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 abruckart@gmail.com.

Time to get some rest!

Last post in the U.S.A.

The zero hour is here as I sit in the Pittsburgh airport waiting to get on a plane. As I said before, my first flight goes to San Francisco, where I'll have an hour-and-a-half layover before jumping on a plane toward Incheon, South Korea.

One snag so far is that I only got my ticket printed for the first leg of the journey. The people at the information desk, however, said I can just go directly to my next gate and get my second ticket there. Let's hope that's how it works. I'm certainly cutting it close for an international flight.

I'll miss all of you dearly and I hope you have a good year. I'll be thinking of all of you while I'm there. Please keep in touch. It's always nice to hear from a friend.

Next time I post, I'll officially be in South Korea! Until we meet again ...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Time Converter

If you're thinking of calling me -- and I know you are -- use this handy time converter to make sure you're not waking me in the middle of the night. We're 13 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in the United States. That time difference leaves a lot of opportunities for catching up without that awkward, sleepy hello.

Time Converter