Every Friday I, unfortunately, have a class with only two students in. They are two 1st graders.
They can speak very little English and working through the day's lesson takes 15mins leaving me with 30mins of creative trickery to get them to continue learning the work without resulting in absolute rebellion - which happens if they realise that they are still doing classwork. (I don't blame them).

The most recent class I had with them, I had them name and colour in the animal cards in their books.
Julia, the other student in the class, and Chris are two very different children. Julia finds great pleasure in hugging my arm or stroking it, and Chris, Chris likes to karate kick the door closed and roar.

When it came to colouring in their pictures, Julia checked her colours with the colour printed versions on the previous page, making absolutely sure that hers matched up and Chris coloured the rabbit in rainbow stripes, the deer blue, the chicken black, the cat green and his tortoise had one red leg.

Then Julia picked two shades of green to colour her tortoise.. she starts to use the lighter shade and things are going well until Chris spots her choice of colour. Without a thought of his own colour choices he tells Julia off - She is using the incorrect shade of green!

To be honest, I admire Chris' freedom.
After we coloured in the animal cards, we had some free time. With his black crayon he scribbled a chicken looking shape and then added some legs. I added a beak, 'feet' and the comb. Then Chris coloured the open spaces with red and wrote a bunch of chicken related things in Korean. He left me with the image and now it's mine.





Chris

by on 23.9.16
Every Friday I, unfortunately, have a class with only two students in. They are two 1st graders. They can speak very little English and wo...
Silver.
That's the colour of the hair I yanked from my head not too long ago. Standing in front of the mirror, brushing my teeth, I spotted a bit of silver shining in the overhead light.
Whatever.
I don't really care that I am going grey at 28.

The colourless character fascinates me.
I hold the nearly see-through root against my skin,the white basin and up against the light. I need something dark to hold it against to really see it properly.

I drop it in the basin and keep on brushing my teeth. 



Some of the more common gems found around the world are the little green diamonds dug out of the depths of a 1st grader's nose. With two fingers. One for each nostril

The kind of gems I much prefer are ones my 2nd -6th graders dig out. Little English gems. As young English learners, living in a world that is very much NOT English, they rely on their limited language knowledge and vocabulary to converse with me and answer my questions. This often results in such creative expressions, funny comments and ingenious alternatives to what us boring English speakers use to convey our thoughts.

The very first time that I remember being absolutely delighted by a little gem was when Phillip, a loud 6th grader, who recently sized me up and discovering he was taller than me did a little joyous jig, described a far away country.
Sky country.
What he was really talking about was heaven.
I imagine that his thought process went something like this: 1. A place where people go live(?) when they die. 2. Where do people live? In countries. 3. Where is this country? In the sky. 1+1 = sky country

Here are a few of the gems I have collected thus far, by which I mean, I have actually written down and not lost the page on which I've written it down on.

On body parts:
Shawn, one of my more favoured students from a definitely favoured class, told me a little story about an accident that happened to his - at this point he did the looking for the English word dance..-
he gave up, "feet fingers!"
And what are toes, if they aren't fingers for the feet, or if fingers is the word you struggle with, hand toes?

Jeff: Teacher! He hit me on my legs, in-between! (groin)

On popular culture:
Sophie: "I like Batman because he kills people. It's very good"

On public transport etiquette: 
Unknown: When you sleep on the subway you must not borrow another person's shoulder

On deepest fears: 
Me: What are you most afraid of?
Sophie: Very fat and tall people. (she is afraid she can't see past them and lose her parents in a crowd)
Victoria: Poop
Unknown: I'm afraid of bugs! But not computer bugs.


When answering my daily 'How are yous'?
Me: How are you?
Student: I'm fineapple.

Me: "How are you Tommy?"
Tommy: "I'm happy! because tomorrow day, girlfriend! Date!"
Me: "Oh really? Where will you go for your date? What will you do?"
Tommy: "I have no idea."

On cities:
Alex: Cities are ugly! Because so many cars march in order. It (they) look like bugs!

And that's all for today.
I know it's short and I have been here over a year, but better late than never, (which I really hope I can apply to my derailed design career, post teaching abroad), I shall continue to collect and hoard these little gems and share them with you.

Annyeong!*

*A casual goodbye/hello in Korean



Little gems

by on 23.7.16
Some of the more common gems found around the world are the little green diamonds dug out of the depths of a 1st grader's nose. With ...

I have always admired the beautiful, seemingly effortless, urban sketches and paintings that OTHER artists have made and I always meant to give it a go myself...
Well, I did!
And it was a challenge.

There is a small art studio/workshop place in Itaewon, Seoul and when I saw that they were offering a lesson on urban sketching I jumped at the chance to learn some techniques and force myself to actually try... since I was paying for it, I was not going to loll about and not draw! A perfect way to get myself out on the street with a pencil.

Money, the motivator..

Anyways, here is what I managed to make. It was fun and I need 5 years more practise...



Urban Sketching

by on 21.6.16
I have always admired the beautiful, seemingly effortless, urban sketches and paintings that OTHER artists have made and I always meant to...


I got off the bus that brought me from the airport to this city called "Suwon", my new home for the next year, collected my baggage (I have a lot of baggage), and sat on a bench to wait for a Korean woman whom I had seen but once during a skype interview some months previously. She was to collect me and my bags. I was worried that I would not recognise her from my memory of her (I didn't) and I was worried that she wouldn't find me, the only foreigner seated outside of the ticket office.

"I didn't think you'd be this tall", one of the first things out of the mouth of my new colleague - I am about 164cm (or 5.3 ft) - A short car ride later, a flower festooned pen welcome gift and an elevator up to the 1st floor, and I was "home". A tiny flat just a 3 min walk away from my new workplace. I was left to gorge on the sandwiches in the fridge and pass out on the bed with instructions to be at work 2 hours early the next day to meet the boss, my new co-workers and eat lunch together.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Styrofoam boxes, elastic-banded shut, tinfoil peeping out the sides, sat on the table. A black plastic bag, from which appeared chopsticks and oblong tin-foiled packages. Little white tubs with dark liquid, alongside small plastic bags with yellow slices of half moons, were placed at intervals on the table. The smell of something deep fried permeated the room. What was for lunch? I had no expectations, I was ready to be surprised.

Mandu, ordered via the telephone is packaged up in Styrofoam boxes, and is kind of the Korean dim sum or dumpling. Little pouches that are steamed or deep fried, and either stuffed with 'gogi' - pork - or kimchi, (possibly the most important food in the whole of Korea, North and South, since they eat it with almost, practically everything.) Out of the black plastic bag came kimbap, or gimbap, sometimes referred to as Korean 'sushi'. Danmooji, the little half moons of pickled daikon radish, eaten as a side dish is another common staple to Korean meals and inside the little tubs, vinegar and soy sauce mixed together for mandu dipping.

And then the chopsticks, always chopsticks.
Even when it's your birthday and there's cake.
Welcome to Korea, Austen. Here, have a second third helping.



Having never had a snowy winter before I was looking forward to winter in South Korea. I pictured the streets with snow piled up on the side, the city transformed, snowmen and bright, twinkly Christmas lights. I imagined being bundled up in scarves, hats, gloves and coats, enjoying the winter beauties, whilst feeling warm and comfortable in my winter wear.


That was not the case.

It was cold. 
So very cold. 


I wore layers and layers of winter wear, and yet, I was still cold most of the time. And to top it all off. to top all the injustices of my winter dreams, it didn't even snow all that much! In my city, Suwon, very little snow fell. In fact, to experience a 'real' snowy experience I got in a bus and visited my friends who lived in a small town 2 hours away from me. I felt rather hard done by. If I am going to be this cold, I at least expect some snow to go with it! 



It went on for so long.



I began to dress for winter mid to end of November and by the end of February I was definitely ready for Spring, ready for some sunshine! Winter was not done yet. It dragged on through March...
Finally, in April it began to get warmer. We had 1- 1.5 weeks of lovely warmth and then a cold snap again, and it was freezing once more! This is common in Korea and they say that 'the winter is jealous of the flowers' and it makes a comeback. 


However, on a more positive note, I did make a snowman with my friends, had a snowball fight and there were twinkly lights in some places and the bus stop bench was heated. 
A heated bus stop bench. I don't think it gets any better than that! 


My flat, and probably all flats here, has an underfloor heating system called ondol (a system of steel or copper water pipes coiled below the floor) and it really is magical. Coming home from work, I would throw my bag and myself down on the floor and loll about like a lazy cat. In restaurants where one sits on the floor to eat, the ondol heating keeps you comfortable and happy and ready to keel over and take a nap. Or maybe that was just an Austen feeling. Austen loves the ondol.




Wretched winter!
It just kept at it, and I was beginning to despair! 
What is Spring?

And then one ordinary day, outside of Homplus, the magnolia bloomed.
I was ecstatic!
All was well

Spring in Korea is magical. 
Just look at the array of flowers and the colours!
It seemed that everything that could bloom and blossom, bloomed and blossomed.
Trees, vines, flowers and bushes.

The blooming period might be short, but it is fierce. 
There is no way you are going to miss this wonderful change of season.




Azaleas. 
So many different colours and just bushes of them everywhere.


Look at the size of the flowering bush!



That was Spring.
Now everything is a lively green and I can hear the birds chirping outside.

And it is very hot.
Summer has arrived.






Snow, and then flowers

by on 22.5.16
Having never had a snowy winter before I was looking forward to winter in South Korea. I pictured the streets with snow piled up on the sid...
While working on a logo design for a friend a little while ago, this guy came out of the process. It was not suitable for what was wanted, but I like him very much. 



He was created with first with a hand sketch and then brought into Adobe Illustrator for some digital finishing.

Say hi! 


Cheetah

by on 15.2.16
While working on a logo design for a friend a little while ago, this guy came out of the process. It was not suitable for what was wanted...

- blink -

Nothing, really, can happen in a second, contrary to popular belief. Not even a single blink of the eye. A second, one second, is never an independent moment in time. Even a complete action that occurs within a second doesn't happen in a second. No. That single occurrence is tied to, and a result of what occurred within the preceding second, and that preceding second, in turn, is affected and channeled by it's own preceding second. And thus it continues into the infinities. Even a conception of new life depends on another's string of seconds

- blink -

Blink. An action that fits in the time frame of second, but is never alone... blink, ok! no more! drier still, drier, a little dry now, eyes are beginning to dry out, nope, still not, no need to blink, haven't blinked again, no need to blink, blink, ok! no more!.....

Nothing can happen in a second

Everything can happen in a second.

- blink -

A few years ago I received a book to help me write better, prompt stories, encourage practise and overcome writer's block. This is the first little 'story' from the book.