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Archive for the 'Austin’s Orphanage' Category


Remember how the boys were being punished last week? Well, they were in trouble because some of them apparently went in to the room where their dog was giving birth! That night, just after dinner, the dog went into labor, and the boys were told not to go in. I thought they were staying out, but I guess the excitement got to them. I happened to have my camera, so I could record a quick movie about the incident. There is actually a lot of footage from that night, some of it is apparently inappropriate, and other things are just downright hilarious. Today, watch one of the real versions, and later, I’ll share the sillier ones as well.

I didn’t subtitle it because the conversation is simple enough that I think you’ll be able to follow. But I’ll give you a rough sketch of what happened: “Dooley” is the dog’s name. I was trying to get them to explain who she is and everything, but you’ll see as he’s talking that he clearly expects you all to know who Dooley is. In this video, the boy uses the word 새끼 to refer to the puppies. Be careful with that word, because it is also a very strong insult…unless you are referring to baby animals! I bet you can imagine how strong the insult is though!

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Important words:

강아지 – dog (yes, 개 is “dog” but people refer to their pets as 강아지)
새끼 – baby animal
낳다 – to give birth
설명하다 – to explain (in this case, I say “설명 해 줘” (설명 해 주세요)
아직 – not yet
(이름을) 정하다 – to decide on (a name)

For a listening exercise, see if you can figure out how many puppies were born. Remember the counter for animals is “마리.” As an example “모기 10(열) 마리” is 10 mosquitoes.

Or, if you are really adventurous, go ahead and try to make a transcript! (English or Korean!) Go over the forums so that we can take advantage of the spoiler tags, and so that everyone can participate!


Just a little while ago, I wrote about two pre-school boys who were going to graduate to the elementary house. I said that these kids were pretty tough. What became clear last night was that they are absolutely on the bottom rung. Now, they might not take it from the 2nd graders, everyone else will be dishing it out in a big way.

This is 한규 who cries pretty easily. He usually cries for an extended period of time in order to get what he wants. His little brother pulls this trick ALL time and it works for him. That kid is spoiled beyond belief..but that’s a different story! 한규 just cries and cries.. you know what I mean, when the crying is just for effect, and not because he is still hurt.

Anyway, last night just about everyone got into trouble going into some room they weren’t supposed to (I’ll explain next week). So, with the adult who was working their night night missing (I don’t know where they went) the freshly-minted 6th graders were in charge of the discipline. Physical discipline is pretty common in Korea. These kids are doing something that both the army and gangsters are famous for! One of the 6th grade boys shouts “엎드려!”


For some reason only the 4th grade boys had to do this…but can you recognize the boy in the chair reading a book? That’s 이나라. If you are relatively new to KClass you might not remember this lesson from several months ago which inspired me to make this video. Yes, 나라 is still not listening!


I am not very familiar with the financial side of things at the orphanage.  The are working on a new building, and apparently still fundraising for it.  But periodically lots of other gifts show up.  Occasionally, all of the kids will have new shoes…the same kind.  Right now, there is a stack of roller blades.  One of the first graders showed me his pair (which is really twice the size of this foot) and got very defensive when I asked him if they were really his.  I tried to ask about the size thing, and he started screaming..


Most often the donations are food.  One day a box of mini ice-creams from Baskin Robins arrived.  Another time it was Dunkin Donuts.  Occasionally, each kid will get a veritable treasure chest of junk food.  Crown Bakery is a chain bakery in Seoul.  Last Christmas they delivered about 90 crates stuffed with all sorts of goodies – each kid got his or her own!  That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it!?

Some really interesting things happen though.  I watched the first and second graders open their boxes and shout with glee as they pulled out the various treats.  Then the oldest boys came in and said something I couldn’t understand, but immediately, all the little kids pulled something from their box and gave it to the older kids!  It was like they had to pay tribute!

For the next day or two…yes, they eat it all that fast…wrappers and crumbs from those treats were everywhere.

There are two issues all of this brings up.  Let’s try discussing them  in the comments:

1.  These kids have nothing, so giving them things is OK, but should they get so much junk food?

2. They already don’t have good habits, and these kinds of gifts come right before bed, after they “supposedly” brushed their teeth.  They rip into them right away and never really get around to brushing their teeth again.

Another issue

Today I’d like to share something else that sometimes bothers me about the orphanage. Last time, I talked about the sanitation of the home. Thanks for your replies!

Living in Korea has certainly taught me to look at things with different eyes. So much of what goes on here is related to culture, and it is easy to draw conclusions about right or wrong. I am trying to figure out how to walk the line.

Today’s issue though is as much about culture as it is about staffing crunch at the orphanage.  Social services isn’t a very glamorous job anywhere in the world, and I’m sure it is hard to find high-quality employees to care for the children at the orphanage.  Ideally there would be 2 adults to watch the 22 elementary boys that I work closely with.  However, this doesn’t always happen.  If someone is sick, or unable to come in, often the kids are on their own.  Then the 6th grade boys are in charge.  I should say, that when they run the show, at least the younger kids eventually do their homework, shower, pick up their clothes, etc.. but it’s not always smooth.  Sometimes they resort of rather strange enforcement measures!  One day one 6th grade boy had a a spray bottle!  He would tell a younger boy to do something, and then spray him like a dog when he wouldn’t do it right away!

Or sometimes the 10 preschool kids (birth – kindergarten) are left alone with  5th grade girl to watch them!  Now, I know some 5th graders could handle that, but not many can.  And the girl who gets that responsibility isn’t known for her tenderness!

Children in Korea have substantially more freedom than their American counterparts.  Really young kids criss-cross the city on bus and subway to go back and forth from school to 학원 (tutoring centers) all day long.  Groups of kids can be found in the busiest parts of the city with no adult chaperone in sight.  I think this plays into what happens at the orphanage, and coupled with the staffing issues gives the kid a lot of independent alone time.  That can be a good thing, but these kids who don’t have parents, or have very poor relationships with their parents desperately need adults to guide them!  Those kids really are just raised by slightly older kids!

What do you think?

Today I want to start sharing with you some of the “struggles” at the orphanage.  By that,  I mean the kinds of things that go on that I don’t think would happen in a similar environment in the Western world.  Some of it is cultural for sure, but other things are just a function of the situation.

The floor at the orphanage is dirty.  There is no other word to describe it.  They have a few dogs that do all sorts of unspeakable things on it (including the one that is currently in heat).  The kids are always eating in the living room and spilling things, leaving crumbs and the like for the next guy to find.

It gets cleaned each day, but “clean” seems to have a very different definition.  It isn’t cleaned with soap – ever.  Usually just a broom, and on a good day, a vacuum cleaner.  From my perspective with 25 boys living in the same space, that really isn’t acceptable.  It is a ripe breeding ground for all sorts of things to get passed around.

And yet, Josh and I have tried to suggest real cleaning (like with bleach) but it seems to fall on deaf ears.  There are a bunch of excuses for why bleach isn’t appropriate.  I wish I understood this issue better.  I suspect that it is cultural, because it is  the same way at my school. The school is so dirty, it would have caused the custodial staff from the school I taught at in America to blush.  Each day the kids sweep and mop the floors, but it really just amounts to pushing the dirt to a different corner, and using water to help.  Soap isn’t part of the process!  I know I’m not alone in this.  Most of my friends report similar practices at their schools too.

So, when it comes to the orphanage, health is a big concern.  The kids suffer from a lot of infections that are easily spread in communal living.  It seems like this could be managed a bit better.  Just this week, the dog bled all over the floor since she’s in heat…and the solution seemed to be using tissue to wipe it up!!  Josh had the day off, so he went to buy some bleach and cleaned the floor….probably the second time in a year that the floor has been cleaned like that…but then the dog came back inside and bled everywhere again!

It isn’t our job to tell the staff there how to do things better, in fact that’s kind of taboo in Korea to begin with, so what do you think about it?  What would you do?