Friday, August 17, 2007

Day 2, Adieu

Whew! Day 2--our first normal school day--has passed in a blur. No serious injuries, physical or otherwise. Check.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


We have reached 3:40 PM, which under normal circumstances would mean the school day is over, but today means we have to keep a bunch of wiped-out kids in the room until the assembly, when we have to keep them still for about two hours of hymns, speeches, and plaque presentations. I have them doing their math homework now, but that'll be done soon and I have no idea what will happen next. I don't think this afternoon was planned with child psychology in mind. Or teacher psychology, actually.

A good day but with some things to be concerned about. If a class has a non-Asian kid in it, that kid (at least today) always appears to be on the edge of things, which is not going to be okay at all in the long run and isn't good in the short run either. The sixth grade is... shall we say, high-energy? Welcome to hormone-ville. And it's so hard to teach a class when half the kids are looking at you like, "I have no idea what you just said to me." Except they're probably thinking it in Korean.

Anyway, tomorrow should be yet another very interesting day. And at least I'll probably get to teach it on a full night's sleep - yesterday I was so nervous that I probably slept three hours.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Lied: Photos of Our Classrooms

Nana wanted me to throw a few of these up so you could have some idea of what what we're doing looks like . . .

(By the way, that third picture's the before picture. Rows? Bah! How about seminar style? Woot!)

Wish us luck!

Photo Post: Gyeongbokgung Palace

Yesterday I posted an entry (with a bunch of photos) about our visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace (link), but thanks to the vagaries of Blogger, it posted before two of Nana's posts, though it was actually finished after.

So if you missed it, click here (or either of the links above).

The First Day of School . . .

. . . is almost upon us. Which means you probably won't be hearing from us for a day or two--I'll try to put up a short post on Friday, but Saturday is a better bet.

The current mood here at APIS (among those who've stayed late--it's almost 7PM now, and there's pizza on the way) is a mixture of exhaustion, anxiety, anticipation, and relief. Plus a whole lot of punchiness.

Anyway, for now, it's back to the grindstone. There's so much that needs to be done when you're opening a school! And it'll be a long day tomorrow (we have an inauguration ceremony at 5PM and a reception at 7), so we're going to need what little rest we can get.

In the meantime, any leftover prayers or good vibes you've got would be much appreciated.

(But, man, I can't believe the kids will be here tomorrow . . . that's so unreal!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nana & Her Croissant Are Displeased


I will be really happy once they get the volume on the bell system here at the school settled down. I just got blown out of my seat again.

Data Call!

Okay everyone, time for me to pick your brains.

I talked to Esther (the ESL-teacher heroine in the movie of the life of APIS) and we agreed that when you're dealing with a foreign language (which we are; 1/2 of my kids are taking English) things are much easier to memorize in song format. What I would like to do is get songs that address the topics of the day in Social Studies and use them to help make the information "stickier" for the kids. Esther has offered to use her Friday class specifically on Social Studies (didn't I tell you she was a heroine?) and could make the song lyrics her translation project.

The question is, what songs?

And this is where you come in.

My topics include :
US History, Native Americans - 1900 (although primarily through Civil War)
the Ancient World (Egypt, Sumer, Indus Valley, ancient China, mesoamerica)
the Classical world (Greece, Rome)
Medieval Middle East ("Golden Age of Islam")
Medieval China
Medieval Europe
Medieval Africa (Mali, Ghana)
Medieval Japan
"Medieval" America (Incas, Aztecs Maya - societies existant during the Age of Discovery)
The Renaissance
The Reformation
The Age of Discovery
The Scientific Revolution
The Enlightenment
Culture of the Pacific/Asia (China, Japan, The Koreas,India, Pakistan, Israel, Saud Arabia, The Stans, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands

Yes, it's going to be a full year!

So in any case, what have you got? I've got a couple of Civil War songs, songs from 1776, "Madame Guillotine" from The Scarlet Pimpernel if we make it to the French Revolution, "The Impossible Dream" from Man of la Mancha to teach chivalry, and Pharoah's song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat if I really can't think of anything better. So please, send me ideas!

And anybody who can come up with a song about Medieval Africa gets my undying respect (whatever that's worth!)

Gyeongbokgung Palace (A Much-Belated Entry)

(Note: Photos may not load if you're getting this through e-mail or an RSS reader.)

About a week ago, I promised you, loyal readers, a post about our visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace--when our internet connection was up and running and I could post some photos. Well, given that it may be another week plus before said connection materializes, I've decided to sneak a short photo post in here at the school.

Gyeongbokgung Palace was the main and largest palace of the Joseon (aka Choson, Chosun) Dynasty. The Joseon ruled the Korean Peninsula for a little more than five hundred years (1392-1910) after they overthrew the Goryeo Kingdom (sounds like "Korea," doesn't it? Hint, hint.), who themselves rules the peninsula for about 450 years. (Bonus: the Joseon kept right on using the name Goryeo for a long time, both because Koreans love old stuff and because Goryeo was also the name of the first great ancient kingdom in Korea.)

Anyway, among other neat stuff, the Joseon built Five Grand Palaces in Seoul (their capital) and Gyeongbokgung was the one built for the king.

Gyeongbokgung was certainly built to impress. Even without the famous Ganghwamun Gate (under renovation), the palace is a forbidding sight. You enter through a large secondary gate, shown here (along with fellow teachers Colleen and Heidi and, of course, my lovely wife), guarded by impressive looking men in traditional garb and wielding very shiny weapons. The view behind the gate encompasses a series of rocky crags (and the view looking out from the gate encompasses a bunch of skyscrapers, but we'll forget that part for now). Amazing to think that this was actually a somewhat small palace by East Asian standards--Korea's suzerain relationship with China spelled out that the Korean king's palace had to be smaller than the Chinese emperor's by a certain amount.

Here is one of the aforementioned guards. I opted not to try him with my kung fu. Anyone out there know more about the duds or the weapon or anything? A quick search turned up squat.

From the gate, then, you walk across a broad plaza and through another large gate to the throne building (left), hopefully taking time to notice some of the careful architectural details (below).

(By the way, have you ever noticed that Blogger makes it incredibly hard to use photos in your posts? This has been twice as much work as I expected, and the layout looks like crap!)

At the back of the grounds, then, is the impressive Korean National Folk Museum, though since I didn't go in (and Nana went in only briefly), more detail will have to wait for another day. Still, the museum was an imposing structure, and for reasons I haven't quite come to understand, has these little stone and wood (animist?) totems scattered around outside.

Anyway, that's about as much Blogger-wrangling as I can handle right now, so I guess I'd better get back to work. (My real work, that is.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Continuing Trials and Tribulations of Korean Internet

So I suppose some of you might be wondering why neither of us posted yesterday (Sunday . . . which may have been Saturday for some of you . . . which still confuses me . . .). I mean, it was totally Sunday, and we totally had nothing to do. (Besides go to the Kyobo Bookstore--more on that later, perhaps.)

Unfortunately, life has not been that simple for us, at least as far as teh intarweb is concerned. We still have no connection at the apartment, and my repeated attempts to sneak onto a neighbor's wireless connection have not met with success. This is especially frustrating because it looks like we may not have an internet connection in the apartment any time soon. Apparently, the school has had a minor falling-out with its internet provider over some shadiness on the provider's part pertaining to teachers' home connections--the internet provider is insisting that each teacher buy a modem and pay for a separate connection (to the tune of $30/month), even though we're very much aware that this is total bs. Now, the providers are willing to go ahead and install modems, but they won't set up wireless in our apartments, nor will they set up LANs for multiple computers . . . which wouldn't be a problem if all the manuals and dialog boxes weren't in Korean. Sadly, there is no one person here in whom tech skills and Korean ability overlap.

In the meantime, Nana and I will be writing our posts from the school, time permitting--and time may become a very precious commodity once classes start later this week. (Thursday!) And hopefully we'll have internet in the apartment before too long.

In other news: I finally figured out how to keep Google (and I mean everything Google--Gmail, Calendar, Blogger) to stop displaying in Korean!