Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Impressions of Beijing

Well, I didn't get to eat Peking duck like I planned to - boo hoo. The food I did eat was good but I don't feel like I had enough of a taste of Chinese food. No eggrolls? No fortune cookie? What?!?! It would have been nice for my family to be with me for a meal in China. We sure know how to order.

The architecture of Beijing struck me as very looming and disconnected. Each structure seemed to stand alone and command its space without sharing or blending in with its neighbours. It was difficult to feel pleasure in looking at any of these monstrosities. There was so much construction going on, presumably because of the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing. More looming buildings, it appears to be. Then, scattered at the feet of these giants were battered old clay roofed homes and crumbling apartment buildings. It was really strange.

Also, the city looked even more sprawling than Bangkok looked. I couldn't quite pinpoint why all these Asian cities seem so different from the cities I know back at home. Then I realized- they're three times the size. Beijing is a city of over 12 million people.

Despite that, the New Year holiday left the city quiet, or as one of you warned me it would be, a ghost town. I can't say I got a true feeling of the spirit of Beijing, which is too bad. I'm glad I didn't have to deal with millions of tourists at the wall, the square, and the city, for instance.

The people love Mao! I can't believe it.

Compared to Korea there is very little English in China - on signs and on the lips of the people we came across. Even salespeople working off tourist's money didn't seem to know common English phrases and words, like numbers or "how much?" They were less friendly and warm than the Thai people and they didn't even mechanically greet you like the Koreans.

There were many backpackers staying at my hostel and around the city. After the great wall hike the group of us were sitting around talking and it surprised me how much I know about Korea and how little this well traveled group knows. They were surprised to hear that nobody backpacks to Korea, and that the foreigner popluation pretty much consists of Canadian English teachers and American military.

"Really?? Why?!?" They exclaimed.

"Why haven't any of you gone there?"

Why don't people travel to Korea?? Having been now to a few Asian countries, I feel like might know why. There is a little bit of China in Korea, and a little bit of Japan, and a lot of "Western". Whatever you are interested in in Asia, I feel like you can get it in China and Japan, and the ways that Korea differ are simply not so appealing. I wonder if that makes sense.

In China we were celebrities. Everyone stared and a few asked to take their picture with us - what they'll do with that picture later I do not know. It will be funny to go home (to Canada) and blend in with the crowd.

The second most exciting thing that happened in China is that I found my alternative plan in case grad school doesn't work out. Can you guess?

Climbing the Great Wall of China

Sunday January 29th 2006

The alarm went off at 5:45am but I was already more or less awake thanks to my trusty internal clock that was waking me up every half an hour throughout the night, not to mention the constant new years firecrackers.

We jumped on the hotel tour bus at 6:30 and arrived at the foot of Jinshanling area at 9:15, and we started to climb the beaten footpath towards the wall. I was winded before we even got to the wall itself. Thank heavens for the trusty Chinese farmers who accompanied us and tossed a quick 'be careful' whenever they heard the slip of a foot.

Once on the great wall, with Mongolia to the left and China to the right, we walked in a group of about seven other young people along the difficult terrain towards Simatai. The steps were never-ending, steep, and crumbling. At some points we had to crawl up using our hands and legs, or at least I did. At other parts I had to bum down the stairs like a little kid.

When you take a look at the pictures, pay attention to the incline and decline of the wall as well as the beauty of it snaking into the distance. Also, remember to note how very empty the entire place was. Besides our small hostel group the wall was empty. We were all alone on the great wall. It was unbelievable.

At one point a tower and the wall didn't quite connect. I thought that if I swung my legs over and lay on my stomach I could reach my legs back down to the wall. I tried it.

"Where are my legs?" I asked a guy who had jumped for it.
"That's the problem, they're nowhere". I was hanging there unable to pull myself up and afraid of what might happen if I let myself drop down. Someone helped me and I was alright. When I walked around the long, safer way, I said to D'Arcy

"Darce, I almost just died."
"What happened?"
"I thought I was invincible."

She thought that was hilarous. I was slightly unnerved.

The views were incredible, as my photos will show, and we traversed the 10 kilometers - that's thirty towers along the wall - in four hours without ever stopping for more than ten minutes at a time. It was probably the most physically exerting experience of my life. I'll never forget it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

To tide you over

Climbing the wall, and I mean climbing, was a serious and incredible experience. I'll write about it this afternoon.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ni Hao, Beijing

We almost missed the airport bus this morning and had to jump the fence and jaywalk across Tower Rd. You don't mess with Tower road, named by us due to the lack of street names in South Korea, but at six in the morning it's aiight.

So it's pretty damn cold in Beijing.

With faces plastered to the window on the busride from the airport to the area of our hostel (1 km from Tiananmen square) we noted the trees planted row after row after row, the grey skies, and children playing with fire.

We successfully found our hostel (Kiran, so far so good with Far East...) and hit the streets, heading North through the neighbourhood hutong towards the square. Along the way we hit up some shops and bought the necessary Mao gear before running into a young Chinese fellow who we named Dylan. Dylan is twenty and wants to practice English. This was fine with us because he showed us the way to the square and shared with us some interesting things.

I bought a plastic Chinese flag which I later gave to a small child after her mother caught me stealing her photograph.

We thought about the '89 massacre and asked Dylan how he felt about it. He confirmed for us that not too many, if any, people died then and what Westerners say is an exaggeration. We didn't press further. Somehow I think that all the tanks firing into the biggest public square in the world packed with protesters would result in at least SOME deaths, but who's to say what's what? He blew me away.

The people love Mao here. We asked a girl in a t-shirt shop. He's the Chairman!! Of course he's good!!! Ahh.

In the square a woman asked to take her picture with us because foreigners are cool. But we occasionally get that in Korea as well. There are many foreigners milling about here.

The city is relatively quiet right now because it's new years eve. In celebration, people generally visit with their families, eat dinner, and watch a new years eve program with dancing and singing and the like. Maybe a ball drops, but I don't know. Out on the street there are firecrackers being lit at random along the streets and hutongs. It is reminiscent of Patong beach but not quite as scary.

We tried also to go to the Forbidden City but it's closed today.

For dinner our hostel hosted a "learn how to make dumplings" event in the restaurant. It wasn't too busy or even too contrived feeling. We filled twenty dumplings with various ingredients: carrots, green onion, Chinese cabbage, etc. They steamed them and served it with soya sauce. We had a nice, cold Tsingtao (sp?!) beer on the side. Dad, you'd have loved it.

Tomorrow the alarm clock is ringing at 5:45 so we (and our new German friend Chris/Guss) can catch our 6:30 bus to the Great Wall of China. We'll be hiking from one part to another (their names currently escape me... well I know we end up at Simatai) which should take five hours over ten kilometers of steep and risky terrain. I heard it might snow.

Everything here is really cheap. The sales people are a million times pushier than in Thailand and a lot less friendly. The people also speak very little English. I could have sworn I knew how to say Happy New Year in Chinese thanks to my Chinese highschool population. I guess "Kung Hey Fat Choy" must be Cantonese instead of Mandarin, or vice versa...

This is a choppy post, I agree.

I am in China! It is pretty incredible.

Friday, January 27, 2006

On my way to becoming a true man

He who has not climbed the great wall is not a true man. -Mao Zedong

Tomorrow morning D'Arcy and I are taking the 6am airport shuttle from Suji to Incheon airport. Once at the airport we're going to buy a multiple entry visa this time so that we can enter and reenter the country without a hassle. This is in anticipation of a potential trip to Tokyo in May. We're flying Air China to Beijing at 9:30, arriving at 10:30am Beijing time. We plan to hit up all the famous Beijing sites as well as seeking out any special Chinese New Years happenings.

I intend on getting some good pictures, eating some good food (hopefully), and seeing some good landmarks. Meeting some good people and buying some good knick knacks also top my list.

Kung hae fat choi!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Many many damagee

That's what the hairdresser said when I asked her if my hair was damaged. How do I fix it? Care! Ohhh, who knew?

What a hilarious hair cut experience I just had. I tried to explain that I wanted a cut and a moisturizer treatment, since I'd had magic straight done a couple of months ago. Then I sacrificed the moisture and just went with the cut - much easier to communicate.

I've often seen and heard talk of the over staffed establishments of Korea. It really is amazing to see how many people are walking around Lotte Mart ready to serve you at any given moment. Or how many people are behind the Subway counter. Here I had two women hovering over my head: my hairdresser and another. The only thing I noticed her actually do was brush a bit of stray hair off my forehead. Maybe she was there for moral support.

I always get a kick out of trying to have a conversation with someone when I don't speak any Korean besides my pro food ordering skills and when they are low on the English-ee. It's amazing how much we can actually communicate despite all that.

The hair dresser told me my nose earring is beautiful. Aww, thanks.

People also throw the word beautiful around. And happy class has started the bad habit of using "no beautiful" as a way of expressing anger or dissatisfaction with a classmate. Molly won't share her crayons with Elizabeth? Elizabeth retaliates with a "Molly no beautiful!" that sends Molly wailing. I taught good and bad manners today so we'll see how that goes.

Anyway, my hair is shorter but still long and loverly, despite the many, many damagee.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One year, one year

I've been a blogger for one year now. It's been a pretty good one, as it turns out.

This is schmutz

I hate how crunchy my socks are after hanging to dry in my cold little laundry 'room'.

So you wanna hear something ridiculous? I've already written a little bit about this winter festival that's quickly approaching. To refresh your memories, each class is to perform for about twenty minutes. Everyone except the five year olds are to put on an entire twenty minute play. In English. With props, songs, and the whole shebang.

They sprung this news on us about three weeks ago and a week later gave us a selection of plays to choose from. We made our choices, made copies, and chose the casts. Some teachers sent their scripts home. And this was when the phone calls started coming in.

I want to say something disparaging and generalizing right now but I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Maybe you can even fill me in. Hell, maybe it's like this at home and I'm unaware.

So we had a staff meeting about two weeks ago where the boss-man said that each kid should have as much speaking time as the others. Think of their emotional state, he said, when they'll always remember that they were a tree instead of Little Red Riding Hood. If he was really considering their emotional state he wouldn't submit these youngsters to such an important, stress-inducing event.

People had to re-write their scripts.

Since then individual parents called complaining that their little Sally is better than her roll and feels bad, etc. etc. It's such garbage.

Let's look at D'Arcy's class as an example. She is doing a play about Tom Sawyer. Yesterday boss-man calls D'Arcy into his office with a grim look on his face.

"I don't know how to tell you this." He began. She thought she was getting fired.

"Kelly's parents called. You're going to have to rewrite your play. She went home and said to her mom and dad that although she plays a thief in the play, she's actually a good girl. They cried when they heard their precious darling speak such pitiful words. Anyway, Tom Sawyer was never a good play."

Okay, so I paraphrased from D'Arcy's paraphrase, but that's the general idea. Can you believe that? I guess there is no play in Korea with a lead actor or any kind of antagonist. You know, these kids are going to have to buck up and face the facts. Life is unfair. There's such thing as pretending. And it wouldn't hurt to smile for a goddam picture once in your life.

Today, for lack of a better word, I taught my kids the word "schmutz". It means boogers or snot. Why not introduce them to a little bit of Yiddish? We were learning about things you do and do not swallow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My favourite boy Yoon

In this award winning video, Yoon discovers the magic of low rise jeans. Sorry Sara. Ha ha ha. Again, a delay. I hate the delay. How do I fix it?!?!

Listen to his awesome English skills. Can you make out what he's saying??

I love Yoon.


The other day D'Arcy bursts into my apartment. "Go to channel 32, quick, quick!!!" Turns out she was flipping randomly through the channels and came to a Korean program with people bungy jumping. At the SAME place in Phuket where we did it last month.

Wanna see the video?? There's a delay in the sound, as seems to be typical with this youtube thing, but you get the picture.

How insane-o is that?

Teacher, finished!!!

Everything has been sent out and it's out of my hands until around April when I hear the news. I was close to shaking putting the packages together. It's potentially so easy to forget something, or put the wrong thing in the wrong envelope. Oh golly.

What can I waste my time thinking about but not doing now?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Just about done

It's later than I like to be awake, generally, on a 'school' night but I've been reminding myself what it feels like to stay awake because of an essay. Man, why am I applying voluntarily for this again?

The long and the short of it, though, is that the DHL man is coming tomorrow afternoon whether I like it or not and away I will send my grad school applications. A medium sized load will be lifted off my shoulders and I will suffer silently for the next two and a half months, fully expecting that I will not be accepted. I really don't feel like I'll be accepted, and I don't like that feeling.

Did I self-sabotage this application? I sometimes have the bad habit of submitting less than my best work for no particular reason. Well, I guess the reason is laziness, or a lame-o attempt at providing an excuse in the case that I do indeed fail. I hope I didn't do that this time, but I can admit that I didn't get as much help as I probably should have. I didn't have enough editors, or advice from people in the know. We'll see if I can get in on my own.

Today I sent a hurried email to my parents begging for help. I need a money order sent to Western by next Wednesday and, lo and behold, the Hana Bank in Suji does not do money orders. Traveller's cheques? That just won't suffice. Thanks mom and pop.

Tomorrow morning I must stop by the post office for envelopes, re-read and print my statements one last time, and I guess that's just about it. I hope that's just about it. If a school's application process, website and technological involvement are any indication of the quality of its education, I'm staying far away from Carleton University. Unless it's the only school that'll take me.

I'm going to China in five days, five days, alright! My passport with its shiny new Chinese visa (I only travel to decorate my passport) and plane ticket SHOULD be arriving at the office in time.

I feel like I need a lot of finger-crossing these days.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I will stay at home all day and finish my graduate school applications if it's the last thing I do. I will, I will, I will.

Happy happy Birthday to Shelly. Hope you guys had lots o' fun into the wee hours of the morn.

Friday, January 20, 2006

One more for good luck

Clockwise from top left: Yoon, Brian, Peter, Elliot, Jessica Teacher, Stephanie, Elizabeth, Wendy, Mindy, and Alice.

It's the weekend! Hip hip hooray!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Korean Manners Day

Instead of a field trip this month we had a guest come in to teach the kids Korean manners; namely, how to bow properly and how to drink tea. I wonder if Korean kids drink tea. I didn't have the priviledge of understanding the lesson because I don't speak Korean. But I did see a film that featured a farting cartoon character. Gotta love Korea.

All the kids looked incredibly cute in their traditional Korean hanbok dress. Check it out.

Mindy, Peter, and Brian.

Mindy and Stephanie

My whole class except for Molly. Notice the drawing of my dogs taped to the wall on the right...

The boys

The girls.

Aren't they lovely?

It might interest you to know that boys kneel on the ground and bend their heads all the way down to the floor, and girls only kneel on one leg and bend their heads down slightly. I think this was all in preparation for asking for money on Lunar New Year.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

If life hands you a lemon

You know all those stupid highschool graduate quotes that tell you to dance like nobody's watching and live each day as if it's your last? Of course you do.

I'm living out a stupid quote and it feels fabulous. And no, I don't dance like nobody's watching despite what some might argue.

I have been living in Korea as if this is my only time in Asia and maybe even my last year ever. And as I start counting months left to go instead of months behind me, I find that urge to' do' gets even stronger.

I never really felt that urge at home. I've seen relatively little of Canada and the States despite the proximity of many interesting places, and the many long weekends that come my way. I should get on that.

Sure I'm living in a bit of dream world with no responsibility and lots of disposable income. Hopefully I can keep up the dream.

In Egypt I saw a family of four, the children as young as maybe eight, each toting their own backpack and dusty sandals. In Thailand I saw young couples with backpacks strapped to their backs and babies strapped to their fronts. I met a couple in their fifties who were traveling throughout Thailand for over a month. I met an Australian single mother with her teenage son and daughter, trying to expose them to the world after saving up for years. After this dream world ends I plan to continue fitting traveling in, regardless of and including my new responsibilities, whatever they may be.

Grad school applications are due in two weeks. I must DHL 'em by next week today at the latest. Guess I can put off finishing them until the weekend... Still not feeling positive. What about teaching English in Paris for a year?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Check out the progress

Some of you may remember back in the day when we took a close up look at the abilities of the four year olds of Happy class. Now that six months have passed and many of them have turned five, let us examine their progress, shall we?

Here is Mindy's worksheet. Though quite capable, Mindy prefers to do anything BUT follow the directions of the sheet. I once tried an "I write a letter, you write a letter approach" which was only so effective. On this day she evidently made an attempt to get started but became distracted with turning her h's into faces. Can't blame her - faces are pretty cool.

Here is superstar Yoon's worksheet; well done and without much to comment on. Yoon rocks. Today he started a fairly common kid thing (because I know all there is to know about common kid things) of whispering to me in my ear. When he wanted to tell me something he said "Jessica, ear please." We're on a first name basis.

This is Elizabeth's sheet. She has been easing her way into my favourite girl position over the last few months. She works slowly and carefully, putting great effort into her work. Looks like here she's got a slight backwards curve to her printing. Any analysts out there? She is the only kid in my class who makes sure to color and draw things realistically. No rainbow whales for her. It's grey all the way. I wonder if that's a good or bad thing.

Usually Elliot doesn't do anything when handed a pencil. When I distribue the crayons and give explicit directions to colour this or that, ten minutes later he'll come up to me and with his high pitched voice ask, "Teacher, colour??" "Yes, Elliot". He's still got that single pathetic little beauty mark right on his nose. I think his small h's need work.

Alice is my new little girl and she's doing great! I think she's probably one of the most advanced in the class despite her recent arrival, which is a great relief for me. Here she seemed to get a little ahead of herself with her big H's. Maybe they're all friends? I'm not sure. You should see the outfits she comes to school in. I've never seen more colours on one sweater, pair of tights, and skirt than I do on her. I guess she got a little creative with her fancy pencil border. Way to go, Alice.

Brian can write his name!! It took him so damn long but finally he seems to have gotten it. Though it looks like he forgot the u in Thursday but who can blame him. He didn't do too bad of a job with his H's but you should have seen his struggle with little e. It is a bit of a loopy and confusing one. G was rather difficult too. He's sweaty and clingy and has a hard time listening to the rules, but he's still a good guy.

Look, it's Peter! Peter is my class genius! He can even read the sentences that I put at the bottom of these pages, even if I haven't taught some of the simple words like 'says'. Alright, he's not perfect, but he's still very impressive. He finally learned not to write his entire name in uppercase letters. Maybe his printing isn't that great here but his vocabulary would knock your socks off. He thought of the word 'ink' for the letter 'I' the other day. Who knows ink?

Finally there's little Molly's work. She forgot the h in Thursday, again, no big deal. I think she's being sneaky and finishing her work faster by making her letters extra big. Thatta girl, Moll. I named her Molly and it's quite fitting. She's got these little sort of inward looking eyes and the chubbiest cheeks ever. In contrast to colourful Alice, Molly gets dressed in greys and blacks and sometimes blues, which is rather unusual in this country. But she's seriously cute and Peter has a deep-seeded crush on her. She's happily obvlivious of her power.

Not shown is Stephanie's work because she has the bad of habit of scribbling all over her sheet and then stuffing it into her backpack. Luckily her father, the director of my school, told me not to give her too much attention. She's a young one, she is.

Thanks for all your comments and kind words after my self-pitying post last night. I'm feeling back to normal for now. Maybe I'm not self-revealing enough on here.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Seeking refuge in low lighting

I'm feeling irritable, a little down, this evening.

Today I did just what I had planned which was to lounge around in bed all day and read. I'm reading this (so far) great book called "Red China Blues" by Jan Wong, a second generation Canadian with Chinese ancestry who comes of age in the seventies and heads to communist China in an effort to enhance her thinking. The book has thus far been an account of her experiences and thought processes as a young and passionate person. She talks about the ideologies and books that she was reading and being influenced by at that stage of her life.

This and other things lately have made me feel like I don't know anything about anything. That makes me irritable. I find myself saying things like "I haven't seen that" and "I don't know anything about that" regularly. I'm dull and unknowledgable. I don't know anything about world history or theories or even pop culture. What do I know? I don't even know what I do know.

Last time I felt down it was Jack Johnson that I played in the light of my lamp. Today it's the Decemberists. You should check them out.

Sometimes I pretend that I know things or that I'm hip with some kind of underground indie movie and music scene. But I'm not. I think of myself as a smart person but I can't get my thoughts together.

I bought the book in an effort to learn something about China and some of its history so I can have a greater appreciation and understanding of what I see while I'm there. I guess that's what I need to keep doing to change what's bothering me. Or maybe I'm just bothered because a phone call never came. Or because I don't like sharing food. Or because it's Sunday night. Anyway.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Waegook Song

For every English teacher in Korea, please follow this link. I guarantee you'll laugh so hard that you'll shed at least one tear.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I know nothing

It becomes very clear when I step out of my comfortable and relatively English friendly routine to try to operate in Korean society.

I'm losing my voice. So after work today I went to the doctor to see if I can stop the loss before it's gone and I'm screwed for a week like in September.

First I wasn't even sure if where I was was indeed the doctor's office I wanted. Then the rosy cheeked receptionist giggled incessantly at my approach. She spoke to me in Korean and I shrugged my shoulders helplessly. She could at least have tried some hand motions or something. At a loss, she ran across to the pharmacy to fetch an English speaker.

"Do you speak Korean?" She asked me. What do you think, honey? She asked for my Korean name. Umm... Je-shi-ka is pretty much how it's pronounced, though I suppose I could have given her the name my kids gave me earlier this week: Kim Mi Hyon.

When I got into the examination room, which is really just down a short hall in full view of the waiting room, a gaggle of elementary aged girls just about followed me in and sat on nearby chairs watching me. Give me a little space, please. I just had a bad day with my dumb elementary school kids. I actually hate this new boy I have.

The doctor speaks a fair bit of English and asked me about my symptoms, and then proceeded to prod me with metal and spray strange sprays into my nose and throat. "You will experience mild discomfort". Noo! I think he might have spread Tiger Balm on my throat. He sucked out the contents of my nose. Then he told me to rest my voice and gave me a prescription for who knows what that comes in a crazy-like package. Mini packets of a variety of about six pills to take three times daily.

The doctor's visit cost me three dollars and the drugs cost me four. If another coworker wasn't already taking the day off tomorrow for a genuine reason I would stay home and really try to rest this sucker. Instead I'll see how teaching without talking goes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It's show time

Pretty much every school like mine is currently in a frenzy preparing for their winter festival, otherwise known as the drama production timed perfectly to allow for gossip to spread and enrollment to occur before the new school year begins in March. Last year the production at our school was apparently a huge bust and a number of children quit the school. The reputation of a school matters more here, it seems, than the quality of the education. The things people care about are pretty ridiculous.

As far as I know, this drama production consists of twenty-minute long plays for each class that allows each six year old (or younger) student to speak for two minutes. We teachers were just informed of this festival last week and have since been scrambling to select an appriate play for our classes.

Is there such a thing as an appropriate play for six year olds to perform?

This just might be the one and only time I'm thankful to have the five year olds. We do not need to do a play, and are instead reciting a story and singing a few songs. Phewf.

To add to everyone's strife is the news that Open Class season is coming up. Again I am off the hook, but in two week's time almost everyone else will have to go through the whole parent observation class that I got over with in December. And I've heard that kids don't always behave as angelically as mine did. Suckers!

Unrelated to school, my fever is gone but I have a lingering sore throat so I decided to pop into the pharmacy to see what they had for me. Reason number 7 that I love Korea: I got two packages of pills (what they are, I don't know) for four bucks and never had to step into the doctor's office. I'm scared of the doctor's here - you never know what might happen to you! Hopefully whatever it is I got will do the trick.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Next destination confirmed

Why not spend the Chinese New Year in China?

D'Arcy and I have a reservation to fly from Korea to Beijing, China on the morning of Saturday January 28th returning the evening of Monday the 30th. Nothing like a long weekend in China, n'est pas?

It's only a two hour flight but a rather pricey one at over five hundred bones after visa fees and taxes are accounted for. The money will mean nothing one day so I don't bat an eyelash at the thought of spending that much on a weekend. If only the damn lunar calendar didn't screw me over so much this year. A three day holiday instead of a five day one bites the dust.

So who's got recommendations for things to see and do in Beijing?

In other news the exchange rate is seriously in my favour right now so I sent home 3.5 million won and got $4,100.00 CAD in return. And all the while I've been thinking in terms of one to a thousand. That's an 'extra' six hundred bucks in my pocket.

"Hey, can you lend me a grand for that bottle of water?"

Am I a show off or what? Besides all the teaching and concrete, you should really come to Korea.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Cool as a cucumber

I have a fever and a sore throat and have felt lousy since yesterday. Poor me. I want to wallow in self pity. Don't you hate those people who wallow in self pity when they have even the slightest cold?

I've been keeping track of my illnesses since arriving in Korea, knowing that working with children in a new environment wouldn't be so fresh and clean. So far it's been about one cold or ache of some kind a month, maybe every two. Could be worse I guess.

Things at school are same old, same old and I'm going to go to sleep now.. after I let the nyquil take its effect.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ice Fishing

Yesterday I went ice fishing. I guess I didn't really think through the idea. Obviously it would be cold and obviously my twenty minute attention span wouldn't particularly suit a fishing trip. Ahh well. I did get to watch a bunch of foreigners in shorts and tshirts freeze in a pool of icy water while attempting to catch fish with their bare hands. And I ate some raw trout. I think it was trout. And I ate cotton candy, which perhaps was the highlight.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back to school

Okay, enough about Thailand, at least for a little bit. Let's get back to the ever exhilerating complaints about teaching.

Korean elementary school children have close to two months off in the winter; in the summer they get about one month. During this holiday time they don't sit around playing ninetendo and reading the babysitters club like I might have done. Instead their parents load 'em up with classes: science, math, and of course, English. Maybe if they're lucky they get to go to tae kwon do and art a little more hard core than before.

Based on the staff meetings, though, I didn't expect much of a change in my classes. Maybe a few new kids would come and a few new kids would go.

Well, things have gone from not so great to pretty damn bad in my elementary school classes. Apparently I'm a well-liked teacher... ha. My Tuesday and Thursday class went from one student to six this month, and my Monday, Wednesday, Friday class went from six to eight. You might think this isn't much but every student makes a huge difference. Especially when you are stuck teaching the beginner classes so a new kid means starting from scratch trying to catch them up. There's nothing worse than a large spread in abilities and currently I have a kid who can read more difficult words like 'enjoy' and 'science' and a kid who can't even respond with a yes or no in the same class. This bites the dust.

Ah well. I guess I'm lucky that my new kindergarten girl, Alice, is pretty advanced and can keep up with the old-timers.

My kids are now officially six years old, since the first of January came and went. They're growing up before my eyes.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thailand videos

They didn't let us bring cameras into the ping pong show but luckily I did manage to capture a few other memorable moments in Thailand.

First is a clip of riding in a Tuk Tuk. It was fun partly because you felt like you could fall out or crash at any moment. And the zipping sound of the engine helped add to the excitement.

Next we've got a very thrilling and informative clip of the Grand Palace, Bangkok and Thailand's pride and joy. It was much more beautiful than it looks, sadly.

This is Muay Thai boxing, a brutally violent form of the sport we know with kicking and flipping and things. I read somewhere that before more serious regulations were imposed on the sport, fighters used to dip their resin covered gloves in glass shards to add a little extra zip. I liked the crowd more than the fighting.

This cracked me up more than I can say. What a well coordinated elephant.

Watch out for the spray!

And then there was New Years Eve at Patong. I felt like I was walking through a minefield. I never want to go back there again.

How 'bout that.

To see all my videos, go here.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Home sweet home

I just spent about two hours uploading and organizing all my pictures so now I don't even feel like posting them. I will, I promise, but you can check them out here if you just can't wait.

So my mother is dying to know the surprise that I alluded to the other day. Ready, ma?

She was happy to be assured by Wendy that it wasn't a tattoo or piercing. Well, sorry to disappoint. It's hardly noticable, I promise. See you in six months!