Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chapter Seventeen: On Any Given Weekend

This post will be brief. I just want to give you a better idea of what my life is like when I'm not at school with the kids and not trying to hike up mountains. On Friday nights, we frequently go out to dinner and then a bar or two. Last night, we went to the "Tent Place" for Korean barbecue again. The "Tent Place" is nice because you're outside but kind of inside, sitting at picnic tables. Since fall finally hit, they had standing heaters. I love the restaurant for everything except its squatting toilets. I have managed to never pee on myself--but that doesn't decrease my fear every time.
After the "Tent Place" we went to one of the few Western style bars in Daegu. At this one, you could actually get cocktails! Arthur, above, is drinking some sort of Jack Daniels cocktail.

While I enjoyed a pina colada. I paid about $7 for it but it was worth it. I was excited to have rum for the first time in a while. And it was a pretty surreal experience to be drinking a pina colada in Korea.

More cocktails for the rest of the table (I called it a night after my single pina colada). Last night, we had an embargo on shop-talk. We were not allowed to talk about school, students, teachers, teaching, English, or anything related to work. It was pretty difficult but I managed. I may or may not have written down some conversation starters from the internet to take with me in case it turned out I was a very boring person when not talking about school. I didn't use them, but they ended up being kind of meta--the fact that I had written out conversation starters was fodder for conversation itself.

I had spent all night staring at these coasters because they had little notches in the sides that you could punch out. Eventually, when everyone else was sufficiently distracted by alcohol consumption, I started putting them together. Everyone joined suit and we made some nice "Modern Art" ala The Table from first year.

On to Saturday:
I wake up at 9:15, always, without an alarm clock. This is a little strange since I wake up at any time between 7:23 and 8:23 during the week. Then I turn the alarm off; it was set for 8:30. I'm not even sure I know what my alarm sounds like.
On Saturday, I wake up and smell cigarette smoke in my hair from going out on Friday night. I vow to take a shower soon. I watch one or two episodes of Sex and the City and miss New York. I shower. I watch the same number of episodes of Friends and miss my own. I think about the quirkiness and lack of sentimentality that sometimes defines my friends. I wonder if I'll ever find anyone like that here, but have to remind myself that I don't have too much longer. After the second episode, I go to brush my teeth. Every Saturday morning, without fail, I forget to push down the knob that changes from shower to sink. My hair, which was just starting to dry, is completely soaked again. As is the towel hanging up behind me, so I have nothing to dry it on. And I have to change again.
I sit down on my bed with my computer and check some blogs then watch an episode of one of my favorite TV shows on sidereel. Or, I watch half an episode, then realize I'm hungry. I go into the kitchen to find that there's no way I can make breakfast because the dishes from the whole week have piled up. But before I can do dishes, I have to wash the counter where they will dry. After I have finished washing 2/3rds and run out of room for them to dry, I decide to just have some toast and eat real lunch later. It's around noon anyway. I feel bad for missing breakfast because it is my favorite meal. It seems strange to eat breakfast after noon, so I don't. I let the dishes dry while I eat my toast and finish the episode. It's around 12:30 and I realize that I have to decide what I will do today.
What do I need to do? Grocery shopping and clean. But I always want to go shopping shopping. I want books or just to be in a shopping center. I decide that I will first clean, then go grocery shopping, come home, update my planner, and then if I'm still up for it, I'll go shopping shopping.

Then I realize, I don't feel like cleaning or going grocery shopping. But it's Saturday. So it's okay.

I read some, then finally get out of the house at around 3, deciding I want a rotibun and hot chocolate. So today, I headed downtown in search of a bun place that I could sit and read at. It's finally fall, so it was quite chilly. It was nice to put on a sweater and scarf and still feel a little nip. It is late October, after all. I walked downtown via the subway, as usual, and came out by the police station.
It seems that on Saturdays, there are always people in silly costumes selling you things downtown. The pedestrian streets are also so crowded that you move in a mass, like New York. I didn't get a shot of the pandas, but I liked the marshmallow people.

Near Jungango, there are fewer people. I went into Rotibun and, as usual, felt helpless when the guy working tried to explain why I couldn't have a bun. Apparently I'd have to wait 1 or 2 hours. Disappointed, I walked to a nearby Dunkin' Donuts.
I know it's corporate America and imperialism, but they have red bean filled donuts and darn good hot cocoa (not hot chocolate). It was a nice fall day to sit and read with my hot cocoa. Also, Dunkin' Donuts in Korea is very much like a cafe instead of a donut shop.

Jungango on the weekends is a nice place to just sit and hang out. I saw a few other white girls while I was inside, which is always nice. It makes me feel less alone.

Also in Jungango is our favorite Western-style restaurant: Outback! It's always funny to go there with Nicole as she is actually Australian and it's full of Aussie kitsch. The jokes never get old. Another great quality about Outback is that they have 100 minutes of beer for less than the price of 2 beers. My ability to be "sensible Colleen" always fails at Outback. Also, you can see the second of two McDonaldses in downtown. Unfortunately, they do not have the "southern style chicken sandwich" so they are primarily of no interest to me.

After I got coffee, I wandered around in Jungango where I have been a few times this week. On Sunday, we went to the movies there. Then on Monday, I went back to Kyobo book store and got a totally sweet book for American kindergarteners entitled Yes, You Can Speak Korean. This book has actually helped me more than all of my stuff for adults combined. In half an hour, I already knew the hangul consonants. Right now, I'm just worried about reading (or rather, pronouncing) and not so much talking. But in a matter of days with this book, I have progressed far beyond my previous knowledge (i.e. "beer, please").
Anyway, today I wandered around the Jungango subway shopping center and bought 4 pairs of earings for under $10. On my way back home, I stopped in my favorite classy stationers shop in the Banwoldong subway mall and got this lantern. Holy hot air balloons, Batman! It makes me feel so much more at home. I still need to get a light for it, though.

On the way home, I did, finally, go grocery shopping.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

PSA: Trick or Treat For Unicef and Other Ways to Care on Halloween

My favorite twin boys in the whole wide world, Ben and Alex, will be Trick-or-Treating for Unicef this Halloween.

Since none of you are in the Babylon area (probably) and they cannot come Trick-or-Treat at your door, go here to donate to Unicef. (How can you not? Look at those faces!) This is really a situation in which every penny counts. Here are some figures:

6¢ provides water for 1 thirsty kid
$2 provides nutrition for 1 hungry kid
$5 can provide a box of 100 disposable syringes for use during immunization campaigns.
$15 can buy one carton of high energy protein biscuits to support and rehabilitate three severely malnourished children for one month.
$44 provides school supplies to 20 kids
$100 can vaccinate 215 children against polio.
$112 provides emergency blankets to 37 kids
$200 immunizes 550 kids against measles

Ben and Alex, as well as their parents Coal and Cesar, are trying to raise $200. It doesn't sound like much, but it can go a long way through Unicef. To learn more about Trick-or-Treating for Unicef, go to the website.

This brings me to today's blog post, which has absolutely nothing to do with teaching English in Korea, but it happens. I have been searching the internet for ways to save the world on Halloween, which isn't usually thought of as a caring holiday. After much research and help from friends, I have created this list of how to help. I've included my opinions about the relative cost and social responsibility of each option. I hope everyone reading this chooses one or a few that best fit their budgets and lifestyles! This is by no means a comprehensive list and if you happen to know more, comment and let me know!

Before Halloween:

Purchase your Halloween costumes, decorations, and goodies from a charity site
Cost: Medium, Social Responsibility: Hard to say
One site I found, The Hunger Site, says that each purchase benefits charity but it is difficult to tell how much really goes to what charities. This is their Halloween goods store.

Prepare to Trick-or-Treat for Unicef
Cost: FREE, Social Responsibility: High
As stated above, donating any amount to Unicef does a lot of good for children around the world. However, if you take your own kids Trick-or-Treating for Unicef, you can go even further by collecting from people who may not otherwise be donating to Unicef. Additionally, you are teaching your children about the importance of giving and offering them an opportunity to help save children. It's a good chance to teach them about hunger, disease, and poverty as well as appreciating what we have. And best of all, it's really easy to do. Go to the Trick-or-Treat for Unicef website to get more information. All you need to do is print out a canister cover or order boxes, trick-or-treat, and then send the money to Unicef. If you want to, you can also spread the news about Unicef and trick-or-treat on the internet.

Prepare to Participate in Sight Night
Cost: FREE, Social Responsibility: High
Another great way to use trick-or-treating as a giving opportunity is to participate in Sight Night. While trick-or-treating, children collect used prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses, and non-prescription sunglasses to be sent around the world to people who could not otherwise afford vision correction. Similar to Trick-or-Treat for Unicef, it's relatively simple to get started. Get a group together (great opportunity for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or any other youth organization), get materials, spread the word, go trick-or-treating, and turn in the glasses. You can turn the glasses in at most major vision centers (Target, Sears, Lens Crafters, Pearle Vision).

Buying Candy or Snacks Which Donate to a Cause:

Buy the "pink" version of your regular Halloween candy
Cost: Low, Social Responsibility: Low
Now, I'm hesitant about putting this up here because there is a lot of debate about buying regular products that donate a portion of their proceeds to breast cancer research or another charity. Some people do not believe in buying these products because the company often makes much more money in sales than they donate so in essence it is a marketing technique. However, if you were going to buy a bag of Hershey's candy anyway, why not grab that one that donates to breast cancer research. Same goes for M&M's. Again, very little money will actually go to breast cancer research and they may have a cap on how much they donate, but if you want to, it's not a terrible way to donate. Since October is breast cancer awareness month, it should be easy to find lots of other pink candies.

Buy Newman's Own chocolate or snacks
Cost: Medium, Social Responsibility: High
As you probably know, Newman's Own donates all proceeds after taxes to charities. Purchasing chocolate or snacks to hand out to trick-or-treaters from Newman's Own is much more socially responsible than buying from Hershey's or M&M's which use donation as a marketing gimmick. I like this NY Times article from 1999 about Newman's Own brand. More information on the Newman's own at their website. And on this page you can learn more about their organic snacks. What would be more socially conscious than handing out organic cookies or peanut butter cups (still a treats but not full of processed ickiness) from which all of the profits go to charity? As well as giving yourself, you are spreading the word about Newman's Own and their yummy goodies.

Buy candy from another charity food organization
Cost: High, Social Responsibility: High
Another charity food company worthy buying from is Good Karmal. The candies are very expensive, but if you can afford it, it seems like another sweet idea. There are also those save-the-rainforest chocolate bars you see everywhere, which again are pretty expensive, but if you can, why not? Again, these candies also help you spread the word about donating.

On Halloween night:

Donate to Unicef
Cost:Low-High depending on you, Social Responsibility: High
You can donate on their website or to a Unicef trick-or-treater. Easy!

Donate to Sight Night
Cost: FREE, Social Responsibility: High
Get rid of those old glasses that have been sitting in your sock drawer since 1992. You will never wear them again. Your prescription has changed six times since then! Give 'em up!

Donate Your Left-Over Candy After Halloween (try to do it as soon after as possible!):

Donate Your Candy to Ronald McDonald House
Cost: FREE, Social Responsibility: Medium (debatable)
Ronald McDonald House Charities help children, especially those who are terminally ill. Generally, those children do not get a chance to go trick-or-treating. While giving kids candy isn't usually a great service, what harm will a box of dots do to a terminally ill child? As harsh as it sounds, he's going to die anyway, let him have some candy and enjoy Halloween like most kids do! More about RMHC at their website. While you're there, you can check out other ways to donate to RMHC year-round. They accept donations of soda tabs (the little thing that you use to open your soda can, which in the mid-nineties we all wore on chains as necklaces for some strange reason). The tabs earn money for RMHC through recycling programs; and don't worry, you can still recycle your cans without them!

Donate Your Candy to a Food Pantry
Cost: FREE, Social Responsibility: Low
Some food pantries are excited to give out candy as a nice surprise to go with their meals. Clearly, though, it would be better if they had more healthy food to give out. But, if you followed my idea to get Newman's Own organic snacks, I think I'll up your social responsibility points.

Send Your Candy to Troops Overseas
Cost: Low-Medium depending on shipping, Social Responsibility: Don't want to get into that argument
Believe me, when you are abroad, it's nice to get packages from home. There are a lot of organizations out there that will either take care packages and mail them for you, or give you the name of a soldier to send a package to. Send non-chocolate candy (especially if it's going to the Middle East) or use the candy as a starting point to create a care package. You can search the internet for an organization, check with your local Lions or Rotary Club, or ask friends and family if they know anyone overseas to send a care package to.
This does not mean I support the war, or any war for that matter. Our soldiers and military personel should not be blamed for our involvement in other countries. I believe in making their trips abroad as pleasant and short as possible.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chapter Sixteen: Sports Day

This month instead of a regular field trip, we had "sports day," which was basically field day. We went to Children's Park and played outside. There were a few other schools there. Mostly we played relay races and it was a lot of fun because in kindergarten it doesn't really matter who wins and often no one knows who does. There was a play ground that they got to play on a bit. It was easier than I had expected to control the whole school at once. I was not thrilled, I wanted another Herb Hillz field trip, but I definitely did have a lot of fun. After the kids did the event, they always made the teachers do it too. It was great. There's one shot of me losing (miserably).

Above is them all in formation for a huuuge group stretching time. I'm getting pretty good at leading stretches now! I lead stretches for Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Pluto, and Uranus. Nicole does Mercury. But we let her do it yesterday. It went surprisingly well.

The first event was eating the Korean version of Funyons off of a string (exactly like the traditional Duckett Halloween donut game!).

It was hard to explain that they shouldn't use their hands.

So Kelly assisted.

Liam with the funyon on his eye! But Jenny's got the right idea.
Jully, trying so hard.
Elin just kept poking it with his tongue.

Rocco was a master at the no-hands.

This is the best shot ever. It looks like they're in some sort of "Just say no" video from the early nineties, doin' the anti-drug dance.
Fred, my man, what's the problem?
And here you an see me, losing terribly, behind Arthur and Nicole.

Now it's the bus drivers' turn!
In the next game, they had to fill up a paper "cup" (more like an envelope, these things drive me nuts!) with water, run down, pour it in the bottle, and run back to tag the next person in the relay. Here is Woody on his way back, though he has strayed a little.

Liam looked so pleased with himself.
Jully looks worried. She's planning her strategy.
...which was apparently to walk very, very slowly on the way there...
...and run like hell on the way back!
Anna and her little braids.
Chris is convinced he just won it for his team.
Sally is always doing that thing with her tongue, even when she runs! Extra credit if you can guess who her twin brother is (note: it's not Elin).
I loved Ariel's little bucket hat!

What a pose, Woody.
Now it's the adults' turn. I already had mine and Nicole got to leave gaurding the bottle to take her turn. Her first idea for cheating is to use TWO little cuppy things.

Quickly, she followed Arthur's lead and took the whole bucket.

But unlike Arthur, she had the foresight to declare herself winner and run back!

(all these next pictures with newspaper were taken by the talented Arthur)
The next game involved two people running with a ball in the newspaper, around a cone (aka Colleen and Chris) and then back. It was another relay race. I enjoyed being the cone and cheering on the red team, which I happened to be on the side of for all three games. Ariel and Jenny get ready.

Me, cheering them on.
Joel, the troublemaker, and Kane, the ever-distracted, did a good job.
Lina and Liam... I can't watch. I was expecting a catastrophe, and I do think they ripped the paper or dropped the ball.
Sharon on the blue team couldn't recover the ball because she was laughing too much.
We can do it!
Look at that stance! He's ready.
See how I cheer on my team every time they get near me!

And feel their agony when they lose the ball.

Yet Chris is the zen-master.
This is what Arthur called his "money shot" and I have to hand it to him, it's pretty amazing. Though, it's not terribly difficult to catch Eric making that face.
Again, me cheering them on and Zen Chris.
This thing was the coolest slide I've ever seen. I had been eying it since we first arrived. Some time later while they were all distracted, Arthur and I had a slide race. I won, by a lot! It was amazing. I could play on a playground forever, with or without little kids.
Getting them all into one gigantic circle to use their backpacks for the obstacle course. It took a solid ten minutes to get them into a circle.

Woody had to take some medicine then almost yacked. Sad face.
I certainly did not get them started on this "lift me up!" kick.. nope.. not me. Sorry Chris!

Jessie was just helping them down, then I turned it into a photo shoot!

Priceless Liam face!

This place was so cool! I don't know what all that stuff over there is, but give me some! I could play here all day! (Also, another school in their track suits.)
Proof that we are still very much in the city.
Being cute... or wait, is she pushing him? Can't tell.
I love this shot because it reminds me how little Mars really is! They aren't even old enough to really socialize. They kind of stand around and look at each other if they aren't given an activity to do. But it also looks to me like when teenagers hang out in a parking lot.
Arthur "assisting" with the rolling part of the obstacle course (our final event), or rather, hanging children upside down by their feet.
Woah, standing up is harder than the roll itself (I can attest to this, having done the course myself at the end).
The box in front of Chris is actually what we were in charge of. We had to hold open the boxes to make a tunnel. We may or may not have rigged this race so that red finally won an event by holding the red team's box open much wider.
Nicole was in charge of the hula hoops. They were suposed to stand in it and pull it up over their heads.
Victory! If memory serves, Liam didn't go through the hoop but instead threw it off to the side, but that may have been another kid.
You should click on this and enlarge it to see Arthur's amazing roll of Harry. He is completely flat!

Nicole helping Harry out. She didn't even bother trying to get him to pick it up either.

The end of an amazing day!