Saturday, February 16, 2008


Here's a short glance at what each of my classes is doing right now:

8th Grade: Salt dough maps of regions of Asia.

1. Food coloring is not available in Korean grocery stores. I begged green, yellow, and red food coloring off of the science teacher, but had no blue. Rivers and lakes will just have to be colored in.
2. Kids interpret "Work in pairs" time as "You can get away with speaking Korean" time. Points are coming off for this.
3. Salt dough doesn't have to be messy, but if eighth grade boys have any say in it, it will be. Interestingly enough, the boys are much more squeamish than the girls about getting dirty and mixing gooey squishy dough. This means they sort of whack at it and splash bits everywhere. Then, once they go to their desks, the girls take the dough and shape it into maps, and the boys make doughballs and fiddle with them, tearing them up and sticking them back together.

I wrote this sentence discussing my plight, but it came out sounding like a bad emo poem. So I reformatted it and offer it here:

Excessively enthusiastic pummeling
and thwacking of dough
scattered tiny little
into the wood grains of my floors.

1. I debated whether or not to pre-make the dough, but I finally decided to have the kids do it. I think kids more and more are living in a ready-made world, where you buy clay and Play-dough pre-made and pre-colored. They all found the concept of mixing salt, flour, water, and dye to do it yourself quite amusing (if sometimes gross; see above).
2. The maps look awesome. I will try for pictures.

7th Grade: Trade and Trading Empires of the Middle Ages

1. A mishmash unit - we had to skip around the book a lot and talk about everything from the Mongols to the African Gold Kingdoms to the Byzantine Empire to the Vikings. Hard to keep it organized.
2. I don't actually care about the African Gold Kingdoms. This probably makes me a bad person. Sorry.

Unit project, "A Medieval Merchant Job Fair." I had the students write a sales pitch and make a poster for their region (Byzantines, China, Arabs, Vikings, Hanseatic League, and Venetians) and then we voted on which group we'd like to trade for. I would have picked Venice, which got absolutely zero votes. Our landslide winner - the Hanseatic League. Go figure.

Bonus success: When my mother shared this story with my grandfather, he immediately said, without knowing the outcome, "They should pick the Hanseatic League." He may be 94 and almost 7,000 miles away, but he knows them better than I do.

Sixth Grade: Greek Gods and Goddesses

1. Explaining to kids, "Well, yes, Zeus is married to Hera, and Apollo is Zeus's son, but he's not actually Hera's son..."
2. Then trying to decide whether or not to mark "Zeus married many women" wrong on a quiz.
3. Trying to get the kids to say "Underworld" instead of "hell" because they're just so pumped to be able to say "hell" in school.

Really cute posters of the symbols of various gods and goddesses that look very nice on my wall. Also, feeling like I've helped Justin out by getting the kids prepped and pumped for next week's Myths unit in his English class.

Fifth Grade: Significant moments in the Revolution (Trenton, Valley Forge, Saratoga)

1. Not laughing every time I say things like, "Nathan Hale spied for the Patriots," because I always want to add, "before Super Bowl XXXVIII."

My Hessian ancestor, who fought for the British in the colonies before deserting to become a farmer in Pennsylvania, has attained cult status with the fifth grade. They are all very proud of him for ending up on the "right" side - I still get a kick out of how thoroughly these Korean kids have adopted the Patriots in this war. They all feel personally betrayed by Benedict Arnold. They were very disappointed to hear that he lived out his life in Britain and died of old age.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day, Korea Style

Korea has its own rough equivalent of Valentine's Day on Nov. 11: "Pepero Day," named for the Pocky-like cookie sticks that look a bit like 1s. But the Koreans aren't folks to pass up an opportunity to buy teachers stuff--it's one of their best qualities--so yesterday saw Nana and me showered with candy from the kids. Now, Nana and I don't usually celebrate Valentine's Day (at least not ON Valentine's Day--too much pressure, too much hassle) in any big way, and in general I think the holiday is a bit lame, but in my book, any holiday that puts a pile of chocolate on my desk is fine by me!

Namdaemun Fire

Just so you don't think we live under a rock here at School of ROK, yes, we have been following the recent saga of Namdaemun, the grand gate at the southern edge of old Seoul and Korea's official #1 national treasure, which burned down this week as a result of suspected arson. Before it burned, the gatehouse was the oldest wooden structure in Seoul, dating from the 15th century. Now that the arsonist has been caught, domestic news outlets are squashing the handful of early speculations that the culprit was either a) a drunken Japanese businessman, or b) a drunken American serviceman. For the record, the suspect is a 60-something Korean man with a history of arson. Xenophobia, much? Also, early reports called the fire minor, but apparently some less-than-stellar firefighting (and a complete lack of sprinklers in a building made entirely of wood?!?) let the blaze get out of control.

Good news, though: no one was hurt.

On another note, the fire is not quite as horrifying as it might seem to Westerners, as there is much less of a stigma surrounding rebuilding or remodeling historical buildings. Here, it seems to be more the idea and the historical appearance of the building that's important to preserve, rather than the physical structure itself. Which makes sense, in a way--a lot of old Western buildings, obviously, look much older (and therefore much different) than they did when they were in use.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


As I mentioned in a previous post, Nana and I schlepped off to Daejeon yesterday to help out at an animal shelter that's closing down. Well, we made it there and back again, and with a little friend in tow! She's a tiny (and I mean tiny) mutt named Annie (for now) who is about 5 years old and could be some kind of long-haired chihuahua mix.

The poor thing seems like she hadn't had a square meal and a good night's sleep in ages--she was the second-smallest dog at the shelter, which made her last in line at the food dish, and perpetually scared. But she's doing very well today, getting calmer and happier by the minute, and spending plenty of time asleep. The girl has had a rough go of it so far: she's got a mild (read: curable) case of heartworms for which she's starting treatment this week and an injured eyelid that will require minor surgery to repair. And on top of all that, a crazed ajumma tried to steal her from us on the subway last night! (Seriously--she unlatched Annie's carry-case and grabbed her. I had to physically push her away while Nana hung onto the dog for dear life. Conclusion: You know the old hippie quote about not trusting anyone over thirty? Bump the number up a couple decades, and for Korean public transportation, it's true . . .) Anyway, she's safely curled up in our apartment now, sleeping off some of her very stressful five years.

Below you can find some pictures from the trip. Funny: I took the pictures before we decided which pup to foster, and nearly all of them were of Annie anyway. The next-to-last pic below shows her after a much-needed shower. We'll try to post some more after pics once she's fattened up a bit and been groomed.

In the meantime, as you'll notice from that last shot, of course, there are still plenty of dogs at the shelter looking for foster homes and permanent homes. If you're living in Korea and have room in your home and your heart for one of these dogs, even if only for a few weeks or a few months, please check out this link. The shelter closes at the end of this month (Feb 2008) and any dogs not placed by then will be sent to the Daejeon pound, where they'll most likely be put down.