Monday, October 31, 2005

10,000 hits

Sometime before or after this post I will have reached 10,000 hits. I remember installing site meter and getting excited over 9. That was just over nine months ago. A dedicated reader recently asked me to consider how 'blogging' has impacted my experience here. An interesting question that I'll try to address.

Well, I've always been an off and on journal keeper, most notably when I'm sad and have things to work out. I hadn't been writing much of anything until about two years ago after a tough break up when I went through a period of figuring stuff out; what I want, what I care about, who I am. All that stuff that I had never taken the time to figure out since I'd been preoccupied with less important things. So I wrote daily. I lot at first and progressively less and less as things started to look up. Maybe I'm getting off track.

I started to write this blog in January when the excitement for my upcoming adventure was keeping me up at night. Alright, it never ceases to keep me up at night. I didn't at first give the address out to everyone I know because there wasn't too much Korea related material and I didn't want my day to day words to be out there for everyone. But I relished the comments and 'hits' that I randomly received. I liked to be noticed. I like to be complimented. I like to be on display. At some point within this blog I remember writing about this part of myself. Many of my previous jobs have been performance based; swim instructor, tour guide, TA, and now teacher. Then there's the karaoke. I like to be the one who knows.

And having a blog is just that. It's a selfish thing, really, I think. You write and expect people to flock to your space. If I had no readers would I continue to have an online journal? Probably not. Scratch that, of course not. It's not just to keep people that I know updated but to share my experiences which I, perhaps selfishly or maybe generously, think are interesting or useful to others.

Now that I have that covered, how do I think it has changed my experience in Korea?

Without this blog I think I would feel lonelier here. It's been a good way to meet some new people and to feel like part of a community. I also have something to come home to after a hard day of work. It's a responsibility that I make sure to attend to. The comments and emails that come through it mean a lot to me because they make me feel as though I'm not alone. Or as if my ties at home are still strong.

If I didn't have this journal I wonder how my interaction with people would be different. Maybe I'd be more aggressive in building relationships but I doubt that.

In any case it will result in a wonderful documentation of this period in my life, n'est pas? Does anyone know how I can save it all to disk?

Sunday, October 30, 2005


If I'm lucky I'll wake up tomorrow and it will be Saturday. Saturday December 24th would be an ideal date for me. Or even some Saturday in June would be more than welcome.

Cross your fingers for me, will ya?

Four months gone by

Last month I was amazed by my little children. This month I don't even want to write about work because it's been a bad one. I can wonder what has changed from one month to the next. Is it the table arrangement? Is it Stephanie? Was it the theme? Is it me? I can't be sure.

Despite my job I am happy here. That may seem ludicrous because my job takes up about seventy percent of my free time, or so it feels. Usually the weekends make up for a bad week at least, as long as I get out of bed and do something interesting. I'm happy to report that I've been doing interesting things and seeing interesting places.

Yesterday I was going to go to the traditional market that I visited last month with the puppies but it was cold and we were lazy so instead checked out a nearby town. D'Arcy got her hair cut in a scuzzy looking salon that we noticed from the street. The hairstylist man was wearing plaid pants and a flower print shirt and colourful shoes but he did a good job. While she was getting trimmed I was chatting with a woman under a hair dryer of some kind. She wants me to teach her English privately on the weekends. At first I said no and used the excsue that it's illegal. Illegal doesn't really bother me that much but what does is teaching any more than I already have to. It would be much different, and probably much better, to teach a grown woman who already has decent English skills. She even offered to help me learn Korean which would definitely be an interesting experience.

Alas, I'm not interested in the committment. I don't want to be obligated to anyone or anything every weekend. Next weekend I'm heading to Busan. The weekend after that who knows? I don't need the extra money and I don't need another student. So that's that.

Last night was a good bye party for my coworker; the first good bye I've had with people I actually came to know and like. I was emotional watching them say their goodbyes, she and her boyfriend, because not only are they leaving but they're heading towards a new life together, with a third party on the way. It's difficult to imagine myself in that position, well, not the pregnant position but the leaving position. Eight months from now I will be. How does that sound to me? Tempting.

It's funny. A lot of us talk about this whole experience as if it's a sentence. How much time you got left, Mac? Ohh, two weeks left, lucky you!! Oh, you just got here. Start the countdown now. It's a love/hate relationship we've got going on here.

Four months down, eight months to go...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Girls and Boys

Earlier this week I was sitting on the window sill of the narrow computer room watching my now fairly independent five year olds operate their one and only program, Jumpstart Kindergarten. It so happened that all the girls were sitting on my right and all the boys on my left. The girls were doing something equivalent to paint and the boys were all playing a racing game. Funny that at such a young age they already have such a clear divide in terms of interests and preferences.

As a child it was the same at my house. Unlike my brothers, I got (and wanted) a girl GI Joe, played with the Lego horses, and really enjoyed Mario Paint. Plus all the Barbie and everything else, of course.

I majored in sociology and tend to lean towards the nurture side of the argument though of course I realize it's not an all or nothing thing. Well let me tell ya, gender socialization in Korea is alive and well. I have yet to teach a tomboy and my girls are dressed like little dolls, hair baubles and all. Hair styles are incredibly elaborate. I would hate it if it were me.

My girls demand pink all the time no matter what the issue. I try very hard not to assume and give equal opportunity for colour choices and it's much more often that a boy will ask for pink before a girl asks for blue. I guess that's another difference from Western society. At home it's more common that girls dress and behave like boys but here it's the other way around, even with the adult population. Women are very feminine and, well, so are many men; long hair, dyed hair, perms, man purses, tight clothes, pink clothes...

So in this roundabout post what I really wanted to get at was that for Halloween I had six princesses, a Superman, a Dracula, a robot, and a grim reaper type character. All very cute. And my witch was the witchiest witch you ever saw.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fly fly witchy witchy fly!!!

Happy Birthday Shanna. In honour of you, sister in law, I have painted my fingernails black.

Actually it's for my witch halloween costume that I have to wear to school tomorrow. I've never, at least in recent memory, been one to enjoy dressing up. Last year I contemplated the idea of wearing all white and being a cloud before copping out and being a 'cowgirl' in a jean skirt and white tshirt. This year I'm a school teacher so I have to buck up and act like a moron.

My costume consists of my black dwarf toe shoes, red tights, a flouncy black dress with a black tshirt under it for modesty, black fingernails and hopefully some black and witchy makeup, and a red fake-vinyl witch hat with stringy red hair attached. C'est magnifique. I feel very goth right now in street clothes and black fingernails. I guess I see the appeal after all. I hate the world.

One year for halloween my mother and brothers spent half an hour giving me hints about what my father had bought for me. As if a pointy hat gesture wasn't enough... I think they finally had to tell me it was a witch hat. Maybe that's when I decided I didn't like dressing up? Maybe I'm just too stiff.

Jordy, remember JJ in that Indiana Jones costume last year? Yee Haw.

I still enjoy the holiday, however. How could I not when it's based around candy? Tomorrow is a day long party. Look out!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Another day's done gone

I don't even feel much like writing because everyday is mostly bad at work lately. Let's not talk about it.

I'm thinking about what has been perpetuating my cold and decided to stop drinking directly out of the same water bottle for days (okay, weeks) on end. That can't be a healthy habit, right?

Did you know that I quit biting my nails? I posted about it way back in May I think, when I came up with the brilliant idea that thinking of nail biting as germ ingestion would easily help me kick the habit especially when working with snot-nosed children, and let me tell you, they really are snot-nosed. The idea worked and I have had lovely nails ever since. Not counting my one orange one that is still stained from two weeks ago. It's crazy! Why do they purposefully do it? I'll never know.

Today was test day for the older kids so we tested them and then carved a pumpkin. I hate carving pumpkins, I've decided. Especially with a classroom full of kids who care not for watching the teacher struggle with a less than adequate tool meant for clay design. I gave up and let the kids colour the damn thing. Last test day we made pancakes which meant the teachers made pancakes while the kids waited quietly for theirs to arrive on their plate (ha!). I am not a cook. I burnt mine and demanded a replacement at the stovetop. I didn't sign up for this cooking and carving business.

Whine whine whine.

I do appreciate the free food and trips, however.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Three more sleeps until Halloween Party!

Two months from today I will be eating pad thai on the streets of Bangkok. Igara, Time-uh, Igarah, Time-uh! (Anyone?)

Did you know that I'm still sick? I have been keeping records of my lack of health and since I lost my voice on Chusok in the middle of September I've been hovering between health and full blown sick, mostly suffering from congestion and a cough. Some say the Seoul pollution will do that to you.

I bought an enormous photo album that will weigh me down for the rest of my life. It's about 1/3 full. I'm about 1/3 done here.

Good night.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I'm a legal teacher in Korea and thus not headed for jail

Many of you may have read the article in the Globe and Mail, some other source, or the link sent from seadragon. I've been meaning to address the issue but kept forgetting so here we go.

A week or so ago one of the major Toronto newspapers featured a front page story about Canadian teachers in Korea being sent to jail for working illegally. I think almost everyone in my office got some kind of concerned email or call from home.

Here's the story.

In order to work legally as a teacher here you need an E2 visa, which can be obtained either from home or while here, though that would require a trip out of the country (hence my holiday in Japan). You can only get that E2 visa if you have a four year degree from an accredited university. Perhaps in the past the rules were more lax but I can't say for certain. This recent "crackdown" resulted from a sketchy recruiter getting fake degrees for teachers and then illegally obtaining the necessary visa. Somehow he was found out and all the people on his roster were nabbed. A friend of a friend was among the group. I have no idea what happened to these people but I suspect they were just sent home after a semi-unpleasant stay in the slamma'. Maybe they were also unable to access their bank accounts but I can't be sure. I hear the officials came right to the school and took the offenders away.

I think most of the articles also pointed out the disdain the Korean government and people hold towards the foreign teachers in the country. Last year there was a Korean documentary aired on television about how the people who come to teach here are unqualified social outcasts who can't find legitimate jobs and lives back home in their own country so they come to Korea where the money is good and the ease of finding work is, well, easy.

I can't argue with that. Most of the English teachers I meet over here really are weird in some way or another. I can't say if it's bad or not or whether I'm a weird-o also. Am I?

I spent a lot of time wondering and asking people what they thought was a unifying characteristic of all the people who come here for this life. Is there something that connects all of us besides the extraordinary amount of time spent with children daily?

Here are the possibilities I came up with:

1) We're all crazy
2) We've faced some sort of loss: love, job, direction
3) We came to a big decision making period in life and postponed that decision
4) We are cool and adventurous and worldly or on the way to being such.
5) We're unqualified social outcasts who can't find legitimate jobs and lives back home in our own countries so we come Korea where the money is good and the ease of finding work is, well, easy.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Recharging at old man park

Last time we spoke I hated my job and was feeling tired, dejected, and less than thrilled. Now, after a weekend in Seoul I feel tired, happy, and ready to start the new week with a positive outlook. Yes oh yes, everything's gonna be alright. I got a red scarf that lifts my spirits and keeps me warm.

So on Friday night, shortly after that hateful post, Darce, Sara and I jumped on a bus and headed to Daechi-dong to visit our friend Jenn, meeting up with Cara on the way. The five of us gathered on the floor around a table full of Mexican delicacies. Jenn had prepared homemade salsa (with a tangy zest of lime), as well as all the necessary fixin's needed for tacos. Hard AND soft. There were pimento stuffed green olives, there was real sour cream and ground beef (!) and I can't forget to mention the sangria. We packed it all in and then took to the streets in search of noraebang tom-foolery. Of course there's a noraebang, or singing room, within a stone's throw of any apartment building in this country so it didn't take long. I sang until my voice failed me, particularly enjoying my own version of "Build me up Buttercup".

As planned in advance, we fell asleep on Jenn's floor mats.

The next morning Jenn had things to attend to and Cara had gone home so the three Suji-ites decided to head up to Jongno Sam Ga station to check out Jongnomyo, a shrine that Scott has been raving about. On the way over we took a stroll through Old Man Park. Yes that's the real name for it, I swear. The forested park area was teeming with male retirees. I'd guess over a thousand were strolling, playing Go, listening to live music, or watching dancing. We saw approximately 6 women, zero other foreigners, and zero other people under the age of fifty five. D'Arcy stopped to have her shoes shined and attracted a good sized group of about ten oglers. Sara was summoned by one particularly fiesty old man and ended up dancing in front of a whole auditorium. I almost peed myself laughing, but I dutifully captured it all on camera.

We walked along through the shrine grounds enjoying the freedom and lack of time constraints and were pleasantly invited to partake in a traditional tea ceremony. After we finished with the shrine and temple we strolled through some neighbourhoods we had never seen and ended up in a very cool area up on the blue line called Hyehwa filled with young people in jeans and scarves and drinking from Starbucks cups. We even found thrift stores, if you can believe it. I bought a scarf to go with my jeans and Starbucks cup and I love it. The temperature has dropped significantly these days and my scarf took care of the shivers. It still is now as I sit in my slightly too cold apartment. Apparently this area is where all the theatre performances are so I'm going to look into finding some shows. I hear this Korean spin on Stomp, Nanta, is a great time so I'd like to try to get tickets for that.

Night was drawing near so we made the executive decision to stay one more night at Jenn's and go dancing. We danced, we indulged, and slept very soundly.

I have a confession to make. I ate Burger King for breakfast. And I'm proud of it.

Back in Suji I hopped on my/D'Arcy's bike and rode to Lottemart where I had 100 digital pictures developed for 20,000 won in only one hour. I can see this becoming addictive and adding significant weight to my luggage on the trip home in July.

Speaking of which, I keep thinking about just leaving almost everything I have here. My clothes will be worn out from the harsh laundry system and they're all old and dull anyway. When I come home it'll be a fresh start. I look forward to that.

But for now I hope my kids and I will handle the week just fine. Next weekend is Club Night for a friend's birthday and a goodbye party for my coworker and her boyfriend. A new coworker is arriving this week. Two weeks from now I think I'll take the train South to Busan before it gets too cold. Time keeps on tickin'.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I hate my job

Today was the icing on the cake of a bad week. Why not go out with a bang, right? I think four out of seven kids in my elementary class cried, and not because I'm losing my mind and being a mean teacher, but because they're damn spoiled brats who cry if they don't get a turn right away or if the get caught cheating. Crying doesn't phase me anymore. What phases me is a classful of five year olds who never listen.

Yoon puked in the garbage can today, on top of it all, but he came out of the experience unscathed.

The only reprieve today was what one little six year old girl in Scott's class wrote in her journal: I spilled milk and got shat on. I am very sad and never do it again.

Can you believe her perfect grammatical usage? I wonder what she was trying to write.

I need this weekend to lift my spirits. Now I understand why English teachers are alcoholics.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My new lamp

For four months I've hated the flourescent lighting in my apartment and hemmed and hawed over purchasing a lamp for my bedside table. I saw some for thirty thousand but didn't think it was worth spending the money. I'm only here for a year. I could make it for a year without the lamp, couldn't I? But it really bugged me. I hated the lighting. Sure I'm only here for one year but isn't my sanity and comfort worth the investment?

I think this state of mind is problematic. And I live my life with this problematic state of mind all the time.

In recent years (or have I always been this way?) I have felt as if the places I find myself are only temporary. Because of this I tend not to make the effort. I don't pursue friendships or relationships because I see them as coming to an end whenever that experience does, and this leaves me unsatisfied, either with limitedly fulfilling relationships or lousy lighting.

Last year I was graduating so why bother? Then I was moving to Korea so why bother? Now I'm only in Korea for one year so why bother?

But when will my life be really my life forever? That's a ridiculous question. Why? Because relationships, be it romantic or otherwise, cross experiences. And because thirty thousand won equals thirty bucks. Plus I could always take a lamp home with me if I so choose.

I better change my state of mind.

Luckily I can put it off for now because my leaving coworker gave me her lamp. And you'd be surprised how happy and comforted I feel in my low light.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Anyone have any recipes that call for cabbage?

A bad day.

I never thought I was a great teacher, but for a while there I thought I was doing at least a good job with the little ones. Kids were smiling and doing good work. They seemed happy and so was I. For the last few weeks it has been far from good. I find myself raising my voice far too often. My kids are also raising their voices far too often. Who is reacting to who? They whine, hit, complain, whine, refuse, whine. (I originally spelled all those whines without the 'h-ee'. I need a drink-ee) They talk constantly and can't sit properly in their chairs no matter how many times I remind them. They ask to go to the bathroom every three minutes.

Ashley "Teacher, bathroom please".
Me "Not now, Ashley".
Ashley "Bathroom please"
Me "I said no."
Me :Ignore the little snotface because I know she went to the bathroom twenty minutes ago.

I hate dealing with this shit. I'm not a disciplinarian. I'm not a natural at keeping kids in line either. So what does that mean? They don't take me seriously and I have no power. And I trudge home dejected and in the mood for cookies. Instead I buy what I think is a lettuce. I only want half so when the nice grocer slices the head in half I notice it's actually cabbage but take it home anyway.

I'm currently eating a terrible salad of cherry tomatoes, carrots, fake crab meat, cabbage, and pineapple mustard salad dressing that I thought sounded good but was mistaken.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The temperature's dropping

It's starting to cool down around here and I haven't yet figured out how to work my heat. The heating control unit is the same one I use to turn on my water and I haven't had a problem with that, but I feel like I've tried all the combinations and still there's no heat coming up through my faux-floorboards. That's how many apartments are heated here - through the floor. That sounds nice except I'd appreciate it if I could actually get it working.

I bought an extra blanket to hold me off for a while.

I got home at around five today and fell asleep until seven. Now I'm watching High Fidelity on "On Style" after having eaten some chunky peanut butter and strawberry jam on white white bread.

I've got lots of music downloading but can't seem to get itunes open. Why oh why?

The kids are behaving fine this week and the bonding weekend with the little one has improved her behaviour only slightly.

Looking forward to Friday night Taco's with the ladies.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Real Azeean Culcha

We climbed on a bus on Saturday morning just after 9am. Eight teachers, the Director-man, his wife and daughter Stephanie (who I teach), the school secretary Mee Hae, and the woman who does everything, Alice and her son Ian (who Barb teaches). All together we were a caravan of fourteen. And we were headed for the mountains in the province of Gangwon, about an hour and a half North East of Suji.

The resort is called Vivaldi Park and is known for skiing in the winter and golf (along the ski run, if you can believe it) and water fun in the summer. We perused the guide map after dropping our bags in the large suite. Actually, the girl teachers had the large suite - we later found out it cost around 450,000 won. The boys had a small room and the ladies and children had another small room.

It was a fun-filled day in the countryside mountaintop sunshine. Lunch of kimchi shigae, ATV driving, paddleboating, forest hiking, and gondola riding. The view was spectacular from the top of the mountain. For as far as I could see there was mountain after mountain, not very tall but still impressive and lush green. If we came two weeks later it probably would be lush red and yellow. Can't win 'em all.

There was some kind of cultural festival going on so we checked out cultural things and I had my finger dyed orange. Again I'm going to do a bad job of explaining things because I can't understand Korean so I just go ahead and do things without fully comprehending them. But I've seen this before. Sometimes my kids come to school, girls and boys alike, with orange fingers. It looks kind of like nail polish but it's on the entire finger tip. Once my older kids told me it was from a flower. They put some kind of wet herb on your finger and wrap it in saran, then tie it with a string. Two hours later your finger is orange. I think the nail has to grow out for it to go away. I don't like my orange finger very much. And my cuticle is no more healthy than it was before.

At night Sang Kyu took us out for pork galbi and bought us a bunch of beers. Can you believe his generosity?

Here's where it gets good.

Everyone was sitting around in the room and Scott was pushing for bowling (they had everything from noraebang to bowling to shopping to whatever else in the basement of this resort). So four of us hit the underground. Bowling had a huge lineup so we wandered around a bit and ended up sitting at the back of a small bar otherwise occupied by a very drunk group of men and women on a business trip from Seoul. They were screaming Korean lyrics into microphones and the distortion was so bad we almost left but decided to stick it out and order some drinks. Before we knew it were we being force fed whiskey shots dropped in beer pints and were singing "Thriller" and "Like a Virgin" to throngs or cheering Koreans. I ain't lying. Okay, maybe the ladies in the crowd weren't so thrilled but the men were loving every minute of it. We collapsed back at our table in time to listen to their boss-man's inspirational speech which was duller than dull and freakier than... freak. I was hit by a fit of laughter thanks to Sara's sigh of "It's TIRING to be a pop star". We disrupted the speech but eventually managed to keep my giggles in check while the man sitting beside us translated as best as he could what boss-man was saying.

"Who will promise to follow me and work hard forever??" The people in the crowd raised their hands. The translating guy said "He is my group leader so I obey him." Can you believe that? It reminded me of a tupperware sales force weekend getaway in Collingwood led by Hitler and full of religious people.

We bowled and went to bed.

This morning the fog was heavy in the morning and lifted away to reveal a beautiful day. I played a round of mini golf. The clubs were big and wooden and the balls were like croquet balls. Ate some udon soup and mandu for lunch and slept on the busride home.

Almost all of this entire weekend was paid for by el-directoro. It was for no special occasion as far as I could tell. I think he believes that happy teachers equals a good school. I think that's probably right. D'Arcy thinks that he was trying to create group cohesion that was lacking but I don't necessarily think there's an unnatural lack of that in the first place. Perhaps he was trying to get his daughter to love me and therefore be a good kid in class. Well, she does love me now, lots, but we'll see about her being a good kid. People think I'm good with children. I wonder if that's really true.

Too many pictures of the weekend found here.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Suwon Fortress

Apparently it's a noteworthy place in the world. I forget the proper name for it, but it's noteworthy. We spent the whole kindergarten day there and I loved every minute of not having to really teach. I rode around in a dragon train. I ate kimbap in the forest, and I rounded up kids throughout a folk village. At least I think it was a folk village. They never bother to explain what's going on in English, unfortunately.

Suwon is a nearby city where I almost accepted a job before I got this one in Suji. It is fortified by a wall that's very very old. They pointed out the holes for guns to the kindergarteners. At some point in Korean history a king retreated here from Seoul to protect himself from the enemies. Wow, do I ever know a lot about history. I could easily be wrong about any of this. I did notice that the city of Suwon is significantly older and more run down than Suji. The kids liked playing in the sand more than they cared about the historical implications of the place. And so did I.
Here is the king on his horse! I think it's the king. In any case horses are always nice. Did you know that the position of the horse indicates how the person in the monument died. I don't remember how it goes but if the horse is standing on both front legs it means one thing and if it has one front leg raised it means another. And if it's up on its hind legs, well, you know what that means.
Here I am with my kids and my really sweet Korean helper who feeds the kids lunch and takes care of them during the ten minute breaks between periods. She handles the criers and the bathroom issues. She does the dirty work. If only I could remember her name!

When I got back from the field trip the last thing I felt like doing was teaching my elementary class. Luckily my one student was absent so I spent some time making my classroom look nice and then went home early.

I just got home from a dinner of vietnamese wraps and Bas-uh-kin Lobbins. Drew Barrymore is the main ad campaign. City ice cream. She likes green tea flavour.

Today I'm thinking about my trip to Thailand in December. I hope these two and a half months hurry by. Anyone want to meet me there?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Come, let's walk with vigorous strides!

Today Molly cried all over my new tshirt. Any collector of hilarious shirts is bound to own this gem. And no, it was not part of the AE line two summers ago. I'm willing to bet on it.

What's a stuuing rooster?

Brian owns this already and Rick soon will (there goes the surprise, brother). When we three siblings reunite we can all wear 'em. How about it? I wonder, Brian, if you wear yours and if people comment on it. Well?

Life goes on as normal except now I can view my pictures on my computer with ease thanks to windows XP.

The non-vegetarians at work went out to our regular galbi place tonight. I ate heartily for six dollars.

The other day my mom asked me if I had become accustomed to flavours that I couldn't stand when I first got here. "I loved everything from the start!" I chirped. Then I went on about how I never eat the yellow radish that accompanies every meal, and I don't love kimchi despite eating it every daily for lunch. Oh, and anything with radish I don't actually love. And I usually avoid most of the side dishes. I guess I lied about liking everything. I like everything that really counts, anyway. I sure do love that corn and that red galbi sauce. What is that red sauce called? Once for all I promise to remember it.

Sitting on the grass in the sunshine yesterday, listening for the last time to my ipod's first generation of music through lousy Korean speakers and drinking wine with my friends after a hard day, I couldn't escape the apartment buildings. They haunt me in my dreams.

Speaking of dreams, I dreamt I popped into my house to say hello to my family last night. I was going to mail a package but since I had it in my hand anyway I figured I might as well just give it to them in person.

Tomorrow is an all-day field trip to Suwon for a pic-a-nic. I've been awaiting this day all week long. And this weekend my director is taking us on a weekend retreat to the mountains. Ooh la la.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Things just didn't go as I'd planned

Derrek the local computer go-to-guy just installed 256 more mb of ram into my computer. I think. Or was it 156 more? I don't actually know. I'm using a very small Sony Vaio if anyone is wondering. Now at least MSN is working and I got itunes to work too. I imported all my music aquired in Korea and attempted to transfer it onto my ipod, making sure not to agree to lose all the music that is already on it. Or should I say was.

I had many gigs of music on there that are all gone. Noo!!! It's not a big deal really because I have all that music still on my compter at home, but itunes won't even load my new music onto the ipod because it's not my registered itunes program or something. There has to be a way around this problem but I haven't found it yet.

My computer is also running slower with xp but not so much that it's a big problem. Maybe I should have left well enough alone. Ay ya yaiy!

School was fine today.

My ear is plugged. I'm a constantly sick person these last few weeks. It better not be an ear infection.

Monday, October 10, 2005

And, as if by magic...

Did I just find exactly what I'm looking for?

Eight months and twenty one days left

Every once in a while I wonder whether I can make it this whole year. Of course I can, but I still wonder.

On Saturday I went to sleep at 4am and woke up without fail before nine. Then last night the computer guy was here until 12:30, at which point I obviously had to play around a bit reading emails and downloading itunes so I didn't get to bed until after one thirty. I usually like to fall asleep somewhere between ten thirty and twelve. This is a draining job, I tell you!

So today I felt like a zombie. Ugh. If I'm not in top condition the kids are bad. When I'm a perfect, angelic teacher there's a slim possibility they might be good. Luckily my class from hell was actually manageable today. I've uncovered a couple of tricks that are helping my situation. The first is the seating rearrangement that keeps them from getting distracted. The second is using the board more and having them come up to write on it more. Too much oral stuff makes it impossible to keep them in control. The last is moving Matthew up a level and out of the class. Ahh.

Whenever I think I've got things figured out though, they eventually slip away and I need to come up with a new plan.

Today my oldest and most advanced (though still beginner) class was running as usual with the apple table versus the ice cream table. Two boys, two girls. In short, a usually very sweet, mild mannered girl caused her table to lose a star and subsequently lost it herself. You should have seen her face of rage with tears and snot dripping off her chin. Okay, I exaggerate, but I seriously could almost see the devil horns pushing up through her scalp. When I came back from a five minute break she had thrown crayons all over the room. Unreal. Bingo perked her right up later in the class. Don't worry, I don't give sympathy to sissies.

So I guess I can make it. I'll have to make. No, I won't accept my mother's tantalizing offer of a free ticket home. Why? Because I don't feel done here after all. I have places to see, things to do, and children to conquor. And just under nine months to do it in. Plus I think I'd have a greater risk of bird flu at home in Toronto, thank you very much.

My collection of postcards has reached five; Canada, Montreal, Toronto, Algarve (Portugal) and Ottawa. We can do better than this!

Itunes won't open and neither will MSN. What's going on here?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Significant life decision possibility

My father sent me a newspaper clipping of a job posting. It was for a sociologist (with a Master's degree) and it got me thinking as I sit here in my little apartment and contemplate next year.

It was last year around this time that I decided to come to Korea. I had originally planned to go straight to graduate school after undergrad, then suddenly decided that it would be a better idea to see the world and instead live in Korea for a year. It took me no time at all, maybe about five hours from original realization of possibility to firm decision. I distinctly remember the night; lying in bed after an evening of theatre, coffee, and talking with a friend (hello, friend!). It was easy to postpone grad school for a year.

Now I may have decided to postpone it for another.

My further education plan is to study demography; the study of populations. Things like birth rates, death rates, immigration, etc. etc. Why? Well, because it is a practical sociological program that I can work with after only a Master's. And because I loved statistics in second year. It was easy and I enjoyed working on it. I always hated math throughout highschool and I got one hundred percent on my final stats exam. Figure that one out. I took a PhD level stats course last year and can't say that I loved it, but I hope that's related to the level or some other factor...

Back to the matter at hand, now I have almost decided to try and find a job in the field before I invest in a program in it, just to make sure it is actually something I can picture myself doing for a long time. Maybe I can get an entry level job in Toronto or Ottawa. Work for real, make some Canadian money, and be better prepared to make some decisions. It may not be thrilling but I'm hoping it will be. I need to know what I'm getting into, right?

So I'm going to look into this kind of work before grad school apps are due in January and February. Maybe I can confirm a job starting September. I could work from September 2006 to July 2007. Then I could travel for two months (gotta fit that in somewhere, right?). I would graduate from a Master's program in 2009. I'd be 26 years old. If I wanted to do a PhD afterwards I'd be somewhere around 31 at graduation. Holy. That seems so old to me but so near. Then again, almost all my friends in Korea hover just around the age of thirty and it's nothing. It can work.

Any wise advice out there?

Still Alive

What an unusual span of time between posts, I'm aware. My sweet, little Sony has just been returned to its spot on my kitchen table turned TV stand/computer table. It is newly improved and running an xp operating system. Why? Well, because I wanted to update my ipod and Windows ME doesn't support Itunes. Forty thousand won well spent, I'd say.

I may have made a significant life decision but I'll write about it tomorrow. For I am tired.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Happy Birthday, Hamnida!

Gone are the days when children simply bring in a box of Munchkins for their classmates on their birthday.

It was Yoon's birthday today; the first birthay celebration of Happy Class since its inception in July. Yoon technically turned five years old but here a birthday is just a celebration, not a change in age. He will turn "six" when everyone else does, on January first.

Birthday parties last a full forty minute period and this one consisted of a cake, kimbap, chicken McNuggets, tangerines, apples, and marine life shaped 'Goldfish' wannabes. Almost all the kids brought a gift and most of them opened them up for Yoon. I think only one tried to keep the gift she brought. It was a book about Christmas.

Birthday days are always exciting in the staff room because we get the leftovers. Another birthday party that happened today raked in two pizzas, one of which was a sweet potato variety. Why hasn't the West incorporated potato wedges and corn nibblets into its pizza repertoire? I don't know how I'll eventually live without them. There are one or two more birthday parties tomorrow. I'm saving money on groceries.

For the first time ever, Yoon wouldn't smile. That crazy kid.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mario paiiint

This week I implemented a new table system. Instead of a table that takes up the entire classroom I split up the two halves and created a space for sitting. I'm happy with the arrangement. Now I can pit the two tables against each other and force the kids to keep themselves in line. So far so good. Here, take a look at my great paint skills.

The old layout:

The new layout:

So I got a little lazier on the second one. Both lack any indication of my true artistic talent. I'm sure you get the picture. Now there's a whole open space where we can sit and do activities together. I lub it.

D'Arcy and I bought a bicycle from our leaving coworker and it's fun to ride. I better watch out for maniac buses and delivery boys on a mission. Fret not, maman!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Home from the island part two

On Monday we woke up in time for a nine o'clock breakfast of fish soup, fried fish bones and all, and side dishes. Rice too, of course. I particularly like the shredded potatoe side dish. Again, everyone complained about the fish and fish, but I liked the fish. What's wrong with fish? Especially when it's fried.

We headed on our way to the first stop: horseback riding. I've been horseback riding a number of times, both as a kid and in recent life. As a kid I loved it. My best horseback riding memory is riding bareback through the ocean on the coast of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The horses stampeded through the blue water that came up past their bellies. It was unbelievable. In more recent times I've been travelling. Once in Cuba with Wendy. She wanted to canter but her horse wouldn't move unless mine did, and I was none too pleased about the situation. In Israel too, we rode through the Haifa hills with a hot Israeli guiding the way. This was probably the cheesiest horse riding experience I've had abroad. The little horses circled slowly around an outer circle and then sped up and galloped through a smaller one. You didn't even hold the reigns but a metal loop attached to the saddle. D'Arcy's horse wandered into the brush to say hello to his fenced in cronies. Yogi-oh!!! I had a great time but my inner thighs hurt like crazy today.

After that we went to a few different places that I can't even remember now. We saw a folk village and the idiots on the trip got a kick out of mispronouncing the name. Hilarious. We ate pork which apparently was pork bulgogi but I was sure that bulgogi was the sweet sauce on beef all the time. Who can clear this one up for me? We went to another beach but couldn't swim because it had no showers and we were about to board the plane. We also walked through a long lava stream or something, a cave-like tunnel that had been blasted through with lava. Maybe that was before the beach. It's all a blur to me now.

As I said, I had a good time. I got to see a lot of things in a short time and I appreciate that. But I think I would have liked renting a car and doing it on my own watch. I don't like being forced into the company of people and feeling like I'm back in highschool again. Not that I did, exactly, but I would have if I was still in highschool. I don't know what I'm talking about. I look forward to going to Bangkok and Phuket, which is where I'm now going for Christmas, and choosing my own schedule.

Got two postcards today. Thanks a lot Mike and Wend!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Home from the Island

I just got home from my long weekend on a guided tour of Jeju-do, a popular Korean holiday destination in the very South. It was cloudy the whole time. But I had a very good time.

The trip was organized but some guy who is an English teacher/recruiter, so, 75% of the people on the trip were from his home town of Windsor and knew each other. My friend Dragos invited me and then he ended up not being able to go, so Darce, Sara and I didn't know too many people. I expected it to be mostly a beach weekend but I was far from correct, which is fine with me. I felt like I was back on Birthright or my grade 8 trip to Quebec City, sitting on a bus, and getting off at tourist spot after tourist spot. Mischief at night. That kind of thing. We were a bunch of twenty-something kids. It felt weird. Not only because we're not kids, but also because we were like the reverse of those busloads of Asian people at places like Niagara Falls and Canada's Wonderland that you see walking around in sun visors. We were a busload of Canadian people walking around with digital cameras and rolled up jeans.


We did get to see a lot of beautiful things and I'm going to share them with you.
The flight from Incheon took only about one hour and we landed in Jeju at six o'clock or so. We met our tourguide Jeff and jumped on the bus, heading to this place called Dragon Rock or something like that. The rock was only so impressive so I'll show you with picture of the coast instead which I think looks nifty with the colours. As the sun set, bright, almost halogen lights, appeared, scattering the horizon. Apparently they were shrimp boats. They gave the impression that there was an entire city just across the (Pacific) Ocean. I wonder if such bright lights attract shrimp.

All the tourist attractions close at eight so we headed to our 'accomodations' and found our rooms. I was in a room with four other people which was just fine by me. The room was very nice; wooden floors, two seperate areas, two bathrooms, a balcony with a beautiful view including the ocean, but only one bed. D'Arcy ended up splitting the bed with our new friend Cara. I took a mat on the floor. It didn't bother me at all because I'm a mover in bed and would rather not have to worry about bothering someone, and because I had a bad case of pussy pink eye. "Hey, nice to meet you, I'm the devil." What a great first impression. We ate a dinner of sam gyup sal, which I've had a few times now and every time it has been way too fatty for my taste. It's a thick cut of pork, usually cut into pieces about the length of my pinky. The fat takes up the area from the tip to the second joint. I'm talking fatty.

Then everyone got drunk.

When does drinking to excess for no other reason than to drink itself cease to be a prime concern in situations like these? I felt like we were away from our parents for the night so we might as well get shitfaced. Maybe we were away from our soul-sucking jobs. I don't know.

I couldn't sleep so well the following morning so I woke up before the alarm and went for a walk around the 'hotel'.

Then we ate a breakfast of tofu and outher things shigae (stew) which I liked but most did not, and other typical side dishes. Rice and kimchi too, of course.

The first stop of the day was the bonsai tree museum where there were lots of lovely, and here comes the surprise, bonsai trees. We used to have a bonsai tree that died. These ones were all healthy and some were fruit bearing. Wow!

Here is D'Arcy and I with a bowing bonsai tree. Isn't it incredible? Fascinating! Amazing! These trees are very old and yet very small. Yup.

Stop number two of the day was a hike up a mountain. It was a very beautiful view of the coastline and the water. If most of what I saw in Osaka was views of the city from a high point, most of what I saw in Jeju was beautiful views of the coastline. Here's a picture or two, but be sure to check out my flickr site for more if you so desire.

I think at this point we had lunch and then went to a beach, which was beautiful, but sadly we hadn't been warned that we wouldn't be returning to the hotel so I had no bathing suit. The sand was probably artifically soft and colourful. The water was blue and surfable. I waded and sat. It was cloudy anyway... We saw ajummas (older women) infamous for their diving ways. Apparently this skill goes back into history. They dive under the water for as long as three minutes searching for I don't even know what. Can you believe it?

The next place we went was a temple; the biggest temple in all of Asia! What, the biggest in all of Asia?? Here on the small Korean island of Jeju? Is that even possible?

Pretty beautiful, isn't it? I took many nice pictures of the temple and was in quiet awe of it as I padded barefoot through the interior. Then I found out that it's only seven years old. It was probably built only so Korea could boast about having the biggest temple in all of Asia. My enthusiasm vanished.

We ate dinner in a flying UFO and then went back to the accomodations where I crashed hard and fast. It was a long day.

And this is a long post so I'll finish off the trip and my impressions of it tomorrow. Happy Rosh Hashana to those who celebrate.