Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Cafeteria

As the English Village was built to help school-age kids immerse themselves in an English experience, it makes a lot of sense for the campus to have a cafeteria. 

Included in the students' tuition are three meals a day in the cafeteria. As another option, the food places on the faux Main Street are also open at meal times. 

The cafeteria has two levels. The ground floor is for students. When lunchtime hits, the line goes out the door and down the ramps leading up to the entrance. Teachers eat upstairs. As part of our salary, we are allotted funds to eat at the cafeteria once a workday. We still pay at the entrance, but are reimbursed. So, for 3,000 won, roughly $3, we get an all-you-can-eat meal. 

After paying, I pick up my compartment tray and head to the serving buffets. The line starts at the huge pot of rice, a staple of Korean food. After the rice is a huge pan of kimchi, a traditional Korean dish made from cabbage. I usually take a little of this, but not much, as it is very spicy, and I'm not big on spicy. The rest of the food varies from day to day. Some days, there's not much there that I want to eat.

One of the dishes I particularly enjoyed was the lotus root. I'm not sure what sauce they made it with, but it was very tasty. And, according to the Korean teachers, it is very healthy. One day last week, the cafeteria served hamburger patties and French fries, tater tots and fried potato slices. It was bliss after several days of strange cuisine.

Also served are two kinds of soups. One is usually made with a clear broth. Sometimes hot, sometimes cold. The other soup is usually a cream soup, and that's what I normally go for.

Yesterday, I looked in the display case to see what was being served. The main course was fish.  I'm not a fish person, so that was a bummer. I looked at the other offerings, but couldn't see anything that looked particularly tasty, so I decided to bail. I walked up Main Street to the pizza place and had a slice of combo pizza and a serving of spaghetti, with a glass of Coke. This meal only cost me 4,000 won. I was a little surprised how cheap it was, then remembered that teachers get special prices at the food places in the Village. Very handy.

I'll still eat at the cafeteria more often than not, but it's nice to know that I have other options, should I need them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Week...

...and I think I did ok.

Better than ok, really. Teachers are generally assigned to two classes that meet together for homeroom. We see these students every morning at nine for an hour, then again at five for an hour.

This week, my homeroom included 32 thirteen to fourteen year old girls from Ho Sung middle school. I consider myself very lucky to have had them for the first week. They were very advanced as far as their English skills go and, for the most part, very well behaved. I even got to see them several times during other classes besides homeroom.

As part of introducing ourselves to our students, we let them ask questions about who we are. When speaking with girls, the most common question is if I have a girlfriend. I told them "No, I am married." They would always squeal with delight. Later on, during break times or when we were walking to their next class, they would ask me about Chelsea. When my homeroom girls found out Chelsea taught at the Village, they were excited to meet her, then sad when they didn't get to.

These girls would always yell, "Adam Teacher! Adam Teacher!" whenever they saw me. It was a good booster for my confidence. Especially during a week when I had no clue what I was doing.

The last lesson we teach in the Village, the last Homeroom, isn't really a lesson at all. It's a chance for the students to write short postcards to their favorite teachers. I figured a few of my homeroom girls would write to me, and I was excited to see what they had to say. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be in the last homeroom with them because I had to go to the hospital for my medical exam. It's required by the Korean government, so no way around it.

After the closing ceremony, I walked the girls to their homeroom, then told them I was very sad they were leaving. I said I wanted to enjoy this last hour with them, but had to go to the hospital. I thanked them for making my first week so enjoyable. As I left the room, a chorus of goodbyes followed me. One girl jumped up and ran towards me and gave me a candy bar.

After my medical exam, I returned to the Village and went to the teachers' preparation room to wait for our afternoon meetings. I was very glad to see a stack of postcards waiting for me. The girls had written some very sweet things that made me laugh and brought tears to my eyes.

Here's the one that made me and Chelsea laugh, but also made me feel like I had done a good job:

It was a great first week.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Now in Korea...

...and trying to settle in.

It's been interesting so far. We left Cedar City at 5AM on July 6th. We actually arrived in the village at 8PM on July 7th. It was a lot of traveling. And we had to wake up and go to work the next morning. Really, it was only a half day, as the students leave on Fridays after lunch. So that wasn't too bad. But afterward we had meetings with the other teachers and a sort of orientation with one of the head teachers.

Today, Monday, we actually started teaching. But more on that in another blog, once I've actually figured it out.

I wanted to talk about the Village itself first. It's kind of like Disneyland. No, really.

These first three pictures kind of illustrate my point. The first is the big, "Hollywood" style sign on the hill just around the corner from the entrance. Well-lit at night, you can see it from a ways away, even when it's raining. The second is a sign that appears every 20 feet, more or less, on the wall surrounding the village property. Sometimes these signs are completely hidden by the ivy growing down the wall. The third is the main entrance to the village. Yep, that's a replica of Stonehenge.

These next pictures are of the village itself.

This is the main plaza of the village. The cafeteria is at the far end of the photo, and the buildings on either side are the main teaching areas. The Head Teachers' office is on the left hand side.

Through the archway and up the hill is our apartment. The trolley tracks are functional, but the trolley apparently isn't. The village has four little carts that people and ride in and peddle along the trolley track. Good way to see the village. The carts have power, as well, so they can always get back up the hill.
This is the view from the other end of the street. We're about three buildings down on the left.

More of the campus, just showing how close the foliage comes to the village. The building on the left holds classrooms and the one on the right is the closest of the student hotels.
Big fountain, with the weekend crowds .

Path heading to teachers' apartment buildings.

Stone pathway leading through the trees, still on village grounds. This one heads down to a rather dirty pond, that has a nifty wooden walkway over it. I'll have to take some pictures later.

Shot of the nearby rice paddies and housing near the village. Very picturesque, I think.

I'll do a full blog about our apartment later. With pictures, of course.

So, about the Disneyland statement. See, the village is full during the week with students from Korean schools. They stay on campus, in "hotels" named after native cultures from all over the world. Incas. Aztecs. Navajos. Aborigines. You get the idea. On the weekend, families can come and visit to have an "English Experience." They do English-oriented activities and games and shop in English-style stores. It's kind of amusing, really.

While Chelsea and I were wandering around the village Saturday, getting a feel for its layout, we were mobbed a couple times by kids asking for our names and signatures. They had to find ten different people and ask this in English. Some did better than others. While we were in the gift shop, the proprietor asked us to help a little Korean girl say "How much is it?" And when I say "little," I mean maybe four years old. She did well with the imitation and was super cute.

As the visitors wander around, speakers are playing children's songs and fully dramatized versions of fairy tales. On repeat. And the prices in the shops and restaurants have been elevated to theme park levels. Almost. Teachers do get a small discount at the food places. Every little bit helps.

It's a fun place to live, overall. However, the we have to go into town to do "real" shopping, and that means a taxi, usually. We can take a shuttle, then taxi back. It all means communicating somehow in a language I don't know. All I can say is "thank you," "Belly-button," and "that sleepy feeling you get after a meal."

Only the first is helpful.