I'm finally set up with internet at home, so that will make blogging easier. My sickness is long gone (whew!) and I feel like I'm starting to adjust to the schedule a bit more. This week we start a new semester with a new schedule, though, and I'll have to adjust again. I have more classes and no breaks in between. M-W-F I'll have 6 classes in a row from 2:30-7:00. It's not long, but it's intense. T-Thu is a little lighter.
Last weekend I visited my friend Maria, who is a Spanish teacher north of Seoul. It takes me about 1:45 to travel to her town. There are many beautiful mountains there, and hiking is all the rage. When the weather was still nice (a little more than a week ago it suddenly changed from 60's/70's to 30's/40's! It even snowed a bit yesterday.), Maria said the people would all go hiking. The mountainsides were so thick with people that she really thought they were giving something away up there! Korea can seem like a maniacal country to foreigners in some ways, such as the extreme importance placed on children's education, and trends like hiking that very quickly become popular and seemingly everybody does (in the case of hiking, mostly middle aged and older people) and buys the latest gear for it.
Maria took me to a delicious, traditional Korean restaurant: We take off our shoes at the entrance, walk across the wooden floor to a low table where we sit on the floor on thin cushions. They bring out small plates of appetizers: various kinds of kimchi, mushrooms, salad and warm broth. We eat with the traditional metal chopsticks and long spoons, and then they bring out a creamy mushroom soup, baked and seasoned fish, and delicious bowls of steaming rice. We spoon the rice out of the stone bowls and into other bowls. We then pour hot water into the stone bowls which steeps the rice sticking to the bottom and sides of the bowl, making a kind of tea. They bring us other dishes I can't either identify or remember well. At the end they bring us a kind of sweet, spicy cider served cool. Very delicious, and very healthy.
Student management has continued to be a challenge for me. I introduced some rules and also some prizes as incentives to participate and study. It seemed to help a little at first. It is kind of hard for me because I have a hard time being a disciplinarian with the kids, which is kind of necessary for a well-behaved classroom. When I consider how much Korean kids have to study, though, I don't really want to become very strict. I would almost rather cut them (and myself) a little slack and just ensure we get through the lesson and some learning takes place. Most of the kids do learn at our school, because many of them move up to the next level and their English abilities do improve. So the method does work, it's just not always fun carrying through with it. I think overall it's getting better for me. It's a matter of both myself and the students adjusting to the reality of the English hagwon (private English school).
I decided to make my apartment a little more cozy, so I took the first step this week and bought a little cactus in a nice pot. I have rudimentary plans for a small cactus garden along my window ledge. If anybody knows anything about this or has any tips, I'd appreciate them! Plants are fairly inexpensive here.
One of my next steps is to plan something to do during my week off between Christmas and the New Year. I have some ideas, but no definite plans yet. More to come soon...