Bowling…

Bowling baby!

Bowling baby!

Since I’ve been back in the States, I’ve really enjoyed visiting with my friends and family and doing all the things I really enjoy. This may surprise some, but I really do enjoy bowling. There’s just something about sitting back with a beer or two and making a complete fool of yourself as you roll a 12 pound ball at some white pins.

A few years back I even partook in a league. While at the highpoint of my “career” I managed to have a 155 average and a high game of 218, I think the more memorable aspects of the weekly endeavors were the tequila frames. But I digress…

Last night I went out with Jo and her family. Her entire family. This is important because her parents came with us. Her father, back in the day, used to go bowling every Sunday, and from what I hear, was really into the game. However, a few years ago he suffered a stroke and has been wheelchair bound with a loss of most motor and speech functions.

I was excited because most US lanes have a handicap assist device that allows those with CP, MS, etc. the opportunity to bowl. They had never seen such a device before and were skeptical when I kept on saying that Dad would be able to bowl too. When he saw the device and we told him what it was for, the man nearly jumped up out of his chair.

Seriously.

He started sliding off his shoes and standing up. He was ready to bowl.

It took a few times for him to get the hang of aiming and pushing the ball down the ramp. But when he got it… he was on fire. Each time it was his turn to bowl, we’d wheel him up to the line and set the device. He’d then fine tune the aim. I’d set the ball on the ramp and he’d push it towards the pins.

He did very well, scoring an 84 and a 97 in the two games we bowled. He even got a few strikes and spares. When those happened, his eyes widened more and she started yelling with joy. It was AWESOME!!!!!

A few updates…

I often get asked what I miss most about Korea when interacting with my friends and family here in the US. Truth be told, the thing I miss most is mass transportation. I really got used to not only walking everywhere, but being able to hop on a bus or train to get where ever I needed to go. The US is definitely a car culture and I find it odd not having a car to get around. But I make do.

I’ve also been hitting the job market. There are a few jobs out there that I find interesting, but for the most part, nothing is really grabbing my interest, so I’m content with finding just something to fill the time until something better comes along.

The Coffee Press

The Coffee Press

The extra time also has allowed me to really play with some video equipment, but truth be told, it’s getting quite aggravating. You see, I’ve shot a great video on coffee (I know, what a stretch!), but it’s not rendering the way I want it to. This is the second thing that’s been broken on my edition of Final Cut Studio (the first was the ability to process mp3s). I really need to get a job, so I can upgrade to Final Cut Studio 2. The fresh install and upgrades to products will make a difference. I also need to get that external mic for an upcoming shoot.

But probably the most significant change in recent days has been my engagement to Jo. She is absolutely nothing short of amazing and I’m ecstatic that she accepted my proposal. There really aren’t words available to fully express how I feel about her… but the thesaurus seems to think the most appropriate word is ginormous.

Happy New Year!!!!!

I’m writing this from Korea…. in December… but since I’m going to be without computer access until after the first week in January, I thought I would wish everyone a great 2009.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM LAS VEGAS!!!!!

Leaving on a Jet Plane…

Flying away

Flying away

Well things just got to a point at work where I could not continue there. Rather than complete my contract with an employer that habitually lies and cheats, in addition to failing to uphold certain terms of the agreement, I opted to sever ties.

At this point, the owners haven’t even spoken to me about my exit, which is either a good thing or could mean more drama as the end of the month approaches. I will be speaking to them today about exiting the apartment and see if they have anything to say.

Luckily, I was able to find a very cheap flight home and will be stateside on 28th December. It also looks like I’ll be in Las Vegas for New Year’s Eve. Beyond that, there are some details to be worked out and some things that need to be addressed stateside. But with a little luck, I’ll be back in Korea before too long. While I am home, I have three places lined up to stay, seeing some friends I haven’t caught up with in a long time.

It seems I am destined to live out of a suitcase for a while.

I kind of like it.

Five Months…

Five Months Later

Five Months Later

It seems like yesterday that I walked off the gantry and was processed through the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) Immigration line. A lot has changed, but more has remained the same. I came here looking for a new adventure and the opportunity to explore a new culture. I found both. While the challenges at work are enough to make you want to pull your hair out, I genuinely enjoy the teaching experience and have received answers as to what I want to do next in life. But before I get to some of my comments, let’s get to some questions I’ve received about my tenure over here.

JeffSon proposes the following question: Is it true that every part of the world you go to would be improved by 500% if you removed all of the people from it? I don’t know if that’s an accurate statement. I certainly think that some areas can be improved greatly by removing a large population. With the ROK being so condensed, you’re always bumping into people. Some fail to realize that nearly 50% of the country’s population live in the two major city areas.

SloeBombFizz wants to know: Are the kangaroos there dangerous? There are kangaroos here?

nurse asks: How is it different from here?…..I don’t mean the scenery…..the people….their ways of living… For the most part things across the ocean are similar. People live and work together like anywhere else. I’ve commented before on the built-in class system that stems from the ROK’s Confucianism history. That takes a little getting used to. In addition, because the job market is so tight, Koreans are willing to do anything to keep a job. No matter the hours or the pay, they will be loyal to the company, because they need the job and another one may be very hard to come by. Also, many Koreans really have no intention of ever leaving their homeland. They simply do not have any desire to see the world. Many Koreans are very friendly, taking foreigners under their wings and showing them around, buying them dinner, etc. It’s a great way to meet people. However, some Koreans really do not like foreigners and we are tolerated at best. They see us being here for one purpose only: teaching English. They would like us to stick to the schools and not go out in public. This can be seen in many aspects of society such as clubs that do not allow foreigners in at all or in the grocery market by school that does not sell food to foreigners.

Raptor_Alpha wants to know: What is one thing that you miss from home? (besides the obvious family/friend answer) I really don’t know. There’s nothing really that different about being here. Probably the one thing that I do miss is being able to go to the doctor without an interpreter. Good pizza and Mexican food are a close second.

What is one thing that you are surprised that you DO NOT miss? Well, I wasn’t all that drawn or tied into too many things back in the States. So I guess I am surprised that I don’t miss anything from back home and quite relish the thought of never returning.

If you didn’t have to teach….would you want to come back to Korea? If so, would you revisit the areas you have been OR would you venture to places that you haven’t? I don’t know if I would want to come back to this area. There is a lot to see and do in Korea and while I’m based near Seoul, I’m trying to see as much as I can. So if I would ever come back, I’d want to see another area.

Is there anyone over there that you would want to remain in contact with? I have met some great people here. A couple of great Koreans and look forward to remaining friends with them via the interwebs.

RBuffordTJ asks, What is your favorite thing to eat there? Do they have any drinks you have come to love as much as your coffee? Somehow I you’d pick out the food question. I really do like Korean Barbecue. The way the meat is seasoned and that you get to cook it for yourself is fantastic. As for a beverage… While I do like soju, nothing will ever take the place of coffee!

Heather asks, What is one of the most significant life lessons you have learned in your time in Korea? Without a doubt that when I rely on faith, everything comes out well. When there is a stressful situation or I am in need of guidance, having that conversation with the Lord and listening to His wisdom makes all the difference. That being said, I can also attest that all one really needs is life is a suitcase or two packed with clothes, a camera, and a laptop to have a great adventure. Pick a destination and go.

241Deal asks How do you prepare for class? That’s a hard one to answer, as so many classes can be different. In short, I just take a look at the lesson and see what is needed to meet the objectives. Sometimes its quite easy and other times it isn’t. I will say that when I first started teaching here, it took me about an hour to prepare. Now I can get ready in about 10 minutes because I’m so familiar with the materials.

thizizliz asks quite a bit about the children… Do they resent the pressure that is put on them? Or is that just life as they know it? Are these kids of upper income parents? Or do even middle and lower classes find a way to teach their kids English? I’m not sure what the income level of the parents are. Tuition at my school is about $300 per month (12 90-minutes lessons). Some of the kids hate learning English, as they see no benefit of doing so. These are the children that are either from very wealthy families that will never have to work in their lives or from ones that are not driven to learn. Those that are driven to learn are exceptional. If they don’t want to learn, then they resent being in class and their work-ethic shows that feeling. No matter the reason, the children accept their schedule. It’s just how life is.

PhrostCope asks Would/will you do it again? If so, would you do it in Korea again or elsewhere? Without a doubt. I love teaching and my next career certainly falls within that spectrum. Whould I choose Korea if I wanted to teach EFL again? I don’t know. It’s nothing against Korea, but more along the lines that I would want to experience a new culture. If I were to teach in Korea again, I’d choose another part of the country. After being in the Seoul area for a year, I’d want to try somewhere else.

Mountain Temple

Mountain Temple

13thDimension wonders…
what is the strangest thing you’ve seen? I really haven’t seen anything all that odd here. Maybe it’s because I’m used to traveling around and have been in Asia before. I do think it’s odd here that when you purchase an item in bulk it doesn’t save you any money.

what is the most beautiful thing you have seen? The mountain temples are stunning.

what is the worst thing you have seen? I haven’t seen it, and I don’t plan to do so, but I imagine the beating of the dogs for meat is right up there.

WTF?

WTF?

and what, if anything, has made you stop in your tracks (physically or mentally)? Nothing as of yet… although the boutique “Make Yourself Fucking Lovely” made me take a second look.

BrotherBearAZ asks So, How did you like the food? I love it!!!!!!!!

talismania wonders I’m curious if you’ve ever run into the Korean programming culture at all. For example, the game starcraft is rather big there, with two tv channels (OGN and MBC) having it on regularly. Just wondering what your thoughts were on this phenomenon. I have seen it and many of my students are obsessed with Starcraft. I don’t get it. I don’t get WoW either. But I really don’t get how playing Starcraft makes for great television. They way the commentators really get into things is amazing. But then again, this is a country that broadcasts games of Go.

PrincessDiana161 shares and asks I remember when I came to the US I found it extremely hard to figure out how 1 word could have to meaning. Like “she read a book” then the word “red”… i was so lost LOL… My students have similar problems too. Reading a passage and coming across read, wind, and lives will usually throw them for a loop until they get the context of the passage.

soulofbass says I really love teaching, i would like to know the worst experience and best experience you had teaching… Simply seeing the kids “get it” is amazing. I have this one pair of students and they were a bit slow on the uptake. We were discussing nouns and it was time for a test. The exam was to put the noun I mentioned into one of the four categories on their papers. To seem them get excited and shout out the answer while writing it down was fantastic. It really moved me. As far as the worst experience, I have to say that is dealing with management at the school They really have no clue what it means to learn. They are too busy chasing the all mighty Won and really aren’t thinking what makes the most sense from an educational perspective.

jacob7207 wonders Have you ever come across a student who was of mixed ethnicity in Korea? Yes I have. Chinese-Korean.

IAGuy06 asks Are there condom machines in the public bathrooms there? Nope. Not a one that I’ve seen.

Gimbap Roll

Gimbap Roll

Sabrnig inquires What is “American food” like in Korea, what is your favorite Korean treat? American food tastes pretty much the same, but is three times more expensive (except for the fast food places). My favorite treat is a nice little gimbab triangle you can pick up in a corner store. Although for dinner, I’ll sometimes have one or two of the larger rolls (see right).

What is the weather like, and is there more cool technology/tech-y toys? Weather is very similar to states in the west. Summer temperatures will approach 100F (38C), while the dead of winter will dip to 14F (-10C) for overnight lows. In January, the wind kicks in… and I hear that’s pretty bad.

thepotter asks What part of Korean culture whether it be traditions, technology, or social structure, would you like to see applied in the United States? I’d like to see the telecommunication infrastructure that the ROK has applied to the US and other countries. They are light years ahead of the US in that area.

GrahamAndFriends wonders I want to know about Korean food! Without a doubt, Korean fried chicken is the best in the world. I mean it.

OhCurt asks the all important question… Do they love ABBA as much as they should? Oh yes they do…

The Traveling Man…

Its Korea Baby!

It's Korea Baby!

I hope you’re doing well. This entry will be more of a status update, as I’m approaching 4 months here in Korea. While there have certainly been some bumps in the road, I’m having a great time and looking forward to see some really cool things over the next 8 months. One of the things that was keeping me down was the flu or cold… or so I thought. It is actually a reaction to the pollution here. So for the next year, I’ll have to take anti-mucus meds to help keep things under control. I’m not too wild about that… but let’s face it… walking down the street coughing up phlegm isn’t exactly attractive either.

So now that I have that problem taken care of… it’s on to explore things! After last weekend’s excursions into Seoul to see KBS and the COEX, I’m ready for more! So what do I have in store????

Dobongsan Ridge

Dobongsan Ridge

Saturday, I’m planing my first major hike in Korea. It will be an all day excursion to Dobongsan. This little 10k (6.2m) hike will take me up a few hundred meters (close to an altitude of 3600ft.). I’m really looking forward to pushing myself and getting into the outdoors again. The region looks great, but one of the nicer things about the hike is that I can do it all by public transport. Well, not the hike… but Bus into Seoul, then Metro out to the start of the trail, and finally end up at another metro station at the end. The Seoul City Guide did a nice write-up on the trail (p.82 if you’re interested in find out some more details before I go).

The following weekend, I’m looking to head closer to home by visiting the nearby Korean Folk Village. This is a trip I may opt to drag a few teachers along for. I’ve been wanting to do this trip for some time. Things just have always popped up that have prevented me from doing so. But I really want to get out there and see some of the exhibits and see new things. It should prove to be a real interesting day.

But the thing I’m most looking forward to at this moment is a trip north to the DMZ and North Korea. It’s an all day affair that goes over the history of the countries, Korean War, and steps being made towards reunification. As an American, I will also be able to enter North Korea and travel to Panmunjom, inside the Joint Security Area. It will be awesome!

Sunday morning musings…

Bad day? I think not...

Bad day? I think not...

I hope that you’re doing well today… I am not.

It seems that my little summer cold has still decided to hang aound a bit longer. I thought I had finally kicked it to the curb, but alas, it came out in full force yesterday (after a Friday filled with long runs, good friends, and a few adult beverages). I decided to call it a night early yesterday and I’m grateful that I did, because I do feel better than had been… damn it… it’s summer and I want to go out and play.

That isn’t to say that I won’t.

Yesterday was fantastic. I completed half a book of lesson plans and I shall finish that project today, in a few hours. Then the rest of the day is mine. I also managed to finally get out of the house and see Mamma Mia yesterday. While the film’s been out in the US for some time (and I’ve had the soundtrack album for a month, the film just opened here on the 4th of September.

I had been eagerly waiting for the film to be released, because I love the play and the ABBA songs included with the story. Those in the film did a decent job of singing (glory be to Pierce Brosnan for giving it a go). I managed to be assigned a great seat in the theater and found myself singing the entire time the film was on. Throughout the evening, I found myself bouncing back and forth to ABBA, the Stage Album, and the Movie Album… hard to believe I’m straight, eh? I might even go back today to see it again.

That being said, our schooling is settled down quite a bit. I still don’t have the books needed to complete my Grade 4 Lesson Plans, but hope to have them in the next week or so. In the mean time, I’m going to finalize the lesson plans for both Page Basic and Page Intermediate Reading courses. By the end of the weekend, I’ll have all of PIR-1 done and then just need to flush out the rest of the PIR-2 and PBR.

That’s enough shop talk….

I’m also going to do a bit of laundry and head out to the park today and read. I haven’t been making enough time for reading lately and I miss it. If I felt better, I’d venture into Seoul and explore Seoul Station more. It looks fascinating.

Well that about does it for me. Have a great day.

GO CARDINALS!!!!!!!!!!

Meltdown…

I’ve posted blogs and videos about the educational system here in Korea, how the kids are pushed from the early morning into the evening… and in most cases appear to be mindless robots bent on memorization rather than creative thoughts… here is more evidence…

1) The end of year tests are approaching for these students. Think back to college and your final exams. That’s what these kids are facing… and they’re 9 years old. To get an idea of the pressure they’re under… they consider an average grade 97%. You fail the exam if you get less than 90%. The average student has 7 courses they’re taking exams in.

2) One of my most diligent students (not necessarily best) completely shut down the other day. He’s in a special class that focuses on reading and comprehension. When I took his vocabulary homework to review it, I found that I had to give him a 50% on the assignment. Not because he didn’t try to do it, but because he’s using a crappy electronic dictionary that gives him the wrong definitions. I’ve let hm know before that he should be using a real dictionary, but with his 6am to midnight routine, he says he can’t fit it in. Then during the vocabulary quiz, he of course got a 50% on the test, since he only relaly knew what half the words meant. The straw that broke the cammel’s back was when it came time to check homework. He swore up and down that there was none given. I knew otherwise and when he checked his own book, he found the pages he was to have done. That was it. The pressure finally got to him and be broke out in tears for 10 minutes.

Since the class was a no-go at that point, I had one of the administrators watch the other student (who really has no business being there) and I talked to the student in question for the 10 minutes to let him know that it was all right. I relayed some of my less-than-glorious educational moments and assured him that this wasn’t the end of the world. That there would be other hard days ahead as well. When it was all said and done, we had a quick hug and resumed class. He wasn’t on his game, but I wasn’t expecting that much.

He later appologized for breaking down and not doing his work. I let him know that sometimes it just happens. I told him I still think he’s a great student and tha tI looked forward to seeing him there tonight.

3) 10 more days before we start summer vacation… i’m hoping to see a few of the sights around Seoul and what not… should be fun!

—————

It is coming…

DrearyIt’s been a little delayed… but it is finally here. The rainy season, or at least what feels like the start of it. When I woke up this morning, the sky was gray, and when I checked the immediate forcast, it called for showers. The Weathe Channel forcast called for light to moderate showers all day, with some clearing in the later evening. I hope that happens. Since this is what is to take place over the next few weeks, I’m torn whether or not to take my laptop into work with me.

Sure the pack I have is reinforced, but I still don’t like the idea of a 30 minute walk to work in the rain, with my only covering a $2 umbrella. But seeing as how I need the data on my computer for a few classes, I believe I am out of options.

The rain really doesn’t bother me. In fact, if I didn’t have to lug the computer around to work, I’d be totally enjoying it even more (I think it’s the effect of living in the desert for so long). The one thing that does bother me a bit, is that I will not be able to explore this weekend, or really in the immediate future, because of rain on the weekends.

Bummer.

I do have som plans and places I want to go. There’s a mud festival that folks are thinking about participating in on the 12th July. I also want to tour the DMZ. I think that would be an awesome experience. Not to mention the large number of historical places here in Korea. I have a bead on a temple I really want to visit… and I still need to hit the reflexology garden. I think that if there’s a clear spot of weather this weekend, I’ll shoot that video.

In other news… I’ve found a website that has basic Korean Phrases. There’s a series of them, broken down to conversational sections. I think I’m going to print off a few pages at work today and use that to study this week. I’ve also found a website that can teach me Hangul. I’m pretty excited about that.

And here we are…

Smile!It’s Tuesday morning and I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee, well more accurately a pot of coffee. There’s just something about waking up in the morning, seeing the sun come up over the horizon and smelling that beautiful aroma wafting through my kitchen (or in this case, one room dongi).

So a few things have been on my mind and I thought I’d briefly go through them here:

  • First, I really do enjoy this little teaching gig. It’s relatively easy and I like the fact that I can leave the job behind. The kids are fantastic, for the most part. While there are a few bad eggs in the system (that mainly stems from them not wanting to being in class), even they aren’t as bad as many American kids in schools. Hell, there is no violence in school like I saw back home.
  • I love living in the one-room-dongi. I mean I really do. It’s great and I have plenty of room to do my stuff and I don’t miss having the big house. I REALLY don’t miss having the huge house payments and utility bills. There’s something modest about living in a studio that really resonates with me. That being said, a two-room place would be nicer, mainly so I could move my laundry around a bit.
  • I’m digging the public transportation. While I have yet to master the bus system, the subway system is fantastic! I’m really not missing having my own car. I actually prefer walking. It reminds me of when I was back in college and chose to walk to campus and the store rather than drive. The case can be made that in Arizona that I needed the car, because let’s face it, who wants to walk in 45C (113F) weather 5km (3 miles) each way to the market?
  • So far, I’ve been lucky and have avoided the rain here… but that time is is quickly abating. I will not necessarily enjoy walking to 20 minutes to the school in the rain (and less so in the snow), but on some level I really am looking forward to it. The thing I also need to get working on is finding a gym. Sure I can run outside now… but I’ll need to get something indoors soon or I’ll wind up sitting on my butt.
  • Skype is awesome. Seriously it is. I’ve been using computers to communicate abroad since 1993, and for the most part, things haven’t changed. Sure the programs have gotten flashier, but Skype is the one exception. It truly is a gret medium for reaching out while abroad and communicating with friends on-line, via chats, and getting that little sense of home. It lets you forget that you’re not there anymore and bridges the gaps until you see family and friends again. I think some of the best parts of my days can be boiled down to my Skype calls.
  • My secret is out… I had mentioned to the folks here that I made videos and when we were at Gyeongbokgung this weekend, I spent more time taking video than pictures. I was candid about wanting to throw together a video for friends and family back home. I even offered to give them a copy of the video… so Yesterday in prep time, I sent one copy to Brad’s computer. He immediately wanted to watch it… so I said, don’t watch your copy (I gave him the on-line version), and I booted up my system and watched it on this laptop. There was a collective amazement that I put together the piece. i’m glad they enjoyed it, as I had a blast researching the palace and splicing together the video. Probably one of the best comments was from Roger, “Do you have a YouTube page?”
  • Speaking of videos… I was very happy with the results from the YouTube community, especially my longtime friends who inquired about the camera I used, editing, and exporting techniques. I am by no means a great editor or filmer… but I do enjoy it and hope to get better with time.
  • VayCay… is going to be a bit of a downer. I for some reason thought we got our second week off in December… but I was wrong! It isn’t until February. I’m really not sure what I want to do for that week. Part of me wants to travel to another Asian country, but I wouldn’t also mind hitting up New Zealand or Eastern Australia. But the latter flights would be about as much as a ticket to San Francisco, and that has an appeal to me as well. I could see family and friends while on holiday. I have time to decide what to do, but I’m really torn as to what to do. In two weeks there’s a national Korean mud festival. I might head out for that. Sounds really entertaining!