Monday, December 31, 2007

Forbidden City

Peeking through the gate into the Forbidden City. It is a huge place, rightfully called a city. The buildings and gardens keep going on and on; here is just the first glimpse.
A tour group walking across the main courtyard. The Forbidden City is a great testament to the power and wealth of the Emperor, everything is done on a grand scale as a reminder of his position and prestige.

Beyond the huge flashy buildings are a labyrinth of small corridors and numerous corners that are slightly more humble but still impressive in their design, art, and expanse.

Resting in a rock archway in the garden. For the whole trip, it was just me and the boys: (from left to right, me, Peter, Huy, Jonny, and Julian)

Friday, December 21, 2007


It's a little late, but here are some pictures of my street that I took out my window last week on the night of the first real snowfall. It was a very picture perfect scene - big fat snowflakes that lightly painted everything white. However, it was all gone before the next morning and hasn't snowed since. Not that I'm complaining though, I hate the cold.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm voting next year

Several students in one of my highest level classes asked me recently if I was going to vote in the Korean presidental election on December 19. After laughing at them, I asked, "Do I look like I'm Korean? Am I Korean? NO! I'm not going to vote. I can't. I'm not Korean." Class, it's time to learn a new English word - citizen.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rokkugo & Lee Myung Bak

This is another great Korean pop song. It's by a group called Super Junior T. They are a small side group of an even bigger group called Super Junior. By big, I mean that the group has 13 members. Isn't that a little excessive? Teenage girls are the only ones who don't think so. Anyway, this song has a catchy chorus and is pretty much just a silly song which is why I like it. Basically, it's the Korean word for backwards said backwards.

I've been hearing this song a lot lately. Korea has a presidental election on December 19 and one of the 12 candidates has apparently chosen this as his theme song. The words have been changed so that the chorus now goes, "Lee Myung Bak, Lee Myung Bak, Lee Myung Bak, Yah, Yah, Yah." There are this trucks that will park in major areas like near Lotte Mart or the subway station and blast music/propaganda about their candidate while people dressed in matching jackets with Miss America type sashes with the candidate's name and number on it stand waving their arms and passing out flyers. It's an interesting campaign strategy that I would love to see someone like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton try to emulate back home.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Korea is the land of delivery food. You can get almost any food delivered to your apartment at almost any hour of the day. I regularly get food menus taped to my door advertising everything from fried chicken to Japanese to pizza to Korean and now McDonalds.
The McDonalds right by my school is now offering McDelivery service. They are already open 24/7 and now they have a delivery service 24/7 as well. We had a menu in the teachers' room the other day and were scheming of how best to take advantage of this seemingly unfathomable, but fantastic new idea.

Here is a worker on the bright yellow McDelivery bikes ready to roll out into traffic. I think the knee pads are a nice touch. This person has obviously had to ride a motorcycle in Korean traffic before. I'm sure those knee pads are not just to look fashionable. Returning from a delivery and ready to pick up another order.

McDelivery is perfect business sense in Korea where delivery is a way of life. Most restaurants even deliver the food in regular dishes. When you are finished with your food, you leave the dishes outside your door and someone comes back around to pick them up. For all this great service, you also don't pay any extra. Makes me wonder how feasible McDelivery would be back home. Maybe I will be surprised when I return home and see a bright yellow scooter whiz past me, although I kind of doubt it. I will be prepared though to jump out of the way so I don't get run down. The only downside to the delievery culture in Korea is that delivery guys have no mercy for pedestrians.

Friday, December 14, 2007


The standard teaching contract in Korea lasts for 1 year. My year was set to end on January 29th, a rather scary thought. Even telling people that I have been here for almost 11 months seems strange and shocking as it comes out of my mouth.
When I first arrived here, other teachers assured me that time flies in Korea. At first I thought they were crazy, each day seemed so long and each week dragged past. However, those feelings quickly change as the crossed off months on a calendar add up.
12 months are easily broken down into significant milestones. First comes up the 3 month mark which is followed closely by the 4 month mark representing 1/4 and 1/3 of a year respectively. Then comes the big 6 month anniversary, a celebration that from now on you are sliding down instead of climbing up. Months 8 and 9 go by with hardly any notice because they have become indistinguishable from each other. Then month 10 comes and the idea of double digits strikes you. When 11 months rolls around, it is almost unfathomable. How could 11 months have already gone by?
More than anything else, 11 months scared me. There were times throughout the past few months when I really wanted to go home and found myself heavily daydreaming about seeing my family, sleeping in my own bed at home, eating food I miss, driving a car. Yet, as much as I was ready to go home, I wasn't ready to leave Korea. I didn't want to be finished so soon.
In that vein of thought, I approached my manager with a proposal to extend my contract for 2 more months. She enthusiastically agreed to the idea. A few signatures later, she took my passport and ARC card down to immigration and returned with an very unofficial looking date stamped on the back of my ARC card - March 28.

Christmas Decorating

Last week, my school designated 2 days as Christmas decorating days. They bought a lot of wonderfully cheap & tacky wreaths and garlands and bows and whatnot for us to hang up in our classrooms. We also got to spend time having our students make Christmas decorations, all part of the school's new effort to have "fun" learning English. Before this recent strategy, "fun" had been a 3 letter F word at school. Study and work were the holy principles we were always supposed to abide by. But when our student enrollment went drastically down, our manager was practically forced to change her philosophy and so now we are allowed to have occasional fun with our students.
The front of my classroom. My attempt at decorating was to drape the garland over the air conditioner and hang the wreath on the door.
The back corner of the room. The colored papers hanging up on the wall are sticker charts for my Basic 5 class. For young students, stickers have a magical motivational quality.
My desk and very nice swivel chair. I currently have a green trash can in my room. I always know when the cleaning lady has been at the school because the trash can I had the previous day is gone and in its place is a new one that has come from someone else's room.
The Christmas trees that my J6 class made because they thought they were too cool to make reindeer.
My reindeer that I made as an example (thanks for the idea, Mom).
Mark getting ready to glue the antlers to the head while Bella and Dororthy are busy cutting behind him.
Jack with his finished reindeer who looks more appropriate for Halloween than Christmas.
Peter's reindeer looks like he is going to a costume party as well. At least these boys have a sense of creativity and humor, strange as it might be.