Thursday, August 27, 2009

2009 SMOE August Orientation Day 4 - teaching demonstrations and getting ear-thermometered for the Nth time . . .

Today was a very, very, very looooong day. The high school group I'm in had to do 10-15 minute teaching presentations in groups of 3 from 9-12, and then 2-5pm. The group was subdivided into 3 smaller groups. This was nice because it meant my group had a total of 12 presentations for the day; six groups presented in the morning and six in the afternoon.

From what I can gather the elementary groups of foreign teachers, the middle, and the high schools groups were assigned instructors/adjudicators from SETI (Seoul Education Training Institute).

I won't go into much detail here about the lecture we had about the teaching demo and how to do it, nor how it got moved from Friday to Thursday and we were told about this on Wednesday mid-day . . . I'll leave that for the bigger post I'm working on for later.

I will share a few moments from the day . . .

The funniest moment that happened took place this morning before the presentations began while sitting in a classroom with my group. A person who shall remain un-named was sitting a few seats away doing his temperature check so he could write it down on the temperature roll call sheet that we're supposed to fill in every morning.

I look over and kind of wonder why he's doing it in the class when most people do it in their rooms before coming to class--and then I notice something shiny and silver at the end of the thermometer sticking out from his arm pit . . . LOL.

Just as a side note here I'd like to observe that "mercury thermometers . . . are becoming increasingly rare, as many countries have banned them outright from medical use" because "The typical "fever thermometer" contains between 0.5 to 3 g (.3 to 1.7 dr) of elemental mercury [and] [s]wallowing this amount of mercury would, it is said, pose little danger but the inhaling of the vapour could lead to health problems" (, my italics and color) . . . well, yeah, there's no risk as we were all told to use our arm pits for taking our temperatures . . . I just hope no one breaks their thermometer and breathes at the wrong time!

Anyways, back to my story . . . I realize that he's taking his temperature with the metal tipped end sticking AWAY FROM HIS ARM PIT . . . I sit there thinking in my head, "Do I say something to him? What if he does have a fever? Does have Swine Flu?" and I decide to say something. He looks surprised, stops, adjusts the thermometer, and that's that. I do have to wonder, though, if there are other people who don't know that they're using the thermometers incorrectly . . . I really really doubt it, but where there's one . . . lol.

It really doesn't make much of a difference though as the 'quarantine' type conditions we're under here with not being allowed to go off campus, and having to be inside our dormitory building by 10pm or risk being locked outside when they chain the doors (literally), are not really effective in any way.

The foreign teachers walk around the campus going to and from orientation classes and we walk by the Korean students and faculty as they come and go to their classes too. The Korean doctors and nurses who have been doing our temperature checks and medical checks have not been wearing masks or gloves while interacting with us too. Add to all this that door handles, tables, and elevator buttons (to name a few high traffic areas/surfaces) are being touched by both Koreans and us . . . and things really reach a ludicrous level. How isolating us is supposed to prevent the spread of H1N1 when we have close and regular contact with Koreans who are allowed to go off campus is something beyond my ability to fathom.

Another interesting thing about the restrictions from going off campus is that the security guards at the gates have orders to stop all 'foreigners.' Yet I've heard (but not witnessed, so take this with a grain of salt) that a few of the Korean-Americans/Korean-Canadians have been going off campus at will because the racial-profiling of H1N1 as a foreign disease is alive and well at the gates; also, native English teachers are not 'supposed' to look Korean . . . so I imagine that complicates things quite a bit too. But it does boil down to if you LOOK Korean you get through--if you look foreign you get stopped . . . nice.

All of this just makes many foreign teachers I've been talking to today, especially those who are new to Korea, just shake their heads and wonder about how there can be such a SHOW of concern about H1N1 without any actual SUBSTANCE in terms of quarantine procedures.

This morning the middle school group was told to take their temperatures in class because there was a 'Swine Flu emergency.' They were all given a second thermometer to use (most had left theirs back in their rooms) and told to take their temperatures and write them down on a form. Later on in the day my group of high school teachers were told to go to a room where a Korean doctor (or nurse, not sure) had a digital thermometer and she went from teacher to teacher taking our temperatures with an assistant writing down the info next to our names.

Everybody's temperatures were normal . . . so I'm not really sure what the "emergency" was about. Some people were a bit unhappy about the whole situation but most of us just took it as a 'natural' part of being in Korea, and something we had to do.

It makes it a little hard to accept all the temperature taking and restrictions put on us when at the same time the quarantine is not effective in preventing the spread of H1N1 being carried out because Koreans who leave the campus could be spreading it--if anyone actually had it in the first place, that is . . . but we just do what we're told to do, and wait for Saturday when we finish the orientation-quarantine.

Well, I'm about written-out for the day. Tomorrow is Day 5 and the Seoul City Tour has been canceled, and the visit to real schools to watch co-teaching demonstration classes with Korean English co-teachers and native English teachers has also been canceled. Apparently they will come to the orientation instead . . . which really makes me have to laugh because the whole idea of a quarantine is that people do not come into one and then go back into the general population after contact with the quarantainees . . .

I'll end this post, though, on an upbeat note. Yesterday, Day 3, we had a 3 hour Korean Hanji paper making craft session with two Korean experts. Here are some pics to show you what we got to do.

Here is the historical expert, and I think he makes them too, with a coordinator who was translating his extremely fast Korean speaking. The thing that really blows my mind is that one foreign teacher behind me could understand NINETY-NINE PERCENT of what he was saying--wow!

Drawing a model of what we'd be doing with the Hanji paper.

Here are the supplies for the craft project. Basically, we would take a piece of paper and try to tear it along the edges while trying to form a shape and texture related to the part of the picture we were constructing. After finishing tearing and forming the shape you then . . .

. . . got some glue on your fingers, smeared it on the paper, and then put the paper onto the fan. Julianne thinks this picture is . . . 'interesting,' lol! I really have no idea why . . .

Here's my finished fan--unfortunately I didn't win any prizes. I like it and think it's not bad for a first attempt at Korean Hanji paper art craft.

I think people enjoyed making the Hanji. I will admit to first thinking it was stupid, childish, and a waste of time. But once I got into the process it was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it. I think being tired from the long days of lectures at orientation, jet lag, and some stress tried to get in the way of having fun and doing a new Korean cultural activity--I'm glad I was able to get past that, and I think doing the craft was a good stress reliever too.

If you're in Korea and get the chance to make some Hanji I highly recommend it.


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