Gentlemen, welcome to Englishee Camp.
The first rule of Englishee Camp is, you do not talk about Englishee Camp.
The second rule of Englishee Camp is, you do not talk about Englishee Camp.
Third rule: someone yells stop, the fight is over.
Fourth rule: only one man to the bathroom at a time.
Fifth rule: one question at a time, fellas.
Sixth rule: shirts and shoes.
Seventh rule: exercises will go on as long as they have to.
And the eighth and final rule:
If this is your first day at Englishee Camp.... you have to talk.
Itaewon is a shithole: fact. But. I did get the comic books I was after. Another 45,000 won on my darling little nightmares. And they'll probably all disappear throughout the course of the semester. Meh.
Tomorrow, the shitstorm begins. I don't know what to expect, but I'm going to give it my all, kiddies. The good news is, Coteacher was slightly off when she told me I would have each class for two hours a day -- she left out the fifteen minute breaks, which means I will only actually have them for an hour and a half. Which means I've got an overabundance of material prepared. Which means if something tanks (and something always does...), I can toss it and just move on to something else.
One thing I'm confused about is how the boys are allegedly divided based on English levels, yet I have one class with first, second AND third graders. I was telling Mike yesterday, I've got first graders that are four feet tall with squeaky voices, and six foot tall third graders who look as though they're ready for their military service. So this should be interesting.
First day will be introductions, an outline of the daily schedule, introducing them to the concept of the journals, the games I'm bringing in, the music, the comic books, etc. And names. Some EFL teachers like to give their students English names, and a lot of the students seem to take to the idea (at the bar on NYE, in fact, almost every Korean that introduced himself to me used an English name?), but I don't really care for that practice. Since I've got small classes, and I'll have the boys everyday for two weeks, it seems absolutely necessary (and respectful) to learn their names. I figure having them make name plates with their names in Hangul on one side and English on the other will not only take up a little time (time for poking other people with colored pencils, shoving colored pencils up their noses, throwing colored pencils out the window, finding places on their person to stash stolen colored pencils, drawing dirty pictures with colored pencils, and finally, writing their names with colored pencils) but I also thought I might give reading their names in Hangul first a shot.
A lot of people say that if you show weakness (particularly intellectual) to the students as a teacher, you'll have nothing but hell to pay. And in a few cases, I would agree that's true. But I've found that letting the boys know I'm learning Korean and struggling at it, in most cases, makes them infinitely more eager and less embarrassed to speak up in English.
Which is going to be an absolute necessity for these camps to go well.
Aash. I really wish there were three levels though. There are a couple of second graders I know that are coming who have a really keen interest in English and are eager to learn on a higher, conversational level. The fact that they are mixed in with first graders makes me cringe -- they should really have their own class. Now I'm going to have to balance them shouting out all of the answers immediately with first graders who are still trying to understand what the question is.
I wonder how much trouble I would get into for separating them out and having them come in for a couple of hours in the afternoons on their own. Probably a lot. Maybe if I do it informally -- just tell them they can stay after class for an hour and two and we'll just hang out and talk.
Which isn't entirely selfless in motive, I have to say.
It's going to be a long winter, folks. With no English speaking teachers in the office every day, and no classes after camps. Nothing to do and no one to talk to. It doesn't help that Mike and I are getting absolutely fed up with bar hopping on the weekends. We've been to literally dozens of bars, trying to find a good fit. I guess what we're looking for is what we had back home, and I don't know if it exists here.
To us, bars are dark, dirty places where you go to listen to old music and start conversations with strangers. Here, bars are mostly clean and shiny and set up in little booths where no one talks to anyone they didn't come with. The expat bars are full of white men with Korean women who aren't interested in talking to anyone else, white women in little groups who aren't interested in talking to anyone else, Korean couples who aren't interested in talking to anyone else, and groups of Korean men who aren't interested in talking to anyone else. The regular bars are worse -- we feel like spectacles as soon as we walk in, have a hard time ordering in Korean and often feel as though the plague radiates outward from us while we sit and uncomfortably sip our one obligatory beers, before leaving as soon as possible.
Seoul is probably infinite in its options for socializing, but that subway trip is soul-sucking. I really cannot be bothered with that on most days. For now, we're stuck with Bupyeong. And the slightly less enlightened population of Incheon.
My adult student also informed me that Mike and I have no chance of meeting anyone else while we're together, because we look like a couple. Well, specifically, she said I wouldn't be able to get a Korean boyfriend, but that's not really my issue. It would just be nice to make a few friends.
Still, it's not from a lack of trying. As we sat in a little (nearly completely empty) bar in Mike's neighborhood last night (our second try for the evening, fifth for the weekend), I just said, "Man, this is fucking lame..."
"It is lame. It's all lame."
"It's just a bad day," I told him, as we sat quietly -- him staring into his beer, me watching the groups of drunken old men pass by on the sidewalk outside the window.
I promised him I would figure it out, somehow. "I'll sort it out. Just leave it to me, Magsy." We're not overly social people, but we're starting to have little tiffs because we're spending too much time together without outside influence, and we're frustrated. They're nothing major -- just a little bickering about where we will go or what we will do or who's in a good mood and who's in a nasty one, and we always end up both giving in to what the other wanted in the end. He's got stress coming from home now, and we've both got a lot of stress at work at the moment. Almost everyone else in our lives have dropped off nearly entirely. And we're getting tired of the Korean friend-for-a-day scenarios.
The worst part is feeling like you're trying and not getting anywhere. If we were both just sitting in on the weekends watching movies in English and ignoring everyone at work, it would be different. But to feel like you're actually putting effort into something and it's doing fuck all good, well. It's a little frustrating. Still, I think trying is better than not. We're facing a strong set of odds against us here, but once I get my heels dug in about something, I rarely end up not getting my way.
So, today I'll head out to the coffee shop up the way to sit and read, lesson plan, and study Korean for a while. I could do it at home in my pajamas for free (with good coffee), but I feel too restless these days to allow myself to be the recluse I normally am.
I told Mike, I don't know what's up with the constant drive to get out and go places lately, since all I ever wanted to do stateside was stay in and do my own thing. But I think it's because I feel like work eats so much of my time and energy. It sounds stupid and backwards, but it was the same when I was going to school full time, working and doing two internships -- for some reason all of the work and stress fostered an extreme need to get out and blow off steam. You'd think it would make me just want to stay in and fucking sleep, but it's the complete opposite.
Anyway. I made Mike a promise last night and I intend to keep it. We will make friends, come hell or high water.