Monday, December 29, 2008

Fun Christmas, Long Work Hours

The Christmas trip with Vicky was great. We got up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a 7:30 a.m. bus in Seoul to go to Petite France and Nami Island.

Petite France is a fake little French village based on "The Little Prince" books. Mom and dad said they've read them to me, but I don't remember them. Either way, they're very famous.

The village had incredible detention to detail and was beautiful. It gave us a lot of great places for pictures and even a couple of videos, which I've posted below.

After a an hour or so there, we hopped back on the bus for the trip over to Nami Island, also known as the Naminara Republic. It's not a real independent republic, but a cool little island in the middle of the northern part of the Han River.

We took a three-minute ferry ride to get there and spent about four hours wondering around the 10 sq km island. There were art exhibits, picture opportunities, a children's book festival, restaurants, live ostriches running free and a band putting on an electronic Christmas concert. We also took a sweet ride on a pedal car around an aerial track on the island.

The whole place was really sweet, and actually reminded me a lot of being back in western Pennsylvania. I guess getting back into nature will do that to you after being in the concrete jungle for months on end.

Sunday was a really great day because I spent it with Vicky's family. First, I went to dinner with Vicky and her mom. Then, we went back to their house and played a Korean card game with her dad. It is called "Go Stop" in English, and it's similar to a "Go Fish" type of game. It's a little more complicated, but I think I got the hang of it before I left.

Winter classes started this week because the students are on a winter break from school. For this schedule, students come in for two classes in the morning. Stacy asked me to teach the English speaking part. That's more good than bad, but getting up earlier isn't too much fun.

It also means two extra classes every day for the next month. I had eight classes total today. I'll be pretty busy for awhile.

The good part is that I'll be compensated for my time. Extra money is always a good thing over here. It means once again that I don't have to touch what is going into my bank account, and my savings will continue to grow.

That's all for now. New Year's is right around the corner, but I have no plans yet. Vicky's sister is going to the Philippines for three months on Jan. 2 or 3, so she might have to spend the time with her family. I'll figure something out soon. I kind of have to.

I'll post my pictures from my Christmas trip soon enough. Until then, enjoy the videos of Petite France and the band on Nami Island.

Petite France 1

Petite France 2

Nami Island

Sunday, December 21, 2008

College Students Celebrate

All over Korea, college kids are celebrating because their two-week final exams period finished on Friday. Vicky and I went to InHa Friday night to meet with my students so we could have some fun. It was packed and crazy there as everyone was taking advantage of their first night of freedom.

We went to a place called Woodstock, an appropriately rock 'n roll themed bar that was surprisingly quiet considering its subjects. I say quiet relative to most other bars there. It was still hard to speak to my students a bit because of the English and the noise.

We did a fair amount of drinking, especially considering I had to get up at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. Let's just say I got in bed around 2 a.m.

Saturday was sort of a crappy day to start out because I agreed to judge a speech contest for elementary through high school students. Like all things so far inn Korea, we were misinformed about most of it. Eli also judged it with me, and we were both told different things that we had to corroborate with each other and our bosses multiple times.

We were told we would be with a group of other judges and I was told it would take 3 hours on Saturday. Eli was told it would take 2 hours. We were also supposed to get a ride to Bupyeong from our boss, Mr. No.

Well, the start was a bad omen, because Mr. No failed to show up due to a party the night before. good work, boss! So we were given cab fair and got in a taxi with a driver who had no idea where he was going. Fortunately, we only arrived 15 minutes late.

When we got there, the place was dead, which confirmed our ideas. We were the only two judges. And even though the deadline for entries was Friday, they accepted a ton on Saturday morning. We were told that we had more than 100 speeches to which we would listen.

Knowing that it would literally take us 9 hours to do that, I texted Stacy and whined like a little baby. She called them and told them we could only work a few hours. Also, the girl who worked at this community center who was listening with us, didn't want to be there either. So we all decided to listen to just enough of the speeches that we would get an idea of their speaking performance. It was really all we needed to pick the finalist for next Saturday.

We got another blow because after 50 of the speeches, the girl told us that we could go and her boss would do the last 50. But with our coats on, and standing at the door to leave, the boss came in and asked us to stay for another hour. Turns out he had no intention of listening to any of the speeches.

Well, it took us closer to four and a half hours to finish all the speeches. Afterward, two of social welfare center girls took us to a galby restaurant for some lunch. It was pretty good, and fun to meet new people. They spoke almost no English. But between the little they knew, and the little Korean I know, we had a pretty relaxing conversation. Thanks to Vicky and Gemma for saving me there.

Vicky and the other teachers had yet another pointless and unnecessary training day on Saturday. She finished right about the time I was getting home, so she came over and we were lazy for the whole afternoon.

We basically watched Korean comedy TV shows for a few hours. What's funny is that I'm no longer totally confused by watching them. I actually find them enjoyable as I understand the language and culture more and more.

At night, Vicky and I went to InHa to get some samgyeopsal for dinner. It just pork strips we grill at the table. Same as any other self-grilled meat with just a little different seasoning. It was pretty good and pretty cheap, like all foods in InHa.

After that, I convinced her to go to the arcade because I wanted to goof around. We decided not to drink Saturday night, and wanted something fun to do.

The arcade not only has the typical games, but also a bunch of personal karaoke booths. It's perfect for two people. Each song costs W300 to do. That's about 25 cents each song. So we each did 4 or 5 before heading out. It was a lot of fun and pretty cool to see that arcades are so popular here. They're just dead in America. It brings back memories of an elementary school birthday party at Aladdin's Castle at the Cranberry Mall, where my friends and I beat the X-Men game.

Today was even lazier than Saturday, really. Vicky and I went to Shinsegae so she could buy a dress and we could look for shirts for our Christmas trip. She got the dress, but we didn't find shirts. We have REALLY different taste in clothing.

This week is only 4 days for us. We get Christmas off. On that day, Vicky and I are taking a day trip to Petite France. It's a little faux French village (see how I used a French word) in South Korea that is a little bit north of Incheon. We're taking a bus trip there that only cost about $29 each. It should be fun. So check back after that for new pics and hopefully a fun new story.

Until then, everyone back home have a Merry Christmas! I wish I could see all of you. I heard that this time of you is hardest for those of us here in Korea, and it is true. I wish you all well! Have fun and stay safe!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Don't Take American Food For Granted

Vicky went skiing with her friends Friday night, so I took a trip to Rio's with Tim and Colin, where we ran into the whole crew, including Robin, a Canadian who is probably a lifer here. Rio's was pretty good, but I left around 3 a.m. because the week was pretty exhausting.

Saturday was a pretty laid-back day and night. I cleaned the house a bit, then got some rest. Vicky and I went to a place in Inha at night to drink some malkoli, the rice wine. It's only W4,000 for an entire pitcher, and two of those will get you pretty saucy.

On Sunday, Vicky and I went into Seoul to meet one of her friends, Won Kyung, whom she met at university. We went to Bennigan's and had a fantastic meal. I have never been to a Bennigan's in the U.S., but I wish I had now. We got a chicken salad, mushroom bacon carbonerra and some beef and chicken fajitas. It was well worth the trip in the the city, and I realize now just how good American food is compared to anywhere else in the world. Okay, at least in Korea.

I also met with Christie, a friend of the family who just got to Seoul a month or so ago. It was the first time we met in person. She looked good, and it seems like things are going well for her so far. It was great to see you, Christie!!

Last night, I went to see a Korean movie with Vicky and her sister, The English title is "Speeding Scandal", but there certainly weren't any subtitles. The story wasn't too difficult to follow, but humor must be the hardest thing to translate. I understood the dramas a lot better than this one, which was supposed to be a comedy.

This week will be pretty routine, but the weekend will provide a little difference. I am going to judge a speech contest here in Incheon. Seven of out students will be involved. It will probably be pretty interesting, and I apparently get paid!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just the Grind

I realize it's been almost two weeks since I've last posted, but there hasn't been much going on, unfortunately. That should all change within a couple of weeks, but for now, it just remains the same old stuff.

Last Friday, Vicky and I met You Kyung in Guworldong for dinner and drinks at a hof. Two of Vicky's other girlfriends showed up for about 30 minutes at the first place, so I was surrounded by four hot Korean chicks speaking no English. Not a bad half hour.

After that, Vicky, You Kyung and I went to Rio's, the usual spot, just to have some drinks and hang out. It was the usual type of night.

On Saturday, we were really exhausted from the long week and Friday night, so Vicky and I just got dinner in InHa and went for some coffee and hot chocolate. It was nice to spend a Saturday night without beer or Soju. I woke up Sunday feeling totally refreshed.

That's a good thing, because we went to the department stores in Guworldong on Sunday so I could buy some long-sleeve t-shirts for the cold. It was nearly impossible to find anything I liked with their ridiculous fashion here. Fortunately, I found three shirts that I bought for only W7,5000 each. That's a pretty good deal.

Of course, I took Chris' advice and tried them on first. I found out that my best size over here is a 95. But one of the shirts I bought was also a 100. Either way, it was the first time I bought clothes from a real store here. I also bought a shirt from the outdoor shopping place in Dongdaemun.

As far as work goes, it's actually gotten better. For whatever reason, I'm enjoying most of my classes more. even the worst classes were pretty decent this week. Plus, it's always nice to hear that the students like you, even if it is only because I'm the teacher who plays games with them. That's okay with me for sure.

Tonight, I'll get to hang out with my Korean buddy Jake, whom I met through Chris, because Vicky is going on a ski trip with some friends. But I'll see her for sure on Sunday when I go with her to Seoul to meet some of her friends.

Chris is coming back for sure. It should be around January or February. He's looking to get into a public school this time, and they have certain hiring dates. It will be great to welcome him back. Mike, the guy who bought our legendary scooter, got back here last weekend. The cycle just continues, I suppose.

We got a little snow on the ground here for the first time last Saturday and Sunday. I took some pics, but it really wasn't that impressive. You east-coasters back home have seen better snow in the summer!

Vicky and I have been studying almost every day for the past two weeks. We go to InHa and find one of the study areas, where she can work on her English and I on my Korean. It's good to do it together, because we can help each other if necessary.

I'm still writing Korean in my journal as well. Gemma is impressed with the complexity of my sentences. I had zero grammar problems in my last entry. But two of my sentences were awkward and had to be rewritten. I just chose words that aren't commonly used for the expressions I wrote. Nothing here is directly translated between the languages, but more or less interpreted to the closest match.

My college students had to cancel class today because of exams and presentations, so my day got a little shorter. Nothing wrong with that! Have a good weekend, everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hookah and Hongdae

On Friday night, Vicky and I went to an Indian-themed bar where we tried a Hookah. It was my first time ever trying anything like that. And I now have vindication for never doing it before. While it wasn't horrible, I certainly didn't like it very much.

The place had a cool decor, though. We were in out own little room, like at the wine bar in Gangnam. Sorry everyone, I forgot my camera that night! We'll go again and take pics. The drinks were nice and strong.

On Saturday, Vicky and I went into Hongdae, a district in Seoul, to meet with her best friend, You Kyung. You Kyung works for Asiana Air. They met when they were roommates at InHa freshman year.

The three of us went to a place called Bon-ga. It's a really famous restaurant where all the celebs go and sign their pics on the wall. It was easily the best meal I've had in Korea so far. Instead of the typical pork meal, they served thin strips of beef that we grilled in front of us. We also had a spicy beef brisket soup. Everything was really good, and You Kyung generously treated us.

After that, we walked around Hongdae just a bit before coming home. Thankfully, Sunday has been a rest day, so far. I'm cooking dinner for Vicky in a bit. It's just pasta, because I can't do much more, considering one of my burners doesn't even work haha. At least the heat is working!

I added some pics to my Jungchul folder. One of my classes made a hand print tree. Check out the Hongdae pics as well. I took more pics of the girls than I did of the sights. But I think they're good haha.


Jungchul students

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bowling and Antiques

Friday was pretty typical. Just a little bit of drinking at Rio's. Most of the western crew was there, as well Vicky, Cindy, Gina and Chelsea. It all turned out pretty well.

Saturday was pretty cool because we went bowling for the first time in Korea. Eli, JessCan (which is how she will be referred to from here on out because she is Canadian) and I went to a bowling alley in Yeonsudong with two of my college students, June and Jess. Jake also showed up later on in the evening.

Bowling is pretty much the same here as it is in America. There was electronic scoring and everything!!! One cool difference is the shoe machine. It's like a giant vending machine where you get your shoes. Shoes were only $1 to rent and games were less than $2.50. We played three games before heading out for some drinking.

I went with Jake, Jess and June to InHa to hang out and talk a little. It was a pretty relaxed night.

On Sunday, Vicky and I got lunch and went to a Korean movie called "Antique". It was about four guys who own a cake shop. The police use them to help catch a kidnapper. I understood a little bit of the Korean, and the movie was pretty easy to follow. Vicky quizzed me a bit at the end.

Also, the movie has a few gay guys in it. There is no country more uncomfortable about homosexuals than Korea. Every time guys kissed or held hands or something, I could hear and see everyone in the theater cringing.

Everything else has been pretty normal. My best news about my job is that one of my classes from Thursday got moved to Friday. So instead of seven classes Thursday and four on Friday, it's moved to six and five. I don't mind because now I get a little break on Thursday.

Check out the bowling pics here!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Weekend Full of Seoul

This weekend, Vicky and I made two trips into Seoul for various reasons.

On Friday, I joined Vicky, her mom and her sister for an all-night shopping trip to Dongdaemun. Dongdaemun Market in Seoul is famous for its thousands of outlet-type booths. The stores typically are open from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

There are a bunch of really big, department-store sized buildings with little stalls in them that are no bigger than a walk-in closet. The stalls are filled with off-brand clothing that is pretty cheap. I only found one thing I actually liked there. It's just a hooded, long-sleeve shirt.

We were mostly walking around the women's clothes. Go figure. I was with three chicks. But it was still a really cool experience since I've never seen anything like it before.

Vicky's dad picked us all up at about 5 a.m., and we headed home totally exhausted.

On Saturday, we were kind of supposed to go to a wedding in Seoul. It was one of our boss' brothers who no one knows, but I was told all the teachers were going, so I didn't want to look like a jerk. Later I found out that only the other two foreign teachers and Stacy were going.

So Vicky and I, after our very late night, backed out. Thank goodness, because I was dead.

Instead, we ended up going into Seoul again to a neighborhood called Gangnam. It's pretty much just a business district. We went because Vicky had to help her younger sister get information about studying abroad.

After she helped her sis, she took me to a really cool wine bar, where we got our own private little room to hang out in. For $32, we got a sweet red wine from Germany and a big plate of nachos. Add that to the private room with all the cushions and cool atmosphere, and it's a pretty great deal.

Since we were still pretty dead from the night before, we decided to just hop on the bus and head back to Incheon. We went to InHa, near her house, and just had some drinks and relaxed.

The nice thing about public transportation here is that while you could take the subway for $1 to get to Seoul, it's even easier to hop on the bus. We would have to take a cab to the subway station, then make two or three transfers to get to Seoul. But the bus comes right in front of our house, and only costs $2. It takes between 1 and 2 hours, depending on traffic, but it can't be beat for convenience.

On Sunday, I met with Vicky and her friend, You-Kyoung in Guworldong. You-Kyoung works in one of the Asiana Air lounges at the Incheon International Airport, catering to businessmen, who no doubt hit on her constantly. Her English listening is pretty decent, but she's studying the speaking now in college. She and Vicky were roommates at InHa when they were freshmen.

She and I decided that we're probably on the same level. It's fun when she's there, because the conversations between the three of us are probably about 50-50 English and Korean, with Vicky helping when necessary.

As for work, not much has changed. I have the most hours of any teacher there, and I have some extra things to do that the other foreign teachers don't have, like calling all the students at home to speak a little on the phone. It's a hassle. I guess that's what you get for being the "veteran" after two months.

The school just hired another Korean teacher though, so maybe my hours will go down a bit. But I'm not getting my hopes up.

Anyway, the job is more boring than anything. I just look forward to every day at 9:05 p.m. when I get to go home.

The pictures from the weekend, and some other random pics from Jess, are posted below. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pictures From the Weekend

I added some more pics to Jess's shots. I also put in pictures from this weekend. The first set is from Dongdaemun, a popular all-night shopping district in Seoul. I went with Vicky, her mom and her sister on Friday night. The second set is from Gangnam, another neighborhood of Seoul, where Vicky and I went to a wine bar on Saturday.

I'll write about the whole weekend later on tonight, but here are the pics.

Jess' pics

Dongdaemun Market


Monday, November 10, 2008

Gyeongbokgung Palace Pictures

Here are the pictures from our trip into Seoul on Saturday to Gyeongbokgung Palace. Even though it was a little rainy and cold, it turned out to be a good trip. It was my first palace experience.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

From Singing Rooms to Palaces

That's an appropriate title for the post because that's exactly what my weekend entailed.

On Friday morning I met with my college students. They are June, Jess and Cassie. We just talked about the stuff they want to learn in class. They're all really nice and have great personalities. That goes along with their solid speaking ability. It's going to be fun to see them every Friday, and out for the occasional drink.

We started out Friday night in Guworldong celebrating Stacy's birthday. Stacy, our head teacher, turns 25 (or 26 depending on your country and calendar). Either way, we headed to a singing room.

All the teachers chipped in to buy her perfume. For the party, it is Korean custom for the person celebrating the birthday to pay for everything for the guests.

I was in kind of a bad mood to start the evening because I was still feeling a little sick and I was worried about some other things. No matter. A few hours into the night, I snapped back to my normal self and had a good time. I even scored a perfect 100 on Meatloaf's "I would do anything for love". Not even Meatloaf can say he's done that.

When the birthday party broke up, a group of the teachers wanted to go to the night club. Now, the weekend before, a small group of us had a really good time there. But this was totally different. Instead of three girls and four guys, it was five girls and two guys.

The numbers didn't work out. So Vicky, Eli and I went in as a threesome, while the other four teachers, including Jess, went as a group. That was lame, because it meant they separated us. So Eli, Vicky and I were stuck at a table with four dorky Korean guys, while the other four teachers were trying to meet guys.

Well, this place is expensive, and I saw no point in hanging around so they could meet guys. So Eli and I took off and went to Rio's. It was a little brash, maybe. I didn't really consult the teachers too much. I just basically told them I was going.

I was thinking like an American and not like a polite person. Even though I thought it was a bit selfish of them to break up the group, I should've been more clear when I left.

As it was, the other teachers were worried that they made me mad. And I unintentionally left Vicky with them. I thought she might want to hang with them. But in my haste to leave, I didn't get that she didn't want to be there either.

So she came to Rio's and met Eli and I, as well as the other westerners who flocked there that night. The whole Yeonsudong crew, including, Dan, Robin, Colin and Tim were there. It ended up being a pretty good night.

On Saturday, Vicky came over just to hang out. We were both wiped out from the night before, so we just sat around and watched tv for awhile. We went to get some dinner, then came and back and laid around some more. Later on in the evening, she picked me up and took me to Homever so I could get some sweatpants in which I could lounge around the house.

Now when Sunday rolled around, Vicky and I still weren't up for doing anything, but Eli and Jess wanted to do some sightseeing in Seoul. Being a nice person and not wanting to just leave them on their own, Vicky agreed to go. So I also agreed to go so I could hang out with her.

It turned out to be a pretty good day, albeit rainy and a little cold. We went to a palace called Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was built in the late 1300s. It was a pretty cool site. The place was massive, and the traditional architecture and dress of the workers was impressive to see at the historic site.

After that, we made our way over to Insadong, which Vicky and I visited a couple weeks ago. We just got some lunch and walked around a bit with Eli and Jess. We were ready to go, and they wanted to stay a few more hours. So we found the bus route home and let them know, and took off for home.

Now the bus is really convenient, and it takes anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours. That's only a little bit more than the subway, except the subway involves multiple transfers. The bus goes right from Insadong to our door in Onyundong.

Vicky and I filled the two hours just goofing around, so it ended up being fun. When we got back, we picked up some noodles and dokboki (a rice cake and noodle dish) and went back to my place to watch some Korean tv. Even though we were exhausted, I think the day was pretty good.

After she left, I had to get my homework done. Since the teachers are so impressed with my language ability thus far, they're happy to help me improve. Vicky picked out a grammar book for me to buy, and Gemma gave me the assignment of writing a Korean entry in my journal of at least three lines.

So I write six lines. There were two four each day of the weekend. I gave it to her today, and I was happy to find that I only had a few mistakes, except for in the last sentence, which was kind of a mess. But overall, there were just a couple spelling mistakes, and some prepositional errors.

Not two bad for my first Korean essay. So she helped me correct it and I rewrote it properly. I think the essay writing is going to be really helpful, as will the grammar book. Also, hanging with Vicky so much has really helped my casual speaking a lot. I'm not at the point where I can hold full conversations, but I can understand probably 90 percent of what I hear.

Check above for the pics!

Picture Update

I added more pics to Jess' album. Check them out. Also, check back later today for a new entry about my weekend. We went to a palace in Seoul and got some great pictures.

Here are the new Jess pics.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pics From Jess

Our Canadian teacher, Jess, has been here for one week. Here are some pics she's taken during her time.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Market Day Pics

For Halloween, we had a special event at the school called Market Day. The students used their Jungchul dollars that they earned in class to buy food and little toys.

I was in charge of the quiz game. I asked them questions like "What is the capital of South Korea?" and "What colors are on the American flag?". The winner of my game got $3 to spend on more stuff.

The teachers all decorated the school with Halloween stuff, and I got to wear a sweet costume. I was worried that this would be the first Halloween that I didn't have a costume, but they had one for me. It was a really fun day.

After that, we all went out to dinner, then to a singing room, where Mr. No treated us. Then, Vicky, Kitty, Wendy, Jess and I made our was to Goworldong for some late-night drinks.

The new American guy, Elias, gets in tonight. I'm taking him and Jess to Goworldong to meet up with Stacy and Vicky.

Like I said, it's a little weird that after only seven weeks here, I'm the tour guide for the new teachers. But thankfully, over the last couple weeks, my listening has really gotten better. There are very few situations where I can't follow the conversation or at least know enough to get by. My speaking is improving too.

It's a good thing I've progressed so quickly, because now I'll have two more people relying on me at least a little bit to get them situated.

Here are the pics. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Finally I Got To Treat

In the two six weeks I've been here, everyone has been incredibly generous. I've never had to pick up the tab. I've only ever had to pitch in on the tab sometimes. It certainly keeps me from spending too much money.

Most of the reason for that is because I didn't get a bank account until a month in, and don't bring enough cash for the whole party.

But last night after school, I treated five of the teachers to drinks. Wendy, Gemma, Kitty, Cindy, Vicky and I went over to InHa and drank makoli, that rice wine I had last weekend. We also got a bunch of anju to go along with it.

I didn't care how much it would cost, but I assumed treating six of us would be at least $50, considering how much food there was and how much we drank.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tab was only $28 for the whole group. Maybe this doesn't warrant its own post on the blog, but I think it's interesting. In America, treating six people to drinks, without food even, would be way more than $28.

Now I know I can afford to take the teachers out on a regular basis, which is a pretty good deal for both of us.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Pics!

These were taken by Brent on his second-to-last night in South Korea. There was drinking involved. So these are some fun shots.

Check them out here.

This Is Never Good News

The North and South are still at it, of course. Their latest beef is over leaflets that whiny South Korean protestors drop in the North.

Check it out here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The New Teacher Is Here

On Saturday night, the new teacher -- a Canadian girl named Jessica -- got into town. But let me tell you about the beginning of the weekend before I get to that.

On Thursday night, I was just sitting around my apartment when Vicky called around midnight to tell me that she was with Gemma and Kitty at InHa. So I got into a cab and went over to meet up with them.

We were drinking some alcohol that is made out of rice. It's called Makoli. It was kind of milky, but tasted pretty good, and it certainly did its job well. It was really fun to hang out with those three. It's something I haven't done much since I've been here, but worth the late night.

Friday was supposed to be my first day of private lessons with four college students at InHa University. Two of them couldn't come, however, so it ended up just being lunch with the guy, June, and one of the girls, Jess. I met Jess and Cassie before when they came out with Chris and me.

I will see them every Friday morning, when our studying basically will just consist of conversation. They all speak English well already, but they are trying to improve.

After that, I headed into work, where I was the life of the party because I package arrived from mom and dad that had some candy and other treats in it. Friday ended up being a pretty good day at work.

On Friday night, we were going to head into Guworldong, the location of The Square, to have a few drinks. Unfortunately, the guys in Yeonsudong were dragging their feet. It got to bed midnight and we hadn't left yet. Since I was supposed to meet Vicky early Saturday, I just headed home.

When Vicky found out I didn't do anything, she offered to go out with me. First I headed over to InHa, but neither of us wanted to order the anju with our drinks. Instead, we just got beer and went back to my place, where we drank and listened to music for a few hours.

Since we were up so late, we moved our meeting time to 2 p.m. on Saturday. I had never been to Insadong, a traditional Korean neighborhood in Seoul, so she offered to come along and show me around.

It was kind of a miserable day weather-wise, because it was raining. But Insadong was a cool place. It's clearly a tourist hotspot, because there are thousands of vendors selling little souvenir-type items.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera. Sorry everyone!

We were going to look for Halloween costumes in Seoul when Stacy called to tell me that Jessica made it in. She wanted me to go back and have dinner with them. So Vicky and I hopped on the Subway and went back in to meet them. They were just finishing dinner, but Stacy wanted to take Jessica out.

So the four of us, along with Stacy's boyfriend, went over to InHa to get a few drinks. It was a really good time. Of course, the Korean guy wanted to make drinking into a competition. But don't worry, America. Your faithful son prevailed again.

On Sunday, the westerners over in Yeonsudong wanted to play American football. It was a good chance to get Jessica on the bus and introduce her to the crew.

Dan, Tim and I were playing against Jeremy, Colin and Scott. It was another classic USA-Canada grudge match. You already know who the winner was. America stomped Canada by a score of 8-4. I had six of our touchdowns and threw for one as well.

I got pretty scraped up diving for balls, so I'm really sore today. But beating Canada is worth a few raspberries.

This week will be a lot of work at school. We have something called "Market Day" on Friday, where the kids use the Jungchul dollars they've earned to buy items or something. I'm not entirely sure about the concept, but I know there are no classes. That means my schedule is crunched and I'll have six classes every day.

It'll all be worth it come Friday night, because it's Halloween!!! I'll definitely remember my camera for wherever we go.

Take care!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Lone Teacher

It's sad to say that as of this morning, Chris is on a plane back to Boston. That means I'll be the only western teacher until at least the 25th, when a Canadian girl is coming. Then, two weeks after her, another American is supposed to arrive.

That means I could get screwed in my schedule. Of course, it will be pretty hard to give me much more work, since I'm almost at full capacity as it is.

At least we made the most of Chris' last weekend in the area.

On Friday, all the teachers went out to a local place in Onyundong for some food and drinks. I always love going out with my co-workers. The cool part was that even after the party broke up, Vicky, Wendy, Cindy and I went to another place to drink some more.

After that, I was surprised to hear them say to me: "Now we're going to your house." Maybe I should've cleaned a little better, haha. So the four of us got some more beer and went back to my place, where we pretty much just listened to music and drank and hung out. It was still cool to have people in my house for the first time -- three Korean girls no less!!!

On Saturday, Chris and I went to Shinsagae to hang out during the day. We got some lunch and met up with some old friends of his. After that, Chelsea showed up and we hung with her for awhile.

Then, in the evening, we made our way out to Bupyeong to meet up with Jake. Of course, a group of the westerners from Yeonsudong were out there. It was cool to run into them since I haven't seen them for awhile.

Sunday was a lot more laid back than the typical drinking nights. It was also filled with some firsts for me.

Vicky picked me up and we went out to Shinsagae to meet a friend of hers. The plan as to go see the movie "Eagle Eye". Once we got there, though, they started making different plans. To my surprise and delight, Vicky's family wanted to take me out to dinner.

So to kill some time, the three of us got some beer in the the square before heading out to meet her family. Her mom, dad and sister all came out, and none of them speak English really at all.

So while Vicky was translating, I took some pride in knowing that I actually could understand a lot of what they were saying. I guess my Korean studying is paying off a bit.

Either way, her family was very nice and we had a cool time. It is the first time I have ever hung out with a Korean family, so it was a new experience.

After dinner, we went to watch the movie, which I liked despite weak reviews. It was in English with Korean subtitles. Even though Vicky can speak well, she said movies and television shows usually move way too fast for her to totally understand.

When I got back, Chris came up for a bit to drop off some stuff and say goodbye. The good news is he'll be back in a month or two. But keep him in your thoughts as he spends the next 30 hours on a plane home. Thanks for everything, Chris!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Typical Saturday Night

Saturday was the usual for the most part. Chris, Chelsea and Jeanna went to some seafood market for sushi, and I wasn't really interested.

Instead, I went with Chelsea's brother, Jake, to the square in Shinsegae to hang out for a little. It was pretty early when we got there, so we walked around and hung out for a couple hours. Then, we got something small to eat and drank a little beer.

After that, Vicky and Jake's girlfriend met up with us for more drinking. Then, Chelsea, Jeanna and Chris came as well. So the eight of us hung out for awhile and had a lot of fun.

Jake, Chris and I made it home by about 2 a.m. and hung out for another hour, eating some food and watching some movies.

All in all it's been a good weekend. Check back in a bit for an odds and ends list I'll post about some of the observations I've made so far.

North Korea Off the Terror List

But is it any less terrifying???

Check out the story here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Officially An Alien

After one month of waiting, I finally received my alien card and bank account on Friday. That means a couple of things.

1. I have identification in the country now. That's not a bad thing at all.
2. Even better, it means I passed my disease test. Whew!!!
3. Having a bank account is necessary because now I can get my first paycheck deposited. I wasn't low on money or anything, but that's always a good thing.

On Wednesday, Chris, Vicky and I went to InHa with Brent, another American at our sister school, to have a few drinks. Brent left on Friday morning, so we just wanted to hang out. I've only met him once before, but it's always good to make friends with a fellow foreigner.

On Thursday, the teachers from both our schools all went out for a going-away dinner for Brent. That means that besides our boss, Mr. No, it was Chris, Brent and me with 14 Korean chicks. I was a little nervous, to say the least.

Also, they thought it would be fun to keep track of my drinking. While we were waiting for our sister school to get to the restaurant, I apparently had six. Thanks Stacy for keeping track.

This is only partially my fault. It's a Korean custom to fill your glass if it's empty. And it's my custom not to leave beer just sitting around. So every time I finished, they filled me back up.

After the restaurant, we all went to a singing room and made fools of ourselves. I sang "Centerfold" with Chris, and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by myself.

The best part of the night, besides hanging out with everyone outside of work, is that Mr. No paid for the whole thing. We'll most likely have another one soon since Chris, unfortunately, is leaving next week.

Last night, I went to Yeonsu because the foreigners there were having a beer pong tourney. Some things just have to travel around the world. Dan and I didn't do too well, but the party was pretty fun. There were about 20 people packed into one of these tiny apartments.

We originally had big plans for the weekend, but it's basically a fact that no plans ever exist. We were supposed to go into a neighborhood of Seoul tonight for some fun, but now I don't know what is going on. I'm sure there are plenty of options, and resting wouldn't be all bad.

With Brent gone, Chris will be at the Songdo school for all of next week, and we are both getting dumped on with our schedules. So my days are pretty much full all next week. I doubt that will change any time soon. after Chris goes, I might be the only foreign teacher here for a few days. Even so, only one person is coming in. Until we get a third teacher, it could be a sucky teaching schedule.

That's appropriate because teaching really isn't that great anyway. That's probably not true. Teaching American kids might be fun. But teaching Korean kids blows. There is simply no control for the teachers, and the bad kids refuse to listen. On Friday, I had one kid freak out because he threw his sticky toy on the ceiling and I wouldn't let him stand on his desk to get it.

He caused a big scene and knocked his desk over and cried. So much for being a tough guy. The Korean teacher apologized to me and told me that he is sometimes "aggressive." Well, I think there's a difference between being aggressive and being a total jerk.

I guess it's time to find something to do for the day. I hope all is well back home!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

North Still Test Firing

Jeremy was asking me about this situation. Unfortunately, I don't know anymore than anyone else. I doubt we have to worry over here yet, though. Here is a story about it.

North Korea fires missiles

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Best Weekend Yet

That's right. After my bad Monday, the rest of the week really made me appreciate being here.

On Wednesday, all the teachers from the Onyun-dong school went out for dinner and drinks. It was a lot of fun to spend time with the whole group outside of school. They're all cool in school, but it's always great to see how people act out at the bar.

Of course, that meant I was exhausted on Thursday. Fortunately for me, again, some teachers were preparing for exams, so I didn't have that much to teach. I was supposed to be off for my last class of the day, but the students begged their teacher, Wendy, to let me teach them. So she asked me to play a game with them and we had a fun Quiddler time.

I had to recover quickly, because Thursday night was the opening of Rio's new bar in Shinsegae. Dan and I went to Rio's wedding last weekend, so the whole group was excited to check out the new place.

His bar was cool, but I ran into Vicky, one of the teachers, out there. So I ended up spending a lot of time with her group. Check out the pics below.

On Friday, Chris and I went to a movie with two Korean college girls to whom he gives private lessons. Their names are Cassie and Jess. We went to see some Korean flick set in the 1920s when Japan was occupying Korea.

It was about a dude who meets a chick who is secretly a Korean rebel against the Jappo government. The story is very twisted and the girls basically ruins his life. I won't give away the ending. Let's just say there was a boom.

After that, we all went out to drink and met up with Jake and his girlfriend. We went to a couple different hofs and ended up, of course, in a singing room. It was a pretty good night.

On Saturday, Chris, Chelsea, Jeanna and I went to Songdo Park for a picnic. Songdo Park is a small amusement park near our houses, and it cost something like $5 per person to get in. There is a pond, beach, rides and boating available.

The girls went shopping for food, a grill and drinks. We spent about 5 hours there, just lounging and enjoying ourselves. It was really relaxing and just what I needed to help me recharge. Chelsea and I even rolled up our pants and waded in the water. It was a lot of fun.

After that, we went to Wolmido, where there is another little amusement park. We got on the popcorn ride and the viking ship ride. Wolmido was also having a festival. Fall is apparently festival season in Korea. That meant more fireworks.

Being that this is Korea, our night didn't end there. We went to a singing room in Inha for another two hours.

The whole day was a blast, but weekends like this definitely slow me down. I skipped out on wiffleball today so I could hang in and rest. The Korean lifestyle certainly requires an off day for someone like me, especially since I don't get my naps anymore!

To answer some of Pauline's questions: No, I still do not have a bank account. I should get it very soon, because I'm supposed to get my first paycheck this week. I haven't gotten my alien card yet, but all the paperwork has been filed, so I expect that this week as well.

As far as the PA license plate. It just happened to be in some Korean bar in Buepyong, so I thought I should get a shot with it, since I'm from PA. Sometimes home just follows you.

Below are pics from Shinsegae, Songdo and Wolmido. I'm getting more of me in there now. Enjoy!

Songdo and Wolmido


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Refreshing Tuesday

When I went in today, the other teachers were really cool about what happened yesterday. They told me not to worry and that it happens all the time. I think they could tell that I needed some reassurance after what happened.

Today was a great boost, too. For my first class, Vicky, Cindy and I took our kids out to a park to play. It's about time they give the kids a little break.

The rest of the day was just as easy. I only taught 2 1/2 classes because teachers are preparing the students for exams.

As promised, here are pictures from the wedding and the fireworks show on Sunday. Enjoy them. There are a couple more of me in the wedding shots.

Rio's Wedding


Monday, September 29, 2008

Take The Bad With The Good

I think maybe feelings are magnified a bit since I'm on the other side of the world. I'll start by telling you the bad stuff.

Yesterday, I was having a really good day, until two kids got in a fight in one of my classes. I didn't know what happened at the time, but the other kids told me that one kid was making obscene gestures when I was writing on the board, and the other kid wasn't too happy with it.

So I took them to Stacy, the head teach, and told he they were fighting. She said, "Why were they fighting in class? What were you doing?"

Now, I realize that some inflection and meaning may be lost in translation, but Chris said any time something like that happens, it is our responsibility. After she talked to the boys privately, she came to us and said, "Do not let the students fight in class."

Again, I hope something was lost, because she made it sound like I lined them up in a ring and took bets on who would win. We're at a major disadvantage because even when they're talking normally, it sounds like they're yelling. But these kids didn't say a word to each other.

All of a sudden, the one jumped up with his chair flying back and they were on each other. Making it harder was that they were sitting right next to each.

Either way, it all put me in a bad mood last night. I had to leave the building during my break period to grab a snack and clear my head. I'm still not feeling great today, but it's a new day. So I won't dwell on what happened yesterday.

Now onto the good thing:

Friday was just a normal drinking night in Bupyeong. Saturday, however, was a brand new experience. Dan and I, along with one of Dan's Korean friends, went to a Korean wedding. The wedding was for a guy who owns a western bar that the guys all really like. I went there on my first night, and it's been my favorite so far. It has been closed for a month because it's changing locations, but will open again soon.

The wedding was very different from an American wedding. first, when the bride and groom were each introduced to walk down the aisle, everyone shouted and cheered. And there were very points throughout the ceremony where more cheering happened.

Also, it was in a hotel ballroom-type area. The thing is, there were way more people than could sit, so many stood out in the adjoining room and just talked and whatnot the whole time. There wasn't one time when people were actually quiet. Even Dan and I were talking because we were comparing all the different aspects of the wedding.

There was a point in the wedding where the bride and groom went to both families, and bowed. The bride just tilted her body down, but the groom, Rio, actually got down on his hands and knees.

Then, they both yelled something and everyone clapped. Afterwards, everyone Rio invited went up on the altar and got in a giant group picture. So we're permanently in his life, haha.

Afterwards, they had a great spread of food. It was probably the best meal since I got here. Then, we took the party to a bar in the area, where the Korean beer was free, but a Miller Light was $6, haha.

The place had an old fighter pilot's helmet as a decoration, so Dan's Korean friend asked the bartender if I could put it on. Of course, I did it, and was acting like a goof while drinking and chatting in my helmet.

I have some great pictures. The only problem is they're all on my phone. I forgot my camera. So I just have to get the pics off the phone. Give me some time, I'll get them soon.

On Sunday, we were all just taking it easy. A couple of the Songdo teachers invited Chris and I to some fireworks in Onyun-dong. The place was insanely packed, and the show was really great. At any given time there were anywhere between five and 10 blasts going off in the sky.

The weird thing was after 20 minutes, they stopped and everyone started to leave. But then, 10 minutes later, they started back up for another half hour. By that time, half of the people already left, haha. Sometimes nothing they do here makes sense.

Well, fortunately I remembered my camera for the fireworks show. I got some great pics. I'll post them later this evening.

Back to school today for six classes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

U.S. Official Set to Visit the North

Although it's unconfirmed, like all good news stories, this says the U.S. is sending an inspector to North Korea to talk about the nuclear program.

Here's the story.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More Talks on North Korea's Nukes

Here's an article in Time Magazine about the North's nuke program and how it's up and running again.

Just Nuke It

Test Days Are Awesome

I was supposed to have six classes today, all in a row. That makes Thursday my least desirable day.

Today was great, however, because the teachers were preparing students in three of my classes for midterm exams. That means I didn't have to teach three of my classes. It was so great to get a little rest when I didn't expect it.

Making my day a little longer, though, was that I had to get up and go in at noon to go apply for my alien identification card. I need this card for things like opening a bank account, which will be vital once I get paid, so I can send money back home.

Unfortunately, the new, stricter rules are forcing me to hurdle another obstacle before I can actually register. So tomorrow, I have to go to the health clinic to get an HIV and drug test. It will probably only take a half hour or so, but I have to go at 11 a.m., which is way too early compared to everything else we do here.

Oh well. I'll get that out of the way, then my card should be on its way in a few weeks.

I went out with Cindy, Chris and two of the Songdo teachers on Tuesday night. Songdo is our sister school about 20 minutes away. Then, last night, Chris and I went to InHa to meet up with a couple Korean girls he knows. As usual, it's a good time going out. And since I don't usually eat, it's not too expensive.

Tonight for dinner, Chris and I got galby at a local restaurant. Galby is a marinated pork that they put on one of those little in-table charcoal grills. It was my first time eating it, and I was more than satisfied. It was a little bit tangy, but the meat was very filling and the spices were good.

Also, the school seems to have stopped providing us with a meal during the day for some odd reason. So the teachers go in together and order things. They asked me if I was interested today, but I declined because I planned on stopping by a street vendor after work. But they very generously invited me to eat with them anyway, letting me try a little of everything.

As I said before, I'm thankful that the teachers have been so friendly and welcoming. It makes things a little bit easier, for sure.

Friday is tomorrow, which means I only have three classes, then it's probably a bus ride over to Yeonsu for some fun.

Have a good Friday, everyone!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So Many Nationalities

It's practically the United Nations out here with the various nationalities of people my age who come to teach. It certainly makes for more interesting nights.

On Friday, we all went to Bupyeong, another neighborhood of Incheon. There, we hit up a couple different bars. I went with two Canadians, a New Zealander and a Finn. While we were there we met a group of Brits who had members from England, Scotland and Wales.

I had to again defend America's honor in bar games by beating a Canadian twice at pool and an English guy at darts.

Colin and I didn't end up leaving the bar until a little after 6 a.m., while the New Zealander and Finn were still holding it down there.

We were trying to go to the SK Wyverns game on Saturday, but it got rained out. That night, a crew of us just hung out at Dan's place. I made my way home around 1 a.m., so I could watch the Arsenal game and follow the Pitt game online.

Today was another thrashing of Canada's wiffleball team by a 10-3 score. That puts our seven-game series at 3-0 USA. I crushed three homeruns today and pitched one scoreless inning.

After the rout, Dan, Scott and I hiked up Chongyang Mountain, which is right in the center of Incheon. I couldn't find much info online, so I can't tell you how high it is. Check out my pics below and get a good look for yourself. It was pretty steep and took about an hour to go up and down it. There were a ton of people out today since it was so nice. It was in the mid-80s again.

The weirdest thing is that all the way up the mountain, vendors would be selling things like hats, food and water. Some of those people carried pretty heavy loads all the way to the top to sell to hikes. It's incredible the way Koreans think sometimes.

Maybe the best part of the weekend came Friday when I finally got my cell phone. I asked Mr. No about getting one and he took me downstairs and got me one. The base plan is at $14 and then you pay per minute and per text. I think it's something like 18 cents per minute and 3 cents per text, but I'm not totally sure.

One of my students who has the same phone, switched the language from Korean to English and then sent me a song for my ringtone. It's some lame Korean pop song, but it was cool of him to do that, and I'm definitely keeping it.

My landlord, who I live right next door to, came Saturday to fix my water. She got it back to normal, but of course it went back to cold today. So her son came and fixed it. I have a feeling I'll have to mess with it every time I shower. Oh well, it's better than the cold showers I took for a week and a half.

It's back to a full week this week. I don't think we have another holiday until the first weekend in October. So time to put the nose to the grindstone I guess. It shouldn't be too bad because we're starting new books this week in all the classes.

Five classes tomorrow. I guess it's just about bedtime here. Enjoy the pictures!

Chongyang Mountain

New cell phone

Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy It's The Weekend

My assumed break for my last class of the day yesterday never happened after all. The teacher told me she was very tired and asked me to teach it anyway. So I did.

It was not a problem, however, since I was done with the book in pretty much all of my classes. That's when Quiddler became a hero. It was a huge hit with the students. Their vocabulary level is good enough that they can find all the small words, and they're just thrilled when they find big words or words that use Q or Z.

It was cool to see their excitement over the game. Maybe I need the Korean version, if there is one, to help me with my Korean vocabulary.

After work I went out with Cindy and Vicky to the hof by our school. Once again, they ordered SO MUCH food. I know it's culture, but it always seems like overkill to me. It's not like they ever finish it either. Now I know why children are starving in China. It's because Koreans order all their food and throw it away.

Either way, it was a really fun night. We drank a bunch and had a great time getting to know each other and learning about our cultures. It really is amazing. I learn so much more in a casual setting from the other teachers than I ever could in a history class. Experience is certainly the key to life.

Today I only had three classes scheduled, but I taught an extra one of Cindy's class. She sat in and watched. I think the other teachers are curious about my style of teaching, since I only get good reviews from the kids. Since her class finished their book today, she got pizza for them. So I got to eat a slice of that. The toppings were hamburger, ham, corn and green peppers.

That's one of their weird tastes over here. They mix corn in with their pizza sauce. Both times we have ordered pizza, my friends have asked for no corn. They have done it so much at the one place that the employees just know not to give it to them. Americans and their no corn order!

I still have no hot water and no cell phone. The hot water is supposed to be fixed soon. Who knows if it will? I asked about getting help to buy a cell phone today, and Terry said the school has a cell phone that no one uses, and he thinks Mr. No will give it to me. That would be nice. Then they can take my bill right out of my paycheck.

When the Internet guy came yesterday, it was a pretty funny experience. He logged me into my net account and said it was ready. But I wanted to ask about a password and user ID. So I looked up password in my dictionary, and that's how I got my message across.

I think I've really hit it off well with all the teachers here. Even though their English isn't perfect, my goofy jokes seem to get across. For instance, everyone here has an ID badge that they wear. I do not have mine yet. I told Cindy and she told Stacy.

When I walked into the Korean teachers' area, they were all asking if I envied them for having it and things like that. So I said, "I want to be a teacher too!" They all seem to get a kick out of how positive and excited I am about every little thing that happens.

Tonight I'll head over to Yeonsu-gu to hang with Dan and the Canadians, most likely. None of the teachers are going out tonight because they have some lame seminar tomorrow. Thankfully, they don't make Chris and I attend. We probably wouldn't really understand anyway.

One last story for the day. In my first class on Fridays, it is one little girl who is very smart and a good student, and three little boys who are just horrible and loud. I had to be mean today to the boys to just settle them down. But the bad thing is that one of the boys, Lion, pulled his pants down for a second and flashed his tiny kimchi. Needless to say, I was not happy with that. I yelled at him and told Vicky, his teacher. He might be in some trouble. I have no idea.

Time for the weekend!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nice Break Today

Thursday is my really heavy day as far as classes go. I have six of them. The problem is they are all right in a row from 3 to 9 p.m. Six straight classes with only the short 25 minute break at 6:50 p.m. to grab a bite to eat.

Thursday is also rough because Chris isn't here if I have questions. I have no problems going to the teachers to ask what to do, but I sometimes get the feeling that I am bugging them a little bit. The issue is that the English teachers can only teach the units that correspond to what the Koreans have already covered. Sometimes, when we finish our unit or simply finish the book, we have to come up with our own ideas.

Stacy, the head teacher, said all classes are starting new books next week. That means for this week and part of last week, I was bugging them to ask what they recommend I do. I now realize that I have a little creative freedom in teaching the kids when we have those breaks in the lessons.

The best news about today is that my 8 p.m. class is taking a test, so I get that period off. That makes my hectic Thursday a lot easier. It's still five classes in a row, but that isn't a problem at all.

Also, I have two classes today where the teachers said I could prepare something. Last week I came up with a list of questions about the Olympics, and the kids used them to write short essays. It wasn't as much fun as possible, but it was fairly easy since everyone, even non-sports fans, know about the Olympics.

This week, I already used Scrabble in parts of two classes. I brought LCR and Quiddler with me as well. I know LCR is generally a drinking game for us, but I can use it to teach counting and directions. Quiddler will be perfect for the kids because it's a short-word card game. It's
a lot like Scrabble, but doesn't depend on a board to form words. I will see how it goes in my class today.

I finally got my internet hooked up in my apartment. As I suspected, all I needed was an ID and password, which were numbers. This could've been resolved easily last week. I still don't have cable, so we'll see how long that takes. Also, the hot water is not back yet.

Terry, the school's VP, called a repairman, but he needs permission from the landlord. That call should take place today. I hope it does soon, because I am getting tired of taking cold showers. It makes my shower far less relaxing and a little more stressful when all I'm thinking about is how I wish the water was warm.

I have just been approached by one of the other teachers about finishing the old books and starting the new ones. She said to make sure I get the current lessons done by tomorrow, Friday. That won't be a problem. Most of my classes have already finished or just have one lesson left in the current books.

I had my first interesting experience with a Korean stranger in a bar who was very hands-on. I was warned that it would happen at some point, and it doesn't make me uncomfortable, but I think it's worth noting.

Chris, Mike and I went to a bar Tuesday night in Inha, which is Incheon Harbor University. While we were there, a 29-year-old Korean guy started talking to us. But he also would hang on our arms, touch our legs and give us hugs.

Chris said that while it's not totally uncommon for that to happen, that guy was just a weirdo. It wouldn't be any different than if we were in America and a person with a strange personality started talking to us. That being said, the guy was generous and bought our drinks, which would've been expensive because we were at a hostess bar.

There seems to be three different kinds of bars here that I have seen so far. The Korean hoff is the most common, where you basically have to order some kind of food with your drinks. It can be fruit or chicken or soup of some sort. But that is their culture to eat while drinking.

The second kind would be the hostess bar, where you don't have to order food, but bottles of beer are $4 at the cheapest. The third kind is the western bar, which means you can go and order cheap drinks without the food. Guess which is my favorite. haha.

Well, I have about 30 minutes until my five hours of classes start for the day. And there's not as much rush to type the blog while I'm at school since I finally have my internet hooked up. I won't be getting kicked off and signing back in constantly anymore.

I hope all is well at home, for whoever may be reading this. Love you and miss you!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ch'usok Weekend and New Pics

I hope you're enjoying the pictures so far. I'm adding a few more now.

Over the long Ch'usok weekend, we made it to two SK Wyverns baseball games. They lost the first one but won the second in a 12-inning game. It was a lot of fun. Tickets were only $3 and beer was only $2.50 per can.

Some of our Canadian friends took advantage of the one white guy in center field on the other team and heckled him without mercy. It was a great show, especially when the guy turned around and threw a ball at them. Don't worry, it missed.

To answer Pauline's questions, the food at the game is similar in some regards and VERY different in others. Of course there's beer and other soft drinks, as well as Gatorade (the only flavor in Korea is lemon) and slushies. They also have chicken sandwiches and potato chips.

The different foods range from things like noodle bowls to various weird vegetables that I didn't even ask about. They also have some nut and candy mixes as well as a sweet waffle with whipped cream and honey smothered on it.

The stadiums was fairly empty on Saturday and a little more full on Sunday. Dan said he's seen it packed, which is probably true. The fans are rowdy like English soccer fans. The only thing is, if they're not in the middle of a song or chant, you can hear a pin drop. That's when we liked to yell.

Also, while the level of play is decent, their is almost NO hustle play. If a guy thinks he'll be out at first, he jogs down the line. And you almost NEVER see a player dive. We were fortunate to see the SK shortstop make a great diving catch, but things like that are rare.

Last night, when we got back from the game and were hanging outside, a guy approached Dan, Mike and I. The guy, an American, offered to sell a scooter to us for $50. I was skeptical, of course.

He said his wife doesn't want him to drive it anymore, and stressed that he can sell it so cheaply because he makes so much money. Regardless, Mike and Dan pitched in and bought it.

It's kind of beat up but is a real motor scooter with a lot of pickup to it. It really moves when you crank it. I guess anything can happen here. It's almost surreal sometimes. Mike kept saying, "I can't believe I just bought a scooter."

He's a little afraid to drive it back to our neighborhood from Dan's, however. Even though it would only take about 10 minutes, drivers here are totally insane. Not to be toyed with for sure.

On Monday we started the International Wiffleball Championship between the USA and Canada. Four Americans took on three Canadians in the first game of a seven-game series. Needless to say, it was a morale-crushing 7-4 victory for the Americans.

It was 7-0 going into their last at bat, and they got a couple runs while our pitcher fatigued a bit. He didn't care about the score at that point, and just was throwing heat for strikeouts. Keep waving those flags for us back home. Three more games to go for the championship.

Back to Pauline's questions -- No Koreans have really talked about the stuff involving Kim Jong-il thus far. Of course, maybe they're just not telling anything to the western teachers. A few of us have talked about it briefly, but no one is concerned right now about any governmental power struggle. The climate, I think, is always a little shaky, but people don't seem concerned in any way about any of it right now.

All the Americans and Canadians in the pictures I'm taking are teachers at the various private academies in Incheon. Five of them actually live in the same building in Dan's neighborhood. Three Americans, including me, live in my neighborhood. Two of us live in my building, and one is across the street.

Mike and I were chatting about it today, and about how it feels a little bit like an extension of college. The western teachers all know each other in one way or another. We all make decent money and have a lot of free time to really explore the area. It's not uncommon to go out during the week to see each, like it might be back home if we were just in whatever profession we entered after college.

Best of all is that we all do the same thing at different schools, so we can all talk about our work experiences. It's a nice support system and its own little community over here in South Korea. The veteran teachers are always willing to impart their knowledge on the constantly revolving new teachers.

As far as the address of the school goes, I don't know the exact way to write it yet. Also, if you'd like to send me a letter, you should write the Korean and English address on the label. It will leave the US for sure if it's in English, but once it gets here, it might not be readable by some typical mail sorter. I'm still working on figuring it all out. If you want to send a test letter, feel free. I wouldn't send anything valuable yet, though. We wouldn't some Korean mailman to go home with something extra from your letters to me.

I posted some more pics of my apartment, pics of Dan's neighborhood, wiffleball pics and some pics from the second Wyverns game. Enjoy!



Dan's neighborhood of Yeonsu-gu

Wiffleball Championships

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Two More Sets of Pictures!

Here are a couple new sets of pictures. The first are pictures of my school in the Lucky Building about two blocks from my apartment building. The second set is from the SK Wyverns baseball game on Saturday evening. Enjoy!

Jungchul School

SK Wyverns baseball. Fan First! Happy Baseball!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blogging From the School

For the first time ever, I am blogging from inside the school. For some reason I could not get it to log on to the blog before today. Oh well, here I am.

Updates to your burning questions:
1. Yes, my hot water was fixed again. Terry, the school's vice president, said if it happens again, he will take me with him to show me how it works. I wish he had taken me with him today in case it happens over the weekend.

That's because ...

I just found out that we get Monday AND Tuesday off. I thought it was just Monday, but thankfully we get the extra day as well. It's nice to get here and immediately have a vacation. Maybe I can catch up on all the sleep I need. Although I highly doubt that will be the result.

As far as cable and internet goes ... I was supposed to have internet yesterday but found myself still forced to steal it. I was told today that cable is now installed and ready to go. All that is left is a cell phone and a bank account.

I've had a few hours to kill tonight at work since My last class ended at 6 p.m., but I can't leave until 9:05 p.m. That's sort of a bummer, but I can deal with it. I look at it this way: I now have three hours to study Korean on Friday if I want. I spent about an hour and a half studying tonight, then we all went to eat dinner.

It sounds like four of the six Korean teachers are having a ladies' night out and going dancing somewhere. If only they knew of my robot. They wouldn't have cared that I'm a dude and invited me for sure. Of course, they might have left without human Aaron, because all they will see is the cyborg that I become when I start my super dance machine body.

On the downside, it doesn't sound like there are many (or rather any) places in Korea that play 80s American/British pop music. So Belvedere's in Pittsburgh has no competition over here. It's just as well, I suppose. I will need to find some creative outlet on Thursdays that is the equivalent of drinking a lot of cheap beer and dancing to 80s tunes with goth-like kids.

Not to bore you, but some of my non-exciting plans this weekend include buying an extra pillow or two, buying an extra towel or two and doing a load of laundry. I know the laundry thing isn't exciting for you readers, but when you can't read Korean, it's an adventure any time I put a load in.

Besides the day off, one of the perks of a Korean holiday is that, at my school, the boss always gets the teachers a gift. Mr. No got us all a box of pears. Nothing wrong with a box of fresh fruit. I asked if I am supposed to get him something and the other teachers just kind of laughed. I guess the giving doesn't necessarily go both ways.

On top of that generosity, the teachers continue to be very supportive and welcoming. Tonight during dinner, a group of them came in with some rice/veggie/seaweed rolls and some other stuff of which I don't even remember the name. They all were very forward in offering it to me, and still get a kick out of the fact that I insist on using chopsticks because, I tell them, "I need to practice."

That's it for now. One hour to prepare myself for my first holiday weekend. I'll try to add pictures throughout the entire weekend, so keep checking back. To my family in Pittsburgh: Get well soon! And to my family getting together in Masury on Sunday: Have fun!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One Week Down, 51 To Go

It's Friday over here and I only have three more classes for the week. It's been really good so far, even with a few minor snags.

I woke up Wednesday morning to find that my hot water was not working. Chris and I told the people at the school, because his also was only sending out cool. Fortunately, they got it fixed Thursday evening, so I only took a couple of cold showers.

I finally figured out my stove and washing machine as well, sort of. I think only one burned on the stove works, but I doubt I'll use it that much anyway. The washing machine is all in Korean, so I just played around and I think I produced one successful load of clothing.

Other than that, things have really been a whirlwind.

Teaching has continued to go well. The kids are pretty good with their speaking, for the most part. They are all fascinated by me as a person. The younger kids want to rub my arms because of my arm hair. They especially LOVE my beard.

They all want to touch it and then laugh because they've never felt anything like it before. In one class, the students were playing a game where they were drawing on the board, and the student actually drew a beard. So the kids all yelled, "Teacher's face!"

Also, the students are very creative when it comes to their American nicknames. I have taught a Unicorn, brothers named Lion and Tiger, and a class last night with students who called themselves Baskin, Robbins, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Tigger.

The fun thing to realize is that kids are pretty much the same everywhere. I do feel bad for them because they go to school all day and then have to come to the academy at night. They all look very tired. I can understand when they don't want to work. I try to get through the lessons and then we can chat a little. It is beneficial for them just to have the conversation, so that is okay to do.

The nice thing about this weekend is that we get Monday and Tuesday off because it is the national holiday of Ch'usok, which is seen as the second most important holiday in Korea. It is a thanksgiving festival where they all pay respects to their ancestors.

That also means that the westerners all have big weekend plans. We are going to see Incheon's SK Wyverns baseball team Saturday, followed by a trip to the beach Sunday.

As far as going out goes, however, the week of work doesn't make much of a difference. As I said before, most people simply work from 2 to 9 p.m., then go out until 2 a.m., then go to sleep until noon. Then the cycle starts over. There's very little downtime, but that is simply how they do it here.

On Monday I went out with one of the Korean teachers, Cindy. We went to an American-style bar in my neighborhood. It had big statues of Elvis, the Blues Brothers, cowboys and Indians. I asked if this is how they though of America, and she said that they were all American symbols. It still made me laugh.

The cool part was that they brought out pitcher of beer and it was smoking from the spout. They put dry ice tablets in it to make it do that. It was really cool.

Tuesday, I went out again with Cindy. This time, Chris came along, as well as two of the other Korean teachers, Vicky and Ally. We went to Incheon Harbor University, which is right up the road from our neighborhood.

We went to a Korean-style Hof and ordered a big thing of beer that came out in a giant, metal soccer ball. It was so great. Of course I didn't have my camera with me.

After we got fairly polished-off there, we went to a singing room. It's karaoke, only you're in your own private room. I cut my chops in places like the huge Franklin VFW, and the Jai-alai in Sharon. This was just Chris, Cindy, Vicky and me in a tiny little closet of a space.

Cindy and Vicky were pretty good singers, even though the songs they picked were either Korean, or Avril Lavigne. I guess I didn't understand any of their choices.

I sang some songs too, but none of the ones I wanted. The American list of songs was pretty low. I couldn't find any good Meatloaf or Neil Diamond. I did do a little Elvis at least.

Wednesday was a night with the boys club known as the western teachers. I went to Dan's. Chris and I, along with another American named Mike, went to Dan's neighborhood to watch the North Korea versus South Korea World Cup qualifier. I wore my South Korea jersey that my coworkers so generously got for me. Surprisingly, I was the only one there showing national pride. Go figure, the American is the only one wearing the jersey.

Thursday after school I met up with James Choi, the Korean recruiter who brought me over here. He took me out for a beer and a meal that was a noodle dish with little octopus tentacles in it. It wasn't too bad.

That brings us to today. I'm sure I'm leaving things out, and will add them in whenever I think of them. I will have my camera out this weekend, so look for picture updates.

Like I said, it's all happening so fast. I'm just trying to keep up.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Two Days of Teaching Behind Me

It's hard to really gauge my teaching career so far after only two days of classes. After all, I still have three more days to go just in my first week.

If the rest of my time goes like my first two days though, the teaching part of this experience should be decent. Out of my 11 classes so far, only one was a miserable experience because a couple of the kids were really rude. It was a class with some 12 and 13 year-old kids.

I've also had some really great classes where the students' comprehension level of English was very advanced, making it easy not only to do the lesson, but also to have conversations with them. There were, of course, some classes that fell in between, where the level of comprehension was incredibly low, making the lessons much more difficult.

Unexpectedly, I had zero training here before I started. On day one, I went into my first class with my lesson workbook in hand and preceded to teach. Their thinking is that I've had 25 years of "training."

For some of the younger classes, our goal is to have discussions and conversation. For the older students, we have to focus on writing. The writing is obviously a harder skill to teach. Many of the kids have enough speaking skills that they could survive speaking English, but their writing is very poor. That's just how language works. I know that from my years of studying German.

The schedule at the school is classes begin at 2 p.m. and end at 9:05 p.m. The foreign teachers (me and my colleague and friend, Chris) are expected there by 1:30 p.m. at the latest to prepare for our first class. I have been going at 1 p.m. the first two days, but once I get into a routine, it won't be necessary.

Class are 50 minutes each, so we have 10 minutes between periods to prepare or rest if necessary. From 6:50 to 7:15 p.m. there is a short break for us to eat or relax. The school provides us with lunch and dinner, which is very nice. It's typical Korean food with various kimchi, pork, rice and noodles. We also had curry on Tuesday. It's certainly more than enough to replenish me.

I only have four classes today, which is very nice. The only downside is that I can't leave when my last class finished at 6 p.m. I have to stay there until the end of the day at 9:05 p.m. It is still a little rest from speaking and entertaining all day, though.

The most fun so far about teaching is probably the fascination that the kids have with me as a new American in the school. They all ask how old I am and if I have a girlfriend. And a favorite saying is to tell Chris and I that we have Beckham hair, because they all know David Beckham. The kids love it that I have a beard, too. In one class, they were drawing on the board, and a student actually drew a beard. They all got a kick out of it. So did I.

Besides Chris and me, there are only two other male adults at the school. Mr. No is the president, but is not there all the time. Terry is the vice president and teaches two classes a day as well. Other than that, it is six Korean women. The Koreans teach grammar, sentence structure and things like that. They teach the technical side of the language.

It is the job of guys like Chris and me to give the kids a true speaking experience so they can use what they have learned from their Korean teachers.

All the teachers have been very welcoming so far. I went out Monday night with Cindy and Tuesday with Chris as well as Cindy, Ally and Vicky. It seems the lifestyle here is to go to work from 2 to 9 p.m., go out until 2 a.m., go to sleep until noon, then do it all over again.

I'm just fine with that, but am still adjusting from the plane ride, so I haven't been able to fully recharge yet. I'm sure I'll get the chance soon enough. There is a holiday this weekend so we get Monday off. It is the perfect time for a break after arriving here.

That is it for now in the teaching area. I'll add a post later today about going out the last two nights. I do want to add that Chris has been extremely helpful so far. I'm fortunate to come to a school with another American who could show me the ropes. None of the Koreans really do that for you when it comes to getting you ready for the classroom. Thanks so much, Chris!

Check back later for my nightlife adventures over the past two days.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Here Is the First Set of Pictures

This is my first series of many pictures that I'll be adding. Enjoy!

Korean pictures, series number one.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Made It Safely and All Is Well

The title of this post says it all. I'm happy to say I made it on time on Friday and got to my apartment without a problem.

First off, when it comes to flights I'm now convinced of something. If I'm occupied for the trip, the length won't matter. I learned that when the five-hour flight to San Francisco was way more excruciating then the 12-hour flight to Incheon. That's because on the flight to Incheon, every person had their own monitors with a variety of movies music and games. The service from the flight attendants was also very good on the Asiana Airline trip.

When I got off the plane and went through customs, the president of my school was there waiting for me at the airport. His name is Mr. No, which is not to be confused with the James Bond nemesis who earned his evil medical degree.

He speaks very little English and my Korean is probably worse, so the hour car trip back to Okryun-dong was rather quiet. When we got to my place, we met up with Sunny, the school official who interviewed me on the phone. Her English is pretty good, so we had a translator for the rest of the night.

They first took me to my apartment, which is on the sixth floor of a building that is only a block and a half away from the school. I don't have the actual address yet. I have to get it from the other English teacher who lives down on the second floor.

Sunny and Mr. No took me to a Korean-style restaurant where we took our shoes off and sat at a sunk-in table. The cook then brought out hot coals and a grill to place overtop, which we loaded up with pork. There were also a ton of side dishes including rice and, yes, even kimchi.

The thing is, the Koreans eat kimchi with EVERY meal. There are about 20 different varieties and it's always on the table. Every Korean meal I've had so far has included it. It really isn't that bad. I'm kind of neutral on it. It's mostly just a very salty cabbage.

After dinner, they bought me some groceries and left me at my apartment. I got in touch with Dan, and he came over to meet up with me. We then went back to his place in Dongcheon-dong and he showed me where to buy a power converter for my laptop.

That night, we went out to a square in Incheon where there are a lot of popular restaurants and bars. Two of Dan's Canadian friends were with us and all three of them helped introduce me to the area. It turns out we really are like celebrities over here. It's pretty incredible. Everyone seems to be fascinated with us.

After the square, we went to a Western-style bar owned by a Korean guy with whom they are friends. We stayed out a little later than I expected after my long plane ride, but I made a lot of friends and had a good time.

On Saturday, two of the Korean teachers at my school took me out to lunch. They were 26 and 27 in Korean years. So the one girl was also born in 1983, just like me. Stacy and Chelsie took me to another restaurant that required removal of shoes and sitting at a very low table. Once again, the meal was pork and kimchi.

After that, I went to lay down for a bit before Dan and Mike, an IUP friend of Dan's who lives about a block away, came to get me. We went back to Dongcheon-dong to prepare for a trip into Seoul.

The city is like nothing I've ever seen. Where we went there were just so many people walking the streets. It was like walking through Manhattan during midday, except we were there at 11 p.m. It was just a zoo. We went to a place called Bar Boom, where a 1500 won cover charge got us free drinks for two hours. Well, it was supposed to be for two hours, but the bartenders didn't charge us anything the whole time we were there. While it's not common to tip here, that generosity certainly deserved one, which I happily gave.

Dan and I went with two Canadians again. One hold over from Friday night was there, along with a guy I just met that night. We decided it would be fun to place darts as teams. Naturally we went with U.S.A. versus Canada. And naturally the U.S. put the country that is affectionately known as our "hat" in its place.

We started making our way home around 3:30 a.m. after Dan secured us a taxi back to Incheon for 40,000 won. That's only 10,000 won apiece, which was a great deal considering the trip we took. The driver didn't really know his way to my neighborhood, and was lost for a good portion back. It may have taken us a bit longer than it should have, but we got it for a steal.

I got to Skype with Bethany and mom for a bit before hitting the bed and getting some rest for the first time since I got here. Needless to say, I'll be regrouping all day today before beginning work tomorrow.

So far, everything has gone really well. I got along really well with the president of my school, the school official and the other teachers I've met. I've made friends with quite a few English teachers. I've also gotten a whirlwind tour of the area.

The only tough part is lack of official Internet connection and no phone of any type. I'm just using somebody else's wireless, which makes it really unreliable. The lack of phone has made it hard to communicate with anybody effectively. All of that should be fixed on Monday, however.

Like I said, it's been a great trip so far. But my main priority here starts tomorrow at work. The school is located on the fourth floor of a building that houses a bunch of businesses on the other five floors. Those businesses include a little convenience store, a cell phone store and even a Dunkin Donuts.

I'll try to upload some pics, but it might be tough until I actually get a reliable Internet connection. I hope all is well at home. Feel free to Skype me or get me on AIM or e-mail at

Time to get some rest!