I’m Back!

After taking nearly a year off from blogging for various reasons, I’m finally back and so excited to continue writing about my adventures. A lot has changed since I last wrote and it would probably take more than one blog post to explain everything.

But basically, I now live in Vietnam!
I absolutely loved Colorado, seriously, it was the best place ever! Unfortunately, the job market there, not so much. I struggled so much with trying to find a decent job, which I never actually did find. This led to me feeling depressed and worthless. I was stuck in a job that I didn’t like and earning terrible money. It was the first time in my life that I started regretting all of the amazing experiences that I’ve had. But, myself and Jason also volunteered at a local college in Denver to help refugees and immigrants learn English. This was an incredible experience and it made me realize that I enjoy teaching and since I have so much experience in teaching ESL, maybe I should focus on getting the qualifications related to this.

We also realized that it would be near impossible to get Masters in Colorado with the jobs that we were in and not rack up a huge amount of debt, so this led to us looking for work abroad again.

It was so hard leaving Colorado, the sunshine, mountains, beer, Denver, mountain towns, friends etc. but we have been in Vietnam for about 6 months now and are enjoying our time here. We are also researching Masters programs which is exciting and if all goes well, I will be starting mine next year.img_20160815_211359

 

I will still write about all of the fun things that we did in Colorado and of course write about our time in Vietnam. I’m so happy to be back!!!

Korean Bull-fighting Festival

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Both my mind and my body are so ready for Spring to come. I can’t wait to stop having to wear thermals, be able to cycle along the rice fields and spend our evenings sipping wine on our balcony. For now though all I can do is reminisce about Springs gone by.

The best thing about Spring in Korea is all of the festivals and if there’s one thing that Korea knows how to do it’s festivals! They have a festival for everything! A few include; Kimchi making, green tea, strawberry, mask, sunflower and the list goes on!

These festivals are usually a lot of fun although they can get pretty crowded. One of my favourite festivals that I’ve been to here in Korea was actually a bull fighting festival in Cheongdo. I was a bit skeptical about it before we went but I’m so glad that we did go.
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Korean bull fighting is different from Spanish bull fighting. Luckily none of the bulls get killed and the bulls actually fight other bulls and not people. Two bulls are put in to the stadium and lock their horns together. The first bull to turn away loses. I’m going to be perfectly honest and admit that I didn’t actually like watching it. Some of the bulls got a bit bloodied and as an animal lover I’m not a fan of seeing animals being hurt or in pain for sport (a cliche I know, since I’m a massive meat lover!). We only watched the bull fighting for about 15 minutes.
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But the real reason that I loved this festival was what was happening outside of the stadium. There were stalls placed in a big area that were selling different products, there were also entertainers on different stages. We spent most of our time just relaxing and enjoying the food and drink. The best reason to come here is to be able to view the stalls without the large crowds that go to other festivals. We weren’t being pushed or shoved and were able to relax.

 

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A magician performing at the festival

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Afterwards we decided to get a taxi and take a side trip to a wine tunnel.
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The wine tunnel is a beautiful abandoned train tunnel that has been turned in to a wine cellar. When you walk in there are bottles stored all along the tunnel. It is so beautiful and it’s cool in there so you can get away from the midday heat. They also make their own persimmon wine so we sat down and relaxed with some wine for a while.
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Cheong-do is a beautiful town and I’d definitely recommend visiting, especially to see the wine tunnel!

ESL- My favorite reading game

This is an activity that I have used so many times while teaching reading. It is so fun, can be used with all levels and there is very little prep.

You will need six papers with the key words or phrases on them. Once you have taught the key phrases(or words) to the students stick the pieces of paper to the board in a long line.
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You split the class in to two teams and give each student in the team a number. The students then line up on either side of the board in the order of their numbers.

When you say ready, number 1 of each team begins to read the sentence closest to them. (both students will be reading different sentences) They continue reading the sentences until they both meet in the middle. They play rock, paper, scissors and the loser goes to the back of their line while the winner continues reading sentences. A new person from the losing team comes forward and starts at the beginning. Once they meet they do rock paper scissors and the same process happens. If a person manages to read all of the sentences on the board without losing RPS then they get 1 point for their team.

Here is a video of my 5th grade students playing the game:

The kids absolutely love this game. Something that I really like about it is that because it’s mainly about luck and who wins the RPS the low level kids can do really well. You can almost see their confidence build as the game goes on.

As I said there is relatively no prep, it can be as easy or difficult as you want (kindergarten can do it using pictures) and it’s always a hit!

Just to warn you, this is a pretty exciting game so expect some shouting and screaming in the class.

Pirate camp!

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At the end of both the summer and winter semester the English department creates a camp for the students to participate in. During the summer we did our Color Camp and this Winter we decided to do a Pirate themed camp.

Day 1

Our camp is three days long so for the first day we introduced the camp theme to the students and explained the reward system to them (my friend Leana had made a brilliant treasure chest with gold coins in it that I borrowed so the students got gold coins as a reward.)
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We then gave each of them an English name and placed them in to teams (using random selection). We did a short activity teaching the students body parts and then gave each student a chance to choose a pirate name for themselves. Mine was Green Finger Grainne (they had to choose a color and a body part)

Afterwards it was time to make our swords (every good pirate needs a sword!). These are incredibly easy to make just using white paper and tape and the kids had fun playing with them afterwards.
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When we finished making our swords the different teams then had a chance to learn some pirate lingo and create their own pirate flags. This activity took some time as they had to decided to a theme and design together before creating the flags. But they turned out really well!
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As our final activity for day one the students had a chance to play thumb of war against other teams. If they won they could push their chair and desk towards the other teams side. This was a winning game that my co-teacher came up with and they all loved it!
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Day 2

As a great warm-up for day 2, each team had ten pieces of paper. They had to come up with a word for each paper. When they were finished, their papers were given to another team and that team would play speed pictionary using the papers. They really enjoyed this game!
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Afterwards, it was time to make their pirates hats (again, every pirate needs one!) This took some time (maybe an hour). It was a bit stressful for us teachers as we had to make sure their headbands were big enough and some of the hats flopped down so we had to put extra cardboard on them to balance them out but in the end all of the students were happy with their hats and they all managed to last the two days!
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Our final activity for day 2 was a treasure hunt! We actually decided that a photo treasure hunt would be fun. They completed this activity in pairs and because they were 3rd and 4th graders the hints were easy enough (for example; find something blue, find something square) They had to bring their phones and take photos of the items that they found (10 in total) and they got extra coins for something unique. The kids enjoyed being able to run around the school and thinking of fun ideas.
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Day 3

Our final day…The first activity of the day was to create a treasure map for another team. The day before we had asked each student to bring in a small treasure to give away (some snacks, toys etc…) We also dipped white paper in to cold coffee the day before and left it to dry over night. This gave the old worn effect to the maps. The teams then had a chance to hide their treasure and draw a map that would lead the other team to it. This definitely wasn’t their favourite activity but I think they enjoyed the treasure at the end of it.
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Our next activity was a cooking activity! Initially we were going to make peanut butter cannonballs but they were too messy so we decided that instead of rolling the mixture in to balls we would put it in to pans. Each team member had one job (mixing, melting, pouring…) They enjoyed it and luckily there was no cooking involved only the melting of chocolate in the microwave.
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When all was done I put them in to the fridge to let the chocolate cool down. It was then time for our final camp activity….counting their coins and claiming their rewards!

My co-teacher had bought lots of different gifts for the students and placed them in to different brown paper bags. The student with the most coins had 3 minutes to look at each bag and feel it and then choose their gift. Then the person with the second most coins and so on…
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When they were all finished it was time to open tem all together and enjoy their sweet treats that they had made earlier. It was funny to see some of the boys get girlie gifts but for the most part they were all very happy with their gifts.

Then it was finally time to say goodbye to camp. I love doing camp as it is so much fun getting to really know some of my students and just have them enjoy English in a relaxed fun setting

Now to think about what to do for my final camp this summer….
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Weekly Food Post- Shabu Shabu

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Shabu Shabu is another meal that myself and Jason love to eat.

You can choose between beef, duck or seafood. We usually choose duck but this time around we decided to save a bit of money and get the beef.
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So what is shabu shabu?

It is actually a Vietnamese dish but is hugly popular in Korea. It includes so many steps and foods that you can be eating it forever!

The first step is to cut up some of your veggies and put them in to your broth. Then dip your beef in and let the broth cook it, it only takes less than a minute to cook.
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Next you put your rice paper in to the bowl of hot water provided to make it soft. Then put it on your plate and add your beef and as many vegetables as you want. Wrap it up, dip it in to one of the sauces, eat it and repeat!
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When all of the beef is gone, it’s time for the next stage of your meal…noodle time!
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You put your bowl of noodles into the broth and cut them up. When they are cooked you can enjoy them with the broth and the vegetables. It’s so delicious!

The final part of the meal (and my favourite) is the sweet potato, pumpkin rice! When you are finished with the noodles you empty most of the contents of the pot in to the empty bowl that the noodles had been in. You then put your rice, pumpkin, sweet potato and egg in to the pot and let it cook to make a delicious fried rice!

I forgot to take some photos of both the rice and the noodles as I was too busy eating it all! Oops…

I absolutely love Shabu Shabu because it is so fresh and has so many vegetables in it. I also love the fact that you don’t have to choose between noodles and rice…just have both!

This meal cost us 22,000w  ($20/18 euros) between the two of us which is pretty good considering all that you get with it!

Our Christmas class

So every year we try to do something fun with the kids before Christmas. This year we decided to get my family involved and asked my nieces and nephews back home to send my students a video message. Just something short about themselves.
We then showed the messages to my students and allowed them to respond in whatever way they wanted. The results were so wonderful, we have some amazing videos, cards, mini presentations about Korean food and some origami.
Everyone involved had a lot of fun. My students loved seeing my family back home and were so excited when I told them that I would send all of their cards back to Ireland.
I absolutely love doing these fun activities with my kids, it allows the lower level students to express themselves in other forms and it allows my higher level students to show off their English skills.
Here is a collection of some of the cards, videos and other miscellaneous materials that we made:
6th Grades Christmas messages to my family.

Merry Christmas!

Day trip to Jeonju

Every year around this time the program that we teach for (GNET) take all of the teachers in the program for a day trip. I usually enjoy them as it gives me a chance to catch up with people and make some new friends. Last year we went to Haeinsa and it was such a beautiful area. This year we were told that we would be going to Jeonju.

Our bus left at 8 a.m. as it’s a three hour drive from Gimhae to Jeonju. Our first stop was at an apple orchard to do some apple picking. It was in a gorgeous countryside area and the farmer had the sweetest little dog that we got to play with for a while.
I picked a few apples but we all managed to keep about 15 apples each (I’m sure there’ll be a lot of apple crumbles being made this weekend in Gimhae!)

Myself and Jason on the bus bright and early.
The incredible views from the orchard.
The apple orchard.
One of the many apples that we picked
The adorable dog at the farm.
My lovely friend Ian took this photo.

After our apple picking it was time to drive in to Jeonju city and have some lunch. Jeonju is famous throughout Korea for having amazing food, especially bibimbap. After our bus getting stuck after going down a one way street we finally arrived at the restaurant. I’m not a huge fan of bibimbap (I have this weird thing where I hate mixing all of my foods together and that’s exactly what bibimbap is) But we also got some paejeon which was the best I’ve ever had! Paejeon is a Korean style pancake made with lots of spring onions and usually squid too. It’s really delicious!

Some of the GNETs enjoying our lunch.

After lunch we had 2 hours free time to explore the city. Jeonju has a big historical center right in the middle of the city where every building is traditional style. They had beautiful little stores and restaurants and a huge park with temples inside. After going to see the temples and the beautiful Autumn coloured trees surrounding them we decided to relax at a little coffee shop and people watch for a bit. Afterwards we got some delicious ice cream and wandered in and out of the shops.

The entrance to a small bamboo forest.
Autumn is well and truly here…and I love it!
The beautiful temple area of Jeonju…I just love those beautiful trees!

Then before we knew it it was time to head back to Gimhae. This was my first time visiting Jeonju and I’d 100% recommend visiting it to anyone that is visiting Korea. I’m sure that we were lucky that we went on a weekday because there were still tourists around…I can’t imagine what it’s like on weekends! But regardless, a part of me wishes that I lived there.

Myself and my good friend Ane standing in front of a 500 year old tree.

September in Korea Part 2

A highlight of September for me was that I got to catch up with my old co-teacher and good friend Ka-eun. I’ve always said that she is the most unKorean Korean that I know. She left her job to go backpacking in India and is now after moving to Australia to hopefully be a scuba diving instructor!

Myself and Ka-eun

She invited myself and Jason to her family home deep in the Gimhae countryside. It was so beautiful out there and the tiny little village that her mom lives in doesn’t have a shop! We got to meet her mom and I could see instantly how Ka-eun is the way she is. Her mom is so loving and strong. She rescues dogs and they have about 8 or 9 dogs in their house. One of them she rescued from a University that was using it for animal testing, he was left blind in one eye but has a lovely home now.

Ka-euns wonderful mom.
This is the poor little guy that lost his eye due to animal testing 😦
This sweetheart was blind and disabled
and Jason fell head over heels in love!

She lives near this beautiful cycling and walking path so we took a few of the dogs down there for a walk and finished off our time with some lunch in a Chinese restaurant courtesy of Ka-euns mom. Now that Ka-eun is after moving to Australia her mom was saying that she is lonely and would love for us to go visit her again so we’ve both decided that that is one date that we must keep!

The beautiful path by Ka Euns house.
Jason taking some photos of the nearby rice fields.
Isn’t it just so beautiful!
Ka-euns village.
The yummy Chinese that her mom treated us to.

That evening we were so excited because my sisters boyfriend was going to be in Busan for a conference so he came a couple of days early and stayed with us! This was Jasons first time having a visitor in Korea and it was nice to be able to show Neil around and show him what our lives are like here. It definitely made us more appreciative about living here.

On his first night he had gotten straight off the plane in Seoul and then got a train to Busan where we collected him. We then brought him out for one of our favourite meals…Dak Galbi! We then brought him to our usual drinking spot for some terrible Korean beer and soju.

Ian playing a spin the wheel game while out in Gimhae

The next day we all just walked around Shinae (the old town of Gimhae) and saw a beautiful temple that I had randomly just found one day. That night we brought him for our other Korean food which is beef barbecue. He seemed to really like all of the food and was a pro at using his chopsticks! We were back in school on the Monday so Neil went for a run and then we all went to Haeundae together (where is conference was being held) Myself and Jason were so excited to have some yummy western food there (always a highlight of our trips to Busan)

The beautiful temple that I random found one day.
It even has Koi fish.
Inside the temple.
It was one of the nicest temples that I’ve been to.
This is in the park right by our apartment.
Looking out to the light rail and our apartment.
This was Neils view from his hotel room!
and to the other side!
Jason and Neil on Haeundae. I wish I had taken more photos
of his time here.
Beautiful Haeundae at sunset.

And before we knew it September was finished! It was a great month and we got to make lots of new friends too which was especially great!

Here’s hoping October will be just as fun!

Teaching through pop music

Sorry, I’ve had this post written for months but had to wait to get the video before posting.

July is always a strange time of the year in the Korean classroom. Usually the end of semester exams take place at the beginning of the month which leaves us with about 3 weeks of no textbook.

Usually this is the time to watch movies with the students or play games but this time around myself and my co-teacher decided to do things differently. Last year I had a small after school class and I would teach them English pop songs so I decided to do this with my 5th and 6th graders during July. It took up 2 class periods which is a week of lessons for me. We chose the song “Baby” by Justin Bieber as many of my students had heard the song before and it’s not too difficult to learn. For our first class I printed the lyrics out but left some blanks on the page. We listened to the song and then I asked them some questions (before giving them the handout) One question was “how many times does Justin say the word baby?” It was quite fun to see the concentration on their faces (the answer is 56 times by the way)

Then they had to fill in the missing song words. We gave them the first letter to each word and then one or two other letters to help them with the spelling. All of the students seemed very engaged, even the low level students who were able to figure out most of the words. When we finished we reviewed the words and spelled them out, then there was only enough time to sing the song one more time.

The next class was quite fun for everyone. My co-teacher had a great idea to make a music video with our students so I printed out the song lyrics sentence by sentence. Each student was given one sentence and they had to write that sentence with a nice picture. If they didn’t understand what the sentence meant I would try to act it out for them so that they would understand.

I always love doing creative things in the classroom (even though I’m the most uncreative person in the world!) as it allows the low level students to relax and enjoy themselves. My students were so in to the drawing that it took them the entire 40 minute period to finish. Once finished my co-teacher took photos of them with their lyrics. My co-teacher then turned it in to a music video for each class. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing co-teacher. She cares about the students so much and uses her free time to teach the low level students. I’ve learned so much from her and she makes me want to be a better teacher everyday

It was a really fun way to spend my last week before camp and vacation. I got to hang out with the kids and chat with them while they were drawing and once they found out that I was getting married during the vacation they were so excited and there was a constant “congratulations” coming from all around the classroom.

Our summer camp is going to have a “colour” theme this time around so we are going to do lots of creative things. I’m pretty excited to show my students the joys of food colouring! 

Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival

Something that makes me fall in love with Korea all over again after a terrible winter is the spring festivals, and Korea has no shortage of them! The first festival that we went to this year was the beautiful Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival back in March. Every March for a couple of weeks the cherry blossoms bloom into magnificent pink snow all over Korea. During that time the weather is starting to heat up and you can feel the excitement as winter is finally over. Korea is one of the best places to be to see the blossoms, they are absolutely EVERYWHERE! My morning commute to work was so mesmerizing, I’d just stare out the window in awe at these beautiful flowers.

When they are at their height there are many festivals around Korea that showcase them but the biggest and most famous of them all is the Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival. Luckily for us Jinhae is right next to us so we decided to go to the festival after work one day. We decided to go on a weekday evening because these festivals can get crazy busy on weekends, since people come from all over Korea to visit them. We both hate the huge crowds so a Wednesday evening suited us perfectly.

Since we had gotten a car a couple of weeks earlier we could just drive there and not have to worry about bus schedules. Once we were nearing Jinhae we could see Cherry Blossom trees everywhere! After parking the car we set off. The main thing that I had wanted to see was the train station as, from the photos that I’ve seen, it looks so beautiful with cherry blossoms completely smothering it. This was actually our first time in Jinhae and we both liked the feel of the city. It’s a small city, in Korean standards but it still seemed quite big, probably as big as Gimhae.

A cherry blossom on the way in to Jinhae

Most festivals in Korea are similar in that they have tents that gather all along the roads that sell food, drinks, plants, medicinal supplies and a ton of other things. There were also some festival game tents. But first things first and that was to get a Turkish kebab and some Turkish ice-cream to go with it. It was delicious!

The main festival area and the steps that we should have climbed!

After that we set off to find the train station before it got too dark. There was a big hill with a huge love heart on it halfway up. There were so many people going up and I presumed that that wouldn’t be where it was so we went in the opposite direction (big mistake, I think it was up there after all) So we ended up walking around the city for about an hour and ended up having to give up finding the train station. I couldn’t believe that we never found it but we still had fun walking around and the city had Cherry Blossoms everywhere so there were plenty of photo opportunities.

Sunset in Jinhae
Cherry blossoms everywhere!
Eating my kebab while posing 🙂
Horse drawn carriages…Korean style!

After the disappointment of getting lost we went back to the festival area where all of the tents were. Jason won some prizes for shooting at a target and throwing a baseball (such an American!) We then settled in to a food tent and ordered some pig on a spit…it was sooooo good!

Jason attracting quite the crowd
The delicious pig on the spit
So much pork!
It was so good!
I got a giant candy floss as well as we were leaving…it was bigger than my head!

By that point it had gotten dark and our pup had been at home alone for quite some time so it was time to go back. I was a bit sad as that was going to be my last chance to see the Cherry Blossom festival but we have since decided to extend our contracts until next August so I’ll always have a chance to find that train station next year!