Wednesday, February 25, 2009

First Concert

Last weekend was pretty subdued for many reasons, but Saturday stood out because it was my first concert attendance in South Korea.

The week was bad. Not so much for me, but for all the teachers. Kitty's last day was on Friday because the company screwed her out of the last month of her contract. Mr. No apparently told her it was because of the economic issues.

But I doubt getting rid of your longest serving teacher will do anything to help your finances. These students build relationships with teachers. And I would think parents would trust teachers with long records, understanding that it means that teacher is doing a satisfactory job at the school.

Having a bunch of teachers with less than one year of experience wouldn't make me, as a parent, want to send my kids there. Especially considering the price for these parents is outrageous to begin with. I would want seasoned teachers whom my kids could trust.

And what's done is not necessarily done, apparently. Other teachers have had private conversations with the management about their desire to keep their jobs. This has caused a ton of stress for everyone in the office, which has affected me. While my job is relatively safe, compared to theirs, I still get mad to see my co-workers and myself treated poorly.

On Saturday, Vicky and I went with Minji and Songug to Seoul to see a band called Emerald Castle. I guess they're relatively famous in Korea. Their music was sort of like heavy metal Korean. So put two genres together that I don't like and guess the result. I was kind of bored during the show.

The best part was during intermission when another "famous" Korean singer came out and did two Queen songs. And he would've made Freddy proud. The guy had a great voice.

Now, I felt a little bad because I was sitting their uninterested while the girls seemed to be having fun. When we went back to Minji's house, I told Songug that I didn't like the band that much. He responded by saying he hated them! Haha. It was great. I was so relieved. The girls said they didn't like the music much either, but were trying to have fun.

That is my problem over here. I need to just forget about some things and get into the moment. I've become really emotional here and sometimes it's hard to control.

Either way, we had a really fun night at Minji's, just drinking and hanging out.

The next day, we went to get lunch. They ate disgusting Korean sausage and ordered me a chicken soup. The chicken soup was pretty awful. Koreans have found a way to take any food that is delicious in America, and ruin it. It's the way they prepare their meals. It's never satisfying in any way, unless you're satisfied to feel sick and hungry.

This week has been pretty mundane. That's not a bad thing. The recent job stress has exhausted everyone. I'll see my college students tonight, and the weekend is still up in the air.

The teachers, after being forced to observe the PELT exams last Saturday for the whole day, are now being forced to do a two-day workshop for eight hours each day on Saturday and Sunday. Mr. No's cruelness knows no bounds. I used "no/know" three times in that sentence and all with different meanings!

Anyway,they'll all be locked up from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days, but I'm sure I'll see the teachers at some point. My guess is they're get together for a bit Saturday evening. Even so, a little more rest wouldn't hurt me.

I hope everyone is well!

Sorry about the delay.
Here are the concert pictures!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Debt Like Crazy

Don't worry. I'm not talking about me. I just have your standard American debt in the form of college loans. It's one of the reasons I'm here.

I just want to make a small observation. I ask a lot of Koreans about how they afford their lifestyles. Many are living with their parents, bit those parents own pretty darn nice condo-style homes, at least one car (and in more cases two or three), and they say they pay for their kids to go to college and travel frequently.

I know somethings are cheap over here. But I questioned it because either things would have to be practically free, or the people would all need to making millions (I mean that in dollars, of course).

I was told that credit card and debt issues weren't a problem over here. However, as I told my parents the other day, I'm always skeptical. If a Korean tells you something, you'd better double and triple check it. It's like getting information off Wikipedia. It can be entertaining and somewhat informative, but it's rarely correct.

Well, thanks to the economic collapse, the Korean newspapers have no choice but to run stories about how bad the credit crisis is here.

Here's an article on it.

Of course, read that with a large grain of salt and some Soju. Americans like to complain about their newspapers and whatnot by lumping it altogether as "media", but the Korean media is just so unreliable. Most articles have points written about with absolutely zero attribution.

Anyway, the credit stuff is pretty bad here. The article says people owe 43 million won on average. That equals $43,000. I'm not sure how that compares to Americans, but it's certainly no small number.

Anyway, it's just another example of Koreans telling me one thing that turns out to be the total opposite.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Valentine's Day weekend turned out to be a pretty average weekend. While they market VDay a lot like they do in the states, they don't follow it as much.

Of course, there are a lot of gifts and whatnot being purchased, but that's just because Koreans will buy anything if someone tells them it's cool or that everybody else is doing it. The day is only a little bit more special than any other day.

Maybe I'm a dork, but I always really enjoyed Valentine's Day at home and saw it as a good chance to do something special with my girlfriend.

On Friday, I went to Buchon with Dan, Colin and Tim to see Mike, who just recently got back to start his second stint in South Korea. It was my first trip to Buchon and Mike has a pretty sweet place. He has a small bedroom off of a hallway that leads to his living room. He also has an actual shower stall, rather than just a shower that IS the bathroom.

I didn't really experience anything in Buchon, because we just stayed in Mike's place. It's a pretty happening scene, though. I'm sure I'll party there at some point outside. But I'm sure the bars there are just like anywhere else in clone Korea.

I spent Saturday in Guworldong with Vicky. We for some seafood dokkboki, which is as unappetizing as it sounds, and then got some donuts and headed to a singing room. After that, we got a few drinks before heading home. It was a pretty good night, but not much different than a regular night out.

She got me a really cool present, though. I guess this is really common in Korea for girls to do, as well.

You can buy these big boxes that have "love" sayings on them, and you fill them with chocolate candy and pictures and stuff like that. So she got me one of those with three pictures of us. She made about 36 different chocolates with which to fill it. It is one of the coolest gifts I've ever gotten, because I know she put a lot of time and effort into it.

My gift for her was to buy Pittsburgh Pirates hats for us, but they didn't have her size, so it will be delayed until we find them.

On Sunday, I played football with the other Americans and Canadians. Let's just say I needed to get some aggression out. And I don't even like football.

Anyway, we're back onto the normal school schedule, and I'm not nearly as tired as I was before. But the late school ending time is just really annoying.

Vicky and I are going to Seoul this weekend with her cousin and cousin's boyfriend to see a concert and hang out. Check back later for pics and an update. For now, enjoy the pictures of my 100 Days and Valentine's Day gifts.

100 Days and VDay pics

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oh, the Frustrations ...

Vicky, Cindy and I went to Bupyeong on Friday to exchange my mp3 player. It was a hassle, but they ended up giving me a better model.

Of course, by Saturday afternoon, it already stopped working. We went again on Sunday afternoon, because they told her they'd just give me my money back. Of course, they didn't do that. They said they fixed mine and gave it to me, but I noticed some things about it that are different.

My assumption is they just got a different one out of its box and gave it to me. I showed Vicky and she was furious that they lied to us. So we went back before we went home, and they again refused to refund me, even though they told her they would.

The promising thing is that less than a day into the new mp3 player, it is still working fine. It's actually a pretty sweet model and I'll be happy as long as it continues to work.

Other than that, the weekend was pretty subdued. We had temporary victory drinks Friday night in Bupyeong, which turned out to be premature. On Saturday, I hung with the guys in Yeonsu-dong. We just drank and played a few low-key games of poker.

Our schedule at work returns to normal this week. That means we're back to 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. While I don't like getting out so late, I don't mind not going in until 2 p.m. I think it fits my body clock a little better.

As far as the ring goes, here is the update. Vicky LOVES the ring. She thinks it's really wonderful. So I did the right thing there. She got us couple Adidas jackets that are pretty sweet.

While there have been some frustrations lately, things are going fairly well overall.

I'll post some pics soon of the mp3 player and the Adidas jacket. Have a good week, everyone!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Week

Granted, the Steelers just won their sixth Super Bowl, and once again I was out of town when it happened. But the NFL championship isn't the only reason this week will be good.

It's good because our winter extra classes are over, meaning I have two less classes every day. I only had four today. It was awesome. Between the drag of the winter cold and the overwhelming amount of work, I was really dragging. Just knowing I have less classes this week is a huge boost to the system.

Anyway, I'll catch you up a bit n my last couple weeks, in no particular order.

First, the MP3 player is just a mess. The company told Vicky last week that they would refund my money. But today, they told her they didn't feel it is their responsibility, and the responsibility belongs to the place I bought it.

I heard Vicky on the phone with them later on today, and she was saying they don't want to refund my money. She didn't explain to me fully, but this seems to have turned into a fight between the company and the store, with neither wanting to budge.

Looks like I will come out the loser. I can tell you this: If I don't get this resolved soon, I'm considering calling the U.S. Embassy. I realize there's risk in buying a product anywhere, but I think some help from an official source will get them moving faster. I have a receipt and the product was officially inspected to be broken upon purchase. It's just frustrating.

Vicky and I saw 'Valkyrie' last week. I am, of course, biased. But I think it was a great movie. A fact-based story about a group of guys trying to kill Hitler has to excited even the biggest Tom Cruise detractor. It was an interesting take on a historical account.

Over the weekend, Vicky and I met with her cousin and cousin's boyfriend in Itaewon. Itaewon is where the US military base is located. It doesn't get the best reviews from Koreans or Westerners, unless the Westerners are just here to go nuts and party.

The reason is that many of the American soldiers can be real jerks. They're one of the main reasons Westerners get a bad name in Korea. Itaewon during the day is okay, albeit rather dirty and crowded. But at night it is an unsavory place, with drunks and prostitutes roaming the streets. One of my friends got beaten up by some American soldiers because they wanted his watch.

We only were there during the day, so we didn't have many concerns. We went to a Mexican restaurant called 'Amigos', and I had Mexican food for the first time in five months. It's hard to describe how much I missed it. While Korean food is tolerable, with some of it being pretty good, I would never choose any of it over the melting pit of food that inhabits America.

After the meal, the four of us headed to Bupyeong for some drinking. The day was really fun because Vicky's cousin and boyfriend speak very little English. I was in a position where I pretty much had to speak Korean to communicate. I know Vicky can translate, but it has to be annoying if she does it all the time.

Either way, I think I did reasonably well. We spoke a little English during the day/night, but it was about 80 percent Korean. We talked about a lot of simple things while getting to know each other, but it was a nice feeling to put it to use.

Vicky's cousin even said one time that she was confused by what I was saying because I was switching back and forth between English and Korean so well. So that was a nice compliment.

On Sunday, I went to CostCo with Vicky, her mom and dad. It was pretty much just like an American CostCo, except you can buy bulk Korean food as well as alcohol. As much as was there that I would've liked, I settled on two purchases: A case of Miller Lite for the equivalent of about $23.00, and the Heinz picnic pack, which included two ketchups, a mustard and a relish.

Call me predictable, but I just needed some comfort items.

I wouldn't call my feelings here full-on homesickness, but lately has been harder. I miss my family and friends a lot. I know people are busy and going through a lot back home, and I wish I could be around to be a part of it, both good and bad.

The worst part about having a new adventure seems to be that I'm forced to miss out on the old routine.

While work is going reasonably well for me, it isn't for the company. Apparently due to some students quitting, they bosses have asked one of the teachers to end her contract a month early. It's a pretty ridiculous move, and one she doesn't have to take. But Koreans are more worried about pride than American are, so she is embarrassed by the bosses' request and may end her time.

It sucks, because already one teacher quit due to pregnancy, and this one is another good friend. It seems the core that I started with is slowly unraveling. I knew it would happen. It's just a bummer.

I know my job is safe, but it's a pretty shifty situation by the company. I haven't trusted them since day 1, and now the other teachers are beginning to understand my feelings.

Well, Pittsburgh fans, enjoy the NFL championship!

Itaewon/costco pics