Tuesday, March 31, 2009


i'm really depressed about the new waunomin saensaengnim (foreign English teacher) at the middle school that is attached to my high school. I liked being the only foreigner here. I'm especially perturbed the way they are treating me in relation to him. They got him an apartment RIGHT NEXT TO ME in the same building. Then they sent a copy of my receipt from E-mart to the store and had them pick out an exact copy of everything I got for my apartment. They all expect me to be best friends with him because he's American. I had to chaparone him all night last night and whenever I wasnt making conversation with him his co-teacher looked at me with a disapproving stare. He is a nice guy but seems kind of boring. He was pretty shy and pretty overweight, so I'm not sure how well he will fit in with the koreans. I'm not sure if I should be happy about that or sad. Anyhow, he's a Chinese-American (i was misinformed earlier) so at least i'm the only handsome American.

I found a really funny video that the teachers at my school made last year. It's a parody of the music video of Nobody by Wonder Girls (my favorite k-pop song). Since it was made last year, none of the new teachers this year are in it... but alot of the other teachers are.

You can see it if you go to www.gimcheon.hs.kr. Then on the bottom there are 4 pictures in a row; you should click on the MORE button just above them and to the right. Then scroll down to the 2nd video on the last row. It starts off slow but picks up.

After the song starts around 1:35 there is a scene with 4 guys dancing. The 2nd teacher from the left is Huwon Park, a 3rd grade (12th grade) English teacher. At 2:20 it switches to three women dancing. On the left is Kyongsuk Jo, a 2nd grade English teacher. In the middle is the nurse and on the right is Minchae Jaung, the Korean teacher who sometimes will teach me Korean while I teach her English in private lessons. Around 3:01 is the chemistry teacher Mrs. Jin. All the students love her because they say even though she is really old she looks really young. At 3:09 the man kneeling behind the chair is the vice principal. At 3:15, the woman on the left is Ms. Jo the music teacher. The students really like her because she plays the piano well and gives them candy. I know most of the men too... but its hard to remember their names because there are 40-some male teachers and less than 10 female teachers.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Seoul was amazing. I arrived Friday night and met up with Viruck and Sandile, friends who I met at orientation. The three of us grabbed some food and found a Jinjilbang to stay at for the night (a combination of a sauna/hostel/YMCA). It was only 12,000 won each, so about $9 per person. Then we went out to test the nightlife. Sandile and Viruck were both complaining that nobody in their towns speak English, so I assumed they would have learned alot of Korean by now. Actually, they hadn't learned anything since orientation! So Sandile actually tried to mime out action of dancing to some random koreans (who thought he was crazy). He was really embarrassed when I just asked the guy "where are some good nightclubs?" and he answered back in English. I think most people in Seoul speak better English than in our small towns.

Seoul has many many districts. So Friday we went to Club Day in Sinchon. A korean guy we met on the street took us to check it out. For about 14 dollars you get admission to 13 clubs in the area for the entire night and a free drink. Unlike in America, there is no fire code or anything so they really packed everyone in there. We spent most of the night at Noise Basement 2. We got back to the Jinjilbang late and then enjoyed the sauna and hot tubs for a bit. Then I went up to the entertainment area (where a bunch of people were sleeping on the floor and found two koreans that were awake talking. I ended up talking to them for two or three hours. The guy was named Juyoung and the girl was named Yu-something. Yu was really sick cus she drank too much so she couldn't sleep. She is a first year college student who is studying English, and Juyoung is a high school student. He couldnt speak much English, but Yu enjoyed the chance to translate for us. I got to sleep at 9am and woke up at 9:50am Saturday!

I wanted to talk to Yu and Juyoung in the morning but they finally had fallen asleep. I did get a chance to talk to a friend of theirs for an hour or so who had studied in the USA for five years though. She was really chill, but I never got her name. I Enjoyed the sauna/shower combination on Saturday morning and then around noon we went out to explore Jongno. It was a nice part of town and had lots of historical sights. We toured a palace called Changdeokgung (i think). It was a palace during the Joseon dynasty but got burned to the ground a few hundred years ago... some of it has been restored.

After taking the train back to Chungjeoungno, Viruck and Sandile went back to the Jinjilbang to take a nap. When I was by myself, I met a cute korean girl named Kibong who ended up taking me to see Namgan Tower. Its a bit like the space needle, except its on a hill in the middle of the city. You can see the entire city from there. Almost everyone there was couples though. Then we went questing for mexican food (i really wanted to find some while I was in Seoul) but the one place we found had a long wait so we did Indian food instead. The place was owned by an Indian couple who have been in Korea for two years and the food was great. The guy spoke 5 languages and was speaking to me in English.

After that, I went to Itaewon to meet up with my friend Mandolyn who was in Seoul this weekend celebrating her 25th bday. We spent an hour or two drinking in the street in the gay bar district there until everyone showed up and I had a couple of guys try to hit on me. Then we headed to Hungdai via taxi. There were alot of bars and clubs there, but my favorite place was the place that sold liquor in a vinyl bag!

We went to a couple other places there but I didn't like it too much because it was mainly foreigners. Regardless, I was really happy to see Mandolyn again and to meet the friends that she has been hanging out with way up in Wonju! I got back to the jinjilbang around 4am and went to bed after a quick sauna.

Got up Sunday after a good five hours of sleep when my friend Jane called to apologize that she hadn't met up with us the night before. I took a shower/sauna and had breakfast and watched TV while I waited for Viruck and Sandile to get ready. I walked Sandile and Viruck back to the station to help them get their tickets home. Sadly all of the lockers were in use so I had to tote my bag around with me for the rest of the day. I had a nice korean lunch and explored the market area in Insadong. I liked that area because it had alot of energy and was a good mix of cultures. I got back to my apartment in Gimcheon at 1am and got four or five hours of sleep before having to get up for school today! Seoul is huge but I'm glad that I got to explore alot of different districts and atmospheres. I think what most of the foreign teachers here love most is being able to explore new areas, get stories to tell, or expand beyond what they believed to be their capabilities. My favorite part of Korea is meeting Korean people. They are all so warm-hearted and generous. So while it was great to explore Seoul, the most fun I had was meeting Kibong, Juyoung, Yu-, and their friend.... and also meeting back up with my friends Sandile, Viruck, and Mandolyn from orientation.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I was talking to the nursing students from Andong yesterday. They really wanted me to come up this weekend but I'm going to Seoul. I'm going to meet a few friends from orientation in Seoul. It should be lots of fun and I can do Andong another weekend. My friend Katie said I can stay with her anytime I want to go to Andong. ^^

The secretary at our school and Huiyen helped me download a ringtone for my phone today. I went to the bank with Sujin to try to get a check card but there are apparantly 2 banks named Nonghyup so I have to go to the other one sometime.

I went to a funeral tonight. It was for the mother of one of the teachers at our school. Many of the teachers from the school went. You are supposed to bring money to help cover funeral and dinner costs. Then you pray for a few minutes and bow to the memorial of her and go eat and drink. It was held at the hospital. Then the teachers took me out drinking afterwards.

The middle school on the same campus as our high school is getting a native teacher on Monday. I guess everyone liked me so much that they decided to get one for the middle school too. But the schools really dont mingle at all except on rare occassions. They expect me to be best friends with the guy just cus we are both foriegners. AND FOR THE LAST TIME, I WILL NOT SHARE AN APARTMENT WITH HIM. YOU WERE TOO CHEAP TO GET ME ANYTHING MORE THAN ONE BEDROOM. Anyhow, he's korean-american I think so I will still be the only one with blonde hair and blue eyes at the school!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

circus type thing

The weekend was amazing! On Friday night I took a bus to Andong to visit my friend Katie that I met at orientation the first week. It took almost 3 hours cus it stopped in every small town along the way so I got there at 9:30. Tiana and Jen were up from Gumi, and Alice joined up with us too (she also works in Andong). We had some good food and then went to the local bar. I struck up a conversation with the koreans next to us and they were really cool. The guys all worked in the police department (though with language barriers i wasnt exactly sure what a couple of them did within the department) and the two girls were both nurses. Two of them are actually engaged to each other and they invited me to their wedding a month from now!

Sadly they left around 12 or 1am, but then I got to meet the girls sitting on the other side of us. All six of them are students at Andong University in their 3rd year of studying to be a nurse. They taught me a cool drinking game and I got a couple of the Americans I was with to join us. Sadly they left around 2am cus some of them had to work at 7:30 in the morning, but we traded phone #'s so I can hang out with them next time I am in Andong. After that we went and did some karaoke until 4am and then I slept on Katie's floor. For some reason her floor was more comfortable than my bed (which, like all korean beds, is as hard as a rock). We got woken up early from a phone call and then chilled for a couple hours before I had to leave.

Saturday around noon I went to Youngju to visit another friend from orientation, Mark. His family picked me up at the train station. His wife lived in New Zealand for 10 years and spoke almost perfect English and their son was playful. I got to have some home-cooked meals and Mark took me out on the town at night. We got to check out some of the local bars/poolhouses/stores/restaurants. We met up with a couple Korean friends of his and the four of us had a couple beers and were playing pocketball(pool) for a while. I helped him clean some virus off of his computer and then cleaned up some free space so it will run faster.

I got to sleep in til 9 on Sunday and then had a nice shower and breakfast before getting on the 10:30 train. I got back to Gimcheon at 12:30 and found a store that sold art supplies. I got a calligraphy set (2 brushes, ink stick, inkstone, ink basin, bottle of ink, bamboo brush case) for 8,800 Won (6 or 7 dollars). The ink alone would have been more expensive than that in the US. Then my friend Kristine cooked me and a few other American teachers a nice Thai and I got to see Nick and Tanji for an hour (they were visiting someone in town) before they had to catch the train back.

Friday, March 20, 2009

hide and seek

Last night a few teachers took me and the 4 other new teachers to the school out to dinner. Since its a public-private school, teachers are here for life. In public schools, they are rotated every 3 to 5 years (dont ask me why). So its a big deal when my school gets new teachers. After 21 hours of class this week, plus private tutoring and spending lots of time with Korean and American friends, my voice is shot. I lost my voice thursday night and its even worse today... but I'm ready for a great weekend in Andong and Youngju.

One of my 2nd grade (11th grade) students wasn't doing his work today and when I tried to get him to do it, my co-teacher for the class said "its okay. he is on the Tae Kwan Do team. he doesnt speak english so he doesn't have to do it." Tae Kwan Do is the only sport at our school... but I think he should be required to do the work still. I didn't say anything at the time because I didn't want to argue in front of the students.

We are still trying to figure out where to stay in Seoul next weekend and what to do while we are there. I am content to let everyone else plan it because I'm just happy to be reunited with my friends from orientation. Especially Mandolyn and Sandile. I think that it will be impossible to explore Seoul in only 2 days but it will still be a great experience.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


These last few days have been pretty rough because of the 황사 (hwangsa). Its dust in the air that blows over from China. There are alot of bad chemicals in the air that are not healthy to breathe, like silicon and aluminum. So alot of people have felt as if they are ill... but the koreans seem somewhat used to it. I am not used to it though, so the last couple of days have been pretty rough.

I am exchanging language lessons with another teacher at my school who teaches Korean. Monday was our first day of doing it after school and she taught me a few differences between Korean and English grammar and a couple sentences for small talk.

On Friday we had a school dinner for all of the 1st grade (10th grade) teachers. They were impressed that I was able to have more than a few drinks. I was impressed that they knew so many different drinks just to make out of Beer, Soju, and Sprite. After the restaurant we went to Noraebong (karaoke room). It was really fun to hang out with all of the other teachers on the school's dime.

This weekend I am going to Andong to visit my friend Katie on Friday (2 or 3 hours from here) and then I'm going to Youngju (40 minutes from Andong) on Saturday to visit my friend Mark and to meet his family. I'm looking forward to that because my first two weekends in Gimcheon I haven't left town at all. I'm planning on going to Seoul with some friends the week after which should be fantastic also.

I took my camera to school today to take a few pictures of it. You can see the hwangsa in the air in some of them.

This is the school monument. Its a ways inside the gate to our walled campus but it is before all of the buildings. In the back left is the Library building and the back right is the Cafeteria building.

This is the dirt field used for soccer/volleyball/basketball. Theres a baseball field and clay tennis courts in the way back.

On the left is the classroom building. All of the classrooms are in here. On the right is the teachers building. It has our communal offices and various other faculty rooms such as the Nurse's office.

The students were making fun of Hyejin saying she looked like a panda in this outfit. I was kind enough to take a picture.

Friday, March 13, 2009

White Day

Today we are celebrating White Day at work, because tomorrow is March 14th (but its a Saturday so we are celebrating it today) . The holiday comes one month after Valentines Day. On V-day in Korea, women buy chocolates and presents for men. Then on White Day, men are supposed to buy women gifts that are 2 or 3 times more expensive. So its kind of lopsided, but so is V-day in the States.

I had Bae Sujin, Choi Hyejin, and Shin Huiyen over for dinner last night. I made them french toast... but Korean women eat so much that they made me order a pizza also x_X That is when they told me about White Day. They were very adamant that I get them chocolate for White Day. I'm not sure how they stay so skinny... In the states the expression is "the quickest way to a man's heart is thru his stomach"... but I think in Korea it applies to women instead. If they are hungry they can't think of anything but food. Anyhow, it was lots of fun and they helped me get the television that the landlord had promised me.

I only managed to rescue two pictures because they would delete the picture unless they all thought think they looked the best in it. On the left is Shin Huiyen. She is a biology teacher and used to sit next to me in the office until they reorganized desks by what subject we teach. She understands a bit of English but is too shy to speak it usually. In the middle is my new co-teacher Bae Sujin. She adopted me because my other co-teacher is in the other office and teachers 3rd year students, so I never saw him. She teaches English and has the best English skills of all the teachers at the school. She studied for more than two years so that she could pass the exam and become a teacher. On the right is Choi Hyejin. She is also a new English teacher this year and has helped me alot in the first couple of weeks.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

hollywood on my toothpaste

Funny questions that I get asked in class:

How many girlfriends do you have?
Will you marry me?
What do you think of President Obama? You don't like because he's black?
Which female teacher is the prettiest? (three times per class)
You have korean girlfriend? What about Ms Choi?
Will you sing song?
If Ms. Bae says she loves you will you get married?
Do you have chest hair?
What kind of women you like?
My favorite food is fork.
You're handsome. I love you.

But my favorite is still the one that one of the girls asked my friend Mando... "I cannot write question, you too pretty. I shy of you."

Monday, March 9, 2009


This may not be the life that anyone had planned for me, but I'm happy.

I really haven't taken many pics here, but here are a few of my American friends from our first week in Cheonon City. I dont have pics of anyone else actually, but Mandolyn(left) is super cool and Maria is great for getting people together for crazy adventures. Not sure who that other guy is...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

tired tired

I moved into my apartment on Monday. I have no computer at work and did not have an ethernet cable in the apartment, so I was not able to go online for a few days. I didn't really notice it though because I've been pretty busy.

At school they still dont know what to do with me, but I think I'll get my class schedule tomorrow. It sounds like they want me to do two conversational English classes with the 1st year students (10th grade) every week, which is pretty weird because that means they are neglecting their 2nd and 3rd year students (11th and 12th grades). Someone told me it was because they have to focus on their listening and reading skills (as those are the two that get tested on the national SATs). This means that I will have to prepare twice as many lessons as all of the EPIK teachers because I'm seeing these students twice a week. Also, I am going to be doing an English Club after school once per week and I might be doing some classes to teach English to the other teachers.

Most of the other teachers work from 7:40 until 5:20, but those that teach 3rd year students (12th grade) stay an extra hour because the students study really hard for the national exam. But they are more flexible with me, and I have been doing 8:50 until 5:20. I start teaching on Monday. They told me not to use any textbooks. They want me to make classes that will focus on conversation, because the Korean style of teaching mainly neglects this aspect. Right now the students only feel comfortable with very basic sentences, such as "Hello" and "How are you?" So my goal is to build their confidence so that they can try to create their own sentences. In their classes with the Korean teachers, when they speak the dialog is mainly scripted so they don't really have to think about what they are saying.

Tomorrow I am meeting with the Principal and Vice Principal to discuss my lesson plans for the students. I don't really have much planned as I didn't have a computer at school and I had no internet access at home. The first class will be talking about me mainly and I will let them ask questions, and the second class will be on talking about yourself and asking questions to their classmates. It should be simple enough to pair them up and do an "interview" with the other person. I'm going to try to do as much pair- and groupwork as possible so that they get lots of time to speak.

I moved into my apartment on Monday. I was so tired after shopping for and moving everything that I still dont have it completely set up. Its small, but I like it and it feels cozy. Some of it is confusing though because nothing works the same as it does in the States. For example, the heating unit control is very complicated, because it controls all of the heat in the floor and the water. But to get water hot enough for a shower I need to divert it from all other parts of the apartment. I am trying to wash clothes right now, but the washing machine is much different and all of the buttons are in Korean. I called on of the teachers from school and she tried to walk me through it, but my machine is different from the one she has. So hopefully it will turn out alright.... cross your fingers for me.

I haven't bought any clothes here, but I went shopping for sandals. My feet are not particularly large (size 11) but they didn't have anything that fit me. Last night I treated my co-worker Sujin to dinner for all of her help when I was shopping for furniture and buying everything I need for my apartment (which was alot). She took 5 or 6 hours out of her day to help me. We went to this Korean restaurant where you cook the food in your table. We had Beef, onions, and mushrooms... it was quite tasty. And no matter where you eat, whether it is the school cafeteria (i ate there today) or the fanciest restaurant, they always serve the same side dishes. So I am getting a little sick of kimchi, rice, and pickled radishes.

Today I went out to eat/drink with a few other EPIK teachers from the United States. We also got some shopping done for the basic necessities.

I took some pictures of my apartment after I got all the furniture set up on Monday. If nothing else, maybe it can help Bob get some ideas for asian influences that he can incorporate into his condo.

There are no sheets for beds here. Rather, you get a small pad/sheet(the pink one) and lay it on top of the mattress. Then you get a comforter or two to sleep under. All of the mattresses are really stiff (because its better for your back supposedly) and some Koreans still sleep on the floor. The boxes next to my bed are for clothes (as i dont have a closet or dresser). Some Koreans use a heated blanket under them when they sleep (maybe because they are used to sleeping in the heated floors??)

The view from my bed towards my front door. On the left if my desk and on the right is the heating controls for the floor/water. Off camera to the right is my bathroom. There are no walls on the shower, so everything in the bathroom gets thoroughly drenched when I shower.

A small area to take your shoes off when you enter. There is a closet opposite the door to put your shoes in, as there isnt much space to leave them lying around. It seems like anything with shoelaces is a bad idea, because of how often you have to take your shoes off. The bottled water is Jeju Spring Water. Jeju is a tropical island province... basically their equivelant of Hawai'i.

You can see the "closet" that I have. I'm very proud of it because I assembled it myself without using the instructions. Unlike in the States, the instructions were only in one language, not eight. They pretty much assume that everyone in Korea speaks Korean. The desk is actually quite large, so it also serves as my dining room table and an all purpose storage space. I put a mirror on it too. They really like mirrors here, because they are somewhat obsessed with appearance (and because everything in the bathroom gets demolished when you shower, so its good to have a mirror elsewhere).

Ok, that was a long post... gotta go.