I'm back! I have been pretty terrible about keeping this blog. 2 weeks have gone by. Oops. Well a lot has happened so I will give all of my patient readers a nice lil update.
I started teaching! Yay! My first lesson was an introduction lesson about meeting people and all of that since I am meeting all of them for the first time. Bascially I showed a nice lil slideshow of myself and friends and family and stuff like that and then we played a Jeopardy style game with random facts about me. It was a nice fun lesson, but I wished I could somehow get the students talking more. With the next lesson, I was able to do that a bit more.
This week we also said fare thee well to our principal. Every 4-5 years, the principals and teachers have to change schools in order to spread all of the really good teachers around to all of the schools and make it fair, I guess. Most teachers don't want to teach in the really rural far out places so they just takes turns I suppose. I'm not 100% sure how everything works but I don't have to worry since I won't be here that long. So all of the teachers had a lil dinner to say goodbye to the principal and everything. The dinners are quite different from what I have done in the states. Nearly all of the teachers crammed into the restaurant and sat around to eat and drink. Drinking is a fairly big part of Korean culture, especially men. However, I mentioned to my cooperating teacher early that I don't really drink very much and she kept this in mind as she quickly took me away to the table with all of the young female teachers who also don't drink. Sometimes the prinicpal comes around and offers beers or shots of soju, but that didn't happen at our table since no one really was interested. This was totally fine by me! It just seemed like a very awkward dinner, but apparently is somewhat common.
Afterwards, some of the teachers I was sitting with went out for coffee and I tagged along. It was pretty fun. They were all trying to speak English with me and they were pretty decent for the most part. The grammar and all of that was definitely not perfect, but I could usually understand what they were trying to tell me, which, in my opinion, is the most important part. We wanted to try and get a workshop class for the teachers who were interested in learning more English, but it doesn't look like the schedule is going to work out this semester.
So school was great. I also was able to do some things with my homestay family and even on my own! On Saturday, we went to the city of Jeonju. It's about an hour and 20 minutes or so away and we went to a Hanok village that had a bunch of old historical homes and even one of the old palaces. All of the buildings looked really cool and many of them were all decked out inside too. Some of them were converted to museums like this one fan museum. There were also a ton of shops and restaurants. We went to a bibimbap restaurant because Jeonju is famous for its bibimbap. It is essentially a dish with a bunch of vegetables (carrots, onions, green things that I don't know) and it has some sort of meat (usually pork or duck) and then you dump a bunch of rice in it too. Add a lil (or a lot) of hot sauce and there is your bibimbap. It tasted like the other ones that I have had so I didn't really see what the big deal was about Jeonju's but then again perhaps my bibimbap palette is not as refined as it should be yet.
Around 4 or so, my host family left and I decided to stay in Jeonju to meet another Fublright ETA, Kelly. She teaches there along with a few other ETAs and I really wanted to meet some since I haven't been able to see any of the etas yet. Luckily she was free so I waited around while she was on her way. I was waiting for about 15 minutes and lo and behold I see someone! I kind of just stare at him for a little bit and he just looks back at me. then I realized that it is indeed the one and only Andrew M! I was pretty shocked because he lives in Iksan, which is 30 minutes away! And I live in Suncheon which is nearly three times as far! It was a really weird but totally awesome coincidence that we ran into each other. He and his co-teacher joined Kelly and I later to go out to this great place to have some really good food. We had everything from pig's feet to squid. I also tried some Makgeoli, which is like a sweet Korean rice wine. The place was such a great find and I can't wait to go back. Andrew's co-teacher was totally awesome to and kept us laughing the whole night. It was so nice to finally be able to see some familiar places and use English normally. At school and home, I usually have to talk very slow and with easy vocab but it was nice to talk like I naturally do for a little while. And, of course, it was just amazing to be able to see my friends again.
I continued teaching! Yay! I finally moved on from just an introduction to getting into different topics. I chose personality to be my new topic. I think personality is pretty important to talk about and learn about so it worked well. I am doing an activity where there are photos with the word (ex. friendly with a smiling person) and students have to write it down beside the corresponding pic. I also did an activity where I drew a character from Spongebob Squarepants on the board and the students had to describe his personality using the words they just learned. Then to top it all off, we played bingo using our new words and the winner got a spongebob sticker. The students all seemed into the lesson, especially since I acted it out. It's hard to be super enthusiastic all the time about something you've done so many times, but it's better than teaching quiet, bored students.
We also got a new principal this week. Apparently he is much more strict than the previous one. I can't really tell because I honestly don't really know what is going on most of the time. He used to be a German and then an English teacher so I am able to talk to him a little bit which is pretty cool. The prinicpals are rarely seen that often. They work more with the main offices and outside organizations while the vice principal does more of the day to day tasks that an American principal might do. We had another little dinner but the new principal is an elder in his church so he does not drink which means the dinners are shorter and have less speeches and more eating. We also had our first volleyball game. Apparently, it is super popular for teachers in Korea to bond over a volleyball game afterschool. It sounds good to me! It was pretty fun to watch, some of them are really intense so not sure how much I will play haha.
Homestay went well of course. Did not really do a whole lot with them this week. We went to ice hockey lessons on Sunday which is fun to see. The instructor tried to teach me but I didn't want to take too much of his time so he could focus more on his team. I learned how to turn better and how to do crossovers. The only bad part about this all is how small the skates are! The biggest ones they have is one size too small so I cannot wear them too long. I've been eating dinner and everything with the fam and hanging out with them in the evening, but it is just normal family type things not really anything extraordinary.
On Tuesday I had a day off! The students were taking exams and I didn't have to stay because of that so I slept in late and then I went and explored my city. I just walked around a ton all over the part of the city I am in. I explored different areas and shops and restaurants. Probably my biggest find of the day was a Crossfit Gym that I ended up joining. I am still really surprised that I joined it because it is totally something that I would never do at home. It has been much more difficult than I thought so far and I am always feeling pooped afterwards, but I enjoy it. The people are all very nice and it is good to be regualrly exercising again and do things totally different than I would ever do otherwise. Should be an adventure. I am going to take the classes which are like 1 hour or so for 4-5x a week.
Last big event was my adventure in Gwangju! Gwangju is the biggest city near me and I was going there to take a Kimchi making class. Kimchi is bascially fermented cabbage and it is at every single Korean meal. It really isn't that bad if it is cooked well, but that is the key. Ours was done well so it turned out well! I gave it to my host family and they prety much devoured it. During the class, I met a few people and we went out to lunch together. One was an EPIK teacher (the other major english teaching program in Korea) and one was a teacher at an English hagwon (after-school tutoring). It was nice to meet some native-English speaking people who were not Fulbrighters. It was definitely a different perspective and they are in very different situations. I feel very lucky to be doing fulbright.
I also met some Fulbright friends in Gwangju. We all went to a dog cafe. It is not a place where you eat dogs, but rather you get to hang out with them! There cats and dogs all over and you can just pet them and hang out. It is definitely a different concept, but I enjoyed. Totally not sanitary though but I didn't eat food so I felt fine about it haha. We also went out to a Chinese restaurant where I pigged out on some dumplings. Some of my favorite food! It was awesome to be able to see some more of my friends.
Then on Sunday it was a pretty relaxed day. I slept in a little and had a nice lunch. I was also able to Skype with the one and only Gus! It was really nice to be able to see a friend from home. I talk to some on facebook sometimes, but I'm still pretty new to Skype so I don't really use it as much. If you want to talk, my name is benjamin.m.louis :) Then there was the ice hockey lesson in the evening and that was about it.
Whew. That took literally all school day. I started in the morning and have been working between classes. It would probably be easier if I just do a week at a time or so. I think that is what I will shoot for. Sorry that it has been so long since I've been on. Just a little busy with moving to a new city, a new job, and a host family haha. Things are great though. Definitely can't complain. I hope things are good back home!!