Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fujimini Adventure Series aides in School Children Collaboration

The Fujimini Adventure Series can easily meld with lessons in social studies for Kindergarten through second grade. In Green Hamster and the Quest for Fun, Green Hamster learns the importance of collaboration. Collaboration is also a critical component of teaching a child the many elements of social studies. Collaboration means working together. Learning about other cultures while learning how to work with others is a valuable lesson for a child.

There are several collaboration techniques:

1. Roundrobin – each student in turn shares something with his or her teammates.

2. Corners – each student moves to a corner of the room representing a teacher-determined alternative. Students discuss within corner, then listen to and paraphrase ideas from other corners

3. Co-op – students work in groups to produce a particular group product to share with the whole class; each student makes a particular contribution to the group

These are just a few techniques for collaborating in the classroom or with a group of kids. During the process of collaboration a child can learn many things about the other child and can learn many things about the main subject such as teamwork, Japan or even the history of birthdays.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ONCEKids: Enabling parents, teachers and children

ONCEKids has developed a series of books for children pre-K or nursery through second grade. The Fujimini Adventure Series references cultural symbols familiar to China, Japan and Korea. ONCEKids has conducted market research of children’s literature and has found that many Asian cultures are underrepresented in child and young adult fiction. The Fujimini Adventure Series enables parents and educators to introduce various Asian cultures to children.

Using the Fujimini Adventure Series in social studies affords the opportunity to expose children to other cultures and to learn about social responsibility. An excellent way to start teaching about the cultures of Japan, China and Korea is to brainstorm with your child or student. Learning is a process of adding new ideas to old ideas. Many children many already know about other cultures. For instance, many first graders may already have heard of sushi or bonsai trees.

Brainstorming is important to activate what a child already knows and brainstorming is the first step in acquiring new knowledge.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going to Language Classes – Why doesn’t anyone eat?

I sign up for Hangul language classes at a language institute (called “hagwam in Korean”).  Classes are held four days a week from 10:30-1:30.  I learned French and Italian in the past, living and working in those countries so I figure I will make this commitment.

I know it will be a huge advantage to be able to speak and communicate in the language. On the first day, I pack my survival kit – I have three Diet Cokes (they have the little cans in Korea), a peanut butter sandwich and several granola bars.  I imagined other students forming mini groups and talking and eating during the breaks.  Maybe I will get to know some local places and meet lots of expats from across Seoul.

Well, no one else in the class brought in anything and I am the only American.  There was not so much as a Styrofoam cup with the last bits of coffee. I feel embarrassed thinking that only a mom would bring in her silly snack and drinks; everyone else must hang out at the breaks, make friends and sip cappuccino. We all sit down at the long table and the teacher (“sangsamneem”) comes in and immediately starts speaking in Hangul. I am confused.  Isn’t this beginners’ intensive course?

I soon realize that the other 8 students are from Vietnam, Cambodia, Russia and China.  They are new to Korea and need the language to get into a school or get a job.  So English is not a common language. My assigned partner in class is Vietnamese; I am nervous about the pairing. Not because he is Vietnamese (I love Vietnamese people) but I am instantly suspicion of any man who is skinnier than me! But more importantly, he appears to understand everything and takes copious notes.
Anyway, I am sweating within a half hour; this is definitely going to be more than a hobby.  All the written and oral instructions are in Hangul.  I do not understand anything and there is going to be homework every night. How can I do the homework when I can’t read the directions? I can’t read and pronounce the characters yet. I need remedial Korean!

Isn’t there a lower class for people like me – this is completely alien to me!

I instantly sympathize with people coming to the US who do not know a thing and want to build a life. Now I understood why almost none of the expats speak more than a few phrases of Korean – it’s very hard to learn another language, especially a character language if you are a Westerner. During the break, I am starving so I take out the sandwich and diet soda.  No one has anything to eat or drink.  A few people go outside to smoke but no one grabs snacks at the local café.

After the first week, I finally ask the teacher, “why doesn’t anyone eat?” In the US, people would have brought pizza, croissants, coffee, etc. and the breaks would tend to be filled with eating and chatter. I am humbled by her answer. She says, “I am sure they ate breakfast and will eat their meals later at home but most people who are here learning the language are very poor and this school is very expensive for them. They do not have any money for snacks. Plus we do not eat snacks in class here.  Maybe that is why people in the US are getting bigger.”

This is another big plus for Asia.  They actually work their entire time in the class, pay attention and are there to learn – not to socialize and eat snacks. It is an excellent diet strategy so I only bring snacks on Fridays and I share them with everyone!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Experiencing the WOW of Tokyo

Shortly after returning to Seoul after the summer, we are going to Tokyo for a long weekend. I had actually travelled throughout Asia over several years working on a business development team in General Electric. Whenever the work trip was several weeks, I would spend the weekend and walk around and enjoy the sights, food and people. But it was work, and inevitably I saw more of hotel rooms than the actual sites of city. Plus I was usually rushing home as the trips normally lasted at least ten days to make it worthwhile.

But, I find living in Asia and traveling as a tourist is different and much more fun.  Plus the A-team at my husband’s office steps in and sets up amazing trips with tours and many insider tips.  Whether it was shopping, seeing the worthwhile places or eating in the newest places, our trips are always action packed and leave no regrets. Coming into Tokyo from the airport is spectacular – the city is modern and enormous, and as well, very exciting and hip. The hotels and service are remarkable and the skyline is so crowded with skyscrapers and neon that it is shocking. 

This first trip, we stay at the Intercontinental out in Tokyo Bay. What a beautiful setting.  I am a little surprised when neither the airport nor the hotel will change Korean won – thank goodness I had US cash.  You need cash in Tokyo for taxis, etc. American hotels for the most part cannot compete with the Asian service experience.  And, the decor of upscale hotels with the fusion East West elegance is gorgeous. So we wander around Meiji Gardens, visit the Imperial Palace, walked around in Ginza and eat at fabulous restaurants. One restaurant banged a loud gong every time a new patron entered and all the staff shouted in Japanese.  The kids loved it and Japanese food is delicious.  We also love the “punk” hair, vibrancy and style of Tokyo.  Everyone is so good looking and unique.  It was a stylish place and I am beginning to have a crush on all things with Asian inspiration.

Another time I will write about my trip to Kyoto, the place of ninjas and samurai. And bikes!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, October 15, 2010

No More Rapunzel

And so began many wonderful experiences in Korea and across Asia – not only did we live in Seoul, we lived very well.  If an Elton John concert was coming to town, we could sit in the front row or Nora Jones or Il Divo.  If we went to a restaurant, Rich’s assistant always made the reservation and we had a terrific table and service. The kids were finally settled into a school routine.  I missed the sports availability and the two oldest were bused 45 minutes to an hour each way, but there are always challenges so it did not seem too tough. We had been given a driver for the family; at first I thought it was an invasion of privacy and a loss of independence.  But I got used to it and started to really enjoy how much easier it is in a big sprawling city, where I could sit in the back and do crossword puzzles-- while someone navigated through the ever-present traffic.  My third child went to preschool and the Korean moms were warm; I accepted their invitations for play dates and started to make some friends. As our first year came to a close, we were becoming comfortable in Seoul and Korea was becoming comfortable with us.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I am Rapunzel

I was an expat wife living in Seoul, South Korea for four years with four small children and a husband who worked all the time.  In the beginning, there were many days that were so very trying, I sometimes went into another room to cry so my kids wouldn’t see my tears.  At times, they would just come pouring out of my eyes without warning. I had left many things behind.  Things I did not even know I valued like Mom’s nights out or Tuesday “diner night” with kids (and a glass of wine with the other moms) or phone calls to my family OR Sunday NFL football. The twelve-hour time difference made communication tough and I started living for responses to my mass e-mails as I was very lonely.  I had a housekeeper, a driver, four kids and a husband and I was desperately lonely and alienated. We lived in a beautiful two story apartment right on the river and I would often stand by the window and just stare out at the lit bridge with the thousands of cars crossing.  I felt like the Rapunzel of Korea.

I came back for the first summer to stay in Connecticut as we had kept our house. There was a great camp for the kids and I could see friends and family. My husband had to stay back and work in Korea.  Everyone talked about how strong I was and what a big load I had to carry. During this time, I thought a lot about living so far away and how different life was going to be for a while.  I went back to Korea after the summer with a new sense of purpose.  I was going to learn the language.  I was going to make Korean friends. We were going to travel around Asia – and if my husband could not get the time off, I would go for short holidays with the kids and then bigger trips with him. I would run and even enter a few 10k races.  My list was long and I felt motivated.

Enhanced by Zemanta