Tuesday, October 30, 2007

“If doctors are becoming targets, it’s no wonder so many are emigrating from South Africa.”

I write this post with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

I am so deeply saddened to have read that Dr Pox, a prominent and loved person of the King Williams Town community was killed yesterday.

I just arrived home and opened an email from my mum asking if I'd read the online Dispatch.
Because of the time difference, it hadn't been updated when I checked in this morning.

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I thought of Dr Pox's wife and three children. And all I could think of was WHY THE F**K DID THIS HAPPEN?

Apart from being deeply upset at the loss of such a great man, I am EXTREMELY PISSED OFF that such a disgusting thing has happened....again.

Who the hell gives someone the right to take another person's life. I could go on forever on this topic trying to figure out what drives a person to KILL.

The title of this post is a quote from Dr Helmut Fritsche (a local SA Medical Assoc spokesperson).

Before coming to South Korea, numerous people said to me, "You must come back to your country... It's fine to go away for an adventure for a year or two, but you must give back to your country."

WHY? Why would I want to live in a country where I have to constantly look over my shoulder in case someone is going to come after me with a freaking weapon to kill me?

I've been here in Korea for 2 months, and apart from missing my FATHER, MOTHER and BROTHER, I miss nothing else....

I go out when I please, and come home the next morning if I wish - alone...using public transport. Of course, I am cautious but not to the extent where I have to make sure all 3 locks are locked before putting my head down for the night.

I'm really really annoyed that such a barbaric act has occurred. People's lives are taken every single day, but one only feels the sting when you knew the deceased personally.

Above all, he was a doctor - a respected and loved one at that. The country is forever crying that professionals are leaving SA for other countries. I don't blame them.

Who in their right mind takes the life of someone who SAVES lives?

I'd say I've grown up in a pretty politically-aware home. I've always loved SA and been very proud to say I am a South African. But when I read of atrocities - especially with the likes of Lucky Dube's murder (amongst many others) and now Dr Pox, I say - leave the damn country...

I hope the people responsible for this and other stomach-wrenching tragedies will be caught and severely punished.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Please comment...!

The number of hits on my blog has increased over the past few weeks. Since I'm blogging a lot about my TEFL experience etc... I'd love to hear your comments/opinions/suggestions - so please feel free to comment on my various posts.


Congrats, Smokey Swallows!

SMOKEY SWALLOWS, my family's favourite restaurant in Devereaux Avenue (Vincent, East London) has been rated among the top 100 restaurants in South Africa and is the only Eastern Cape restaurant on the list. (from DD)

Smokey Swallows is usually the choice we opt for when we go out for dinner (with the family). It was also the venue for my birthday dinner last year. The food is exquisite, atmosphere is relaxing (with occasional live jazz performances) and the hospitality - always very warm!
Congrats, Mr & Mrs Poole!

My birthday cake (at SS)

6.3 ....all in the name of candy!

On Friday's I teach four classes of Grade 6s - not easy! ...especially when you have to teach the kids a song that some of them think are too baby-ish for them, or if you try to get them motivated early in the morning. As tired or lame as I may feel, I have to be as energetic as ever with my classes because my energy rubs off on them. The most difficult classes are the first classes in the morning and the ones just before lunch time - because by then, the kids are restless and hungry.

BUT ...

On Friday, I had one of my favourite classes (6.3). I've been teaching the section titled, "Will you help me, please?" and my co-teacher and I had to teach them a song. Some of the Grade 6s were nearly lifeless when singing the song, but 6.3 made me so proud that I beamed with joy!

They really got into the song (clapping and making actions) and then I invited them to come and perform at the front of the class. Some of them were shy. But then I told them that I'd reward them with points if they came to the front, and this is what happened:

Every single student came to the front of the class - no one, as in no one were at their desks!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Patrick Mynhardt dies

I was shocked to read that Patrick Mynhardt passed away yesterday. He was a talented South African actor, both on screen and stage and many consider him to be the "last of the greats".
(Image from patrickmynhardt.com)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hope Start Program

There's a program at my school called Hope Start and it was developed to assist students from underprivileged or troubled homes. Social workers at the school ensure a safe environment for the children to come after school (some children come from other schools) to play or use the facilities like books, crayons etc...

I'll be teaching the children in the Hope Start program twice a week - for 50 minutes each. I've been asked to come up with some kind of musical/drama where the children can perform. I've tried finding common ground with them ...especially trying to establish what their favourite cartoon characters are etc... (pretty difficult task since their ages are varied).

If you have any ideas of the kind of drama performance / song I could teach them, please let me know! There are only about 6 children. One of my primary aims for this program is to build the children's confidence.

Teaching parts of the body

For my kindergarten & special needs classes, I'm teaching them parts of the body. For my kinder- class today, I had them sit in a circle, and each had a blank piece of paper with a crayon. They had to listen very carefully to me. First, I told them to draw (only) a head. Then they passed the paper to the person on their left - so now, they have someone else's 'head'. Then they were told to draw eyes. Then they passed it to the left again, and they had to draw a nose. They soon got the hang of it, and the volume of laughter at the colourful faces increased every time! (I got this idea from ESL Cafe)

And this was the result:

For my special needs class, they each got a turn to come to the white board. They were blindfolded and had to listen to my instructions to draw a face.

Some got help from others....

After they were done, their blindfolds were removed and the giggles in the class were contagious.

This is one of my students (Sylvia) with her drawing...

Aloe Juice - for Nats again :D

I was introduced to Aloe Juice, and I love it...and what's a bonus is that aloe is really good for you (skin etc...)Here in Korea it's pronounced Aa-loh-eh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rules that actually work...

By now, my students know that when it's English class, I don't want to see a single thing on their desks. Not even their English books... I create my own lessons, and only use the prescribed text when absolutely necessary. Absolutely everything must be packed away in their school bags/desks, including pencils, erasers etc... This is one of the most effective rules, because then the children have no distractions (except each other) and have to face the front and pay attention.

I have caught a few students using cellphones in class, and I tell them that if I see a cellphone, I'll use it to call my family in South Africa!

Am I strict? No - not at all. Even if I say so myself ...I would have loved having a teacher like me! During my schooling years, I consider myself extremely lucky to have had some of the best teachers in my life (especially for English & Afrikaans). Perhaps that is where my fondness for languages stems from? And when I think about it, not only were my English & Afrikaans teachers strict, they were passionate about the material they taught.

Another rule in my class is that no Korean is to be spoken in class (except to ask for clarification to the Korean teacher). If i walk around and hear random chatting in Korean, I take points of the student's team. However...if I hear them speak English, I reward them with points.

Effective Punishment

Teachers are like parents...they shouldn't have favourites, but deep down - they kinda do :) For example, there are certain students who my heart just melts for cause they are soooo cute.

...and then teachers have their "favourite" class *note sarcasm!

Grade 6's are going through some kind of phase... it seems as though they are nearly teens, but not quite there yet. So who knows what's going on in their minds. But I have a 6th grade class on a Tuesday who I have to spend nearly 10 % of my time shussshhing them.

Yesterday, I tried something new. 3 boys continued to talk and ignored my instructions to pay attention. I called them to the front of the class and I sat down at one of the students desks. The rest of the class were confused out of their minds.

"Teach" I told the three boys. If you don't want to listen to me teach, then you teach....

The lesson had only just begun and I had to go and call the homeroom teacher to observe the lesson since my co-teacher wasn't present (and foreign teachers are NOT - under any circumstances allowed to teach without a Korean teacher present). The class thought that having the 3 boys "teach" was hilarious, which I made clear wasn't meant to be funny.

Anyways ... when I got back to the class 60 seconds later with the homeroom teacher, I was flabbergasted to see what I saw. The three boys put the CD-ROM on and had the class listen and repeat the dialogue of the section I was going to teach! And the class was happily chanting along with their "teachers".

Needless to say, I had to go through the "Rules for the English class" yet again :)

Shopping in Dongdaemun - not for the faint hearted shopaholic...

I was walking home with one of my co teachers yesterday and we spontaneously decided to go shopping in Dongdaemun where trading hours are from 10:30 am to ..... 05:00 am!!!!!!

There are literally floors upon floors of anything and everything imaginable. I actually felt my head spin while walking around. Anyways, I managed to buy a handbag, a purse and a scarf.

And this is just for my friend, Nats .... :D

My first present...

Walking back to the teacher's room after one of my classes yesterday, a 4th grade girl rushed frantically to me to put something in my hand. It was wrapped with fancy tape, and had " to foreign teacher" written on it, together with her name. When I opened it, it was a white eraser, but she had drawn hearts and patterns on the plastic covering and wrote, "foreign teacher, I love you".

(pics are not clear)


Empowering the students

One of the things I was taught during my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course was that we should "empower the students". I've incorporated this into my lessons, and now have the kids come up to the front and write on the board or act as a "representative" for their team and allow them to do the activity on the computer.

It works fantastically, because it distinctly breaks the division between teacher/students.

Here is one of my fourth graders who had to come and do an activity... I specifically chose him cause I caught him giving a zap sign (the middle finger) to another student. My kids seem to be doing this often these days, but I honestly think that they don't know what it really means...

But he's really cute, nonetheless !

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Everest Restaurant

Hye Yun, Rachel, Ray & Me

One of my dearest school friends, Ray recently arrived back in Korea after an amazing few days in the States. I was so eager to see her and hear all about her trip. So we met yesterday for dinner and went to Everest Restaurant (a Nepalese, Indian & Tibetan Restaurant) in Dongdaemun. The company, as always was great...and the food - delicious!!!

Ray & me with the killer garlic naan

The menu


Veg Curry


Bollywood music video's

Thursday, October 18, 2007

...and now without the video!

Some girls were keen to present "Head, Shoulders, Knees..." to the class - they were so adorable....

Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes

Today I taught my kindergartners & special needs class "Head, Shoulder's Knees & Toes". They were soooo cute!

...and I was greeted with this:

How can your heart not melt with this?!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Seoul International Fireworks Display (Saturday October 13 '07)

Last night I attended the annual Seoul Fireworks Display. There were THOUSANDS of people who gathered for the spectacular display. 2 friends and I trekked to a bridge in Mopo, where we felt like hearded cattle as we tried to find the perfect spot to take photos. Children, couples, entire families and groups of friends oooohed and ahhhhed at the bursts of colours that lit up the night sky.

Here are a few pics....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Special children...

Today I started teaching the Kindergarten and Special Needs Class (children with learning disabilities). I had no idea what to expect, since I've never taught such young children before.

To back track quickly, there's a little boy in 3rd grade (who I don't teach) who is SO cute. He always greets me and this morning, he saw me as I was walking to school and he wanted to hold my hand while he walked. >
Here he is on the right:

I arrived at my Kindergarten class a few minutes early to chat with the Kinder..teacher. Before I even walked into the class, the kids were hugging me, stroking my arms, poking me, inspecting my bindi and just being plain adorable! I introduced myself and had them each say... "My name is..." I didn't really have anything solid in mind to teach them, cause I wanted to first see the level they were at.

They didn't know parts of the body, so I taught them "eyes/ears/nose/mouth etc..." Their Kinder teacher and I couldn't believe that they had already memorized about 10 body parts in 10 minutes. I'll teach this again next week...

Here's the Kindergarten class:

After that, I had my first class with the students with learning disabilities. There were only 5 students today, 3 of which are in my regular English classes, so they are familiar with me by now. I did the same thing as with the Kinder's... intro'd myself and taught them parts of the body (very basic).

It came as a surprise to me when the teacher told me that the children want me to give them English names. First I said no, because their Korean names are beautiful, but they still wanted it.... I didn't want to name them with generic names. Because I think they are so special, I wanted to give them names of people that are very close to me.

So...introducing my extra special students:

Jay Jay




Damage (Darmesh would have been too difficult) and this guy seems cool just like my bro ;)

Unlike most days, where I feel drained after back to back classes, today I felt really good. I think it's because I felt like I made a tiny difference to a few children today. The fact that they could differentiate various parts of their body within minutes was great! And as for the Special Needs class, I'm grateful that it's small so that I can give individual attention to the children.

On another note... I am learning Hangeul (Korean).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Now that's what you call customer care...

So after having dinner with a few teachers after school today, I stopped at LUCKY MART (literally a minute away from my apartment) to pick up a few things - coffee, cereal etc.. and I needed more bottled water, so I bought a pack of 20 bottles.

...and the kind man at the store put my groceries in the basket on his scooter and (drove/walked) me to my place which is just around the corner from the store!

That's Korean hospitality for you right there...

Jamming to Timbaland

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Let the kids do the disciplining

Me: Do you like candy?
Students: Yes
Me: Do you want candy?
Students: Yes
Me: Then you'll have to be good.

I've split my classes up into groups and allowed them to come up with their own group/team names... some of them are: Death Note, Fire, Happy, Smile, Blue Sky, Angel etc...so cute!

I laid down the basic rules of English class with them, and invited them to also add to the rules...

My rules:
  • When it's time for English class, desks must be clear of EVERYTHING (not a single pencil / eraser/ book). This is great, cause then they have no distractions

  • Don't talk when the teacher is talking

  • No fighting

  • Bring English books to class...

  • Smile & be happy

  • Speak only English in English class

  • ....and various others...

I explained the point system to them... if I ask a question and someone answers it correctly, their entire team will get a point. (this rule will be flexible)

It's easier to lose points than it is to gain.

If one person misbehaves during class...the entire group loses a point.

If I hear someone speaking English...the group gets a point. If I hear Korean, they lose points. the only time they can speak Korean is to ask the Korean teacher a question / clarification (got this idea from my friend, Dim)

Once the group has accumulated 20 points, they will get candy...

It's amazing how this has worked... my children are suddenly so attentive and willing to listen...all in the name of candy !!

I also love this method because the kids themselves discipline each other. Imagine how one child will be ratted on by his peers because he's misbehaving. So....if A is trying to distract B, C will intervene to get them both quiet and listen to the teacher. Why? Cause if one person misbehaves, the whole group loses out.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Gasp! It's an Indian girl...

I have slowly gotten used to being stared at by Korean's...but now I'm trying to overcome being stared at by the Indians I see when I go out.

So far, I've only seen Indian men - majority of whom are migratory labourers from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The stares I get when I go out are mind-boggling. If they were friendly it was another thing, but some of them just look dodgy!

On Sunday, coming home on the subway there was this Indian guy near me. I just kept thinking, "Please don't see me....", but he did and he slyly made his way to where I was sitting and although there was ample space around him, he stood right in front of me. He tried talking to me, but I couldn't understand him. I kept looking down....THEN....I heard a "click" - like a camera clicking sound and when I looked up, he put his cellphone down with the most guilty look on his face!

Sigh.... thankfully my stop was next, and before I caused a scene I departed the train swiftly...hahahaha

Another Seoulful w'end...

Because of Chuseok last week, we only worked on Friday...and the week-end was upon us once again! Friday night I met Dimitri & Louis (also South African) for dinner. We found this awesome little restaurant called Agio in Hongdae. Good food and a really nice atmosphere...

Our food...

...and we met up with other friends and partied till the wee hours of the morning

This is Seoul station @ 5am...eerily quiet!

Saturday afternoon, we went to a city called Gwacheon for an arts festival. I have been corresponding with the art director since last year when he visited South Africa and attended the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown where I was working on CUE TV. Here we are on our way to Gwacheon. (Yang, Peter, me & Dimitri)

We were blown away by the stall selling African curios!

Tae, Dimitri, me & Peter leaving Gwacheon for Seoul

My friend told me about this amazing place called Carne Station in Hongdae. You pay 24,000 Won and you can eat and drink as much as you want to. There's almost everything imagineable there - from fruit to salad to meat to tuna to hot dishes... and drinks include almost everything as well.

Not sure of the name of this fruit, but it's similar to a litchi...