Tuesday, March 24, 2009

ECC- A Hogwan in Korea

I know everyone has been curious to see not only what we have been up to, but where we work. Here it is. We work at ECC Foreign Language Institute. It is a well established school which is known for being the #1 English academy in the area.Korea has many private academies or after school programs called hogwans. After children finish the morning at public school they are bussed to hogwans to study music, art, tae kwon-do, English, science, math, computers, and much more. Children often attend these academies until 9:00 to 10:00 at night. They then return home to do homework. Weekends are for playing. Right? Not here. The majority of children often attend a some sort of Saturday schooling as well. Poor kids. This is why we don't give them homework very often.

These are the young ladies which keep the front desk functioning. They are very helpful and are quick to furnish you with any school supplies or teachers supplies that you may need.
We teach a broad age and skill range of students. The school has about 800 children which attend throughout the week. They come as young as 5 and as old as 14. We both have classes which are very young and brand new to the English language, and we both have advanced classes which are fully conversational.
Chelsie gives a beautiful smile from her desk buried in the teachers room. There are six foreign teachers and 7 Korean teachers. We are well supplied with tons of curriculum, lesson plans, and supplemental materials. This has been absolutely wonderful and has made the process of becoming a teacher very easy.
The children attend on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule or a Tuesday Thursday schedule. The classes are 40 minutes each with about a 7 minute bathroom and water break inbetween. A "native English speaking" foreign teacher will work with the children on reading, writing, and listening, for one class peroid, and then a Korean teacher, who also speaks in English, will work on grammar, phonics, and vocabulary. We teach eight classed back to back on MWF and then on TR we teach five.
You have to love the ornery ones. "Willie! Get your pencil off the floor, get your book out of your backpack, sit down and write!!!" Willie is an awesome writer for his age and he has lots of energy.
One of the best things about teaching at a private academy is the class size. We never have more than 12 students per class. This really gives us a chance to converse with each one and be able to monitor their ability and speed of learning.

We have to be at school by 2:30 in the afternoon so we can do some prep for class before the kiddos show up. On MWF we are out of the building by 9:00 and then on TR we are gone by 7:30. We figure we are teaching about 28 hours a week and are at school about 34. Not to rough.
Juliet is also an A+ student. "What! Your finished with that page? Hmm? Go on the the next."
The children love the interaction that they get with the foreign teachers. The little, little ones are very cute and fun to work with, but the more advanced kiddos are fun to converse and joke with as well. Coming in we thought that we would enjoy one age group over the other, but we have found that there are benefits to teaching all ages and ability levels.
ECC provides a kindergarten program giving children a jump start on their English. It has been very successful. These are the best kids to end up with later because they are so smart, fun, and cute.

We can't honestly say we dreamed of being teachers. Coming to teach has been a great opportunity so far which has allowed us to travel as well as have a good paying job. The school has been very generous and treats us very well. We are very happy to have ended up at ECC.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Temple Hunting

This is a very interesting part of Korea which we were looking foreword to seeing. When Japan occupied Korea in the past they demolished much of its historical and cultural landmarks. We have therefore discovered that many of the temples and historic areas are actually recreations of what once was. These temples are here in the Gohyeon area and are small compared to others in Korea or even China.Buddhism was once the predominant religion in Korea but now accounts for only 23.2% of the population with the remainder being Christan (26.3%), Confusionism or other (1.3%), and 49.3% claiming no religious affiliation. (CIA World Factbook)

Granite dragons guard the area, and pools and fountains appear to be seasonal.

The eves of the buildings are very colorful. They have many intricately carved and painted creatures.

At the entrance, one removes shoes before entering. The interior of the temples are lowly lit and very quiet. The monks keep incense burning at all times. There are many candles and many Buddha statues. Fresh flowers and fresh fruit are brought to the alter throughout the week.

There are pallets and pallets of roof tiles nearby. From what we have read, one can buy a roof tile for 10,000 Won ( about $6.50) and have a message, note, or prayer written in permanent pen on the underside. When the next remodeling or construction takes place the tiles are used on the temples.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gyeryongsan Hike

We wanted to give you guys some bearings as to where we are located. Follow the numbers in the following picture. South Korea is about half the size of Missouri, but is the home of 48.4 million people. This means that it is approximately 17 times more densely populated than our home state. No worries though, as the kiwis who teach here say. We are located in a more remote location further from the heavily populated Seoul, Puscan, or Incheon. We love it here.

The following is a picture of Goheon Port and city. It is a hub for one of South Korea's leading industries, Samsung Shipyards. (Pictures of the shipyard will come later when we hike to a better photo location) Here is a closer shot of the part of town that we tromp around the most. The orange arrow is our apartment building. The green arrow is a hike that we enjoy throughout the week. At the top of the trail there is a workout area with pull-up bars, sit-up benches, and a small bench press. There are also hula hoops for those who want to work out that core. The yellow is where we work, ECC Foreign Language Institute. The last is our church indicated by the pink arrow. As you can see it is rather easy to get around here by foot. A taxi is very inexpensive as long as you know how to communicate to the driver where you want to go! As you might have already noticed from the maps and pictures, we are surrounded by mountains here. This makes for great hiking at a moments notice. We have made friends with a number of other English teachers in the area. Hikes are a great way to exercise and get some fresh air before school in the afternoon.

This weekend we were able to hike a peak, to watch the sunset, which is just due southwest of our town. The elevation change is pretty really nice. I am guessing it to be about 1500 to 2000 feet. We call it the stairmaster.

This can be a confusing picture. It is about a 270 degree panorama from the peak. On the left is our town, Gohyeon, and on the right is Oksan, a small farming and fishing village. There is a bus which navigated the 15 square mile Island. It costs about 1000 won (about $0.80) each time you board regardless of distance. It can be crowed with standing room only, but you can beat the price. We can see the main terminal from our house. So convenient. The fishing and agrarian culture in the valley below.

We are told that the rice patties will begin to green as spring and summer come. Greenhouses!

Chelsie, Dan, and I at the summit waiting for the sun to dip below the beautiful, distant horizon spotted with nearby islands. (Thank you Lindsay for the photo)
Oksan village below.

Click on the photo.

Click on the photo to enlarge the view.

God's creation is beautiful (아름답다 = a-reum-dap-tta). We are always amazed.
(Thanks again for the photo Lindsay its nice to be in a shot occasionally. You guys are awesome.)

We have had some trouble getting our photos to enlarge when you click on them. We hope to solve this problem soon. Sorry.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Greetings from Korea

안녕하세요 = An nyoung ha seh yo = "Hello"
An every day phrase around here.

We finally have some photos of South Korea and of what we are up to. We hope to be more punctual as we have kept you waiting for almost three weeks now. All is well and the settling process has actually been very easy. First things first. We want to take you on a tour of our place and then we will eventually branch out to the school, scenery, and friends.

There is so much to see everywhere around you. It can sometimes be very overwhelming. From the front deck of our cozy, 10th story apartment, overlooking a canal, the lights at night are dazzling. Characters in neon light which we don't yet understand advertise the bustling energy of the small city below.

We were placed in a very nice apartment which is fairly centrally located and is just a 10 minute walk from ECC, the Language Academy. It was well furnished and anything additional which we needed was bought for us as well. You can see our clothes drying in this photo. There are very few driers her because of the emphasis on space and energy conservation. Also the white cabinet by the door is for shoes. It is very traditional to take ones shoes off when entering a home or restaurant.
Here is Chelsie's kitchen complete with the standard mini fridge and a rice cooker (on the floor by the cabinets) Adjusting to the food is a challenge and topic yet to come. Our washing machine is through the glass doors, on the back porch.Another angle of the living quarters. We do have a guest room. We would love to have visitors. The cozy bedroom is very roomy and right close to the bathroom which is always a plus. It is very common here not to have a shower curtain, actually we were very fortunate to have a tub. Everything is tiled and there is a drain in the tub and a drain on the floor. It is very much a "water closet".

Chelsie works her magic in her new kitchen. MMM, Jesse loves leftovers too.
The fruit which we originally read was sparse, has proven to be bountiful. Horray! We have enjoyed a wide variety of fruits and veggies purchased at the local fish market. (Pi cures to come!!!)
The kiwi are fantastic.
We are once again sorry to keep you waiting for news, but now were back on track. God bless!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Many Goodbyes

Right before leaving for Korea we drove up to Chicago with Jesse's Family to visit Avery (Jesse's younger brother who is attending Wheaten College) and Uncle Ron and Aunt Gail. It was great fun to be together and sad to say goodbye. Avery at his sweet pad.

Eating Brunch after Church on Sunday. Avery cooked heaps of his famous crepes for us, MMMM...
After Chicago we drove back to Branson to say goodbye to Chelsie's family there. It was great to see everyone again and we had a great time together. Amber, Ben and Ethan drove us Kansas City where we caught our flight to South Korea. The five us went out the night before we left for a sky-high root bear float and the next morning at 5:30 we were off on another adventure.