Monday, April 30, 2007


Ages ago I mentioned something to my co-workers about how much fun it would be to start practical joking in the office. I didn't think much of it after that until one of my co-workers started blaming me for every missing or misplaced item.

I hadn't taken anything! Turns out her students are kleptomaniacs. She insisted that it was me. Come to find out, she is a bit of a practical joker herself and was just egging me on. Well, two can play at this game. I started simply by hiding her scissors. (Arts and crafts with her kids must have been interesting without scissors.)

She retaliated by putting soap in my hand sanitizer. War has been declared!
I had been planning it for quite a while but my next move was to confiscate her pencil sharpener. Taking my cue from The Office, I put her pencil sharpener suspended in a jello mold. She clearly was not happy...but for the most part was a good sport. Her next strike was to put tape on my chair and fill my water bottle with the jello. I caught the tape, but without my water bottle, I was thirsty all day.

I think I am a point up because I proceeded to systematically reverse every thing on her desk and on her shelves to make a mirror image. It didn't take that long but caused problems for her the rest of the day (her Monday folders were in the Friday spot...etc.).

The battles might get bloody later on because this was only day two of the practical joke war. If you have any good practical jokes I could add to my arsenal, please leave a comment.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Spring at KC

Last Friday was a lot of fun. Each of the kids brought in a pot and a package of seeds and we went up to the roof to plant the seeds. Mrs. Lee bought 'potting soil' which was really just a bag full of sand.
There is no way that the seeds will ever grow but it was a fun morning. We talked about the different types of seeds and how to plant them.Because it was such a nice day, after lunch we got to take the kindergarten classes out for a walk. I was able to get them to sit still long enough to snap a quick class picture. Say 'kimchi'!

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Stupid Tourist Saturday!
Namdaemun Market. This shopping mecca is the place you might go for anything from clothing to ginseng. You can find school supplies and souvenirs.
The market is located near the north gate of the city. I love the historical buildings and structures with a background of skyscrapers. It captures the essence of the city.
I wish I was a better photographer because the repeating patterns in each of the stores made for some great shots.
Mmmmm! Dinner. Anybody else feel like turtle soup? They probably wouldn't sell these as pets. They were definitely for eating.

Friday, April 27, 2007


The weather has been beautiful this week. I started running again. It has been hard to get motivated because I've been so tired lately.
But I have a goal now! Last week Pastor Bill announced that Habitat for Humanity will be hosting their annual marathon fund raiser. I am nowhere near in shape enough to attempt a marathon or even a half marathon. However, there is also a 5K run that would be just about right.
Two co-workers and so far two others from church have agreed to run with me so we've started a little 'Team IWE'. It'll be good to have something to work toward. Running the trail is beautiful and it is just over 5K long (round trip) so it'll be perfect to train on.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


It has been confirmed. The plane ticket has been purchased. Come May 10th we will have a new teacher on staff!

For nearly six months I was the new teacher on staff. Now, two days after we loose a teacher we will finally get a new one.

This doesn't lessen the work load any because we'll still have a staff of six American teachers. In fact, they've been trying to pile even more work on us with daytime private tutoring and evening private tutoring. They even want to open a class on Saturdays for two to four hours.

But the prospect of having some fresh ideas and fresh conversation and a fresh attitude is very encouraging. We are already plotting the best course of action to corrupt her in week one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Changes on Earth

In the greater sphere of things, scientists discovered a habitable planet a mere 20 light years away from Earth. Global warming, full steam ahead!!

Elsewhere on Earth....this week I lost a student and then gained a student in Earth class. Our classes are named after the planets of the solar system. So I'm not just bragging when I say my class is down to Earth.

Esther (the pretty dumb one)(no, not pretty dumb...just pretty and dumb) transferred to another academy to be with her sister and cousins. Let me introduce my new student Aroah. (What kind of name is that?) She spent some time in America so her English is fairly good. When I sneezed today, she said 'bless you'. It caught me off guard because I haven't taught that to the other kids yet.
Answer: Aroah is the musical pseudonym of one Irene Tremblay, a Spanish-American singer in her early twenties with a dusty velvet voice..... Now it begs the question, Why Aroah?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Street Vendor Delicacies

If you live in Korea or ever get the chance to venture across the great ocean you should keep one thing in should never be hungry in Korea.

In addition to the numerous Western style restaurants (Outback, McDonald's, etc.) there are countless Korean style galbi restaurants and Korean BBQ restaurants. And just in case you might be hungry between meals, you can grab a snack with any of dozens of street side vendors.

I have decided to dedicate this post to some of my favorite street vendors. The appeal of these places is that they can pack up and move at any given time. If you happen to be craving a particular vendor, you my roam the streets for hours looking for where he set up shop. Additional appeal comes from the ultimately sanitary conditions in which food is prepared. All sarcasm aside, some of the products are really good!

My first featured vendor is the Egg Bread Man. What?!? You've never heard of Egg Bread? Imagine encompassing a whole egg in sweet pancake batter and then frying it omelet style to a nice golden brown. These are small and inexpensive (500W) but because of the egg and batter, they are very filling. Just one could tide you over any extended time between meals and I've never been able to eat two. Delicious!
My second featured vendor is Heart Attack on a Stick Lady. Why haven't Americans thought of this?? It would be the absolute perfect food to sell at baseball games. Take good old American corn dogs and deep fry French fries right into the batter. Ingenious!!
The batter (fries and all) are hand molded onto the dogs and then deep fried. They squirt a little ketchup on for garnish and taste and create the perfect all-in-one meal. For between 1,000W and 1,500W these are a bargain or a steal depending on your hunger level. Hunger satisfied!
My final featured vendor is the Do We Look Like We're on Fear Factor? Lady. Roasted silk worm pupa, or beon-dae-gi, are either an acquired taste or a delicacy in Korea. I see them often enough...but I never see people eating them.
Boiled on a bed of hot rocks they are often served along side miniature snails which I have no idea how you get out of the shell. I'm just not brave enough to try them. The jury is still out on this one.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Dictionary of Jack:

It's official and I'm sorry. I am addicted to YouTube. This video illustrates how frustrating it must be for ESL students when we as native speakers can't even figure it out. It's good for a laugh anyway.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mountain Palace

Maybe I'm a red neck, but the first pangs of homesickness didn't hit until my brother sent me this video. I can't wait to get back to my cabin!


Okay statistical experts...this challenge especially goes out to my brother's math classes....with 28 letters in three letter combinations, how many possible combinations can hanguel make? Scroll down to find out.

Arguably, one of the most scientific of written languages on the planet is Korean. The script, called Hangul, was invented for the sole purpose of easily conveying the spoken language in writing. Chinese characters couldn't be borrowed and neither could Japanese characters be used.

In the 15th century, King Sejong (who is one of the most noteworthy and celebrated heroes of Korea) invented a set of 28 letters that are 'easy to learn' and will 'improve the quality of life of all people'.

The characters can be arranged in groups of three which can then be put together to form words. Possible combinations. Okay, now we have a language.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Stupid Tourist Saturday!

Ever wonder what to do with all of those left over soccer stadiums you have laying around after hosting the FIFA World Cup? You could pour concrete over the field and turn it into a parking lot.
But then the question comes "What about the stadium bleachers?" The quickest, obvious answer is to turn it into the coolest flea market this side of the Pacific!
Thus Dongdaemun Market. The market has everything imaginable from designer clothing (Ralf Lauren is spelled with an 'f', right?) to restored electronics. It has everything from antiques to U.S. military paraphernalia. The array of items was dazzling you could easily lose yourself shopping in there.

I found a couple of items that I just couldn't pass up. Be sure to haggle. I got a 20,000W discount just because I walked away and then came back to one vendors stall. I probably could have gotten even a better deal but I am not near as skilled in the art of haggling as my brother.

After the market, we went to the National Museum to catch the floors I missed last time. I spent over 30,000W in the gift store and was rewarded with a free mouse pad. Sweet!
The day ended with a dinner in Itaewon at a fantastic Egyptian restaurant called Pharoah's and then dancing at a friends birthday party.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dancing by Matt Harding

This is hilarious, disturbing and amazingly awesome all at the same time. The outtakes are almost as good as the original. Check them out at

Bobcats in Korea!

Imagine my surprise and excitement when one of my kindergarten students came to school wearing a Montana State shirt. Isn't she cute?

I don't think she could have known I was from Montana or went to school at MSU because I've haven't told my kindergartners and I would be shocked if they ever paid that much attention to my personal life anyway.

Maybe she has some personal ties to football #34

or men's basketball #34 or women's basketball #34. However, none of the corn-fed-white-boys or-girls looks to be a close relation to my little Korean student.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Globalization of English

Thanks to M. who found this article from the New York Times. Interesting. It lends even more weight to The Mother Tongue.

"Business universities are driving the trend, partly because changes in international accreditation standards in the late 1990s required them to include English-language components. But English is also spreading to the undergraduate level, with some South Korean universities offering up to 30 percent of their courses in the language. The former president of Korea University in Seoul sought to raise that share to 60 percent, but ultimately was not re-elected to his post in December."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I was sickened the last couple of days to hear the developments of the shooting story which occurred on the Virginia Tech campus. For full coverage of the story and the latest developments via Yahoo News, click here.

No sane person could ever begin to understand why something like this happened. I think it is terrible to even consider laying blame on anyone besides the shooter. I feel confident that the university officials and law enforcement acted as best they could with the given information.

I truly hope there is no animosity toward other South Koreans living in the States or of Americans toward South Korea.

I hope each of us can say a prayer for those affected by this terrible event. Pray for the families who lost loved ones. Pray for the healing of those injured. Pray for guidance of school and political leaders as they work to prevent things like this from happening again. And pray for forgiveness for the shooter (though that is the toughest prayer).
We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on. We are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech ...
-- Nikki Giovanni, University Distinguished Professor, poet, activist

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A spoonful of sugar

Helps the medicine go down.

We have had a pretty busy schedule the last couple of months. Since January we have had a staff of six American teachers but we have been teaching the class load of seven teachers. That means no breaks and long hours.

Every staff meeting our boss baits us with "a new teacher will be here soon". We bought his ruse for the first two months but now we ask "how soon?" to which he responds "very soon." But we've learned to ask "have you bought a plane ticket yet?" To which he responds "No."

The bad news is that we may not get a new teacher until June. Nobody is able to come to Korea until after the American school year wraps up. In addition, Korea has gotten some negative press as of late.

Another of our current staff is leaving the second week of May so we might get to teach with a staff of only five! Lucky us!

To soften the blow of the extra work, they announced a pay increase. We are currently contracted for 1.9 million per month. We might get bumped to 2.0 or 2.1 million per month (average for this area) with an additional increase in overtime pay. We are excited about won't take effect until June pay checks.

Good news yes, but only with the bad news.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Kangchunsan Hiking

Stupid Tourist Saturday cont.
After the tea plantation and the bamboo park, we ventured north to hike Kangchunsan mountain. The trail is a leisurely stroll that is best known for its waterfalls and suspension bridge.
The trail follows a creek through the canyon and passes multiple waterfalls along the way.
The creek cascades down and was lined with cherry trees and other flowering trees.
The suspension bridge seems completely worthless. It is like architects got together and challenged each other just for the purpose of a challenge. The result: the Golden Gate Bridge (in Korea, over a creek, way up in the air).
It made for some nice pictures.
The trail converted from a leisurely stroll to a sharply jutting, jagged rocky ascent up the mountain. There were hand rails in some places and ropes in other places so that one could literally pull themselves up. The vista at the top was worth it. A small temple looking structure overlooked mountain valleys in every direction as far as the eye could see.
In the valley far below was a Buddhist monastery and temple that we had passed on the way up the trail.
I snapped this picture just as the monk was bending down to do some more gardening. However, it looks like he is bowing to his bulbs. I'd like to thing he is blessing them to grow well. Anybody know any good Buddhist blessings?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Damyang Bamboo Park

Stupid Tourist Saturday cont...
After the tea plantation we rode to the city of Damyang which holds a bamboo park and annually hosts a festival. (The Koreans are really big into festivals.)
The road to Damyang is famous throughout Korea because it is lined with majestic trees. There are stretches of the road that are long and straight and the trees create a tunnel that frames any picture well.
The park was opened in 2000 and has trails that wind through the bamboo forest. It has several displays detailing the many uses of bamboo including bridges, carts, irrigation, weaponry and many other useful implements.
I was very tempted to re-enact scenes from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and run up the bamboo to have some sword play while floating on the tops. Bamboo is really beautiful.
At any rate, it was a good place to meet friends. This guy is the self-proclaimed Socrates of Korea.
Damyang was a nice city with a beautifully crafted river and walkway. The cherry trees were in full bloom.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Boseong - Tea

Stupid Tourist Saturday!

After the jjimjilbang we breakfasted at a Korean restaurant. We knew it would be a good meal because there was a sign out front in English proclaiming "Good Restaurant".
We made our way by bus up the hills that surround Boseong to a tea plantation. It was beautifully manicured row after row of tea bushes.
When the wind blew just right, the sent of tea wafted up the hill. It was a beautiful morning.
Of course, green tea has numerous health benefits. The growing process is quite interesting which includes harvesting from April to May. The leaves are steamed to stop oxidation and then rolled, dried and sifted.Though we were too early but coming up in May is the Boseong Tea Festival. Check it out if you are looking for a good weekend adventure.

Friday, April 13, 2007


We left Gimpo right after evening adult class to catch a bus to Boseong for a tour. We rode the bus all night long and slept upright in the seats until 6am. Boseong is in the southwest province of the country.

Upon arrival we entered a jjimjilbang for my first experience at a Korean sauna.

The first thing I needed to do was to put aside any modesty. These places (unless family style) are attended in the buff with different floors for men and women. The building was brand new and the sauna immaculate. There were several large of saltwater, one of sulfur water, one of hot, one of cold.

The tubs are surrounded by shower facilities and afterwards you can use any of the complimentary grooming products including shaving products, combs, Q tips, and after shave. The products of course are shared and the combs have definitely been used before (what? sharing lice is in!)

The whole experience cost a mere 4,000W. The guys had it better off than the girls because it wasn't near as crowded. The girls came out complaining of having to bump into naked Koreans to make their way around.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Arboretum

My arboretum in the apartment is slowly growing. Every Thursday night since the first of March there has been a tent stall set up on my way home from work. They always sucker me into buying a new plant. The plants finally replaced the Christmas tree that adorned our living room entertainment center for nearly three months.So far I've purchased a red edged dracaena, a snake plant, a Carpahtian campanula, a rubber plant, and an English ivy. I've always had a bit of a green thumb and the greenery really does spruce up my room. The warming temperatures put me in the mood to care for plants.