Friday, September 9, 2011

Chuseok: Year 2

I am working on Vietnam: Part 2. Trust me.. I haven't forgotten! (Well, maybe I did a little)

Until then... Happy Chuseok weekend! The principle surprised all of the teachers with a little "Thanksgiving" present this morning. A box of 12 cans of spam! WOO! I have no idea how to cook spam... or don't know if I even want to. But, it was a very nice gesture nonetheless.

If you were here from the start, you probably remember that Chuseok is about the time I started up this blog (Chuseok 2010). Last year, I arrived the day before the Chuseok holiday started and didn't know anyone, was completely disoriented, and was basically clueless. A year later, I can officially say that I have met some amazing people and have learned so many things that I wouldn't have learned otherwise. I have 4 more days left of teaching... FOUR DAYS!? I don't know how the time just flew by or where the months have gone. In a week, I'm packing up my things and movin' on out-- movin' on out to Seoul for a few months that is. My original plan was, go to Korea for a year and be back in good ole America by this time. Unfortunately for my family and friends, I have met someone worth sticking around a little longer for :) Fortunately for me, I get to stick around with all of these great people for a little while longer (and finally go to Japan in a month!).

For now, Happy Chuseok everyone :) (If you want to learn more about the holiday, I found this helpful link: Chuseok)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Happy monsoon season!... Or typhoon season? Hurricane season? All I know is something like this for the past two months:
Rain, thunder storms, and humidity so thick that you can cut it with a knife. And, when it isn't raining, the heat is magnified by the humidity. Oh, and all of my Californian friends and family have NO idea what real rain is like. I mean, for the past 23 years I had no idea what real rain was like. Imagine approximately two months of rain like this... but even harder:
(Video taken by me from an apartment in Seoul)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daum Street View

Daum is one of the most popular search engines in Korea, next to Naver. They have this cool thing, very similar to Google street view on Google maps. I discovered it a few months ago, although it is slightly difficult to navigate if you have very little knowledge of the Korean language. I can get by, but I'm still very much a novice when it come to typing Korean and knowing what any words mean (although I can read the Korean to you)!
Here's a cool website that I found, describing the features in English. If you live in Korea, you can check out your neighborhood or look around your house to see if you happen to be around while the Daum car was cruising about. If you don't live in Korea, there are some links of some popular places around the country so that you can look around and see what Korea is really like.
Anyway, here it is... Enjoy :)
Daum Street View: How To

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Top 3 Things I Have Bought in Korea

With my contract coming to an end in about 3 months, I have been thinking about my stay here. There has been plenty of good times and I have enjoyed it all. When I first got here, there hadn't been a foreign English teacher at my school for over 6 month. That meant that my school had to let go of the apartment the previous foreign teacher had and find a new one for me. I have friends whose apartments came fully equipped with everything a person could need in an apartment, down to the cleaning supplies. I bought everything myself, which was a huge learning experience. This isn't because I haven't lived on my own before... I learned many of those wonderful "on your own for the first time" things in college. Korea is a whole different world: a new language, a different climate, different appliances, etc. 
Who knows if the laundry detergent I just bought has bleach in it? I guess I will find out when I throw it in my load of colored clothes... when I do my laundry in the machine with only buttons in Korean. You mean one week I will need the air conditioner and the very next I will need a heater? And the heater is in the floor? And it heats the water as well? Everyone drinks instant coffee here? There isn't an oven? Where are all of these mosquitoes coming from? This huge cabinet by the door is actually a shoe rack?
I could go on and on but there are a few things that really helped me get by...

If I had to pick the top 3 things I have ever bought in Korea, they would be:
1. Coffee maker
2. Toaster oven
3. Space heater

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sports Day at My Middle School

Remember back in October when I posted about our school festival? Well, another similar school tradition throughout Korea is Sports Day. It's a day where children and adults alike get to let loose and run around a bit. Korean kids are generally restricted to studying and more studying at all hours of the day, so it is nice to see them get a little free time to run around outside (whether or not it is mandatory!)
Back in October, the school festival was a little awkward. I had just arrived and was thrown into this school wide event (and had to sing). The students didn't know me and I didn't know them. This time around, it was a little more fun. I didn't have to sing and I was able to chat with the kids and cheer them on as they participated in the events. I participated in jump rope and a parent/teacher-student relay. I wasn't quite prepared for the relay... and neither were my muscles according to how sore they were the next few days. It was really only one lap so I guess I am a bit out of shape.... AND it was really hot outside, ok?? All I learned is that Korean moms are super competitive and WILL NOT hesitate to use their elbows (keep that in mind next time you race a Korean mom). One of my kids even came up to me today and said, "Teacher, fast." haha I was bombarded with presents of bread, powerade, soda, ice cream, and more all day; the benefit of being older is that you get treated with quite a bit of respect... aka, gimme all of your food!! There was also a dance contest to "Shy Boy" by Secret. Probably my most favorite memory of the day! (Video of the dance contest, plus more pictures if you click "read more")

Taiwan in 48 Hours

This past weekend, I got to enjoy a 3 day weekend due to Memorial Day in Korea. Luckily, my friend Amber, was visiting her family a short distance away in Taiwan. So, of course this is where I decided to spend my 3 day weekend. I hadn't seen her in almost 9 months (our longest time apart since we met 6 years ago!) I probably took every type of public transportation possible during the weekend in order to go back and forth between the two countries, but it was well worth it!
Fans waiting for Korean group 2am outside of our hotel in Taipei
This cat did NOT want to be on a leash
Games at the night market

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Wedding and the Trick Art Museum

Back in January, during the school's winter break, my coteacher got married. I was invited to the wedding (last minute of course). Weddings in Korea are a lot less about the private celebration and seem more commercialized. Her wedding was at the Novotel in downtown Korea. The wedding started right on time and within 15 minutes, she was out of the wedding hall and a new wedding was about to start... kind of like a rotating door of weddings. We then proceeded upstairs where we ate lunch at a buffet with guest from many different weddings. Meanwhile, my coteacher was off to a traditional Korean wedding ceremony that just involved the direct families of the couple. The whole thing seemed a lot less intimate than many of the Western weddings we are accustomed to, but it was beautiful nonetheless.
My coteacher!
Buffet/ "Reception"
After the wedding, Shaun and I went off to see the traveling Trick Art Show. Imagine: a museum created specifically to take pictures in. There were directions on how to take pictures in order to accurately deceive the eye. It was incredibly crowded and hard to take pictures with so many people around, but it was still a ton of fun! Check out some of our pictures....

Winter Vacation Part 2: The Philippines

Remember when I used to be good at posting semi-regularly on this blog? Yeah, neither do I... ㅠㅠ (Korean emoticon. Yes, I went there. More on those later!)

For the second half of my vacation days I went to the Philippines. Lucky for me, we got 3 days off for Lunar New Year at the start of February. So, I chose to go on vacation during that time so that I could have an extended (more relaxing) holiday. That meant a 12 day vacation for me... 10 of which I spent in the Philippines and 2 of which I spent in Seoul.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy April Fool's Day!

Today started off like any normal day... Most Koreans don't think twice about today, but I know better. It is April 1st. I had already discussed my plans to mess with my kids' heads with my coteacher (the one who had lived in Canada, and had experienced the day in a Western country first hand). There are 4 other teachers in my office. My coteacher (John), the old man, and I are usually the first ones in. Next, comes the Math teacher. As she walked into the office, John told her that she needed to go to the principal ASAP because he needed to talk to her. With a confused look on her face, she headed toward the door. My coteacher then yelled, "Happy April Fool's Day!" and she let out a huge sigh of relief.
Then, I entered my first class..... 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pursuit of Life

"Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life" - Lawrence K. Fish
I found this great quote very true to my own life right now.
Go out and try something new...
Travel to new places...
Meet new people...
Open your eyes to novel experiences...
I wholeheartedly believe that your life will become richer by doing so.

P.S. I also KNOW I need to make some more time for my blogging. I promise (for the billionth time) more updates are on their way. I have just been busy with getting used to my schedule for the new school year. I told you all at the beginning that I am bad at this blogging thing :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2011 School Year: Week One

Thursday and Friday were my first few days of classes this year. I've been basically just doing name tags with them and playing some games. I figured I would start off my first full week of teaching (this week) with rules and all of that boring stuff!

A few observations, thoughts, and rants:
- I sometimes forget how incredibly creative, funny, and intelligent my students are... even the lower level English students. Given the opportunity, kids will shine :)
- I was a little nervous to be teaching after over 2 months out of the classroom. It was almost as if I was teaching again for the first time. Seeing those cute, familiar faces looking back at me made all of that go away. (And they still yell out "SANTA BAR-BA-RAAAA" and "CAL-I-FORNEYA" every chance they get, from my first introduction back in October)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Handle your New Native English Teacher

Happy first day of school! And welcome to the new spring Native English Teacher bunch.
I found this little article on and found it pretty amusing if you are an English teacher like myself.
If you are not, each native English teacher is given a Korean co-teacher to help them with any needs inside and outside of school. It is done to help the native teacher adjust to their surroundings and understand what is going on at school.... basically, I can't speak Korean and have no idea how Korea works so I need a Korean's help. Also, it helps to have someone at school who you (hopefully) trust and can talk to about anything going on.
Enjoy :)

Foreign Teacher Operating Instructions

These are my fantasy instructions for dealing with native English teachers like myself.  Tact is very important in Korea, so while I tried to bring these things up gently when necessary, I couldn't hand out a booklet of operating instructions.  It was so tempting though, that I'm posting them here for your enjoyment instead.  This is meant to be funny, and not an indictment of Korean teachers: most of the teachers I worked with were very accommodating.  For the few that need all of this advice, though:
Congratulations!  You are now the lucky handler of a genuine Native English Teacher, specially imported from one of the Six Major English Speaking Nations.  Please follow these instructions carefully in order to assure optimum performance.
   1. Remember that your foreign teacher is a human being, and not actually an English practice robot.  Generally, when you speak to her, she will assume that you are attempting to have a conversation, and as such, upon being asked for the fifteenth time whether she knows what kimchi is, will assume that you think she is stupid, and possibly give you a public telling-off.  If you feel you need practice with the phrase "Have you tried kimchi?," please attend her free conversation class.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Winter Vacation Part 1: Thailand

As a public school English teacher, I am allotted 18 days of vacation: 10 days during winter and 8 during summer. These days have to be within a certain time slot (when the kids are not in school and we aren't teaching any winter/summer camps) and have to be approved by the big guys (aka my principal and vice principal).
I took my first 4 days from Dec. 28-31, meaning i had Dec 28-Jan 2 because of the weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn't have that Monday off since the kids were still in school. Shelley and I shipped off to Thailand on December 28 and arrived at the Bangkok airport around midnight.
Goodbye snow!!!
DAY 1: Bangkok
We arrived at our cute little hostel, where the front desk staff was patiently awaiting our arrival. Oddly enough, our roommates ended up being English teachers from Korea and one of them went to school at UCSB... small world.
The front of our hostel was a cafe,
equipped with a delicious breakfast and
a friendly staff with plenty of travel tips

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vacation Updates Coming Soon

Now that my vacation days are officially over, I am working on updating you all on my travels.
I just came back from a 10 day vacation in the Philippines and I had a 6 day vacation in Thailand after Christmas. New blog posts coming soon about them, I promise!
Meanwhile, I am adjusting to sitting at my desk instead of the white sand beaches of Boracay....

A little of what is to come:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Muju Ski Resort

I FINALLY got my snowboarding fix in. After hearing about all of my friends back at home going boarding (and being super jealous), I found a weekend I could actually make it to the Korean slopes. Thank god I decided to teach in a place that has mountains.

Saturday morning at about 8:30am, Shaun and I took a bus to Muju from Namwon. Almost 2 hours later we made it to Muju (thanks to the non-express bus... about 4 or 5 stops later). The free shuttle to the resort decided to pass us up, so ended up taking a taxi... which happen to be a lot more expensive than in other cities. As we got closer to the mountain, we saw the streets littered with rental shops. I'm not even sure if other businesses exist because all you could see for blocks were skis and snowboards. We stopped at the end of the row of ski shops and walked into the first store we found. The people working there were very friendly, spoke decent English, and even offered to drive us to our hotel. We rented everything we needed there: boards, boots, outfits, goggles. It turned out to be about 70,000 won each for two days worth of rentals. Insane right??
By the time we got our equipment, checked in, etc, it was about 1pm. Not as early as we had hoped to get on the mountain, but fortunately the slopes in Korea  are open until 2am!! Instead of purchasing a day lift ticket like back at home, the day is broken up into different sessions (and closes for 2 hours in the afternoon to plow the slopes): early morning, morning, afternoon, evening, night, late night. So, the amount depends on when you want to ski but is still relatively inexpensive compared to home. AND if you pay with your KB or NH bank cards, you get about 20% off of your ticket purchase.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Christmas Time in Daegu and Namwon

About three weeks before Christmas, the streets of Daegu started becoming decorated with lights, green and red decorations, and bad English xmas sayings.
The first Christmas tree I've ever bought for my own apartment.
All of the stockings I found at Home Plus had sayings.
I settled on the best one...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas Time in Seoul

The weekend of December 3rd, I went on a trip to Seoul with Shaun. We both took the bus from our cities so it took about 3 1/2 to 4 hours for us to get there. Because we got there pretty late, we decided to have a calm night so we just checked out the surrounding area (Walker Hill). We walking around a casino near where we were staying. So, 1. I didn't really realize S.Korea had casinos and 2. I really didn't realize they were only for foreigners. There is apparently only one casino in all of South Korea that Koreans can gamble at. All of the rest are for foreigners only and IDs/passports are checked at the door. According to some article I read, casinos and gambling are generally looked down upon anyway due to Confucian beliefs, which the government supports (but the government also supports the tourism that casinos bring in from foreigners... very contradictory). And now the government owns 51% of the shares from the one casino Koreans can gamble at... seems silly to me.
Christmas at Walker Hill
Beautiful view of the river.
The next day we went to the COEX (an enormous mall) to eat lunch. We went to On the Border- who knew they had that in Korea??- to satisfy our Mexican food cravings. Unfortunately my enchilada had a very interesting taste to it, but it was nice to have some "Mexican" anyway. We then went to the Lotte World shopping mall. There was some weird Christmas marching band/parade thing on the ice skating rink. We watched it for a little and went to the shooting range. It was my first time EVER shooting a gun and I actually wasn't half bad (2 bulls-eyes out of 10!). We walked down the street and looked around Olympic Village. I was so sad that none of the ice skating rinks around Seoul were built yet, but Seoul is still WAY more Christmas-y than Daegu. We moved hotels for the second night and it was decked out... complete with a HUGE gingerbread house!
Giant gingerbread house.

Winter Desk Warming

Monday marked my first day of desk warming. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it is the time during winter or summer when the students are not at school, yet us English teachers are required to come to school anyway and, well, warm our desk. They decided to take the door off of my office (painting and putting on new doors eventually) so I have to sit in the main teacher office for awhile and can't do whatever I want, such as watch movies, sleep, etc. School doesn't start up until the end of February and I am already bored.... One of my coteachers gets to go home at 12 these days, but refers to it as "Daegu JoongAng Middle Jail" for me. This video describes it perfectly: "Hitler Has to Desk Warm"