Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Even though I don't believe in the religious aspect of Christmas, it really has a way of bringing people together and making them feel loved. So I'm taking a moment here to wish anyone who reads this blog a Merry Christmas. Enjoy some time off from work, being with family and friends, reminiscing about this year, and planning the next one.

So, a special thanks to the important people in my life, including but not exclusive to:

Mom, I really admire your enthusiasm and your decisiveness. I've tried to be more like you in those regards.
Dad, you've helped me keep a laid back approach and to see the big picture.
Bob, you've had to put up with me more than anyone. I don't think anyone else could have put up with being so close to me for so many years as well as you have.
Paul, thanks for always going along with what I say or think. It's nice to have someone who has such confidence in me.

민채, I couldn't have survived my first year in Korea without you. I've never felt so close to anyone, and I know I can always depend on you.
Alex, your trust in humanity is really refreshing to me because I certainly don't have it. Even when we don't agree, I think we always find a way to benefit each other.
여주, your understanding and self-motivation has been really encouraging to me. And when you don't understand me, thanks for always assuming the best ^^
Danny, your complete disregard for anyone else is inspiring. It's a great trait that you aren't afraid to be yourself in any situation, and to let people make their own judgements about you.
김수진, 이주현, 정지혜, 배수진, 진희연, 허민, 이인환 and 최혜진, thanks for helping me in times of need at my school. You're all busy with your own work, but always take the time to give me a reassuring smile or to give me a hand.
Joel, I admire how you never get discouraged and always keep fighting, even when you have no idea what lies ahead.
Zach, I dont even know what to say about you. You are the king of not caring. I think your ability to look neither back at the past nor into the future is quite endearing. You have a charming personality.
Viruck, you are so selfless to everyone around you, friend or foe. A great quality to have, especially since most Koreans seem to think Americans are so selfish.
진성, thanks for being my korean mother, even though you're only 3 and a half years older than me. You are the most caring person i've ever met, and always take care of me -- when I need it and when I don't need it.
Yuriko, we just spent less than one year together at university, but in the last 4 years we've always been able to depend on each other, whether in USA, Japan, or Korea. I don't know when I'll see you next, but I'm looking forward to it.

Also, to my grandparents and other extended family, and to Ben, Smokey, 미정, 유진, 지영, Dan, 슬기, Alex, Jozsef, Jill, Julie, Haruna, 석영, 효정, 은선, 유선, Irene, Candice, Sandile, Rob, Erin, 준, 현순, 나윤, Mona, Mandolyn, Haiyan, Mira, Annika, and everyone else in Korea, USA, Japan, China, Canada, Germany, England, New Zealand, Australia, Russia, or another place. I can't honestly say that my life would be the same without your influence.

Happy holiays ^^

Thursday, December 17, 2009

반갑습니다 ^^

소개를 드리겠습니다. 이름은 매튜 브레신 입니다. 미국 사람 이고 한국 나이는 26 입니다 (미국에서는 25 입니다). 김천에 살고 김천고등학교에서 영어 회화 선생님을 하고 있습니다. 저는 학교에서 보통 옷을 편하게 입습니다. 매주 21개의 수업을 가르칩니다. 주일은 너무 바쁩니다. 그래도 주말에 자주 여행을 합니다. 다른 도시에도 친구가 많이 있습니다.

비록 진짜 가족은 아니지만 서울에 한국 엄마와 한국 누나가 있습니다. 저의 진짜 가족은 미국에서 살고 있습니다. 미국에서 어머니, 아버지, 누나, 남자쌍둥이 동생과 남동생이 있습니다. 누나는 플로리다에서 살고 있고 남동생은 로스 앤젤레스에서 살고 있습니다. 현재 가족의 나머지는 미네소타에서 살고 있습니다. 저는 미네소타에서 태어났고 21살까지 살았고 플로리다 대학교에 입학 했습니다. 2007년에 고향에서 다른 대학교를 졸업했습니다. 대학교 졸업 후에는 은행 사무실에서 회계로 일했습니다. 그리고 올해 2월에 한국에 왔습니다. 앞으로 고려대학생이되기 위해서 알아보고 있습니다.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Iron Chef Gimcheon

using my friends idea to evaluate the cafeteria food today... you know that if its worthy of a blog post it was either really good or really bad...

so today's secret ingredient.... ONION!

The main dishes...
1. Udon noodle soup, without the Udon noodles (basically onion-flavored water)
2. Half sandwich. There is no meat on the sandwich, just egg, onion, sugar, and ketchup. Hard to taste anything but the sugar...
3. Kimchi mixed with onion. They somehow managed to incorporate onion into the traditional korean dish that we eat daily...
4. Rice mixed with lotus root vegetable and onion

Very low score awarded for taste and plating... however, i'll give them a few points for creative use of today's secret ingredient. I've began to notice that there are less teachers eating in the cafeteria every day...

Friday, December 4, 2009

성탄일 12월 25일

I'm sure I'm skipping alot of things, but as I don't update as often as I'd like to, lets just skip to whats important...

Yuriko came to Korea last week! Even though she lives in Japan and has been to roughly 20 countries, it was her first time to come to Korea. I think she really enjoyed it. Of course, I didn't find out she was coming to Korea until I got her email "Hey Matt, I arrived in Korea yesterday!" I was working during the week, but I got to see her in Seoul on Friday and Sunday.

On Friday, I went to Namsan Tower with Yuriko, Grace, Kim, Kris, Erin, Jihye, and Jihye's boyfriend. It was cool because Yuriko showed me Tokyo Tower when I was in Japan a few months ago. And its always fun to meet new people. At the tower, there are so many locks locked onto the fence. Couple write love letters on the locks and then they can keep the key or throw it away. It was funny to read them. Its a popular tourist spot, so while there aren't many tourists in Korea you can still see some written in English or Japanese, though the vast majority are in Korean. The messages are pretty simple so I can understand most of them. After that, we took the bus to Myeong-dong. Its one of my favorite areas in Seoul. Its the hub for Japanese and international fashion. There are also many restaurants, shops, and other things. Of course those were all closed. We went to a 김밥 restaurant (cheap korean fast food) and got alot of things to share. After that, Kim, Grace, JiHye, and her boyfriend left. But I went to a bar with Erin, Kris, and Yuriko. We had some somaek (soju + beer) and lots of those complimentary cracker things... about 4 bowls. We had to leave when they closed at about 2:30am. So the next logical progression was 노래방 (singing room). Even though Kris and Yuriko put up some resistance to the notion of singing, they both had a lot of fun once we got there. I forget who suggested that we keep singing after our first hour expired, but it wasn't me. We left sometime between 5 and 5:30. We went to the Jjimjilbang to get a communal sauna and shower before going to sleep.

Waking up at 11am was not fun. Yuriko left the jjimjilbang before I woke up! I had a bit of a hangover but it was bearable. I went to Anguk to meet 호랑이 (tiger)! I was surprised to meet her on the subway! We were both in the same subway car on the way to our meeting place. After we arrived, we spent a long time searching for 칼국수 (i'm not sure why she wanted to eat this). Finally we found a restaurant that serves it. It's a white noodle in a soup... and you can mix peppers and black pepper into the soup for seasoning. It was pretty tasty. After lunch we did alot of window shopping and then got some tea and ice cream. Sadly we both had plans for the evening, so we had to part ways while she went back to 수원 to play with friends and I went to Anam 원불교. At the temple, I met up with Yeoju, Jinsung, Hogyup, and some other people whose names I can't remember. I think Mira was there too (was she the one playing piano?). Our discussion group was small because half of the people were not there. But we had a multilingual philosophy debate over a plate of kimbap and some milk. After that, I slept at the house of one of the group members whose name I can never remember. His father wasn't home this weekend, so it was just the two of us and his sister. I appreciated it that when he phoned his sis to tell her that I'd be sleeping over that he didn't mention I was a foreigner, as people always think that's worth mentioning but I think i'm just a normal person. Besides, it was funny to see her shocked expression when she came in the door. Yuriko calls me at 1am (better late than never) and my phone dies after that.

Sunday morning. I take a quick shower and then we go out to the bakery to get a quick breakfast. I go to the convenience store to charge my phone and buy a Public Transportation stored value card. I get a 10% discount using buses and subway, I can transfer for free, and its really convenient. I just strapped it onto my phone. We played gonggi (a korean game similar to jacks, but better?) killing some time in the morning. Then I was back at the temple because today was the special ceremony for new members. There were about 10... half of them were babies. I had to give a speech as I became a member of the temple. Nobody explained to me what it was that I was supposed to be speaking about. So I just gave a speech full of generic inspiring rhetoric and tried to speak at normal speed or faster, so people wouldn't be able to understand me. Finished it off with 1 word in Korean! Pure Gold! I got a round of applause. We had lunch after that (in the temple) and then I went with Yeoju to her university (kookmin university) to kill some time until my plans with Yuriko. My initial plan was to go ice skating with Seulgi but she was sick!

I met Yuriko at 4pm. While waiting for her friend, I taught her how to play gonggi. I gave her the game and she gave me some Japanese caramels. With her friend Kan, we toured Jungang University then he stayed to meet some friends while Yuriko and I headed north (near Insadong) to meet her friend 재원 (Miss Korea). We had dinner and then did some souviner shopping with Yuriko. We found a shop that had photobooths to take photos and did that quickly... I need to practice my impromptu photo posing. Then we had about an hour so we walked to the station, got my ticket and waited together at the station for 15 minuutes for my train to arrive. After failing to kidnap Yuriko into the train, I resignatedly walked to me seat. I was happy to see Yuriko and Miss Korea outside my window a minute later! We mimed goodbye while taking photos of each other through the window, while I tried to explain in Korean to the girl sitting next to me that she should join in on the photo. The train departed all too soon.

Yuriko is the only friend I've hung out with in 3 countries. Actually, I can't even think of another friend I've hung out with in 2 countries. I need to travel with friends more often.

On the train, I didn't get any sleep because I was talking in Korean to the girl next to me for the entire 3 hours. I got back to my apartment at 2:30, I was so tired! The girl from the train sent me a text message the next day asking me to come drink with her, but as it was already after midnight and she wanted me to take a 30 minute taxi ride, I wisely decided against it, as I had to work the next day.

The students have finals in less than two weeks. I'm looking forward to that day, when I can take a little bit of a rest. I hope to teach them about American Christmas next week!

Happy Holidays to anyone who may read this.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Viruck, me, and Sandile. These are my closest guy friends from orientation.

SeokYoung and myself. When I showed the pictures to my class, the students all said "So beautiful! You make girlfriend, ok?"

Me, Kim, and Will. You can see my entire costume: wig, apple, t-shirt, arm tattooes, wristbands...

My beautiful friends -- Candice, SeulGi, YeoJu, and Kim!

Another successful party under my belt ! I love throwing parties in Korea. It's so much work to organize it and to convince everyone that it will be better than any other plans they have for the weekend, but it's always worth it! After going to 원북교 (Won Buddhist Temple) with 여주 (YeoJu) we went to 홍대 (HongDae) for our Halloween party! Alot of people got there before us. But we met up with Sandile and eventually found everyone. Since nobody lives in that area, it was quite a task. Let's just say morale was low once we all met up (about 20 people) and everyone wanted to do something different (eating food, go to a bar, go to somewhere with no cover, go to an RnB club, etc.) We bumped into YeoJu's friend, SeulGi, at the subway station in HongDae. We changed into our costumes in the bathroom: I was G-dragon (the leader of the boy band Big Bang), YeoJu was a traditional Chinese beauty and Seulgi was a sexy Phantom of the Opera. Next we met up with Sandile, who wasn't wearing anything that could be considered a costume, spare a set of devil's horns.

Everyone else was at one of two places. The vast majority of my friends were in a nearby bar, but SeokYoung was in a 노래방 (singing room) with her friends. Eventually we met the large group at a park and we went to search for a good place to get some alcohol. It was great to see everyone again. I hadn't seen Mando, a slutty 1950s housewife, and Jane, a sexy witch, in months. Kim was looking great in her Zorro costume and I met Young, a pirate in the loosest sense of the word, and Tristan, a better-dressed pirate, again for the first time since Mando's house party in April. There were a few new faces as well. Of course, Viruck and Candice were there too in their ridiculous disco vampire costumes. I met Will for the first time in his cat facepaint, and I feel he is worth mentioning because of all the people I met for the first time, he stayed with us the longest.

We made our way to BricX because there is no cover and I thought it would have alcohol and food to please most people. But nobody ordered food and it wasn't that great, so we left after 10 or 15 minutes and went to a club we passed on the way that had no cover charge for people in costumes (hey, thats us!). Once we got inside, we were a bit disappointed to see that our group of 20 people more than doubled the amount of people in the club (maybe 12 or 15 before we came). But because our group is so cool, we made it fun. SeokYoung came and met up with us there too. She was looking so lovely in her bunny costume (though she needed a tail!). We had some crazy dancing and took some photos. We all got to get some alcohol in us but we had to move on to bigger and better things before an hour had elapsed.

It was 1:00am. If there wasn't anyone in the club now, there would never be. So we went down the street to a place I had been to once before. I think technically i'd say its a bar, but they were playing loud music and felt like dancing. So our group was acting like it was a club haha. The cover was only $5 and it came with a free beer. Also, the mixed drinks were strong and cheap. Everyone really got into it. We were pretty wild. Everyone among us seemed to take off in small groups between 3:30am and 4:30am until it was only me, Kim, YeoJu, and Sandile. But for a while it seemed like just me and Kim, as YeoJu was searching for her phone (why does this always happen?) and Sandile was god knows where (maybe searching for women?). Kim and Sandile both took off at about 5am. After that, it was only me and Yeoju. Even most of the other people in the bar had left by then. So we went outside and I grabbed some cash at the 7 Eleven. We met some interesting people in the street who were curious about my costume. I have to admit the girl in the Storm costume had a really good wig and outfit. But the guy in his TaeKwonDo outfit was really lame haha. After getting some cash, we went to have one more drink at a nearby bar. I guess things ended exactly how they started, with just me and YeoJu in the subway station bathrooms changing our attire. We hopped on the subway after 6am and I got some sleep at 6:45am ^^

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Korean field trip

HS field trips in Korea are so much better than those in the States. I remember our field trips were usually going to a museum, theater, or classic music performance. Of course we did go to Valley Fair once, only to have to take measurements at the theme park and do lots of calculations and hours of homework.

Yesterday, all of the first year students and teachers went to a Ski resort. The students played paintball, had a picnic lunch, and went hiking. The teachers drove ATVs, had a picnic lunch, and took the lift to the top of the mountain to enjoy the view. It was nice because the resort staff kept the students in line so the teachers didn't have to control the students all day. Oh, the bus ride can be difficult though, right? One and a half hours to the resort? Not a problem, the students can watch a movie or TV on the big flat screen on the bus. Of course, my students opted to do karaoke instead so we had 3 hours of karaoke (1 and a half hours each way).

I opted to play paintball with the students rather than hang with the other teachers at the beginning. I was playing with class 1-2. Everyone was very cautious playing the first game. I was the first one eliminated... some bad students in class 1-3 (on the sidelines) provoked one of the students into teamkilling me and shooting me in the back. I stayed away from him in the second game and got 2 or 3 kills. The main problem was that each student only had 20-25 paintballs in their gun. So after getting down to about 5, I just made a suicide run. I got one of the 1-3 students a couple times in the stomach before he just clipped me in the shoulder. It was a good run. The paintball and the ATVs really get the adrenaline going.

The ATV was fun, as we took it across dirt, pavement, grass fields, rocks, loose gravel, mud, etc. The grass fields were great. The grass was about a meter high in most parts, so you couldn't see the lie of the land. Also, it was the only part where I could go as fast as I wanted to (i was usually stuck in a line behind the instructor and other teachers). When we went down the narrow paths, the other teachers tried to avoid any large rocks or puddles of mud. Naturally, I went through every obstacle I came across (i mean, we are in an "All Terrain Vehicle" so I think its more fun take advantage of its unique properties rather than drive it like a car). I was going full speed all day, in paintball, ATVs and whatever else we did. Finally I got a little tired on the bus ride back. The karaoke was too loud to sleep, but I was text messaging friends and studying korean words in my dictionary. Before I knew it, we were back in 김천. We had a dinner together with all the 1st grade teachers, vice principal, and principal before we parted ways.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I'm going to take an intermission from talking about my Japan trip because of some noteworthy developments (hence the title "Intermission." Yea I know its not very creative).

지난주말은 서울에 갔어요. I went to Seoul last weekend. 금요일 밤에 진성 엄마 서울역에서 만났어요. I met JinSung-mother at Seoul Station. 진성 나를 한국 엄마처럼해요. JinSung is like a Korean mother to me. 토요일에 일찍 일어났어서 에버란드 가요. Saturday we woke up early to go to Everland (amusement park). 강원역에서 여주 만났어요. We met YeoJu at Gangwon Station. 진성과 여주는 날 한국에서 두명 가장 친한 친구들이에요. JinSung and YeoJu are my best two best friends in Korea. 진성는 유치원선생님이고 여주는 대학생이에요. JinSung is a kindergarten teacher and YeoJu is a university student.

In the interest of time... lets finish it in English. I went to Everland amusement park with YeoJu and JinSung. We had a picnic lunch and had lots of fun. At about 3pm we met up with Viruck, Candice, and Willie, who are all foreign teachers in Korea. And around 5pm we parted ways. JinSung, YeoJu, and myself went to AnAm Won Buddhist Temple for the weekly service and we had a meal and discussion afterwards. On

On sunday, we slept in late and went to the temple for the lesson for new students. I made some new friends at the temple. One girl was really kind and helped me with a lot of translations. I wish I could remember her name. Afterwards, JinSung, myself, and some of the guys had a quick dinner before I got on the subway to Seoul Station. I got the 8pm train back to Gimcheon and I reclaimed my hoodie that I had forgotten on the train on friday. On the train I was surprised to see my friend Tiana sitting only two seats behind me. I was so engrossed in conversation with her that I didn't see JinSung waving goodbye outside my window... Oops! Sorry JinSung! But I had a wonderful time last weekend and I'm so thankful for friends such as you and YeoJu!

Lastly, ever since summer I've been weighing a few possibilities as to what I should do next year. They all consisted of me staying in Korea, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to teach at my high school for another year, move to an elementary school, or become a student. Also, I wasn't sure where I wanted to teach/study. But my mind is clear now. Next year I really want to be a student in Seoul, studying the Korean language. Possibly at a SKY university (SKY is an acronym for the 3 best universities in Korea). So this week I'm going to look into the process of getting enrolled in that starting in Feb/Mar 2010.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nippon 3

Day 3:
I cant really remember much about this day... maybe if I start writing about my day it will spark my memory. I think I had some time in the morning, so I wandered around Asakusa (the area near my hotel. It's a big tourist area because its a traditional area with temples and shrines and other things to see. I headed to Shibuya to meet up with Yuriko and her friend Gabi. We met at the statue of Hachiko, and Yuriko was late (like always). Not just a few minutes late... but late enough that I felt it was worth mentioning. We went to a famous music store in Tokyo called Tower Records. Two months prior, my favorite singer had released her first solo album in 5 or 6 years. I was happy to see they still had a big display of Shiina Ringo items in the store. I was able to pick up her new album and see all the items they had. They had reprints of old magazines with articles on Ringo, and of course lots of newer magazines (June 2009) and even a few books. One book was a biography of Ringo, another was a scrapbook of her life, especially her career. It was really cool but the price was roughly $100. I realized that she is one of the most popular Japanese singers in Japan, even though nobody outside of Japan seems to know about her. It's kind of curious, since her style seems to be one that would lend itself well to international acclaim -- She has alot of English in her songs compared to artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki who is one of the most internationally recognized J-singers. And she is very uniquely persistant, along the same vein as Bjork (but obviously to a lesser degree). Anyhow, I digress. I could have spent all day in that store but Gabi looked bored out of his mind, so I figured it was best if we left. But it was cool to see some of my favorite J-singers albums and magazines. I also saw albums by Utada, Perfume, and other groups/singers.
It was hard to find the backcopies of the June magazines so we search for those a little more in another store, with no luck. At this point the days kind of blend together. We went into a secondhand clothing store that had a lot of kimonos, but maybe that was on day 2. And we went into a famous electronics store... I think that was day 2 also, because i remember Yoshiko being there.
Back to day 3. We were walking and came to a park, where we got some ice cream and rested. Then we decided to go see Tokyo Tower in Southern Tokyo. When we made it there it was already dusk. It was quite expensive to go to the top. So, we just stayed at the bottom and explored the temple near the base of the tower and took photos of the tower. It was pretty cool in the evening because all of the lights come on.
After that we went to an Ainu restaurant. This was one of the most interesting things that I did in Japan, so I don't think I can fully summarize it now. I'll update more later. Cya~

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nippon Ni+

Day 2: I met up with Yuriko (it was good to see her again!) and her friend Yoshiko. Together we went to the Tokyo Sky Tree (the new Tokyo Tower). It wont be finished until 2012... so its only about 30% built now. Then we went to some other cool spots. We went to Shinokubo (korean district in tokyo) and saw a few Korean fan memorobilia shops. Some Korean actors and singers are quite popular in Japan. And I took them to a Korean restaurant where they could have kimchi 김치 and Naengmyun 냉면 and taught them how to eat Korean style. After that, we headed to Shinjuku. Near the station, on the bridge, were some girls dressed up in cosplay outfits so I took my photo with them. We went into the nearby Meiji temple, but it immediately started raining. We eventually made our way around the shrine though. This is the largest temple in Tokyo and the torii arch is the biggest of its kind in Japan...I think. At the temple, we got our fortunes. I got the Japanese fortune and Yuriko and Yoshiko got theirs in English. I only remember one of them now... something about the mirror of life and how you view yourself and others in the mirror. Another friend of hers met up with us as we left the temple and we wandered around until we eventually found our way to Shibuya. I got to see the statue of Hachiko the dog at the station there, which was cool because I had written a question about it for the English Listening test that my school held a few days ago.

We went to a nice restaurant that was in the basement of a building. The atmosphere was very traditional, yet still classy. I got to try some Japanese shochu (like sake, but stronger... maybe 25% or 30% alcoholic content). I wanted to order the horse sashimi but the waitress said they were all out... but we got a variety of food and it was all quite good. One of the dishes was raw meat (chicken, maybe) with a raw egg on top of it. Then you mix it together and eat it. During the meal there was an earthquake (there would be a few noteworthy earthquakes this week). I couldnt feel it, but everyone else could and we could see the blinds and lamps swaying from the impact of the earthquake.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nippon Ichi v1.2

perhaps I should just break it down by day?

Day 1:
I awoke at the abysmal stroke of 4:30am. I had to get on the train at 6:20 in the morning. On the train, I met a woman who works in the school office at another high school in Gimcheon. Her name was ... 이지용... I think. It was nice because we have a common friend and some common acquaintances, as we would come to realize. I think when you meet someone in that kind of situation its like a gift that keeps on giving.

I took a shuttle bus to the airport and was able to check-in and go through security in a combined time of about 6 minutes. So I just was sending text messages to all of my friends that I would miss while I was in Japan. And all too soon, I was on the plane going to Japan!

On the plane I met a woman from Peru who is a student at KEIST university in Korea. It was interesting to hear the viewpoint of someone who is a student in Korea, rather than another teaching going through the same program as me.

After landing in Tokyo, I was able to call Yuriko and say hi, and she welcomed me to Japan. Since I wouldn't be meeting her until tomorrow, I decided I'd take the hour-long train towards downtown Tokyo so that I could find my hotel and get acquinted with the surroundings. On the train I was fortunate to meet a Japanese woman who quite helpful. She showed me all of the key places on the subway map and I was surprised to learn that she can speak some Korean. Actually, she is fluent in Chinese, English, and Japanese, and she can speak decent Korean also. When I meet people like that, I always admire them so much. Especially someone who worked so hard to learn the languages. Sometimes people grow up in a country or household that speaks 2 or more languages. But growing up in the United States and Japan, you really have to work hard to put yourself into situations to learn about other languages and cultures.

I explored the area for a couple hours before checking into my capsule hotel. The area is famous for the traditional sights and souvenirs, so it was a good place to see. I found a small shrine to Inari that was really peaceful and surprisingly well-taken care of. Considering how small and hard to find it was, I expected it to be somewhat neglected. I still dont understand why the fox statues were always wearing red bibs though. Maybe because people always make offerings of food to Inari when they pray for a good harvest or business success? Not that the stone statues can eat the food, though. Ironically, there were a number of cats that lived at the shrine. I think Inari (being a fox, and a member of the dog family) would be upset to know that cats were inhabiting his shrine.

My hotel was quite nice... but the staff spoke very bad English (which was surprising, as half or more of the guests were foreigners). Every room (I use the term "room" in the loosest sense of the word) had a TV and alarm clock! But I only got 1 channel on the TV. It was just there in case I wanted to rent adult videos (at an extra charge). But there was a community bathing room that was good. It had shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Also, there was a hot tub (too hot for me), a sauna (too hot for me) and a balcony that you could go on to air dry or enjoy the scenery of Tokyo (its more beautiful if you're naked?).

At the hotel, I met a guy named Alfredo from Chile. As we were both flying solo that night, we decided to team up and explore Tokyo together. All of the best downtown areas were quite far from our hotel, though. First we went to Ueno. We ate some dinner there and saw lots of Pachinko parlors. We tried to go into a bar but they kicked us out because they don't serve foreigners. So, we headed to Ginza and got a couple drinks at a Spanish bar that we found. We saw a movie being filmed in one of the alleys outside of a restaurant/bar. But most things were already closing down, so we headed to Roppongi. It is known as the best place for foreigners. Actually, there were lots of black guys out on the street trying to lure customers into their establishments. These establishments were all quite questionable, however (or sometimes, there was no question about the type of establishment it was... but it certainly wasn't anything we were interested in.) Finally we found a nice place though. It had a unique mix of different foreign ethnicities as well as a number of Japanese people. I met some guys from Mexico and talked to some Japanese people. There were so many Japanese women in kimonos on this day because of the fireworks festival in Tokyo. And the kimono are so beautiful that sometimes I'd just see the dress and think that the woman is gorgeous, but after seeing her face I'd realize it was quite a different story altogether!

There were some crazy signs in the subways sometimes. I mean, this is common sense! DO IT AT THE BEACH!

Sadly, we could only stay for an hour because we wanted to catch the subway back to our hotel before the subway lines stopped at night. We made the mistake of taking a bathroom break before we went on the subway though! We just missed one train and ended up getting on the last train bound for Asakusa. The train didn't finish it's route, though >_< we got kicked off near Ginza as they made everyone leave the subway line. We tried to walk towards Asakusa.... but it was so far. We met four Japanese people who were standing on a bridge. They laughed at us when we told them we would walk to Asakusa. They said it will take us 3 hours or more. After chatting with them for a bit, we walked a little more and then just decided to get a taxi, which is quite expensive in Tokyo. I went to sleep so I could wake up relatively early the next day.

Of course, I had to check out the night view of Tokyo from the rooftop terrace before I went to sleep.

END of day 1.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nippon Ichi

Japan was amazing. I had a total of 8 days and 7 nights there. On one hand, it really was too short to see Tokyo, Kyoto, AND Osaka. After leaving each city, I really regretted that I couldn't spend more time there. I bought a number of things there that will help me to remember my journey, but my favorite things are those that were given to me.

I have too much going on now to make a full entry. More to come later.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

the sound of lightning (part 3)

My co-teacher is explaining something in Korean on the first day of the week.

Picture with all of the students on Friday. On the back left side is Eun-Jeong. She is such a smart student. Sometimes she can speak English better than my Korean co-teacher. You may notice in the picture that there is a set of twins, a girl with an eyepatch, and a girl with a cast on her foot (maybe you cant see that part). Sye-Jin, Eun-su, and Eun-Jeong wanted to be near me in the picture ^^ and Gyeong-Mi also.

Sandwiched between my favorite 6th grade students !

It was halloween day in class. You might be seeing some of the props. The boy on the end always answered my questions in Korean, his way of revolting against English camp.

Me with a swarm of students. Twins on my left and right. They always look so apathatic. The shy girls are in the front.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

the sound of lightning (part 2)

Okay, I know teachers aren't supposed to play favorites but that's never the case. These are a couple of my favorite students from my week of teaching elementary school (and coincidentally they are the only two that wanted to have their photo taken)

This is Sye-Jin. Perhaps the smallest student in the class of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. She is a 6th grader this year and quite mischievous.

Sye-Jin on the left and Eun-Su on the right. If the students at A-cheon were to make a Matt Fan Club, I'm pretty sure these two would co-found it. Is that a gun?

Eun-Su doesn't seem to mind that Sye-Jin is always attacking her, so long as the camera is pointed in her direction.

The infamous rebel, Sye-Jin.

There are more pictures that were taken on the A-Cheon school camera so hopefully I can get those soon. I had 4 or 5 favorite students, but they aren't all in the photos. Some of them were really quiet and so I never got to learn their names. And some were always talking to me and asking me questions (sometimes the same question every day).

I really want to teach at A-cheon next year, but I know it wouldn't be the same students. Sye-Jin and Eun-Seung will be in middle school. And there will be 200 students, only 15 of which I know. So maybe its kind of silly to want to work there next year. But teaching these kids for 20 hours, I've really grown attached to them. I've never taught the same students for more than 4 hours in a week before this.

On Saturday I'm going to TOKYO. I hope its half as fun as teaching my elementary students. I'm so glad Yuriko got on my case for me to plan my trip. So far I have a list of things I want to do, and my schedule of when I'll be in which city, and my reservations for the hostel and capsule hotel that I will be staying at. Also, I figured out how to get to Incheon Airport. So, I still need to figure out how to get from Tokyo airport to my hotel (and the downtown area). And I need to figure out how I will travel between cities. And I need to get Japanese Yen (worst case scenario i should be able to do this at the airport). Other than that, I just want to print out some maps and directions so I can find the places that I want to get to.

I'm so excited that I will see Yuriko again. I might be able to visit Megan from my TESL class, as she has vacation the same week that I do. Other than that, Yuriko's friends might keep me company on some days and I'll probably be flying solo in Kyoto and Osaka. I have the phone numbers of both Yuriko and Megan in case anything happens to me in Japan, and they can both speak Japanese so please dont worry about me !

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

the sound of lightning

the problem when you don't update often is that it's hard to know where to begin. but after pondering that quandry for a few moments, its quite easy for me to know; I'm not here to catalog every detail of my adventures -- just the important ones.

Last week was interesting because I had to work two jobs. In the summer I am teaching 19 hours per week. That's only 2 less than my normal semester. But in the normal school year I plan two class hours a week and teach them over and over again until I perfect them. In summer, I can only repeat 4 hours of my lessons... so I have to create 15 hours of material to teach. So, you can imagine that I'm actually more busy during summer vacation than I am during the regular school year. Last week was especially interesting because my city's Office of Education forced me to work at 아천초등학교 (A-cheon Elementary School) AND my high school job in the same week. So 9am - 12:30pm was Elementary school (with no downtime ... just 4 straight classes) and then I had to go teach at my high school from 2pm - 6pm. Of course I also had my 4 hours of private lessons (2 on tues, 2 on fri). So, normally i teach 23 hours in the summer and I had to add an extra 20 hours, plus more prep time. It was quite exhausting. Not only because of the hours, but because elementary students demand so much attention and energy.

I'm so glad I got to teach elementary school! I loved it. The students are so energetic and passionate. And of course they are all so cute. My high school students sleep in the 10 minutes between classes. The elementary students play dodgeball, draw pictures of me on the whiteboard, make presents for me, and of course, wrestle me. Especially the girls always want to wrestle. On Friday, I got 8 presents from my girl students (the class size is 20 students). I got 2 letters on cute stationary, handmade soap, a die(what am i supposed to do with 1 die?), and lots of handmade cards that are half in english and half in korean. I gave them my phone number after the last class on friday but then I had to rush to a lunch meeting with the people from the Office of Education. Over the next two hours I must have gotten 30 text messages, 8 phone calls, and a picture message. I couldnt answer most of them because i was in the meeting. One of the girls has been texting me every day and she gets mad if I dont respond immediately. I made a promise to her that I would study korean every day if she studies english every day.

I have to go to lunch now. I hope to post more later (with some pictures too).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

home sweet home

No matter how much fun I have on the weekend, a smile always spreads my lips when I hear the train announcement saying "We will be arriving at Gimcheon station shortly..."

That's why I'm writing on my blog instead of doing the piles of work that I have. Because I am home.

So what have I been doing lately?? Well... (you might want Korean font enabled for this)

한국어로 일기를 써오세요

여주 씨가 내 한국말 일기를 안쩌요. 그래서 저는 쓰이어요. 오늘은 여주 씨가와 만나 같이 명동역에 왔어요. 당신은 여고귀담5를 봤어요? 여주 씨가 여고귀담5를 안보고싶어해요. 그래서 저는 김수진선생님 하고 같이 김천에서 영화를 봐요. 지금 우리는 술집에서 그루져들를 마셔요. 여주 씨가 너무 예뻐서 항상 같이 보내는 시간이 재미있어요. 오늘 오후에 우리는 포켓볼 쳤어요. 여주 가방은 너부 무거워서 마치벽들을 넣은것같아요. 우리는 남산에 가서 너무 힘들었어요. 그러나 오늘은 새미있었어요. 내일은 일요일에 입니다. 그래서 김천에 다시 가요. 오늘 밤에 찜질방에 가서 푹 잘주서 있을 것같아요.

저는 오늘 아침 여섯시 삼십분에 갔어요. 오늘은 면도를 못 했어요. 장마라서 요즘 항상 비가 내려요. 일요일 이지원 씨가 시차 안에 처음 만나요. 지원 씨가 이화여자대학교에서 학생예요.

저는 대학민국이 진짜 사랑해요. 지금 숙제가 끝났어요! ^^

Now, in English:
Writing a Korean Diary

Yeo-Ju will not write my Korean diary. So, I am writing it. Today, Yeo-ju came to meet me at Myeong-dong station. Have you seen Girls High School Suicide Club 5? Yeo-ju doesn't want to see it. So, I will see the movie in Gimcheon with the teacher Su-jin Kim. We are drinking Cruisers in a bar now. I always enjoy spending time with Yeo-ju, because she is so beautiful. We played billiards this afternoon. Yeo-ju's purse is so heavy that I suspect she put bricks in it. We went to Nam Mountain so I was very worn out. But today was fun. Tomorrow is Sunday, so I will go back to Gimcheon. Tonight I will stay at a jjimjilbang because it is a good place to sleep.

I went to sleep at 6:30 this morning. I didn't shave today. These days the rain is always falling because it is rainy season. On Sunday I made the acquintance of Ji-wan Lee on the train. Ji-wan is a student at Ewha Women's University.

I really love Korea. I'm done with my homework now! ^^

Thursday, July 9, 2009

이번주와 주말...

I'm glad to be busy lately. I'm trying to teach a private lesson 2x a week. I actually enjoy it. My student is very eager to learn and its easier to see the difference you are making when you have 1 student to focus on, instead of having 33 students in a class, or having 420 students that you teach. I only know two of my students' names! (In my defense, korean names are hard to remember and I don't ever have to use their names for role call or anything). So the private lesson is enjoyable, and its so relaxed because her mother gives me amazing food and always lots of tasty beverages and fruits.

I also have two hours of Korean language class at the hagwon (a private academy). There is only one other student, so I learn alot. Its on the exact opposite side of town (considering that there are about 20 foriegners in Gimcheon, it makes sense that this is the only Korean language class being offered). So I spend as much time and money travelling to the class as I do taking it. And the homework is pretty thorough. I've been writing diary entries that give me good practice.

I've been going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week. I can notice the difference... and thus I'm becoming even more narcissistic. But it's good to feed the ego sometimes, I think.

Tonight was the first meeting for summer camps. I showed up late and didn't have any choice in co-teachers for the camp. One of my Korean friends is doing the camp so I wanted to teach with her. Or maybe one of the beautiful, young women. But I got the only male co-teacher. Just my luck!

Actually, the summer camp thing started out as a real disaster. Someone told me about it so I asked my friend how I can get more information. So she gave my contact info to the Office of Education so that they could contact me. But this isn't America; It's Korea. So instead of contacting me they just signed me up for it, because they didnt have enough volunteers among native teachers and they had no more time to fill the spots. Ok... I guess I can see that logic. The real problem was that they didn't contact me or my school about it at all. So they didn't know that my school already had me scheduled to teach. And nobody likes being told what to do at the last minute when they have to complete shuffle their freshly laid plans. Furthermore, they tried to blame it on a misunderstanding ("Your friend told us you wanted to join, so it was her mistake not ours. So we can't remove you now, even though we just told you about it. It's too late. If you want to get out of it you need to find someone to replace you within the next three hours.... but that'll be pretty impossible because we've already asked every native teacher in the city. By the way, we have an important meeting today at 4:00pm. Oh, you teach class until 5:10pm?? Well, I guess we would have known that had we bothered to contact you at all...") Ok... so that was obviously a paraphrase (and a quite biased one, at that), but you get the idea.

So, in summary, it was handled quite poorly. I don't like being told what to do, and I especially don't like being lied to. I had a chance to broach this topic at todays meeting and they basically said "we need you, but we are sorry that we didn't contact you about this." I didn't find out I was teaching at the camp until they faxed it to my school around 12:00pm.

So, I'm quite excited for the camp, even though it is far from ideal. I've known I was going to do it for all of ten hours now. I've been misled, bullied, and flat out lied to. I have a co-teacher that has a wealth of ideas and experience but it was quite frustrating because his English is so bad that we had to move at about 10% speed. My students have better English (well, maybe 20% of my students). But we have some fun activities planned. The camp is for elementary school! So I'm excited to try that. The kids will be so enthusiastic and energetic. Sometimes my high school boys are so worn out from being over-worked and sleep deprived, or they think they are too cool to do something. And I only need to plan one lesson for the week (each teacher will plan one and share). So I planned 4 hours. Half of it is about Halloween and half is acting and role-playing. And all of the material (a typed up lesson plan, 8 pages of worksheets and info to put into the workbook, stories about Halloween and the Ugly Duckling, video clips, flashcards, 2 powerpoints, and one or two other things I'm forgetting now but I hope I don't forget later (haha).

Also, my co-teacher thinks I should prepare all of the materials because he is too busy to do it. I know he is married and probably has kids, and that he is working on a 70-page paper for an English writing contest, but he works at an elementary school that finishes at 2:30 every day. Whereas I never leave work before 5:20. In fact, he doesn't know anything about my situation at all other than that I finish at 5:20, so I'm not sure why he assumed I can do it all. After finishing the planning today, I went to the gym, came home to do laundry and cook/eat dinner. I didn't finish until close to 12. So, I haven't had time to start at all. Half of the material is due on Friday (at another 4:00 meeting, argh!).

So, for one week this summer I will be teaching 4 hours at the elementary school every day. Then I have a little over an hour to get transportation to my high school and eat lunch before teaching for 3+ more hours. Teaching 5 hours in a day can be draining, so 7 should be interesting! But I'm so excited because I will have a class of 20 students. I will have them for 20 hours in that week, so I can get to know my students well and we can do alot of fun activities that I cant do at high school. Furthermore, it gives me another chance to evolve my teaching skills because I'll have a new co-teacher and I'll get to use lessons made by other teachers. Of course, I'm getting rewarded for my efforts. For the 8 pages of material I will get about $80, I will get $85 for transportation costs, and I get paid $16 extra for every hour I go over the 22 hours of teaching per week on my contract. So, maybe I'll make a few hundred extra dollars that week. That can make for an interesting trip in Japan this summer.... or ONE CRAZY NIGHT IN JAPAN.... hahah

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

recent transpirings

I almost feel like I'm reminiscing as I write this, because it seems like some of these events happened so long ago...

Two weekends ago I saw Rob's band play in Daegu. I brought a couple of my Korean friends (one teacher from my school and one from a private academy that students study at after normal school hours). The band was playing in a small bar with seating for about 30 people. I think it was mainly just their friends. I knew about 5 other people there that were friends of Rob's. I didn't care for the vocalists in the band. Rob was good on bass though. I actually ducked out a little early with my two Korean friends and we had some fun.

Last week was my friend 영주's (Young-Ju) so we went drinking. I wanted to sing happy birthday to her in Korean (its alot easier than the English version actually) but none of the other foreigners knew it... i think even the one who has been here for 4 years didn't know it. Its to the same rhythm and translates like this:
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Love of 's (Love for you on your birthday)
Happy Birthday

I've been going to the gym 4 or 5 times a week and I feel good. Also I've met some friends there. I learned that one of my friends from my gym knows another Korean friend of mine that teaches at an elementary school near my work. I was surprised to hear that they are friends because one is an oral surgeon and the other is a teacher. But supposedly they've been best friends since elementary school. So last Friday they invited me out with them for dinner, etc.

I didn't leave town last weekend. My friends that are in university are done with it now though. 선옥 (Sun-Ohk) and 사랑 (Sarang [the koeran word for "love"]) are both coming home to Gimcheon this week so I will meet with them soon. Their families live in Gimcheon but they go to university in Daegu. This coming weekend I want to go to the beach in Busan with one of my Korean friends who lives in Busan. And on July 4th weekend I will meet up with a few of my foreigner friends and go to a big city... maybe Daegu.

Yesterday I learned that my vacation will be from July 8th - July 19th (12 days total, 8 of them weekdays). My co-teacher only gets three days off because she has to do a TESOL training course over summer break. I don't know what my schedule will be like during the 3 weeks that I'm teaching. I'm excited to be teaching a class for my fellow teachers, though. I'm not sure how many of my co-workers will sign up for it. At first they were all so excited to have me here and they wanted to learn English but the enthusiasm has died down. I'm not a novelty anymore. But I like the idea of teaching adults. Also, the experience they will get in my class will unlock a lot of vocabulary that they know in the back of their mind but haven't used since their high school English classes.

Yesterday one of the teachers invited me out to dinner with his family. He wanted to introduce me to his daughter, who is going for an English major at university. So I said I would give her private lessons and she will help me with my Korean also. The hardest part about learning a language is listening, so it will help her alot.

I started Korean classes at a private academy on Monday. The class has been ongoing for a couple of months now but I didn't join before because my Korean was alot better than the other foreigners in Gimcheon. I felt I wouldn't have learned anything new. So I just started this week. I am learning some new vocabulary already and its good to have the practice because its hard to motivate myself sometimes to study by myself. There are only two other students. I think we are all at different places with our learning and they are good at speaking while I am good at writing and reading.

Students have exams next week from Wednesday to Saturday. It's the final exam for the semester. This week I made a review for them that is over 70 PowerPoint slides long. I've only done the review for one class so far, and about half of the students were wise enough to take notes. Considering how I got to write almost 20% of the exam questions (and I teach about 25% of their English classes) they should all be taking notes. Anyhow, remembering how I was in high school... I never would've taken notes for the class.

Friday, June 12, 2009


So, alot has happened in this last week.

First, I started teaching an evening class. All of my students are English teachers from many different schools. The class is held at 김천여자중학교 (Gimcheon Girls Middle School) which is about a 30 minute walk from my apartment. The class is geared towards elementary and middle school teachers... at it starts at 4:30pm and my high school has classes until after 6pm. So, I have to leave school early to go to this, and on Tuesday I missed one of my classes. This was assigned to me by the Province of Education (my employer) so I have to do it.

Anyhow, the class is great and I would gladly teach it for free every week if they let me. Because all of my students (it feels wrong to use that word, since they are teachers) are English teachers, we are able to converse freely. I have 7 students, but one could not attend this week because she was out of town. All of the students are women, and mostly in their 20s... so we get along great. This class has been running for over two months already because they rotate who the foreign teacher is every couple of weeks. I am last in the rotation and then the class is finished (but maybe there will be one over the summer or next semester). They love me and want to take me out to dinner for our last class next Tuesday (using the budget that the Province of Education gave us). I convinced them that not only should we do dinner, but also drinking and a karaoke room. I think we can use the budget for all of it, because someone said there might be a little bit left in the budget and I am the last in the rotation, after all.

The classes are really easy also. The first class we just had free conversation for 2 hours. The second class we had free conversation for 1 hour and then I showed them some Dear Abby articles (after deleting her answer) and we discussed what advice we would give to the person who wrote in. One of my students started giggling inanely out of shock whenever I said something in Korean. Even after the 20th time. They are all really laid back. It made me realize how stressed out everyone at my school is (because its a high school and they have to work soooo many hours). If I want to go out with my friends at the high school they will decline more often than not. But these elementary and middle school teachers leave at 4:30 every day without a care in the world and have lots of time to relax and enjoy themselves.

One of my "students" from that class helped me find a good health club to get signed up at last night. Her name is 옥헤 or 옥희 (pronounced Oak-hae... very similar to "OK"). She always makes me use her English name though. So I bought her dinner of sushi. Korean custom is not to split the bill... but to take turns paying. Since I have lots of money (only supporting myself, and I get a free apartment) I told her I'd pay since its the first time we went out. The taking turns paying gets awkward when you have large groups (8+ people) though, because nobody wants to pay.

Last night and today I made a drawing of my friend 민채 (Min-chae). I probably spent an hour and a half on it.... as I had to draw each line three times before getting it right. I gave it to her today and she really liked it. She liked it so much that she wanted to laminate it. I told her not to because if something goes wrong it is the only copy I have so it can't be replaced. Instead, I suggested we use hair spray on it (to form a protective layer that keeps the charcoal from smearing). She didn't like this idea, so she snuck off to laminate it, unbeknownst to me. And because I wasn't there... I couldn't instruct her in the proper method of using a laminating machine (I did work at Kinko's for 7 months). I'm sure you can predict what happened. The lamination got lots of wrinkles so it doesn't look that great now... I wish I would have taken a picture at least before she did that. I'm not very artistic and thus my portfolio is quite small... so I feel that anytime I make a decent piece of artwork that I should catalogue it.

So today I went to the gym for the first time. I was kinda dragging my feet a little bit after school but I finally cleaned my shoes, bought some training shorts, and managed to find the gym. Its just one big room with about 12 treadmills, 15 machines, 4 bicycles, and some free weights. But its a nice place. For one month it is 55,000 Won... about $43 I think. I get my own locker so I can keep my shoes and clothes there. I know that I'm going to be so sore tomorrow because I havent worked out since I've been to Korea. In my defense, though, I have done ALOT of walking because I dont have a car and I travel alot.

Tomorrow night I am going to Daegu to see my friend Rob play in his band. I wanted my friend 선옥 (Sun-Ohk) to come with because she goes to school in Daegu but she has to take exams on Saturday and Sunday so she can't go to a show that doesnt even start until 11pm. But she will come to Gimcheon after her semester finishes in a week so I should be able to meet up with her then. There should be some people that I know there. I know Erin will be there to support her boyfriend, and other people from our EPIK orientation as well so it should be a grand time. And I can get some shopping done beforehand. Also, Viruck and Candice might swing down this way to enjoy their saturday evening and they are always good company.

That's all, folks?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

notes pt3

So I got my package on Friday (finally!). I had a teacher at school write a really nice note and then I taped it to my neighbor's door. An hour later she calls me and we manage to agree that I will go pick up the package from her at 10:00pm. I was pretty proud of that because we had the conversation in Korean and over the phone (so no body language).

One thing that I learned very quickly is that when you're speaking English you need to speak at 30%-80% speed, depending on whom you're talking to. But Koreans never realize how hard it is for me to understand them when they talk full speed. Anyhow, I was very happy that I was in a situation where I was forced to speak Korean and that I had success.

The contents of the box are also noteworthy. Two boxes of Reese's Puffs cereal! Good timing too because there are only about 4 cereals in Korea and I needed some variety. Definitely can't find Reese's Puffs in Korea. I had some for breakfast on Saturday before I started my weekend trip. Also, two Axe deodorants, American candies that I can share with the office, a frisbee, and one thing that I can't possibly explain.

Busan was terrific this weekend and I wish I could've stayed longer... but life is great.

Friday, June 5, 2009

notes on the birthday (pt 2)

On June 1st we had a small office party between classes for teachers with June birthdays. It was just me and one other teacher. The school gave me a gift ... 3 pairs of Arnold Palmer socks. There was also rice cakes and candles and they sang happy birthday to me in korean. They wanted me to speak in korean, but they didnt give me any time to think of what to say... so i just said "thank you" and they probably have a bad impression of my ability to speak korean now.

A couple of my classes sang happy birthday to me also, but I wish I had girl students because they would have given me lots of presents. My boys never give me presents, but my friends at girl schools always get gifts.

On June 3rd a package arrived from home... but the mailman made a mistake and delivered it to room 202 instead of 303. I haven't gotten the package yet. They told me that I need to go speak to the resident in 202 to get the package. The problem is that when I knock on his door, he will never open up for me. He shouts to me from his apartment without coming to the door. I assume he says something like "Who is it?" so I reply "저는 이웃입니다" (I am the neighbor). The problem was that he still didnt come to the door. He kept shouting at me in Korean that I could not understand. I tried saying "삼백삼호 이웃" and "저는 미국 살암입니다" and "외국은입니다" (Apartment room 3o3 neighbor, I am from America, I am a foreigner) but still he wouldn't answer the door. Also I told him that I dont know korean, and that I can only speak a little bit. But then he just stopped talking to me and wouldnt answer. I'm going to have to think of a new approach to use today...

Monday, June 1, 2009

공주 syndrome

Saturday I planned on meeting Sandile, Viruck, Candice, Minchae and Mona in Daegu city to celebrate my birthday weekend. However, Sandile and Candice got sick, and Viruck was taking care of them.... so it was only me and Mona during the day. However, Mona's roommate from college was visiting Korea and later some friends from Youngyang came down so we had a good group together. In the evening, Minchae and her friend Juyoung joined us as well. We all had a good time going shopping, and to restaurants, bars, and clubs. We slept at a jjimjilbang and then did some shopping and lunch before I came back home on Sunday.

I got a birthday present from Minchae but I haven't opened it yet. I'm not sure how many birthday presents I will get this year (i'm not expecting many), so I want to open it on my birthday.

I've been practicing my palm reading. I felt confident enough in my abilities that today I did a lesson on superstition and fortune telling. In the second part of class I got a student volunteer to come up and I read his fortune for the class. I used a PPT to show them the lines I was reading and they all got a riot out of my reading the volunteer's fortune, especially when I said something bad about his future. I'm always in a good mood when my lessons go good. And when I have trouble with lessons I'm always stressed out. Thankfully, I think all of my lessons end up being gold, though sometimes the process of making and tweaking lessons gives me alot of trouble.

If you're curious about the title of this blog post (공주 syndrome) it means "princess syndrome." It's the problem that all korean women have. They think they always deserve to be treated like a princess. It's so common that they have a word just for it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

나도 즐거웠어요. 주말 잘 보내요~

To preface, some old pictures:
This one was taken on my first trip to Busan. When I saw the statue I could resist wearing the hat... but I'm nervous about what he's planning on doing with that hand...

2nd grade students congratulating me on my soccer goals.

Evaluating the English Speech contest...

Halftime at the soccer game, so I'm drinking some Pocari Sweat. Yes, "sweat"... sounds appetizing, right? It even looks like sweat too.

This week has been lots of fun. Actually, we only had classes for 2 and a half days and then the 2nd half of the week we had a sports tournament, exams, and a field trip. I didn't play in the volleyball tournament on Wednesday, but after the half-day of classes were over I went to watch the matches. Our school got 1st place and went undefeated. Each team had to have one woman player... so I helped 배수진 practice a few times these last couple weeks. She was really happy to score points on a couple of serves and she made a good save on a play that nobody else could reach in the final match. And they had a picnic with lots of food and soju/beer of course.

On Thursday I practiced Korean for an hour and a half with the 주현누나 and then I went to monitor the exam for one class with 민채누나 and she taught me Korean while the students were studying. Those two help me study the most. Ju-hyeon has more free time than the teachers... she is the office secretary. She speaks slowly to me and tries to use simple words. Min-chae also helps me alot. At work I can send instant messages on the computer to practice Korean, or I can speak to them. And sometimes those two will text message me in Korean outside of work.

Thursday night I took a couple of my American friends out for sashimi and then the three of us met up with Min-chae and two of the other korean teachers at the bar. I was upset because my American friends were not considerate to the Korean teachers. Because none of the teachers were English teachers, they have very poor English but my American friends still talk quickly and use difficult words. But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves for the most part. The other Americans left after an hour, but I stayed. We went to another bar and then to Noraebong (karaoke room). I only got two hours of sleep on Thursday night...

Friday, I have to wake up early because we are taking the students to Daegu to 우방 Amusement Park. The weather is nice and hot, and all of the students had a great time. As for me, I hung out with Hye-jin, Min-chae, Heo-Min, Hee-yeon, and the new intern whose name I can't remember. Some of the rides were a little rough because I had a soju hangover and only two hours of sleep. But I still fared better than they did. Hye-jin got really sick after we went on the rollercoaster that went upside down. After the amusement park, Hye-jin, Hee-yeon, and myself stay in Daegu instead of going back to Gimcheon with the rest of the teachers and students. We all have our own separate plans, but the two ladies were kind enough to help me find the bus that I need to get on to meet with my friend.

I arrived at 게명대학교 (Kei-myeong University) and my friend met me near the gate. She is a korean girl that I met in Gimcheon. Her family lives in Gimcheon but she goes to school in Daegu. (There are no 4-year universities in Gimcheon. Daegu has good universities.) When I first met her, she was with her father so it was a little awkward because he was interrogating me. Like, in the States when you meet a girls parents for the first time the father might ask "what are your intentions with my daughter?" I think I was getting the Korean equivelant of that when I met her last time in Gimcheon. Questions like "What religion are you?" and "Will you come to church with us tonight?" and "Do you have a girlfriend or wife?" and "How long will you stay in Korea?" I guess those could be considered conversational topics, and although he was quite friendly, he was very serious about those questions. Anyhow, I detract from the story at hand... I meant to say it was nice to meet her without the father there! I got to see her campus, which is very beautiful. She said that it is a popular filming location for TV and Film because its such a scenic campus. I got to meet alot of her college friends. Some of them she called and said "come meet my foreigner friend!!" and some we just stumbled upon.

Today is Saturday. It was Jo Su-Hyeon's wedding today! I was really excited to go because she is always soooo nice to me even though she is deathly afraid of English. She is the music teacher, so her office is in the library, near the music room. Sometimes after eating lunch I will go there and she makes fresh tea for me and gives me snacks. Anyhow, the wedding's basic structure was similar to a Western wedding, but the style and mood were much different. It was much more relaxed and casual. For example, they had a machine in the front that made bubbles and fog. And people could talk during the wedding, or go eat buffet during the wedding. I didn't want to go by myself, so I asked 김수진 (Su-jin Kim, the school nurse) to go with me, and I'm eternally grateful that she did. After we had been there for a few minutes we met alot of other people that I knew, but I never could've gotten there and known what to do without her help. I got to see my co-teacher's sister again, which was nice. Also, I met some of the teachers who worked at my high school last year but are no longer working there. Ms. Lee was so nice and often translated for me and told me what to do. Most of my korean friends don't like translating for me or maybe they are nervous because they never know when I need help and when I don't. I liked her philosophy that I always need help !! haha !! She really understands me =)

Friday, May 15, 2009

and the winner is...

Today was Teacher's Day, so instead of 7th period classes we had a soccer game Teachers VS Students. Elementary and Middle school teachers did not have to work today... but High School is very serious and we have to work almost every day.

One of my students let me borrow his shoes for the Teachers VS Students game today when I mentioned that I don't have soccer cleats. Even though he said we were the same size, they were a little small so it was hard to use my toes for balance. I fell over twice when chasing balls and it was hard to stop anyone on defense because I couldn't use my toes.

I played forward because I promised my students that I would score two goals. I wanted to play goalie but a teacher with a knee injury had already claimed it, which is quite understandable.

I led our team to a 4-0 lead, but the teachers got tired in the 2nd half and the students almost made a comeback. The final score was 4-3 and I was MVP with two goals. In the post-game party (yes, we had a party for defeating teenagers) the Principal offered me a toast. Anyhow, the game was great because the students all cheered for me when I had a goal or an opportunity and they felt my pain when I fell over on the dirt. They gave me congratulations and high fives after the game. I think some of the teachers in their 30s and 40s had a lot more energy than I did... but it was hard for me because I am sick and was only able to get 2 hours of sleep last night. That's my excuse!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

오늘 따뜻해서 나는 행복합니다. (Today the weather is warm, so I am happy)

been studying some korean at work today... though I should be making lessons instead in all honesty.

There are optional summer camps that the native teachers can do to make extra money (about $400 per week) but my school will not let me do it. Considering that I get paid my normal salary in addition to the extra money, i would've been making about $850 in a week (with no expenses). It's a little harder work than I would be doing if I stayed in town. But they are forcing me to stay, except for my 10 days of vacation. However, I will get to teach English to the other teachers which I think will be great. We never have time during the school day so during summer I will actually be able to teach them for an hour every day. I think it will help alot because they all learned English in High School. It's just that they forgot it and they have no confidence now. Once they hear me speaking and are forced to speak they will have words that they are confident in using.

Next month I will do 4 evening classes for adults. They have good English language skill so I can have fun doing conversations and expressing ideas and opinions. Each class will be two hours long. So it will be a good change of pace, but I don't like the idea of having extra classes to plan. They start the week after my birthday.

Tomorrow we have shortened classes and then after class we will have a soccer game of teachers vs. students. I'm playing in both games, but not sure what position I will play yet. Hopefully, I can play defense of goalie because my stamina isn't what it used to be when I would play midfielder. The games are only 15 or 20 minutes long, though.

Monday, May 11, 2009

내 비말요

Today has been a horrible day. I am going on zero hours of sleep and got into a big disagreement with the person who matters most to me here.... not necessarily in that order.

But even though today is awful, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I think people are always in a hurry to get through their lives. Humans always tell themselves that tomorrow will be better than today. But I don't ever want to skip a moment. I think I've learned alot about myself and what/who is important to me.

Tomorrow is uncertain, but why should you fear it...? And how can we expect a better tomorrow than that which we create for ourselves?


Finally I have uploaded the video that Sujin and I made for our special presentation class to the man from the provincial office of education. check out the link below. The cute waitress is Hyejin, and the other actress is Sujin.

I had a great weekend visiting far-away friends... but I have to get ready for work and plan today's lesson. More to come later !

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hey Mr. Big

I neglected to mention that last weekend I went to Seoul for the second time. I met some new friends, and some people I hadn't seen in two months. The club in Hongdae was great, but my favorite part was just meeting new people, such as I did on Friday on the bus to Incheon and on Saturday before the clubbing. Also, I was able to find a CD shop and get a Regina Spektor CD as a gift for a friend in Gimcheon.

Today, I had a short day of school so I came home and did some Chinese calligraphy for the first time in 4 months. I'm not used to using rice paper... it wrinkles very easily when it gets wet... but I think it is better than the newsprint I was using back home. It turned out pretty good, besides the writing in Chinese.

Tonight I went to a classical/opera concert in Gimcheon. It was free... I think because people will not perform in our city... so the city has to completely pay for the event to get them to perform here. It was actually pretty entertaining, much to my surprise. I liked the Phantom of the Opera song... and there was one song in English from a famous musical. Also, there were three songs in German which I was able to understand a little of. The orchestra was quite good and there was a famous singer who did two songs. It was more than I expected for it being free. I went with 민채, and also with the Health teacher(I can never remember her name) and her 8-year-old daughter, 해은(Hay-une). The daughter was really cute and after the concert we went to a popular cafe/restaurant that I had been to once before. It was easy to entertain 해은... usually just speaking korean or giving her food seemed to work well.

This is where the concert was.