Sunday, May 30, 2010

First Look: Love, Barack

Here's my article that ran on BollySpice in February about the film:

Mallika Sherawat has been cast opposite Avatar star, Laz Alonso in a political comedy, Love, Barack. The film is set during the frantic days leading up to the 2008 US Presidential elections. Mallika will play the role of Democrat Aretha Gupta, a devoted Obama volunteer coordinator who unexpectedly falls for her Republican counterpart (Alonso), a handsome African-American working for the local McCain office.

The inspiration for the story comes from the numerous publicly-documented campaign romances that sprung up around during the Obama Presidential win. Experts have speculated that this resulted in an “Obama baby-boom”

"Laz Alonso is a talented and exciting actor. I'm very lucky to be working with him," said Mallika in a statement.

The film will be directed by Doug McHenry and will also star Ruby Dee, Gerry Bednob and Loretta Devine.

Mallika has previously made Hollywood news when she landed a small role in a Jackie Chan movie, The Myth. She is currently doing another Hollywood film, Hisss directed by Jennifer Lynch which also stars Irrfan Khan.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Accent Training for Inspector Jacques Clouseau

I've been a fan of Steve Martin ever since Father of the Bride. Contrary to what many people think and feel, I thought he was hilarious in Pink Panther (and the sequel) as Inspector Jacques Clouseau. In this clip, he is being tutored by an accent coach before embarking on his great American adventure. So funny!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sex & the City 2: Anti-Muslim?

Image from Google Images
Article from here.

While I'm waiting with baited breath for the release of Sex & the City 2, I've also been waiting for critics to make headlines with something like this. What do you think?

Los Angeles:
Carrie Bradshaw is in trouble and it has got nothing to do with Mr Big. The much awaited sequel 'Sex And The City 2' has been accused of being "anti-Muslim" by critics who have also panned the film for lacking "script and soul."

The sequel to the 2008 hit sees the four New Yorker girlfriends travelling to the far-flung sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, but reviews say that the sojourn conjures up a "scathing portrayal of Muslim society", according to industry bible 'Hollywood Reporter'.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Reflections

What have I learned this week?
  • Sleep is essential.
  • Check 2 or 3 times that my door is locked before going to sleep.
  • Smokey bars are not for me.
  • I can outgrow friends.
  • Two people can both speak the same language, but can easily be on different pages in a conversation.
  • Being 'nice' clearly means different things to different people.

Google Doodle celebrates Pac Man's 30th birthday

I've always been a fan of Google Doodle, and this time they have not failed to impress.

The homepage has turned into an interactive game where users can play Pac Man to celebrate the game's 30th birthday.

Very cool!

Flo Rida Concert

On Friday, May 21 2010 I went to the Flo Rida Concert in Seoul. It was insane! I almost didn't go and my ticket was only booked two days before.

I had no idea that Flo Rida could set the stage on fire like he did. He performed songs from his two albums, Mail on Sunday & R.O.O.T.S while the group, Git Fresh performed songs from their album, Booty Music.

The concert started a bit late and for about 20-30 minutes in the beginning, there were performances by Korean entertainers.

Flo Rida burst on stage getting people on their feet when he opened with In the Ayer.

He autographed some towels which he threw into the audience.


Flo Rida said he came to Korea to find his shawty and proceeded to describe what she looks like - Apple Bottom Jeans, Boots with Fur...yeah, the crowd went crazy!

He called some girls onto stage to dance with him as he sang the song that is arguably his claim to fame, Low.

Things started to heat up and there were shrieks of joy when he removed his t-shirt!


Right Round (Spin)

Available (Single Man)

Flo Rida was joined by his official DJ, DJ Entice as well as Git Fresh.

Git Fresh - She be like

The audience interaction was incredible and he even jumped off stage a few times.

Open Class - Success!

On Wednesday, May 19 2010 I had an open class which was attended by English teachers (Korean & foreign) from my city as well as folks from the Education Department.

The class we taught was 6.6 (my favourite!) and they were exceptionally well-behaved. 40 minutes seemed to fly by and when the class was over, my co-teacher and I were both complimented on a job well done.

The teachers then gathered for a meeting to discuss our class, our teaching technique and methods used. I was commended on drilling the students to repeat the key sentences of the lesson as well as using various intonations when doing so.

After the meeting, I had to give some sort of "cultural training". I gave three separate presentations:

1) South Africa
2) Indian Culture
3) My transition into Korean culture

Recently I have been shocked to learn that many people here have very little or no knowledge about South Africa. The other day, a co-worker said to me, "Actually, I don't know about South Africa. Is it near Africa?" Other things that they know about is apartheid - which was taught to them at high school. Of course, they know icons like Nelson Mandela and sporting events like the FIFA World Cup have also helped place South Africa on the global map.

I really enjoyed giving my presentations and even taught them a few South African words. There were many things that they didn't know about Indian culture, like the significance of wearing a bindi.

Speaking about my transition into Korean culture, I mentioned the four phases of cultural adjustment that people typically go through when relocating to a foreign country:

1) Honeymoon Period - Everything is brand new, exciting and an adventure.
2) Crisis Period - Everything is bad & you pick up a lot of differences.
3) Adjustment Period - You begin to get a grip on the culture & form a realistic view.
4) Biculturalism Period - Begin to understand host culture & enjoy living and working.

All in all, the day was a great success and the many nights of minimal sleep paid off.

Han-yeo (The Housemaid)

         Last week, I watched a Korean film, 하녀 > Han-yeo (The Housemaid).
Directed by Im Sang-soo, it is a remake of the 1960 classic.

The Cast:

Jeon Do-yeon as Eun-yi (Housemaid)
Lee Jeong-jae as Hoon (Master)
Yoon Yeo-jeong as Byeong-sik (Senior Housemaid)
Seo-Woo as Hae-ra (Mistress)
Park Ji-yeong as Mi-hee (Haera's mother)
Ahn Seo-hyeon as Na-mi (Hoon & Hae-ra's daughter)

The Trailer:

The Housemaid revolves around a lower class divorcee, Eun-yi who takes a job as a housemaid for a wealthy family. The Hoon's appear to live a perfect life in their perfect home. The master of the house (Hoon) is handsome and successful and his wife (Hae-ra) is young, beautiful and pregnant with twins. The couple have a young daughter (Na-mi) who is cute, but mature for her age. Everything is literally served to the family on a platter. The mistress of the home even has beauty treatments done by the housemaid. Despite their wealth and extravagant mansion, the family appears to be disconnected and cold. This is also reflected in their very spacious living space.

Hoon begins making frequent visits to Eun-yi's bed at night and she doesn't stop him. When Byeong-sik, the senior housemaid gets to know of the affair, she immediately informs Mi-hee (Hae-ra's mother) about it.

Eun-yi falls pregnant and wants to keep the baby. When Hae-ra and her mother discover this, they force her to have an abortion. Eun-yi's mental condition takes a turn for the worst and the film ends quite disturbingly. In fact, I closed my eyes in the second last scene and didn't watch it. Of course, I won't give the ending away, but I'm still trying to decide if it was predictable or a surprise.

The opening and closing scenes of the film are confusing and one keeps thinking what it has to do with the film's content. Very soon, it all begins to make sense. Korean films rely a lot on symbolism and master them like artwork. The story deals with a number of themes like class and status, sexuality and power, adultery and vulnerability, revenge, innocence, family structure and hierarchy.

While Hoon takes advantage of his masculinity and power by drawing Eun-yi into his sexual desires, the tables turn when his wife, Hae-ra and her mother, Mi-hee get involved. The film take a U-turn and shows the power of a woman's wrath and revenge.

The Housemaid
is said to be a triumph for the director and is hailed as one of the best thrillers of the Korean film industry in recent years.

The film apparently attracted over one million viewers in the first six days of its release and is a strong contender at the Cannes International Film Festival.

Images from Google Images

Friday, May 21, 2010

Buddha's Birthday in Korea

 In Korea, Buddha's Birthday is called 석가탄신일 (Seok-ga tan-si-nil) or 부처님 오신날 (Bu-cheon-im o-sin-nal) meaning "the day when Buddha arrived".

Streets all over are lined with colourful lanterns and many temples offer free meals (like san-chae bim-bim-bap >> rice topped with veggies & hot sauce) and tea to visitors.

This year, it falls on Friday, May 21 - which means it's a public holiday!
Pic from Google Images

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My 3am Incident

From Google Images
I was woken up at 3am by a man's voice which I thought was coming from outside my apartment. I sat up in my bed and noticed that the light sensor was on downstairs. The voice was coming from downstairs in my apartment. At 3am.

"Ohmygod, what?" I said.

He was saying that my door was open. Heart racing and not knowing what was going on, I slowly went downstairs saying to him, "Ok, thank you...." He went out and closed the door behind him.

It was like I had no idea what just happened, but after a while, it made sense.

My apartment door works with a chip or password (no key). When I got home yesterday, the door probably didn't shut and lock properly. I didn't spend much time downstairs and went to bed shortly after I went upstairs. So I didn't know that the door was open.

He meant no harm. If anything, he was concerned and was checking that everything was alright. I assume he was just getting in himself because I remember it looked like he had a laptop bag slung over his shoulder. All he said to me was, "The door was open."

Anyway, you can imagine how freaked out I was at the time and about ten minutes after that. Tonight, however I checked twice that my door was closed - and locked.

On another note, I don't recall ever being unsafe since I arrived here in August 2007. I walk around with my camera, cell phone and iPod and have never felt like I'm in danger. Of course, I'm always cautious and alert, but have never felt unsafe.

I'm just very grateful that this is all there is to my 3am incident. :-)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Control - Cut it out!

I was sitting with an empty blog post thinking what to write when this email came through from The Secret Scrolls by Rhonda Byrne. It's a gentle reminder that we can't always play God:
"Isn't it great to know that you cannot control your world from the outside? To try and control things on the outside feels impossible because it would take so much work, and in fact it is impossible according to the law of attraction.

To change your world all you have to do is manage your thoughts and feelings on the inside of you, and then your whole world changes."

Photo ~ Steps of...?

I took this photo at the Egyptian Embassy in Seoul earlier this year. It's open to interpretation.

Steps leading to...?
Steps of life...?
Keep away from the light...?

What do you think? ^_^

Photo of the Day ~ Tokyo Street

Taken from National Geographic, this photo by Chris Jongkind reflects how I'm feeling this morning. Worn out, dull, grey and bare. Most of all, it depicts the proverbial "fork in the road". Quite relevant for where I am right now. The building that's walled in can also be interpreted in various ways. More on this in a later blog. :-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

On Sunday evening last week, I wrote a blog post, Lessons Learned where I listed some of the things I'd learned or was reminded of during the past week. I thought I'd do the same thing before Monday greets me in a few minutes.
  • Pay close attention to your body and listen when its trying to tell you it needs to rest.
  • Sleep is important.
  • If you can't / don't answer "yes" to the question, "Are you happy?" examine why you're not and act fast to rectify it.
  • We all need guidance at some point in our lives.
  • Some people just don't and won't understand, so be careful who you open up to.
  • Exercise does wonders to boost one's energy and mood.

TEDxUKZN - Yashik Singh

Yashik Singh gave a presentation using an informative video on "How HIV replicates".

He ended his talk by saying, "No matter how small you think your idea is, do it. You never know how it will help someone else."

Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World

TEDxUKZN - Brett van Niekerk

Brett van Niekerk spoke about "Safety & Security on the Web & its implications for Africa". He outlined security incidents that have been increasing on the Internet as well as "the potential consequences of the increasing bandwidth available to Africa."
  • Mass corporations, government and whole nations are at risk with information security incidents.
  • Reliance creates vulnerability.
  • Increase in bandwidth > Increase in number of users > Increase in number of potential victims > Influx of attacks.
  Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World

TEDxUKZN - Joseph Ntabeni Jere

Joseph Ntabeni Jere is currently doing a masters degree by research, focusing on deployment strategies of ICTs > Information Communication Technologies in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal. His presentation was, "Computer Literacy Outreach Initiative: Tugela Ferry". 

He outlined some of the difficulties existing in Tugela Ferry, namely:

  • 2nd most disadvantaged community in South Africa
  • 36% HIV infection rate
  • High unemployment rate

Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World


TEDxUKZN - Paul Kelly & Francis Maphanga

Paul Kelly and Francis Maphanga's presentation was titled, "Youth development through Football". The two spoke about Africaid's WhizzKids United, which provides effective HIV prevention, care and support to youth through football. According to his bio on the TEDxUKZN site, Kelly's personal goal is "to have helped decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS in KZN by 2015 and 2020."
Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World 

TEDxUKZN - Dr Imtiaz Sooliman

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman founded the Gift of the Givers Foundation in 1992 and has served as chairman and co-ordinator ever since. The organization has been developed into "the most respected international humanitarian agencies." According to his bio on the TEDxUKZN site, Dr Sooliman "developed the Gift of the Givers Foundation into one of the finest and fastest disaster response agency in the world."

    He has received awards from two successive South African presidents including the President's Order of the Star of South Africa (the highest civilian award in the country) from Pres. F.W. De Klerk in 1993; the PMB civic commendation award from President Nelson Mandela in 1997. In July 2006 received a Presidential Award from the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf for Pakistan earthquake response.

Dr Sooliman spoke about the work he's done and showed images from disaster-stricken nations like Haiti that claimed the lives of millions within hours. Some points he raised:
  •     Best among people are those who benefit mankind.

  •     Something is not done by you, it's done through you.

  •     South Africa is the Dream Team. We have the skills and capabilities. We need to   believe in ourselves. Believe in yourself. Miracles can be done.

Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World

TEDxUKZN - Rosemary & Craig

Speakers, Rosemary Quilling and Craig Blewett are represented by Quible (an avatar) - "a full time web-based resident, teacher and researcher." The title of this presentation was "The Journey to Ubun2.0" Taken from their profile page on the TEDxUKZN site, the presentation synopsis ~

The power to change the world has always been available to those individuals brave enough to claim it. Better yet is a virally spread vision; collaborative groupings working towards a greater vision for all…..not just as individuals but as collaborative groupings who span traditional divides of  places, cultures, genders, races, religions, generations etc.
Social computing enables us to cross a host of divides in relatively simple ways: Paradoxically though, it appears that our ability to develop world views and processes which are truly neutral and without boundaries are less simple to achieve.
You are invited to join Quible on a short journey of exploration of the meaning of Ubun2.0: To discover the power, wonder, fears, issues and secrets of finding a place where learning is collaborative. Where the student and the teacher share and grow together. Where, in the sharing, all benefit. Can Quible truly find this ultimate place? Can Quible truly find Ubun2.0?
  • There are gaps everywhere - for eg: people that have information and people that don't. Gaps also exist between students and lecturer's.
  • Is there an iTopia? > Digital Realm?
  • Gen Y > Connecting students, Multi-task, Enjoy social contacts.
  • Ubun2.0 > Collaboration, not domination / Strengths, not weakness / Knowledge, not power  Learning, not instructing.
  • We live in a BETA world > Construction is always happening.
  • Imperfect learning with imperfect tools.
  • Is there an iTopia? No, but there's a journey
  • 6C Map to Ubun2.0 > Come, Connect, Consume, Collaborate, Create, Contribute
Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World 

TEDxUKZN - Prof SD Govender

Prof Suria Govender is a Speech & Drama Professor at UKZN, an inter-cultural dance practitioner as well as an artistic director of Surialanga Dance Company and Dancelink (amongst her other commitments).

An eloquent and engaging presenter, she spoke about South Africa:

  • Many cultures. One nation > A Question of Identity.
  • You can be different things at different times and still be South African.
  • She described dance as an out-of-body experience.
The audience was treated to a wonderful dance fusion of Indian dancing comprising of Indian women and Zulu men. There was also a traditional Indian dance (by Zulu men) to South Africa's national anthem (sung in Hindi) followed by a very upbeat "Woza Durban!" Later on, the dancers got the audience on their feet as they tried to learn the "Diski Dance"

Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World

TEDxUKZN - Prof Kriben Pillay

Prof Kriben Pillay's presentation was "A Magic Trick of Perception".Taken from the speaker's bio from the TEDxUKZN site, a synopsis of his talk ~
Using personal experience and the latest findings from cognitive science, the presenter demolishes the notion that Consciousness/Being is a material phenomenon of the brain, and yet, paradoxically, is in agreement with science that the personal self is an illusion. All of this is illustrated through story and entertaining thought experiments.
Prof Pillay is a humourous, captivating and charming speaker.  I was trying to hang onto his every word, at the same time trying to take notes of his presentation. Some points he raised:

  • Magic can teach us something about the way our brains work.
  • We watch a movie and get taken in by it - the laughter, tears, immense pathos etc...but we don't realize the movie has been skillfully put together by artists.
  • Illusion doesn't mean something doesn't exist. It means, "not seeing what it really means."
  • Primary Illusion > The separation of the self and the world is real - both are illusions.
  • Once we change the orientation of our perception, we will actually realize what the great spiritual traditions in their pure forms were talking about.
  • Ask the question, "Is it true?"
  • If we don't examine our illusions, we will constantly be caught in delusions.
Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World

TEDxUKZN - Dr Kumi Naidoo

Dr Kumi Naidoo is the CEO of Greenpeace International and gave his presentation via a web cast from Amsterdam. He spoke on global climatic issues.

Some points that were raised in his talk (taken from my Twitter stream):

  • If we think globally and act locally, we will be removing ourselves from where power resides.
  • According to Kofi Anan > Last year 300,000 people lost their lives from climatic impacts.
  • For Africa, there is some opportunity. Africa has the largest potential in solar/wave energy etc. We haven't begun to tap even 5% of the possibilities we have.
  • The challenge now, is not that we have time for a full marathon. We have to learn to move fast and quickly. Time is running out.
  • If we don't rise to the challenge and don't step forward, history will judge us harshly.
Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World

TEDxUKZN - Eugene Chetty

Eugene Chetty's presentation was titled "Where are all things digital going?" As a weakling for cool gadgets and electronics, I was particularly looking forward to his talk. The speaker had great energy as he spoke about the latest innovative gadgets that are currently in production as well as the value that they would add to us as a nation.

Some of the topics he raised (taken from my Twitter stream):
  • Whatever is digital / connected is accessible to anybody.
  • We as South African's and African's put ourselves in a box that we can't challenge ourselves with what's happening in America (digital-wise).
  • You don't have to be at a computer to be part of a social media network.
  • It’s becoming a world of convenience.
  • We as South African’s sideline ourselves that we can’t compete on a global scale.
  • Technology is getting smaller.
  • iPad has changed the way people think.
  • The world of mobile leads us to integration and intelligence.
  • South African's have a problem with transition. This thinking causes the world to think of us as a 3rd world country.
  Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World

TEDxUKZN - TM Govender

Mr Govender is the principal of VN Naik School for the Deaf. He gave a presentation on "The challenges facing deaf school leavers in South Africa".  He reminded us that deaf people are regular people - "They have the same aspirations, failings, feelings, idiosyncrasies like the rest of us," he said.

Unfortunately, I couldn't listen to the entire presentation, but the bits that I caught were food for thought.

Click here to go back to TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World

TEDxUKZN 2010 - Africa, Change, the World

Being a huge TED fan, I was very excited to virtually attend TEDxUKZN in South Africa on Friday, May 14 2010. A very big thank you to Uncle Kriben for keeping me in the loop about this event.

The School of Information Systems and Technology of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal hosted the full day conference under the theme, Africa, Change, the World.

The event began at 9am (South African time) and had a terrific host of speakers lined up for the day:

Harsha Desai, Prof Franscesco Petruccione, Dr Shamim Bodhanya, TM Govender, Eugene Chetty, Prof Patrick Bond, Dr Kumi Naidoo, Prof Kriben Pillay, Prof Suria Govender, Dr Murray Legg, Rosemary Quilling & Craig Blewett, Dr Adrian Ryan, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, Paul Kelly & Francis Maphanga, Joseph Jere, Brett van Niekerk, Yashik Singh.

Unfortunately, I missed the first three speakers when I logged onto the web stream. I was tweeting live as I was watching the event, but since I was at home there were a few distractions so I wasn't "fully present" at some of the talks. However, the ones that I did tune into were, as expected, uplifting and very informative. My tweets pretty much sum up the gist of what the speaker's were trying to convey.You can click on some of their names above to see the points/some of my tweets of the presentations. I wish I had photographs of the event, but the photo's of the speaker's have been taken from the bio pages of the official TEDxUKZN site.

Last year, I attended TEDxSeoul. Click here to read about it.

Please Note >>> I am in no way affiliated with any TED or TEDx events. This blog serves mainly to journal tidbits and notes that I took during the talks at TEDxUKZN. It is by no means a review or critique of the speakers or their respective presentations.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lost in Translation

 Image from Google Images

There are a few things that I say in English that are often misunderstood or misinterpreted in Korean. As one would imagine, this can cause confusion (and sometimes frustration) with people I'm trying to communicate with. Some examples are:

  • When I say "no" (in English) in sounds like "noh" which is "you" in Korean. So if I see a student rocking their chair or doing something that he/she shouldn't be doing and I say "no!" it's sometimes thought that I'm saying "you!"

  • In South Africa, "ja" - pronounced 'yah - is "yes" in Afrikaans. However, in Korean, "yah" is a pretty rude expression to say to someone. It's like an aggressive "hey you!" So I have to be careful not to use this too often.

  • When I say "where?" (indicating that I need a location), some people think I'm asking "why?" because "why?" in Korean is pronounced as "wae" or "where" (without too much 'r'). For example, the other day, a conversation I had with someone went something like this:

Him: What time work finish-y?
Me: 4:40pm
Him: 5pm downstairs office meeting. My car together go.
Me: Where?
Him: Keun-yang (meaning just....)
Me: No, 'oe-di?' (meaning where?)
Him: Your house.

In other words, he was trying to tell me that after I'm done with work, I should meet him downstairs and he'd give me a ride home. When he said we'd go together in his car, he thought I was asking "why" instead of "where".

There are a few more that I can't seem to think of right now, I'll update this post again as it comes back to me.

Teacher's Day in Korea

Teacher's Day in Korea - Saturday, May 15 2010

Image from Google Images

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Photo of the Day ~ Waikawau Bay, New Zealand

I think I should post a "Photo of the Day" on a daily basis.
The images from National Geographic are stunning.
Here's another one from April's best. Photo by Steve Burling:


Photo of the Day ~ Bathing Parrot

I've always been a fan of National Geographic photography.
This was part of the "Best of April" collection.
Photo by Cesar Bedilla:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Korean teacher is supposed to be the devil teacher"

I just met my friend, Sarah for dinner. She always says that I'm her "living diary" because she opens up to me a lot. Therefore, I feel the trust is mutual so I've also shared things with her that I don't with many people here. One of the main reasons is the language barrier, and Sarah's English level is near perfect. We just click.

This evening I told her how I've been feeling lately about teaching, especially with the little ones.

"What about your co-teacher?" she asked.
"She's there, but she's not 'there'," I tried to explain.

Sarah is familiar with KH (my co-teacher for 3rd and 4th grade) so she knows her style (and her Fran Drescher voice on max).

We talked about authority in the classroom. I told her how when I was the only teacher in the room, the kids were good, but the minute the Korean teacher came back, the student's changed. Sarah told me that kids are very clever and they know who they can take advantage of.

"So who's supposed to be in charge of the discipline?" I wanted to know.
"The Korean teacher is supposed to be the devil teacher."

Sarah often told me that I'm the "angel teacher" and the Korean teacher is the "devil teacher" as they are the ones who are supposed to deal with discipline of the students, not me.

There. Straight from a Korean teacher's mouth.

Thoughts & Questions of a 'teacher'

From Google Images
"I feel very...I don't know...happy when you teach with me."

My co-teacher (KH) said this to me a few weeks ago. What a nice thing to say, I thought. I teach 3rd & 4th grade with her on Monday and Tuesdays.

The other teacher in the office, who I teach 5th grade with on Friday, said she feels the same way when I teach with her...only to realize that they both felt "happy" because I teach the majority of the class. I bet they didn't know I understood that they said "it's really tiring." So in other words, for these particular teachers, they treat the days that I teach with them as "rest days".

On April Fool's Day, I sent a joke text to a few friends and colleagues saying that I was suddenly going back to South Africa that weekend. The next day, the first thing KH said to me was, "I thought, how will I teach the classes alone?"

It's nice to feel wanted or needed, isn't it? But this is what I have come to realize:

Recently, I have been feeling very drained after my classes on Monday's and Tuesday's. What used to be my favourite day of the week (Monday) has turned into a day I dread because I teach raucous 4th graders. Don't even get me started on Tuesday's where I teach 3rd graders. Yesterday was particularly hard for me. Apart from not being 100% physically well, my classes gave me almost an out-of-body experience. Running, screaming, jumping, shouting, screaming children. KH just looked on, or if I gave her a look of desperation, she'd scream at them. If you want to imagine her voice, think Fran Drescher in The Nanny. Ok, got the voice? Now turn the volume up to the max! Yes, she's loud.

I was meant to go to the movies after work yesterday, but canceled and went home to sleep. I can't remember when last I slept that early, but it felt good. This morning I woke up pretty refreshed and even managed to write an article before getting ready for work.

There are a number of co-teaching methods teachers can utilize. When I started teaching, I remember my co-teachers at the time saying that they wanted the lessons to be split 80/20 (majority of the time going to me). I had no problem with that, because while I taught, at least there was a Korean teacher helping me with the discipline of the kids - especially the younger ones.

Over time, I realized I could teach a class entirely on my own. Of course, each class is different - and I teach 25 classes a week (including Kindergarten). Some classes, like a particular 5th grade class I have on a Friday are an absolute pleasure. I just love ending my week with them - they're so attentive, respectable and active during activities. Other classes make me want to emit steam from my ears.

This is my first year teaching with KH. She's very bubbly and generally fun to talk to. As another friend and colleague told me, KH has her "holes" (faults), but I overlooked them. But as my energy and nerves started wearing out, I began to notice things. When I'm teaching, she's faffing around with papers on her desk or not helping me reprimand the children when I need it the most.

First of all, I'm not a certified teacher. I'm just an English instructor. Secondly, I'm not Korean. I'm not Korean. Many colleagues tell me, "You're just like Korean." I accepted it as a compliment as it was meant to be one, but hey, I'm not Korean!

Come 4:40pm, I drag myself home and will myself to exercise to get my stiff body moving, while KH bounces home seeming quite full of energy. Why am I more tired than she is?

Only people in the teaching profession - especially to YL (young learner's) - will understand what a physically-demanding job it is. Not only do I use my voice and energy when speaking, but I use my body. Remember, teachers to YL are also performers. We have to sing, clap and dance to get them [students] excited. In other words, we have to make complete idiots of ourselves at the front of the classroom!

So while I'm doing the Hokey Pokey dance at the front, I'm also trying to get the students at the back to participate or I'm trying to stop ABC from fighting with XYZ (there are a couple of these going on simultaneously). Then, it's time for worksheets and as I go around checking 36 little bodies whether or not they're doing their work, I have to deal with students who don't bring their books to class or who sit there dumb-founded because they don't have a pencil and don't ask for one.

This raises another issue for me.

At the beginning of the academic year, I was told that the principal said that students from our school (who are now at middle school) were very poor at writing in English and were generally low. This made me feel terrible. I'm the only foreign teacher at the school. I have 40 minutes per lesson with each class once a week. 40 minutes is just the time between bell-rings, the actual learning time can arguably be 25-30 minutes. There are about 36 children in each class. How do I - one person - ensure that every single child leaves my classroom having learned something from my lesson? What about the child that never brings his books to class? What about the child who's falling asleep because he was at hagwon (special learning academy) till late last night? What about the child who can't concentrate because they didn't eat breakfast?

"Where is your book?"
"Jeep" (house)

Yes, they are children. If anyone should know that, it's me. I can't treat them the same way I'd treat high school children. Of course not, but I do think that there needs to be a certain amount of discipline that should be carried out. If I, as the foreign teacher am expected to teach something to approximately 1000+ kids I see every week, I certainly can't be breaking up fights between A & B or reprimanding the boys at the back to pay attention to me. Is that not why I have a co-teacher?

Yesterday as I was reprimanding a class, a group of boys were still talking over me. I told KH about it, and she just smiled at them - before telling them to be quiet. This really pushed my buttons.

During an earlier class, KH had to go downstairs for something so I was left alone with a particular class. I was very strict them and for the 10 minutes that I was with them, they were pretty good. Enter the Korean teacher, they went back to their usual behaviour.

Is there a confusion of authority?

This got me thinking > If I'm to teach a class, let me teach entirely alone with my own rules for things like discipline. Or, if I'm to teach with a co-teacher it has to be a 50-50 effort during the 40 minute lesson.

So I need to explore this area a bit more > How much authority does a foreign teacher / English Language Instructor have in a classroom? In a co-teaching situation, who should control the discipline? Do such people deserve the title of 'teacher'? What does it mean to be a 'good' teacher?

I'd love input from any teacher's.

Earth Day (1970)

I love this photograph
on the National Geographic website:

        Student in Gas Mask

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Needed: Punching Bag

  From Google Images
One of my co-teacher's, who we'll call KH, teaches 3rd and 4th grade with me. A few minutes ago she came to discuss something about our lesson for next week. She laid out a textbook and calender on the desk and was circling some dates and writing things while trying to tell me something. To be honest, I wasn't really functioning.

Before she left, she said, "You look tired."
"Tired" is an understatement to how I'm feeling right now. I feel exhausted.

I taught five classes today, most of them 3rd graders. My head is literally throbbing. If the students weren't behaving like wild animals let loose after months of captivity, then KH was screaming at them. She is known amongst other teachers for her very loud nasal voice, but she screams. Screams!

As I've mentioned somewhere else on my blog, I've recently become very sensitive to noise, so today was really just draining for me. I have more to write on about this, but that's for later.

"A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle"

I just received this in my e-mail...part of Rhonda Byrne's The Secret Scrolls
"Every single day, no matter who you meet in the day - friends, family, work colleagues, strangers - give joy to them. Give a smile or a compliment or kind words or kind actions, but give joy! Do your best to make sure that every single person you meet has a better day because they saw you. This might sound like it is not connected with you and your life, but believe me it is inseparably connected through cosmic law.
As you give joy to every person you meet, you bring joy to YOU. The more you can give joy to others, the more you will bring the joy back to you."

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Nice" just cuts it

From Google Images

I remember my high school English teacher once saying that the word, nice should only be used to describe food and not objects or people. Find another adjective, if you must.

We all know those moments when we're at a loss for words, and we can't think of anything nice to say about someone except that they're just nice - you know?

Well, for now I'm dismissing that rule (sorry, Mrs Moore) and going ahead to acknowledge some really nice people that I know. A few days ago, I wrote about weeding people out - mortals that just kind of feed off you. Many of us seem to dwell on the 'energy thieves' in our lives, but this evening, I'd like to take a U-turn and recognize all of MY nice people!

The following gems hail from various parts of the world and I've gotten to know some of them online. That doesn't make them any less "real", but I sincerely hope that I get to meet them somehow, somewhere, someday.

So what makes them nice? It's many things - but above all, I've noticed the way they treat others. I've been raised to respect people regardless of their gender, age or status and over the past few months, I've come to realize that these people share the same values that my parents have instilled in me.

In no particular order, I'd like to thank the following people for just being, well...nice :)

Chetan Dodia, Ken Wilson, Jason Renshaw, Vicky Loras, Mercy Moletsane, Grant Monareng, Junior Kanam, DJ Sbu (Sbusiso Leope), Uyanda Mbuli, DJ Fresh, Kojo Baffoe, Trevor Madondo, Gregor Rohrig, Nicki Her, Stacey Yount, Faizan Qureshi, Rebekah Johnson, Mrs Hahm, Myeong No-su. My brother, Darmesh (DJ Damage or his pet name used exclusively at home, but I fear he'll cut me off if I write it on here!) needs to be included here. He really is one of the nicest people I know. He's kind, caring, considerate, funny and wise beyond his years <-- This is up for debate, mum!

So why am I writing this post? Have these people offered me cash or an ocean cruise for writing this? No. Am I sucking up to these people? No. It's just that I think everyone needs a lift now and then. Over the past few days, I've had people say some very nice things about me. I'm not entirely sure if I'm worthy of the praise, but my way of saying 'thank you' is to bring the same joy to someone else.

Alright  - 'nuff with all the soppiness. As you were!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

New TV series about Jesus Christ

Thanks to my brother for telling me about this article.

New York - Comedy Central has a cartoon series about Jesus Christ in the works.

Titled JC, the series depicts Christ as a "regular guy" who moves to New York to "escape his father's enormous shadow".

His father is depicted as an apathetic man who would rather play video games than listen to his son talk about his new life.

Comedy Central has pushed the envelope in the past: the long-running South Park features Christ as a regular character.

The network says JC is on its development slate, steps away from the pilot stage and eventual airing. Many television series in development never make it to air.
- AP

Lessons Learned

It's Sunday evening, and as I wrap up this week and begin a new one tomorrow, I'm thinking of things I've learned over the past few days. Rather, things I was reminded of. Some of them include:

  • As much as I want to escape from children on my days off from work, it's virtually impossible - unless you're out very early in the morning or very late at night. Kids are everywhere. I mean, everywhere!
  • Sometimes I want to be invisible and have no one look at me or know who I am. This is a tough one when I'm the only foreigner in a particular setting and stick out like a sore thumb.
  • Timezones are non-existent amongst loved ones.
  • People (friends) will disappoint and let you down. If it continues, weed them out.
  • Hugging is one of the most intimate things two (or more) fully-clothed people can take part in!
  • A simple thing like breathing fresh air does wonders for the mind, body and soul.
  • Reading is a form of escapism.
  • Watching movies from the 1950's reminds us that old-fashion romance is actually not 'old-fashion' and is rather quite charming!

A Friendly Reminder

From Google Images

"It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice.