Fire Drill: Hotbox of Horror

Yesterday marked another first in my time teaching in South Korea: my first fire drill!  Fire drills are a critical part of education in every part of the world, insofar as incineration is among the least desirable outcomes for students.  With my classroom situated on the third floor of an entirely wooden (and not entirely up on its maintainence) building, I was glad to know my kids were learning important survival skills.

I went through a fair number of fire drills as a substitute teacher back in America (one wonders if there’s a statistical correlation between drills and teacher sick days), and of course I trudged through more than a dozen in my own student days.  But on the morning of, I didn’t really know what to expect.  Korea is always full of surprises.

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This being a kindergarten, the “drill” began in our (very flammable) gym with a safety presentation by an officer from the Uijeongbu fire department.  It was all in Korean, so I don’t know what he said, exactly.  But there were a couple of animations featuring a fire safety mascot of indeterminate animal species.  It was pretty easy to follow that.

Incidentally, they dial “119” for emergencies here in Korea.  I should probably remember that so I don’t waste time in a crisis.

The drill itself came later, mercifully without the obnoxious klaxon call I’d been brought up to associate with pretending to be in mortal danger.  We brought our classes downstairs, put on their outdoor shoes, and marched into the adjacent parking lot.  But there was no lamely standing in rows for us!

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Inside this truck, the firefighter guided four kids at a time through what I can only imagine to be a carnival haunted house-esque obstacle course, simulating an escape from an infernal housefire.  And there was smoke: lots and lots of smoke.

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Were the children scared?  Oh yes.  Most of it was the giggling sort of nervousness associated with roller coasters and high dives.  A few of the kids shed copious tears the moment they saw the smoke; another few broke down before they saw it, either from the rumor or the memory of the year before.  At least one scuttled down the steps after taking a good look inside.

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My own class did a great job.  Selina in particular was nervous before we started, but quickly got caught up in the excitement.  Dolphin Class is made up of second year kids (Korean age 6, western age 5 or so), so I guess you can say they were old pros at staring into the maw of death.  It takes more than the back of a smoke-filled truck to make Dolphin Class back down!

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In America, some might view the act of making a child crawl through a smoky van that’s been made to look like the burning ruins of their home or school as traumatizing.  But they do a lot of weird stuff in America, so who knows?  I personally would have loved to crawl around in their myself, as curious as I was.

The Best Part of PTC’s

Today I had my last parent/teacher conference. I am so happy they are over and that I will not have to do them for a long time. The best part was what I found out about one of my favorite students. She is in my ESL class and the cutest kid ever. Her mom told me that she LOVES my class. She told me that her daughter rides the bus everyday a long distance just to come to my class. Apparently, this student told her mother that she could be taken out of all her other hagwons (art, piano, math…) but not CIS because she loves it so much. I love this girl.

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New Job, New Apartment, New Week!

New Job

So a lot has happened over the past week and this weekend we are embarking on a new adventure.  I am being transferred to a different branch of the school we currently work at.  I start Monday at 3pm and have no idea what it will be like.  Luckily though, I will receive a few days of training with the current teacher, so that will be very helpful.  I WILL FINALLY HAVE MY OWN CLASSROOM! Words cannot describe how excited I am for this!  My current job of librarian/artist/scientist/ teacher was really fun but I never felt like I could really get a handle on the situation because they were someone else’s students.  Now though, I will get my own room that I can decorate, write my own homework, and enforce my own rules.  It is going to be great!

There are a couple cons to me having to move. First, I will have to commute. 😦   I know most of the world does this but I am not a fan of commuting, even though it will only be about 20-30 minutes a day.  David and I were able to walk 15 minutes to the school for the past two weeks and that was really awesome!  We got to talk about our plans for the day and enjoy some light exercise together.  Now, I will be riding the bus by myself.  I plan on downloading some good audiobooks for the ride, so if anyone has any suggestions…

The second drawback is that by leaving, the other teachers will go back to almost zero prep time.  Every class I did gave each teacher a half hour prep (so times that by 3 and they got an extra hour and half prep time per week).  David is luckily and has an hour and half prep on Tuesdays that he gets paid for, but some of the other teachers do not have any.  So I feel bad leaving them.

Finally, I’m going to miss some of the classes a lot!  I know I will have my own children now, but I definitely had some favorites at the Uijeongbu branch.  Maybe I will be able to go visit sometime.

New Apartment

When David and I signed our contract with our new location, we were promised an apartment with a separate bedroom.  So imagine our surprise upon walking into the apartment and finding a studio… spacious, but still a studio.  Upon further inspection, we discovered that there was not any furniture, except a mattress (no sheets or blankets), fridge, t.v., cable, and internet.  No table or chairs, no desks.   Just a room with a mattress.   We were not too happy about it.  Neither was our recruiter who proceeded to call the owner and speak sternly to him.  He then came to our apartment with his son and promised to have us in a bigger apartment within two weeks!

Lo and behold, yesterday we moved into said apartment and so far we love it.  Even though there was a mix-up and we don’t have a bed.  We are supposed to get that tomorrow.  So right now we are sleeping on a mat on the floor (Korean style!).  We have upgraded in pretty much every way.  We now have a kitchen/ dining room  with a separate bedroom.  The apartment is pretty spacious for our needs and we hope to get a dining room table and chairs.  Our bedroom also came equipped with a bright orange desk with bedazzled handles.  It is cute though!  The only thing I will miss about our old place is the huge bathroom!  It was so big that when you showered, the whole other half of the bathroom stayed dry.  Our bathroom now is smaller but the apartment overall is nicer.  Plus we have a super high tech front door! Pictures to come once we are more unpacked!