How to Survive a Long Flight – An Allegorize Magazine Featured Article

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Some of my favorite tips for a long flight can be found at Allegorize Magazine!  Check out allegorize.com or follow the link below.

http://www.allegorize.com/#!How-to-Survive-a-Long-Flight/c1nni/54e300c30cf2d691d1f7f5cf

Teaching ESL in the USA

…and Alissa Teacher is officially back in action!

I recently flew down to Miami from Detroit to interview for a job teaching ESL …and I landed the job!

I’m currently sitting in a South Beach party hostel scouring over tomorrow’s lesson plans and I honestly couldn’t be more excited!  I never thought I’d get the opportunity to teach English in America, but here I am in Miami – apartment shopping!

The only difference I’m seeing with my past job in Korea verses teaching English in the US is that lessons here are centered around adult students.  I’m having a hard time transitioning my quirky teaching style to fit a more formal and mature approach.

Any adult ESL teachers out there – I am happy to take some pointers!

Lesson One: Travel Dialogue

Lesson One: Travel Dialogue

How to Travel on a Tight Budget

http://www.allegorize.com/#!5-Ways-to-Travel-on-a-Tight-Budget/c1nni/54cc664b0cf26e5660843c7d

Here’s a sneak peak at what I’ve been working on lately.  In this published article, I talk about some of my favorite budget travel tips.  Take a look and support me!  Thanks fellow bloggers!

http://www.allegorize.com/#!5-Ways-to-Travel-on-a-Tight-Budget/c1nni/54cc664b0cf26e5660843c7d

Play Doh Pandas and Big Butts

Today in activity class, I was getting the supplies together for our play doh activity.

As I walked out of the classroom, I heard Sally yell, “Alissa Teacher!”

“Yes, Sally?”  

“You have a thick butt.”

I just stood in the doorway for a few seconds as it all registered in my head.  What did this six year old little girl just tell me?

As I stood there, she quickly added, “But you have an amazing body!  You are small but you have a thick butt.”

She said this all so seriously and genuinely, I couldn’t help but laugh.  

It’s also worth noting, her word choice was thoroughly thought out as she refuses to use the word “fat” because it has a negative connotation.

These children amaze me with their genuine, yet thorough understanding of the world around them…and at SUCH young ages!  It’s so awesome (in every sense of this word) to watch them grow each day.

I came back with all the supplies for our play doh pandas and showed the girls a picture of what we were about to make.

Sally again piped up, “Teacher, I think this is going to be way too hard for us.”  

That’s when I told her: “It might look hard, but we are going to make pieces and stick those pieces together to make the whole panda.  Just watch, it will be easy.”

A half hour later, all the pieces were in one place and we had Polly the Panda, Cutie the Panda, and Cutie the Panda number 2.  

In retrospect, that activity reminded me a lot of my mom.  She always tells me to take things a bit at a time rather than crossing bridges before I come to them.  Life’s little lessons and priceless moments….I’m thankful for them all.

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Sally, me, Olivia, and Daisy all posing with our pandas!

TN English Gwangju: The Brutal Truth

Enough beating around the bush.  I’m over writing passive aggressive status updates.  If I get in some kind of trouble for writing this good, it means that I have a decent reading base and I’m capable of satisfactory social media.

The facts need to be known.  I spent the last week scouring the internet for any possible information on this school and I only found a few bad reviews on well known ESL websites and a blog from three years ago, so at least this school has been consistent.

The facts?

As of this week:

  • Tn English has not paid their English teachers for half of the month of January, all of the month of February and come April 15th they will owe us for the entire month of March.  Teachers are paid monthly.  I’m ready to start charging some interest or something!
  • The school currently has six English teachers and one was recently hired last week, the school currently owes five of these teachers thousands of dollars each.
  • The Korean staff also hasn’t been paid.
  • The school lost around eight students this week for various reasons.
  • The school recently fired the cleaning lady and now the teachers are responsible for vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, trash, and any other cleaning within their own classrooms.  No, we are not paid for this extra work.  And no, this work was not in my contract.
  • We really don’t get vacation days even though the contract states we get several days of vacation in addition to Korean holidays.
  • The school has not paid rent on some of the teachers’ living quarters.
  • Sick days?  You better be on your death bed and have a doctors note from the hospital.
  • Management has conducted individual meetings with all English teachers and told us to keep quiet and not tell the others what they told us in our meetings, like they were offering each of us some sort of secret special deal.

They can tell me to keep quiet all they want, but I will make my blog as publicly accessible as possible and tag as much of their lies and wrong doings for all the world to see.

***It’s worth noting not all hagwons are this bad.  I have many friends within the Gwangju area who are completely happy with their company and are treated wonderfully.  Also, my recruiter has done an amazing job getting me in contact with relevant resources and keeping record of all the wrong-doings from the school.  I truly don’t know what I’d do without the guidance from my huge support system at Teach ESL Korea.

I think my story goes without saying, PLEASE research your schools before accepting a contract.

Modern Day Moses Miracle: The Jindo Sea Parting

A miracle: something that seems impossible but happens anyway.

General life advice.

General life advice.

Science explains the “miracle” is a result of extra low tides (click here for an actual National Geographic explanation), but either way the Jindo sea parting festival was an incredible experience not only to walk the path but to see sea life that I’ve only ever read about in books.  As we trudged through the miraculous path, we found some areas not completely clear.  At times, we found ourselves sinking quickly into thigh-high waters.

A Korean news crew followed us.

A Korean news crew followed us.

A starfish!  We threw it back into the water.

A starfish! We threw it back into the water.

One of the coolest experiences was being one of the first people out there.  We were followed by Korean news crews daring enough to bring cameras into the sea.  While locals followed beside us gathering the freshest seafood to cook and sell, we just tried to keep on the path to make it to Modo Island.

A seafood pancake full of seaweed, squid, and other goodies!

A seafood pancake full of seaweed, squid, and other goodies!

Unfortunately, the tide came in quickly and we weren’t able to make it completely to Modo Island, but we were part of the group that was furthest from the main island.  We followed the warning calls and went back to land before we were completely swallowed up by the tide…and it came in quickly.  I’m writing this blog post two days after the fact, and my legs still hurt from walking against the strong current during the walk in.  On my way back, my thigh-high boots filled with water so I was also sloshing around in my boots.

We all made it back to land and pulled our boots off to find we had taken parts of the sea with us;  I literally POURED water out of my boots!  As I sat on the stairs and poured out my boots, I watched the last of the daring souls get rescued because they didn’t take the warning whistles seriously.

So much for the thigh high flood boots.

So much for the thigh high flood boots.

The Jindo sea parting festival has got to be one of my most memorable experiences here.  If anyone reading this is interested, I went with an awesome tour guide and I’ve done several trips with him before.  Pedro Kim rented out several comfortable buses and took us to several locations on the island, including a Jindo dog show!

In spite of the circumstances at work, I’m glad that my co-workers and I still have these moments to appreciate.

One thing is for sure, I’ve found a whole new love for nature while living in Korea.  From gorgeous mountaintops to sea parting adventures, we live in one amazing and awe-inspiring world.

Moses status!  This was toward the middle of the sea!

Moses status! This was toward the middle of the sea!

April Fools!

Maybe this whole “not getting paid in months” debacle is just one really big April Fool’s joke and all the money they owe us will just appear tomorrow morning!  

Now I feel like an irrational child on Christmas eve waiting for Santa to deliver my cotton candy tree house.

We shall see…

Off to sleep and dream of sugar plums.

Teaching Equality to Kindergartners

I have my kindergarten class performing Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” for a graduation talent show coming up and I’ve paired it with the cute little poem “The Crayon Box that Talked” that talks about all the colors of the crayon box working together.  

While going over the words in the Michael Jackson song, one of my students curiously asked, “Teacher, what is Equal-lity?”  OHHHHH man, I immediately thought, what did I get myself into?!  How on earth could I get kindergartners to grasp this concept?

Well, I did what any good kindergarten teacher would do: pull out the candy.

I handed each student every color of the package of M&M’s.

They were so extremely excited and didn’t understand how M&M’s could possibly explain equal-lity.  

Then, I told them to look at all the beautifully colored candy.  Each candy has a very different color.

After gawking at the individual beauty of each color, I told the students to bite into each one and to make sure to see the INSIDE.

While they were doing that, I told them, “Look, see how each candy is different on the outside, yet the same on the inside?”

They shouted, “Yes, teacher!” in unison.  As if that was the end of the lesson and they understood and were ready to chow down the candies.

I continued, “That’s equality.  People are that way, too!  I don’t look like you and you don’t like like me but on the inside we all have the same things!”  

Finally, Joe shouted, “Like a heart, Teacher?!”

“Yes, like a heart, Joe!”

I think at least for a second, I got them to look past the candies to the bigger picture.

 

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Drop Everything, Follow Those Dreams: One Year Later

Last year at this time, I stumbled upon this enlightening video that changed my entire life and way of thinking. At that moment, this video was exactly what I needed to hear: I had just started a new customer service banking job, it was my first “real” job but I was absolutely miserable. I wanted to travel, I wanted to see the world, I wanted to learn from a new culture, I did not want to be stuck at a desk staring at a computer screen. I was bored. As this clip says, I was living someone else’s script.

The bravest thing I ever did was walking into my job and saying it wasn’t for me. It was the scariest thing I ever had to do, it would have be so much easier to just continue to work through it, to settle, but I did it for me. I did it for my happiness.

A year later, I am so happy I left that “script” to pursue my sometimes crazy life in Korea. I may not always get paid on time and I rarely get paid my full paycheck on payday, but I am HAPPY and to me THAT is security and success. I think that says a lot about what I am doing, in spite of the negative pay situation, I am living my dream; I still walk to work excited to start each day with my students. This is where I need to be.

“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” — Nigel Marsh

Sell your stuff. Be proactive. Treat yourself to living your dream.

A Standard Saturday

My body is quickly setting into the routine of waking up early and going to bed at a somewhat decent time.  I’m extremely thankful that it wasn’t a huge transition into waking up early because for the longest time I was anything but a morning person.

I woke up Saturday morning around 9ish am.  I spent the morning rearranging my apartment so I could plug my television into cable.  Fortunately, the Discovery Channel is in English and there are occasional movie channels like Fox and a few others.  I’m not much of a tv person and never really have been, but it’s nice just to have it on, it makes my room seem lived in.

Around noon Monica and I headed downtown to explore and get out of our apartments for a while, but it’s always an adventure and we didn’t even make it on the subway without a little excitement.  We made it to the subway station, just in time to hear people unloading from the subway we needed to take to the Cultural Center subway stop, so we ran down several flights of stairs as fast as our feet could take us in hopes that we wouldn’t miss the subway.  If it wasn’t for Monica’s superwoman powers, we would have been separated right then and there!  Let me explain, Monica is awesome at running down flights of stairs, me on the other hand…not so much.   She made it on the subway as it began closing, in my mind I thought I was wasn’t going to make it…I’d have to take the next subway.  Monica wouldn’t have it, as the doors were closing, and almost shut, she pulled them open just enough for a small person to fit through.  I hesitated for a few seconds, then acted.  I made the jump and squeezed my body through a small opening in the doors as Monica held them open.  As all this happened, a subway full of Koreans were on high alert, some were even shouting stuff…probably something along the lines of “Don’t do it” or “Wait for the next subway”.  Either way, I entered the subway to a bunch of wide eyed people and I couldn’t help but giggle.  The look in Monica’s eyes when she held the sliding subway doors open was priceless.  And our adventure began complete with a huge adrenaline rush.

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The door that almost sliced me in half

We explored downtown for the majority of the day.  Weaving in and out of shops, alley ways, and people.  I discovered so many great stores, if only I had money!!  We have an H&M and several stores that remind of forever 21, but my favorites were the tiny boutiques the size of a small walk-in closet.  Everywhere you looked, vendors lined the streets with cheap food, knock off souvenirs, even baby bunnies for sale!  We went down one alley way lined with tiny tents, I guess they are all used for palm readers and fortune tellers.  We also decided to visit an arcade because I guess those are pretty popular here and took the infamous Korean version of Glamour Shots, there’s a whole part of the arcade designated just for small photo booths.  The booth we used was called “I Love Princess” and had editing tools to make yourself and background all cutesy.

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Korean Glamour Shots

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Fake glasses are all the rage here!

We ended the evening at the Alleyway, a restaurant that offers a western style menu.  The cheese pizza we had was absolutely delicious and I will be back for another one soon!  The restaurant itself was packed with foreigners and gave me a vibe of a large coffee shop as it had the option to play board games and simply hang out.  We also discovered one can purchase a HUGE block of REAL cheddar cheese for about 16,000 won or about $16.  Not bad considering my only cheese choices around my apartment are ultra processed pieces of plastic that come in prepackaged slices.

We then wandered over to Speakeasy, a bar owned by two Irishmen.  I’m already becoming a regular here because every Thursday Natalie and head down there for trivia.  I’ve discovered I love English cider and that’s become my drink of choice at Speakeasy and tastes especially refreshing during this crazy hot and humid weather.

We took the subway back to our apartments and managed to make it on the subway without any sliding door chaos.   We meandered over to the coffee shop below our school to grab some coffee and indulge in some carbs.  Instead of a birthday cake, I treated myself to some honey toast and David decorated it so perfectly!

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My yummy birthday toast!

We then headed up to Natalie’s apartment to share some Soju and stories.  It really was a great Saturday.  This week we have a shortened school week, so I’m sensing more adventures in my near future!