Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mushrooms and Trekking

Stupid Tourist Saturday and Sunday!

No rest for weary travelers. After five action packed days in Beijing it was time to return to the Korean tourist routine. We signed up for the Pine Mushroom Festival with Adventure Korea.

The website had advertised the the festival to include such events as horseback riding and bare handed trout fishing. No such luck. Not to put down the Korean sense of fun but the festival was kind of lame. The Rhubarb Festival in Ulm, Montana has nearly as many activities.

So what is a festival? Do we really need to celebrate things like pine mushrooms, rhubarb, chokecherries, or sweet peas? Many festivals are fun but it seems like we should have a better reason to get together and celebrate.
They did have a couple of interesting displays and activities. They had an old fashioned thresher which we could try out with freshly picked rice.

There was also a man demonstrating weaving grass shoes as was traditionally done before modern shoes.

After the festival we were led up to the mountains where we were each allowed to harvest one mushroom as designated by a guide. The mushrooms are supposedly quite expensive and one mushroom may run you $10 US. A kilo of mushrooms is upwards of $300. The pine mushroom is valued for its late season harvest in which it retains a lot of moisture and has a woody aroma. We tried some mushroom soup and then grilled the rest up for dinner. On Sunday, we went trekking. This is were you walk, climb, wade, swim, traverse, jump, balance, ford and hike your way up a river. It was beautiful and fun. We got to cliff jump into a pool of water. I wasn't sure if I'd ever dry out after that adventure. What festivals do you attend?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stairs I Don't Take Two at a Time

Life ambition #3....check. The Great Wall. The only man made object visible from space. I climbed the Great Wall! It was everything I'd ever imagined. Sometimes I get my hopes and expectations up and then am disappointed with the results, i.e. most movies based on Michael Crichton books (Congo, Sphere, Lost World). They are such amazing books and such crappy movies. The Great Wall however, did not disappoint. We toured the Badaling section which was the first to be opened to the public, the most heavily restored and thus the most visited. We got there early and didn't have to fight the crowds to get up. It was a pretty strenuous hike and I definitely couldn't take the stairs two at a time like I normally do.

Once at the top, there wasn't much to do but turn around and come back down. Our tour guided had only given us an hour and a half and some people for lack of time or because of physical condition didn't make it to the top. I also walked in the footsteps of The Amazing Race contestants. It was in season 6 when they had to try unlock a lock with a given key on the Xi'an city wall. The padlocks are supposed to symbolize never ending love.On the way down we met a lot of people trying to get up. I can easily see now why the steps were so worn along the wall. With that number of visitors even stone wears out quickly. What are your life ambitions?

Friday, September 28, 2007


From Tiananmen Square we walked past several museums as well as vendors selling everything from guide books to kites.
Our own guide book was quite comical and describe the square saying "bicycles are against the law (but apparently tanks are okay)."
We were talked into taking a rickshaw ride the rest of the way to the Temple of Heaven.

Inside the grounds we stopped to listen to musician families enjoying the afternoon making music and then berating each other when they were off beat or off pitch.

Everything in China signifying heaven is round including the buildings, ceremonial grounds, and burial plots.
The buildings had some beautiful tile work all in blue and green (as opposed to the royal buildings of yellow). On each tile was either a dragon (the emperor) or a phoenix (the empress).
It is a really nice park and a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
What mythical animal are you? Dragon or phoenix?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Forbidden City

Once only open to royals and court officials, the Forbidden City takes up the greater part of central Beijing and is truly breath-taking. The city is situated on a north-south axis with a mountain at the north and water all around. (Something about good chi.)
Inside the moat and exterior wall are countless ornately decorated buildings, gardens, statues, etc. The tile work on all the roofs was yellow which symbolizes happiness and was specifically a royal color. In contrast, all the hutongs that surround the Forbidden City use grey tiled roofs.
The stone carvings are amazing and one has to wonder how long it took commissioned artists to create all of the art word. The courtyards are massive and each one is immaculately laid out.
I wouldn't doubt that there were more than 50,000 people that visited the Forbidden City that day...probably more.Just outside the walls of the Imperial City is the Gate of Heavenly Peace which is easily one of the most recognizable structures in Beijing. This marks the north end of Tiananmen Square which is the largest city square in the world...supposedly.

We started at the north end and made our way south which is opposite of the common tour. It was much better that way because we didn't have to deal with the crowds of people as much.

Where do you run into big crowds?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dictionary of Jack: Good

Duty Free

Needless to say, our trip to Beijing was amazing. We saw and did so much in four days I'm gonna have to break it up into about 12 installments on the blog. The next week or two I'll highlight all the cool stuff we saw and did (Great Wall, Forbidden City, etc.)

We got to the airport last Saturday with plenty of time to spare (which is more than I can say about this morning's return trip...but more on that later). I don't think I have ever truly given a good sense of how much Koreans like to shop. On previous visits to the airport I was amazed at how packed the duty free stores were and more so, they had a duty free pick up counter.

Apparently, you can shop duty free online now. Know any friends going on an international trip? Shop online and have them pick up your items at the airport. This is definitely the thing to do as the pick up section of the store was packed.They had each person's items bagged and labeled on two stories of conveyor belts. Attendants on the top floor just dropped stuff down to the people below. Each item was in about four different bags and then after you picked up your purchases, they had to be checked and then re-bagged in another two bags. Seems like one of the middlemen could have been cut.Then, if you didn't get your fill at the airport stores you can buy stuff mid-flight. I wonder if the stewardesses (sorry, flight attendants) get commission from the sales. They were hawking that stuff pretty viciously.

Unfortunately, I didn't need any cigarettes, cosmetics or liquor so I refrained from purchasing.

What have you bought duty free? Ever purchased anything from those SkyMall magazines?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Taxing the Aliens

Maybe Korea has it figured out. Maybe not.

I was informed yesterday that my boss had paid my residents fee. At first I didn't know what they were talking about. Apparently Korea charges everybody living in the country a yearly fee. I thought that is what taxes were for (which I do pay). It is an interesting concept. Taxes aren't very high but they find other ways of collecting.

For example: Garbage collection services are free...but the mandatory regulation garbage bags are a dollar each.

After they gave me my receipt for my residents fee, I actually felt kinda special that they would splurge and spend $4 on their favorite teacher.

This will be my last post for several days because I'm off to Beijing. What weekend plans do you have?

Happy Chuseok everyone!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Mrs. Lee took us to dinner tonight to thank and congratulate two teachers who will be leaving on Tuesday.
Rule of thumb: Never say no to a free meal.While we dining we noticed a curious sign. 'Descending Life Line'. Since the restaurant is on the seventh floor of a building and Koreans don't really believe in fire escapes, this was their solution. I'd hate to be the one to try it out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bills, Bills, Bills

Bills, bills, bills. It is that time of month again. The roommates and ex-roommates had better cough up.

Utilities are cheap here and as that is the only expense we pay for our living situation, I really don't mind. The total bills for our apartment are approximately the same as what I was paying for my utilities in rural Montana.

Phone and Internet runs about $35 which is mostly the Internet charge because we rarely use the phone. Gas is between $30 and $4o a month. The water/electricity/maintenance is rolled into one and that can vary from $175 to a whopping $310. Split three or four ways it really isn't bad.

All the bills are paid at the bank. I can walk up to the teller bills and money in hand and she'll file my payment and mark the account paid. It is a pretty slick system. Sometimes it is a little challenging finding time to make it to the bank but over all it is very easy and effective.I have to take my bills to two different banks but fortunately the banks are right across the street from each other and both are a block from the school. Despite my inability to read or speak Korean I can easily take care of the bills.

Are bills something you dread?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hunting Elusive Prey

My return to the States is coming frightfully quick. I had a dose of reality last year at about this time when I realized how long of a process job hunting is.

I am in the process of searching out that elusive perfect job again this year. Here are my desires in order of importance:
1. Work that will allow me to be happy and enjoy my job.
2. A job that will bring me satisfaction in knowing that I made a difference in the world.
3. A job that will pay me beaucoup bucks.
4. Co-workers and a boss that are easy to get along with.
5. Moderate amounts of vacation time.
6. The opportunity to travel internationally for business (and vacation on the side).
7. A little time off to pursue an advanced degree (or better yet, financial help).

Is there such a job? Am I setting my sights too high? Let me know if you hear of any good positions that are open or that will open in the next couple of months.

Until then, I guess I'll just keep filling out applications.

Did you find that perfect job?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Buzz on Daffy

Every once in a while my Blogger Dashboard will point me toward some really interesting things from the blog sphere. Today's highlights are a new blog called Hobo Teacher and Blogger Play.
Hobo Teacher offers some excellent insight to the world of teaching. He says it best that in order to keep our sanity we often poke fun at the situations we are put in.

Blogger Play is a new feature on blogger that offers a slide shows of pictures being uploaded in real time. This is an interesting concept and serves well to demonstrate the diversity of the blogging community. It is easy to lose time just watching the pictures scroll through.

In other news: It was a lazy Saturday in Gimpo. Yoon Teacher called us to go to eat at our favorite duck restaurant. Back home to relax and digest our meal.

Do you eat duck?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nore Bong

The Korean teachers invited us out to nore bong with them. Somehow in the process of it we were shuffled into a room of our own. They wanted to sing only Korean songs and didn't want to be bothered by the occasional English song.

Since there were only two English speakers we killed our vocal cords for an hour. It was a night of classic rock and pop from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

What is your favorite genre of music for karaoke?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sneak Peek

This movie looks ridiculous but funny. It is called Mr. Woodcock. Staring Sean William Scott and Billy Bob Thornton (two three name actors). I might have to go see it. There is a funny Montana reference in this clip. They probably used the only two funny lines of the movie in this clip and in the trailer. Said to the stewardess on an airplane, "Bring me a real bottle. I'm an alcoholic not a Barbie doll."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I would like to introduce you to a staple food in Korea....toast. This is not your run of the mill ordinary toast, this is Isaac's. I've tried a number of them, but the one in Gimpo is my favorite. I love the walk up window. Koreans don't believe in drive-throughs but apparently walk-throughs are much more acceptable. The Isaac restaurant chain serves a variety of grilled sandwiches. Think grilled cheese but better. Each piece of bread is grilled to perfection and then spread with a sweet, buttery herb sauce (secret recipe unknown). A scrambled egg patty (with corn mixed in) is layered on. Next comes your choice of meat (ham or bulgogi). Then there is a heaping amount of shredded cabbage and a squirt of special sauce. Finally, a slice of processed cheese. The sandwich is neatly wrapped in a napkin and handed to you for carry out convenience. This place has become one of my regular places of food consumption partly because it is delicious, partly because the owners are a hoot, and partly because it is ridiculously cheap (this meal $3). The restaurant is named after Isaac (the guy from the Bible). But rather than adopting the English pronunciation (I zak) they opt for (EE sak). Either way, it says a darn good meal.
One the side of the beverage cup is the passage from Genesis 26:12-13:

Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:
What mispronounced name or word do you hear most often?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Never Fails

I was slightly worried about what I would blog about. It was just an ordinary average day. I should have learned that Korea never fails or disappoints.

I came home to a street mall and carnival. I guess it was kind of like a block party with vendors, entertainment and food. They had cross dressing karaoke singers,
a huge food court with a spit of pork roast,and dozens of vendors for anything from shoes and cookware to bedding and artwork.My favorite was the rice cake machine. A dollop of batter, a lot of heat, and a lot of pressure and... viola! Rice cake. The machines shoots them out like a high powered air rifle. Good thing there is a screen to stop them from injuring people.

What was your last block party, bazaar or carnival like? What do you like most?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Classroom Management

I decided to tighten up my classroom management style and the discipline in my class. It hasn't been bad (by my standards) but I decided to try some different tactics today.

I tried to nip potentially disruptive situations in the bud before they got out of hand. Monday is a good day to do that for my class because most of the students are tired and sluggish from the weekend. On the weekends they usually don't have bedtimes (even my kindergartners). On Mondays the kids are sleepy and low key.

I always hated the idea of classroom management because it isn't really something you can be taught but it is something that has to be learned. Going through teacher training in college I always dreaded classroom management the most. I didn't want to be a teacher because of that. I love to teach students who want to learn. But, if they don't want to learn, I don't want them in my class.

My technique (if you can call it that) is based on expectations. I set very high expectations for myself and for the students in the class and I want them to live up to those expectations. All students consciously or unconsciously seemingly have a desire to please the authority figure. When the students don't meet my expectations, I show them how disappointed I am. So the next time they try to please me by acting appropriately or learning the material.

I am not sure it is the best technique but it works for me because I am not an authoritarian teacher and the soft spoken approach doesn't work because I lack the needed amount of empathy.

Time will tell if my efforts will improve my class' behavior.

What management techniques do you use for your class/home/office?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Biblical Ignorance

I have been wanting to go to the aquarium at the 63rd building ever since we went there the first time way back in April.
I was unfortunately disappointed with the aquarium. It cost 12,000 Won ($12 US) to enter and it was pretty small. It did have some varieties of fish and other critters I've never seen before. We watched the sea lion show for a while and then headed to church.

The lectionary came from a book of the Bible that I have never heard of before...Philemon. It is a small book (one chapter) but in all of my years of church I don't think I've heard a sermon from it before. Sunday school was an awful long time ago and I don't remember the book of Philemon from that either.

When I took a semester in Missouri we would regularly look up Bible verses. To know if we had found it, the leader would say "Raise your hand if you've found it, say Bible study if you haven't."

I felt like saying 'Bible study!' aloud in the middle of service. The book is one of Paul's letters and I quite like the text.

What's your favorite book of the Bible? Why?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Pseudo Goodbye

After a day of shopping, I met up with everybody for a pseudo goodbye party. CW is going back to the States for three weeks but then will be returning to start her second contract.

We went to our favorite hole-in-the-wall sogum gui restaurant in Yongsan for dinner. Afterwards, we found a really cool street drum festival in Hongdae. Video here.

We then went to a jazz bar with live music. Video here. We also found some delicious crepes where you could point to any of thirty varieties displayed on the wall. We bar hopped our way to a place that served not only peanuts with your drink but also kim (seaweed) and fish oil. We ended the night but we don't say goodbye. We say, see you later. What do you say?