Tuesday, August 30, 2005


D'Arcy and I successfully completed Mission: Go Swimming tonight. Alright! It was a piece of cake, really. All we did was pay the man at the desk, receive a wristband key for a locker, which was lovely, and we walked right in. We padded our way from the spotless changeroom through the shower (with naked women everywhere and background music of the operatic variety playing loudly - it was quite a scene) and into the pool.

The pool facility itself is large - two seperate 25 meter pools side by side. One had a rip roaring aqua fit class going on, lead by a very animated girl wearing nylons under her butt-crease length shorts. She and all the middle aged women in pink swim caps were having a grand ol' time. We were fascinated and distracted from our own swimming.

Darce and I jumped in a semi-fast moving lane... it was either that or slow. The pool was busy but not too bad and we aren't exactly speed demons after a few months of 'holiday'. We did our thing and then tried to join the aqua fit class only to be shunned away. I supppose there is an additional fee for the class. Or there's a no foreigner policy.... ;)

We rinsed off and took note of the sauna and some kind of pool inside the change room. Not too shabby. Then we awkwardly struggled into our clothes, trying our best not to reveal any part of our bodies to each other or the ladies around us. I'm sure they laughed. We even did. Screw modesty.

There was a scale there too. I thought I'd lost more weight but turns out I've only lost about five pounds since I got here. Dang! So much for the theory that a new environment would cause unwanted pounds to just melt away.

New teacher arrived today at our school. I made a brat cry, again. All's well in Jessicaland.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Mental preparation

I'm really going to start swimming this week. THIS WEEK. Tonight I got as far as the park (two minutes from my house) and was then held up by beer-drinking coworkers. Tomorrow I'll make it a little further. Maybe even into the water. I'm a little jittery and unsure about swimming because nobody speaks any English at the pool and I don't know the 'process'. All I need is to do it once and then I'll be a regular swimmer again.

Today Kierstie-coworker was sick with a migraine so we all got to cover her class. I had a class of eighteen four year olds. It went pretty well. I was almost ready to get angry at the possibility of staying late for the fifth day in a row (after covering D'Arcy's class last week while she was in Japan) but I got lucky.

I just made myself a meal; perhaps my third or fourth cooking attempt since I've been here. It consisted of sesame oil and fresh garlic, chopped carrots, red pepper, and mushroom. Not just any mushroom, but a fancy asian mushroom. There are so many delicious varieties that are far better than the plain old whities I eat at home. Stirfry it all up together with some soya sauce and eat, with a side of faux crab. Not too bad. I'm pretty agile with my silver chopsticks these days. Can't wait to get home and be a chopstick wielding, Korean speaking show off.

Veggies are so expensive here, I find. I can't handle it. Then again, I am a rich English teacher... I accidentally bought a 'green pumpkin' which I mistook for a cucumber. What shall I do with it? Any easy recipes call for green pumpkin?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Warning: Might offend mothers

On Friday night I went to "club night" in Hongdae for 15,000 won of enter/re-enter eligibility. Here's a funny story for y'all.

Sara and I were standing at a street kiosk (selling stuffed pigs, of all things - who would want to carry that around to the clubs?) waiting for Scott to return from the bathroom. We saw a curly haired, chin-strapped foreigner pass by us, hardly camoflaging his obvious investigation of our rear ends. About five feet away from us he stopped in his tracks and lingered for a second, evidently thinking his hardest. Decision made, he backtracked only to ask for directions to some club he was obviously already headed towards. We were going that way so he walked along with us. Scott had rejoined the party.

He asked my name and job, I did the same out of politeness. A few minutes passed and he asked "Is that your boyfriend?" referring to Scott (my coworker) who was a few paces ahead. Scott turned around and said...

"No, we're just fucking."

I burst out laughing. Scott burst out laughing. The poor curly haired guy had a most confused expression on his face.

It was priceless. A great line to use if you ever get the opportunity.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A post about men

I think we'd all agree that one behaves differently when involved in a relationship than when not. If we don't agree then I can say it's true for me. When I'm in a relationship I don't make eye contact, I don't smile, somehow I don't give off whatever signals that I give off when I'm single so I avoid any unwanted advances.

Thing is that I've been single for over a year and a half now and I feel like I haven't shed those protective strategies of avoidance. When I do receive advances I behave like one of two things; an awkward thirteen year old or a coldhearted bitch.

After that relationship ended I intentionally stayed away from involvement in an attempt to 'find myself' and all that shit. I don't regret that, but it was a long time ago. Then I was leaving for Korea so there was no point to get involved with anyone. I didn't bother for the six months or so that I was planning to leave. Now I'm here for one year. So what mindset is best to take? Roll with the punches? Steer clear of attachement? Pursue people I would never otherwise pursue at home (which I guess is everyone because of religion complications)?

I suppose it's not a pressing dilemma at this point since no attachment is on the horizon. I want to say that it's not that I'm not interested in men that I meet - but for the most part I'm not. That sucks. It's nice to be interested in people but I feel like a tense snob out on the dating field. I was so carefree once..sigh. What happened? One serious relationship with an intense guy screws me up forever? No sir! I won't have it.

So, in summary: I don't like anyone but if I did I wouldn't know what to do about it and I probably would send them the wrong signals so they wouldn't even be interested in me back. Great.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A crick in my neck

Yada yada yada. Another day has passed by. Anything of interest happen? Hmm.. well, I tried to make "goop" with the kids. The recipe called for five cups of cornstarch and two cups of water. I talked about water, cup, bowl, etc, and had each kid help add something. Then it didn't work at all. The cornstarch settled at the bottom, the water on the top. It's currently congealing in a bucket in my classroom. Cleaning it won't be pretty.

Our school lunches have been pretty creative lately. Director Sang Kyu said he's charging the parents more to add one side dish to lunch so I guess we're benefiting. Today was rice, kimchi, potatoes, and some sloppy stew type substance left over from Tuesday. Not too shabby. Atkins dieters would never survive here.

My kids are showing marked improvement since I arrived in July. My kindies, anyway. Ones who never spoke a word of English nor did they comprehend that I can't speak Korean now can say a few things. Ones that were constantly sullen-faced are smiling and happy. And they like to walk all over me.

I sometimes feel overwhelming affection for the little snot-nosed buggers though. They're so huggable and sweet faced. I love even the rotten ones. Even Elliot. He's got a pathetic little beauty mark right on his nose and he cried in gym class today. He also wears a diaper, I discovered this week. But I love him. I don't love Wendy these days. She can be a bummer, and she has two fake teeth because her real ones are all rotten. I value dental hygiene.

My plans for the weekend are Mexican food and club night in Hongdae. Maybe Monkey Beach or some such place on Saturday night, and hopefully a rip roaring game of ultimate on Sunday. My neck still hurts from last week's game, I think.

The cost of a flight to Shanghai for the long weekend in mid-September is over five hundred Canadian bucks, including Chinese visa so I don't think I'll be doing that. I might just have to add China to my post-Korea itinerary to make the flight cost worth my while.

That's it for today.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bringing 'er home

It was cool enough for me to carry my little black zipper sweater to school yesterday. That's news in itself. Even more newsworthy though is the discovery I made when I casually glanced down at the tag:

What? My poor quality H&M sweater that I bought (actually that my mom bought for me) from the Eaton centre back in December is actually of Korean nationality? Cool. I hope she's happy to be home in the motherland.

Isn't it a funny tag? It looks to me like it was made incredibly simple and obvious so someone somewhere could laugh at the fact that I never realized it was made in Korea. South Korea, that is.

Today was a rough one. Everyday I wake up, turn on the computer, shower, eat cornflakes, teach, feel like cracking, eat, blog, sleep. This is my life?

About once a week I roll over in bed and ask myself that question. Is this my life? Am I here for one year really? Yes I am. I'm about seventy five percent fine with that. Less so when I have a rough day and feel tired the whole week. Oh, and D'Arcy is in Japan so I get to cover her classes and work every day until after 6:30.

Complain complain.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Jeju-do confirmed!

On October 1st through 3rd I will be soaking up the rays and checking out the volcanic rock (amongst other things) in Korea's one and only tropical location. And since it won't technically be summer anymore, none of the Koreans will actually be swimming in the water, so I'm told. I'm excited! I'm also looking into the possibility of going to China for a long weekend in September.

"What are you doing this weekend??"
"Oh, just going to China."

I hope that works out. The idea is that while I'm here I will make the most of it, so any long weekends that come my way will be incorporated into that idea. Lucky for me, ALL the major holidays this year happen to fall on weekends. Damn the man. But three days will have to do.

Today was the most beautiful day in all my days here, I think, even though I spent most of it inside. Here's proof:

And if that's not enough:

Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day...

Look at all those little grey shacks. I live in one just like that. How do I find my way home each day?

Guess I'll go eat some more carbs. I have one month and ten days to get hot for the beach. Plenty of time...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bad news from home

Wendy told me the bad news this morning; the father of our friend from highschool passed away on Sunday night.

He was diagnosed in December or January with cancer of the asophagus, just after returning home from his daughter's out-of-town wedding. A few months before that he had celebrated another daughter's wedding as well. Then he got cancer.

I don't know whether his death was expected by the family but expected or not, it is still unbelievable. This is a real "family" family. They spend time together and enjoy each other's company, even. It's tragic that it had to happen to them.

I don't think you read this blog, but if you do, there's nothing I can say that will express how I feel or how you must be feeling. I'm thinking of you.

(Mom, good luck.)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sadly they're not chocolate

Since you're all so fascinated by food shots, here's another one to whet your appetite. Is that right? Whet? Hmmm...

What kind of eggs are these anyway?? Robin's eggs? Nah, I think those are supposed to be blue. Lizard eggs? I've yet to see a lizard in Korea. They look a lot like those Cadbury eggs I buy on sale after Easter (and Wendy is addicted to) except they're not pink and yellow. Chicken eggs? Wait a minute...

As it turns out they look like mini normal eggs and taste like mini normal eggs so it was actually a tasty mini egg treat. Hey, I just remembered that those Cadbury eggs are called mini eggs. I think.

I'm feeling nutty right now. Exhausted at 9:52. Maybe there was something in the eggs.

For the first time ever in the one month and twenty one days that I've been here, my hair is down, curly, and beautiful. The humidity is on its way out and all I can say is Hallelujah!

Frisbee was good today. We managed to get a game of four on four going which was good, and the weather was much cooler than last time so I didn't feel like passing out.

And in other exciting news, I am almost surely going on a trip to Jeju-do island over the long weekend in October. It should be beachy and beautiful, and likely teeming with Koreans doing the same thing. I have another long weekend in September. What do you think? Can I see Hong Kong in three days?

Tide freshness

I just put on a t-shirt that I haven't worn yet and it smells like home. Hello, home.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Did you know that not only Lauren Hill but Jennifer Love Hewitt was in Sister Act 2? Amazing.

Yesterday we had delicious food at the vegetarian dinner party and then headed into Seoul. We took a bus to Hannam and jumped in a cab to get to Hongdae. "Hongdae?" we asked in our usual tentative Korean voice. The cab driver said what we thought was "Hongik University??" and we agreed.

Twenty minutes later we were still driving and I know that to get there by subway is only a few stops. Something was amiss. We eventually arrived and Konkuk (or something like that) University. No, no, no! Hongik! Hongdae!

The cabbie slapped his forehead and apologized. He felt so bad and he resent the meter.

This language barrier really sucks. We don't know if we're being screwed, we cause a hassle for others. It's a sad shame. Why can't cabbie's understand our pronunciation of Hongdae?? Why oh why!?!?

We ended up at some club called S Club and it wasn't so great. And a slim girl in skin tight white pants was pawing at my purse on more than one occassion. What did she think she could do? Like her frail arms could even open the zipper. Ha!

Oh, on the way over to the dinner party I saw an entire rainbow arch. It went all the way across the sky and was absolutely beautiful. The sky and the weather in the last few days have made me love Korea.

This picture doesn't capture the half of it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Things to do in Suji

The variety of weekend activities is slim and I'm starting to wonder what can be added to the repertoire. Friday nights in Suji are WA bar nights and that's it, so it seems. I have a good enough time there but I don't think D'Arcy and Sara do and they always want to leave early. Last night we threw in a trip to the DVD bang, which was good, but then went right back to the WA. I guess we can venture away from the 'foreigner' crowd. After all, this is Korea. I think it's time to spread my wings.

Saturday nights are Seoul nights where you go to either Itaewon or Hongdae. I'm sure there are lots of other places that are cool in Seoul and out of it but I just haven't found them yet.

Today I'm not up to too much except that I have to find something to bring to another vegetarian dinner party. Pigs in blankets? Nope. Chicken satay? Nope. A pig roast? Definitely not. It's not Kosher. Ahh... I crack myself up daily.

Okay, so I have nothing to write about. I admit it. I'm suffering temporary writer's block 'cause nothing seems to be changing or happening this week. Don't worry, exciting and interesting things are soon to come. Like lunch...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Happy Birthday Daddy

It's my dad's birthday and I miss my family. Hi family. I miss you.

I got back from the teacher's meeting at 9:45. Do you know that that means I spent more than twelve hours at work today? Holy toledo! My boss pays for our overtime at least so it's not all lost, plus we got free pizza. The pizza had potatoes and corn nibblets on it. I like both those things.

We didn't get anything productive done at the three hour meeting, as far as I can tell. The boss-man had three topics to cover; six and seven year old classes, why we have lower enrollment for the higher levels, and why a prospective teacher may have turned down the job. (We're hiring at my school in September if anyone wants a job.) None of which really apply to me since I have five year olds, my upper year classes are all low level and don't use the textbook he was referring to, and who the hell cares why the girl turned down the job. I did give him my mother's list of suggestions so hopefully we can implement some of the ideas. If not I will approach him again and make direct requests for certain materials.

Now I'm very tired because first, I was at school for over twelve hours and second, I may be coming down with a cold. I have a little bit of a stuffed nose and a headache.

Little Mindy came to school with a burning fever today. Wendy did yesterday. My kids are dropping like flies, but they're sent to school anyway.

Happy birthday pops.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Oh, as long as I've got time to live...

Minor breakdown over; today went without a hitch.

I just watched The Bonecollector and it chilled me to the bone. I remember seeing it in theatres when I was less than eighteen. I went with brother Rick and when the usher demanded ID Rick backed me up and said I was his date. Titter titter. How did my less than eighteen year old self handle that? I was peeing in my pants tonight.

Speaking of which, anyone see "Saw"? D'Arcy and I started watching it in a DVD bang a few weeks ago and were close to tears so we switched to "Matchstick Men".

Tomorrow evening the director man has called a two-hour staff meeting to occur when everyone else gets off work at six thirty. Since I finish at four thirty on Wednesdays (and Mondays and Fridays - mwa ha ha), I'll be stuck at school extra long. I don't mind since I have lots of organizing and prepping to do, and the meeting is to gather ideas about ways to improve the program and the working conditions. I'll go to the meeting armed with my mother's two page list of suggestions that she compiled for me last week when I was almost in tears.

And they'll get us dinner. You can't go wrong with that.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Namdaemun market

Today Darce and I went into Seoul, first to Insadong and then to Namdaemun market. I have already been to and described Insadong, a touristy promenade full of souvenirs and things so I'll spare today's details. I hadn't been to Namdaemun though, and it was really great.

Today was a holiday here in Korea though I have no idea what it's for. All I know is that I had the day off. Good enough for me! On the walk over to the subway we came across a large parade or protest.

I'm not sure at all what it was but it was pretty interesting to watch anyway. I'm really missing lots of information these days, aren't I? Well, it's tough to know nothing. And it's funny when you ask someone something expecting a funny look and a struggle only to get "I speak English".

So this is the market. It's sprawling and packed with people, shops, and carts with the same products selling at every other corner. Something about markets make me really happy. They reflect the culture and people in a way that Itaewon and Insadong just can't seem to. No surprise there, though.

They had dried kiwi for sale and we were given a taste but ended up opting for some dried mango instead. Mmm mmm. Not too bad.

This picture reminds me of one I took in Mexico. I love the flags and banners hanging over the passageway. Isn't it beautiful? I think I'll find the one from Mexico as a comparison...

The difference is that there was nobody on that street in Puerto Vallarta and there was hardly any room to walk on that street in Namdaemun market.

I have to make sure I'm ready for school.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

What's for lunch?

Yesterday afternoon Sara, D'Arcy, and I went to the nearby town of Ori to do some outlet store browsing. We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant and made our order. When the food came out, the woman brought us a few 'service' dishes. I love service! Except when it's this:

Yup, that's a chicken foot alright. More like a chicken talon actually. I tried it and it tasted disgusting, I guess because of a combination of sauce taste and texture and psychological factors. Eww. Sara almost gagged and D'Arcy didn't even risk it.

I'm glad it wasn't "sea penis" that she gave to us as service. Don't ask me what this fish/fish part is 'cause I actually have no idea. Maybe it's really what it looks like.. maybe it's not.

What would you choose to have; chicken feet or sea penis? Tough call.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Everybody's living for the weekend

Have I used that title before? I think I have, or else it's always on my mind come Friday. Friday comes so frequently, so it seems.

Did you know I've never worked a long term full time job like this before in my life? Not a big surprise since I just graduated, but worth mentioning anyway.

This week has been rough, and with rough weeks comes serious thinking. I have decisions to make soon about the rest of my life in terms of grad school, a future career, and what I want out of life.

What I definitely don't want is to be living for the weekend like I am now. Life is short and I can't justify giving most of it up to something I don't enjoy. Most people don't like their job, right? That sucks.

The thing is that I can't think of anything that I would love doing for a long period of time. I like change and I get bored easily. I like sleeping. I like making my own decisions about how my day is spent.

That's why I like being a student. I guess I'll just be one of those for as long as possible. Great, decision made. Now I can get on with my weekend - a long one at that!

Feel free to comment, friends and strangers.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A four day week? Ridiculous.

I am teaching topic sentences and supporting sentences to my most advanced (read: only advanced) class and today's activity consisted of providing three supporting sentences for the following statement.

"The school week should be reduced to four days."

Kids in Canada would be all over that one. In fact, three sentences wouldn't be enough for them to cover all the reasons why this is a great idea!

My kids said "but teacher, we go to school on Saturdays."

When pressed they came up with the idea that it should be a four day week so they have more time to study.

Hip hip hooray for growing up in North America!

Tonight we teachers went out for dinner to a Tofu Palace and man was it ever palatial (you like that word, don't you). Check this out.

We were nine people. I'm gladder than glad that I don't have to wash dishes at a Korean restaurant.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Having a minor breakdown

My head hurts.

So here's the problem: I teach the same group of four years olds five forty minute classes from 9:45 until 2:30. We are in a small classroom with a big oval table taking up the entire space of the class. The supplies I have immediate access to are limited. And I'm supplied with (confined to) a schedule which consists of "Theme Activity" and "Language Arts", with a bit of music, storytelling, gym, and computers thrown in very rarely. Those latter periods are lovely but the former are hell.

The theme of this month is "Summer Fun" and happily, Kid's College provides all its franchise school's with a book full of photocopiable sheets that kids can colour. My kids are getting damn sick of colouring and so am I, plus they are learning nothing while they fill in the lines of some dumb cartoon that they then cut out and turn into another useless book. Plus, the book sucks and I've already maxed out Summer Fun. It's not even halfway through August.

Language Arts is a funny concept for kids who are too little to concentrate on something for forty minutes, let alone to write anything or follow a pattern. For the first few weeks I was using worksheets from a book. First we would talk about the letter; its name, sound, and some words that start with it. Then I would give them the sheet and some of them would trace the letter. Some would go so far as to write the letter all by themselves, and most would scribble all over their paper and then proceed to crumple it up. Then I found the flashcards so we currently spend the first twenty minutes practicing the words, then we talk about the letter and do the worksheet. If time permits, each child gets a chance to try writing the letter on the whiteboard. This worked for the first class or two. But I can't depend on flashcards... I have a feeling their novelty wears off pretty fast.

It sucks. They've been uncontrollable this week despite good weeks up until now, and I'm fed up. I need to change my classroom around to create an environment and program that is age appropriate for these little guys. The problem is that I don't know how. I want to get active and ditch the worksheets as much as possible. How can I do that for language arts and theme? Someone tell me please! Mom, I need you.

My head hurts, and my lesson plan for next week is due tomorrow. Ooh hoo hoo.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Kids gone wild!

Bahh, what a rough day! The cry count was up to three today, I think an all-time high in Happy Class.

Cry #1: First period.
Crier - Yoon, four years old.
Reason - I gave him an "X" because he broke one of the class rules*.
My reaction - Good. Let him cry. It's best he takes them x's seriously. He cried for about three minutes.

Cry #2: Fourth period.
Crier - Wendy, four years old.
Reason - no idea. Lots of Korean was going on and kids were getting rowdy so I put a stop to that with some serious x threats. She couldn't take the heat and burst into sobs though I think Brian had something to do with the tears.
My reaction: When she cries she wails so she was escorted outside where she remained for most of the period, conforted by the friendly Korean staff.

Cry #3: Seventh period.
Crier - Sally, eight years old.
Reason - she found a little pink paper on the floor and was playing with it. I reprimanded it and said I would give it back to her at the end of class. She doesn't speak English so she didn't realize she would get it later. She tried to steal it back. I was annoyed. I forget if I gave her an x or not, but she cried anyway.
My reaction - Tough luck, little lady. Your cute face and tears aren't getting you anywhere in my classroom. Damn the man! She got the paper at the end of class and left in a huff. Whatever, I ain't scared a' no eight year old sissy.

I wanted to cry until my lovely E2 students (4:40 - 6:50) who are tame, tear-free despite a bleeding lip caused by a head to table connection, and English-competant. Oh, and the coffee helped too.

*The class rules are Speak English (ha!), Sit in Your Chair (ha ha!), and Listen to the Teacher (HaX5). You get a sticker at the end of the day UNLESS you get three x's next to your name.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ultimate Frisbee is sweeping the nation!!! Or will be soon.

So I text messaged everyone I know in Suji (all ten people, seven of which are co-workers, one is some random Korean dude we met on the bus last night) this morning in an attempt to rally up a Sunday afternoon game of Ultimate. I don't know about elsewhere but at McMaster it is popular beyond belief. And my brother is an all-star, thanks to our many hours spent playing in the backyard, no doubt.

I digress.

I got one respone - the bus guy - and he couldn't make it. Last minute though I managed to pull together a group of seven (and a half - a five year old might not counts as a whole) people to play, including a Kiwi stranger we heckled off the street.

It was a rip roarin' game: Me, Shawn, and Shay versus D'Arcy, Dan, and Sara. Though my team was ahead at the first break, D'Arcy's team came up from behind and slaughtered us whole-heartedly. Rick, you would have been proud despite the Neuman loss.

Man, am I out of shape though! I was huffing and puffing after one two minute point. But it was great fun for all.

I can already see the teams, t-shirts, and leagues forming. Give it two weeks, tops. Yup. Uh huh. Mark my words.. next Sunday we'll double in numbers from six to twelve, no doubt. I bet you can't wait.

We called it a game in favour of water at the E-Mart and then a heavenly meal at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant that just opened last week. Now there are TWO of these places in Suji.

Another work week is soon to begin...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A special visit

I only had about fifteen readers back in May, but those of you who were around then might remember the friend I met in my TESL course named Ji Hee. She was in Toronto studying English and had gotten so good that she signed up for a TESL class and we became buddies. She returned to Korea in June and though we've been in touch we weren't able to see each other because she was busy studying for an entrance exam.

Anyway, we made plans to meet yesterday in her neighbourhood of Hwajeong (West on line three) for lunch. I was to get to Jongno and then go West. Too bad I had no idea how to get to Jongno.

I jumped on the 5500 which I know takes you from Suji to Itaewon, having heard that it goes further into Seoul and probably would go to Jongo. After the bus passed Itaewon I used my "you probably speak no English" voice and said "Jongno??" to a young-ish man standing above me as I pointed to my subway map. The woman beside me, who was old and dressed in typical ajumma gear, piped up in perfect English "Ohh, it's in two stops. I'll show you the way. Where are you headed?" etc. etc. Amazing! It's always a little bit of a pleasant surprise when that happens and I realize that I should not make assumptions about who can and can't understand me.

The woman, though not too interested in chit chat, hailed a cab and let me share it on the one minute drive to the subway stop. I offered her some money which she (of course) refused, and we parted ways. How nice.

The subway ride to Ji Hee's neighbourhood was uneventful, though there are men who come through the cars trying to sell random things. This time I was tempted by a rubix cube keychain for one thousand won and a folding fan for two thousand. Very tempting, actually, considering the terrible heat we've been experiencing these days. Everyone is constantly shiny face and dripping with sweat.

It took a total of an hour and a half to get to Ji Hee's which really isn't too bad at all because it looked quite far away. She met me at the subway and we walked to her mom's work, which is an underwear shop in an open market-type mall. Ji Hee told me her mother was very excited to meet me and that she had woken up at 5am to cook us lunch!!! Can you believe that? I can't! I actually meant to bring a gift to the family but I forgot and didn't know what would be a nice, appropriate gift, so I really regretted not bringing one when I found out how hard she had worked.

Not only did she cook but she also gave me a gift from her store. It's a cute little tank top/shorts sleep set that says "Kiss Me" all over it. How kind of her! She had me try it on and it fit fine, so off we went to Ji Hee's house. On the short walk home we also bumped into her father on the street.

We arrived at her apartment which is one of those towering apartment buildings that fill Suji and rode the elevator up to the twelfth floor. There her sister was waiting to meet me (apparently everyone was so excited. I'm a celebrity! Hehe.) The sisters got busy preparing the food and though I offered to help they sat me down on the big comfortable sofa and I watched Home Alone. Ahhh, Keven McAllister... what a cute little kid.

Lunch was ready and we feasted on bulgogi, p'ajon, those delicious glass noodles with carrot and onion in them, seaweed wrap for the rice, kimchi, dried red pepper, and a few other things. It was wonderful! Meanwhile we talked and her sister, who is taking English classes now, tried her hand at speaking and understanding. She was so cute and not afraid to try. Ji Hee speaks English very very well so there was no problem there.
We hung out for a while, looking at pictures and then eating dessert before it was already five o'clock and time for me to go. Her whole family was so kind and sweet and I had a great time seeing a real Korean home and hanging out with Ji Hee and her sister. Hopefully I'll see them again soon!

I jumped back on the subway and headed to Itaewon where D'Arcy and Sara were. Sara is our new coworker from Idaho. She's cool. You know what we did in Itaewon? We went to an Indian buffet!!! I wasn't even hungry because of lunch but what else can you do at a buffet but eat??

Obviously I tooks pictures of it but for some reason they got deleted from my camera. Why oh why? Oh well. The food will have to remain a memory. For fifteen thousand won we treated ourselves to lots of delicious things which I can't be bothered to recount right now. We ended off the day at Gecko's with a beer courtesy of F16 pilots who lied to us and said they were filming a documentary on shrimp and the voice over guy for that show with Asian people running around doing relay races and falling. It sucks to be lied to! But hey, I'll take a free beer. Apparently girls don't believe you if you say you're an F16 pilot. Hell, I don't even know what an F16 is so what do I care?

We took a taxi to the bus stop (always an ordeal... damn lousy Korean skills) and spent the forty five minute ride back to Suji chatting with a guy who's studying in Denver but visiting with his family for the summer. Another surprising English speaker. We've really gotta watch what we say.

Today I'm considering trying to get an ultimate frisbee game going. Anyone in Suji who's reading this, drop me a comment and we'll see what we can do!

Friday, August 05, 2005

The dirt on Chris

He looks innocent, doesn't he? Well the word on the street is that he is not living it up in a Muskoka chair but facing the Korean heat and working at a summer camp for some large amount of money. I guess this job has the potential to turn into a permanent one some time down the road so I may very well bump into him again sometime over here. Weird, but not worth dwelling on any longer.

Last night at the WA bar there was lots of talk of "suprising" Thai lady-boys as many of the ESL teachers were recently vacationing over there. From the sounds of it, you better watch who you fraternize with in those parts.

Also, I came across my own blog in French yesterday. Search "neumanjm" on google if you're interested. I think that's pretty cool.

Today I'm having a taste of real Korean life. More details to come!

Can it be true?

Are there really blue skies in Suji, bursting with sunshine over the towering apartment buildings? Yes! And for two days in a row, in fact. Not to mention it's Friday. AND I'm eating a juicy tangerine. Man, life is good.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Korean in the classroom

All but one of my classes are very low level. They can't form sentences, have very low vocabulary, and stare blankly at me most of the time. They certainly can't read. And I am expected to teach them phonics from a phonics textbook.

Yesterday we had to work on a page that had pictures of three letter words like bed, pot, log, etc. with the vowel missing from the middle and the students were supposed to decide which vowel fits in the space. There were pictures beside each word to help but since my kids don't know any words it was rather futile.

I began the lesson by writing each vowel one by one on the board and exaggerating the sound it produces. O.. awwwwwwww. A.. ahhhhhhhh. You get the picture. I added an example word beside each sound with a drawing of that word. We went through half the page struggling, the kids guessing, until finally I came to a solution.

Next to each vowel sound I wrote the Korean equivalent. After that the exercise was a piece of cake. Was that helpful for the students or were they just refering to the Korean and not paying attention to the actual sound? I'm not sure, but I am sure that they had no idea what they were doing before.

Today I busted out the Korean again when going over new vocabulary words. I let the kids read the Korean word first then wrote the English word on the board. I think it really helped. How would you explain the word 'and' in English to kids who can't understand you?

Whatever works, right?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Canny Village

Not so exciting, that Canny Village. We piled onto the bus, rode for a while, spent maybe an hour at the village and came back in time for lunch. The kids watched a video, recycled some cans, played one game, and were shuffled back onto the bus.

I cut my cuticles today and am pleased with the results.

It rained pretty hard and some guy says the monsoon season has yet to arrive.

It's my mother's birthday. Happy birthday to you, Mum! Sorry I'm missing it but I hope the boys take good care of you today. You know, showering you with gifts and flowers and such.

If anyone wants to send me a letter or package or flowers, let me know and I'll give you the mailing address.

It's almost the weekend...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rollin' with the punches

Some of you expressed surprise at my director's concern with working conditions. I too am surprised and impressed. He really does seem to care about us. We have paid teacher's meetings every Friday where he asks for any input that we may have. He even suggested an increase in pay to compensate for difficult working conditions. As far as I can tell, our job is standard but bring on any improvements, thank you very much!

Chris has been replaced with no problem and life goes on as usual. Funny how quick that happens. Currently he's sipping margharitas in Mexico or laughing it up in a Muskoka chair somewhere in Canada. Or maybe he really is raking in the won privately in Seoul. We'll never know. No loss to me anyway; he was a goddam motormouth.

As is his temporary replacement... grr... but I won't get into that kind of stuff here. Who knows who's reading this.

Things are fine in my classes though I'm a little frustrated with the level of my kids. I'm supposed to do language arts almost daily with my kids and that usually consists of letter practicing on worksheets. They're dreadfully boring but what else can I do? Any good suggestions?

I had a new little girl join up the other day and she had no English name. She cried the entire first day but today she was fine. I named her Molly. Molly was my childhood dog's middle name. I didn't think it would be appropriate to name the girl Corky. Maybe next time. I have plenty of pet names at my disposal, come to think of it: Blacky, Kwinter, Oliver, Shadow, Tigger, Hammy, Mr. Squeaks, Andy, Fozzy, Sweet Pea, Mary Ellen.. what do you think??

Tomorrow we're going on a field trip to somewhere called the "Canny Museum" which is I think either a recycling plant or a museum of recycled goods. I can't wait. After that I have one period of something and then cooking class! What a great day!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Man oh man

I called it as soon as he didn't show up for the flight to Japan. Chris, my coworker, was supposed to go with me to Japan but he didn't come. I joked that he had pulled the "midnight run" as it is called. These 'runners' take off without so much as a word to anyone. When I called it though, I was mostly joking.

This morning when the bell rang to indicate the start of school there were only four of seven teachers present. Kierstie had called in sick, Meaghan was held up returning from her trip to Thailand, and Chris... where was Chris? No phone call, no note, nothing. The staff tried to call him and there was no answer. They got a locksmith to open his apartment and found it completely empty. Everything gone.


He abandoned the school, his contract, the people he knew, and his kids. Sang Kyu, the director, is obviously very distraught and wants to know if there's anything he can do to make our working conditions better. He is out a lot of money because of this. As it turns out, Chris also left a nice long distance bill of over $300. What a spineless prick.

In the end it all works out because D'Arcy gets a permanent job at my school! But they're working hard to find a replacement for the last minute.

I really can't believe it. Really really.