Friday, March 26, 2010

Yellow Dust

What time of day would you say this picture was taken?

yellow dust
View from my balcony window

If you said somewhere between 4-6PM, you are wrong. I took this photo at 1:15 in the afternoon, at which point I had my lights on. It's not actually a rainstorm. It's yellow dust, which Koreans call hwangsa (황사).

Yellow dust is a yearly phenomenon that I've had to endure since I came to Korea. Yellow sand blows in from deserts in Mongolia and Kazakhstan, affecting China, both Koreas, and Japan. Sometimes it's so bad that it even makes it to the US. It usually appears around mid-March and won't disappear until the end of June.

If it looks unhealthy, that's because it is.

As you might expect, yellow dust has always caused all kinds of respiratory problems such as asthma. But in recent years it's gotten worse due to all of the pollutants the dust now carries, such as mercury, lead, zinc, asbestos, synthetic hormones etc. The dust is also thicker now due to deforestation in China, which allows more of it to blow southward. Reforestation attempts have not been particularly successful.

I'm lucky in that so far the yellow dust hasn't caused me any health problems that I know of. It does mean I get more easily winded when I go outdoors, and last year it got so bad that I could taste metal pretty much all the time.

What bothers me most about it is that it looks pretty creepy and post-apocalyptic.

Other than the yellow haze through which I must conduct my daily affairs, I don't have much to report. I had the week off school, so I spent my time resting. Next week I should have more to report, since I have Parent/Teacher Interviews on Wednesday and Thursday. Then, on Friday, my friends Lauren, Elias and I are taking a long weekend's trip down to Andong, a tourist town in southeastern Korea. I've never been, but Elias says it's one of his favourite places, and it even has a VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT! Given that vegetarian options are hard to come by in this country, I'm excited to try it. I wonder what traditional Korean vegetarian cuisine is like. Pictures to follow.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Who Poisoned His Meatball?

Ah hah! A weekly update! They say if you can resist a bad habit for 28 days you will conquer it, so only 21 more days of not neglecting this blog and I'm home free!

It's been a big week at the school for me - our production of the murder mystery Who Poisoned His Meatball? by Craig Sodaro went up on Wednesday and Thursday to great success and rave reviews. The school community really came out to support it, and we were able to raise over a million won for Haiti relief (that works out to about $1000).

The whole process was immensely exhausting for me, but it was also rewarding to see how well our talented cast did with their performances. Considering that the Drama program was non-existent when I arrived here, it's gratifying to see how far it's come in a very short time. This year's been a lot easier because I have a true partner in Dave, the new middle school teacher who started work here this year. Our work styles complement each other well and we each think of things the other doesn't, so between the two of us we've accomplished a lot. It's so much easier now that I don't have to do it alone.

I'm also grateful for how much I've grown as a director. Even last year when I directed my first play, I had no idea what I was doing (and it was pretty obvious). This year, having some experience under my belt and working with Dave made the process much smoother. I was even able to do some of the things I'd wanted to do last year but couldn't, like have three performances instead of one, have a student design a beautiful program, and get corporate sponsorship to help with props. Now I find myself much more comfortable as a director, and feel able to accomplish things I never even thought I was capable of before.

The best part of all of this, though, has been how much the kids have gotten out of it. I know what a difference my participation in Drama made to me when I was in high school, so it's been wonderful to see the same thing happening to my own students. Yesterday one student had the following as her Google Talk status:

♫ The past 3 months were the best time of my school life :)

I don't think a teacher could ask for anything more than that.

Today I played around with iMovie and create a montage of the production. Let me just say, Macs are awesome. Enjoy!

Who Poisoned His Meatball? 2010 from Laura Sanders on Vimeo.

Friday, March 12, 2010


So, I haven't written in here since June 23rd...eek.

For the past couple of weeks I've really been thinking that I need to do more with this blog. I mean, teaching at an international school in Asia is a pretty cool gig, and people would probably be interested in reading about it. And yet I never update.

There's a few reasons, I guess. I teach writing at school and I am writing a novel in my spare time, so I tend to think that if I'm going to blog I better sound like a National Geographic journalist or something. I put insane pressure on myself to think of headlines and captions like:

Inside International Education in Korea
In a country where rote memorization and cramming dominate Korean public schools, many Korean parents are looking to a Western education to help their children get ahead.

Which is all well and good, but come on. That just seems like work. I work enough already.

My friends Tom and Bonnie have a fabulous blog that really captures not only their personalities, but what life at our school and in Korea is like. They update it every week too, which seems a big job to me!

Finally, last week I asked Bonnie how she manages it. "Well," she said, "it helps to have two people, obviously. But keep it short and sweet - that helps too."

"Short and sweet," as you all know, is not really my style. I tend more toward "longwinded". However, in the interests of documenting a pretty cool existence here, I think I should make the here goes!

I have a six hour rehearsal with the kids in the play today. I'll pick up some batteries for my digital camera and see what I can accomplish. I bet I can get some good shots to upload.