So last week my students were taking mid-terms, which meant half-days for me and some other school festivities! Not to mention teaching next to no classes the week before (students have to study/review/prepare) and absolutely none the week of, and we also had a national holiday on Thursday so there was no school!
Monday and Tuesday were half-days and I got to go home at 12:30 after a morning of “desk warming”, or just plain downtime at my computer. I try to lesson plan but sometimes looking at powerpoint or googling ideas for that long makes my eyes bleed so I just read the news, take Korean lessons online, or work on other things. On Monday my main co-teacher took me out to lunch which was really nice of her. We went for Chinese food, or at least the Korean-ized Chinese food. According to my CT (co-teacher) there are two main noodle dishes that Koreans order when they get Chinese. After doing some google-work to remember the names, they are called 자장면, or jajangmyeon, and 짬뽕, or jjamppong. I don’t really know any Korean swear words yet but I was warned that sometimes these words, when said with an incorrect accent, can come out as bad words. Better be careful!
Jajangmyeon is a noodle dish with a black bean sauce and seafood (sometimes switched out or in addition to pork or chicken). Usually includes zucchini or a similar vegetable as well. Its flavor is pretty light.
My CT suggested, or pretty much told me, that I have the jajangmyeon noodles because they are “bland” and she thinks the other noodles would be too spicy for me. Of course I said yes and went along with it. It was pretty good, except I don’t like much seafood but the plate was so huge that it wasn’t very noticeable that I didn’t eat most of the seafood.
Jjamppong , which my CT got for herself, is a spicy noodle soup with onion and certainly some chili or chili oil judging on the color and spice level. Thinking back, I should have asked her to try some!
Anyway, our lunch together was nice. My CT seems to genuinely enjoy talking to me about everything, from daily life to dreams for the future to our cultural differences. I usually feel I can be pretty open and honest with her as well, but I always try to make it clear that anything I find difficult here (life-wise and teaching-wise especially) I recognize as being a cultural difference that I accept. She helps give me some insight on life and culture here, and she just eats up everything I tell her about American and western life!
The rest of midterms week was full of other activities–teacher sports day and a school hiking day! Wednesday after our half day the teachers met in the gym and we were put on teams to compete in 3 games:
- shoe-throwing (or what I would call shoe-flinging). You have to put a rubber shoe on your foot, which is apparently what all of the shoes were made of after the Korean war when Korea’s economy was still on the road to improving, and throw it with your foot to make it inside of a circle about half a basketball court away. Hilarity ensued. Some teachers really got them all over the place but it was really fun. I made one out of two in the circle.
- jump-rope– not just any old jumping rope here. Nope. We used one giant rope and had ten people (five rows of two) jump the rope at the same time. After a few practice rounds my team took second place (4 jumps? or 5?) out of three teams.
- volleyball— mostly the male teachers did the work and the female teachers stood in the back as each time was required to have 2 to 3 females playing at any given time. Reminded me of a high school gym class!
And this whole time they had snacks: grapes (which are different in Korea, and the Koreans LOVE LOVE LOVE THEM!), trail mix, water, soda, and beer. Yes, beer. The teaching and drinking culture is pretty different here. You wouldn’t dream of seeing alcohol at a school function in the States!
On Thursday we had off of school and on Friday instead of having classes we did a school hike in the morning which was over pretty early as well. We set off with the students for about an hour or so long hike, pretty easy, but unfortunately didn’t give us any nice views. As we came back down the students and teachers spread out in a park at the bottom with platforms and seats and had a little picnic lunch. I’m not sure what the students had but the teachers were provided with kimbap, which is like sushi but the fish isn’t raw. The other teachers I sat with (all women–usually it seems that men sit with men and women sit with women for lunch) also brought coffee, apples, nuts, and some other fruit that I don’t even know how to describe and I had never seen before. But it was all delicious and really enjoyable even though I just sat there and ate while everyone spoke to each other in Korean. None of the teachers speak much English with the exception of my co-teachers and the Japanese teacher, who each time we speak says a little more in English and surprises me. She often takes me under her wing when my co-teachers aren’t with me.
Overall, the activities that went along with midterms week were really fun cultural experiences for me. The teachers help me feel welcome, even those who can’t verbally communicate with me very well. Plus it was really fun to participate in teachers sports day and see some of the teachers let loose, laugh, and have a good time. I’m very fortunate to have been placed in a school with friendly teachers and students that help make me feel like part of the community here. 🙂