Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Things I learned on a Cruise

I think it’s important to go out on adventures and try new things. That being said… If I didn’t, I suppose I would never have packed up my life and moved across the world to Korea. Ha. But that is neither here nor there.
View of the Ruby Princess from the Port of San Diego
Last week, one of my friends from high school got married on a cruise ship. After scrounging up pennies and time off, a couple of us decided to partake in the fan fare that is a cruise wedding. It was quite an interesting experience and the wedding was both lovely and fun. As is the trend with my other adventures, here’s what I’ve learned about:
Inside of the ship in the "Piazza"

1. Demographics
Sarrah, Jaslyn and I were unsure whether it was the trip we picked (down the Californian Coast), the company (Princess Cruises, a more upscale-fancy cruise line), or the price (which was probably a huge factor), but whatever the causal factors, we were in the minority. Most of the guests on the boat could be our grandparents—and some even told us as much. We met some lovely people, but at the same time, it would have been nice to hangout and mingle with people more of our own age. We also recognize that with the reality of student debt and the post-uni job hunting struggles, that for our generation, cruises are not the top priority. Ha.

2. Fatal Foods
It never stops. You can eat 24 hours. You can go to a buffet, you can get pizza, you can get burgers, you can get never ending ice cream and dessert. Ugh. Seriously. I can’t believe how much food you have at your beck and call and I will admit it grossed me out a bit. One of the wedding guests told me about how she was waiting for an elevator with a group of the bridal party post-wedding night. They had just finished a nice meal all together and were heading back to their rooms. The elevator came and they couldn’t quite all fit with the current occupants. One of the other guests inside motioned for a couple more to push in and she said, “Oh, I know it can hold 18 people,” referencing the sign inside. The man shook his head and replied, “Nah, we’re halfway through the cruise now. It only holds 10.”
View toward the Stern of the ship.

There is one dominant body type on this ship as well.

Sarrah, Jaslyn and I opted to take the stairs when we could.

In other food news, we found the food kind of bland (again betraying the main demographic on the boat, we think), and Jaslyn had some trouble with vegetarian options, but the service was amazing.

3. Service
The wait staff were amazing and deserve mention all on their own. They were always on point (in all areas of the ship, not just related to food) and super helpful. Sarrah needed to make a last minute dress alteration and in no time at all we were provided with a needle and thread. Every day they would make our beds (a little overkill we thought, but hey), bring fresh towels and vacuum. I really hope they like their job and that they do not secretly hate the passengers—but then even if they did, they kept it close to the vest and I wouldn’t have been able to tell. Also the staff was very international with countries from all over the world represented.
Me, Sarrah and Jaslyn

4. at Sea VS at Port
Jaslyn, Sarrah and I are quick to claim status as "land lubbers" despite the usual insulting connotation. Our favourite part of the cruise was being at port. We were itching to get off the boat and explore the different locations.

Some of the people on the cruise stayed on the boat almost the whole time. Yeah, they are a lot of programs and events running each day + spa and exercise facilities if you so choose, but isn't the point of a cruise to relax on the boat in between travelling to new places?

When we stayed on the boat, it wasn't quite warm enough to stay on the deck and so we would retreat inside the ship looking for something to do. Going back to the issue of demographics, not everything catered to our interests. Ready for a singles mingle, eh? Haha. Plus, we could often feel the movement of the boat. Sometimes it was really rocky, and sometimes we even felt like we were still drifting when we were on land.

5. Trivia
Trivia was our jam. We were pleasantly surprised by all the trivia and might have spent 4 hours at one venue participating in a series of trivia challenges. I know nothing—or at least nothing super useful when it comes to Trivia (we sadly missed the Disney Song rendition. I would have p-owned), but Jaslyn and Sarrah have seemingly endless stores of knowledge and we were able to hold our own in a couple of categories from animal discovery, song lyrics, motown, and more! Our prize for our winning round was a bottle of Sparkling Wine that we did not drink. Haha. We didn’t check out any of the shows but the other guests gave them high praise, so who knows.

6. Tying the Knot
Last, the reason that we came in the first place: Our friend’s wedding. The ceremony was small, but lovely. The back of the boat was reserved for our party and we gathered midday on one of our days at sea. It wasn’t terribly hot and surprisingly it wasn’t too cold either. The morning rain had ceased and blue sky came out to join our celebration. The ceremony was brief with the captain officiating, and then we enjoyed a multiple course meal in one of the many elaborate dining rooms followed by dancing the day away as the sun set over the water... Not too shabby.
Sunset at the Wedding Reception
The results of this current adventure, are… still out at sea. Get it? ㅋㅋ. We aren’t entirely sure if we would go on another cruise—especially not so soon. Maybe if the demographics were different... and maybe more of an island-hopper like a Hawaiian or Caribbean Cruise...

Love and Hugs

Just leaving trails through the wave...

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

NaNo, Beginnings - Raw

Good luck to all you writing-folk! (NaNoWriMo Website)

So it begins, she thought as she held the pencil—wait no—as she… nevermind I did like that, let’s go back:
So it begins, she thought as she held the pencil hovering over the blank piece of paper. NaNoWriMo…
There was a sense of foreboding in the air, a slight crisp energy or maybe a slight chill. Had music been playing, it would emulate the emotion from Jaws or some other thriller movie where the villain is lurking around the corner and the protagonist sits, unaware of the danger, right in the middle of the screen. Breathe. That might have been a run on sentence. We’ll fix it later.
The air felt fresh rimmed with a tinge of promise. Anything could happen.
With a deep breath the tip of the pencils meets the page in a bold stroke as she starts to write—

I stare at the flashing… ugh I don’t know what it’s called. The line that blinks in taunting, laughing at your distress as you attempt to write anything—spitting up letters at apparent whim, holding them hostage for ransom, or even, gobbling them up like they never existed. You know. The line in your word document that flashes to show you where your cursor is… that line. Is there a name for it? The flashing blinker? Or is that redundant? Either way, I stare at it and pause.
“Write what? What am I supposed to be writing?”
I jump at the sound of the voice. My eyes search around my room. I’m still alone, so who spoke?
“Am I supposed to be a fictionalized version of you?” the voice continues in a soft drawl. “Are you writing a story about you writing a story? Would that be like book inception? Intertextuality for sure…”
My eyes widen as they return back to my computer to find a girl sitting atop the word document open on my desktop. Her light brown hair with subtle golden-blond highlights falls loosely past her shoulders and down her back. She’s perched on the top of the most recent paragraph as though seated on a bench. Her legs dangle over “meets the page” obscuring them beneath dark blue skinny jeans as she pumps her legs back and forth. A bright red blouse hangs on her torso, a stark contrast to her fair skin and green eyes. Leaning forward slightly, her fingers grasp the sentence as if for balance.
I blink. I would almost say she looks like me except for in an almost chibi-animated form. For a second I think that I’ve jumped back in time to grade school when chibi-style was popular.
“Uh…” the sound escapes my lips as my brain attempts to make sense of the situation.
“Are you inner-monologing right now?” she asks. “Don’t panic. You are not crazy. Or at least, not in the clinical sense of the word. Definitely strange and highly probably weird, but not crazy.”
As I watch, she pulls a giant pencil from… her pocket?
“Wait, did I say giant pencil?” I murmur as I stare transfixed. How did that fit in there? It’s about as long as her leg and as think as her wrist. And yet, as if her pocket was Mary Poppin’s mystical bag, the pencil emerged whole.
“Yo, focusing back on me,” she says, snapping her fingers.
My eyes dart back to her face.
“Like I said: you are not crazy. It’s just, I know you haven’t really been doing this ‘writing thing’ in a while.” She adds air quotes and cringes slightly for emphasis. “We’re worried you’ve forgotten how it’s done.”
I blink again. We?
“Stop that—that! Blinking. Once or twice makes sense, but realistically, if you are blinking that much it just looks like you are having a spasm.” Using the pencil, she jabs out toward the computer screen. “There are plenty of other ways to write and describe your surprise, you know, but I suppose that’s why you’re rusty. Your brain is struggling, seeking forgotten, unused words and phrases. That’s why they sent me. I’m here to the rescue.”
“Uh…  Who’s they?”
She rolls her eyes and makes to jump from her perch, landing below on the white space next to the flashing blinker.
“The characters.” She makes this sound like this should be obvious. Ha. Duh my butt.
“It has come to our attention that you are ‘planning’—” there go those air quotes again—“NaNo this year and some alarm bells went off. We all sat down for a chat and decided that it was time for an intervention.”
She starts pacing back and forth, the pencil poised over her shoulder like a gun. She walks back and forth a few times and then, just when I think I should break the silence, she turns and points at me with the pencil. “When was the last time you attempted? 2012? 2013? When was the last time that you engaged in sustained writing? Can you remember without hunting back through your folders and documents?”
At my continued silence, she grins in triumph as though she’s won the argument and spins the giant pencil between her hands.
“Still,” I stammer, “I can do this.” My fingers rub against the keyboard as I think of what to say.

So it begins, she thought as she held the pencil over the blank piece of paper. NaNoWriMo... The blank sheet was empty, but full. The possibilities were endless. With the stroke of her pencil she could delve into worlds known and unknown. She stifled a nervous giggle of excitement. The future is yet unwritten, she thought.

“Stop. Just stop. Are you making an allusion to that old Natasha Bedingfield song right now? Real subtle. Who would even catch that these days? That song is so 2004.”
“Well now that you’ve said it, it’s not exactly subtle anymore, is it?” I exhale in exasperation and flex my fingers away from the keyboard.
“Look, don’t get me wrong, I like that song, too, but you’re going about this the wrong way. You’re a bit rusty. You haven’t written a creative story in a while. Can you really develop your characters properly? What about setting? Or plot? You probably can’t even remember how to make a good metaphor or add some vivid imagery—”
“—so why don’t I help? What do you have to lose?”
I don’t know whether that grin spreading across her face should be seen as sincere or more mischievous.  She reminds me of my sister when she says that she has a plan.
“What could possibly go wrong?” I ask, the sarcasm sticking like honey.
“Ugh, such a cliché. You’re implying that something will definitely go wrong now. I reject that reality and substitute my own. Relax,” she almost purrs, spinning the pencil in a slow circular motion. “Besides, I won’t give up or leave—which would just end up being more annoying—so you might as well give in and agree to work together with me. Think of it as a fun learning experience. It will be like when you watch movies with the commentary on. You are creating the movie and I’ll be creating the commentary.”
My right eyebrow lifts slightly, betraying my skepticism as we stare each other down. Then I sigh and concede defeat with a nod.
She pumps a fist in the air and stamps the pencil’s eraser against the ground.
“Great! Now tell me what were you thinking. Blah, blah, ‘unwritten possibilities’—” I’m beginning to think she has a thing for air quotes—“and all that, but where was this story heading? What’s the conflict/problem? Oooh! Do we have a villain? I love a good bad guy. There are the sinister, creepy-types, or the ridiculous, but blundering-villains are good too. Or even the misunderstood. Bent on World Domination? Or how about a good revenge story?”
“Well… I’m not really sure at this point. I hadn’t really thought that far ahead yet.”
She flaps her hand at me. “Okay, no worries, we can figure that out later. What about the main characters? Tell me about them.”
Her eyes, which were normal, human-looking eyes, seem to bulge like a frog’s, dwarfing her other facial features.
“Setting?” she squeaks, slumping to the ground as I shake my head. “Are you telling me that you have nothing? No ideas? And yet you are doing NaNo?”
“Hey, I didn’t say I had no ideas. Just not fully formed ideas. I figured I’d play it fast and loose, this year. Like you said, it’s been a while.” I crossed my arms across my chest, recognizing that I was acting defensive despite the truth of her words.
“Still… you should at least have a character to work with.”
“Aren’t you a character?” I challenge.
“Yes, but I’m also part of you—maybe a sliver of ‘Past You’ or ‘Future You.’ Yeah… I’d like to think time travel is a reason for my existence. I don’t fully count as a character. Plus, apparently I am also your guide and mentor.” She shakes her head and then slowly climbs to her feet as she looks back out at me. “Okay, it’s clear we have some work to do, but no matter. There’s nothing wrong with a challenge. Let’s get to work.”
That same mischievous grin returns to her face and I swallow, suddenly nervous. “How do you want to do this?”
“Let’s start with a character, I think. We can meet a few and you can see who best fits your vision… well lack of vision.” She takes her pencil and places the tip at the edge of the margin on page at her feet. With careful precision she starts to drag a line across the screen.
“Mmmk…” I breathe, transfixed as a black line appears, glowing a faint yellow. She reaches the far side of the page and flicks the tip. As the pencil leaves the page, the line yawns open and a bright, warm light shine through the screen. I close my eyes as I’m blinding, bringing my ends up to cover my face. I could feel the warmth enveloping my body, my vision going red beneath my closed eyelids.

I flinch as a hand grabs one of my hands and her voice sounds in my ear. “Oh, and I suppose you can’t really call me your own name. That would get confusing quickly… I’ve always wanted an alias. Hmm… Call me Ryn.”

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Korea According to 6th Graders

This week, I asked some of my students for "Facts" about South Korea. I wanted to know what they would say when asked to share about their country and who they were. Despite the fact that everyone wrote down their own idea before giving it to me, it was interesting that I had only two people write about the same fact, and then even then they each told me different details. Check out the list below:

  • One cool thing/fact is Psy is Korean. 
  • One thing that I like is feeling the nature in Jeju island.
  • Jeju is declared a world heritage site.
  • Jeju has beautiful flowers named "rape flowers." They are very beautiful when they are bright yellow.
  • We have a job named "Hae-nyeo." They are women who work underwater.
  • Korea's traditional clothes are "Hanbok." They are all sorts of different colors and patterns! On the bottom you wear a wide dress if you are female. On the top, you wear the Jeogori.
  • On holidays we usually wear "Hanbok" (한복) and bow to old peoples (families/cousins).
  • Hangeul (한글) is a scientific letter (system) invented by king Sejeong. He studied how humans speak so that it is easy to say. There are 10 vowels and 14 consonants.
  • South Korea has a lot of mountains.
  • Korea has lots of roads with shopping stores.
  • There are 250 different types of kimchi.
  • When a Korean's name is in red ink, this means that the person is about to die or already dead.
  • One cool thing/fact is that Dok-do is a Korean Island, but Japan complains that it's their Island.
What would you say about your own country? 
(What would I say about Canada? =P)

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Day 1: Was supposed to be fully shaded and I gave up. Ha.
(Inktober 2016 post)

Halfway through the month, and I have to be honest. I'm struggling. A bit.

To recap in case your new to the term, Inktober was an initiative started by artist Jake Parker. Find out more here! The goal is easy: for every day in the month of October, draw a picture. In ink. Hence Ink-tober. I like the idea of drawing in ink from the get-go because I'm generally the type of person who is hesitant with my pencil. I will trace and erase over and over again until I am happy with my lines. Meaning, I do not always produce a lot of drawings or each drawing takes a lot of time.

Day 3: When you miss-read
poison as "poisson"
Inktober doesn't allow me to be hesitant in some ways. Once the lines are drawn, there are no take-backs and I have to push through and challenge myself to work with what I have. It's a total different mindset to sketching that forces me to produce more, and I have to problem solve on the go. A brain workout that focuses on perspective.

There are definitely times where instead of adding more detail (or shading), I stop a drawing earlier than I would like because I'm worried I'll completely mess up (Day 1 was a prime example of this). I recognize that as I'm just doing this for fun anyway, I shouldn't worry about "messing up" and should embrace trying new skills and techniques, but it's still a mindset that I struggle with overcoming.

Day 4: a Kodama in the sea
Day 10: Snoopy's Dog house is probably a TARDIS
As per last year, I am using the official prompt list as my guide. I like that the list gives me a bit of direction on subject. I like the challenge of finding an interesting way to meet the given word; however, I have found it harder some days this year to pick something to draw. I'll wrack my brain all day and then I've felt rushed in the evening to put something to paper, sometimes googling multiple words and ideas for inspiration. Some drawings are a bit of a stretch, I know, but if you can figure out how I thought up the connection, brownie points, I suppose. ㅎㅎ
Day 12: My favourite so far, although I probably could have added more shading...
I have also found it a bit harder this year with my job hours and finding the time needed to create something that I'm proud of. It was easier last year to finish the drawings before work, but this year, unless I'm willing to get up extra early, I wait until I get home. At that point, picking up the pen for a 20-30 minute picture is not really a high priority. Le sigh.

Still, I relish the challenge and I am not tapping out yet. Here's to experimenting, practicing new skills, and 16 more drawings to go...

Day 14: recruiting Reepicheep for my next quest. A fierce Ally to have.
Day 15: also in need of the mysterious Mulan for my questing band.
Love and Hugs

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Une vie bilingue? / A bilingual life?

Je veux m'excuser aux francophones car d'habitude c'est ma mère et ma grand-mère qui corrige un peu mon orthographe. Je sais bien que j'aurais des erreurs de grammaires. (Oncle Geoff et Tante Thérèse, si les erreurs sont atroces, ne me disent pas). 
J'utilise toujours les règles anglaises pour les virgules.
On continue.

À travers l'école élémentaire, secondaire et puis à l'université, je disais toujours que je parlais français, mais que je n'étais pas bilingue. Il y avait toujours les questionnaires qui me demandaient « mon niveau de français » et je ne savais pas où me placer. Je ne doutais pas que je puisse le parler, mais j'étais toujours étudiante et je voyais bien qu'en parlant et en écrivant je faisais pleins d'erreurs. Ma question toujours était « C'est quoi vraiment le bilinguisme? »

During elementary, secondary and then post-secondary school, I always said I could speak French but that I wasn't bilingual. I never knew how to place myself on questionnaires that asked my proficiency level. I didn't doubt that I could speak French, but I was still a student and I knew that I made so many mistakes in speaking and writing. My question was always, "What is bilingualism, really?"

Puis une journée je n'allais plus à l'école. Je ne prenais plus les cours de français, je ne devais plus lire les livres commander ni écrire les dissertations au sujet de la poésie ou quoiqu'il soit. J'avais fini… eh bien cette période de l'école avait fini. Et maintenant, où est-ce que je me trouve sur les niveaux de langage?

Then one day, I didn't go to school anymore. I didn't take any more French classes, I didn't have to read books from a reading list, nor write essays about poetry or other topics. I was finished... or at least that period of school was finished. And now, where would my language level be?

Au moment, j'habite en Corée du Sud et je trouve que cette question me gêne toujours. J'hésite à dire « oui je suis bilingue » parce que c'est trop simple et il y a encore beaucoup que je veuille apprendre et pratiquer. Mais maintenant je suis en traine à enseigner les jeunes élèves en anglais. Chez eux, ils parlent une autre langue et je me demande quand dirons-nous qu'ils réussissent un niveau bilingue entre leur langue maternelle et l'anglais? Quand les élèves quitteront notre école avec un diplôme « bilingue » est-ce que c'est ça l'épreuve?

At the moment, I live in South Korea and I find that that question still bugs me. I hesitate to say that "yes I am bilingual" because that seems too simple and there is still so much that I want to learn and practice. But now, I am teaching English. At home, my students speak another language and I ask myself when would they be considered "bilingual" between their mother tongue and English? When they graduate from our school with a "bilingual" diploma would that be the proof?

Image of a French Picture book Anthology
Peut-on lire seulement les livres d'images?
Can we just read picture books?
Durant mes cours d'anglais les étudiants choisissent tous un livre. Quand il faut le lire, je vois bien que plusieurs élèves le détestent. Lire en deuxième langue est difficile. Je comprends bien ce qu'ils pensent. À l'école élémentaire, je choisissais toujours le livre avec les lettres les plus grandes et la largeur la moins épaisse. Comme je détestais lire en français! Et puis… je sais que c'était en lisant que j'ai appris plusieurs mots et j'ai mieux compris comment structurer mes phrases. Alors, comment fais-je pour aider mes élèves à cultiver cette habilité si utile? Comment puis-je s'assurer qu'ils sont sur le chemin envers le mystérieux bilinguisme?

During my English courses, my students are required to pick out a book to read. I can see that many of them hate it when it's time to read in class. Reading in a second language is hard. I understand exactly what they are thinking. In elementary school, I always picked the book with the biggest letters and with the thinest spine. Oh I hated reading in French. And yet, I knew that it was through reading that I learned so many words and that I was able to better structure my sentences. And now I wonder, what can I do to help my students cultivate this useful skill? How can I ensure that they are on the road to the ever mysterious "bilingualism"?

Je suppose que c’est un peu le karma…

I guess this is a bit of karma...

Bisous/Love and Hugs

Monday, October 02, 2017

A Rainy Day in Seogwipo

Usually, on rainy days I hole up in my room with a book or movie. Maybe I go to a café and chill, but generally rainy days are low key (with tea!).

Posing by the Cheonjiyeon Waterfall
Yesterday was slightly different.

My friend and I had originally made plans to go hiking. The forecast earlier in the week spoke of rain late on Sunday continuing overnight through Monday. As Sunday approached, we were resigned to the fact that the storm came early. Instead of calling it quits, though, we shrugged on rain jackets and ponchos, and decided that today was a good day to visit one of the many waterfalls along Jeju's southern coast.

After the few hours of morning rain, the flow did not disappoint. The wildlife was not bothered in the least by the steady drops and it was fun watching the ducks as they "attempted" to take on the giant koi fish. Silly ducks, really.

Despite our increasingly wet shoes and the humidity gluing our clothes and backpacks to our bodies, our optimism was not dampened. ㅎㅎ. (Although we did follow this up with a taxi ride to a café!).

 Today, my shoes are propped up by the a/c and I hope they will dry before my next hiking attempt, but I have no regrets about our wet detour. Vacation is vacation, even in bad weather, and there is fun to be had.

Love and Hugs

Friday, August 18, 2017

Week One = Done!

I do love beginnings. Those first few minutes in a movie where the camera swoops over, in or around the setting, the audio helping to stage the scene; those first few pages in a book when the story is still unknown and could take you anywhere; that moment when you first go to a new place and are able to escape certain preconceived expectations like a reset... There's just so much potential for anything!

When writing, beginnings were always my favourite (which is also probably why I've finished so few stories). I just find something attractive about beginnings.

This week was certainly one of beginnings for me, my coworkers and many of my students. 

The first week of the school year...
The first at a new school (or section of the school)...
The first in an advisory (homeroom equivalent)...
The first of many assemblies...
The first auditions and tryouts for all sorts of programs...
The first few assessments and tasks...

Really there are too many firsts to list and I know that many are a bit shell shocked after this week (both among faculty and students). I definitely forgot how much information our school uses as the foundation for many other programs and systems. From our multiple online platforms to the structure of the advisory program, the school council and then of course the requirements for the IB, there's a lot to grasp and remember. It can leave even the best reeling in the first few weeks. Ugh!
My goofy post First-Day Selfie.

Still, I think this was a good intro to the year. My students seem keen (here's hoping that'll last after a few weeks of school!) and I'm really excited for the content that we'll be covering in my courses this year. 

As we progress through the next few weeks, my goal is to really lay the foundation so that (a) hopefully we don't have to backtrack later on and (b) to help students navigate induction as stress free as possible, and (c) to help them see the relevance between how we structure our units, what we cover and the MYP Global Contexts. Here's hoping I can balance it all without rushing or going too slowly! I suppose that is the challenge and obstacle for teachers: time.

Here we go!

Love and Hugs

Sunday, August 13, 2017

First Day Jitters? Ob-seo-yo (없어요)!

(For some reason I had a lot more asides to this post... do I delete them? Nope).

Over the weekend, as I logged extra hours at school (organizing last minute details, refining later lesson plans, and coordinating my head space), I can't help my brain from jumping all over the place: Am I forgetting something? Do I have all my materials ready for each of my first classes? Should I vacuum my apartment this weekend? What about second period? What else do I need to do? I must be forgetting something... 

And yet for the most part, I think I'm ready. Or at least, ready enough to get through the first week. The planner in me really wishes I had everything until Chuseok planned (about 7 weeks away for those of you unfamiliar with Korean holidays. ㅎㅎ). A bit unrealistic, I know. Especially as I haven't met my students yet and they are often the confounding variable to even the best plans.

Thinking about the start of school, I find myself turning through the pages of the teaching journal I started in university at the prompting of my history curriculum prof (shout out to Ted Christou! Who will probably never read this. Oh well...). Of course this journal was a ploy to get us to reflect even more on everything. (If there was a contest for words over-used at the Fac of Ed, reflect* would be a top contender. Differentiation would be a close second, and yes I recognize the value of reflection. Which is why I feel like I have a right to mock it as well).

In looking back through this journal, I found entries about my thoughts before I entered my placement, before I taught my first lesson, after I'd been teaching for a week and ideas for things I'd like to try in my classroom. It's interesting now to see what I was worried about then in comparison to now. Fears about whether the technology would work, whether I'd forget key information, or whether the students wouldn't see me as a teacher. Here's an excerpt from the day before I entered one of my longer placements:

Coming from the ConEd side of things, I think I should feel somewhat more at ease, and yet not so much. I feel antsy and have the feeling in my chest of nervous giggles waiting to escape--like bubbles rising up in a glass of pop, anxious to break the surface.

Oddly enough, at this moment in time, it's not even the students that are making me nervous. It's my host teacher. And the other staff. Right now, I'm worrying about the impression I'll make on them. What if we don't get along? What if they don't see me as a Teacher Candidate? What if I say something stupid? (I have since learned this is not an IF but a matter of WHEN ㅋㅋ).

As silly as it may seem, as I sit in my room this Monday night, I can honestly say that it's been a few years since I've worried and debated (internally) so much about what I'm going to wear the first day of school. Cue the feelings of "childish-ness."

I'm happy to say that I am no longer worried about my coworkers. I would make an argument that I have some of the best coworkers in the world.

Tomorrow, I'll be meeting a couple of my homeroom students and their parents. Where I think this would have once freaked me out (especially to the point of worrying about my outfit!), I am more excited and disappointed that only a couple parents signed up for a slot. I really wanted to make that connection and open the home dialogue early on. Hopefully the ones that didn't sign up still come wandering through for a quick hello!

For the most part, as I think about tomorrow and this week, I feel calm. First day jitters? Worries? Ob-seo-yo! My co-teachers and I have some really exciting things (I think they are exciting and thus they must be!) planned for this year and I really hope that the students can get into the new routines and ideas. Woot!

And on that note of positive energy, I'm going to bed. Please enjoy this (old) pep talk from the kid president.

Love and Hugs

Monday, August 07, 2017

Settling In: Apartment Life

And thus, I have entered the world of apartment dwellers—the people who have a room or two, a kitchen, a bed and sporadic furniture minus a yard—and it feels great. No residence living for me this year! Get out the flags and play the music loud. (But not too loud so as not to annoy the neighbours!)

It's been a whirlwind over the last couple of weeks (feels more like a couple of months, but alas it was not that long).

After Quebec City, my mum sister and I found time for a bit of camping in between visits with friends, and then I flew off to Colorado for a few days for more visits with friends, before at last embarking on my 26h trek from Denver to my new apartment near my school (see a couple of landscape highlights below!). Last week was packed with induction-y things as I joined the crew of "new" teachers coming to Jeju and BHA for the first time. It's fun meeting new people and it looks like this will be a good year with some good people. Or at least here's hoping.

My apartment is a one bedroom apartment with the main flaw being there is not as much space as many of us westerners are used to. For those of us in the same apartment complex, we were all surprised there were no drawers. In reflection, it's probably a good thing because I then keep everything visible and this will hopefully keep me from hoarding utensils that I never use and a permanent residence of dark drawers, but I also didn't want to keep that much on my counter top if I could help it... Oh well. The joys of interior decorating, I suppose.

The only thing I'm missing is a good bookshelf to bring it all together. Until then, no photos. ㅋㅋㅋHere's hoping I can find something that suits my designs in the next couple of weeks, or, after discussing with coworkers, potentially build something to suit my purposes (I did always want to do woodshop in high school. A little late but...).

At least I now have wifi!

Here's hoping I get everything I need done before classes next week! Time to be productive.

Love and Hugs
Sunset over Charleston Lake (Ontario)
Beautiful sun shining over the Rockies (South of Garden of the Gods, Colorado)
View of Pike's Peak from Palmer Park

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thoughts from la Belle Province

Walking through Haut Québec late in the afternoon.
I love the initial observations you notice when you travel. The things that immediately stand out because they are new and different from what you may be used to. Quebec reflects a different time and style of life in comparison to Toronto, and it is beautiful to explore! If you are planning to drive in like we did, I'll tell you upfront: yes it's possible, but watch out for those one-way streets. Confusing without our GPS and I almost turned the wrong way more than once. Also, you cannot turn right on a red light.
Walking down Rue Champlain with all the other tourists. The buildings are just gorgeous.
Jenna and I enjoying Montmorency Falls
Quebec city is rich with vibrant history and culture. Absent are the gigantic sky scrappers that populate other cities that I've visited (like Toronto, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei) and with the river running at its side, there are some stunning views. Plus like in Niagara there is a magnificent waterfall located a short drive away and a whole island of breweries, wineries, cideries, cheese and jam. Come enjoy nature! ㅋㅋ

For those of you who are not Canadian or for those Canadians who need a history refresher, Quebec is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) city in Canada dating back to the arrival of the French settlers at the start of the 1600s and stumbled (can a boat stumble?) down the Saint Lawrence River. The people of the time worked to make trade relations and treaties with the Native Americans of the time and while conflicts occur in any setting, friendships were formed.
Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine (just East of the Plains of Abraham)
The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) between the French and English occurred throughout the region. The turning point was fought on the Plains of Abraham in what was probably one of the shortest battles in history (under an hour; accounts vary). The English beat the French that day and were able to lay hold of Quebec City. Throughout the war, battles were won on both sides, but the French ultimately lost and in 1763, France ceded French Canada to the British in the Treaty of Paris.

The plains are now a beautiful park in old Quebec City with a really cool museum (worth a visit! Take a ride on Abraham's bus, too!). This was a decisive moment in the history of Canada. In school I often wondered what Canada would look like today had the French and their allies won the day... or if the two colonial powers thought, "Hmm... Canada is pretty big, why don't we share?" Ha. That would have been interesting.
Saying goodbye to the Plains of Abraham with one last walk~~
Definitely a cool place to check out if you can with some rad festivals and events throughout the year. See example links:
Carnival de Quebec (winter)
Festival d'Été de Québec (summer)

Here's to the next time I can visit la belle province. À la prochaine!

Bises xxx

Friday, June 16, 2017

Year 2: Residence Life 끝

While some people might have thought I was a bit crazy saying yes to a second year of working in residence, I have no regrets (Click for Year 1 Reflection). Throughout my time, I did make many good memories and I've met some really cool people, but... I am so happy that it is now done. 끝냈다!

There are many aspects of the job, that I will not miss. Ever. If they appear in my dreams, those must be nightmares. ㅎㅎ

Done are the overnights--of wondering if it's worth getting out of bed when you hear the clutter of the garbage can, the fridge suction as its pulled open and then shut with a bump, or the ping of the microwave. By the time you get there, will the student still be there? Gone too are the worries that tonight would be the night where we'll need to rush a sick student to the hospital or deal with some other emergency.

No more will I knock and say, "Are you awake? It's time to wake up" or "Are you alone? It's time for bed" or, the even more dreaded, "Grab your gear, it's time for detention."

Goodbye breakfast, dinner, and study duties. Let another watch the clock and count the minutes.

Room checks? Shotty not. If their room's a pigsty, someone else can get on their case. ㅎ

In essence, good riddance to the tedious tasks!

Still, there are many aspects about Residence that I will miss.

As much as the girls didn't always like the weekly family meetings, I really liked bringing them together. Some weeks were so crazy busy that family meetings were the only time that I really got to sit down with most of my students. They are such funky people and it was a treat joking together. Plus whether they realized it or not, laughing produces good chemicals that help combat stress and pain in the brain (I love psychological research! For a more detailed scientific explanation, look it up).

I will miss mini-trips during the evenings and weekends. I absolutely loved taking students away from the school. From zip-lining, going to the movies, dinners out, strolls along the beach and playing card games in cafes, I've really enjoyed showing the girls more about this island and encouraging them to take a well-needed brain break to re-energize. It was sometimes a battle to make students agree to anything, but it was always worth it. I only wish I could have done more this past year...

Overall, I enjoyed helping students with their papers and homework one-on-one. I preface this with "overall" because when a student would come to me with a long paper at 9:30 at night, I couldn't help but groan inside. Going through grammar and content takes a fair amount of brain power and when I was nearing the end of my shift, I didn't always have a lot in reserve. Still, over the course of the past couple of years I have read some pretty cool papers and have learned many things from the students as they were conducting research and fine tuning their ideas.

And last: there were evenings when I would be sitting at my station, working on a form or two, when a student would slide into the chair beside me just to say hi, to ask a question, to tell me about their day or the latest drama that has them hooked. I will really miss the chill atmosphere of those conversations and the way the students would slowly open up if you gave them enough time. Residence is, in a lot of ways, all about patience, and you cannot force students to connect with you. When a student would choose to share something important with me or even a few minutes when they could have been with a friend, I knew that what I was doing was worth it.

So here's to the end of a job that while I felt eternally tired, was both rewarding and fun at times. And now to my own classroom next year--and what's more my own apartment!

Love and Hugs.
Pretty much all moved out of my don room~~

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What Students Say - Year 2

We'll I've made it to the end of year two with only a couple days left before the students leave for summer break. I'm a little older, maybe more than a little tired, and hopefully a lot wiser than I was before.

Like last year, I wasn't always as good at recording what my students said when they said it, but here are a few of the quotes that I managed to capture. I love that out of context some make no sense (although I'd argue that they didn't always make much sense in context ㅎㅎ). Others show a different perspective on things I've never questioned or thought about. And of course, some are just funny.


After asking me to figure out the meaning of a Korean text:
"Ms. Briard, you sound like google translate." Gr. 12, September

When the force of a students sneeze makes her bang her head into a table. Gr. 7, September

"[Do] you want to use my finger?" Gr. 12, October 7th

"I don't know whose phone that is but I touched it." Gr. 12, Oct 19th

"I don't like cucumbers."
"Why?" (me)
"They smell fishy." Gr 12, Nov 8th

"Can South Korea import jawbreakers?" Gr 12, Nov 18th

"Oh I like it."(Same student as above, about jawbreakers)
"It tastes like nothing." (2nd student)
"That's why I like it." Gr 12, Nov 18th

About finding a boyfriend:
"Try harder Ms. B. Or just kidnap one from Canada." Gr 12, Dec 16th

"I want to have some friends... someday. So that I can say hi, and talk, and show my chicken." Gr 12, Feb 26 (following she bursts into laughter)

Taking some students out for dinner, we round the corner and they see the ocean and palm trees:
"THIS IS JEJU?!" Gr 10, Apr

When I knock on a student's door, instead of saying hello she ask, "Can mute people whistle?" Gr 12, Mar 5th

Me: "I'm Ms. B and you?"
Student: "I'm Fine, thank you." Then realizing I had not asked How are you? like she expected, she bursts into laughter. Gr 12, Date Un-recorded.

Student: "When I have English class in the morning, I take coffee." Grade 7, May 23rd
Me: "Really?"
Student: "But I still fall asleep."

"Ms. B these are my husbands." She looks at pictures of BTS and swoons. Grade 7, June 8th

Love and Hugs
A night out at with my Grade 10s at Hyeopjae Beach; April

Sunday, June 04, 2017

From Tourist to Local and Back Again

I've lived in Toronto's shadow for 23 years and I would say that I hardly know the city. I can't even count the number of times I've hopped on the GO down to Union or some other destination, or visited a museum/theatre for some sort of school trip. And yet my mental grasp of Toronto feels like less than a skeleton. Maybe an arm and a leg, but no more. Queen's Park? China Town? The MEC? These are places I know but how they relate to each other... I'm not sure.

This past weekend, I travelled up to Seoul for a last weekend with some friends before summer break in a couple weeks. Friday afternoon, I set out from near Yonsei University and decided to walk through Hongik University down to the Han River and then along and across to Yeouido Han River Park. As I passed familiar and unfamiliar landmarks, I couldn't help but wonder how this city has become so much more familiar to me than Toronto despite my current gap with the Korean language and my limited number of trips. From taking a couple tours, making friends and just exploring the city on foot, my mental map of Seoul and the distance I've physically travelled within city limits is so much more than Toronto. I'm perfectly comfortable gliding from bus to subway and back again to get anywhere. Definitely at least a completed skeleton, if not a bit of meat on those bones as well. ;)

How could I live so close to the most populated city in Canada and hardly know anything about it aside from the Rogers Center, CN Tower and of course, the lake? Even thinking about the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) in general, I only really know my small town and I wouldn't be the first to say there's not much to do in Whitby (eh, friends?).

As I sought to make plans with friends in Seoul, I ran into the common problem of "distance" and "time." When I told people where I might be staying, their immediate reaction was, "That's so far from where I am." (Considering I had come all the way from Jeju = 40 mins bus ride + 45 mins at airport + 1 h flight + at least 45 mins on the subway, their reasoning did not move me, but I digress). However, through these responses I think I started to see the difference between my tourist mindset and a local's perspective.

When I think like a tourist, I just want to see things and spend time with people. I know that I'll have to travel greater distances and that that will take time and so I go in prepared. 45 minutes to an hour is then nothing when reaching a destination. Plus, the journey to the destination is part of the fun and the excitement. How will the adventure end? Not sure, let's just start it and see later!

But when I'm in my "local" mindset, it's all about routine and how long it will take to come back to my home base and my travel radius drastically decreases. Time travelling is wasted time. Or I'll think, we can always go next time, why not wait until I have multiple reasons to go to that side of the city or that area. There are a number of times where someone has said, "Let's meet up in Jeju-si or Seogwipo-si" and I hesitate. Or, "Do you want to meet for dinner in Toronto?" What else can I do in the city? I think. How can I make this trip more productive? If I go, what time can I catch the train back? I'm planning my exit before I even arrive.

I wonder how much we miss in our own neighbourhoods and cities when we succumb to the "it's too far" or the "time wasted" mindset. Do we stop looking for new places to try? Do we get stuck travelling between the same points on a map without veering off the beaten path? Worse, do we start thinking its not worth it to go beyond the edges of the familiar and into the unknown?

(I know that sometimes money is a factor as well, but I think for many of us, it's the last block in the wall. After we consider the time and distance we think about how much it would have cost.)

I hope that I take this lesson with me as I travel back home this summer and as I continue to live here on Jeju. I want to remember to be a local tourist in my own town and I hope that I can encourage others to do step out of their comfort zones as well.

Over the Han River; Translation: Do you want to take a walk?
Love and Hugs