Sunday, 20 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Ours actually doesn't get that hot, because our building was set up to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly, so it starts storing energy during the day and only gets warm at night. With the windows close, it does help to warm the apartment gradually. As we have a western style bed, we don't have much use for it when we sleep. However, there are other ways to benefit from this system. I've found that laying my clothes for work in the morning out on the floor results in the same joy as wrapping up in a blanket fresh out of the dryer. Also, the space and concrete support needed for the ondol keeps apartments from having those paper-thin barriers between the floors; something I would have loved in college.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
A few of the things I mention are in an article Bonnie (another fellow teacher and friend) and I wrote for Andong in the EPIK Newsletter. You can find it here (click on "Gyeongbuk" and Scroll down to "Andong Teacher's Give Back"):
Unfortunately, they forgot to put Bonnie's name on the article, so it only has my name listed. She wrote the first part about the teacher's class, and I wrote about Korean class and martial arts.
Outside of school, which I'm at from 8:40-4:40, I have acquired a very active schedule in the evenings. Here is the breakdown:
Hapkido: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.
(Above photo by Andrew, with Helen in the background and our Hapkido master on the left. Usually everyone's in uniform, but this was from a pretty laid back, small class day.)
Our Hapkido studio is about a 10 minute bus ride from our home, and although we learned later there was one near my school, we wouldn't dream of switching. Not that it wouldn't be fun to spar with my students, but I would hate for a 4th grader to take me down. Plus, our Hapkido master is quite possibly one of the friendliest people in the country. He doesn't speak very much English, but it doesn't make a difference. As with most things in the country, we understand through body language, and this is the best example of that. We mimic him, and when we misunderstand a certain kick or take down move, he steps in and holds our leg or arm in the proper position, or shows us exactly which pressure point or sensitive area or the arm or leg we are aiming for. No further explanation needed. Ouch. A lot of the things that we do are in a line (rolls, flips, pad kicks, etc), so as long as we don't start, it's pretty easy to pick up on.
Poker: Wednesday, 8:30-12am.
Another hobby I picked up since I've been in Korea is poker. Ironic, considering how it's illegal for Koreans to gamble and I should choose to learn how to do it in their country. (picture taken on my phone- a bit blurry and dark)
After Hapkido we all meet up downtown and head to Andrew's apartment. He has a little side room, like a sun room with wall-sized windows, which is the perfect size for a table and chairs. We call our poker game "The Golden Pig" because we have a sparkly golden piggy bank that we all throw a 500 won coin into before each game. If anyone gets a royal flush, they win the pig. We don't have a backup plan for it when that inevitably never happens.
The usual group is Me, Scott (whose arm is pictured dealing), Andrew (on the right), Dave (on the left), and Helen (between them), although Alice and Katie come by sometimes if they don't go to their Taekwondo class. Katie is dangerous. We play with a 10,000 won buy in, winner takes all except second place, who gets their money back. Katie has never failed to get first or second whenever she comes. It's amazing. Recently we have picked up another two maybe-regulars, Miz, an Aussie from a nearby small down that scooters in to Andong, and Andre, another EPIKer from the September group with Helen. It's great to look forward to something in the middle of the week and be able to wind down and reconnect with my friends if I get too busy to see them otherwise.
Teacher's Class: Mondays at 6:15, once a month.
A big group of the EPIK teachers got together to teach a volunteer class on rotation every week, Monday and Wednesday. It turned out that so many people responded to help teach the class, that Scott and I only do it once every four weeks on Mondays. Because the classes change teachers every week, we took to using the schedule for "Survival English" on bogglesworldesl.com. It is very well planned, and we could use similar handouts and easily review the prior lessons to keep the whole class from falling into disorganized chaos.
Korean Class: Tuesday, 6:30-8:30
We tried a Korean class during the spring semester, but it wasn't a conversation class; there were about 8 Korean instructors to sit down with us and go over a textbook, but essentially no structure and a little tedious. Although it did give me practice in writing characters and their sounds, which has been invaluable. This new class has been much better suited to my personal learning style, with one instructor who talks with us. He asks us questions and we learn how to give answers based on our personal lives. What we learn is more from the impulse of the moment, which is fantastic.
Therefore, I leave every morning at 8:15 and get home at 7:45 on Monday (unless we teach the class, then 9), 9 on Tuesday, midnight on Wednesday, 5 on Thursday, and 7:45 on Friday. It's been harder for Scott, who teaches a 2 hour class after school on Wednesdays and Thursdays in addition to everything else.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Scott and I met up with Alice at Emart yesterday because she was going to buy a Siamese kitten. Emart has a fully functioning vet clinic and pet store on the second floor here, which I didn't know about until this weekend. While Alice was cuddling her new found friend and signing some paperwork, we had the chance to fall in love with two little Persian kittens who were also in the store. We were doomed from the moment Alice went into that office. Not that it was a complete whim, for we'd already done prior research into having and relocating an animal back to America.
And that is how we met and acquired Po- we named him for the city he was born in. The vets in the office speak English, which helped make our decision at the time. He's only two months old and still has some shots and...other medical procedures to be done, so it makes it easy on us that we can just take him back there. He was born on Sept 26 and was bred in a home and not a kennel, so he's already litter trained and perfectly social. Persians also have the benefit of scarcely shedding and being quite quiet (as evident by his only 2-mew car ride home), a trait that will be of great benefit as a cabin passenger on a flight back to America in another year. I don't know if I should disclose the price of him, for that is the drawback of falling in love with designer cats, but I will say that he was only a fraction of the cost that a Persian kitten would be in America.
Back at home Po settled in quite comfortably.
He's quite perfect (so far...), because he already is a cuddly fuzzy lap kitty, but also very playful. An early fixation on wires meant we needed to do a bit of kitty-proofing on our apartment. During his first day, he discovered half of our apartment, and I think I'll miss his awkward little kitten gait when he gets older; bouncing and halting from place to place, flinching suddenly at the dangers inanimate objects pose after staring at them for 5 seconds. He still hasn't traversed the 15 foot expanse of open room to discover the kitchen or the bathroom yet, but I'm sure he'll be climbing into sinks in no time.
He can't yet jump up and down from anything, so it was a rather big surprise when he insistently kept finding ways to climb on the bed last night and effectively trapping himself there. We let him stay after about 4 rounds of this, taking our chances on his tiny bladder. I built him a makeshift ramp this morning in case he needed to conquer the bed again while we're gone.
He's currently experiencing his first independent run of the house while we're at work. Unless he's figured out how springy his legs are in the past 7 hours, I think our apartment will be relatively free of mayhem.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Korea also doesn't stock the Thanksgiving essentials that I'm used to: turkey, gravy, cranberries, stuffing, or pie. However, my co-teacher Mrs. Im did hand me a cup of coffee this morning and say "Thanksgiving coffee" so the day wasn't without its special touches.
I'm so lucky that all of my friends and family back home are continuously supporting me from so far away. With the holidays upon us, I will be missing you all the more. Thank you guys.
Monday, 23 November 2009
But for all of her advanced communication, she was still a little girl, so we spent the next fifteen minutes talking about Disney World. We both very much like Splash Mountain and Animal Kingdom, but she recommends the test track at Epcot on my next visit. There is nothing more endearing than a little girl excitedly telling you about a hippopotamus blocking the track of the Animal Kingdom safari ride with a giant piece of meat the size of her hand half sticking out of her mouth. I hope I can run into her every day.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
The backdrop of Gyeongbokgung, a large mountain, was also an item of interest. Bill explained that the best location for a place, according to Korean tradition, is between a mountain and a river. The flow of water would guarantee good fortune for the future of the family, and the mountain offered strength and protection. For this reason the palace was built with the mountain to its back and a moat-like body river of water flowing through its front courtyard.
Because of the rain, there wasn’t much to see or say through the mist around the observatory looking in to North Korea, save for a tree or two that may have still been in the South. Nonetheless, we were still required to stay behind the photo line (which was right where the observation deck roof stopped, so there was no shielding us from the rain). I'll have to go back. Behold, North Korea:
The trip down to the 3rd infiltration tunnel was better. I officially spent Halloween in a dark creepy tunnel used for the purpose of North Korean invasion. Like all of the tunnels they found, it was headed toward Seoul, and it was one of their longer endeavors. We had to wear hard-hats because it was rather short and narrow. Scott talked about this tunnel on an earlier visit to the DMZ, (at www.fourteenhoursaway.blogspot.com).
We also had a chance to see Dorasan Station, the train station built with a railway to Pyeongyang, in the event of reconciliation with the North. This would also allow for land travel to other parts of the world, which South Koreans are otherwise incapable of doing because of the Northern blockade.
Getting back into Daegu after the DMZ on Saturday was an altogether different adventure. The plan was to arrive back at 7. Enter the worst foreigner in Korea, Patrick. There is one teacher in the EPIK program who is like a badly written character in a movie- the kind written without realist qualities that make them human. Patrick decided to insult and inconvenience all several hundred of us without a care. Each time we set out, he decided to switch buses. On Friday he went from bus 2 to 3, Saturday morning from 3 to 1. He did this, of course, without telling the people in charge of attendance, making us 20 minutes late on Saturday (which made us then miss our time slot at the DMZ to watch a documentary and slip another hour behind). When our POE supervisor, Angela, told him he should go to bus 2, he told her he was going to stay on bus 1. Never mind that Angela's boss was also on our bus. After telling her no three times, his bus 2 tour guide came on and asked him why he had no common courtesy for others, and he told her he liked the bus 1 tour guide better. In the end he didn't leave.
On the trip back to Daegu, we stopped at a rest area and were told 5 minutes, because we were already so behind schedule. After 20 minutes, nobody could find Patrick. He wouldn't answer his phone, and people were searching the whole rest area for him. He had gone back to bus 2 without telling anyone. Incredible. We were then caught in a wave of traffic, and didn't make it to Daegu until after 10. That was 3 hours later than scheduled (and 40 minutes behind the arrival of bus 2). At this point everyone on our bus needed special arrangements, because the buses stopped running out of Daegu at 9:30. When Angela was explaining alternatives, our bus driver started shouting rapidly, causing Angela to stop, smile, and tell us "Oh, he is talking about the Patrick." I wonder if he'll be allowed to stay in the program after this one. We did have one small justice. He left his bag on the bus so he had to wait for us to get in.
Several of us decided to stay in Daegu anyway, so for me it wasn't terrible. Plus, it was Halloween, and foreigners in costume were abound. I managed to catch Swine flu, but not to worry, I didn't bring it back to Andong.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Its nationally recognized too, and every grocery store and stationary shop has a big display devoted to Pepero. I went into one of my favorite stationary stores for a pencil case, and half the stock had been moved or put away so that the length of the store was covered in different styles of Pepero, as well as cards, bags and baskets, and decorating materials for dressing them up as gifts.
The idea is that couples will buy Pepero sticks for each other, but it's also turned into a gift giving day for friends and teachers too. Before each of my lessons today, I asked my students "What did you do yesterday?" (because we're learning several expressions using past tense), and in every class they were shouting "Pepero! buy/bought Pepero!" Do I think Lotte's an evil corporation turning children into consumer slaves? No. I'm not that melodramatic. The whole concept is actually pretty fun. I mean, you can get about 4 boxes for the equivilant of $1, less if you choose to give larger individual Pepero sticks.
It's mostly just the energetic spirit of giving, and as holidays go, this is by far the cheapest and most random. It also worked very well for English class, because shy students were given a catalyst to come up and speak to me personally using some simple English phrases ("Here you are," "This is for you!"). Adorable. It was a very good day to be a teacher. I think I shall be happily munching these sticks for a long time.
Monday, 9 November 2009
After a week of beautiful dry and rather warm weather, the rain started to fall as our bus was about 5 minutes outside of the park. We were not deterred. This being the third time mountain climbing in the rain since I've been here, I've gotten accustomed to wearing a poncho.
We were slowly becoming one with the fallen leaves and the river of water at our feet. We were very wet.
The storm made the whole place look very eerie as the darkness started to close in under the clouds, and a creeping fog floated around us.