Monday, March 29, 2010

A Japanese Bar and an Unexpected trip to Japan Coming Soon!

Friday night we had no real plans, so we just started wandering around the neighborhood looking for somewhere to eat. While we saw nowhere in particular that looked amazing, just a lot of the usual, we kept walking and walking, all the way past Chonggu Station and further. By this point, we were starving and ready to settle for anything when we saw this place. It's called 함선생 (Hamsonseng) and it's a Japanese bar.They specialized in Japanese sake (rice liquor) and had many of the brands that I saw for sale in Japan... marked up at least 3 times the price, but well, this is Korea.We could have bought a whole box of sake (they come in squat milk bottle style containers) for ourselves for around 30,000 won, but it seemed a bit excessive. I guess if you don't finish it, they will keep the bottle for you for up to 3 weeks so you can come back and finish it.
So, insted of the big sake, we just got this little bottle of sake. It was enough for about 3 shot glasses for each of us. Sake generally is only 15-20% alcohol, so this isn't much.

We got some food to go along with it. This was a stirfried beansprout and pork terriaki dish. It was quite tasty!
We were still a bit hungry after that, so we got some grilled meat on a stick. Mmmmm....

This reminds me that I'll be going to Japan on another random weekend trip in May! maybe you remember that I went to Japan on a crazy leave Korea at 1 am sat. morning, get back to Korea at 7 am Monday morning kind of trip last October to Tokyo. It was great, but super exhausting.

This time we've found tickets to Kitakyushu, which is one hour from Fukuoka, Japan. We actually won't be going to Fukuoka. We plan instead to go directly to Beppu, which is a city on the coast with many onsen (hot springs). We'll spend a day or a day and a half here, then go back to Kitakyushu and check out what there is to see there. It doesn't seem like a big tourist town, but there is a castle there, some gardens and supposedly some nice waterfront sights to see. Plus, it's Japan, so I expect to sample the food every few hours regularly. We've got another month before that trip, so you'll just have to wait patiently for photos...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Adventures with a blender

Me and the boyfriend have been talking about getting a blender for some weeks now. We've looked on craigslist and on online shopping websites, but we couldn't seem to find one that was nice enough and cheap enough for our standards. This evening we met up with two of my old coworkers from Seongdong. One of whom is leaving at the end of April and is starting to clean house in preparation. She mentioned she was getting rid of some things and I asked if she had a blender. She did! Not only was it a blender, but it was a blender with three different blender containers and two different blades. She wanted to give it to me for free, because it had been something left behind by some other teacher she had taken the apartment from, but I gave her 10,000 won for it, since these things tend to be expencive. Someone must have paid a fair amount for it... somewhere in the history of the many residents of that particular apartment.

We brought it home and tried it immediately. She also gave us some garlic that she had too much of and first thing first, we ground the garlic to make cooking with it easier. It blended it beautifully.

Next were the anchovies. It's strange, because I just had a conversation yesterday with a girl who is married to a Korea guy. She told me that all Koreans use anchovy powder in nearly everything they cook. I said, now wait, I don't do any of the cooking in my house... and I only eat Korean food... but yet, I've never seen anchovy powder in my house. Her conclusion was that Korean men don't know how to cook... which in my opinion is a vast over-generalization, since my Korean man can cook quite well.. even without anchovy powder.

Anyway, later I asked about this to the boyfriend and he told me that if he had anchovy powder, he might use it in some food... though, not everything... Now with the blender I realized that the little frozen fish in my freezer (left behind by the last tenant) were actually anchovies, and were consequently thrown into the blender and their little frozen bodies were shredded into a fine brownish gray powder.
I though we were done with blender adventures for the night after the garlic and the anchovies. But the boyfriend was not through. He gets a little carried away in the kitchen sometimes and he decided to test the blender to it's limit. He decided that if he mixed a carrot with apple juice, it would make apple-carrot juice. Ok, whatever, let's try it. Anyway, it was looking a bit like baby food since we didn't have much apple juice to mix it with. We had to shake the container a little to mix bits of carrot a little more... when all of a sudden.... the cover popped off and the baby food like contents splattered across the kitchen. It was another half hour of clean up. After that, we were done for the night with the blender.

Anyway, the blender is awesome... as long as the cover is on tight... I hope I have more adventures soon!

Laser Hair Removal... Failure

So, I went all the way to Gangnam to go see a doctor on Tuesday morning to see about getting laser hair removal. I was seen right away by the doctor, who specializes in English speaking clients. His English was very proficient. He gave me a little introduction to what Laser Hair Removal is all about and explained to me that hair to be removed needs to be dark and coarse. Then he told me that my hair is not dark or thick and the results would be 50% at most if he did the procedure. Not to mention he would have to set the laser to stronger settings and need more treatments, for lower results.

I'm very happy that he was honest with me. He could have told me anything and I would have believed it and gone through with the procedure. My only complaint is that he didn't look at the actual hair that I wanted to remove. I assume that he was looking at the hair on my head, which is a fine texture, and may look light when the light hits it (like through the light from his window), but it is definitely brown hair. The hair that I want to remove feels very coarse to me, though I'm no doctor. Maybe there's something doctors can tell by seeing the hair on your head to tell about the rest of your hair? Another idea I had was that his equipment was mainly for Korean hair which is obviously very dark and so my medium brown hair would be too light for the equipment in his office. I had two friends who went to this clinic and were very happy. They both had brown hair, but maybe a shade or two darker than mine...

Anyway, now I'm stumped whether or not to get a second opinion. I don't want a doctor to tell me it's going to work when it's not going to work. At the same time, I'd be happier if a doctor looked at the hair I want to remove before making further judgment...

Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sights and Sounds of the Seoul Metro

My new job is now 50 minutes, door to door from my home to work, and so I tend to spend a lot of time every week sitting on the subway and observing what goes on. As my first article as a contributing blogger to's (soon to be open) blog section, I've decided to write about subway culture in Seoul.

Exit number 2 of Sindang Station. Most entrances look more or less like this.

Subway stations are generally very well organized. You'll notice that there are usually somewhere between 4-12 exits at any given station, all are numbered and there are maps abound with information about the neighborhood so you can find what exit number you need. If you're unfamiliar with the area, it still may be difficult to figure out by map, and so finding directions online or from a friend will usually get you the correct exit number.

Most Korean businesses give directions from subway stations since few people know street names and they are generally not used. Don't expect a "Turn right on Kim St. and walk 3 blocks to the corner of Lee St." it doesn't work like that here. Expect something closer to "Walk straight for 100 meters from exit 3 and turn left at the Paris Baguette." For this reason, exit numbers are very important and can make you're life much easier if you know them.

Once you enter the station, you'll need to get a ticket or use your T-Money pass to get through the turnstile and onto the platform. Nowadays, it's quite easy to do this. Go to one of the ticketing machines which are usually located near the turnstile. You can select English or another language of your choice if you need to. If you have a T-Money card, you can place it in the glowing blue shelf and the machine will automatically read your balance and you can select to add more money. If you don't have a T-Money card and would like to purchase an individual ticket, you can select that option, specify the station you would like to go to, and then it will charge you appropriately for that distance that you will travel. Once you have your card, just place it on the appropriate place on the turnstile and it will beep for you to go through. Make sure you keep it, because you will need it to get out too!Depending on the distance you travel, it may cost anywhere from 900 won (with your T-Money card) and up. Most locations within Seoul will probably not charge you more than an additional 200-300 won to the base fare for your distance traveled. Traveling out of the city will be a bit more. With the exchange rate as of 3/27/10 when this blog was written, 900 won was about 0.79 cents in USD. Very affordable for a modern, developed city.

Signage within the stations is usually very clearly written in Korean, English and Chinese. Foreigners find getting around Seoul by subway quite easy despite the number of lines there are.

A photo from Sindang Station before the security gates were installed. You can see the numbers on the platform where those triangles are.

By this date, most subway stations have installed security gates to separate the platform from the open track. The city had seen a large number of suicides from people jumping in front of trains, and since the widespread installation of these gates, there seems to be a lower incidence of subway suicides (the topic of suicides in Korea is another whole blog worthy topic unto itself) .

A view from Dongdaemun Stadium Station (now called Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station) with security gates. This is the platform where you wait for your train.

People generally stand in line or congregate around numbers labeled on the platform. If you go to certain places frequently, or make transfers at the same station frequently, these numbers can be very helpful. By remembering at what number you need to stand, you can always be right in front of the stairwell at your destination. It's a big time saver for someone like me who needs to catch their trains at the exact time every day.

A typical view from inside the train.

Once on the train, it can be tempting to sit in the seats at the end of each car. The three seats next to the car doors on either end of the train are reserved for the elderly, handicapped, children and pregnant women. If you don't fall into one of these categories, it's quite possible that an ajumma (older Korean woman) will tell you exactly where you should be sitting, and she might not be polite about it. My first experience with this was on a train with no picture labels to tell that it was not a seat for me. An ajumma angrily pointed to a sign I couldn't read and pointed to my seat and to the other seats on the train. Eventually we got the point and moved. As an additional note, as is common courtesy around the world, if you see an older person or someone who needs a seat more than you, people generally will stand up to let that person sit, as should you.

There are many sights to see on the train, for good or for bad. Every day I see subway vendors selling wares from knife sharpeners, to magnifying glasses, to socks. It's always interesting to see what they have for sale. They usually will give a 2 minute presentation or explaination of their wares, demonstrating how well they work, before walking around to find buyers. Some seem to do excellent buisness and others I never figure out how they can scrape by a living doing the job. Incidentally, it is illegal for these men and women to operate on the subway and there are fines for those who are caught. There are often patrols on the subways looking for these people and, though I haven't seen anyone get caught personally, I have heard from friends who have seen venders get caught. People who buy from them are forced to return the products and the vendor will be taken off the train.

Another common sight on the trains are people with problems begging for money. The problems might be medical or maybe they just have a sob story for you and ask for your money. They are very unobtrusive and Korean passengers tend to ignore them completely. They will generally pass out a letter written in Korean and place it in people's hands to read and hopefully give money. What's more interesting here, is what the passengers usually do with the letter. Most will not touch it. They will ignore it's presence, though it's sitting right on their lap. I've seen very few actually pick it up to read it. I've seen even fewer give money. I'd hate to be homeless or poor in Seoul because Koreans usually tend to ignore anyone they don't know, especially the downtrodden of society.

Another fairly common sight on the subway are blind beggars. Though not as common as vendors or letter writters, they are very distinctive, because they will move through the crowded trains playing music on a radio to grab people's attention. I feel especially bad for these people as they move through crowded trains when it's hard for passengers to move out of the way.

There's lots of other things to look out for on the subway. About once or twice a week I am approached by a Korean wanting to know my life history. It never used to bother me much but I've answered these same questions "Where are you from? Why are you here? How long have you been here?" so often that it gets really old nowadays. I feel a little bad when I brush off people from asking these questions, but sometimes I just want to ride the subway in peace. Unlike in many countries in the world, if people start talking to you, they are probably not looking for money, probably just free English practice on their way to work.

Another strange thing is that passengers often sleep on the subway. Which is fine of course, riding the subway is very safe. But, when the train lurches and they wind up resting on your shoulder, it's a very uncomfortable position to be in. So, I suggest not sitting next to sleeping people for this reason.

Lastly I'd like to mention exiting the train. It's not uncommon to see people push their way to the front. It is a fairly acceptable practice, though sometimes it is taken to the extreme. In a city like this it seems to be survival of the fittest, or at least the strongest and pushiest go first. Don't be surprised if you're cut in line, not only on the subway getting on or off, but at other places around the city too.

Anyway, the Seoul Metro is an extremely efficient, clean and modern metro. Anyone in Seoul would be wise to consider taking the subway when trying to reach most destinations as it is, by far, the fastest means of transportation. Though sometimes it's unavoidable to take buses or taxis, they are subject to heavy traffic in many areas. Happy Riding!

If you would like more subway information, you can visit the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit here:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bukchon and Samchong-dong

Sunday, after making my way from the Cheonggyechong to Jongno, to Unhyeongung I made my way into Bukchon and then to Samchong-dong. This is a great area to walk around and take some photos and stroll on a nice day. The Bukchon neighborhood has many homes that have been constructed in a traditional style, and some of them look like they are actually very old homes that were origionally built when the traditional style way called the normal style.

As we walked around, we came upon two camera crews. One was photographing a couple for their wedding photos, and another crew was evidently filming for some sort of TV program or movie.
This is also a great place to check out some museums. It feels as if every other house actually seconds as some sort of museum for something random. This is the home of the Chicken Art musuem (but we didn't find it on this excusion.. .maybe next time), the Owl museum, not to mention many art galleries, and museums displaying things from yesteryear.

If you walk up and around to the other side of Bukchon, you'll eventually come into Samchong-dong which is a little neighborhood full of boutiques and nice restaurants. We didn't eat here, but we did find one hole in the wall making hoddok, which is a fried cake full of sugary goodness. I tried it for the first time on Sunday.

Samchong-dong is full of tourists and Koreans alike, but it's definately a place to check out, just for fun or maybe to eat on an occasion when you feel like splurging.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I wanna be on Misuda....

Ok, not really, only kind of...

If you read this blog regularly enough, you might realize that I have a very deep jealousy for non-Koreans who can speak Korean very well. I've been attending my hagwon for nearly 9 months now, and for some reason I thought that would mean that I'd be fluent by now. Obviously, I know it doesn't work like that, but it sure would be nice, though, huh? I know I'm improving daily, but it just feels so slow.

Anyway, I'm sure any language learner feel the same way. I'm sure many of you are wondering, though, what exactly is Misuda...

Misuda, or Minyeodului Suda (미녀들의 수다), or Global Talk Show, is a program that airs on KBS on Monday Evenings. The title of the show more or less translates to "Talking with Beautiful Women", but the show it a bit more than just beautiful women.

Guests on the show are usually women (sometimes men too) who are foreigners living in Korea and speak Korean fluently. Guests come from all walks of life in Korea. Some are married to Korean men (or some men are married to Korean women), some are students, some are half Koreans, and others work in various fields in Korea. The show discusses many topics and promote cross-cultural awareness. I think the idea of the show is great, I just wish it didn't center around "beautiful" women so much. Asian Offbeat has an article about how this show is able to shake the misconceptions around foreign women.

Episodes I've seen discuss everything from what kind of guy is your type, to child rearing in other countries, to appropriate marriage ages from country to country. It's really interesting to hear the differences between various cultures on these topics, because, quite often they are more different than you think. A show like this has a lot of potential to change the mindset of the average Korean. I'm not sure if they're actually doing that because they could pick much more controversial topics or at least, less female-centric questions and more broad questions that have wider appeal and could be watched by younger audiences too.

I really enjoy watching this show because it's one of the only shows that I have a chance of understanding enough to follow the dialogue. Even still, though, I have a hard time understanding... Some of the guests have really amazing Korean. I guess I should say... I wish my Korean was good enough to be on the show... I don't think I could stand the new stares on the subway when a foreign TV personality gets on and tries to read a book in peace and quiet..

운현궁: Unhyeongung

Sunday, after making my way through the backstreets of Jongno, I found myself at the doorway to Unhyeongung. Despite the name (gung) it is not officially a palace, per se, but it was the home of King Gojong (26th Joseon King) lived before he became the King of the Joseon Dynasty. Though not as impressive as any of the large palaces in Seoul, if you're passing by, it's certainly worth the 700 won to get in and wonder around for a little while.

To get to Unhyeongung, go to Ankuk Station, line 3, and walk about 100 meters south from Exit 4.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Backstreets of Jongno

If you walk around the back streets behind Jongno, you'll find some funny little places. This neighborhood was full of old style homes. It was rather strange, though to walk around. There seemed to be a large concentration of ajosshis drinking at 3 in the afternoon on a Sunday. Anyway, definitely worth the walk, just watch out for strange men stumbling through the streets on a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yellow Sand decends upon Seoul

The sky looked ominously black all day yesterday and kept me from checking out the St. Patrick's Day celebrations downtown (yes, they even celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Korea), but somewhere around 4 or 5 the sky started to change to a new color, Yellow. If you check out the US Army's Asian Dust monitoring system, you can see the spike into dangerous levels for that hour or two yesterday afternoon. Fortunately, for today, it has dipped back to normal, low levels.

If you've never heard of Asian Dust, it's basically sand that is picked up by wind in the desert in China, swept through the toxic air of China, where it picks up all sorts of toxins, and then sweeps over Korea and Japan and reeks havoc on the lungs of unsuspecting folks. On heavy dust days, everyone wears masks around the streets.

This was the exact color of the sky yesterday at 6 o'clock. This was the best photo I could get... Roboseyo got a much better photo while he was in Busan yesterday.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Looking for Advice about Laser Hair Removal

I've only known one other blogger to write about this subject, though there are many threads on Dave's ESL (here, and here) . I would like to get laser hair removal here in Seoul. It seems there are many places around, but, as I'm looking to get it done in a very visible place, I want a very trustworthy place that has a good reputation. It seems that most of the places that have been listed on Dave's are clinics specially geared towards foreigners (Western and Japanese mostly) and therefore, it seems that their prices are higher than your normal clinic that caters only to Koreans. I feel that my Korean skills are high enough that it can compensate for any lack of conversation skills from doctors that are skilled in their trade, but not in English. If I can, I'd like to go to a place that doesn't overcharge their patients for the extra service of speaking English.

So, here are the questions. Have you gotten laser hair removal in Seoul?, if so, where?, how was the price?, how were the results?, would you recommend it? Obviously, if they can speak English well, it's a plus, but if not, I'm ok with it.

Even if the price is high, though, I'm still ok with it, as long as it has good results... I just hate the idea of being overcharged just because I'm a foreigner. Please let me know your experiences in general. Thank you.

Some friends of mine went to :
Nova Skin and Hair Clinic

if I don't get any replies here, I'll go here, but, as it's in Gangnam, it's a bit inconvenient for me to get to...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Children and Cell Phones

How early is too early to give a child a cell phone? I know in the US the ages seem to be getting younger and younger, but I've realized that Koreans take the cake. Here, starting in Kindergarten, you start seeing students with cell phones. When one of my old kindergartners back at Seongdong got a cell phone, she was the coolest kid in the class, the first to be wirelessly connected to the rest of the world.

In a typical 2nd or 3rd grade class, I would say at least half the students have cell phones, some of them, quite nice phones, better than mine, I'd say. Once you get into 5th and 6th grade classes, most if not all students, will have a cell phone.

It seems, though that these children, being children, haven't learned the proper etiquette with which to use a cell phone. They don't realize that there are appropriate times, and inappropriate times to answer phone calls and make phone calls. I understand this, as they are all still elementary students, but what really floors me is the parents who still haven't realized appropriate phone etiquette. I can not tell you how many times a student has received a phone call and told me it is their mother or father and they HAVE to answer it. Generally, I say no. Call after class is finished. Sometimes these students try to sneak a phone call when I'm not looking or just give me the f* you look and answer it anyway. Sometimes the students actually listen to me, and their parents continue to call them until they answer. Really? What kind of example are you teaching your kids? It's ok to answer your phone in the middle of class? In this technologically advanced society, they should be able to figure out the mysterious TEXT MESSAGE to relay messages without interrupting class.

As I mentioned before, these children often have very nice phones. A few weeks ago, my students were showing me that you can take a photo with your cell phone, then edit it to make the photo look funny, animate it with blinking eyes, add shapes and colors, etc. etc. This same phone also had shortcut hand motions. If you made a triangle shape on the screen with your finger, it would open, say, the phone book, or call a certain person. In short, a clearly, very expensive phone, geared specifically for kids. When does it become too much? Maybe I'm biased. I'm a person who is rather minimalistic.... for someone in this day and age. As long as I have my computer and a functioning cell phone (aka, calls and sends texts) I'm a happy camper. I have an old MP3 player that I got from my cousin when she upgraded, but it only gets used once every 3 months or so. I do have my nifty camera, but I lived with a 2.3 megapixel from high school until last year. I don't see why young children should be given the newest and most exciting technology. If they are anything like I was, as a child, they tend to lose things and abuse them until they are no longer functioning.

Anyway, in short, I don't think elementary schoolers should have cell phones. Or if they do, they should be those emergency style phones that only call 5 numbers and receive calls only from authorized phone numbers. Kids are far too distracted by the technology in their pockets to focus in class.

Anyone else have similar experiences? What's your opinion on giving kids cell phones?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

E-mart Discounts

First I should mention what E-mart is. E-mart is sort of like a Korean style Walmart, with a full sized supermarket. They are found all around, and there are other similar chains, such as Homeplus and LotteMart. These places don't offer dirt cheap prices like a Walmart at home, but Koreans are much happier with E-mart and other similar places because they offer the services and products that Walmart never figured out how to provide to the Korean consumer (Walmart here was for a short while, but didn't last long and pulled out after a few years). Visiting E-mart is like a bombardment of the senses. Women dressed in aprons or mini skirts are trying offering samples of products at the end of every aisle, fresh seafood can be seen in tanks, swimming free, waiting for their eventual demise, and customers hustle and bustle on all sides, especially if you make your shopping venture on a weekend. You'll probably bump into one of your students because when you ask them on Monday, "What did you do this weekend?" they nearly always reply, "I went to E-mart!".

I've found the best time to go to E-mart is after 9:30 pm or so. Why? Well, there are less crowds, which is definitely a plus, but, all the fresh food is on sale for up to half price. Some meat and fish are discounted. Sushi is about 30% off. Ready-to-eat food is usually 50% off or so. Also, sometimes you can get decent deals on vegetables (probably the ones that are about to go bad). Frankly, I still prefer shopping at my market for my vegetables, but sometimes it's convenient while I'm here to pick up something if it's cheap enough.

Anyway, if you're planning a trip to E-mart, I suggest waiting until after 9:30.. they are usually open until 11 or midnight anyway, and check out the sale items.

*Note, the E-mart pictured here is in Daejeon, and is not my photo.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Still Skiing in March

I wish I had taken a photo of some of the snow still up by Yongpyong this weekend. Folks in Seoul would not believe there was probably a foot on the ground just in the town surrounding the mountain, nevermind on the actual ski slopes. Sure, you can call this spring skiing, because it was definitely not prime conditions, but hey, these are the last chances to go skiing until next December.

Instead of paying the 35,000 won price for a lift ticket, I opted instead to buy a season pass (good for the rest of the season...) for 60,000 won. It seems a little strange to get a season pass now, but if I go one more time I will have saved 10,000 won, plus I get 60,000 won off the price of a season ticket next year, which I will definitely be getting if I'm planning on skiing as much as I have this winter. If I had been in Korea in January, I would have just bought one anyway for this year.

Anyway, if you want to get your skiing on for the last time this season, I expect there will be at least one more worthwhile weekend at Yongpyong. And hopefully you'll see me there too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Call 24/7

Sometimes I feel as if my job as an English teacher is a 24 hour job. It's not a job that I can leave in the office, though I'm not doing the work I'm technically being paid for. Of course, living with my Korean boyfriend, I'm always helping him with his English. I don't mind this at all, because it's in both our best interests if he can improve his English. Not to mention how much he helps me with my Korean.

Then there are the people who stop to talk to you out in public, with the obvious purpose of not actually caring about your presence, but seeing you as a tool to practice English. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of people who start talking to me who are generally interested in me, and why the hell I want to be in this country. Those are generally the people who are willing to speak with me in Korean. Then there are the people who, though I speak Korean to them, continue to speak English at me, either trying to prove their mastery or trying to get some TOEIC/TOEFL practice.

Today on the subway the girl sitting two seats down from me asked the man sitting in the seat directly next to me to change seats. It seemed kind of strange to me, but I shrugged and continued studying my Korean homework. A few minutes later she said "Can I talk to you for a moment?" I looked down, and written in her notebook was this exact phrase, she must have been practicing it in her head for 5 minutes while I was focused on 했다고 했어요 in my Korean book. She continued to explain, in broken English, that the was studying for the TOEFL test and was hoping to study at Texas A&M.

Anyway, she practiced her English on me for the next 20 minutes until she had to get off at her stop, one stop before mine. I find it really hard to talk to strangers. You can't make conversation if you know nothing about a person, right? Especially a person you will probably never meet again... It's not that I mind helping these sort of people, but I just feel like I'm seen as a sort of tool to be used by these random people, rather than a real human being.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Becoming a better teacher?

The Korean recently linked this website to his blog. I found the article intriguing and I suggest that any teacher, who actually cares about teaching, to read it. They talk about what makes an effective teacher. I agree with a lot of the things that this article says and I would like to think that I am using at least some of the techniques that are mentioned in the article.

ESL teachers are faced with an additional burden in the classroom, though. And that is being understood. Even for the best students, it's easy to tune out English when you would rather be doing something else, and quite often we think they should understand when they don't understand at all. Sometimes I feel that I am so clear on my instructions when a student asks a question, clearly mistaking one word I've said, for some completely unrelated, but similar sounding word. No wonder they don't do what I say half the time. I wonder how often it just slips under the radar and the students don't ask for clarification...

A lot of these techniques mentioned in the article, I've figured out on my own. For example, pointing out the good students who are doing what they should be doing rather than yelling at the badly behaving students and giving precise directions (not "Don't talk to your friend" but "Take out your book and read page__ silently").

There's still I have a lot to improve on, but I'd like to think I'm a fairly good teacher... for only teaching for 1.5 years and having no formal training as a teacher. But, obviously, I still have a long way to go. I still consider a class of 10 students too difficult to manage on an average day. I have no idea how teachers with 30 or 40 students handle the class without having an momentous, uncontrollable cacophony of small children all talking at once. I can barely be heard over 10 students, never mind 30. Anyway, I'll try some of the things mentioned in this article and see if they give me any better classroom results.

I did get a compliment from the academic director today about my teaching, so I hope my evaluations come out well. I was never formally evaluated at my old school, so I have no idea how I was doing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sunday on the town

On Sunday I set out with the intent to get some fresh air and exercise on a walk down the Cheonggyechong, but as usual, it turned out to be much more than just a walk along a stream. Here is what followed.

After walking for about 5 minutes we started to hear the sounds of distant drum beats, and by the time we reached the Dongdaemun area we knew they must be directly above us. We climbed out of the Cheonggyechong to investigate. We found traditional Korean music performers, performing to collect money for some cause or another. We stood and listened for a few minutes before continuing on our way.

They say that, since the Cheonggyechong was restored in 2005, it's had an amazing impact on the environment of the area. Many birds, insects and fish not previously seen in the area started appearing along the stream area.

The waterway and plant life surrounding it actually has a measurable effect on the temperature of the city, lowering the temperature an average of 3.6˚C on summer days. See the Wikipedia article for more info. I feel lucky to live near such a nice place to visit.

Cheonggyechong ends between Gwanghwamun plaza and City Hall Plaza, and so it puts you right downtown. At the end of the stream there is a waterfall where the boyfriend had some fun playing with the settings on my camera. Something I need to spend more time doing. Anyway, this is what we got...

We continued on our way to get to the Seoul History museum near Seodaemun. Along the way I saw this cute little police car. Seconds after I took this picture, it sprang into action, catching some traffic violator in action.

Finally we arrived at the Seoul History Museum. It's a nice, cheap museum to visit on a boring Sunday afternoon. You can't beat a 700 won entry price. It's not the most exciting museum in the world, but definitely worth 700 won.

We spent about an hour or so in the museum, and then we headed around the back to find Gyonghuigung, one of the 5 palaces in Seoul... the one that I always wondered to myself where it was because I'd never heard of anyone going there. Frankly, there wasn't much to see, nothing compared to any other palace I've been to, but if you're at the museum, you might as well check it out. Now there is only one palace I've yet to visit. Changdokgung.

Again, like I said, not much different than any other palace. If you're sick of palaces, then don't bother. If you like palaces, than it might be worth it for you.

This is a replica of the old style trolleys that used to roll around Seoul before there were subways and buses. I'm guessing the woman is trying to sell something to the riders on the train. Much like how vendors sell products on the trains today!

Here is a big moving statue in between Seodaemun station and Gwanghwamun station. I've never quite figured out what it's for, but it does look cool.

We decided to head to Myongdong to find the boyfriend some new sneakers, so we cut around the back side of Doksugung to go that way. Back there we found these squashed people statues that I've never seen before. They were quite amusing, whatever they were....

We finally found our way to Myongdong and saw the infamous, newly opened H&M, where nearly every foreign girl I know has waited in line to get in and shop. I, on the other hand really had no desire to spend money on more clothes that I have no clothes hangers for and continued along the way to find some sneakers.

After at least an hour or two of shopping around for sneakers, the boyfriend finally found a pair that suited him and we headed home, exhausted from our long hike around the city. Before leaving though, we found these noodle guys entertaining some Japanese tourists with their elementary Japanese while chanting and making noodles. Someday I do need to try these noodles...
It's hard to get out of Myongdong without seeing some strange and interesting sights. we almost made it to the subway station before coming across this Christian trying to threaten me with hell if I have no Jesus. And after reading that, I almost felt scared enough to follow Jesus, but then I remembered that I don't like to be intimidated into believing any doctrines and went along my heathen ways.

This time we were in sight of the subway station when we saw 계란빵, kyeranbang, or a cake with a cooked egg in the middle. It doesn't sound very good, but it is.

Finally we didn't get home until nearly 10:00, amazing since we left the house around 2:30. I'm hoping I got enough exercise to burn off all the goodies I ate at my friend's dinner party on Saturday night.