Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy Unbirthday

We went out to dinner to celebrate a co-workers birthday. She had gone shopping and showed up with a present for me. Today must be my unbirthday.
These shirts are becoming popular in Korea. This is the second one that I've seen and now I'm the proud owner.

It was a girls shirt and didn't fit my shoulders very well. Plus it is a wretched color. As long as it says Montana State, I'll wear it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Rice Fields

On an agricultural note...

A view of the rice fields from my apartment window shows that production is fully underway. All the fields in the area are flooded and so that means the area is hot and muggy with all the extra humidity.

Ever wondered what the 12 steps to rice production are? Click here to find out.
And let's not forget take-your-garlic-to-market day. With this much garlic it is no wonder why the food tastes so good and why so many people stink of it.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Midnight Run

I never thought it was that bad. Yes, the first several weeks were hard and frustrating but really!

She's gone. Our new teacher that came just in time to keep us from drowning two weeks ago is gone. Without a word to anyone she sneaked out of her apartment on Sunday and probably boarded the first plane to America. We had all gone out on Saturday night and there wasn't any indication that she would leave. She had brought groceries on Friday and a variety of other goods that under normal circumstances would have indicated she would stay.

Sometime on Sunday she did a midnight run. No one noticed her absence until Monday morning. This is a huge shame and insult to the hagwon as they worked hard and spent a lot of money to get her here. And of course it really hurts the rest of the teaching staff because we have to try and cover her classes when we were already understaffed.

I guess she just couldn't hack it. Leaving a beloved pet, living abroad, working hard, working with kids, etc.

We've heard stories about the occasional teacher in the past who pulled a similar stunt and disappeared. We jokingly talk about the perfect midnight run scenario: 1) Stay for one month and get your first paycheck. 2) Ask for an advance on your second paycheck. 3) On a Saturday night close the door to your room and then quietly sneak out. 4)Board the first plane to the States.

I never thought anyone would ever do it though! And she didn't even get her first pay check. No matter how bad the situation is it, one year isn't that long. Despite any of my complaints, we actually have it pretty good and we make pretty good money.

The down side of a midnight run is that they flag your passport. If you don't get on a plane before they flag your passport, you can be detained. If you do make it out of the country, you can't return for a minimum of five years. Pretty light punishment if you ask me.

All in all it was a crappy deal. She leaves us with a ton of work. The school fronted a lot of money to get her over here and there is no legal action for them to take. It hurts the reputation of the school and it leaves the students without a teacher.

Every cloud has a silver lining and we might be able to get a temp until our next American arrives in the middle of June. Cross your fingers for us.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Langkawi, Malaysia

My day was consumed with going to church and then researching airfare and hotels to Malaysia for our summer break. We've been talking about it for a while now and it is just a matter of deciding specifics and buying the tickets. Both of which need to happen soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sweet Hog

Stupid Tourist Saturday!

After lounging around most of the morning, we all met to go to Ilsan for a mid-afternoon snack. Two of our students mom just opened up a new restaurant there and invited us to come check it our. Ilsan is a booming newly developed part of Seoul that is ripe for investors and business owners. Many of the buildings we walked by were still under construction but you could easily see that the whole area will big money in the next month or two.
The restaurant is called CanMore (somehow a derivation of 'You Can Do It', the Konglish was hard to figure out). They serve sandwiches, coffee, fruit smoothies and a variety of other snack type items. Alvin is in the kindergarten program and Betty is in our middle school program. It is their mom who runs the restaurant. After gorging ourselves we take out our wallets only to be told it was all on the house. We took Alvin and Betty to the park and found some battery powered miniature Harley Davidsons and other motorcycles to ride. It was only 5,000W for 30 minutes so we had to try it. We kept getting whistled at by the park traffic coordinators because we weren't driving in the right area but it was fun.After we saw the kids back to the restaurant, their dad gave us a ride back to Gimpo.
Later in the evening, we went to Itaewon for CW's birthday dinner at a Bulgarian restaurant and I and a melt-in-your-mouth pork dish. We ended the night meeting friends and dancing in Gangnam.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Kimchi - Why We Love This Stuff

So, the adventures from yesterday were so many that they had to be broken into two posts.

At the temple we were wandering around saying, "There is so much cool stuff to buy, I wish I had stopped at the ATM." Then we see it.
The pinnacle of the entrepreneurial spirit...the portable ATM machine. Wired into the Shinhan computer system, this ATM allowed us to step up onto the trailer and make our withdrawals. Thank goodness. I now had enough money to buy my Buddha's Birthday t-shirt.

After lunch we were close enough to the COEX mall that we decided to take a slight detour. On the second basement level of the mall, the Kimchi Field Museum is housed . By now you should all be familiar with this delightful food but if not, you can take the refresher course here, here, or here.
The museum was one of the most expensive I've been to at 3,000W and showed the evolution of kimchi. As it turns out, kimchi didn't progress to include peppers until well after Columbus's voyages to the Americas. Peppers are originally from the Americas. The museum showed the ingredients of various kimchi varieties and included a tasting room. The museum also chronicled the evolution of the kimchi pot from tree stump to clay to plastic. Cool!!After the kimchi museum we headed back to Insadong to visit the Jogyesa Temple. By the time we made it there is was raining heavily. The temple was packed and nothing had changed from Sunday so we left quickly. It was raining so hard shopping in Insadong wasn't even fun. I bought a nice wall hanging and then we headed home.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Buddha's Birthday

We had the day off from school today so we headed into Seoul to take part in the Lotus Lantern Festival to celebrate Buddha's birthday.We went to the Bongeunsa Temple by the COEX mall and the Samseong Subway stop (Line #2). The temple was packed with tourists and worshippers. The main attraction at the Bongeunsa Temple was the paper lantern displays. They had some very artistic designs that were really beautiful. The first one we noticed was a phoenix. Throughout the grounds they had paper lantern deer, cranes, tigers, frogs and of course lotuses. They transformed one of the temple buildings into a display for some of the more elaborate and delicate lanterns. We had a very nice tour from an English speaker who was working temporarily at the temple. She was from Trinidad and Tobago. The lanterns were really neat. Our guide told us the story of Buddha and the symbolism behind each of the lanterns.Outside, we watched a ceremony and traditional choir. We walked the grounds to check out all the different types of lanterns - most of which had prayer requests pinned to them. The colored lanterns are to honor people who are still alive and the white lanterns are to honor those who have died.We watched worshippers indoors and out. It was a neat atmosphere.After the temple we went for lunch in Saigon (a Vietnamese noodle soup place). Either the food was delicious, we were starving or a it was a little of both.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Somerset Fun

Amazing Race. The winners of this leg of the race are...

PC Fratboys

Bite sized morality.

Lotus Lantern Festival (preview)

Sunday after the barbecue, we stumbled on the Lotus Lantern Festival Buddhist Street Festival in Insadong. This is one of the kick off events of the Lotus Lantern Festival.
The festival celebrates the birth of Buddha and was started in the three kingdoms period (approximately 57B.C.). The festivities include lighting of City Hall, a traditional lantern display, the Buddhist street festival, a parade and various other celebrations. We went to the Jogyesa Temple and put our shoes with the hundreds of others at the door.
We walked in and took a bow to the three enormous statues of Buddha. A monk chanted a service which was blasted through speakers throughout the temple and into the courtyard.
People offered prayers as they poured water over the head of a statue.
The courtyard had two lantern displays, one of pure white and one rainbow. This is just a preview of things to come as Thursday we get the day off and will be braving the crowds to experience Buddha's birthday firsthand.
FYI: The lotus is a well known symbol of Buddhism for two reasons: for keeping its purity while blooming from mud; and for bearing a flower and fruit at the same time and demonstrating the laws of cause and effect.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Goodbye Party

Three of our friends from church will be returning to the States in the next couple of weeks. Yesterday after church, B~ hosted a farewell party on the rooftop of his building. He has a sweet pad through his job with an airline company and then he has access to the rooftop. It is a nice terrace with a beautiful view of the city.
We barbecued, visited and just admired the atmosphere. It is sad that they are leaving but I am sure they are happy to be returning to friends and family back home.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Traditional Folk Village

Stupid Tourist Saturday!

We decided to go to Suwon to visit the traditional folk village. The commute was longer than expected because the bus we got on had changed its route since the last time I rode it. (The 9602 no longer goes from Gimpo to City Hall. It goes close but I suggest you get off at the palace and find a subway station.)
Then we had to catch a later train because the train...the cheap seats were all sold out. Finally, we boarded the shuttle bus from the Suwon train station to the folk village. By the time we got to the folk village, it was noon (we left Gimpo at 7:45am).

We had a very quick walk through the village and then caught a traditional wedding ceremony. The groom rode off on horseback with his wife in a bridal box.
We then watched the paper making process which they took a bamboo screen and then dipped it in water collecting the suspended paper fibers. The screen was pressed onto a mat. They continued this process, layer after layer until they had paper of the desired thickness. Check out the video.

We watched various artisans crafting spoons, weaving shoes, weaving silk, etc. We also saw a demonstration of some Korean equestrian skills. Check out the videos.
We even got to walk in the footsteps of the famous Korean actors of that oh so popular drama. You know the one I'm talking about.We left just as a troop of boy scouts and girl scouts showed up.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Field Trip

How much more literal can you get than - field trip? Our school administration wanted to take the kids to a field to play games. Friday morning we loaded up all of the kindergartners and went to a really nice city park about 5 minutes away. It had rained on Thursday and the grass on the field had just recently been planted so we couldn't let the kids play in the mud. Plan B.We took pictures by the fountain then let them play on the jungle gym, slides and swings.The kids were having a great time but one of the supervising Korean teachers was getting bored so we had to start playing structured games. We did tug-o-war, egg and spoon races and three-legged races. My class was paired against some slightly younger students and so we won every round. It usually consisted of a bigger kid dragging their smaller counterpart across the finish line in the three-legged race. We had a picnic and then headed back to the school to beat the rain clouds moving in.

Friday, May 18, 2007

One Korea??

Will we see the South reunited with the North in this lifetime? It might be possible.
This week has been big news here with the historic test of opening a train route across the DMZ. This is seen as a big step in bringing the two countries together and permenantly opening the border.You can read about the first trial run here. View the pictures here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rainy Day

It has been weird weather this week with everything from thunder, lightening and rain to wind. Just when it seems the typhoon has hit, it clears off and is sunny the rest of the day.

Here is a shot of the rainy street from one of the school windows. I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow because we have a field trip planned with the kindergartners. They already postponed it once for yellow dust and once for temperature.

I wish there were more people who double majored in meteorology and education. The effect of a low pressure system on student attitude and behavior is astounding to witness. Has there been any research on this? Let me know if there has been.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Once again I am compelled to share a Dictionary of Jack creation from one of my favorite Tubers. Why??
1. I am lazy and not in the mood for a real blog post.
2. I am currently an English as a second language teacher obsessed with grammar and the proper use of words.
3. I had a request this morning to connect you, my readers, with even more brilliant, insightful, and comedic material.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Happy Teacher's Day

Well, I made out like a bandit on Teacher's Day. All of the public schools were closed today but the private academies were still up and running.
Students throughout the day presented us with a multitude of presents. Some of my more notable gifts included socks, a belt, cologne, aftershave and skin lotion (from different students). If Sarah Lee invented the pound cake, then Korea invented the ten pound cake. This monstrous thing is a Korean rice cake, deok. It and three pizzas were given to me for lunch for the teaching staff. The cake has a little bit of everything in it maybe including the kitchen sink. It weighed so much that the handle on the carrying case broke on my way home.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I’m gonna be all over egg on a bowl of bibimbap.
My new favorite Korean catch phrase! Don't know what bibimbap is? Click here.

Some other favorites of mine include the following. Most of these are pretty lame but I think they are funny.

He's more broke than Owen Wilson's nose.

I'm so ice cold, I have to be measured in Kelvin.

I'm so old school, I still think Pluto is a planet.

I'm so sexy, Justin brought me back five times.

I'm so sweet, Slugworth stole me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Farmer's Market

The exciting weekend didn't happen. Stupid Tourist Saturday turned into Lazy Saturday.

I did go running to try and prep myself for the upcoming 5K run I'll be doing. My body told me that once a week probably isn't going to suffice for training. On the way back to the apartment I found the Gimpo Farmer's Market. It is held on the 2 and 7 days of the month.
Plants, fruit, seafood, clothing, cookware and a variety of other merchandise could be found.

They had pens of live ducks, rabbits, and chickens from which you could choose tonight's dinner and watch them butcher the animal.
They sold lots of fish and one vendor even sold cow intestines. I didn't know anybody ate cow intestines!