Monday, December 29, 2008

Vietnam Day 5

We're on day 5 here in Nha Trang and today it just poured all day. We left our hotel only once to cross the street and buy lots of junk food at the supermarket. We rented a dvd player from the hotel and some movies and tried to watch movies all afternoon. Unfortunately the only movies the hotel has to watch are bootleg DVDs. First we watched Van Hellsing and enjoyed it, but we decided to have a Harry Potter marathon because one of the bootleg DVDs (somehow) had all 5 movies on it. We discovered when we put it into the DVD player that it was dubbed into Vietnamese. But... really, I hate to call it dubbing, because they didn't take off the original voices, just loudly talked over them. There were no voice actors, but just a woman reading the script over the actors speaking. Oh, and the icing on the cake was that there were also subtitles in Vietnamese. So why did they bother "dubbing" anyway? The hotel didn't have any other movies that we could all agree on so we just channel surfed for a while. We watched the Simpsons, Mythbusters and bits and pieces of plenty of other shows and movies. While today kind of sucked, it was relaxing and we ate lots of food we can't find in Korea. Like Cheeseits, Orangina and Dortitos.

The past few days haven't been all bad though. Yesterday, since it was raining again, we decided to go on a "city tour". What this actually was was a taxi ride to all the things worth seeing in this city. First stop was Long Son Pagoda. This temple had some gigantic statues of Buddha. Very cool. Next stop was the Po Nagar towers which were constructed by the Champa durring thier reign in Vietnam about a thousand years ago. I don't know much about the Champa, but they were Hindu and worshiped Shiva and Vishnu. It is sort of amazing to think that those towers have been there for 1000 years. While we were there it appeared that they were undergoing some sort of restoration project. Also amazing is the fact that it is also an active shrine. We saw many worshipers (but probably more tourists) making offerings in front of the statues inside the towers.

We made a few more stops on our city tour, though nothing really noteworthy, especially in the rain. Our last stop was Thap Ba Hot Spring. Here you could soak in a mud bath, then in hot mineral water outdoor tubs, then float around in hot and cold swimming pools full of mineral water. We didn't really realize how intense this place was going to be and our tour only left us an hour and a half here. This gave us plenty of time to mud bathe and sit in our mineral water hot tub, but we were wishing for a lot more time to swim in the giant swimming pools and take advanatage of all the other amenities available there. We were going to go back again today, but since the pools are all outside and it was pouring, we just couldn't bring ourselves to go.

Anyway, we came back to the tourist area where our hotel is and found some "lunch" (not sure if you can call it lunch when you eat it at 4 o'clock). After we went to the beach because the weather had finally cleared (eg it stoped raining) and had a drink on the beach. Yea, it was overpriced for Vietnam, but when else are you going to get a coctail for 4.50.... on the beach? We headed back to our rooms, read our books for a while then met up at 9 or so, ate again and went to a bar for a little while. We still had and early night, we were back at our hotel by 12:30. The nightlife here just can't compete with Seoul. We're too spoiled.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vietnam

So, I'm now on Christmas vacation and three of my friends and have gone south to Vietnam. I want to write as much as I can about Vietnam as I can here before I forget everything. I was sort of lazy about my trip to Taipei over Chusok break.

We flew out of Incheon airport and we landed in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) a little over 5 hours later. We flew on Vietnam Airlines and had no troubles. The meal was decent, the movies were decent and everyone had thier own screen on the back of the chair in front of them. This is how I rate airlines. Food and movies. They also had free newspapers, but they were all Korean and Vietnamese. We arrived at Ho Chi Mihn City and promplty made our way over to the domestic terminal and hopped another flight to Nha Trang. 45 minutes later we were looking at the beach.

We came to Vietnam mainly because my friends wanted beach. I've always wanted to see Vietnam, although the beach wasn't my top priority, I wasn't going to complain. We compromised and at the end of the trip we're going to spend 2 1/2 days in Ho Chi Minh City before we head back to Seoul.

We were picked up at the airport by our hotel and they drove us along the highway that goes along the beautiful coastline to our hotel. We checked in (everything was already paid for through a bank transfer we made in Korea) and went to our rooms. We had to forfeit our passports, but they will keep them for us in thier safe. I feel a little safer that way... I think... But that is standard procedure at all Vietnamese hotels.

We settled ourselves in our rooms and then headed out in search of food. We found a small restarurant that served both western and Vietnamese food (as most restaruants seem to in this tourist/beach town) and while prices are slightly higher than I had expected, they are still much cheaper than Korea and much much cheaper than in the US. The exchange rate is a little complicated to think about for me though. It's 17,000 Dong= $1.00. Or should I be thinking of 1,000 Won= 13,000 Dong? Either way it's rather cumbersome math.

The single most depressing part of this vacation so far has been the weather. We came here to soak up the sun, but we really haven't seen the sun yet, and we've been here for 2 1/2 days. The forcast for the rest of the week doesn't look very promising either. But.. we've been trying to make the best of it. We went to the beach yesterday and today. Today we stayed almost the entire day, and I already have the sunburn to prove it. I think I need to start following the Korean's lead and cover myself up from head to toe at the beach. I don't really need a tan. Especially not in Korea where the whiter your skin the more attractive you are.

Today we saw a huge group of Koreans here at the beach. They are unmistakable, even if I hadn't heard them talking. Something about the noises they make when the waves hit them, the way they travel in packs, and how the boys wear long shorts in the water and the girls wear long sleeves (if they even go in the water).

There are many nationalities here in Nha Trang. We've encountered very few Americans, but plenty of Australians and folks from the UK. I've heard some other European languages too, such as French and German. There were some other languages that I wasn't quite able to pin down. Behind us on the plane was a Japanese family too. It's kind of cool to see so many nationalities. I know there are plenty of other nationalities in Seoul, but since my school only hires Americans and Canadians I have very few friends from elsewhere.

As for Vietnam itself I am absolutly astounded by how traditional many of the people still are. Whenever you see photos of Vietnam, they are always wearing those pointy straw hats. I thought that was just something farmers in the rice paddies wore, and that today in modern times they would have shed thier straw hats for baseball caps or something. But not at all. Everywhere I look people are wearing those hats. I think maybe they keep off the rain, a sort of umbrella that you don't have to hold in your hand. Also, in my hotel, along with many stores and restaruant, you see small buddhist shrines with burning incense. So interesting.

I will post soon about Vietnamese vendors, because I think that they deserve their own post. I haven't taken many photos yet, but I hope to get some good ones soon!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shopping Underground

Some of the best shopping to be had in this city is found in various subway stations and underground shopping areas. Last weekend we shopped around for hours in the shopping area by the entrance to Gangnam Station. My friends stocked up on jewelry and "hair bling" as we call it (See second photo). I found two turtlenecks for 4,900 each. They were exactly what I've been looking for and for just the price I've been looking for too.

You can find all types of stores in the underground markets. Cell phone booths are quite common, and so are shoe and costume jewelry sellers. Inside Anguk station, I found more artsy type stores, since its a neighborhood famous for boutiques and galleries. Any price range of clothes can be found from ultra cheap to fairly expensive. Make up stores are also common too. Basically, anything that you can think of, you can find in an underground market. No trip to Seoul is complete without shopping in one!

Friday, December 19, 2008

You know you've been in Korea too long when.....

Some people wonder why I don't walk around with headphones in my ears all the time like everyone else in the world. It's mostly because the thoughts in my head can entertain me much better than music can. I'm not sure if anyone else would be so amused by these thoughts, but that ok with me. Today I started thinking to myself of all the little things that have become normal to me here, and thought I should make a list. Maybe this is way overdone, but it's still fun for me. So here is my list.

You know you've been in Korea too long when:

1) You can rate restaurants by how good their kim chi is.

2) You, too, stare at the foreigners.

3) Cheese ramyon (pronounced chizuh)is a meal to you. It goes by many names: Lunch, Dinner, comfort food, hang over food and food to eat when you're sick (clears those sinuses right out).

4) The thought of going back to the states and having to eat Top Ramen again is slightly depressing. Mostly because there is no spice.

5) You think eating cake with chopsticks is normal.

6) You think eating rice with chopsticks is slightly awkward.

7) The thought of paying tips again when you go home depresses you.

8) You check the exchange rate every day.

9) You're accustomed to speaking to people in one word sentences. Then when someone replies back in near perfect English, you feel like a dumbass.

10) You can't make a complete sentence in Korean, but you know every swear in the book. You may or may not shout them out loud on the street and watch the reactions you get from ajossis.

11) You are healthy about as often as you are sick at home.

12) When you use wooden chopsticks they feel abnormally light to you.

13) You add Uh or Ee to the end of words when you talk to people in the hopes they will understand you better. It works about 50% of the time.

14) You don't look up movie times or even what is playing in the theaters. You show up and watch whatever is playing in your language. Then you realize that A) 90% of what comes out of Hollywood is crap and B) This is why you didn't go to the movie theater once a week at home.

15) You've realized that octopus is unappetizing, not because of the taste, but just because of the fact that it is octopus. It really doesn't have much taste on it's own, and if cooked right isn't even that chewy. Remember to embrace the octopus.

16) You are glad you don't have a car.

17) You are an expert at dodging motorcycles on the sidewalks.

18) When you bump into people by accident, you fight the urge to apologize. You realize that, no matter what language you say sorry in, you're going to be looked at strangely.

19) You proudly drink your beer in chairs outside the Family Mart and wish public drinking was acceptable in the US...

20) ... Until you have had the misfortune of meeting up with too many soju drunk ajossis. Then you start hating drinking culture in Korea and wish you had found a country where alcoholism wasn't mandatory for men over 30.

21) You're willing to strip down naked and bathe with others of the same sex. Jjimjilbang is amazing.

22) You forget that at home you couldn't stick out your hand and get a taxi in 30 seconds.

23) You also forget that at home you needed something called a designated driver. No, not because you're driving home drunk here, but because who has a car to drive anyway??

24) You go to the doctor for whatever small malady that afflicts you. And the doctor's visit + the AIDS cocktail of drugs they prescribe you for your cold costs less than a bottle of aspirin at home.

25) You've started to forget how to cook because eating out is so cheap.

26) One of your top goals in learning Korean is to master calling for delivery. (It's actually a really good goal to set for yourself. Not only does it give you a skill, but it means you have some serious Korean skills if you can understand that phone conversation with a stranger). You may or may not have a pile of take out menus that you've collected from your apartment door, waiting for that miraculous day to arrive.

27) You've forgotten the actual definition of the word "service".

28) You can almost half the price of whatever you're buying in Dongdaemun.

29) Your ability to speak in complete, coherent sentences has gone way down.

30) You have a love/ hate relationship with Itaewon. It's sleazy, grimy, and not Korean at all. Yet... it's the only place you truly fit in.

I may add more later, but I think this is enough for now. Please, feel free to comment and add your own or comment on these.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Newest Studio Ghibli Film! ^.^


So, lately I've been seeing these movie posters around Seoul for a new animation movie that looked quite stereotypically like Studio Ghibli's work. I just looked it up and found out that this is the newest release. The movie is called Ponyo On A Cliff (US release title) and while Disney has made no official statements about the cast, various sites, including GhibliWorld.com say that Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will be producing, while the voice cast may include stars such as Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, Fankie Jonas, Noah Cyrys and Cloris Leachman. I'm glad Disney always pulls out all the stops on Miazaki's films.

Wikipedia has a short summary of the movie, and it seems to be a story about a mermaid or fish girl who becomes human against her father's wishes. Seems sort of similar to The Little Mermaid, but It was made by Miazaki, so it has to be amazing. People have been comparing it to Totoro.

Anyway, while there is no release date, it would seem that they are shooting for a 2009 release date. There's no reason why it should take more than a year to release it in the US. It's too bad I probably won't be home to see it in the theaters.... booo... oh well. I'm excited either way.

Feel free to check out the Japanese trailer. To get subs, click the up arrow in the bottom right hand corner:

A doctors visit in Korea

So, I caught a cold. Yet another cold. This is the fourth cold I've had since October.. I think that works out to be a cold every other week almost. I don't know if I've ever been so sick so much in my life. Is it the children? Is it the air pollution? Is it the Yellow Dust? Is it living in a city with so many people? Maybe some bad mix of those factors... who knows.

Anyway, every time I get sick, everyone tells me to go to the doctor. Now, this just seems silly to me. Would I ever go to the doctor for a cold at home in the States? Never. Too expencive and too much of a hassle. But, I was feeling so miserable that I finally conceded and went.

In the same building as my school, there is an ear nose and throat doctor. Most doctors offices seem to have specialties here, I don't think people necessarily have a primary physician... or maybe they do.. I'm not sure. Anyway, on my first attempt to go, I brought a Korean friend with me, but when we got there at 2:00 there were about 8 people ahead of me in line. They told me I could put my name in, but I had class in 50 minutes, and I wouldn't be able to wait that long. Luckily, one of my friends offered to teach my second class of the day so that I could try again.

The second time was much more successful. I walked in, the office was empty. All I needed to show was my Alien Registration Card and give them my phone number and address. They shuffled me straight in to see the doctor. There was no assistant asking me 100 questions that have nothing to do with my cold (I think my last physical included questions like: do you wear your seat belt? and do you get enough sleep at night?). I had no Korean with me to translate, but the doctor knew enough English to get by, and I used the little Korean I know for medical stuff. She took my temperature, looked in my ears, nose and throat. She asked me a few questions, and as she asked these questions, she typed in her computer various prescriptions for each of my symptoms.

The best (and incidentally the worst) thing she did for me was give me a nebulizer, since I have asthma and I was having a little trouble breathing. It was a big, strong dose and I could breath wonderfully afterwards. I haven't used one of those machines since I was little. Unfortuantly, My body always has some bad side affects to asthma medication. I get shakes when I take my inhaler, and this was like the shakes x 20 because it was such a high dosage.

After the nebulizer treatment, I went back to the front desk, where the receptionist charged me a whopping 3,500 Won (aprox $2.71 USD) and handed me my typed up perscription to bring to the pharmacy downstairs. I barely made it down the stairs in all my shaking (why didn't I think to take the elevator?) and I went to the pharmacy, which is also in my building. I gave the woman at the pharmacy my perscription, and she had it filled, and placed in little packagaes that I should take for morning, and evening. The grand total for these pills was another 5,200 Won. I sort of feel like I have an aids coctail, since I need to take 6 pills at a time. Mixing all these medicines makes me a little nervous, but so far, I haven't had any problems.

So, in the end, I went to the doctor and the pharmacy and only spent 8,700 won. Even better, is the fact that the whole process took only half an hour: from seeing the doctor, to getting nebulizing treatment, to going to the pharmacy and getting back to my desk at SLP. AMAZING. Why can't our medical system be so good in the U.S.???

Granted, I know this is only one experience, I guess I can't speak for the system as a whole. But really.... I pay very little out of my paycheck, and doctors visits and prescription drugs are so inexpencive. Why can't our medical system be so good in the U.S.???

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foreign or not so foreign?

Sometimes I don't understand this country. I walk down the street, and while, yes, I am surrounded by Koreans on all sides, there are plenty of foreigners about too. While transferring from line 4 to line 2 at Dongdaemun Stadium on Saturday, I decided to count the numbers of foreigners that I saw. I counted 4 in the span of about 4 or 5 mins. If you include myself in that number, that's 5 foreigners (not all white people). So, on average, that would equal one foreigner per minute while Koreans are in busy areas. So why do they stare?? It's usually the men who stare, usually over the age for 35.

I won't lie. I don't get stared at too often, or if I do, I am too oblivious to notice. I think probably because, while my hair and skin and eyes are different, by most other dimensions, I fit in with Koreans pretty well. AKA short and small in most places. Actually, I'm shorter than most Koreans. My hair is light, but not blindingly so. My eyes aren't quite Asian, but they are pretty small. See? Here is a photo to prove it! Small eyes, short, petite. I'm even willing to wear ridiculous things on my head. I'm about as Korean as a European descendant can be.

I guess I'm complaining because tonight I had two people in a row blatantly stare at me and I'm slightly peeved. I was sitting out front of the Food 2900 waiting for my friend. One man, who I'd guess was about 55, walked by, looked at me and sort of made a noise. I know that noise well, the ajossis make it all the time, but I can't quite describe it, and I'm not sure what it means. Maybe it's disgust, or maybe it's attraction. But either way, it was most definitely aimed at me and I didn't like it. So, it was dark, so I pulled up my hood and kept my head down reading the menu while I waited. I thought if they couldn't see my hair or face, they wouldn't take a second look. Another man walked by. Much younger this time, maybe only 35 years old. As he walked by he just stared. Then when he was about 6 feet or so past me he just stopped and stared. Maybe he was staring because I was reading a menu completely written in Korean. I'll tell myself that's what it was to make myself feel better. I kind of looked at him and put my hands up in a "what do you want??" position. He kept moving, stopped again then moved on. What's up with that??

At that point, I moved into the restaurant so I didn't have to sit on the stairs and get stared at incessantly. Why do they stare when they are so accustomed to seeing foreigners???

But, I must admit.... I stare at them too. I can't help it. When I see a white face my eyes are just glued. Until they see me and I pretend not to look. Maybe I'm more Korean than I realize.....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jongmyo & Changgyeongung

Today we ventured over to Jongmyo, the Royal Ancestral Shrine. I was further delighted by the fact that you get free entrance into Changgyonggung palace when you pay the 1,000 won entrance fee to the park. It's a nice place to walk around, and you can learn a little about burial rituals, but I wouldn't rank this place as a must see if you are only visiting as a tourist with short time to see the best of Seoul. It was a nice place to take photos, since that's my obsession for the week. Especially the palace, because it's not one of the big tourist palaces like Gyongbukgung. There were very few people walking around. That could also be because it was a little chilly out today (3˚C) and windy. Anyway, here are a few photos I took today.

Dishes and utensils to feed the deceased kings. All utensils were dated with an expiration date of sorts. When the utensils had been used for a certain period of time, they were then buried.

A very Korean decoration placed at many of the gates within Jongmyo.

Shrine where the umbilical cords of the royal family are buried in ChanggyeongungNear the front gate in Changgyeongung
For some reason, this structure seemed more interesting than most of the others. Still not sure why.

For more photos, check out my photo blog soon.

Exchange Rate

Check it out folks! The exchange rate is back up to 0.73USD = 1000 KRW. The exchange rate hasn't been this good in over a month. Exchange your cash now while the rate is (relatively speaking) good. That's actually down a cent from earlier today, so do it soon!!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Photography Blog

Lately I've been on a photography kick and, while I'm not very good at photography, I'd like to get better. I decided to make a separate blog just for photos (the good photos). I'm looking for critiques, so if anyone likes photography, check this site out and let me know what you think!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rain

No, not the water that falls from the sky. The Korean pop star also known as 비. My day has been full of Rain for some reason, and I thought it fitting to post about him.

This week in hip hop class we are learning the dance move to a song called Fresh Woman by Rain. Here's a video I found while surfing YouTube. This is basically the exact dance that I'm learning... but... Rain makes it look a little better.



Some people have heard of Rain due to Steven Colbert's running feud with him for beating him in Time Magazines top most influential people. To see what happened when Colbert and Rain met, watch this video....





For various other Rain references on the Colbert Report, Click Here and search for Rain. It's worth your time. Trust me.

But, what I don't understand is how Rain made it to #1 of Time Magazine's top 100 most influential.... outside of Asia, who really knows about him? I hadn't even heard of him until this week. When my kids talk about musicians, they usually only talk about Big Bang and Wondergirls. Though, he did star in Speed Racer that was out this summer.... My kids were talking about some character named Rain (oops, not a character, an actor... I thought I was misunderstanding them). Has he done anything else that noteworthy? Americans don't watch Korean dramas too often... (we're too lazy to read subtitles). Any thoughts?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Yay for snow!

The only part of winter that makes the season worthwhile finally arrived today! Snow in a measurable quantity fell on Seoul today and I love it. For anyone interested, the temperature currently is 30˚F (-1˚C). I spent the day out today, but I took some photos on my way back to my house.


This is the back alley behind my house. It's a little blurry, but you can see the snow was definitely sticking to the street.

My feet (wearing my hiking shoes that everyone makes fun of) and the snow. It's not a lot of snow, but enough to make me happy!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

On speaking (or not speaking) Korean

Everyone told me that I would learn Korean so fast once I came here and I was surrounded by the language all the time. This is the common misconception of people who don't live abroad and people who go abroad to actually study a language. I'd like to think that if I really were surrounded by Korean all the time, then I would pick it up very fast, but the reality of my life here is that my actual contact with non-English speaking Koreans is minimal and I have to really put in a lot of effort to grasp even a basic understanding of the language.

At our hagwon, we're not encouraged to learn Korean at all. In fact we're really supposed to keep up the English environment. Sometimes I cheat and let my kids try to teach me a word in Korean, and most of my classes have figured out that I do know some basic Korean because sometimes I'll answer their question, even though they may ask a friend in Korean, or because sometimes if they want to romanize a Korean word I'll ask them to write the hangul and I'll romanize it for them. Certain words stick out in head when I hear them talk. I don't think I'll ever forget words like sonsaengnim (teacher) and yompil (pencil), since I hear them all the time. Sometimes my students will quiz me on my Korean. Usually I don't let them play this little game, A) because it usually means they are trying to get out of doing classwork and B) because I like to let them think that I know more than I do so they don't try to get away with anything in Korean. But, on the rare occasion that I do let them play this game they are always amazed by the fact that I can speak Korean. "Woowww! Teeeeacher!!", then they will keep asking me questions until my ignorance of the language is fully demonstrated.

Even outside of school, though, the skills I do have in Korean are rarely used. We're all experts at ordering food of course... that doesn't take much skill. I do find it incredibly useful to be able to read the hangul since so many Korean food restaurants do not have a bilingual menu. I don't know how so many foreigners get by without even learning the alphabet. My technique for finding what I want on the menu is searching by the last syllable. Rice dishes usually end in the word bap (rice) and noodle dishes usually end in the word myon (noodle). Other words I look out for are jjigae and donkasu... the other foods I usually eat. Ordering is easy because you can just say one of this and one of that... add on chuseyo to the end to make it a full sentence, but not even the Koreans always say that.

When I go out shopping, I get to use my Korean a little more, but in many places they speak a little English... or at least know their numbers. Sadly, because numbers are one thing I'm ok at understanding. I get frustrated when they only speak English, because I hate being treated as a stupid tourist. But, on the flip side, I get frustrated when they don't speak a word of English because I can't understand what they are telling me.

I always get asked where I'm from, and when I answer them back in Korean they kind of jump in surprise. I guess there are so few foreigners that bother to learn, or at least bother to speak it with English speaking shop owners that they are so impressed. Even by saying thank you and hello and good bye gets a wow out of them. I think that they don't understand why foreigners bother to learn Korean, so when someone even puts a little effort into it, they are quite taken aback.

I guess I can understand that. Why would anyone learn Korean? I mean, obviously I want to, but of all the languages in the world its probably one of the least helpful. The Korean peninsula is probably the size of Georgia... maybe a little bigger. Spanish is spoken throughout all of Latin America, not to mention all the immigrants in the US. But more than just that, I think that Spanish is used by many peoples and cultures. Korean is spoken by Koreans. They are more than just a country, they are a nation. I guess it is a nation state by my political geography terms. It's not a world power, like China. It has no "cool" factor like Japanese. Does Korea have any cultural exports? None that I can think of. So... why learn it? Well... the jury is still out on that one for me. The only reason I have is just a personal challenge.

Anyway, I'm going to keep working at it. Maybe some day I'll be able to have a real conversation. That's my goal. I'm getting there. I know past present and future tense and I have some good, useful verbs under my belt. Next I need to start focusing on nouns because I'm severely lacking in that area. I'll keep you updated on my progress...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crazy Korean Cooking

Now you can find instructions on how to cook Korean food on YouTube. Some of these videos are kind of interesting..... but they seem like good instructions... I want to try it sometime.... Here is one of their videos...



Check out their blog: http://www.crazykoreancooking.blogspot.com/. They have all the recipes there too!

외인구당- Waeingudan...

The things I stumble across when I should be going to bed.... This is evidently a Korean program that features Korean speaking foreigners... they give them some quizzes and joke around with them. I watched the first half... I can understand some things, but watching all these non-Koreans speaking Korean so well makes me very jealous... will I ever be able to speak anywhere near that well? I'm getting better at basic conversation... but my listening comprehension skills are terrible, and the nouns and adjectives that I know not nearly sufficient to make much progress... I'll keep working at it... that's all I can do...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More photography... looking for critiques....

I dug up some more photos that I've taken over the years.... I want more critiques! I don't care from who, friends or random people. If you like or don't like these photos, please tell me why!


Dragon roof tiles in a park near Gyongbukgung.

"Art" in Olympic Park

Man selling flour covered candy in the Korean Folk Village in Suwon.
Hi Seoul Festival Fantasy Show

Random man walking somewhere in Seoul.

Woman skiing in Valle Nevado, in the Cordillera de los Andes, Chile.

The roof of Longshan Temple in Taipei, Taiwan.
Korean boys playing a traditional board game in the folk village.
Rainbow in Patagonia. The water really is that color... no photoshop involved.
Moon through a telescope lens in Valle del Elquí, Chile.
Clouds rolling in while I was in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A second trip to Gyongbukung: Photography

So, this past weekend I headed to Gyongbukung palace (yes, I know that's redundant) for a field trip with my Korean class. It was a beautiful, but cold and windy day... even a few flakes of snow fell while the sun was shining. I met some cool people and I took a couple good pictures. I wish I were better at photography... I have taken two courses one of which focused heavily on composition... why do I still suck at it???


Any photography critics out there with any critiques?
Ok..... so..... here's a club we found in Hongdae. We stood outside for about a good 2 minutes staring at the name and wondering what orgiastic laical could possibly be and why anyone would actually enter a club called Club Tool. Finally, after contemplating over the word laical for a while, we walked up to the bouncer at the door and asked him what laical meant. Of course he told us he wasn't sure, it was just the name of the club, but we insisted that it made no sense. So he pulled out his handphone dictionary (just about every cell phone in Korea has random funcitons like dictionaries and subway maps... except mine... getto...). Evidently it means secular. I just looked it up on Merriman-Webster too. Here's the definition:
la·ical
Pronunciation:
\ˈlā-ə-kəl\
Variant(s):
or la·ic \ˈlā-ik\
Function:
adjective
Etymology:
Late Latin laicus, from Late Greek laïkos, from Greek, of the people, from laos people
Date:
1562
: of or relating to the laity : secular
laic noun
la·ical·ly \ˈlā-ə-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Needless to say, we did not enter the Temple of Orgiastic Laical.... but I would really like to know what sort of people do enter the Temple of Orgiastic Laical.......

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Some really bored Weigooks....

So... these crazy westerners obviously don't have a life... but it is slightly entertaining... If you're not living in Korea or at least understand Korean culture I'm not sure if you will appreciate this video, but who knows... at least you can see some ridiculous shots that blatantly make fun of Korean pop culture...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dongdaemun, Barganing, and shopping 'til 2:30am

Before I start, I thought I'd just point out how close Dongdaemun is to my house. Those tall buildings you can see there in the skyline? Those are some of the shopping towers in Dongdaemun. I walked home last night after shopping, and it's only about a 10-15 minute walk.

Anyway, while I have walked around the area of Dongdaemun and been to the movie theater there, I've (surprisingly) never been shopping there. I guess I'm not a big shopper, since I'm so cheap.

My friend decided at about 9:30 last night that she needed to go shopping, so I volunteered to go with her. We got there at about 10:00 and the streets were packed with people and the street was one big traffic jam.

Our first stop was the building where most of the vendors buy their merchandise. For this reason, you can get good deals for clothes and such, because you're buying wholesale. The downside is that you can't bargain here where as you can and SHOULD in just about ever other part of Dongdaemun. We didn't buy anything here the first time around, but my friend went back at the end of the night to buy a coat she really liked. In many places here you can not pay with credit card/ bank card, so be sure to have as much cash as you plan on spending with you. ATMs of most major banks are located on the first floor in most buildings.

Next stop for her was to buy some ski gear. She needed some new snow pants because she's going snowboarding today (lucky bum). Down on the second basement level of Doota (one of the shopping buildings) is a whole bunch of shops with ski gear. I'm not sure where to buy equipment, I didn't see any here, but snow pants, jackets and anything else ski wear related you can find here. Prices weren't that cheap, but they did have a lot of name brands here... the one I recognized was Burton (Vermont Represents!). Shopping here can be so nice in some places, because the Korean shop workers live to cater the customer. They have no problem spending 1/2 an hour with one customer to help them find exactly what they need. Of course, they will always tell you that you look pretty in what you're wearing... (ipuda- pretty in Korean) so you can't trust them to make a good decision usually. After my friend finally found her snow pants, we went shoe shopping for me. We found a small shoe store on the street and I found lots of cute shoes there. I finally found the ones I wanted, and found out they cost 30,000 won.

See, this is the point where I would have said... no thank you, have a good day. I'm way too cheap to pay 30,000 won on shoes, but my friend came over and I finally understood why she put on make-up before leaving the house. All she had to do was bat her pretty eyelashes and the price went down to 28,000 won. But she wasn't done. "No... it's too expencive.... please... my friend really wants these shoes, but she doesn't have enough money... can't you help us...??" Or at least that was the gist of the conversation from the words I was able to pull out. Finally, reluctantly, the seller smiled at me and told me 25,000 won. And... they were cute shoes... and I do really need black shoes... so I buckled too and bough them.

While I understand all the mechanics of barganing, I'm still too shy to try. But if I were going to bargan... this is what I'd say....

너무 비싸요! (naw-moo pissayo... emphasis on the naaaawwww mooo)- It's too expencive!
까가주세요! (ggaka chuseyo- not said as a demand, but more as a plea) - Please give me a discount!
If the shopkeeper is a youngerish man and you are a youngish female you can always try-
오빠! 너무 비싸요 (Opa! Naw-moo pissayo!)- Literally Opa means older brother, but it is often used to speak to older guy friends. If you say it to a shopkeeper... or any other guy you just meet, its slightly flirty...
Then there is the classic:
학생 이에요!! (Haksang ieyo) I'm a student! (Implying that you're poor...hey, all is fair in love and barganing...)
Well... I am a student... sort of... I do take Korean class once a week! And, speaking of this fact, if I got any of that Korean wrong, please write me a comment so I can change it. I'm still learning and I did that all from memory. I finally put the Korean keyboard stickers on my computer so I can type in Korean without having to guess which letter is which and punch buttons till I find the right one. I don't know about on PCs, but on Macs its easy to add a forign language keyboard. All you have to do is go into the international settings in system preferences. I have three keyboards on my laptop. English, Spanish and Korean... its quite convienient, I love it.

Anyway, I digress. The biggest barganing victory of the night though was at our next stop. My friend wanted to buy herself a big men's t-shirt that would come down to her mid-thigh to keep her warm. We met this shopkeeper who wanted to sell her a shirt so badly that when he couldn't find one in his own shop that fit her qualifications he started to go to around to the shops around him to find something for her. Unfortuatly for him, he was not able to find anything. We wondered around 'til we found a really long t-shirt. We asked the woman how much it was. She told us 28,000 won, which we knew way waaay too much, and my friend told her as such. She told her she would only pay 12,000 won. The woman lowered the price down to 20,000. Still way too much for basically just a t-shirt. My friend tried to walk away, but the vendor was insistant. She put it in the bag for my friend and told her 18,000 won. My friend pulled out 14,000 and said that was all she had. The vendor woman tried to peak in her wallet to see that she had more. Then she tried to convince me to lend her the rest of the money. I knew enough Korean to reply to this! 없어요! (Opsoyo-I don't have any!)This whole discourse happend while laughing of course. This is really one big game to all parties. My friend finally gave the bag back to the woman and walked away. At this point, the woman chased us down and said fine, 14,000. So... my friend cut the price in half. And it wasn't even a guy she was pretending to flirt with!

We walked around for a little while later and I bought myself a cute dress for 10,000 won (it was so cheap it wasn't even worth barganing for). Finally when we decided we were done, I looked down at my watch for the first time all night and realized it was 2:30 AM!!!! Who would have thought? The streets were packed (and evidently it's like that even when it's not christmas season) and the shops showed no sign of closing for the night. Evidently some places never close, others close at 4:30 am and open again at 10:30am. I guess going out all night isn't restricted to partying and drinking here... You learn something new every day!

To get to Dongdaemun, you can take line 2 or 4 to Dongdaemun Stadium Station, or line 4 or 1 to Dongdaemun Station. This is a fun alternative to partying all night on a Friday or Saturday night! Though it might be more expencive... haha...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Limón y Sal



Hace unos dias bajé Limewire... he estado bajando muuucha musica... y... encontré esta canción de Julieta Venegas.... y me encanta! Escuchala aqui, y agregué las letras aqui para acompañarla.

Tengo que confesar que a veces
no me gusta tu forma de ser
luego te me desapareces y no entiendo muy bien por qué
no dices nada romántico cuando llega el atardecer te pones de un humor extraño con cada luna llena al mes.

Pero a a todo lo demás le gana lo bueno que me das sólo tenerte cerca siento que vuelvo a empezar.

CORO:
Yo te quiero con limón y sal, yo te quiero tal y como estás,
no hace falta cambiarte nada,
yo te quiero si vienes o si vas,
si subes y bajas y
no estás seguro de lo que sientes.

Tengo que confesarte ahora
nunca creí en la felicidad
a veces algo se le parece, pero
es pura casualidad.

Luego me vengo a encontrar con tus ojos y me dan algo más
solo tenerte cerca siento
que vuelvo a empezar.

CORO

Solo tenerte cerca
siento que vuelvo a empezar....

Letras gracias a quedeletras.com

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving day....

Well, today was thanksgiving, though it didn't feel like it... It was really just any other day here. Me and two friends decided to go to Subway before work, because that is one of the few places where you can get a turkey sandwich. Though, frankly, I didn't even enjoy the turkey that much... luckily I got bacon on my sub, which is something that I haven't eaten since coming here. That one slice of bacon that they put in my sandwich was amazing.... Tomorrow morning I will wake up early to call home (it will be Thursday evening at home). Hopefully I'll get to talk to everyone in my family. It's been so long since I've talked to most of them. I do talk to my mom a few times a week usually (thank god for skype). It was too hard to have any sort of celebration today of course with work and all... Tuesday/Thursdays are my long days too... I work 'til 8:40 on those days. So, I just came home and ate my soup. I've been on a homemade soup kick lately.

This weekend a bunch of people from work and some other friends will get together to celebrate the holiday. The tricky part about thanksgiving in Korea is the fact that the vast majority of apartments and homes don't have ovens (what would they cook really? All they eat is soup, kimchi, rice, fish and bulgogi.... if you don't believe me, go ahead and ask your students what they eat. What do you eat for breakfasat? Rice and soup. What do you eat for lunch? Rice and soup and kimchi. What do you eat for dinner? Rice and soup and kimchi and fish). The only way you'll probably find an oven in Korea is if you're living in Haebongchong or some other area with a high concentration of forigners living there. I've seen some stovetops in E-mart that have a small broiler oven sized oven under the range. Still, not big enough to bake anything more than cookies or maybe a steak. Anyway, I digress..... I think we're going to eat some pan fried chicken as the next best alternative. Some people got some packages in the mail with gravy mix and cranberry sauce... so we'll do our best. I still need to think of some food to bring to the party... any suggestions? Maybe an appetizer or dessert that is easy to make with ingredients found in Korea?????

A fun song to sing when learning Korean

I found this nice song thanks to a random person on a forum on Dave's ESL Cafe. This isn't a video, just the song here. This song is called 개똥벌레 or firefly (or glow worm? I haven't studied insects in Korean... I'm just relying on other people's translations. Anyway, I have no idea who the singer is... if anyone does, let me know.


Here are the lyrics and the translation. Again, thanks to random posts on dave's ESL... I didn't write or translate these...

아무리 우겨봐도 어쩔 수 없네
Even though I insist, I can't do anything
저기 개똥 무덤이 내집인걸
Over there, the dog dung's grave is my house
가슴을 내밀어도 친구가 없네
Even if I throw my chest out, I don't have any friends.
노래하던 새들도 멀리 날아가네.
Even those singing birds fly away.

가지마라 가지마라 가지말아라
Don't go away, don't go away, please don't go away,
나를 위해 한번만 노래를 해 주렴
Please sing once for me.
나나 나나나나 쓰라린 가슴 안고
Na-na na-na-na-na- I hug my bitter heart
오늘밤도 그렇게 울다 잠이든다.
I fall asleep while crying tonight.

마음을 다주어도 친구가 없네
Even if I give all my heart, I don't have any friends.
사랑하고 싶지만 마음뿐인 걸
I want to love but it's only my mind.

나는 개똥벌레 어쩔 수 없네
I'm just a firefly, I can't help it.
손을 잡고 싶지만 모두 떠나가네.
I want to hold other's hand, but they all leave.

가지마라 가지마라 가지말아라
Don't go away, don't go away, please don't go away,
나를 위해 한번만 노래를 해 주렴
Please sing once for me.
나나 나나나나 쓰라린 가슴 안고
Na-na na-na-na-na- I hug my bitter heart
오늘밤도 그렇게 울다 잠이든다.
I fall asleep while crying tonight.

ps, here is another site. it's in korean. maybe the artist's name is here.... can anyone tell? http://kaibere.tistory.com/tag/%EA%B0%9C%EB%98%A5%EB%B2%8C%EB%A0%88

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Having Fun With Gadgets

So, Blogspot lets you add "gadgets" to your blog, so I just spent the last hour playing around with various gadgets to add to my blog. If you scroll down, you will see them on the right hand side under all the other links and mumbo jumbo over there. Let me know if there is something that you like/ don't like.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another North Korean Documentary

Maybe I'm boring my readers with North Korea info, but I came across another documentary filmed by two American tourists to North Korea. The things that they managed to get on film is amazing, and this is definitely worth checking out.

Here is the first part, there are 14 parts in total.


Here is the link to their website for the rest of the episodes: http://www.vbs.tv/shows.php?show=1442318652.

I do need to put a disclaimer here though. These guys that made the video were able to get some amazing footage, but I have to say that they did it without any cultural awareness of North Korea, and Korea in general. It seems as if they made the documentary just to prove that they could do it, and not for any actual interest in North Korea and the North Korean people. How difficult is it to learn how to say hello and thank you? They sort of make a mockery of the people that they meet, and if the North Korean government ever sees this video (which they probably will) it's quite possible their guides and their guide's families could be sent to prison, if not killed. That is the reality of North Korea, and they did not take this fact into consideration when filming.

That being said, it is still an amazing video to watch, and it gives you an amazing perspective into the country.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jimjilbang or Bathing in public naked


Jjimjilbang (찜질방) is the Korean version of the public bath house. These bathhouses are equipped with everything a person could possibly need and more. Herbal baths, saunas, massage chairs, pay for a real massage or a full body scrub. Eat your dinner, check your email, sleep for the night and even norebang at some.

For my first few months here I was so scared to go. Why? Well, you have to go into the bath area naked. Since my friends are my co-workers... I just didn't really like the idea of my co-workers knowing every intimate detail of my body. After one of my friends nagged me about it forever, I finally broke down and went. I'm so happy I did. Being naked in public is not that big of a deal. It was even nicer, because we went so late at night that there was hardly anyone around to see anyway. I've decided that 10:30 pm on a weekday is the perfect time to go.

So, how it works: You need to go in (look for this sign, it usually means jjimjilbang, though, sometimes motels use this symbol too, so be careful). I haven't quite figured out exactly what to say when you get there, since there are different options, if you only want the bath, if you want bath and sauna, or if you want to spend the night. Eventually after some gestures they figure out what I want, and they give me my towels and my receipt.

Take your shoes off at the entry way and enter into the women's side. At my jjimjilbang there is a special locker just for shoes. Take the key out of that locker and bring it in. I hand my key and my reciept to another lady. She gives me my shirt and shorts that I will wear in the common area, but thats for later. The lady gives me a key to a big locker and thats where you have to strip down and get naked. Then you can enter into the bath area.

Before you can get into the bath, you must shower. There are lots of showers, and the Korean women will really scrub themselves down, or even get someone else to scrub them. I'm not so hardcore, but I just wash myself clean like I normally would, then head over to a bath. At my jjimjilbang, there are several different baths, The first changes every time I go, but its always some kind of herbal bath, usually some fun color like bright purple or green. There is a super hot bath, I've never gone in that one. There is a bath made out of pine wood, I'm not sure what that bath is either, but it smells really nice. The last bath is the cold bath. It's only 20˚C, which feels mighty cold after stepping out of a steaming hot bath. This bath is good though, because sometimes all the hot water and steam can get to you.

Once you finish in the baths, you can dry off, put your towel in the hamper, and get dressed with the clothes that they give you. You can head over to the common area where all the fun stuff is. At our jjimjilbang, we always frequent the snack bar and buy 2,000 won chamchi sandwiches (tuna sandwiches) which are so yummy and delicious. Maybe after that head over to the massage chairs which cost 1,000 won for 10 mins. These chairs are not just some vibrations on your back. These chairs really make you feel like someone is massaging you. I usually spend about 20 mins here. They have foot massages here, but I don't particularly like them... they kind of hurt my feet. Next is the saunas. There are many different saunas... dry heat moist heat, super hot, ice boxes... we kind of switch between the ones we like.

The common area also has a big tv, a restaurant, PC bang and a massage room. The vast majority of the common area, though, is just one big open space. People tend to sprawl out on the ground and either chill out or pass out. Looks pretty tempting actually, I might try it sometime. The sleeping area I guess is separate, and I think it's just a dark room where you can sleep on the floor (they probably give you a blanket and a pillow, just like renting any sort of ondol room in Korea).

After we're done here, we usually head into the baths one more time for a few mins, dry off and check out. We return our suits and key, get our shoe locker key back, and head out. And it's amazing.

My jjimjilbang is very close by Wangsimni station (line 2, 5 and 1) if you want directions, just leave me a message. I'm not sure of the exit number at the moment.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Pepero Day!

For some reason or another, for reasons I can not exactly begin to comprehend, November 11th is the official Pepero Day in Korea. Pepero is basically the same as Japanese Pocky, if you're more familiar with this name. It's a stick of sweet cookie, coated in chocolate. Then, of course, there are many variations on this general theme.

This holiday is especially geared towards giving Pepero to your friends/ significant others, much like Valentine's Day. There are many stories about why they celebrate this holiday, since it does not have any sort of historical background... the holiday was just created about 10 years ago... The best explanation I could get from my kids is that because 11/11 looks like 4 pepero sticks, they celebrate Pepero Day. For me, that's not really an excuse to celebrate... but, hey, what do I know. This holiday was actually somehow created by Lotte (the company that makes them). I don't know how you can turn a marketing scheme into a cultural tradition, but whoever figured it out must be a genius.

I must say, though, that I do appreciate this holiday. It means that I get to eat lots and lots of Pepero that students give to me. If you want to learn more about this ridiculous holiday, check out the wikipedia article.... not that they are able to tell much more than I can.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Children's Grand Park

This week's adventure was a trip to Children's Grand Park. This was a rather interesting park, though I'm sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had been a small child. This park is quite big, and it has a botanical garden, zoo, amusement park, playgrounds, basketball courts, teaching gardens, and lots of big open areas to run around.


We found this creature in the photo area (I'm in Korea, of course there is a special area designated just for photos)... Yes, the statue is peeing... (teach 'em early). Speaking of men peeing, I saw a man peeing in the street last week around 10 pm on a Tuesday night... Sorry.. that was off topic...



These elephants were one of the first things we saw when we entered the park. We were excited, until we went over and saw that they were chained to the ground. Then we were just sad.


We found this beautiful tiger in the zoo. Unfortunately, what you see of its habitat is about the actual size of his area. The animal's habitats in this zoo were wayy too small. I didn't take a photo of the lion area, which had 2 male lions and 3 females in an area about the same size as this tiger habitat. We didn't stay very long in the zoo... it was too depressing...


We meandered our way around and came across a full amusement park. I don't think that Six Flags has anything to worry about here for competition, but it did have one upside down rollercoaster. We seriously considered riding it, but we have no idea about safety regulations in this country, and we didn't feel like dying. There were plenty of carnival style rides, and we decided to take a ride on the Ferris wheel.


Here's the view from the Ferris wheel. I like the graffiti on the window for some reason... I think it gives my photo more character... or maybe I'm just strange.

We stumbled across these strange creatures in the amusement park. I've always wanted to ride a dog... though... not enough to actually pay money to do it...

To visit Children's Grand Park, take line 7 (olive green line) to Children's Grand Park station, and follow the signs. Amusement park rides are 4,000 won each (or you can pay for a package and do many rides).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yay! Obama!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Korean War Memorial

This weekend we headed over to the Korean War Memorial. This museum is both a history of the Korean War, and a museum with artifacts of many ancient wars. When you first arrive outside, you'll find lots of planes and helicopters and tanks and all sorts of war vehicles. You can go in some of them. I'm not sure if they are replicas or the real thing, but either way it's really interesting to see. There's also randomly a traditional wedding hall here, and we sort of stumbled across a wedding where the whole wedding party was in hanbok. It was pretty cool to see, I wish we could have gotten closer.



There are also lots of statues, mostly dedicated to the Korean War. This one was particularly interesting.

Here is the front entrance to the museum. The big 60 is for the 60th anniversary of the Korean war. Oh! I had to include this picture. This is the Singicheon... the "divine weapon". The Korean movie I reviewed a few months ago was all about this weapon. It was awesome to see what it really looked like. This weapon was probably one of the most deadly weapons in the world for a long time. It was developed during the reign of King Sejong, probably the most famous of all Korean Emperors. He also invented Hangul (the alphabet), among other accomplishments. This weapon shot many arrows at a time at high speeds, using gunpowder. You should really check out the movie. I thought it was excellent.

The Korean War Memorial is located close to Samgaji Station on the brown and light blue lines. Go out exit 11 and walk for a minute or two until you see the enterance on the left. The are open until 6:00 pm and the entrance fee is 3,000 won. For the size of this museum, it's well worth the money.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween at SLP

Thursday and Friday were Halloween days at work. Every teacher was assigned a room to decorate and to run an activity. Wednesday we all stayed late to decorate. My room was the ghost room. Probably one of the easier rooms to decorate... skeletons take a bit more effort that ghosts. The activity that we ran in our room was digging for worms. I made dirt out of chocolate cookies and water. Then threw gummy worms in the bowl. Then they got chopsticks to dig them out in a race against another kid. Whoever found the most worms won. It was messy, but it was easy to run and quite popular. I never really got a break the whole day. It was exhausting. It was really fun to see all my students dressed up. All the preschoolers were dressed up. Only some of my older students dressed up. In this picture at the top are two of my students. One from my Hi Kids 2.3 class, and one from my 1 Jump High class that I actually don't teach any more. My day is so much nicer without those kids, but I must say, this boy, who's name is Do Won was one of my favorites. He was so funny and smart. He would often misbehave, but I think that was mostly because he was really too smart for the class, but he was already in the highest level. Sometimes he would draw pictures of a dead teacher... but that was usually the way he showed his affection. Once he wrote a story. I told them, write a story about 5 baby ducks. Here is Do Won's story. I may get one or two words off, but this is almost verbatim:
There were 5 baby ducks. Then a giant octopus monster ate them. They swam in its belly. Then the octopus hiccuped and the ducks came out. (and yes, he really did know the word hiccup... sort of amazing now that I think about it. He is a first grader.)
This is me with my Fly High sophomore class. They are middle school students. 15 years old Korean age, which is 13 or 14 American age. As you can see, while they are not so tall... I am quite short. I'm only shorter then them here because I'm leaning over. But, I did check with one of the other girls in that class. She is taller than me. How encouraging. Then again, I did stop growing when I was 12.... so I guess it makes sense. These are my oldest students. Most of my kids are much younger, elementary age. I have one preschool class and one other class of 6th graders.
This is Kenny, he is one of my 4 Jump High students. He was one of the few students I could convince to eat a worm. His class is very smart, because they all started in intensive preschool and then have continued at SLP going at least 3 days a week, though when they were younger they were probably going 5 days a week. But, while they are very smart, they like to fool around a lot. They are a class of five 4th grade boys. They love making up stories about each other. The boys tell me that Kenny has two girlfriends, but he only loves one of them. Billy, another boy in the class (probably the smartest) supposedly has a girlfriend named Su Ji. They love to swear in English, and are smart enough to actually spell out swears instead of just saying them. Thier favorite is F-U-C-K-E-R. They have no idea what it means, but they know how to use it and love calling each other by that name. I had the hardest time controlling this class, and I'm just now finally figuring out some tricks. I tried negative reinforcement, but it didn't work very well. Now I'm experimenting with possitive reinforcement, and it's working much better. They would always only speak Korean in class, even though they are quite capable of speaking English quite well. Now they have some insentive to speak English. They need to earn stickers for me. Once they earn thier stickers and fill a page of thier stickerbook, I buy them something from the supermarket downstairs. Thier favorite thing to eat is sundaegochi (not sure if I'm spelling it right). It looks disgusting to me. What it is, is intestines filled with glass noodles. But hey, it's only 500 won, so I don't care. It's worth it if I can get them to behave in class. So far it seems to be working quite well. I never thought I'd spend money on my kids. Especially not to make them do thier work. But at this point I'm grateful for anything that makes them behave. Now that they are a little better in class, I enjoy them much more.
This is Min Ji. She looked so cute I had to take a picture. She is a student in my 2 Jump High class, so she is another girl who came out of intensive preschool. They have class 5 days a week. I only teach her class 3 days a week. This girl is very sweet, and always tries very hard. She worries a lot about quizes and tests and gets very freaked out. One of the first days I taught her, she was crying because she had forgotten about the test, freaked out and refused to do it because she was so upset and convinced that she couldn't to the work. But, actually, she usually gets some of the best grades, because she is one of the few students I have that study.

I never thought I would be so involved with my students. I feel with just about all of them I could write paragraphs and paragraphs. Sure there are a few that just blend in with the walls, but they are all such individuals... they have thier strenghts and weaknesses and quirks. Now that I've been teaching almost all my classes now for three months, I feel like I really know my students. I'm becoming rather emotionally attached to them. I don't know what it will feel like after a year and I have to leave them...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cirque Du Soleil

Last night I had the opportunity to see Cirque du Soleil. Right now, until November 15th, Alegría is performing by Seoul Sports Complex. When we bought our cheap seats (77,000 won apiece) we thought we were going to be on some high up balcony seat with a terrible view. We were amazed to find, when we walked in, that the circus tent was very small, and while we had a side view we were quite close to the performers. That being said, there was a pesky pole in our way that made it difficult to see things going on when they weren't center stage. We found our way around that though by moving our seats up to the 110,000 won seats during intermission. No one seemed to care since there were several rows of unsold seats. From there we had a spectacular view of the action.

They had quite a few acts, trapeze artists, people doing flips and jumps on beams, crazy strong men doing flips and jumps, hoolahoop girls, acrobats etc etc etc. Plus clown acts between each act.

One particularly notable act was these two women who twisted and flipped around each other like they had no spine. You can see a picture of the above, they are the two small women with blue hair. It was only slightly creepy.

Yea, another post about North Korea...

I can't help but be memorized by North Korea. I wasn't even looking for information, but I stumbled across this link on someone's blog and it has some amazing photos from DPRK. Here is the link to the photos, but I'll throw a few on here that I particularly like. Of course it's provided by Boston.com. I love them... that was my homepage for many years.