Monday, February 28, 2011

Weekend adventures

Some weekends around the Brown household are pretty typical of what our life would be like if we were in the states. Sleeping in, watching movies, catching up on cleaning and laundry and grocery shopping. But, some weekends we put on our "we are in Korea and should explore" hats and get out to find new places. Josh has been gone about a week for training (two weeks to go!) so this weekend I had some fun adventures with friends.

First, I went to a trick art exhibit with two of my friends from work, Hanna and Soo. Trick art is 2D art that looks pretty normal when you just look at it, but you can take pictures next to it and it looks 3D. The pictures you take make it look like you are part of the painting! The exhibit was 12,000 won, so about $11, and definately worth it! We had lots of fun. Here are some pictures:

Being eaten up by the big monster!

Ugh! You know how I feel about shots! LOL!

This picture was a tricky one to get right

This is one of my favorites


Pushing Hanna up the stairs

This one was fun, too!

Moving the X Ray

I'm THAT strong!

Holding the elephant up with one finger. No big deal.

Showing off my fishing skills

Meeting the huge sumo

After the trick art exhibit and a yummy Korean lunch we hopped on the subway and headed to Myeongdong, a large shopping area. The area was PACKED with people, street vendors and food carts. We went to the Forever 21, which  is four stories high! Lots of foreigners were inside, as this is one of the few stores where you can find things in American sizes (aka not teeny tiny like most Korean clothes!)

A shot of Myeongdong

I've been getting pretty good at all this Korean public transportation in the last few months. It's amazing to me how well developed the systems are here, and how much public transportation is used. I ride the bus to school in the morning with business men in fancy suits! This definately isn't how public transportation is like in other places we have lived.
First, I took a bus from near our house to meet with Soo at our school. Then we caught another bus to the trick art exhibit, picking up Hanna on the way. After the exhibit and lunch we got on the subway and transfered two lines before got to Myeongdong. After our adventures we got back on a bus that took us to our school, where I got on yet ANOTHER bus home.
I had plans to meet Krystle and Lauren (wonderful Army wife friends) for dinner so I got in the car and drove the air field, where Krystle and I caught a bus to the subway station and got on the subway to head back into Seoul.
We had a wonderful dinner of Korean BBQ (my favorite!) followed by drinks at a bar that we discovered. The waitresses knew just a small amount of English but were so happy to practice. Very sweet. We found some interesting Korean treats then got back on the subway, took a taxi from the subway station to the air field, and I drove home. Whew! I'm feeling tired just thinking about it. What a day!

When we got to dinner Krystle and Lauren each ordered a beer, but the waiter brought them BOTH to Krystle. She must have looked like she needed two-haha!

We thought any place called "The Bar" was worth checking out. We got inside and it was the nicest bar I've ever seen. Too quiet and fancy for us girls so we moved on to a bar across the street, called Bar BeBob!

Our delicious Korean BBQ dinner

Us girls at Bar BeBob!

We went looking for some yummy Korean treats and found these chocolate cheetos. They taste a lot like cocoa puffs, the cereal.They taste MUCH better than they look!

The sign at the place we went to find a fun bar to chat. We thought Beer White-ing sounded pretty random!

My day of public transportation started here, at a bus stop by our house. Every bus stop has these screens that tell you how many stops away your bus is, and how many minutes will pass before it arrives. Really helpful!

My sweet ride-HAHA!

Being robots??

I've found some interesting articles online that I thought I would share. Some trial programs are being run in South Korea where students are being taught English by ROBOTS! Apparently the robots can speak back to the children and have a screen built in to show students things like how to solve a problem, or how to correct their spoken English. Crazy!! I doubt this trend will catch on in full, though. My guess is that English speaking teachers will work in conjunction with robot teachers to enrich the learning process, not to replace it. Either way, it's something interesting!!

Here are some clips from the articles I've found:

Children in a South Korean city have begun taking classes where the teachers are robots.
A total of 29 egg-shaped robots are teaching English to students in primary schools in the south-eastern city of Taegu.
The robots are about one metre tall, have a TV display panel for a face and are able to speak to students and read them books.
The robots are remotely controlled by teachers in the Philippines who can see and hear the children via a video link.
If the pilot program is successful, teaching robots are expected to be sent to remote rural areas of South Korea.

The next article was published by The Korea Times. Something interesting: The Korea Times OWNS the school I work for! One of the higher-ups at the newspaper is the founder Brown International. In fact, the newspaper have an office on the same floor as the school.

According to The Korea Times, “During the second decade of the new millennium, robots are expected to replace English-speaking teachers here in Korea.”
This would leave approximately 25 to 30,000 English teachers currently employed in South Korea staring at the uncanny valley of unemployment.
Named by Time as one of the “50 Best Inventions of 2010,” meet the job terminator: South Korea’s new English-speaking robot. The government, wanting to keep South Korean students competitive in English, introduced the robot teachers into 3 schools in late 2009 with plans to have them in over 20 schools by the end of 2010. The red lipped, humanoid robots are commonly referred to as “Engbots.”
“By around 2015, robots should be able to help teachers in English classes. By 2018, they should be able to teach on their own while communicating with students,” said Kim Shin-hwan, an economist at the Hyundai Research Institute in The Korean Times.
Don’t expect a global robotic rollout anytime soon. Costs of production, deployment and human training will slow the process, particularly amid a recession. But overall cost is an interesting fact to consider: unlike human teachers robots don’t need salaries or benefits.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Is it just me, or is this graduation nicer than my high school graduation?!"

Kindergarten graduation was yesterday and I am SO glad that it's over. The stress of getting everything ready made this week feel so long. Here are some fun pictures that I took while we were there. The kids gave speeches, sang some cute songs about going to first grade and got fancy diplomas. The parents came with flowers for the kids and everyone was REALLY dressed up. Overall, I'd say the graduation was fancier than any other kindergarten ANYTHING I've seen before.

A new school year starts on Monday and I am finally starting to feel a bit ready. I have my schedule all ready and am teaching Kindergarten social studies, reading, and art. For the first to sixth graders I teach social studies, reading, novel (which is a lot like book club. Every 4 weeks we start a new book) and a random math class thrown in there for good measure. Then, about three days a week after school I tutor adults in English. I'll be a busy girl. Thank goodness for coffee!

The parents brought the kiddos flowers and lots of these. They are like bouquets, but made from foam.

The stage

I love this picture, even though it is a bit blurry. The boys were helping each other with their ties before getting their kindergarten diplomas!


The boys were singing the Aladdin song to the girls "A whole new world...."

Nervous kiddos

Giving their speeches

Getting ready

These are the kiddos that are staying in kindergarten for another year. Here kids go through two levels of kindergarten, so it takes two years to complete. They were dedicating a song to the kids that were graduating. So sweet. Bad news- it was the "I love you" Barney song, so I've had it stuck in my head for a good two weeks while they have been practicing. Yuck!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Can you tell the elephants to go on a diet? They are fat."

In honor of Presidents Day all of my students are writing letters to Prez Obama. It has been really interesting to see the questions they have about America and what the President does.
Some were just too funny to NOT here are some of the highlights.ENJOY!

" Where do you get your hair cut, Mr. President?" Grade 1

"Is your mom pretty?" Kindergarten

"My house is big. Is the White House bigger than my house?" Grade 1

"Do you like America? Ms. Leah says YES, but I want to be sure." Grade 1

"Do you know where Korea is? You can see it on the TV like how I can see you on the TV"
Grade 2

"Do you like tigers or white tigers better?" Grade 2

"When you are President do you have to take term tests?" (This is what students have been doing all week and they are convinced taking these tests is the worst thing to ever happen in their young lives-LOL!) Grade 1

"Does America have good people? Because some Koreans are good but some are bad, so I think maybe some Americans are bad. But I like you because you are American and I think you are a good one" Grade 1

"Do people in Hawaii know good jokes?" Grade 2

"Food in Korea is very yummy. What did you eat for dinner? I will tell you if it is yummy."
Grade 2

"Do you have a wife? I can marry with you after I grow up and am a woman like Ms. Leah. She is married. When can I meet you? I think if I meet you I will like you." Kindergarten (This may be my favorite one of the bunch!!)

"Can you tell the elephants to go on a diet? They are fat." Kindergarten

"Do pilgrims live where you live? We learned about the pilgrims. Are they nice?" Kindergarten

"I think you are smart. So I love you." Kindergarten

"On February 21, 2011 all people stayed home and did not work. Did you stay home or did you go outside?" Kindergarten

Monday, February 21, 2011

Korean Wedding

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a Korean wedding. I think going into the wedding I was expecting something very similar to an American wedding because it's all that I know. Boy, was I wrong!! This wedding was like something from a crazy movie. There were effect lights and a booming voice over the intercom telling guests when to clap. There was a wedding cake that was cut DURING the ceremony, but not served to guests. The best part? The cake had two candles that the bride and groom blew out together. The groom had a mini-dance number midway through the ceremony, which did not include any vows, exchanging of rings, or even the couple looking at each other for that matter. The bride and groom also acted out a famous scene from a veyr popular TV drama in Korea called the Secret Garden.
The guests were very loud and texting or talking to their neighbors through the ceremony, which was about thirty minutes long. What was really neat was how the ceremony really centers around the parents of the bride and groom. They were escorted in and the mothers were dressed in very fancy white dresses. The bride and groom also performed a traditional bowing to the parents during the ceremony. Another interesting thing had to do with the camera man and videographer. They were on the stage RIGHT next to the bride and groom and blocked the guests the majority of the ceremony. Isn't that was zoom is for? LOL
The wedding was beautiful, in it's own way. Let's just say I am glad that I got to experience a Korean wedding, but I am glad that our wedding was the way it was. PS Can you believe it has almost been a year since our wedding? Yikes! Time is FLYING!
Here are some pictures from the wedding:

The ceremony location was a beautiful wedding hall. But, in true "let's cram as many people into one city as we can Seoul Style" there were people in the lobby waiting for the next wedding to start.

This is some of the dessert at the reception. Traditionally Koreans do not give gifts for weddings, just cash. So, when we arrived there were men behind a counter with money envelopes. We put cash in envelopes with our names on the front and the men gave us tickets to enter the reception. So interesting.

Her dress was sooo beautiful and she had a cathedral length veil !

This is the bride and groom cutting getting ready to blow the candles out on the wedding cake. It was like a birthday or something! LOL

This is Hanna, Ginny and I after the wedding. They are other teachers at my school. In Gangnam there are street cameras where you can take photos and they are emailed to you. Here is ours!

Another shot of the ceremony

Sorry all of these pictures got so out of order. Here is a picture of lunch at the reception.