Sunday, December 19, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
A normal day of work followed by delicious grub with my coteachers and Brian. It was called 삼계탕 or "samgyetang". It's a Korean soup served in a warm stone bowl with a whole chicken in it. It was probably one of the most delicious soups I've had since being in Korean, but to be honest that's not a hard title to win... the school soups are generally atrocious.
Went to a movie with a coteacher and some of the fourth grade teachers and the music teacher. I had a good time hanging out, but the movie was relatively bad. Also, it didn't help that it was a Spanish movie with Korean subtitles. That being said, I don't feel as though I missed any amazing dialogue. This review makes the movie sound fantastic- please do not let it fool you. I felt like the director or artistic director took a semester long course in the "Artistry of Film" and made a checklist out of the notes he took. After the course finished he decided to make a movie about Bach and ticked his checkboxes one-by-one as the movie was filmed; "long flowing shots followed by a 20 second freezeframe... check. Self-playing piano... check. Dancing horse... check. Naked woman taking a shower... check. And last but not least [and the only saving grace] truck driver sitting in the passenger seat playing Bach on the harmonica... check." You no longer need to see the movie, instead- put in a Bach CD, close your eyes, and picture the afore mentioned.
Anyways... the theater was awesome- though unheated- there are pictures floating around somewhere on my coteacher's camera. I'll acquire them.
The fourth grade teachers, whom I love and adore, decided to cook kimchi pancakes in the teacher's room during the afternoon. I was there and willing to help, though took a supervisory role as I realized I didn't know how to help... that means I sat back and watched. We invited a bunch of other teachers to come and eat and drink with us; it was great! Afterwards some of us decided to go bowling! Seven of us loaded up in two cars and proceeded to go across town to a bowling alley. We rented two lanes and played one game just for fun- what I didn't know was that the first game was played to determine team makeup. Teams were split so that the team of three had the 1st, 4th, and 5th best and the team of four had the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th scorers. Having scored 3rd, I was on the team of four. As a preface... noone in the initial game scored over 110, with the lowest score being around 30 (her first time bowling, ever, seriously).
The 1st place player, a 4th grade teacher by the name of Park, opened up with a strike... followed by four consecutives strikes during his next turns. It was unbelievable! By the 5th frame he had already beaten his top score of the last game, and I was sitting at a lowly 30. I felt the pressure and I knew I had to impress my Korean entourage so I channeled by bowling chi and scored three strikes in a row! Little did I know this would be the only turkey I would see this Thanksgiving season. Needless to say, our team of four just barely managed to win. Park scored a 204!!! Next was Sonny with a 133, me with a 132, and the numbers just get lower from there.
Afterwards we all went out for takalbi which was DELICIOUS. I love that stuff.
Three teachers left, including my coteacher, so there was just four of us. When my coteacher left she said "go with them" and she was smiling about it, I'm fairly certain it was because she knew what lay in store for me. Turns out that we were going to eat a second round (Koreans can seriously put it down). I don't know how to say this... but I ate korean barbecued pig intestine- not the normal looking kind that just looks like a long sausage, but little bits of it. I can't even find a picture online to show you. I'll have to make that a mission.
This was a fantastic day! I finally got to hang out with teachers outside of the school environment and we had a blast! Apparently they felt sad that it didn't happen sooner and they are pretty eager to make it happen again, next time we'll be going for 삼겹살!
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Palace front gate. (These were taken on my cellphone, I've yet to get a real camera...)
We ran to the tour start destination after we entered because we were running a little late. The tour was only for the back garden, which was more like a 78 acre forest with ponds, traditional houses, temples, and trees- no well manicured floral displays or anything like that. However, it was in the middle of Seoul and once you entered the garden, all you could hear were the birds, the scraping of leaves, and the tour guide's amplifier. I didn't take a lot of pictures because one of the teachers was nominated official photographer, hopefully I'll be getting emailed some photos!
This was part of the servant quarters- it was gender separated by this wall. Many of the buildings I had seen up to this point had been painted bright colors, reds, oranges, and greens. It turns out that only temples and palaces were painted bright colors in Korea, so a pleb's house or quarters would look like above picture and not like this.
This building was called "Lotus Shrine" or something of that nature because it's very pointy roof was designed in the shape of a lotus flower.
An ancient library! The first floor was reserved for the books and the second floor was the reading and study area. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to go into any of these buildings- I would have LOVED to go into this one! I'm sure it's just an empty nest though.
The garden tour took a total of two hours and cost about 5000 won, totally worth it. I love being in a country that has more than 300 years of history, fascinating!
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Destination Green Bridge & KFC
Destination Back to Han River Park
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong... in fact I'm very flattered by what they all have to say as I've always thought of myself as an interesting looking average joe sort of guy. But in the story The Wolf tries to kill and eat Little Red; maybe if Koreans were a more meaty people I might have similar thoughts, instead I always feel like I should compliment them back. Maybe it's just me, but I get a little uncomfortable and dare I say sheepish when complimented. A huge part of me feels like if I return the compliment then they'll think I'm hitting on them so I try to compliment something that I think of as neutral territory:
Although, the best solution I've found is to simply smile and say thanks- and change the subject.
The flip-side of being told you're handsome all the time is that when you get close to certain Koreans then they will let you know when you're not looking so great. However, I don't suggest replying to a criticism with a criticism, that is probably a faux pas here. Of course most Koreans will withhold their criticisms of foreigners- at least to their faces. Your principal might let your coteacher know that he thinks you're smelly and then leave it up to the coteacher to inform you that you should bathe more frequently. Appearance means a lot here, the cover is important even if you don't think it is, just be aware.
That being said, I haven't changed who I am or the way I dress, or even the fact that I sometimes wear the same undershirt two days in a row... shhhhhh. But I have found myself trimming my beard more often, and actually looking in the mirror before I leave for work- which rarely happened in the States. I think it's been occurring on a mostly subconscious level and has only now come to light.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I'm at school right now, it's T-u-e-s-d-a-y, S-e-p-t-e-m-b-e-r the TWENTY-EIGHTH of what year? Two thousand and ten, 2010 (insert smiley into the last zero). I taught 3rd grade today, which I totally love. However, I planned for the wrong lesson today... whoopsies. I brought in material for lesson 11- It's Cold- which I unpacked from my bag and set-up in the classroom. My coteacher walked in and I was very quick to tell her how extra prepared I was by bringing in my winter clothes! To which she responded, "Why?".
Anyways, we quickly threw together the first part of Lesson 10- I Can Swim- which had absolutely nothing to do with 'It's Cold', though I still wore my winter hat through part of first period... And again thanks to my quick thinking coteacher we had some decent games to play with them, so it wasn't a total bust. Actually I thought the games were all fantastic, though slightly hectic because the 3rd graders were all so excited to play, rambunctious is a good word.
The Leaf Pie was pretty good, I've decided.
I've also decided that I am not a fan of idle time. I came upon this discovery last week during the holiday when I failed to use my days off to my advantage and sat idle through most of the days doing nothing. That being said I finished Season 1 of Breaking Bad, Season 2 of Fringe, a movie or two and I acquiesced Season 1 of True Blood. I had to look up how to spell rambunctious but I didn't have to look up acquiesced... there's something uncategorizable happening to the English portion of my brain. By the end of the week I was feeling slightly mired, as a result of my miring I've decided to be less moored during future idle plights. So I hope I can adhere to that and use mire time moore wisely in the future.
Being back at work is great though, I love what I'm doing which is a fantastic sign for the future; being that I plan on teaching for a great while- whether in South Korea or somewhere else, who knows.
Getting attacked by kids. More later.
Friday, September 24, 2010
For those of you unfamiliar with the term; it's akin to benchwarming except a desk is involved and there's no game that you wish you were part of. Unless you consider being outside of school "the game" then yeah, it's more similar to bench warming than I'd like to admit.
Anyways, it's a good time to catch up on things- write in my blog and whatnot... maybe make a few youtube videos? I took some videos on my way to and at school today, on my phone. Unfortunately the file type is one that my computer can't recognize, so I couldn't edit them at all, and I don't thinkn the sound is working, which is fortunate because it really just saves me the embarassment of my early morning rants becoming public. No, I do not like coffee- neither here nor in America...
There are four parts to my story, make up your own script... The school I'm showing you is my main school- Shinheung Elementary. Anyways, it's been two hours of deskwarming and I'm already bored.
What did I do for the three days off, you ask?
Well Brian and I have been going out during the night more- and loving the Daejeon night life. We've found a few quaint bars, one of our favorites being the Beer Warehouse, which is the definition of dive bar. It's underground down a narrow staircase, the door opens up to a dimly lit room with high tables and stools, no bar, and graffiti covers the walls. One wall has about 5 large beer coolers filled with delicious brewskis, we imbibed just a few. Sitting in the corner with eight empty Budweisers between them was a young korean couple who were obviously curious about us being down there, but were entirely too engrossed in an epic game of Jenga to pay attention for long. Aside from Brian and I and the couple the only other person down there was the cashier- who seemed to dissappear for extended periods of time and then reappear without being beckoned. We got great vibes from that place.
After the warehouse I went to play a board game with some friends a few stops away from Yongmun. It was my first time to their apt. and to Galma station so I was met at the station and led to the abode. Apartments for couples in Korea are more than twice the size of a single- which makes sense I guess, but it's bewildering to go from my dorm room size apartment to a regularly sized apartment with a living room and spare room!
So the game is Settlers of Catan and it's quickly becoming an addiction. I had played it only once in the states and it left a good impression then, but now that I'm playing it more... totally dig it. Even if my current record is 0-3... that will change, I will add my name to the list o' champions.
Well, I'ves succesfully spent about 22 minutes writing in my blog, that leaves me with a little more than 300 minutes before I can go home... Expect more from me before the day is over.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Students pop out ten cards from the back of their book, all with pictures on one side and a number on the back.
They hold up one card each and take turns saying, "How many (object on card) do you have?" Then they play rock, paper, scissors (they never learned to say 'shoot' here so they just throw it down on 'scissors'... threw me off for a while). The winner gets to say how many they have "I have seven (object)" and they stick their tongue out at the loser in a playful manner. The winner puts their card on the table, moving them down to nine cards, and the loser just moves their card to the back of the pile, so they remain at ten. The ultimate winner is declared when one student has no cards left in their hand!
The kids ate it up, they loved it!
I taught grade four students today. Probably the best classes I've taught so far... maybe ever? I don't really feel like explaining what I did right now- but it was brilliant. Again much credit goes to my fabulous coteacher. I think we're starting to get the swing of things and figure out how to "tag team teach" as the kids say these days.
Every day at my main school- oh, I work at two different elementary schools. Shinheung m-w & fri and Dongmyoung on thursdays- so every day at my main school, at about 1:50 pm a group of 5th grade girls invades my little office. They try to teach me Korean, and of course I play dumb and ask them what everything means in English. Today they navigated me to a K-Pop site on Naver... they put on a song and proceeded to sing and dance for me. Most adorable thing everrrr.
I never thought elementary would be this much fun, but it is! It's a good way to stay young, although it can be a crazy amount of work. The beautiful thing is, no homework to correct! You would have to be crazy to assign homework and correct it- I have about 22 classes, all with different students, about 30 in each at my main school. My other school is VERY small, 60 students total in a k-6 school. Anyways, 22 x 30 = 660 students every week. I know one kid's name and that's because everytime he sees me he quizes me on it.
Let's talk about my current favorite Korean food. Takalbi or dakgalbi... 다갈비. I typed that myself.
It comes out in a giant deep dish pan- a sizzling mass of chicken, cabbage, thick noodles, and cheese if you ask for it (지츠 = chee-suu = cheese). You cook it at your table for about 5 minutes, until all of the cheese melts and the chicken is fully cooked. By the way, a lot of Korean restaurants will have burners in the middle of the tables- so you actually cook your own food. It's great. When the food is done cooking you can make miniature wraps with lettuce or sesame leaves, add some garlic, chili paste, or kimchi to the mix and stuff the whole thing in your mouth. SO GOOD. It almost has an indian curry flavor, but it's still spicy and Korean. You gotta try it.
Seriously the best thing ever.
Tonight I have a dinner meeting with my main school. I've just been told that it entails a lot of alcohol; Koreans love their alcohol, and lots of food; they also love their food. It's my first meeting so I'm pretty excited about it. I'm just hoping I can sit with the teachers that can speak a little english. Koreans get anxiety when foreigners aren't talking, but many of them are too shy or not competent enough with their English to attempt conversation. The fact that I know my silence makes them uncomfortable can create some seriously bad conversation. I talk about totally mundane and ridiculous things because I feel like I HAVE to be talking.
Sometimes I would rather sit in silence than have terrible conversation... silence doesn't mean I'm unhappy.
Sincerely, Aaron---And Mike.
Anywho- things have been going well this week. Brian and I continue to create some magical quotes which I should add to the quote page... I just forget what's said before I can write it down.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Arrived in Daejeon.
Did intro lessons.
Kids are great and loved it.
Went out with coteacher, brian, and Seth (coteachers BF)- yes, he's American.
Teachers at school afraid to talk to me in English- very shy and lacking in confidence.
I convinced one to make after lunch time the "English(ee) Time"- it worked!
I now talk to at least 4 Korean teachers a day in English convos. Yay!
Lots of squid in school lunch... getting used to finding tentacles in my rice.
Weekends are great! Still have not been to a noraebang... Soon?
Week 2- going great!
Now we're caught up.
Went to a sweet buddhist temple- Brian got stung by hornets 3 times, and I tamed dragonflies.
Went to Hanok village in Jeonju- a part of the city with hundreds of traditional korean houses. We made our own fans, ate bibimbap and wandered the streets. I met up with a group of people and together our fans formed all four seasons, I had been the missing one. Serendipitous.
There were many, many, many lectures. Some of them were great, better than some classes I had at school- I majored in education, and these 40 mins - 1.5 hour lectures were better... That being said, maybe I just got more out of them because of my education background. Yeah, let's say that.
We were randomly assigned lesson presentation groups. My group consisted of a South African girl named Andrea, she was quite awesome, and a Canadian guy named Benjamin, people referred to him as: the Ghoul, the Creep, the Guy with Crazy Eyes, the Guy with the Sadistic Smile, the Guy that Sweats-a-Lot, and the Autistic Kid. I believe all of the above were and are true... Needless to say, our presentation didn't totally bomb, and we even had to go first. Right after the presentation Benjamin decided to leave the program, for good. So he went home. I'm truly glad that no kids will be near him.
BAM! Orientation is over! Most of us have overcome our jet lag and have acclimated truly well to our South Korean lifestyle.
Enter bus trip to Daejeon- we took a bus to Daejeon where we met our main coteachers. Super exciting moment. They marched us in to the auditoreum and we were put on display for a few minutes in front of the teachers. We had nametags so our teachers quickly waved us down. I just happened to be standing near mine, convenient. Her name is Younglan- she is nearly fluent in English (yes!) and she is super amazing. I.e. I got lucky.
She brought me to my apartment, which is rather tiny, but suitable for my pint sized self. I ran into Brian in my apartment building, our coteachers had coordinated! We live right across the hall from each other, applause!
We went out with our coteachers to register for our ARCs- Alien Registration Cards. They forgot to mention that we should bring passport photos so we ended up taking photos at a booth in the immigration office... Worst Picture Ever. I'll eventually get it up here... maybe. Anyways, I had no idea what to do- I just put the coin in the machine, I expected a menu with options to come up- nothing. Then BLAMSNAP! My picture is taken.
After the immigration office Younglan had to jet, so we said our goodbyes and I went with Brian and his main coteacher. By the way, she introduced herself to me by saying "My name is Kimchi". I didn't believe her, but it's true- I asked Younglan about it in an e-mail later that day.
Kimchi took us to a giant department store called Homeplus. The place had escalators! For you AND your carts! Like, escarampalators- which is really what they should be called. And the carts can turn in any direction at any time. In the US our carts are like cars- back, forwards, and wide arcing turns. In Korea the carts can go back, forwards, left, right, diagonal- like they're sitting on spheres instead of wheels... but they ARE wheels. Also, the carts have little stoppers on the wheels so it wont just slide down the escarampalators and take out everyone in front of you. Amazing.
So we bought some stuff, then went home. We unpacked and set up our computers- our landlord had the entire building installed with internet and we just pay him every month. Some people have to wait for their ARCs before they can get internet which can take as long as three weeks!
I made my bed, and passed out. End.
Monday, August 30, 2010
We woke up before 8am so we could shower before breakfast.
There's something you should know about bathrooms in South Korea- there are no shower stalls persay, what there is is a detachable shower spout stuck on the wall, generally right over the toilet or sink, with a drain or two on the floor underneath the sink. The bathroom is your shower stall. The toilet paper holder has a little metal cover that flops down onto it- which is really just for looks.... I put my toilet paper in a cabinet when I shower. Also, korean public restrooms will rarely have toilet paper and they sometimes look like this (a.k.a. squatty) or this (a.k.a. don't touch the buttons!).
Showers completed- without accident- we ventured down to the 3rd floor for our university quality korean dining. I won't describe all of the meals at orientation so I'll simply say this... the combinations were occassionally baffling such as; scrambled eggs, kimchi, and spaghetti for breakfast- they were also surprisingly good, bi bim bap, bulgogi, or spicy mystery meat in quanderous sauces. I tried many new things, figured out I don't like a lot of it, and even managed to find a few things I did like. Though seafood salad with biddy octopuses in it, I'll pass on that next time- it was like chewing on a spicy sunction-cupped tire.
Oh right, when we checked in the previous night we were given name tags with class numbers on them. There were eight classes in all, we had class six- all of class sixers were going to Daejeon to teach. I guess this was the first year that they decided to group the classes like this, it was incredibly convenient that we spent the entire orientation week with a group of people that would be in the same province as us.
Class 6 was given a campus tour at about 10am- it was so hot outside, about 95F with insane humidity, luckily Brian and I had foregone formality and were just adorned in shorts and t-shirts; others, assuming we were supposed to be more formal, were dressed in long pants and dress shirts. Casual was quite alright for now.
As for the tour... If you believe that brevity is the soul of wit, you would have loved this tour. Our Korean tour guides, perhaps not confident in their english, didn't really talk a lot.
Guide: This is the laundry room, ok.
Guide: Laundry, that one for guys this one for girls, let's go!
I had never really flown prior to coming here, just one-way to Chicago from Manchester, I'm not counting that. So my first time flying was a one-way trip to Incheon National Airport in Incheon, South Korea. It couldn't have been a better decision; although sitting down for close to 20 hours straight wasn't really ideal... it had to be done. Fortunately for me my flight included an in air friend, Mr. Brian Fairbanks, who after a whirlwind tour to Australia was a veteran traveler. His presence certainly eased whatever anxiety I had been feeling about flying. That being said, I still managed to not sleep at all during the entire trip so it took me just about a week to fully recover from jet lag. Every time I managed to doze off it just happened to be right when the attendants were passing out food, of course the smell of airline bibimbap and "steak" roused me from my somnolent state. We landed in South Korea; with full bellies, at approximately 5:30pm on Wednesday, having left from Boston at 6:20am on Tuesday. There was a 13 hour time difference in there to account for the lost time. My first time on another continent- check.
ICN was a fantastic airport, by the time we got through immigration our luggage had just started coming onto the conveyor- perfect timing. Having gathered our belongings we began the search for the EPIK (English Program in Korea) stall and bus stop. We trekked to the far end of the terminal and found a congested group of foreigners with a wealth of smiling Koreans wearing EPIK shirts herding them out the door to a bus that had just arrived. We checked in at the station, they gave us numbers and we were asked to wait until our number was called- at which point we should bring our passports up, show them our visas and wait for the next bus to arrive. Whilst waiting we were interviewed and photographed- is it obvious that I hadn't slept in about 40 hours?
The bus arrived and about 20-30 of us were escorted to it, our luggage filling the bays and invading the seats. We were the 12th bus of the day- our gracious hosts almost looked more tired than I did. So ensued three more hours of traveling, although this time there were no clouds to obscure the scenery. The signs were in several languages, Korean, English, and the occasional Chinese; and the speed and distances were all metric- fascinating!
We made new friends on the bus ride to Jeonju; rather, we submitted a friend application to a wonderful couple- they responded several days later with a unanimous 'yes' for me, Brian is still trying to earn the title of friend. He might achieve this on Wednesday over some tea and bruised peaches. Finally at about 9:37pm we arrived to the front door of Jeonju University's dorm, or Star Tower- after checking in we got lost getting to our room (went into the wrong tower), managed to find our way back to the correct elevator and settled down into our spacious dormitory double. Getting into bed and lying down was the first time I had stopped moving in about 48 hours- though I hadn't the faintest idea what awaited me in the next week of training, I had no trouble getting to sleep.
*1000 Won and a sticker to the first person that can tell me the campy slogan of Jeonju University- yes, it is in English.