Hank and David

Friday night after work, all of my fellow male coworkers and I decided to go play ping pong. Just so you know, out of all the Korean teachers, there is not a single male Korean teacher in the elementary school area and there is only one female foreign teacher. So, there was a total of six of us. Had a blast playing ping pong although it was a bit pricey. I think it's about 9,000 won for an hour and 6,000 won for half an hour. Nevertheless, I had a great time. There were some good matches and I think Calvin, the new teacher from Ohio will be my best competition.

We left around 11, when the place closed and decided to go and get a drink. Everybody was pretty exhuasted from the Chuseok break so we weren't planning on staying that long. The place free pool (not a big fan of pool probably because I'm horrific) and darts. Also, the owner, 'Honey,' had an online jukebox player. He was a really nice guy and asked if there was anything I wanted to hear... Sure enough, the next songs I heard belonged to Hank Williams Jr. (Kawliga) and David Allan Coe (The Ride). I don't know of too many bars in the states where they will let you play that kind of old contry twang, but this is Korea. It made my night, sitting in Korea, listening to Hank and David. Needless to say, the night was not so early and we ended up leaving about 4:30 in the morning after Spenser disappeared. We found him at the bottom of the steps, talking to a Korean lady he had met in the past few weeks in a very sentimental tone.

Other quick news, the computer has arrived safely. The back is a bit banged up; however, it works, which was my major concern with it crossing the Pacific. I joined a gym yesterday - worked out and it felt fantastic. I didn't have enough cash so I'm headed back today with the extra money and my phone number.

Bear Down Chicago Bears, Bear Down! Bears vs. Packers on Monday night football and I might be able to watch it this morning, Tuesday morning!

Hope everyone is doing great!



So, this past Monday I went to Deokjeok-do, an island off the coast of Korea close to Incheon. It was a wonderful trip and I was able to beat the crowd to the island. So, the first night, I had to only share the beach with my coworker, Jonathan. Our group, which consisted of about 10 people showed up the next day along with about 100 other foreigners. The peace and quiet was gone. Nevertheless, it was a great vacation. The highlight for me was the hike up the tallest hill on the island.

Katrina and I ended up staying until Thursday afternoon since we both had to be back at work on Friday. It was a nice relaxing trip - the only bummer was the fact that the best day, weather wise, was Thursday, and we only got to spend half that day on the island. The one night I thought our tent poles were going to snap with the wind. It was, without a doubt, the windiest weather I have ever camped in. Still had a fantastic time and I am looking forward to our next camping adventure.

(Ferry - took about an hour, an hour and a half to get to the island, 2 hours to get to the Ferry Terminal)

(View of Incheon from the Ferry. Jonathan and I sat outside for the trip.)

(I believe this was a Chuseok gift for somebody on the island)

(Arriving at Deokjeok-do)

(View of the town and beach)

(Green Walk. They had this awesome little trail through the town with pine trees that are hundreds of years old. It was a wonderful nature walk.)

(Mural in the town)

(Fishing boats on the island)

(Katrina walking through a bamboo walkway shortly into our hike)

(Beautiful sunset. My forearms are bruised from volleyball.)

(Pagoda at the top of the hill)

(View of Seopori Beach)

(Katrina resting during our hike. You can see the pagoda in the background.)

(I love Seopori in Korean)

(View from our tent - yep, right on the beach)


You Like Ham?

This upcoming week is Chuseok, an American equivalent of Thanksgiving, at least that's what I've been told. From what I understand, it used to be a time to help with harvest and everyone would return to their parents or grandparents house and lend an extra hand during harvest season. Now, at lot of the kids in my class said they just go hang out with the grandparents and they love Chuseok because they get pocket money (anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 won or $50 to $100). It being the holiday, my employer was kind enough to get me a nice neat package.

(Sweet bag I can use on shopping trips that the box of meat came in)

Inside the package was two loaves of ham. I don't know if loaf is the proper term to describe ham or if that is even correct. Also, I got two pork rolls, another funny description for meat, as well as a pickle mustard sauce. The highlight of the package, besides the bag it came in, was the mini freezer pack I can use on my camping trip this upcoming week. I have off this Saturday until the following Thursday, go back to work Friday, then have the weekend off. Unfortunately, Katrina only has off Tuesday through Thursday; however, we are going with a group of friends and people we have met before to an island close to Incheon - Deokjeok. Jonathan, a fellow coworker at Avalon, and I are going to head up Monday to set up our tents and scope out the island.

(Regular ham, Peppercorn Ham, Two Rolls of Pork, Pickled Mustard Sauce all inside a sweet Box. Happy Chuseok!)

Almost forgot, I was in the men's lavatory and the principal of my school walked in. We have had a few conversations, if you can call an exchange of hellos and a few simple questions conversation. Anyway, he came in, I said, "Chuseok, gift," and used my hands to make a box shape, "Kamsamnida" (Korean for thank you although my spelling is probably off). He said, "Ne" which is yes or you're welcome. A few moments passed and I was headed out the door, when he turned to me and asked, "You like ham?" I replied with another of the few Korean phrases I know, "Mashisoyo" or delicious. He just laughed and I walked out the door. Oh the simple things in life.

Speaking of the simple things in life, Wednesday after work, Jonathan, the same guy I'm going to Deokjeok with, took me back to Yeongtong so I could spend the night with Katrina. You might be wondering how he took me? Or not. Nevertheless, I got to ride on a motorcycle. Loved it! That's about all I can say. I want a motorcycle. It was awesome, the wind in your hair, the open feeling, awesome. I think we reached about 120 km/h at one point, which was a little too fast for my liking, but I still had a great time for the 20 minutes I was on the motorcycle. Who knows, Christmas is right around the corner...


Korean Folk Village in Suwon

The trail gang reunited again this weekend. Katrina and I met Transition (Matt) and Shuffles (Dani) at Suwon Station on Saturday around 1 pm. Their train was supposed to arrive at 12:15 but ended up getting delayed for some reason. We had a few ideas in mind of what to do for the day - Korean War Memorial, Seoul Aquarium, an art exhibit in Seoul, watch a movie, or the Korean Folk Village. By the title of this blog, I'm guessing you know which one we settled on. Matt and Dani had been there before but for Katrina and I, this was our first time. I've been wanting to go for a few weeks now and I finally made it.

(View of the village from across the river)

(I love how the houses have plants growing on the roof, out of the straw. I think these were pumpkin plants.)

After "Having It My Way," filled with a Bacon Double Cheeseburger from none other than the Burger King himself, we made our way to the Tourist Information Center outside of Suwon Station. I read online that if you purchase tickets there, a free shuttle will take you to the village. So, we boarded the bus, took the half an hour ride, met a nice young lady in the Air Force stationed at Osan, and arrived at the village by about 2:30 pm. The village is a pretty big place and closed at 6:30 pm so we were a bit rushed. From my understanding, it seemed to be a history of the housing techniques used in Korea during various times as well as in different locations of the country. We saw replica houses from Jeju as well as other places.

(Dani said people write their prayers on a piece of paper then tie them off around this stone)

(Place to grind some rice or corn or whatever else you might want to grind)

(Jeju House)

It is places like the Folk Village that I really love when living in a foreign country. I guess I am a bit of a history nerd but there is just something about the traditional. We arrived at the perfect time to see a native dance, some guy do some amazing things on a tight rope, an equestrian exhibition, as well as a traditional wedding. These were four separate shows, each lasting for about 20 minutes. We skipped over the first part of the village in order to make it to the shows on time so at some point, I would love to get back. However, the shows were awesome and if you do find a way to make it to the village, make sure you go and see the shows. My favorite was probably the dancers, then the wedding, and a close toss up for third.

(Dancers behind us)

(Trapeze guy)

(Equestrian Show)

(Traditional Wedding)

After the wedding ceremony, which we left a bit early, we were able to take our time and enjoy the rest of the village. By that time though, we were probably half way through it. Also, a lot of the information was in Korean with a quick blurb in English. Therefore, it was difficult to fully understand all of the displays. There was a really interesting tree with different color ribbon hanging down and I never quite understood nor read the meaning anywhere. So, if you know what that is about, please leave a comment. There was an interesting area filled with torture devices. Their devices were simple but got the job done.

(Different color cloth hanging in the tree - no idea what it stood for or represented)

(Torture area)

(Dani told us that each thing hanging outside the house stood for something or had a meaning - a new born baby, somebody is sick so stay out, etc.)

(The village blacksmith)

(Just some fruit on a table in a room)

There were a few other ingenious devices throughout the village, a couple hens and chickens along with a few wild cats. There were plants everywhere. In some houses there were individuals making authentic items - one guy was making straw sandals. We saw a witch doctor as well. It was a really fascinating place with lots to see and do. It was a bit overcast so it wasn't that crowded which was wonderful. Also, it was later in the day so that might have helped as well. I had a great time and definitely plan on going back again.

(Automatic grinder - water from the river would move the pulverizer up and down)

(Statue, don't know the meaning, from Jeju Island)

(Katrina swinging on a really big swing)

(A lot of red pepper paste being prepared and aged, a lot)

(For all the farmers who may happen to read this, an old fashioned corn silo)

The night was topped off with some delicious Mexican food - four Americans in South Korea eating Mexican food - I'm sure there are better examples of globalization but that should work well for most people. Then we had a few beers, an intense political, social, and economic discussion, and a few Budweiser beers. Called it a night around midnight, after a game of cribbage - I lost on the last hand...

We got up this morning, everyone took a shower, separately I might add and then it was off to the station. I had my first Kraze burger which, to put in a corny way was crazy delicious but also crazy expensive, around 9,000 won. However, it was the first real burger taste I've had in a while so it was well worth it. Katrina had a tomato and mozzarella sandwich and we split some garlic fries - they were very tasty at times and then some bites were not enjoyable. It's difficult to explain.

Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving will be here in about a week. I have off Monday threw Thursday while Katrina only has off from Tuesday to Thursday. Nevertheless, we are going to take a ferry out to an island for those three days and do a little camping with some friends. In addition to our bonus, we also got paid overtime for this past month of intensive classes - a wonderful surprise on my last pay stub. Furthermore, this is the last month my housing deduction is withdrawn which equates to 200,000 won. So, from here on out, full paychecks with a 400,000 won housing return in a few months.

Life is fantastic right now! For the most part, I have some wonderful classes. There are only two real problem children in all of my classes, both of them girls. However, work is wonderful, I love my AO class, such smart kids and the things they learn. The disparity in education between South Korea and the US is drastic. Then again, parents here will pay thousands of dollars to send their children to one to three academies a night, five to six days a week. With an extra two to four hours of school a day, what kid wouldn't be smarter? Hope everyone is doing wonderful!


One Down - Three to Go

Last week concluded my first semester as an English teacher and while I was sad to see some of my kids go (we all have our favorites), I was excited to get a new batch and mix up my routine a bit. I found out that I would be teaching for JA classes, the highest of the middle level, a GI class, the middle of the highest level, and AO, which is pretty much for the down right geniuses of Avalon. The first paper the students write for me in AO is essentially on Utilitarianism, a principle I didn't learn about until my freshman year of college. And, one of the students (it's a class of four) is in fourth grade. For this AO class students are required to complete their Reading Book, prepare an essay, and prepare for a debate on the topic of my choosing. This is all in addition to whatever else the Korean teacher might assign as well as the other foreign teacher.

I am a week into the new semester and so far, so good. The first week is usually the most difficult because the kids have to get used to your teaching style. Additionally, we have a new structure and procedure in each of our classrooms so the kids are taking some time adjusting to that. I got the first bonus of my entire life! I won't say how much it was but it was definitely a nice gesture and appreciated.

Last Friday night, since our Head Instructor was leaving as well as a teacher from the Middle School, we decided to do a night on the town. Needless to say, it was everything I expected it would be, which is why I have only done it once the three months I have been here. After work, Avalon took all the Elementary School teachers out for dinner and we got a few drinks. Then, a couple of us sat outside Family Mart and drank a few beers. Interesting fact - Korea has no law against open containers nor does it have any laws against public urination. After Family Mart we took a taxi to Suwon Station and headed first for the Lao Bar. Nice place, good music, free pool and darts. Beers were about $7 a piece. Then, we ended up going to the Tao Bar, a dance club. We paid $20 for VIP service which got the group two bottles of Jack, two bottles of champagne, two fruit trays, and two snack trays. It was what it was.

We left when the sun was rising and got back to the apartments around 7 am. On the way back, a co-worker and myself both realized we didn't have our keys so we decided to crash at Spenser's place. This was by far the highlight of the whole evening. We had to go back to Avalon at 9 am to look for our keys and Spenser had to leave for Seoul by 10 am to meet a friend. He wanted to sleep. We did not. Needless to say, Spenser got about 5 minutes of sleep. We did play a bit of a practical joke on him - moved his clock forward, moved a movie forward that he was watching, and told him it was close to 11 am when he woke up. He thought he missed his engagement. It was truly one of those moments "you had to be there."

Computer has not been officially put to rest but things are not looking good.

Skyping with my best-friend today, my 5 year old nephew, so that's exciting. I'm not sure what else is on the agenda for the weekend. Katrina and I might try to go to the Korean War Memorial or Museum at some point this weekend. Then again, we may not.

It has been a hectic two weeks. I will try to update a bit more often in the near future.