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This past weekend was my first Adventure Korea trip: a weekend of mountain hiking and butterfly watching – highly appropriate for the weekend after Earth Day. On Saturday, I woke up at the wee hours of 6:30am to catch the bus to Gangnam, to then catch the tour bus to Mt. Gangcheon. It was a four-ish hour ride down and I napped most of the way.

On a side note, Korea has some interesting rest stops. One that we stopped at had a generously sized garden in the women’s room, while another one had trailers that had been made into bathrooms. As in the kind of trailers that can be driven away. O_O

We hiked Mt. Gangcheon for about four hours and most of the time I was actually doing really well. There’s was a thirty to forty minute period where we were basically going straight up the mountain via stairs and rock that was pretty much kicking everyone’s butts but after that the adrenaline, endorphins and whatnot kicked in and we start booking. The view from the top was fantastic. Enjoy some photos:

My favorite picture of the trip!

Temples: Always a great photo opportunity.

On another side note, there were a lot of Koreans hiking too and most of them were older and clearly in better shape than all us huffing and puffing foreigners. We were told later that this particular hike would be considered easy to Koreans… Again:  O_O.

The climb down was much, much easier, partially because the path was better. Why couldn’t we have climbed up that way?! Halfway down, we ran into a building where a family practices an “ancient, Korean form of martial arts” (I was not told the name… the granddaddy of Taekwondo?) and they preformed for us. Very cool.

We ended the hike at a hot springs and stay there for about an hour before moving on to a galbi restaurant. It was good, but all the galbi I’ve had in Suwon is far superior. As it should be, since Suwon is known for its galbi.

Speaking of Suwon, there were about eight other people from Suwon on this trip. Most of them teach at other hakwons, however one of them is an April teacher in Dongtan.

On Sunday, we headed out to Hampyeong for the Butterfly Festival (함평나비대축제). Oh the things we did there. We toured a greenhouse where we released butterflies (while being filmed by a group trying to promote tourism in Korea). We caught rabbits and chickens. I caught a chicken (as a rabbit owner, I didn’t need to go chasing after a rabbit on my vacation) and for it won a bag of special Hampyeong butterfly rice. I do not know how different it is from real rice but eventually I’ll pop it into my rice cooker and find out. Originally we were supposed to catch baby wild boar but hoof and mouth disease is going around, so… we did not catch any hoofed animals.

After that, we ate some barley and peas that had been roasted on a fire in a hole in the ground. Very tasty. And as if that weren’t enough – we got to catch mudfish! Most people would not put an exclimation point at the end of that sentence, but I had a lot of fun. We wadded into a small pond and sifted through nice and thick much to find the eely little fishies while little kids (and those videographers that had been filming us) followed us around.

As it turns out, I’m a pretty good mudfisher. Everyone else was having a hard time finding and catching them and the people running the mudfish pond were having to throw more in to increase their chancing of catch them… But the big problem was they were shouting, carrying on and flailing about – you know, letting the mudfish know where they were. I however entered a zen-like trance and was able to catch two or three of them before anyone else caught one. At one point, I had one mudfish in my hand and I could feel one under my foot so I told one of the other girls on the trip about it. She caught that one and I felt ANOTHER mudfish under my foot. So with my free hand, I reached down and pulled that one out too with no struggle. You read that right: No. Struggle. I am the mudfishing master. Right after that, the camera people asked to interview me about my mudfishing experience. Its suppose to air with the other footage they tood on Friday at 7am, 10am and 7pm. But I don’t know on what channel…

Following the mudfishing, we broke off and explored the festival for another two hours before heading home. I went with another adventurer to hike up a hill where they had golden bats, but sadly we went up the wrong hill and by the time we realized the mistake it was time to go. But again, the view was beautiful.

Enjoy some butterfly festival pictures:

Aren't they adorable?

Oh, the glorious colors!

Speaking of colors…

There were, however, no butterflies at these flowers.

It's friendly. I promise.

Next weekend, I have a Chungdahm company picnic to look forward to and the following weekend, I’ll be on Adventure Korea’s Caving and Ferrying trip on Saturday along with some of the training gang. April is a busy month for me.

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The past few days have been fairly eventful ones, which of course means I haven’t had the time to sit down and blog about them until now. Let’s start with Friday:

Friday saw the arrival of a new April teacher as well as the farewell of one of the CDI teachers and soon-to-be farewell of another April teacher. For me the farewell was a little sad because the CDI teacher that was leaving was the teacher that I observed – and basically based the teaching of my reading classes off of – and he was also my reading head instructor. He’s going back home to go to grad school in order to become a teacher, and I wish him luck.

Friday night, all the CDI and April teachers as well as staff and counselors went to a galbi restaurant for a company dinner – and the drinking promptly ensued. But in a social acceptable and controlled manner. Many of the other teachers (including the two leaving) have commented on the comradery at our branch; we may not all 100% get along, but its nice that everyone can hang out together sometimes and there is a very positive atmosphere for us to work in.

After dinner, we of course went out for noraebang. I ended up only staying for an hour because I wanted to get a good nights sleep so that I would be well rested for Saturday’s plans.

Now, the plan on Saturday was for me and Quinn to meet up with Derrika and one of her friends visiting from Japan, as well as two of our friends from training, at the Seoul Zoo. Unfortunately, people seem to keep forgetting that Quinn and I both have prepaid phones, which do eventually run out of minutes. Something strange happened with my phone this month and the minutes were cut-off prematurely. (I got a text at the beginning of the week that said my minutes would expire in a few days, only to find out when I tried to call someone that night that I had no minutes left – not sure what that’s all about.) And since I only found out about the zoo plans Friday night at dinner, I didn’t have time to charge my phone and went to Seoul with no minutes. I can still receive calls, but I cannot make any.

So the getting-in-touch-with-people business was up to Quinn and his phone. We got to the zoo at Seoul Grand Park and started looking around – it was an AMAZINGLY beautiful day. Perfect for a zoo trip. However, because people kept texting Quinn instead of call him, he ended up draining his minutes and he ran out of them in the middle of a call to Derrika. They had been trying to figure out when and where to meet up. So we didn’t meet up with Derrika. And we eventually got a call from our training friends saying they weren’t coming… Okay. But the zoo trip was awesome anyway. They have some very photogenic animals.

It looks so pensive

Go ahead. Shake his hand.

Tiger, Tiger, burning bright...

In the forest of the night

It's like a giant panda, but redder. And actually at the Seoul Zoo.

This grizzly was posing for so many pictures. Mostly because people were throwing hot dogs at it.

Before Quinn ran out of minutes, he played phone tag with one of our new April teachers, Vy, and we decided to try and meet up with her in Itaewon after the zoo. When the zoo started closing, we headed to Itaewon for tacos (despite some delcious meat-on-a-stick street food, we were starving). Taco Amigos in Itaewon. I highly recommend it. It’s right down the street from the subway station. After that we visited the international grocery store, where I was able to pick up some sour cream, which HomePlus, despite selling every other dairy product imaginable, does not carry.

On a side note, I bought a rice cooker a few weeks back. I had been dragging my feet about it because most of the models at HomePlus are in the ₩200,000 range. But then one came on sale for only ₩42,000 so I got it. And I’m glad I did because I’ve been steaming veggies and cooking rice like its no one’s business. And when a training buddy told me I could make baked potatoes in it, I was on top of that. Once I got some sour cream that is.

Now back to Itaewon. Following the grocery store, Quinn’s phone ran out of juice. Before we figured out when and where we were meeting Vy… Soooo… We went back to Suwon.

Sunday was mostly a day for cleaning (so many loads of laundry!) and prepping for next week’s classes. Having all the lessons ready to go before the week makes my weekdays so much easier and it’s way worth loosing an hour or two on the weekend to get them out of the way. But I did convince Quinn to help me take Sherlock for a walk. I had tried to get her into a leash before but it was really difficult with just me. With help, it look about 30 seconds. And she actually really enjoyed the walk. Sure, it may look ridiculous walking a rabbit the size of a grapefruit through the park but she deserves to get fresh air too.

Yesterday, all the CDI teachers met up to talk about student withdrawals. This term coincides with middle school exams. I don’t know all the details about these but they take two weeks to end and a lot of students leave English privates schools because of them. Most come back afterwards but in the meantime, our student numbers drop.

In the meeting, we talked about the reasons for student withdrawals and what we can do to make classes more fun. The three big reasons: boring lesson topics, difficult lessons, classroom management. There’s nothing we can do about changing the lesson material. Unfortunately, there’s only so much that we can do about classroom management too, because it’s such a broad category of complaints that it also includes stuff us teachers have no control over.

The other thing that was brought up in the meeting was cancelled class. Some of the middle school classes in the up-coming weeks are cancelled because so many students won’t be attending. I have three cancelled classes over two weeks, which is actually the smallest number of cancelled classes for a teacher (Yay!). And because a teacher will be leaving tomorrow, I might be taking over one of this classes for two weeks so really I’m only loosing one class.

Two teachers had a ridiculous number of cancelled classes. I can’t remember the exact number but it’s over eight classes (which is a week of classes). It might be nice if they were all in one week so those teachers could have a nice week of vacation but I’m sure those classes are spread out over two or three weeks.

And that’s the business news in Suwon. Now for the leisure news.

About a week ago, one of my training buddies sent out a message to all of us training buddies who still hang-out regularly about a caving and ferrying ride trip put together by Adventure Korea. And after surfing around and looking at their other trips, I found a two day trip to the Hampyeong Butterfly Festival at the end of of April – which I was really excited about. I had already been planning on going but couldn’t figure out how so Adventure Korea has taken out pretty much any planning I need to do. I just need to pay for the trip (which I’ve done) and show up at the Express Bus Terminal in Seoul at 8am, which is early but that’s okay. I can sleep on the 2 hour bus ride to Hampyeong.

So now I have two trips in April and May to look forward to taking (and later blogging about, of course). The May trip I’m going on with the training gang but the April one it looks like I’ll be braving alone – or rather with the rest of the people who RSVPed who I don’t know – because I couldn’t convince anyone to go to the Butterfly Festival. Quinn and Derrika were excited about it, until they saw the itinerary involved 4 hours of hiking. Babies.

Last term, my absolute favorite class was my Wednesday Par Reading class because the students were fantastic and the lessons were interesting. For example (illustration transition!), I taught a class on modern psychology (which I just so happened to have studied in college) and I had them do an ink blot test, to everyone’s enjoyment. Plus, it was my only class to I could go home early after teaching it.

This term, Wednesday is a little different. First of all, I’m teaching two classes and don’t get out early. Second of all, the classes are… challenge. And for different reasons. Let’s look at my first class:

Bridge Reading. By Wednesday, I’ve taught this class three other times so I’ve got it. I’ve know everything like the back of my hand and can teach the class pretty much without the book. So you’d think the class would go smoothly. Nnnnnnope. It’s a class of 16 students and for the past two week I’ve had two temporary students, which means 18 students. The girls are excellent. They pay attention and participate. The boys… are another story. Some of the boys pay attention and participation but almost all of them also misbehave. And in a class with 16 students, if two or three of them start misbehaving it can get hectic. Luckily it hasn’t gotten too bad but I’m tired of having to give them all F’s for their attention grade.

So today I tried something new. I gave them all assigned seats. I actually did this for a class last term and it didn’t solve all their behavior problems (because there were so many misbehaving boys that I couldn’t separate them) but it helped. In this class, it’s pretty much split down the middle between boys and girls so I had boys sitting next to girls and switching off, so boys were sitting in front of and behind girls. And although I also had two temporary students but I also had two students of the same sex missing so I didn’t have a problem with the seating chart.

The other thing that was different was I had a guest teacher. I wasn’t sure if he was observing me because he was a new teacher or he was going to critique me or something (it turns out he’s training to teach – so yay! he was observing me because… I’m a good teacher… yes?) but my first thought was “This class had better behave today.” And miraculously they did. It was so weird. They were on their best behavior. I think they were shell shocked from having to sit next to someone of the opposite sex. You know, because cooties are gross (… although I don’t think they have cooties here…). I told them that if they behaved this week and I didn’t have to keep them inline then next week they could sit where they wanted. And I was all set to end class telling them no assigned seats tomorrow but then… Critical Thinking Project…

By the third hour, things started to slowly go down hill. Once we started the Critical Thinking Project, the guest teacher actually left and the boys went back to their old ways. Goofing off, not focusing on the project. It caused enough problems that we were late starting the projects and there was almost not enough time to present one of them. Needless to say… assign seats next week! I turned in my daily report for this class and my counselor just sighed and said ‘But we separated them!’ I know, Jinny, I know. But it clearly wasn’t enough.

Now on to Eagle Reading! That’s my second Wednesday class. My students behave but… they are very quiet… I thought I was teaching the class wrong or something and I asked both my Reading HI’s to watch it and they basically said I’m doing a good job teaching it but my students are very quiet. Yes, yes they are. I actually subbed for another teachers IRE class. BIG differents. The students really do make or break a class…

Anyway, generally I can get them at least someone interested in class, maybe even really interested. Today we had a passage about the Death Penalty so we were talking about different crimes and what their punishments should be. When I was asking them for different crimes, something more severe than stealing but less severe than murder, I thought one of the students said ‘illegally cutting the cheese’. I had to try so hard not to laugh. I asked them if they knew what ‘cutting the cheese’ meant; they didn’t so I explained it meant farting/passing gas/ breaking wind etc. It turns out the student actually said ‘illegally cutting the trees’, which was a crime in the passage we were reading.

I wish he had said cutting the cheese. They wouldn’t let me put it on the board as a crime…

First of all, on Friday a bunch of the CDI and April teachers from Yeongtong and Dongtan got together to play Cranium and I’m glad I brought my camera because I came away with several hilarious videos of groups trying to guess words from very odd clues. Ahh, Cranium. But at the shingding, I met another teacher who reads (and commented previously) on my blog (Hi, Marilyn!), which was cool. And I just wanted to touch on the fact that I’ve been getting pretty steady numbers in the people who visit this blog (Thanks to WordPress’s dummy proof dashboard) and thank everyone for reading!

On to the Butterfingers: Last weekend, I had wanted to go to Butterfingers Pancakes, a delicious American-style brunch-stravaganza in Gangnam but I couldn’t, what with being sick and all. This Saturday, Quinn, Derrika and I ended up having an unintentional Easter brunch at Butterfingers with three of our training buddies, Karen, Richard and Latoya, and two other fellow teachers. Planning for the trip (and trying to figure out how to get there after past excersion into Gangnam… I’m talking about you March 6th!), I found this blog, which has some pretty great pictures of Butterfingers’ food.

I ended up splitting a ‘little bit of everything’ plate with Quinn, with him focusing on the pancakes and me devouring the French toast that I had been wanting for two weeks. DELICIOUS! Karen got an Eggs Benedict dish that looked fantastic and Derrika had an Egg McMuffin-style sandwich and it also looked fantastic. Sadly, I have to pictures of this… The pictures I do have are of the strawberry smoothie I got, which just happened to be the MOST DELICIOUS-SCRUMDIDILIUMPTIOUS strawberry smoothie I’ve EVER HAD and of teacher’s posing cool walls around our table.

Following this, most of us went to a boardgame cafe at Gangnam. This idea is genius and they need to have more. We basically paid $4 to sick in their cafe and play games. We were going to play a couple of games but ended up getting stuck on this endless game of Uno. It was epic. We had a 5-card pile up of +2 cards that finally stopped on Quinn, so he had to pick up 10 cards. And after getting Uno about three times and just as the hour we paid for was running up… I won! Woooooo-hoooooo. It was epic.

Then Quinn, Latoya, Derrika and I wandered over to the Coex aquarium, which is effectively a zoo-quarium because has way more than just fish. This aquarium was seriously awesome. AWESOME. It was actually Latoya’s first time going to an aquarium and I’m sure this one has probably spoiled her. Allow me to explain way, through pictures. The theme of these pictures: Things as Fishtanks!

Note the lantern at the right...

IT'S A FISH TANK!

It's another fish tank!

Now, you'd think this is just another fish tank with a fancy shape, but you'd be wrong. This actually plays notes as the fish swim by sensors where the string are. O_O!

Quick, call Superman! There's a woman drowning a phone booth!

I sure wasn’t! Nope, no one pulled the wool over my eyes today (er, well yesterday as of the time this post will be put up). Okay, so one student kind of did. One of my students, Jennifer (who I “gave an F” to last week for liking another teacher’s class over mine) came in and told me she had moved. When I asked her if she meant she moved her house or just moved to the other side of the room, she said ‘April Fools!” I laughed.

Then I got REVENGE! No one tries to fool Teacher in April and gets away with it! I was racking my brain, trying to figure out a good April Fool’s for them that

neither A.) involved me taking away something like didn’t like they telling them they had to do it (like saying we were skipping the Review Test this week, only to inform them we would have to take it)

nor B.) was too elaborate or too hard to get through in the first few minutes of class.

So I ended up deciding to tell the students that they now had two pages of a Review Test to complete and only 5 minutes to complete it (as opposed to 1 page in 10 minutes). My ILP class believed it for about ten seconds before Jennifer yells out ‘Oh April Fool’s, Teacher!’ and everyone starts laughing. My ILA+ class, however, did not try to April Fool me so they were sitting there for minute going ‘WWWHHHHHYY?’. So I said to them ‘Because. Today is April Fool’s Day’. And they laughed heartily.

But because of my little April Fool’s trick, my ILP students were on there toes. For homework, they have to fill in the speech bubbles on a comic strip. Unfortunately because the pictures limit what they can say, everyone always brings in the SAME dialog, effectively, which is no fun because I like to choose two groups the next week to present their comic. SO THIS WEEK, I decided to give them a key phrase they have to include somewhere in the comic (preferably in a creative way). This weeks key phrase: moldy pancake. It came up in our lecture last week when we talked about hellbender salamanders and some students actually remember it. Unfortunately, they all thought it was an April Fool’s joke. Which it was not!

Teacher better have a classroom FULL of moldy pancakes next Thursday!