Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Teaching at the orphanage

February is a slow month for English Villages. So, in an out of character move, the school decided to use it's teachers time for the benefit of the community, by shipping us out to orphanages. I might have been required by the government, who knows. Planning that first lesson was a complicated as I had no idea what their level would be.

After throwing together an erratic lesson plan for these children, I was ushered into a car and driven forty-five minutes further into the country. Yangpyeong is the country, so if we had to drive further into the abyss of desolate Korea, we were definitely in the middle of nowhere. One thing to know about Korea is that even though it was one of the most technologically advance countries, the countryside is a desolate waste-land. There is a serious lack of vegetation and wildlife as we drive along the rice patties and dilapidated farm houses. I am told that this condition in the countryside is due to the Korean war, but I admit, I am ignorant about the subject, so we will leave it to that.

When the ride ends, all that is visible from my window is a windowless corporate building under construction. For a brief moment, I am struck with the thought they have brought me here to "do me in." I see nothing resembling a school of any sort. Construction, bull dozers, construction workers, an abanoned looking stucture and a small red brick building. We are escorted into the red brick building which is not the school but the office. A pile of shoes in front of the door is my cue to remove my boots before entering. The couch is pointed out to me, and tea handed to me as I plopped down. Korean is exchanged in an award yet cordially formal manner that is usually had between strangers who have no idea what to say to one another. After fifteen minutes of no one saying anything to me, as my interpreter isn't translating anything for me, and no one else can speak my language, I am interrupted from pretending to study the bottom of my tea cup and brought to the actual school house.

The school is conveniently hidden behind the windowless monstrosity out of sight of any passerby. It is common practice to hide orphanages from the public eye in Korea. They are an embarresment, I guess. Once again, I am instructed by custom to remove my boots. As an American, I feel extremely naked without my shoes. Don't get me wrong, the first thing I do when I arrive home is to take off my shoes and pants, but that is in the comfort and privacy of my home. Teaching without the completion to my outfit of my shoes, is a whole other ball game. I felt thrown off, unnerved standing in front of the children in my pale green socks. It was like the shoes held any authority I possessed in their soles and once they were removed and placed in their cubby down below, I was as helpless as any child there. Somehow I gained my strength, even without the aide of my shoes and survived a day of teaching shoeless.

I taught one to two hours daily for two weeks at the orphange and really grew to love the children. For parentless children, I was impressed with their behavior. Although, it was not the best, they showed interest and a willingness to learn. That is except for the little chubster who continually fell asleep, even occassionally drooling on his worksheets.

Kyle also taught outside of the school, but his postion was not at an orphange but an after school program. Here are some photos of the my kids.


BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I can imagine your nervousness at being taken to a windowless building in a construction zone.... Sounds like a scene in dozens of TV crime shows. The children are adorable. What an adventure you are having!

MissKris said...

Vanessa, I find you a simply AMAZING young woman! I don't always have the time to comment but I enjoy your blog so much! Mercy, girl...the stories you'll have to tell your grandkids someday! They'll be absolutely spellbound. Keep safe!

Warren Baldwin said...

Amazing job. You guys have great hearts.