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!