Thursday, January 24, 2008


Intensives suck, plain and simple. There's no point in trying to sugarcoat or spin it, they just suck. Teaching three 3 hour classes for 20 days straight in the coldest month of the year is not fun. By the time day 20 finally arrives, you've already been stressed out, exhausted, and cranky for over a week. Here is what my schedule has been like this past month.
7:10 am - Alarm goes off. It's still dark outside. Reset alarm to sleep a little longer.
7:25 am - Get out of bed. Turn off the humidifier. Turn on the hot water. Put my towel on the floor so that the Korean floor heating system can warm it up while I take a shower.
7:50 am - Eat breakfast. Drink coffee.
8:25 am - Leave my apartment. Make sure I'm wearing coat, scarf, hat, and gloves so I don't freeze on the way to work.
8:40 am - Clock in at work; although it seems rather old fashioned, we all have a time card that we have to stick into a machine which prints the time and then spits the card back out.
9:00 am - First class (Middle School 3) starts. Still wear scarf and occasionally gloves while waiting for my classroom to heat up.
10:30 am - Break for 15 minutes.
12:00 pm - First class ends. Have prep time for the next 2 hours during which I mark essays and grammar quizzes, make photocopies, and look at the next day's lessons. Also, find time to eat lunch and drink more coffee.
2:00 pm - Second class (Senior 1) starts.
3:30 pm - Break for 10 minutes.
4:55 pm - Second class ends. Break for 10 minutes.
5:05 pm - Last class starts.
6:30 pm - Break for 15 minutes.
8:00 pm - Last class ends (Junior 5). Clock out as soon as possible and leave school.
8:20 pm - Get home. Remind myself that I really do want to go to the gym and work out instead of sit and watch TV. Usually go to the gym for about an hour.
9:30 pm - Eat dinner and watch Oprah. The best thing about Oprah in Korea is that when she says she'll be right back, she actually is. Thank goodness for no commercial breaks on Korean TV.
11:30 pm - Go to bed. Fall asleep happy that one more day of intensives is over.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Great Wall of....

....coldness, bargaining, shaking, or China? The actual answer is supposed to be the latter, but for me it was the former four this time around. My second visit to the Great Wall was more memorable for the coldness, bargaining, and shaking than it was for the actual Wall itself. This is not meant to take away from the grandeur of the Wall by any means, it is an amazing sight to see the stone Wall winding down from the crests of the hills into the valleys and back up to the next peak as far as you can look through the haze.
However, I got to bask in wonderment last time I was at the Great Wall. This time, I was all too aware of how cold it was. There is a reason that Beijing means north capital - it gets really cold there, especially on Christmas Eve. The other thing on my mind as I was climbing up an infinite number of steps was how much bargaining I was going to have to use to get us back into Beijing. I had spent probably about 20 minutes earlier that day arguing mostly in Mandarin with these 2 men who wanted to drive us to the Wall. Despite all my efforts, we still ended up paying the full asking price for the roundtrip.
The final thing I remember from the Great Wall was how great my legs were shaking as we descended. It was uncontrollable. Every so often we would stop to take pictures, but I couldn't stand still very long or else my legs would just start shaking so hard that my whole jeans leg was shaking as well. I couldn't wait to get back into the car where I knew at least it would be warm.
Even though the cold, bargaining, and shaking weren't a wanted aspect of the Great Wall, I'm still glad that I got to see it again.

Looking down while climbing up. A place where you definitely don't want to fall down the stairs.
Looking up while climbing up. A whole lot more to go.
Hugging the wall, I think, while laughing at how absurd I look.
A nice picture of Huy and I.
A fun picture of Huy and I. Jumping is always fun.
My new Chinese boyfriend - too bad he's a little old & cold hearted, otherwise we'd be a perfect match. He even likes my orange hat.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is a beautiful complex of buildings in the middle of Beijing where the emperors would visit yearly to pray for good harvests. Despite the cold weather, the temple and its adjoining park attracted a lot of people including these interesting Chinese men.

I can't remember if this smoke is coming from the man's breath or his cigarette. Given that most Chinese men perpetually have a cigarette in their hands, I'm guessing the smoke was from that, although it defnitely was cold enough in Beijing in late December to see your breath.
Playing a traditional Chinese instrument called an erhu (literally meaning 2 strings)
Taking a smoke break in blatent defiance of the nearby No Smoking sign

Group picture (from left to right: Julian, Grant, me, Jonny, Peter, Huy)

My own interesting boys walking back to our rented apartment at the end of a long day- 2 Americans, 2 Canadians, and 1 New Zealander. It was quite the experience being the only girl of the group, but also quite fun. All of them are great in their own way and I was glad to spend the break with each of them.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

One little letter....

.....can make all the difference, as evidenced by this essay from one of my Senior 1 students, John. To his credit, he is only in Korean Grade 4 and this is his first essay, typed on the computer as well.

"Another my favorite food is crap. I eat big crap. I eat crap at home. I eat crap with family in the dinner time. I eat crap because It is delicious."

I think that's supposed to be a 'b' instead of a 'p' or at least I hope so.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Here's a video from the New Year's Eve celebration held in downtown Seoul. Despite my protests against having to be outside in the freezing cold weather, I went there with some friends. I was glad I did too. It was an incredible feeling to be standing in the gigantic mass of people with Roman candles being shot up into the sky everywhere around you. The air had this strange mix of smoke and sweetness to it that added to the romanticism of the night. Being surrounded by people did help keep me warm and I tried my best to scream out the countdown to 2008 in Korean like everyone else around me. It was the most exciting New Year's Eve I think I've ever had in my life. Usually, I just sit at home eating pizza and watching movies so it was fun to do something special to celebrate my year over here in Korea. The other cool thing about the celebration was that Super Junior perfomed. True, I couldn't see them and I could barely hear them, but I feel much more cooler to be able to stroll into class tomorrow and brag to my students that I saw Super Junior perform live. Here's the video of their performance if you want to watch it as well.