Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Live from Seoul. . . *updated with video footage*

Tuesday afternoon, sky blue body bags filled the SLP foyer. The culmination of screaming children running around the school and the stress from the Christmas concert, made me want to zip myself in one of the bags and hide from it all. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to take cover, nor was there enough room to conceal me from the whirlwind of anxiety swirling about in the office. Instead, I had to organize the contents in the bags. I pulled royal blue tutus lined with silver sequined rick rack out and examined them. They were so precious. We didn't have time to do a dress rehearsal, so I could only hope that they fit everyone. The next day was the Christmas concert. Changing into costumes was such a pandemonium with the children running shouldn't be a problem. We tacked and pulled straps up, but they still beared resemblance to the bikinis that body builders wear. The situation was hopeless, but at least we weren't exposing our students anymore.around, costumes flying in the air, and lights flashing from the door way. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought that we were planning some huge event with celebrities. Finally all twenty of my ballerinas were dressed, but there just a few problems. The first problem was that the tutus did not fit like they did in the catalogue. Instead of looking like darling little ballerinas, they looked like Las Vegas show girls. The V neck on the bodice went down entirely too low for 6 year olds, not to mention, there was a nude colored panel that gave the illusion that the V neck dragged all the way down to their belly buttons. Think Jennifer Lopez in her infamous green chiffon dress. Thankfully, I have some experience in fixing such problems from working at David's Bridal. If I can make a size 16 wedding gown fit a size 20 woman, then this shouldn't be a problem. We tacked and pulled straps up, but they still beared resemblance to the bikinis that body builders wear. The situation was hopeless, but at least we weren't exposing our students anymore.Rock, Paper, Scissors: The boys played games to keep them entertained before going on stage.

It was so painfully cold. I felt so bad for them.

Lined up and ready to go!

The second problem in our wardrobe change started with the foul smell that crept into my olfactory organs. At first I just ignored it, thinking that it was just a stink that was lingering from former performers. I realized later that my hypothesis was wrong when I was trying to organize all the students' clothes. M's (we'll keep his name a secret) clothes were scattered about the room and he was gathering everything. I noticed that as he was trying to decide what things were his, he was sniffing them. At first I just thought that this was his way to find them, because some people's belongings do tend to have a distinct scent. This was not the case as I quickly learned when I lifted up a white turtleneck that had a disgusting brown stain on the sleeve. EW and M quickly claimed it and I asked him what it was. He looked shocked and froze. Putting all the facts together, I came to the conclusion that he had an accident. My partner teacher informed David, one of the only men on our staff and we cleared the situation up. Apparently, M was really sick Tuesday night, but his parents insisted that he come to the Christmas concert. Poor guy.

After four months, spending about everyday with my students, they have started to take on my personality. They are free spirited, creative, random, and clumsy just like me. This mixture doesn't work so well with big events. Practice has been hard. In choir, I was always the one who stood out the most at concerts. This was not because I had the best singing voice, but because I am tone deaf and I have a squeaky singing voice. My family would always pick on me after the shows, leading to future self conscience problems. I am surprised that I actually had enough courage to muster out any song in front of my students in order to teach them, and on top of that, I teach Kids Pop (aka music). haha. Those poor kids who have been subjected to my singing. Well, I was actually impressed. My students did very well with their song, minus a few students who completely froze from nerves. Ballet, however, is another story. This is where my lack of coordination rubbed off on my students (actually thinking about this now, I don't know if this is actually possible). First, June Seo was the first in one of the lines and completely misled the students, nearly running them all into the giant inflatable backdrop of a neon pearlescent winter wonderland. In practice, they always had a hard time getting the turns the same. Eventually, this was a detail that I soon failed to notice, because it was so difficult to get them all to turn Right. So for the performance, the turns were, well, special. Then the best part was when Sung Min ran straight into the microphone. A description won't do this mishap any justice, so you just need to watch the video (SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS ENTRY-the funny part happens just after the one minute mark) if you want a big laugh. My friend Amber was doing commentary for the performances and her response to their dance was "Wow, that was dramatic!"
So that was the Holly Jolly SLP Christmas Concert.This is my director with the opening speech. I am in loooove with her shoes!

After they were finished, they finally got to relax and enjoy the show.

The video above is the one I was telling you about in the story

And this is their Christmas song- they froze a bit and were sort of confused ^^

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Closet and the Ajishis

Well, the last time someone from my apartment building actually came in, it was incredibly embarrassing. I will quickly write about it, in case you haven't already heard this one.
A sweet old man came in my apartment to perform a window check. He had bad timing, because at that same moment, I was also potty training a puppy (I would delve into these details, but it is still pretty painful to discuss) and my apartment was a mess. So I let him in and he went straight for the utility closet. As he opened it, about four empty water bottles tipped over. He checked the window in the closet, and the whole time I was holding back from laughing. Chandra was sitting on my bed gagging and cracking up, because the puppy, who was in its kennel, was now eating its own product and the gentleman examining my closet also witnessed such a grotesque act. The man was also trying not to laugh as he left and we shook hands.
So this brings me to the second story of the closet. On Friday night, I had a friend and her three friends stay at my apartment, while I stayed with Chandra. I did a quick cleaning, but realized I was too lazy to go downstairs and put my trash in the dumpster, so I shoved five small bags in the utility closet in an attempt to conceal them. My apartment is pretty safe, so it was fine that the key was left inside and the door was unlocked for the day. Saturday evening, I start walking into my apartment building and my security guard stopped me and asked "You 6-1-9?" I corrected him and told him 609, and he said "Yes, ok, door open!" I thought he meant that the door was unlocked. Yes ok, ok. I remembered that my door has a hard time closing on its own. I should have explained this to my guests, but I didn't think to. Anyhow, I jumped in the elevator and he followed with me. We got to my apartment, and he came right inside. Luckily my apartment was clean this time and I didn't have a puppy to do anything embarrassing. He rambled on about the door some more and noticed the key on the counter. aaah... I kept trying to assure him that everything was ok, but he decided to check for me. He wandered around and I saw him getting closer to the closet, but I was too late, He opened it and saw the giant tower of trash bags. I must really seem like a slob. I was so embarrassed, but it seemed to not even faze him, because he started for the door and turned around and I told him thank you, and he said something under his breath about me and grabbed my hand and kissed it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Baaaah Humbug

At night, Seoul is radiant. I don't know if I mean this in a good way though. In a country where "beautification" is pretty much their motto, sometimes decorations can get a bit out of hand, especially during one of the most overdecorated and commercialized holidays of the year.

Fluorescent lights flood the streets, screaming for attention. I am starting to get used to the blinding lights, but now that Christmas is quickly approaching, things are starting to get a bit out of hand. The best image that I can give you is from "National Lampoon's Christmas."
Chestnuts roasting on an open.... wait, that is actually the bush with a ridiculous amount of red lights. I have never really been a fan of the red lights- they've always seemed a bit scary to me.

For the past month, my walk home from work has been distracting. Something out an extremely scary Tim Burton film on LSD. The trees that line the streets are now coated with Christmas lights, but it can't be a simple as stringing the lights on the trees, but to completely cover the limb with the lights ensuring that nothing is left exposed, almost as if the decorators thought this would protect the branches from the harsh Siberian winds. Unfortunately for the tree, only the branches are shielded. They look like giant deformed hands reaching towards the sky. Almost artistic. At the bus stop, just a block from my apartment, there is a Christmas tree. I can't really say that it is beautiful though. It is a mass of lights in the shape of a cone that plays Christmas songs sung by Korean children. I can't help but think that it is an oversized cat toy.Goldfinger: So here are the trees I speak of. You be the judge.

Lights, Camera, Action: Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the mass of lights. It looks almost like the view of the city from Chandra's rooftop view.

Although the lights are very pretty, I don't really get the whole Christmas vibe that the Hamilton Hotel was probably going for. I am sensing "waterfall" from a backdrop of a senior prom.

Wandering past the shopping centers are perfect places to find bizarre Christmas decorations. When shopping or even walking around the city, it is common to see shirts with "English" on them. Oftentimes, they either don't make sense or there are random grammatical errors. I will post more on this later when I photograph my evidence. My favorite Christmas one that I have seen thus far is a giant sign on the shopping mall that screams "What are you doing Christmas!" Ah... the mistakes. I can't help but nitpick since I have been teaching English. I just want to take a red marker and fix it. Were they trying to say "What are you doing, Christmas?" or "What are you doing FOR Christmas"? I guess its one of those things.

While my coworkers and friends are planning their escapes from the city to sunny destinations, I am planning my time that will be spent in Seoul. At least I get a break from work and screaming children for a while. I desperately need a break from work. Its getting harder to wake up in the morning and I have been waking up with only ten minutes to get ready. Also, I know I need a break because my students have been making comments about me like, "Teacher, you are starting to be crazy scary teacher!" This comment came from JiSoo, my favorite student. She studied the crazy look in my eyes, noting the pink sparkly heart sticker placed just at the corner of my eye and my fuzzy bird hair that I tried to conceal by sticking a teal feather flower in the corner. I will admit, I do dress to entertain my students, but I think I am getting out of control.

I am becoming more and more exhausted and confused as to why I am at work. Lately, we have been preparing the kids for their Christmas concert. For the past month, my students have been singing and dancing for at least one hour each day. Our lesson plans have been pretty weak and mainly consist of coloring random pictures, cutting out the random pictures, and gluing them on another random picture. . . everyday. I am pretty sure I have ruined the once favorite past time for my students. Learning is replaced with practice. Everything must be perfect. I now know why my music teachers would make us practice over and over for these things. I just thought we were being punished, when in fact, my teacher was probably being tortured just the same. I can't handle Christmas carols anymore. My head hurts and I can't help re-experiencing the same teeth grinding "grrrr" pain that I had when I once accidentally scrapped my finger on the cheese grater every time I hear the song "I'm gettin' nothin' for Christmas." I don't want to practice anymore. Practice is now having a reverse effect. Instead of getting better, they are getting worse. I can see it in my students' eyes. They are worn out just like me. The next few days are now dedicated to group rehearsals. I think it is a bit extreme that such a big deal is made out of this. They are only five and six year olds and it isn't like they are at a prestigious performing arts school. This is English school. The signs, the props, the countless hours spent, and not to mention the intense wardrobe changes... aaah the pressure.
In Living Color: Ah the kids doing another coloring activity.

Winter Curiousland: Ah my students. Santa broke his leg (aka the inconsiderate afternoon students ripped off his feet), so I replaced one of them with a cast as my lame and passive aggressive attempt to make them feel bad. Now Santa has to hobble around on a candy cane. I don't really think anyone feels bad. I think they are probably wondering why Santa is wearing two different shoes or that he forgot to put his other shoe on and he is wearing a sock. Broken Christmas Spirit: Sung June hardly looks thrilled to be at school and he is usually the merriest of my students. I am pretty sure I was getting the kids to line up to go practice for our group rehearsal. He refused to smile...even next to Santa.
The Cabbage Patch: So, the plants have been replaced by cabbage. Who says Christmas has to be filled with sweets and other glutenous foods. Not to mention it's nutritious and pretty!

Here is a video of what we have been practicing. It is also a taste of what I listen to. . . all the time