Saturday 21 April 2012

Hunting for Cherry Blossoms

The arrival of Spring in Korea is heralded by the blooming of Cherry Blossoms. The blossoms only last for a maximum of a couple of weeks, depending on the weather. Last year I missed the weekend when my friends went to the Han river park to enjoy the blossoms and ended up spending the time with bad company at the boring Cheongdo Bull Fighting festival. This year I didn't want to miss the beautiful blossoms and as we had an extra day off during the week this year (for a local election) I headed off to one of the many festivals around the country at Cheongpung hoban. It took 4 hours to get there, and once we arrived we were dismayed to find out that the organisers had postponed the start of the festival to a week afterwards because the Cherry Blossoms were later in blooming this year. What a disaster! Instead of letting the day become a total waste we decided to stay and have lunch. Nearby the festival is a large lake and tourist site. So whist on the bus back to the bus station we acted on impulse and jumped off the bus to check out the lake area. Salvaging something of the day we managed to find one tree with blossom. Success!

New dates stuck over the festival banner. Why didn't they update the website?!


Buds were all over the trees, just about a week too soon to see the blossoms

Snapped on the bus just before we jumped off

Yesss, found some blossom!

The lake and bridge are themselves considered a worthwhile reason to visit. This is also where Korea's largest bungee jump is situated.

A week later the Cherry Blossoms had fully blossomed and I headed to Hangang park (a fairly short walk from my school) to enjoy them before they disappeared (likely this weekend as it's rainy now). Once in yeouido it was pretty busy by the trees, but luckily my walk from school had taken be through relatively quiet streets lined with cherry blossom so I'd been fairly undisturbed when taking pictures. After the sun had gone down, in search of food, we stumbled upon a Sushi buffet, thus completing a day of Japanese exports. Spring is a fabulous season and it's such a shame it so short in Korea.

Walking from Daebang to Yeouido. <3

63 Building, Seoul's largest sky scraper

It took a while but I really like how this photo turned out. Can't wait to get my feet wet in this fountain on those forthcoming hot summer days.

It's difficult but not impossible to watch the sunset in Seoul.

My camera battery died but just able to snap a quick shot of the floating sushi plates!

Thursday 12 April 2012

Across the cafe table: April

This month's question for across the cafe table on Travel Belles is all about food. Or more specifically: Interesting foods. I've lived in Asia in total for 3 years (Taking one year off back in the UK). This is a fantastic place for weird unusual food. So where should I start with interesting culinary delights?

Seahorses at DongHuaMun
I read a saying once;

'The Chinese will eat anything with four legs, except a table and chair, anything in the sea, except a submarine and anything in the sky, except an aeroplane,' 

(Inside China this phrase is narrowed down to those from Guangdong province in the south.) There are many rumours about what the Chinese eat; monkey brains, chicken feet, pigs trotters. Most of these are true, because China really does have an usual palette which it comes to ingredients.

But anyway back to unusual things that I've eaten...? I don't think I can choose just one thing I've had out here, so I'll have to list my most unusual things;

1. There is a famous market in Beijing (Donghuamun night market). Here you can buy skewers of scorpions, seahorses, silk worm larvae and other creepy crawlies. Thankfully I only took pictures of these weird snacks. But something else quite equally cringy in China is stinky tofu. This is usually sold on street stalls. You know where you can buy it because the stench is awful. Many a time walking through streets in China will your nostrils pick up this hideous stink. I coundn't understand why this was so popular. So I decided to see what the fuss was about. I ate some stinky tofu (in a restaurant not off the street). You know what? It was nothing to write home about. But at least I can say I tried it.

Stinky Tofu
2.Meats available in China are very varied. I once ate turtle. Although I didn't know until I'd swallowed it. Out for a meal with school, I thought the food would be pretty safe. Alas, after my first taste of the stew, the teacher next to be turned towards me and said 'Do you like it?' Actually I didn't, the meat was chewy and had hard (shell) bits in it. 'Umm, it's OK,' I answered. 'It's turtle meat!' She delighted in telling me. Ok then. No more of that for me thanks.

Croc Burger

3. Living in Korea brings me into contact with some odd foods as well. Peanut butter dried squid? fermented cabbage? pickled radish? But that stuff is all quite normal out here. What people always ask about Korea is 'Do they eat dog there? Have you ever tried it?' Actually no I haven't. But eating dog doesn't really bother me. Would I try it? Yeah why not? Firstly, I don't really like dogs, they bark and they bite and I'm frightened of them. So I don't look at eating dog meat as eating a pet (a cat however I couldn't eat). Secondly, they don't eat their pet dogs. These dogs are a specific breed and they're bred only for food (just like chickens and pigs etc). The thing is, it's not actually that common to eat dog out here. There are restaurants (exclusively selling dog) but it's not a staple of the Korean diet.

They do however, like soondae. This is a type of sausage made from blood. I tried this at school. I wasn't fazed by the blood aspect, we have black pudding in England, another blood pudding and I like that. But this is NOT the same. The fact that it was made of blood didn't bother me, but the fact that it tasted minging was enough to put me off. Definitely not made in the same way as black pudding. :-/

Not good!

4. I suppose maybe the weirdest thing I've had was in Cambodia. Deciding to be adventurous in Siem Riep I ordered a crocodile burger. If you're ever given the option of crocodile burger, don't take it. It was dry and bland. Yuk Yuk Yuk.

All in all my adventurous eating habits don't usually end up being a delicious tasting experience. But they do make a good story!

To check out with other travel belles have eaten while travelling check out it out here.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Some things I've learnt about teaching

Future story choices
All children love Roald Dahl stories.

Last year I tentatively suggested to my co-teacher reading my grade 5 students a story. We have a box set of Roald Dahl stories sitting doing nothing and I thought it would be fun for them. I chose 'The Twits' because I knew it was a good story for young children and it was one of the shorter books. Each week at the beginning of our class I read 2/3 chapters of the story with a powerpoint accompanying me with a few pictures on of words they wouldn't know or to help visualise the story. They loved it. More than I even expected, and they followed it all no problem. I was worried that the lower level students would get bored and distracted as I was rambling on for so long in English, But they were all engaged and concentrating the entire time.At the end of each reading I posed a couple of questions 'What do you think will happen?' 'Will Mr and Mrs Twit eat bird pie?'. and towards the end, a few smart-arse students had found the book and read it themselves so shouted out what was actually going to happen. At first I found this annoying, but then I realised, I had inspired them to want to find out what happens. They enjoyed the book so much they couldn't wait until the following weeks lesson, which is exactly what I did at school with 'Of Mice and men'. So I felt satisfied that I made the right decision to read to them. This semester I let them choose which book to read (I gave options of the shortest stories available) and we're reading George's Marvellous Medicine. So far it's going down a treat. Although those peaky smarty-pants are still one step ahead of me!

If you give students a choice they may surprise you.

Practising past tense verbs
We have regular training sessions out in Seoul within our districts and although they are good social events they don't tend to offer too much in the way of useful tips or advice. But the last one I went on did offer me something which I tried out in class and was pleasantly surprised.

Our classes out here are not streamed so within one class I have some students who are amazing at english and others who don't know the alphabet. It is very difficult to tackle this problem in a class of 30 or more. If you pitch your lesson too low the higher students are bored or too high and most of the students lose interest and motivation. 

So after having read 'The Twits' I decided to have a small recap and comprehension lesson. On the TES website I found some resources. I also made a worksheet for the students to complete. But, as per the advice at my training, I made 3 different types of worksheet; easy, medium and hard. During class I told the students about the three choices, and I gave responsibility to them. 'You can choose which level to take,' I was a little sceptical, and I also assumed most would take medium (because that's probably what I would do.) I was surprised when, more then I had anticipated took the hard worksheet and I had to quickly print off another batch. My pile of mediums sat there untouched. I was chuffed when a few students complained that the hard worksheet wasn't hard enough. I really didn't give my students enough credit. 

Rewards are incredible motivation, whatever form they come in.

Lottery day comes but once a month
In my 5th and 6th grade classes we have a lottery reward system. Every lesson, when a student raises their hand to answer a question, or wins a game or works very quickly, they are given a ticket. They write their name on it and we put it in their class box/bag. At the end of every month we pick two tickets from each class. The student who's picked get a lolly. Obviously the more tickets they have the greater the chance of being picked. It's a bit of a pain having to cut out hundred of tickets, but it gives me something to do in the afternoon. Only 2 tickets are picked, so essentially students are motivated by receiving a piece of paper.

This system is insanely effective. Today we were playing an UNO card game. At the end of the lesson it always takes ages to get the cards collected and brought to the front. This time, I told the students the fastest two people to get the cards together in an elastic band and at the front to me could have a ticket. I've never seen them move so fast. Brilliant.

Fantastic. Sorry grade 5 for ever doubting you.
We also have all these easy oxford readers, but I don't know how I can use them in class. Anyone have any ideas?

The beauty of Bali

Ubud in Bali was a really laid back place. A couple of afternoons while I was there I took the opportunity to roam around in the fields. These were rice paddies rather than the corn fields I'm used to at home but it really reminded me of playing in the field behind my house while I was growing up (but without the pesticides and allergic reactions). I hired a bike one day and rode around as well. Which was fun but at one point the hill was so steep and my heart was beating so hard I thought it was about to explode through my chest. Here are some of the pictures I took around and about in beautiful Bali.

These lined the street and were left over from a recent festival
Someone knew I was coming

I never knew this is what rice looks like growing

Can you see all those Geese? Random.

Walking through the fields

I've missed all this green
That tub is full of water

Yo, What you lookin' at?

Monkey Forest Temple

Funny monkeys

But this little boy's reaction was funnier than the monkeys

I was a little bit scared.

Just hanging out with the monkeys
See no evil

Beautiful place to live

The doorways are so ornate.

A heron? I think...

Restaurant where I had the most amazing calamari salad

Offerings line the streets

After an evening at the spa

Just chillin'