Monday, July 27, 2009

Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival

A big yearly rock festival once again came to Incheon and set up shop in Songdo, about a mile or two from my house.

Tickets were ridiculously expensive at 50,000 won each, especially considering the bands were mostly Korean or some other Asian country. The headliner on Saturday was the Deftones, but I'm not a huge fan of theirs.

However, I was fortunate because I didn't want to pass up the opportunity, and I got to go for free. It seems like there were just a ton of free tickets floating around.

I went to the show on Friday with Wendy and Vicky because one of Vicky's student's dads works for one of the sponsoring company, and gave her a bunch of free tickets.

I ran into Dan, Colin and Matt there. We had a really good time. There is one main stage, one DJ stage and a smaller, tent-covered stage.

The music was pretty entertaining, and we had a few drinks, that weren't too outrageous in price.

Well, Saturday rolled around and Dan got his hands on some more free tickets. So he, Mike and I went again on Saturday. The crowd was about twice as big as Friday, with people wanting to see the Deftones, but there were far less Westerners than I expected.

We actually had tickets for Sunday too, but decided to take a rest day.

Anyway, here are pics from the show. Enjoy!

This week, we get Thursday and Friday off from work for some unknown reason. I am going with Vicky's family to Gangwondo on a rafting and ATV fun trip. It should be pretty good.

The bad news is, the school officials are still stalling on getting me roughly 300,000 won that they owe me. They claim they're busy, but I can tell you one of my bosses simply sits at the front desk all day staring into space. Not too busy, from my observation. I have a bad feeling they're trying to slime their way out of paying me.

Well, I laid it down that I need that money by Wednesday (two weeks after my pay day) because I'm traveling during break. Think positive thoughts for me, and maybe it'll happen. Yeah, and monkeys might fly our of my butt. (Wayne's World).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Want To Know Why They Break Into Fighting?

They do it because that's how they're raised. If it's nature versus nurture here, nurture wins. The way they act in the government is no different from 10-year-old boys and girls.

You aren't happy? Hit someone. You want to pick on someone? Hit someone? Want to make a friend? Hit someone.

The reason I rant is because their government once again turned into a professional wrestling-style show when some media bills were voted forward. The vote was most likely illegal because of some procedural problem.

But no one filed a motion or appeal right away (though they plant to). They simply started wrestling. I read another article saying stuff about fists flying. But that's highly unlikely. I saw a video of a bunch of people playing grab-ass, essentially.

Also, this particular article in The Korea Times mentions people being rushed to the hospital. Fear not. If a Korean sneezes, they rush to the hospital.

Anyway, check the article on children running a government here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Shall we play a game? (and other news)

"How about Global Thermonuclear War? " - WarGames (1983)

Any '80s pop culture lover or person who grew up in the decade remembers this Matthew Broderick movie about a high school student who, through a computer simulation, sets off a possible nuclear apocalypse.

Well, South Korea, amidst all the tension from their hat (the North), has launched its own computer war simulation.

"The South's 655,000-strong military, backed up by a 28,500-strong US contingent, faces off against the North's 1.2 million-member armed forces."

While the article calls the simulation "defensive in nature," it's always interesting to see how countries in a tense military climate keep themselves prepared. The program has been run since 1995, and this year's version kicked off today. So as of now, there's not yet a declared winner.

In other news that is also seen as controversial, South Korean customs officials will get more help in the form of cloned drug-sniffing dogs. The six dogs were all cloned from one highly skilled Labrador retriever.

I think this is actually pretty cool. If they can clone one great dog, and the clones all possess the same skill, it would seem to me that a lot of energy and money would be saved through the training process.

The only part that causes me to roll my eyes is when I read about the puppies' names. But knowing the South Korean tendency for combining English words in stupid ways to evoke thoughts of the future, I shouldn't have been so surprised.

"They are part of a litter of seven born in 2007 through cloning a skilled drug-sniffing canine in active service. They were all named "Toppy" — a combination of the words "tomorrow" and "puppy" — but one dropped out of training due to an injury."

Just so ridiculous.

Summer Classes Begin

Starting today (Monday, July 20), our summer classes begin at Jungchul. It's slightly different from what we did in the winter, and there's no real explanation why.

We'll switch from our usual 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. schedule to the 10 p.m. to 7 p.m. schedule. That is the same as the winter.

What's different is that each winter class was one hour long, and each teacher taught two classes. For some reason known only to Sunny and Mr. No (yet surely misunderstood by them), the classes are two hours long and each teacher has two.

I was supposed to teach a writing class and Eli, our other American, was supposed to do a speaking class. But now that he's at Songdo full time, they combined the two classes. There one huge, glaring problem with that: The kids are on entirely different levels.

I'm not talking about how every class has one or two kids that are a little slow. I'm talking about combining upper-level middle school students with mid-level elementary school students.

Through no fault of their own, the younger students just aren't prepared to write advanced essays. They simply haven't spent enough time studying English. So I'm at a loss of how I'm going to handle the class.

The one good thing is that they've hired two part-time teachers who will help cover the extra and regular classes. That means that this time around, I'll have no 8-class days to deal with. I think I have one day with 7, two days with 6 and two with 5. That's much more reasonable.

What's not reasonable is how the bosses are treating the teachers. There's a lot of anger at Jungchul right now, and no one is sure shy. Our bosses continually criticize the teachers for not working hard enough, even though they continue to pile work and responsibility onto them. They all went into the school today for an 11 a.m. schedule meeting, and one of the bosses failed to show up until 4 p.m. Now that's just ridiculous.

Also, one of the many secretaries who was recently hired and fired, left on Friday after about two weeks. He told our boss that the problem with the school was the teachers. Well, I can't believe he has any real credibility since he only lasted two weeks here.

I am a little mad because the bosses still owe me roughly 513,000 won ($405) for my July 15 paycheck. What's really frustrating is the reason it hasn't been paid yet. I am the one who sat down with one of the bosses and worked out the figures for the hospital bill and other bills owed. She sat with me and claimed she's "not good at this kind of thing."

Well, even after watching me do it, and then listening to an explanation, I've not yet received part of my money because the other boss wants to check it out again. If he wanted to check it out, he should've done it in the first place! But I'm roped into doing it, and now being told, more or less, that my work is not trusted.

These many little reasons add up to put a lot of stress on people and cause a lot of problems personally. I've been under the weather since my surgery, and the enormous stress is not helping kick this little cough I've had for the last two weeks.

Anyway, I have approximately 6 weeks left, and then it's home for a visit and mind (and soul) restoration. A person tends to lose those things when trapped in a country full of people lacking them.

At least the weekend was good. It was a relaxing Friday night at a local bar. Then, on Saturday, my buddy, Kevin from Pitt, came to hang out. We went to a baseball game and went to the square to check out what was happening. It was a fun night.

Let's hope this week starts out well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Plastic Surgery Issue

I realize this isn't a super in-depth study (only 921 out of what must be millions of university students took part), but it's a small sample showing how important cosmetic surgery is to Korean university students.

This article in The Korea Times says that 30 percent of the 921 surveyed said they plan to seek surgery during summer vacation. That says nothing of the students who already got surgery.

Now, they list some surgeries including double eyelid, eyes, nose and teeth. Certainly braces are common in America, but I don't think that's what they mean.

Anyway, it's just another interesting note on Korean culture. While it's common for parents to pay for their children's university bills, one girl in the article is determined on saving up 2,500,000 won (more than $1,900) for surgery during the summer.

Check out the article here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Korean Girls Posing: Cute or Super Annoying?

I think you know how I feel. When I first got here, I overlooked the fact that it's impossible for the majority of Koreans (especially Korean girls) to simply give a nice, beautiful smile in a picture.

Oh no, that would be too easy, and it would probably reveal to much of their face. Can't have that. Otherwise, Korean media, or possibly their friends and relatives, would mock them for a lack of "V-line" (lines of one's face).

Like I said, I didn't think about much when I first arrived, and was even sucked into it. With comments from family and friends like, "Why are you always giving the peace sign?" Well, this country has a way of forcing people to conform. Also, I was weak because I wasn't as bitter about the way they treat people as I currently am.

Here's a website I came across with a whole catalog of Asian girls posing during photos. Check it here. Don't worry. It's not porn or anything like that. At least in porn they're not making fake poses like this.

My problem is that, while sometimes it can be endearing and playful, it also ruins many photos. I try to take a shot of me and Korean friends, and inevitably, half of them are covering part or all of their faces. I've asked them repeatedly to simply give me a nice smile.

That's not good enough for them. I know there's pressure from society and everyone over here is either a robot or clone, but they have nice smiles. I'd simply like to have that kept in picture form.

Please forgive my bitterness for now. Remember awhile back I posted a Top 10 Korea list? Well, due to some stress from work and from their culture and hate/discrimination of foreigners, I'm thinking about my Not Top 10 list.

I know I need a break at home and things aren't terrible, but I'll explain my feelings more later. Consider this an honorable mention for the Not Top 10.

Here's the site again. Enjoy! (sarcasm)

Struggles of North Korean Defectors

I've blogged numerous times about the poor treatment of foreigners from the west, but here's an interesting story about how the North Koreans find their life adjustment when they make it down South.

Apparently, as this BBC story says, they face a lot of obstacles here trying to become members of this society.

Kim Cheol-woong, a former music student who defected here from the North, is now a musician in the South. He was asked to perform at the 10th anniversary of Hanawon, one of several centers built for the purpose of providing North defectors with help while they adjust to life in the South.

Like I have complained about before, South Korea's fervent nationalism can be inspiring, but it can also be very harmful to anyone trying to live here, and to the image of South Korea. I half understand the majority's dislike of foreigners from the west and from other Asian countries.

But to many of the students I teach, the North and South are still the same people who are just forced apart by some maddening political system.

Yet, the North refugees still have trouble fitting in here. And you know why? It's because they're not SOUTH Koreans. How bad is it when people from the same bloodline are treated with that racism ... er ... I mean nationalism.

Kim Cheol-woong says:

"I thought South Korea would be the beginning of happiness," he said.

"But I have to tell you, it was the beginning of pain. Defectors here face poverty, and even worse, social discrimination."

He's right about that social discrimination big time. I face it every day. I feel bad for him, because his own people won't accept him. At least I'm actually different. I don't like the majority's racist attitude toward westerns. But it makes a heck of a lot more sense than discriminating against your own blood.

I have faith that the youth will take over someday in this emerging global society, and change the majority's attitude. But until then, it's going to be a bumpy ride for anyone here who isn't a South Korea.

Check the full story here.

Rainy Weekend

The rain didn't dampen the spirit of the weekend, as Hye Yeon and I had a group of friends come visit. Chris, Minji and Junghwa all came in for the weekend.

On Friday, we just did a little bit of drinking and relaxed after what was a very stressful week for Hye Yeon and I.

On Saturday, we all went to the SK Wyverns baseball game against Samsung Lions. It was actually a pretty good game, even though the Wyverns lost by a couple of runs.

The fun part was that even though it was hot a muggy, it drizzled during the game. It kept the temperature fairly reasonable. It was the first baseball game for Chris and Minji.

I bought a cooler pack of Max beer before the game. It has 24 cans. We polished them off during the game.

Afterward, Hye Yeon's parents took us all to dinner and then to a singing room.

Sunday was just a rest day since the stress of work continues tomorrow. This international school is making the bosses a little testy, and they're taking it out on the Korean teachers.

I got my reference letters and I'm in the process of nailing down a new school for next year. The countdown is on until I go home, which will be sometime in early September, most likely.

Anyway, I took some pics on Saturday. Check them out here!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cyber Attacks -- North Suspected

Apparently there were a bunch of cyber attacks on web sites in America and South Korea over the last couple of days.

Read the article here.

Looks like think tank members in South Korea blame their two communist neighbors to the north.

The article reads:

" ... Hong Hyun-ik, an analyst at the Sejong Institute think tank, said the attack could have been done by either North Korea or China, saying he "heard North Korea has been working hard to hack into" South Korean networks."

Look at that last sentence again. He "heard" they've been trying to hack into the South Korea networks. He "heard"? What happened? Did he strike up a convo in the men's room? Nice grapevine skills by the think tank.

And let's remember, there's no way North Korea can afford the Internet when they have nothing more advanced than an abacus.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jungchul Confusion

Before I get to the weird and illogical stuff happening at work, I'll tell about my decent weekend.

First off, Happy Birthday to Colin Beaton, one of the few decent Canadians in the world. On Friday night, we celebrated his birthday. I had to go home early because I had to work Saturday (more on that further down).

On Saturday afternoon, Chris came in from Suwon and we went to the Incheon United soccer game. They played Jeju United. There are 8 teams in the league, and they couldn't find different names? Welcome to Korea.

Anyway, the soccer was entertaining and it ended in a 3-3 draw.

After that, we went to InHa for a couple drinks, where my college student Smith met up with us for a bit.

One refreshing occurrence is that a group of Korean guys approached us in the bar and wanted to play darts, It's so rare to be approached by a Korean on friendly terms, let alone a group of guys. But we played and had a great time. A little of my faith in humanity has been restored.

Sunday was just a rest day, and Monday was simply work. But on Tuesday, I went to Yeonsudong to hang with Dan and try out screen golf. They have this in America, too, but I've never done it anywhere. We were in a private room with a big projection screen. You simply hit the ball into the screen. It's a giant video game.

Also, I'm just as bad at screen golf as I am at real golf. Oh well.

Anyway, the Jungchul news has everyone's heads spinning.

First off, I was asked to go to the Songdo campus Saturday at 2 p.m. to help prepare interviews for them to become an international school. Well, as is always the case, information is either withheld or changed.

So then I was asked to go at noon, and that I was actually interviewing students for their entry into the school. Well, I was a little perturbed that I wasn't told this more than a day before it was happening.

But I went in and did it anyway. I'm supposed to get paid extra, so that's motivation enough sometimes.

On Monday, Eli suddenly was taken from Okryundong campus to Songdo campus and no one knew why. None of the teachers, and not even our head teacher, knew.

Well, it turns out that Songdo got about 30 new students who they now have to prepare for the next to months for entry into Sondo International School. We still don't know what happened to their plans to actually become an international school, but they seem to be a prep school for it now.

The catch is only native speakers or Koreans who have lived abroad for a long time can teach the classes. So Eli and Jess have been told they will be doing it.

Still, none of us know all the details. As of Monday, Eli was introduced to the parents and told he was starting Tuesday. Of course, he didn't even have a curriculum or any books to look through and prepare himself.

So we're all watching to see what happens to this situation. Maybe the only change is that Eli will be there full-time for the next two months. I have a feeling something more will be going on soon.

So anyway, here are some pics from the Incheon United game. Check them here.

And here are some random pics from the edge of Okryundong, looking toward the Incheon bridge and Songdo City. The bridge should open around October and link the new Songdo International City to the Incheon International Airport. Check the pics here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Another BIG Cultural Difference

Here in Korea, having sex with a minor is a-okay, according to an article in The Korea Times. I realize that way back in history, people had sex with minors all the time. But being raised in a society and culture that frowns upon it makes it a little weird to see it as acceptable.

The article says:

"In Korea, a person is not guilty of any crime for having sex with a minor aged 13 and over unless it is paid for or forced. Sex with those under the age of 13 is punishable even if it is carried out under mutual consent."