Saturday, July 30, 2005

One down, eleven more to go.

Happy anniversary to me.
Happy anniversary to me.
Happy anniverrrrsarrryyy to meee-eeee.
Happy anniversary to me.

It's my one month anniversary, people. That's cause for a celebration. Or at least cause for taking a moment and asking "where has the time gone??"

Lots of things have happened in this last month. I was knee-shakingly nervous while I waited for my director to return with his car at the airport and when I was thrust into my first class sans preparation, oh and of course when I thought I'd see blood spill on the subway in my first week. I cried when I first spoke to my parents after a brutal day in school and when I mailed a letter and realized I'd miss their birthdays. I laughed so hard I cried numerous times, specifically in a taxi cab ride with a hilarious cabbie and at Outback when the toilet gave me a nice little spritz. I've felt incredibly empowered and independent, venturing into Seoul all alone, leading fun music classes with my kids, leading myself and others through the bustling Japan streets.

I've pondered why I came, regretted it, appreciated it, and speculated as to why I and all the others here did it.

Sitting here right now, one month after flying across the world to Korea, I can't say that I regret a thing. Except that I have to go to work tomorrow.

Happy birthday, Garry.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Japan pictures are in!

Home sweet home. Ahh, feels pretty good. I didn't even realize we were landing in Icheon until two seconds before we touched ground because of the unbelievable smog/fog. The heat outside was unbearble. Good ol' Korea. Seriously, I can't wait until winter.

The point here is actually to let y'all know that I have posted all my japan pictures on flickr. I also inserted a bunch into my posts from the last few days so you can check those out again if you are a visual learner.

Today it's off to Seoul to explore some palaces. Oooh la la.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

At Kansai Airport

I came to the airport pretty early because there was nothing left for me to do in the sweltering Osaka heat.  Now I am way to early for my flight and they didn:t understand my request to see if there was an earlier flight I could jump on.  This airport computer is messed. My flight should take off at four this afternoon so I will arrive in Korea at five thirty and then the bus takes about two hours to get into Suji.  I actually look forward to being in a place where I can understand things somewhat.  At least I know how to say please and thank you.  

I just ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant here in the airport and men were slurping soup all around me.  I:m grouchy.

Do I have to go back to Korea?

I've been having a really great time in Japan and I'm not ready to leave! I don't even know where to start, but I'll give it a try.

On Wednesday morning I woke up pretty early and ended up heading out to the Korean consulate with Brandon, a fellow Canadian staying at the hostel who is heading to China tomorrow to start a teaching contract. I was concerned about the visa and whether or not I had all the necessary documents but that went off without a hitch. I'll write in detail about that another time.

After getting that out of the way and being told it would be ready at 4 o'clock, we headed out, walking along midosuji road and venturing off into the numerous alleyways and sideroads. We saw some incredible things. Closed off avenues lined with casinos and packed with men who seemed to have been there for hours. Store after store of those claw games where you pay 100 Yen (about 1 dollar) to try your hand at winning a stupid stuffed toy. Strip joints and "massage parlours" one after the next, more than one featuring women dressed as nurses. Only nurses. What's with nurses?

Here is a casino.
And here is a claw game that allows you to win guns!

We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant that had good looking plastic food displayed in the window, as many do, and instead of placing an order with the waitress we had to feed money into a machine and press a button, then give the printed receipt to the waitress who had helped us find the correct button to press in the first place. A very odd thing indeed, but one that seems to be recurrent everywhere around these parts. Ticket machines for food, subway, entrance coverage. Everywhere.

We wandered around aimlessly checking things out for hours. At one point we came across a touristy ferris wheel that begins on the seventh floor of a huge shopping mall and reaches high above the city. For 500 yen (five dollars) we got a great view high above the city.
Somehow we ended up back in the neighbourhood of the hostel and crashed for a while. I headed back out into the BLUE SKIES (can you believe it?? Blue skies and while fluffy clouds?? It's like heaven here.) to pick up my visa. Waiting in the consulate I saw another guy obviously in my same position so I went over to say hello. Turns out he also works in Suji, which is nuts, and has been here for one week. He's from Pembroke but has spent a lot of time in Petawawa and knows my friend Andrea! And he went to Trent and knows D'Arcy's friend Jess. Small world, really small world.

His name is Aaron and he had no idea where he was sleeping so obviously I brought him back to my place. Ohh, snap. Aaron, Brandon, and I hit the streets in search of the floating garden, a really high building with a great view. Seems like Osaka is all about great views. We went for some Omo-rice, a rice filled omlette covered in sauce and two shrimp. Not bad.

We headed for drinks, met two guys from England and hung out at some bar until we tripped home late at night talking about crazy things and laughing like kids. It was a good time.

Whewf. I know this is long but I've got to get today out of the way so I'm caught up tomorrow.

This morning I woke up a bit later and headed out again with Brandon (Aaron went back to Korea this morning) towards the Osaka Castle. We pretty much jam packed every touristy thing into two days. I'm exhausted and worn out. The castle was very nice but the day was scorching hot and sweaty.

After the castle we ate some sushi and headed to another area of town to get tickets for traditional Bunraku theatre. The tickets were 4600 Yen but you only live once so we decided to go for it. At the last minute I decided to try whipping out my ISIC card - I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before - and we BOTH got the student price of 2300 Yen instead. Sweet! I love a surprising good deal.

The show was really neat. It is essentially an elaborate puppet show with three people dressed something like Ku Klux Klan members all in black manipulating one puppet. They really bring the puppets to live so much that you forget they are there. At one point there were six puppets on stage and I suddenly realized that there were 18 people standing around. It was unreal.

The two other roles are a guy who plays some kind of string instrument which is apparently incredibly difficult and straining to learn, and a guy who narrates the story, using different voices and many facial expressions to get the emotion and meaning across.

We had English headsets that explained everything in detail, which was great. Sadly the two hours and forty five minutes stretched on forty five minutes too long and we just wanted the heroin to kill herself already. It was well worth it nonetheless.

Dinner, some wandering, blah blah blah, and that brings me here to the hostel where the number of guests has jumped from three to at least 8 in the time I have been away.

I feel like I can do anything. I've mastered the subway, I knew where we were going, and I solved the problems. It is amazing when something that seemed so foreign and unmanagable becomes a snap. Truly amazing.

Tomorrow I am heading back to the land of the morning calm. What time? I better check my plane ticket...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Here I am in Sumo Backpackers Guesthouse. It's cosy and cute with ten beds, three of which are occupied including me.

The bus to the airport was uneventful, the flight was sweet since I had three seats in a row to myself and an unobstructed window seat. Yeah! First time ever that I don't get stuck with wing and more wing. My director booked this flight for both me and my coworker Chris, but Chris was nowhere to be seen. I wonder what happened to him.

I got to the airport in Japan and breezed through customs, even though I lied. I'm just visiting; visiting Korea, visiting Japan, living in Canada. Why did I lie? Well I was honest on my way from Canada and honesty did nothing but slow me down. So I lied and got away with it.

From the airport I was to take a train to JR Osaka station. I stood for ten minutes staring at this crazy map full of colourful lines and routes. I had absolutely no clue. Asking for help seems to work and I paid over ten dollars to take the long train ride to Osaka station.

From there I had to go one stop on the something-suji line... to Nakutsu or something. Can you tell that I am adept at remembering Japanese names? Osaka station is so sprawling that I really felt lost. I couldn't find the line, I couldn't figure out how to get a ticket. It was insanity. a very nice lady saw me looking forlorn and helped me with my ticket. Did you know there are women-only cars on the subway? It's true!

I had directions to get to my hostel but they didn't work so I called and got picked up. It's really easy to find after all.

The hostel is cozy and nice. You leave your shoes at the door and there is a lounge with a tv, this computer, and many books to read. There are only two other guests here right now so I don't have to worry much about sharing. One is named Fay, a British guy travelling through Japan for three months. The other is called... uhhh... let's call him Doug from Canada. He just arrived and will be heading to Beijing to teach English. He has a five year plan for teaching in five different countries. Five years, holy moly. Good luck to you, pal.

After taking it easy for a while I went out to explore, walking by many different restaurants, none of which had sushi which is what I was craving. I wasn't exactly sure which direction I was going but eventually I found Osaka station by foot and headed into the tourist information centre to pick up some maps and brochures. The woman pointed me to a restaurant nearby.

I went in and had some tempura. Mmm mmm tempura. Since I was all alone I was seated at the bar-like area that is often in Japanese restaurants at home too. Next to me was a noodle-slurping woman who laughed at me as I ate awkwardly ate my shrimp with chopsticks. Jordy, I thought of you tonight!

I wasn't quite satisfied and there was nothing else at that restaurant that I could identify, so I went to another restaurant nearby, this one with a conveyor belt of sushi going by. The sushi was placed on colour coded dishes at varying prices so you just take what you want and they charge you accordingly afterwards. I had some salmon sushi, some eel or something, some tuna, and a roll of some sort. Very delicious and exciting to watch the food go by. Better than a parade, I tell ya!

I walked back to the hostel and chatted with the others for a little while and now I'm going to get cozy and read for a while before falling asleep. So far so good.

Oh, except I might be royally screwed. I didn't bring my documents with me like my degree and transcripts. I don't know if I need them and didn't think that I would because my director took them to get a special form processed. I have that form and my passport but nothing else. Cross your fingers for me, okay? Or let me know that I'm indeed screwed so I can try to get my documents fed exed as soon as possible.

Alright folks, that's all I got.

Monday, July 25, 2005

DVD Bang's are fun

One last post before I head to the airport, okay?

Last night I went to my first ever DVD Bang. For those not in the know, bang means room and is attached to many other things like PC, Norae (karaoke), etc.
The DVD bang was great! D'Arcy and I chose the movie "Les Choristes" which I had wanted to see back at home and for 13,ooo WON (which is pretty pricey for a rented movie) we got our own private room with very spacious and comfortable seating, a big screen, and all the privacy we wanted. Which wasn't much considering we're not teenagers trying to hide our relationship. We're not even teenagers, or in a relationship. But that's besides the point.

Here's a picture:

And it was a good movie too. What could be finer?

Close call

Good thing I just thought to check my itinerary. Looks like I'm leaving at 1:20 for Japan, NOT 5:30. Oops. Guess I'll have to jump on the 8:35 shuttle bus to Incheon instead of the 12:35 one.

Well, thank goodness for semi-intelligence.

I'm on my way.

Got milk?

The other day I was walking along chatting with D'Arcy when I stopped in my tracks. I haven't had any calcium in three weeks! Not one drop, no milk, no cheese, no yogurt, nothing! That's not right! Milk does a body good!

I immediately bought a Hershey's chocolate milk from a nearby "Buy the Way".

It all makes sense though. Many of my children have really terrible teeth. They are only four years old and they have discoloured or even black teeth and cavities galore. They must be lacking the calcium they need.

What? What could be better than milk??

We are now on the lookout for increased indication of osteoporosis (for you, Mel!)

The Korean diet is delicious but it really is focused on certain foods. At least once daily I'll eat white rice. Usually there is some meat though not to excess. There is always always kimchi (pickled cabbage) and always yellow pickled radish. Sometimes there might be some sprouts or corn. Less often there are tiny bits of carrot mixed into things. Usually there is a very salty broth that accompanies food. And that's about it, with variations on method of prepartion, levels of spice, and type of meat or kimchi. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available in supermarkets though they seem pretty expensive. I haven't bought too much so I can't say that with certainty though.

There is just very little farming space in Korea so, unlike Canada, there is limited access to fresh produce. I miss that about home. I miss the farmer's markets.

Here you can buy a watermelon for over ten bucks. I hope my teeth hold up here. I bought some yogurt today made by Yoplait, but written in Korean like Yo-puh-leh-tuh.

Wonder what's for dinner tonight.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Outback Bathroom Incident - unabridged

Bathrooms here in Korea are definitely worth mentioning, though I'm lucky enough to have thus far avoided any of the traditional squat toilets. I don't think people flush their toilet paper down so it often smells a little rank and I don't know how much people wash their hands so soap is sometimes hard to come by.

Last week I chuckled over a 'privacy unit' mounted on a public bathroom stall. When you press a button the unit produced a loud flushing sound so that if you let a noise or two slip nobody would be the wiser. But what is that strange, loud flushing coming from the other stall? Hmmm..

Yesterday we went to Outback to get a taste of home (AKA clogged artery inducing grease). After eating a fair share of cheesey bacon fries and fried calamari I had to take off for the bathroom. Shelly also went. Inside the stalls was not only a 'privacy' unit but a whole elaborate machine with many colourful buttons and knobs, none of which we could fully understand. We giggled about them and Shelly pushed something to the left, causing liquid to spray her in the foot. Why would anyone need to clean off their foot while sitting on the toilet? Maybe it was a foot washer? I don't know.

When I finished up I was standing in my stall pressing buttons like a kid on an elevator. The one with a picture of spray produced a scent. How lovely. The one with the picture of a sprinkler... well, can you guess what it did? Apparently I'm lacking forsight. I got a shot of water straight out of a spout in the toilet, directed right at my stomach. And it wasn't just a single shot. It continued at full force until I could reach the button again.

I hadn't laughed so hard since the taxi cab ride the night before. My shirt was soaked.

I'm just glad I had already flushed.

Ode to Ricky-brother

This is Joel. He lives nearby me and we've met a couple of times now. I think he's very nice and genuine. Why, one might ask? Well, I'll tell you. Or rather I'll show you:

Can you believe the uncanny resemblance between Joel and Rick?? Okay, maybe it's just the insanely bright orange shirt. But it makes me feel at home. Miss ya Rick! (Sorry Carina!!)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Forget mandu and shabu shabu, I have found heaven

Last night D'Arcy and I headed into the dark night to find ourselves some food. This is often a challenging experience because we have no idea what restaurants have let alone what to order in them. Most don't have menus and practically all don't have any English. Earlier this week we selected two of the cheapest things on the menu and ordered them with no clue what they would be. It worked out alright.

So last night we were only two minutes from home on our search when we went into a place that looked nice and trendy inside. When we stepped inside and found a table (with chairs!! No floor sitting!) the manager came over and said "Welcome, have you ever been here before? Do you need any help with the menu?" in perfect English! Not to mention the English menu! Wow!

It was a Vietnamese restaurant and we ended up ordering a vegetable and meat wrap. Unbelievable!!! We got paper thin rice wraps that came hard but we dipped into hot water to soften. Then we added all kinds of veggies - red and green peppers, mushrooms, onion, carrot, radish, sprouts, pineapple, beef, pork and fake crab, noodles, and a number of delicious sauces including peanut sauce. Oh peanut sauce - you complete me.

Vietnamese wraps

We wrapped and wrapped and ate and couldn't believe our good fortune. Can you?? I don't think so.

Mmmm... heaven

It's times like these that I know I made the right decision to come to Korea. When I can eat Vietnamese food for ten bucks and speak English and smile.

Happy tummy

Then we went to the WA bar, had a few drinks, met a few nice people and finished off the night singing "My Sharona" and other favourites until 5 am.

Jess and Darce

We're on holiday!!

Ever see the movie "In America" where the Irish family sneaks into America to live and when crossing the border the little girl calls out "we're on holiday!!!"? I love that movie.

And I'm on holiday!!! But I'm sitting at the school waiting for my chatty director to get off the phone so I can get my plane ticket for Japan and half of my paycheque. Alright, my first payday! We're getting half before the holiday and half after. If he ever gets off the phone, that is.

I'm tired and just want to leave. Grr..

Today I had a new student come to visit and she didn't have an English name. When I asked her if there is a name she likes she had no response. I suggested a few and somehow we settled on Jenny. Why Jenny? I don't know.

Okay, time to go.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Made it a little closer to swimming today. D'Arcy and I actually went to the pool with our stuff and were ready to go but when we looked in the window we saw the water overflowing with people. We opted instead to walk around Suji admiring bakery windows and make-up stores. We walked, right? Then we drank Light Coke. Not Diet, Light.

Oh, and I bought a bathing cap that's bright red with Yap! written in yellow across it the way you would expect Zap to be written in a comic book. It'll clash nicely with my blue bathing suit.

Today was test day for the elementary kids and I thought mine would fail miserably. Instead they actually passed. Some of them know more than they let on. Good job, kiddies.

I felt sad and down this morning. This evening I feel happy and free.

I made play dough last night and it was a big hit in the classroom. I always know things are good when the administrators come in to take pictures. But Mindy cut some of her hair off today and they weren't too thrilled about that. Can't win 'em all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I got a webcam!

It's been just about three weeks since I arrived. How am I doing? I'm doing alright. There are times when I'm happy I came and times that I'd rather be at home, lying on the hammock with Kwinter perched at my side. I miss home and the people at home but I'm okay with that. At this point I think one year will be more than enough for me here in this country. As long as one year goes by quickly.

A teacher at my school has been sick the last two days so I had to take some of her classes on Monday when I would have otherwise been able to go home. Then yesterday I had her kindergarten class while mine went to computers and I had both classes during fourth period. That's twenty or so 4 year olds in one place! I opted for singing with them and it worked out pretty well. Her kids are much better behaved than mine. I've really gotta whip mine into shape!

We had a professional storyteller come in to do a workshop with the teachers at Kid's College and she was really great. She read us stories while she discussed the best way to go through books and I felt like a little kid again. I wish I could be a little kid again, sitting cross-legged on a braided rug without a care in the world. She gave really great ideas that I never would have thought of, like doing a 'picture walk' through the book before even getting into reading it so that the kids can have an idea of what's to come even if they don't understand the language completely. It was a really beneficial workshop.

I'm looking forward to the weekend even though it's only Wednesday morning. Come to think of it, I'm looking forward to the week to follow because it's vacation! I'm going to Japan from Tuesday to Friday so I don't know what else I'll do in my time off. Maybe sleep? Hmmm.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Can you read Korean?

If so, when can I go swimming and how much does it cost?

I have found a pool

Now all I have to do is figure out how to use it. There is a YMCA about a ten minute walk from my apartment and today I finally located it. Problem is that nobody could speak English there and I certainly don't know the vocabulary for fitness centres in Korean. I'm still working on food ordering.

I saw the pool through an observatory window and it looked nice. There are two actually, and one was crowded but the other was pretty quiet. Oh how I wish I could read and communicate. I'll see if someone at my school can help me out with this.

Now that school is getting easier and I don't have too much to do in the evenings, I really need to get myself into things. I have my guitar to keep me busy, and I'd like to get swimming. Maybe D'Arcy and I will take up some kind of tae kwon do or tai chi. Whatever those are. Or maybe we'll take Korean lessons. All I know is that I need to make a life for myself or else I might go crazy.

I think I'm already going crazy. My elementary school kids come after kindergarten on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and they're out of control. I'm not a very good behaviour management inforcer. The real problem is that they have these two workbooks, phonics and Magic Time, which are way above their level. I have to teach certain pages each day and they don't understand anything. They have a test on Wednesday that they'll all fail miserably but apparently you can't fail them. I'll have to give them a B and pass them on to the next level. It's ridiculous.

Holiday next week!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

What's wrong with a little butt exposure?

They have the funniest t-shirts at Lottemart ever. I wish I had my camera or a really great memory because they were just hilarious. Something like "Supercat likes happy hamework". I don't know, but it drove us into fits of laughter. And our fits of laughter drove a crowd of Korean shoppers to sift through the piles of t-shirts finding their next purchase. Hahaha. I couldn't resist buying "Babe in the Wood". I'm size 100 here. Yikes. Glad that I'm a size at all here though.

In line to check out a man fondled our bananas. He and his wife were interested in something about them so he touched them and examined them and made us chuckle. I've heard of this snoopy and odd behaviour and here it was.

We went to the foodcourt to buy lunch and a while examining the menu and man said hello. He was an older gentleman with a big, straight-toothed smile and pink shaded glasses. He chatted with us and helped us order our food. Turns out he taught himself English through books, magazines, and television. He was glad to chat with us. Before leaving his wife made the motion of writing on her hand. We thought they would ask for our number or something. Instead he said "My wife thinks you have made a very good impression. We have no daughters. She likes you very much." I thought they would ask us over or take our numbers but that's as far as it went. We went off on our merry way.

Didn't do too much today except hang out, watch tv, and take it easy.

We went for dinner to the big place right next to my house that I was too afraid to go to on my own. It was pretty awkward with just the two of us, actually. They couldn't speak any English, we can't speak any Korean, and we had no idea what they had on the menu since there was no actual menu. We somehow ended up with big huge mandu and a fish soup which included tiny shrimp still in its shell, muscles, other fish, and tasty thick noodles. Not so exciting, all in all. The most exciting part, actually, was when the ajumma in the restaurant came up and leaned a pillow on my back to cover me up. And I wasn't even wearing low rise jeans. The nerve! ;)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Pleasure Cruise

I'm falling down on the job! I actually missed a day of posting. My deepest apologies, folks. Let's catch up.

On Friday night after a dinner of mandu, I went to the WA bar, the foreigner bar in Suji, sans D'Arcy as she was trying to recouperate from the jet lag. There I met a number of new people but walked home feeling kind of sad, wondering whether I'd meet anyone that I actually like and can talk to easily. I think for me meeting people is fairly polar. I have either nothing to say at all or conversation flows easily. Nobody knocked my socks off at the WA bar.

On Saturday D'Arcy and I went into Seoul to meet up with Shelly for lunch and some exploration. We had a tasty lunch of bibimbap in a stone bowl (D'Arcy had bulgogi) and enjoyed the air conditioned restaurant. Then we hit the street. The hot, sweaty, and blister inducing street. We were heading for a boat cruise along the Han river which seperates new and old Seoul, but lousy Lonely Planet directions made us walk two hours along a park trail with Koreans speeding past us on bicycles, rollerblades and scooters, many wearing high heels and tight jeans! Do Koreans sweat? I'm not so sure.

Pretty flowers.

Walking... walking...walking. We walked until the second bridge. I think. Or maybe it was the fifteenth bridge. There's no way to know.

We moaned and pouted our way to the boat, with a number of stops for less than helpful directions, and finally reached our destination. I thought it was worth the walk. The river had a nice breeze on it which helped to cool us off AND it allowed us to sit down. Two exceptional bonuses, I must say. I had some pretty prime photo ops too.



Our feet were dirty and blistery. Ouch.
Dirty feet

Under the bridge.
Where's the troll?

A little boy.

After our cruise ended we headed back to Itaewon (I know, I know, Itaewon) and ate dinner at Gecko's, a foreigner bar/pub. I didn't realize how much I missed Western food until I bit into my juicy chicken burger and crispy french fries. Mmm.


We sat around for a couple of hours watching people and pondering the hot Korean woman/pathetic foreigner man phenomenon. We also miss our moms.

Hi Heidi!
Hi Heidi

Hi Shelly's mom!
Hi Shelly's mom

Hi Mummy!
Hi mummy

We called it an early night and headed home on the 5500-2 at about 11:30. Buses and subways stop running here at around midnight. Crazy since people stay out all night.

Oh, while at the foreigner bar we saw a bunch of our coworkers by coincidence. Small country, this.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A week two evaluation

Alright, let's see how my kids are doing. Why don't we start with Elliot.


Well, it looks like he's able to write the number four. That's a start.

Here's Yoon's.

Evidently Yoon doesn't like to follow directions but he can write his name! Not too bad, but with a name like Yoon, maybe not so impressive.

Ashley is either really bad at circles and curves or else she just doesn't like to stay inside the box. She'll do great in university.


Check out Wendy's:


Wow! Not only can she write her name well, she has also filled in this sheet perfectly. Brown noser.

Here's a surpisingly good job done by Elizabeth who likes to fold up all her papers or sabotage them in some other way.


Not a terrible attempt on Chris' part. And he's coming along with his name too. But can't he see those are c's, not circles? What a dumb five year old moron. Kidding, relax.


Oh Brian...


And look at Peter's. He just started to write his own name these last few days. Whoohoo! And who knew he could write one, two and three? Apparently a circles and curves worksheet is a good place to practice your numbers. That's cool.


Like what you see? There's much more where that came from and even some pictures of the actual kids!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

D'Arcy arrives, shabu shabu, and a rough day

D'Arcy arrived safe and sound, and made her way into Suji at about 6:25. After over 28 hours of travel, she seemed fine though somewhat overwhelmed. She would be teaching the very next day after all.

It was pretty surreal to see her round the corner into the staff room. D'Arcy and Korea, together? Crazy. Two worlds collided. But it was a welcome collision, I must say. Her being here makes me feel like I've been here forever. I can't believe it's already been two whole weeks. It feels like a second and an eternity all at the same time. I can feel myself getting more comfortable and confident as time goes on. But I liked the newness. I liked meeting new people who would ask me how long I've been here. "One week?!?!" they would exclaim, "and you're on the subway alone in Seoul??" I'm not longer so impressive... ;) I guess I'll have to learn to be impressive in other ways.

She was shown around the school and since it was Barbara's last night here before heading home to Canada for a month, we all went out for a shabu shabu dinner. Shabu shabu! Mmm! Three cheers for shabu shabu! Apparently I'm over enthusiastic about the food. The others can't understand my photographing addiction. Ah well. The big pot in the middle of the table bubbles with an orangey broth of some kind. I think it's beef based. First you add lots of mushrooms and greenery and let it boil away. Drop in thin pieces of beef too and let them cook. Eat. Next is the noodles; thick and delicious ones. Add them to the broth and let them soften and suck up the flavouring. Eat. Mmm. Finally there is rice with egg and various other things. The waitress empties the pot of the broth and fries up the rice et al. in the flavourful pot. Delicious. All for six bucks a person, but this time payed for by the lovely Saenk Yu director. Thank you Saenk Yu.

D'Arcy was ready to collapse by this point so she was brought to a hotel to sleep. I think she said she slept off and on the whole night, thinking about her family and friends. Today she was thrown right into the shark pit without so much as a single combined class. Thanks for nothing, people. At least when I came I was helped out by another teacher for the morning. I couldn't help out D'Arcy because my kids are three and four and her kids are seven. She's handling it okay.

Back to me. My day has been long and tiresome. The last three have gone really great so I thought that I had mastered the art of kindergarten teaching. Not so much. They were rather out of control today and my head is pounding because of it. I want to go to sleep. I want it to be the weekend. It's almost the weekend! Hip hip hooray! And after the weekend there is only one more week before vacation!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Chip, Chip!

An important word for an English teacher in Korea to know is "chip". It means bathroom. Usually it is accompanied by frantic dancing and crotch clutching, so meaning is conveyed whether you know the word or not.

Today I had the exciting experience of watching little Elliot call out "chip" as a steady stream of pee rushed onto the floor and gathered around his ankles. I guess he had drank a lot at breakfast. Once again the Korean helpers were summoned and not one kid seemed to notice in the class. Excellent.

What else will I be lucky enough to witness this week? Vomit, pee... what's next? Only time will tell, my friends!

I'm working on my lesson plans at school and awaiting D'Arcy's arrival. She's probably driving slowly along the highway with Saenk-Yu, wishing she were either asleep or dead. Ha ha, sucker.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

D'Arcy's en route as we speak!

This week is flying by in comparison to last. Wow. What a difference some time makes. I'm feeling good and fine and glad. Last week I really wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into. Now I'm confident and anticipatory to see what this year will bring. Perhaps I've entered what is known as the "honeymoon period" which should, if all goes accordingly, crash and burn at around month three. I'll update you on that in early October.

Hmm.. what of interest today? First period at my school is always "Sharing Time". For forty minutes we are supposed to do the morning routine with the children; talk about the date, the weather, etc, etc. etc. For the first time ever I was able to spend this period without breaking out the crayons to save time. Good for me!

I brought out a picture of my family, well, of my parents, me, and one of two brothers (sorry Bri) and told them "this is my family". I showed them my mother, father, and brother. I explained the difference between boy and girl and touched each head (like duck duck goose) saying boy boy girl. I drew a boy and a girl on the board. I asked "Who's a boy" and "Who's a girl" and the kids seemed to understand the difference. Except poor little Elliot, but that doesn't come as a surprise. Sigh... poor little Elliot. I asked who loves their family and they practiced the sentence "I love my family". Talk about imposing values but what can you do. Overall, a grand English success!

In my older kids class which lasts from 4:40 to 6:50 with two five minute breaks in between and consists of only two students, we worked through the three workbooks that they have and then wrote a letter to a real friend. Not a bad idea, if I do say so myself. I like them a lot because we can just talk and play and nobody seems to mind or notice. Seven year old Mark told me all about the Korea/Japan conflict and Liz told me about the characters on "Friends". Like I don't know already...

D'Arcy arrives here tomorrow at about 4pm or so. She's currently on the plane I think, or about to get on it. I look forward to seeing her!

My trip to Japan is booked. I'll be there for three days, from Tuesday the 26th to Friday the 29th. Not as long as I'd like but a trip to Japan all the same, with a paid for flight. Ilbon here I come.

Monday, July 11, 2005


I clearly remember my very first pool fouling. It was my first session teaching swimming lessons and it was a class of six or seven year olds. We were working on something like front floats. I helped one kid do his float and when I returned my attention to the class, little Varhini was clutching her mouth with a lovely surprise seeping through her fingers. I'll never forget that.

Today I had my very first classroom fouling. The theme for July is food so we were making a fruit salad, or having a fruit taste test. The first fruit we sampled was banana. We talked about its colour on the inside and out, which parts you can eat, and whether we like it or not, I sliced it up and gave each child a taste. I wrote every child's name on the whiteboard and marked whether they like banana. When I turned around, little Yoon had erupted onto the tabletop, banana and all. He was the only child who does not like banana. Thank goodness for those lovely Korean helpers who swept in and fixed everything.

Last night I was woken at around one o'clock to the sounds of a fight RIGHT outside my window. All I could hear was two yelling Korean men and it reminded me a lot of that terrifying subway experience. What's with all the fighting? I took a video of it on my digital camera but I don't know how to post that for you.

Today I took my father's advice and used: Bribery!!! Sugar-coated cereal had my older kids actually READING! Unbelievable. Lesson of the day is bribery works.

Things seem to be getting easier, so I'm feeling up. Let's hope it continues. And now, season two of the bachelor seems to be on. Oh, Aaron just met Gwen. I better go!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Check out the pictures

Tap Gol Park

There's some good stuff here. Check it out.

My day in Seoul

I took bus 5500 into Seoul for the second time and got off on the other side of the Han river. I began walking towards Itaewon, the 'foreigner' area in Seoul. I was on a mission to get my cell phone fixed since I somehow changed the setting so that I can't make outgoing calls. On the way a man started talking to me. Turned out he is half Korean half American and is teaching English at a university here. His English was not that great though, to be honest. He was on his way home from church and tried to help me with the phone though it hasn't been fixed yet. Then he wanted to go window shopping with me at some department store forty minutes away from where we were. I had to decline and went on my way.

Walking up and down through Itaewon, I was stopped by a friendly young girl to answer a survey. "Sure", I replied. The first question was this:

Check the appropriate box:

I am a Christian
I am agnostic.

There may have been a few other choices but they were all Christian-related. I chuckled to myself, thinking back to sociology classes on survey-making. The girl gave me her number in case I should ever want to join the Church of God. Walking back on the other side of the street I was stopped again by a guy holding the same survey. I told him that I had already spoken to the girl across the street. He asked whether I was interested. I said no, I'm not interested. Why not?? He asked. Well... I'm Jewish.

After exhausting Itaewon, I jumped on the subway and went up to Insadong, a touristy, traditional market type street that Kiran had recommended. It was very nice and full of people. I stopped for lunch and was ripped off huge! Okay, I guess it was my own fault for going to a fancy restaurant in a tourist neighbourhood but I didn't realize it was fancy. Damn. My first time eating in a restaurant here all by myself and I spend five times more than I wanted to. The food wasn't even that good.

I walked through a park with very old temples and things, and a very old Korean man stopped me to sign his old tattered book. He had a collection of foreigner's names and countries of origin. Kind of odd, but sweet nonetheless.

Then I headed home which took way too long. A little over two hours by subway and bus to get back to my apartment in Suji. I'm not impressed. The trip there by bus alone was an hour so I guess I'll go for the bus from now on.

I'm now going to try to download today's pictures so check flickr. But my computer is still acting up and it may very well crash as soon as I try to plug in my camera. Grrr.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Umm, I read you blog.

Last night at the party I was talking to this girl and after a couple of minutes realized that she is the author of a blog that I read. What do you do then? Pretend you don't know anything about their life or fess up? I told her "I think I read your blog.. is that okay to say? I read your blog". She thought it was pretty cool and wondered which things she said that gave her away. Next weekend will most likely be a little get together in Seoul for a few blogging people I've come to know. Insta-friends, I tell you!

It's actually pretty easy to make friends here, so it seems, since everyone wants them and the communication barrier makes the pickins slim and the foreigners band together. I guess whether you can make good friends is the question. Only time will tell.

It's the morning and I have no plans for today so I think I'll shower and head into Itaewon. I have somehow set my (all Korean) cell phone so that it doesn't allow me to make any outgoing calls. I'll try to get that fixed.

Yesterday I went to take out 50,000 won and accidentally added another zero. Oops. Talk about a big wad.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Mmm Mandu

I ate Mandu yesterday and boy oh boy. That's right, I said boy oh boy. It was delicious. Jordana thinks the food I've been eating looks sketchy but little does she know the tastiness of it all.

This is mandu, both kimchi and gogi. Delicious!


It is now 11:30 in the morning and I have the day ahead of me. What shall I do? I think I'll take a walking tour of Suji. I have only seen about four streets around here so far so it's high time I learn my way around. I also have to buy a few things today: a housewarming gift, a goodbye gift, and fruit and a plate for a fruit platter. There is a vegetarian potluck party tonight and since I have zero cooking skills I'm going to bring a fruit platter. Some fruits I've seen here in Korea include watermelon, pineapple, and red plums. It should be a tasty platter. Hey, maybe I'll buy a pretty dish to serve the furit on and to give as the housewarming gift. Eureka!

I have been playing with my guitar and my fingers are sore. That's cool.

Kid's College, Suji

Welcome to Kid's College. Mr. Kim says it's the best school around. Famous, in fact, because of its quality teachers. Ha.


There are a number of cute pint-size activities, like computers for example.


This is my class, also known as "Happy Class" which makes me "Happy Teacher". Happy happy happy. Other classes are Joyful and Cherry. You can see pizzas on the wall that we made and there's not much else in this classroom. It's a little sweaty jermbox.


Here are some of my kiddies. This is Peter who is absolutely adorable and good. He knows his colours and can almost write his English name. I love him. Next to him is Ashley who is a pretty sweet little girl, though she likes to test me and follows the other bad behaviour in the classroom.


Here we have little Elliot. I think something might be wrong with little Elliot. Well, maybe not really. On the first day he semi-cried, semi- just stared ahead and didn't do anything. Now, a week later, he'll need special encouragment to touch crayon to paper and he is very hesitant to speak. Maybe once a day he'll brighten up and exude some kind of animation, but for the most part he reminds me of plastercine. I like him anyway.

Next to him is little Mindy, the one I thought was so much younger than the others. Apparently she's around the same age, only really small. She didn't smile for the first few days but she's starting to warm up and she looks incredibly adorable when she isn't frowning or scowling. She is on the lower end of English speaking ability and she doesn't respond to me when I call her name. She's definitely got her own agenda.

Beside her in the distance you can see Wendy and Elizabeth. Wendy is probably the most advanced person in the class in terms of writing and colouring. She can write her name and colour very well. She is not particularly talkative, however. Beside her is Elizabeth who is moody and a handful. She's one of the ringleaders for bad behaviour. It's difficult to get her to smile.


Here is Brian. He was the crier on the first day of school, clutching his mummy for dear life. Now he's the life of the party. He speaks the most English by far, and with a little bit of an English accent, it sounds like. But he can't really write his name and he's not so great at colouring or cutting. He likes to say "I can't do it!" He translates for me sometimes when I can't understand Mindy's demands.


Missing from these pictures is Yoon, who was away the day I brought my camera. He doesn't like to listen at all as his English level is pretty low. Okay, nonexistant. But he'll respond to encouragement. Lots of encouragement.

So that's my class. They are a real handful but when they're good they're a lot of fun. They are all so adorable, I have to admit.