a place called home

I walked back to my apartment and I passed by the familiar durian stand with the strong pungent smell, the seedy motel with “interesting” late at night guests, and the comforting signs of 7-11 on the corner. After a long thanksgiving weekend in Malaysia, I was glad to be back. Sure it was nice staying at the fancy Shangri-la hotel, but the minute I got to my apartment, I felt relieved to be back home.

Living abroad, it’s easy to get confused about where your “home” truly is. My permanent address is my parent’s home back in New York. Yet, I don’t really have my own room there anymore. A bunch of my winter clothes and books are stored in the basement in boxes.  Every year as I go back to visit, it feels a little less like my home and a bit more foreign.

After 4 years in Korea, it felt like my home. Now that I moved, I miss Korea terribly at times.  After 4 months of being here in Singapore, this foreign place is slowly starting to feel a bit like home. Even though they say home is where the heart is, what do you do when pieces of your heart are scattered all over?

Where is home for you? 

The Slice of Life Challenge happens every Tuesday and is hosted by the Two Writing Teachers.

Survival of the First Month of School

I am so happy that the first month of school is done with. It was a great time, but incredibly stressful and overwhelming all at once. It definitely had its highs and its lows. However, I wanted to remember how I survived it all!

  • I survived my first month of school! This is a big deal. At times, I felt like a first year teacher all over again. As I was dealing with a new curriculum, a new school, and a new country, many days I could only focus on one day at a time, in order to prevent myself from drowning!
  • I survived back-to-school night, where almost all of the parents came. Partly because I’m a new teacher, and they are scoping me out! 🙂
  • I survived my first round of progress reports. It’s nice that the format is open for us to choose and they are not required, but of course I still did them for all of my students!
  • I survived a field trip to a water park with 280 5th grade students on the second week of school.
  • I survived on our school’s amazing cafeteria food (Mr. Hoe’s catering) for lunch, and many times breakfast and/or snacks during our meetings. This food has given me energy, life and possibly a few extra pounds?!
  • I survived figuring out our 24 day rotating schedule with only 1 small mishap so far.  Yes, we have 24 DAY ROTATING SCHEDULE!  Somehow, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
  • I survived my first month of school, despite the overwhelming pressure I gave myself to do the best job possible, especially as a new teacher.

I’m still trying to figure out how to balance school life with everything else, including blogging. I hope that I can at least keep up with the slice of life Tuesdays, even though these past few weeks, sleep became a priority over blogging. Thank you to everyone who has been leaving comments on my blog! I’m so thankful to have this writing community because it helps me feel at home, even if I’m 9,500 miles away from my physical home.

What are some of your accomplishments in the first month/weeks of school?

Bus vs. Subway

As I tried to decide whether to take the bus or subway back home after doing some Christmas shopping, the answer was easy.  The bus stop was right there in front of me and the subway station was a good 10 minute walk farther in the biting cold Seoul winter. Obviously, I would take the subway home. I could continue reading my book on the subway. I always got nauseous and dizzy when I tried to read on the bus.

One of the high school students in my school came up to me a month ago telling me I just had to read this really good book. I never heard of  the book before and told her to bring me a copy of it if she really wanted me to read it. The next day, she found me and brought me a copy of the book, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I saw it and thought immediately, I don’t have time to read it. It looks too long to read right now. I was in the middle of the book Swallow the Ocean  and I already had a few other books to read after that.

I would run into the student in the hallways afterwards and she would ask me if I read the book yet. I would tell her not yet, but I would read it soon. So finally, I am on vacation and I started the book on Friday. I just finished the book last night. It was one of those books I just couldn’t put down, even though the ending was predictable. It was a story about how powerful love can be. It was a story about an unconditional love that forgives, frees and redeems.

I’m looking forward to catching up on my reading during vacation. Only a few more days until my Kindle touch arrives from America! So on that note…

What books are you reading now? Do you have any good book recommendations? 

For more slice of life entries, go to two writing teachers!

Doing the Impossible

If you had asked me 4 weeks ago, would I be able to run 10km straight without stopping, I would have laughed in your face and said no way.  I didn’t think it would be physically possible to get to a point where I could run 10km straight. I was just hoping that I could complete the race in less than 2 hours.

After running inside on a treadmill the first two weeks, I tried running outside on a Sunday morning. I was almost at the point of tears, because I couldn’t make it past about 1.5km of running. I had this feeling of dread inside of me that I wouldn’t be able to finish this race.

However, last week, I decided to run in the park outside my apartment and did loops on the track there. Somehow, I managed to run 10km for the first time. I wasn’t even aiming for 10km, but I just kept going and got into a groove. It felt a bit surreal that I reached 10km. Then, a few days later, I ran another 10km without any walking this time, and had a faster time.

Now, that my race is in less than 2 weeks, I feel much more confident and hopeful about it. I am actually looking forward to it! I am hoping to finish it in an hour. Thanks to my new nike+ running sneakers and ipod nano, I can track how much I run and the pace that I run at. It’s like my own running record. I’ll have to show my students, and compare it to their reading logs! 🙂

First full 10K run!

My second 10k. I accidently shut off the ipod before my last mile.

For more slice of life entries go to two writing teachers.

SOLC#4: A Prickly Visitor

I sat at my desk, trying to enjoy the peace and quiet of an empty classroom on a much awaited Friday afternoon. I was busy typing away on the computer, when I suddenly heard a rustling noise. For a moment I was reminded of my times in my classroom in NYC where I had some unwanted visitors with long tails and white fur.

Then, I realized it was Esther. She was our classroom visitor today. How could I forget her? She was in her comfy hot pink zipup bag. She was my student’s pet hedgehog. This was actually not the first time I had a student bring in their pet hedgehog. I was so surprised when I first came to Korea that hedgehogs were common pets.

How could I forget her? Luckily, during the visit, she didn’t escape the zipper secured bag she came in. Porky, the other hedgehog visitor I had two years ago was a bit more adventurous and unpredictable.  Esther was well mannered and didn’t cause any trouble.

The bag Esther arrived in!

Meet Esther!

SOLC #3 Sideways Hug

I decided to stop by the gymnasium after my workout to see how basketball practice was going for my students. The fifth graders were at the far end of the court practicing their layups. As soon as they say me, I heard a chorus of, “Ms. Kim!!!!!!!”  Then Kevin (mentioned in my previous slice) walked up to me. His voice squealed with delight as he yelled my name. He gave me a bit awkward, but genuine sideways hug.

I was a bit surprised by his affection and happiness to see me outside the classroom.  I felt reassured that I could still maintain a positive relationship with him, even though most of the time I felt like I’m disciplining him.

our newest member of our class…

I’m not a huge animal person, except for small cute dogs.  Yesterday, my student brought in a praying mantis he caught to share with our class.  He wanted to keep it on his desk, which is right near me, and I told him to keep it in his cubby.

During lunch, some of my boys were trying to catch dragonflies with the dragonfly nets. In the last few minutes of recess, my student catches a dragonfly and puts it in the praying mantis container that he brought with him. A few minutes later I hear the kids screaming and gathering around the container. It turns out that the praying mantis was eating the dragonfly and all my students were glued to this lovely feeding moment outside. My students shared with me how it violently ripped off the head of the dragonfly and the rest of the body was still moving around.

As we gathered back inside the classroom, we discussed what had happened. I told them that we could try to have the praying mantis as our class pet. However, they would need to do some research on what they eat and etc. Well, after doing some of my own research, I found out they are predators and like to eat living things and some are even cannibals. I think I prefer herbivores for classroom pets.

From wikipedia.com:

“Mantises are exclusively predatory. Insects form the primary diet, but larger species have been known to prey on small lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, fish and even rodents; they will prey upon any species small enough to successfully capture and devour. Most species of mantis are known to engage in cannibalism. The majority of mantises are ambush predators, waiting for prey to stray too near. The mantis then lashes out at remarkable speed. Some ground and bark species, however, pursue their prey rather quickly. Prey items are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs.”

This does not sound like a friendly insect that I want in my classroom. I’m secretly hoping that it has a very short life span. Well for the sake of my students, I will keep it around for a little bit longer, and hope I don’t need to come in close contact with it. The things teachers do for their students!

Find more slice of life entries here:http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

welcome to 5th grade

the headless dragonfly

closeup of the praying mantis