have been in the school for several years already, possibly since they were 4 and now at 7 they’re well used to the teachers, classes, layout, expectations etc.

In some ways, these children are the hardest to teach because any bad habits or behaviors they have are almost impossible to reverse. This year, the English program focuses a lot on speaking so I spent all my free time this week making rules which we talk about every day and eventually the leader will talk about it. So far we’re only having problems with numbers 1,2, 3 and 4

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2. The new students– These are students who have already gone to kindergarten for  a year and are now at our school. Generally they are 6 years old and luckily for me they can recite their ABC’s and know what their name is etc.

3. The very new students– These are the 4’s and 5’s. These are the criers. The children who have no idea where they are, why they’re here or what’s actually going on. Sometimes, I wonder if four year old’s should even be sent to school. It is next to impossible to keep their attention, that’s if you managed to get in the door without putting the fear of God in them with your golden locks, blue eyes and white skin. Tears is a good word to describe these classes. Full of tears. And if your class is after lunch, you can expect most of them to be asleep on the desks.

This is how is looks during quiet time (i.e. no students)

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Here are some of the conversations I’ve had this week;

Me; Good morning!

Student 1…………………………………………………………………………

Me: Hello! What’s your name?

Student 2 Hello! Nice to meet you (there is hope after all)

Me; How are you?

Student 3; How are you?

Me; How are you?

Student 3; How are you?

Me; Yes, how are you?

Conversation continues in this fashion for a long while.

Me; 안녕!

Student 4; 엄마!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *TEAR TEAR SOB SOB*

Me; Hello!

Student 5; Happy!

Me; Hello! How are you?

Student; ……………………………………………..(.just strokes my arm and looks into my eyes.)

Taking a break just consists of hiding in the teacher’s room listening to the hysterical crying and sobbing.

Today, I came to school and there was a tv crew doing a program with the father of one of our students. When the students saw the activity, zero work got done.

Home time cannot come fast enough………

Renewing my E2 Visa

*Update August 2014

The following are the documents required if you are renewing your E2 visa and staying at the same school;

  1. Signed contract
  2. ARC and passport
  3. Teaching schedule (provided by school)
  4. Business registration certifiate (provided by school)
  5. Tax statement certificate (provided by school)
  6. Housing contract (either you or your school will have this)
  7. 60,000 won

Tips;

1. If you can, book an appointment. And book it early. When I went online to book one, surprise, they were all gone so I ended up waiting two hours.

2. When you arrive, grab a number first and then go and get your revenue stamps. That’s what the 60,000won is for. It’s extremely annoying and time consuming to wait for two hours, be within 3 people of the top and they walk up with no stamps. The signs are in English people! Get your stamps!!!!!!!!

3. Note. I almost wasn’t allowed renew at the office I went to. You must go to the immigration office WHERE YOUR HOUSE ADDRESS IS, NOT YOUR SCHOOL ADDRESS. I found that out when I went up but I stated that after waiting 2 hours I wasn’t leaving without my renewed visa. This is super random and obviously a new rule because last year it was all about the school address. Again, if in doubt, call immigration before you go.

4. Immigration laws are set to change next year and the documents required change like the wind so please do not take this post as the absolute gospel of what is required. Be responsible and call immigration on 1345 before you go.

 

Original Post…….

Going to immigration is, for me, like visiting the dentist. I  don’t want to have to do it but I know if I don’t, I’ll be in trouble. So with just 2 days until my current visa expired, I took the 2 hour drive to Suwon Immigration. Why did I go to Suwon when there is an immigration office in Goyang? The school I work for has their head office in the Suwon area and since I’m registered under them I must visit Suwon immigration. If you think I have it bad, imagine the foreign worker in the school in Daegu. They got the short straw. After a three-hour wait today, it took less than five minutes to extend my visa. I hand her all my documents and the conversation went like this;

Immigration worker; You change school?

Me: No

Immigration Worker; No? You’re good. Here you go.

(Looks at the documents in a somewhat confused manner,scribbles on the form,writes the new date and waves me off)

I was simply renewing the visa to work in the same school. Here is a list of the documents you will require;

  1. An original, signed contract
  2.  A business registration ( supplied by your school)
  3. A teaching schedule ( supplied by school)
  4. Your alien Registration card
  5. Your passport ( but they really only took a quick glance of mine)
  6. 3 Revenue stamps.
  7. Application Form (at the immigration office) (You’ll be checking Extension of Sejourn)

You can get the Revenue stamps at the immigration office. They cost 10,000won and you need 3. Make sure to bring cash but there are atm’s available if you need them. In the Suwon branch the stamps can be bought at the little counter beside the stairs. There is a sign in English that says “Revenue stamps”

I arrived at the office at 2.30 and thought that going a little later would mean fewer people. I was wrong. I was number 460 and they were only on 330. So I was in for a long wait, surprise surprise. This wasn’t my first time to the Suwon branch, it was my third and everytime I went at different hours of the day. There are always huge numbers of people there. I have friend who teaches public school and went to Goyang immigration last week, made two visits and was in and out in under an hour both times. So I guess every branch is different.

If I had a recommendation after today it would be this,

1) BUY YOUR REVENUE STAMPS! I wouldn’t have had to wait 3 hours if all 130 people before me had brought their revenue stamps with them. Instead they got to the counter and had to then go and buy them and return. Waste of time.

2) Fill out your application form. Again, I cannot tell you how many of the 130 people ahead of me turned up to the counter with a blank application form. FILL IT IN!

3) Make an appointment. You can make an appointment at http://www.hikorea.go.kr/pt/index.html. I did of course try this myself but it kept saying that I couldn’t. So I rang immigration who told me to install some security program, reboot and do it again and it still didn’t work so I took my chances. I’ve heard from my friends that an appointment gets you in and out in 20 minutes so it’s worth it.

4) Bring entertainment. I actually had a lot of fun people watching, but be prepared to wait. You should also have some snacks. No point in going hungry.

5) I would highly recommend going in the late afternoon if you’re going to the Suwon branch. By 4.30 there were only 80 people in the queue and by my turn at 5.30 they were down to 50. Closing time in Suwon is 6pm.

6) Always check with immigration what documents you need. Things change all the time. You can call immigration on 021345 and speak to an English speaking representative who can tell you what you need.

So that’s me. A legal E 2 holder until September 2014. Here’s to another great year of teaching, blogging and generally having a great time! Leave your comments below!

It’s not ALL fantastical……

Most of my posts are pretty positive. I do my best. But I thought it only fair to do the not so fantastical things also. A big shout out to the people who contributed to this on my Facebook page.

1. Puke Puddles– The absolute worst thing about living in Korea. Back in the day when I lived in my old apartment, I used to live next to a pedestrian street lined with little restaurants. Every morning, I would have to pick my way through the puke puddles to get to school. We used to call it Puke Alley. It was worse in winter when they were frozen. I hope no one was eating their lunch. Sorry. Enough. Disgusting.

2. Spit– Koreans love to spit and so there are little spit globs everywhere. I’m not even exaggerating. It’s everywhere, on the floors, in the elevators, on the stairs, in the toilet cubicle, in the toilet sinks, on the buses, subways, everywhere. Disgusting.

3. The pushy shovey adjummas– Some adjummas are so cool, we could be friends but other adjummas are a pure dose. They push and shove and not only are they rude but they bring giant containers of Kimchi on the bus.  헐!

4. The price of deodorant This is the most random thing but decent deodorant costs a lot. Most of the time, I stock up on foreign trips but what’s up with that?

5. Bread– If you’re looking for Mammy Browne’s bread over here, you’ll be looking for a while. It is most difficult to find a good decent bread. Or a decent sandwich for that matter.

6. When Koreans pretend they don’t understand what you said, even though you said it in Korean.

7. When Koreans think that because you’re the only white girl in town, it makes you 1) Russian and 2) a prostitute

8. Trying on clothes; When the store owner either 1) Tells you there are no “big sizes” and/or 2) Won’t let you try on the clothes.

9. Shoes; The utter lack of shoes from Europe size 7 (255-260)  and up is shocking. Just shocking.

10. Physical Appearances; Koreans are utterly obsessed with weight, dieting, white skin and the perfect face.

11. Toilet paper: You must bring your own toilet paper with you when you go out because there is always the chance that your toilet won’t have any. Then you must put it in the bin when you are finished because it is believed that putting it into the toilet will block the drains.

12. Messing around with food; Koreans love to put food where it doesn’t belong. Like sweetcorn on everything, mayonnaise on everything else. Stop! If I want either, I’ll ask for them.

13. Skirts; In Korea, it’s not ok to wear a low top but it is totally appropriate to wear a skirt so short, one might mistake it for a belt. This then results in the woman having to cover her behind with a bag so as to not flash her bum at anyone behind her. Surely she could have just worn a longer skirt?

14. Desk warming– The act of sitting at your desk, not teaching, just sitting. There are only so many movies to watch, books to read, Korean words to learn before you get bored and want to go outside.

15. Bins- I could rant all day about this. Why are there not more bins? Seriously, where are we supposed to put our rubbish and where do Koreans put it? If I eat something with a wrapper, am I really supposed to walk about 2km to find a bin? I think not. PUT MORE BINS OUT!!!!!!

16. Banks– For the most part, I love my banking experiences. However, it drives me insane when they insist on photocopying my id and passport when I send money home (KB*b). I gave you those when I opened the account and again the first time I transferred money. Surely you have it on record?

17-Public Urination– This usually happens at night but there is no excuse for randomly going to the bathroom. If it’s not the drunk people, it’s the children. You cannot just use this area as a bathroom. People are walking here. And you especially can’t use this area if it’s enclosed like a bus or the subway.

18. Points Cards– I have a points card for everywhere. But I don’t know how to redeem most of them because all the websites are in Korean. While I could go ahead and challenge myself to reading the Korean, I’d prefer to just do it in English. Would it really kill them to make an English language page? I think not.

This is a pretty long list but most of the things are small things that we thought we’d share. Leave your comments below with anything I forgot!

A day in the life of Shauna.

The alarm rings and I turn it off. The next alarm rings and I do the same. Five alarms later, I decide to get up. It’s 7.30am and the start of a whole new day. I’m up and ready, eating my breakfast by 8ish. I spend the next 30 minutes watching whatever English programme happens to be on tv at that time of the morning.  These days it’s usually Poirot or Miss. Marple. At what is supposed to be 8.30am but in reality is 8.40am , I leave my apartment and head to school. The journey takes just 20 minutes in my car, Spuddy.

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Classes start at 10.10am but the teachers are all there for 9am. I use this time to prep for the day but mostly I use it to think of little games we can play at the beginning of class.  Classes in my school are only 25 minutes long so I try to play one game with each class before doing book work. The curriculum is made for me so I know what I have to do in each class.   It’s also a good time to say hello to the children and since there’s always a drama at school, I can hear all about it during this time. I teach children from Korean age 4 to Korean age 7.  Let me describe to you the sounds you hear from the staff room in the morning.  Imagine a child still using their outdoor voice and multiply this by 50. Then throw in a crying child and two fighting children and you have a good idea of the chaos here in the morning time. To be fair, once we get over the initial “I’m at school again” shock and excitement, they calm down.

The day goes from 10.10am first class to 2.30pm all classes over. Then there’s a special 40 minute class from 2.40pm to 3.20pm and then desk warming until 5pm. My school isn’t an English kindergarten it’s a Korean one so the children all speak Korean except to me where I make them speak English. If there’s ever a way to improve your Korean, it’s work at a school like this.  I’ll never forget the first few months I worked here. My Korean was pretty basic so when a child asked me to go to the bathroom, I would have no idea what they said and would spend a long while looking them up and down trying to decide from their general posture what the matter was! Like all things in Korea, it was a learning experience.  They learned to use hand signals and I learned how to speak better Korean. With the exception of 3 teachers, the majority of teachers here don’t speak English so if I want to report an incident in the classroom or talk about a student, it’s done in Korean or Konglish.

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Since this is a day in the life, lets take my Monday. Class schedule looks like this; 7yr, Free, 6yr, 6yr, Lunch, 5yr, 4yr, Free, Special Class.

The seven-year olds are a great class to start with. We talk about the weekend, we do some book work and then they play a quiz game similar to hangman where they have to guess the letters. These days they’re actually getting really good at guessing the words. I’ve had to turn those words into sentences and today they got the sentence ‘ I had a banana and bread for breakfast” before their lives ran out.  The class is brilliant. They make up their own English and speak to each other in this unique language “Robin, this eat no don’t do that not so good” Great effort and great use of all the key sentences I use.  The class leader also disciplines them and I love to watch how the whole thing works.

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Sixes are a different story. Some of them have never learned English and some of them have not only been learning English since they were 4 but they have home tutors.  This makes for an interesting class, every class.  The dynamic is often fragile as the faster students pick on the slower ones. I start all their classes with a game that involves easy vocabulary like colours or animals to level the playing field but sometimes that doesn’t work. Today we’re talking colours and one (there’s always one) says dinosaur.  The game is over. Book time and yes there is one for everyone in the audience ( I really do say that). Best thing about sixes is that they aren’t afraid to give themselves praise.  They spend the class pointing to their work going “teacher, good job, good job”(not a question, a statement)

Lunch on a Monday is the calm before the storm. The five and four-year old classes on a Monday are the worst. The fives are so unpredictable. I never know what they’ll be like. I try singing and they look at me like I’m crazy. I try a game but they don’t get it so I go straight to book and they don’t want to do that either. So it’s a terrible waste of a class.

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Awful, shocking and now to finish the day on a low note is the four-year olds. Of the three 4-year-old classes in my school, these are the worst. The first 6 weeks, they spent every English class crying hysterically when I entered the room. I didn’t even say anything. Now it’s May and only one of them hysterically cries. He gets so upset that he’s not only crying but sobbing uncontrollably to the point of almost vomiting.  These days he’s taken out before I arrive which calms things somewhat. The other students have been bribed to not cry by the homeroom teacher. So finally the class begins. By this time it’s 1.30pm and these poor little children are so tired. We sing a song and they don’t react in any way. So we sing it again, with a little more enthusiasm and only one joins in. Enough with that, I take out the book we’re supposed to be “reading”. Except by reading , I mean looking at the pictures and learning single words and making appropriate noises. So, the frog goes rweeebbuddd and I jump up and down, which also gets no reaction. The same goes for the elephant, the cat, the snake and the fish. One child has fallen asleep. One is engrossed in the contents of her nose and the other is just staring into space.

Snack time followed by special class.  Special class today is for the 7 year olds and I only have two. We turn on the computer and the material we’re using have a special programme of interactive activities. That’s how they spend the first 15 minutes. Then t’s book time.  The book is pretty difficult for students who don’t learn English all day so it’s a slow process. Today, I want to jump out the window. The activity is a comparison of the two stories and they have to tell me the differences. Except they don’t see any so I try to hold back the frustration. Eventually, we find 3 differences and manage to write them down correctly so it’s not a completely wasted effort after all.

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The final hour of the day is spent chillaxing in the English room (above).  The children have all gone home so I take in the rare moment of silence.  This is when the weekly report gets done or any preparation is completed. But usually I catch up on whats happening around the world.

For your entertainment, this is what happens on the first day of term when no students show up to class…..https://www.facebook.com/540988015/timeline/2013#!/photo.php?v=10151324946708016

This blog is dedicated to Brian Healy and Edel Feely. The coolest followers I have. Thanks guys and keep the suggestions coming!