Making my way through Asia (and grad school) one adventurous step at a time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Adventures in Comparatives and Superlatives...

I love teaching Chapter 10. It's the last chapter in the book, and signifies we're on the home stretch towards the end of the semester, but that's not why I love it. I love watching my students react as I use my Canadian growing-up place, and Seoul to illustrate comparative sentence structures. First, I show them the picture of Seoul. Then , I show them the picture of Brockville. After a few rounds of examples like "Brockville is cleaner than Seoul." "Seoul is more interesting than Brockville." Eventually some bright young thing hits on "Seoul is more crowded than Brockville." This is my cue to introduce a few interesting demographics. It goes something like this:

"Which is more crowded: Seoul or Brockville?" I ask, just to be sure.
"Seoul," reply my students, thinking that perhaps, since it's the last chapter, they can get away without a complete sentence.
"Seoooooul..... iiiissssss..." I prompt, flapping my arms like a duck in my best please complete the sentence mime.
"Seoul is more crowded than Brockville," comes the grudging reply, putting me and my gesticulating appendages out of our misery.
"Hmmm, " say I, in a thoughtful way. "Which is more crowded: China or Korea?"
"CHINA!" Shout my students, with confidence.
"Really? Are you sure?" I ask doubtfully.
I flash my nifty demographic chart up on the screen, and wait for the squinty-eyed looks of confusion to appear. [please note: the squinty-eyed reference is to paint a mental picture of my students squinting at the screen to make sure they're seeing the numbers correctly, and has absolutely nothing to do with Asian facial features.] If they have learned nothing else all semester, my students did learn that Korea is more crowded than China. They're shocked.

Here's the scoop:
Korea has 485 people / km2
China has 135 people / km2
Canada has 3 people / km2

I show them the pictures of Seoul and Brockville again. I show them that there are no people in the picture in Brockville. I remind them that the picture was taken right smack in the middle of downtown Brockville. They laugh. Then I give them some homework and send them on their way.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Adventures in a Country Grinding to a Halt...

I don't have a class at 9 o'clock Thursday mornings, but if I had have had, I wouldn't have had one this week. (Did you follow that?) All 9 o'clock classes, in Universities nation-wide were canceled on Thursday. The school day didn't begin until 10 o'clock. Flights were grounded until after 10 o'clock. Rush-hour was re-scheduled until 10 o'clock. Employees were told not to report for work until 10 o'clock. The stock market didn't open until 10 o'clock. Babies weren't allowed to cry until 10 o'clock. The sun was told to shine at half-strength until 10 o'clock. Ok, the bit about the babies and the sun isn't true, but the rest is. What could cause an entire nation to grind to a halt and postpone their routines? An eerie hush fell over the country as thousands of high school seniors made their way across cities, streets made silent to accommodate them. Nothing must interfere with the students as they arrived for their College Scholastic Ability Test. That's right - 12 years of education, and their entire academic future rests on one. single. test. How would that feel? Your grandmother has been going to church, or chanting in front of Buddha for weeks, praying for you to do well on this test. Your mother has given you a pre-test gift: a roll of toilet paper (so you'll be able to easily reel off your knowledge). The entire country has made way for you so you can easily catch a bus or subway. Drivers have been told not to honk outside the venue. Flights have been grounded so the noise doesn't disturb you. The invigilators have been warned not to wear high heels or perfume so as not to distract you. No pressure though. Just do your best.

My students also had a test on Thursday, but it was just a little quiz. I think I may have embarrassed myself though. One of my students arrived without a pencil (sadly, not an unusual event), and without thinking, I handed him the one in my hand. Now, the one I had in my hand is an excellent pen for a teacher to carry. It's a pencil, blue pen and red pen all in one. However, I realized too late that it's also a promotional pen for Viagra. (A friend's friend's husband is a pharmaceutical rep.) And yes, it was written in both Korean and English.