Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Visiting Hwacheon

This past weekend I visited Paula and got to see some her beautiful town of Hwacheon. We drank the beers we bought in Chuncheon and did some sightseeing.

The courtyard of the elementary school she lives next to. Her building's in the distance on the left. She doesn't teach at the elementary school though; she teaches at Hwacheon High School.

The pretty mountains.

Seoul Pt. 2: Chungdeok Palace

In front of a statue of a turtle at the Chungdeok Palace. If you look closely, you can make out what looks like a faint smile and round Monopoly guy classes. At least, that's what I thought when I saw them.

With Paula at the Palace.

The lotus pond in all its serene glory.

The green house.

Inside the green house.

Paula holding the biggest leaf we'd ever seen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Look Ma, they've got the Carlo!

This one's for my dear mother and her wine of choice, Carlo Rossi. While shopping at E-Mart in Chuncheon over the weekend, I spied those same jugs we see all over Wisconsin. It may not be the Rhine wine, but I was thrilled as hell to see sangria here. E-Mart sells the 1.5L jugs for 14,000 won, or roughly 12 dollars.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DMZ action and a weekend in Seoul

Tonight I'm letting the pictures do the talking because I'm still recovering from last night's teacher's dinner. I want to get this out here though:

My high school took a field trip to the DMZ last Thursday. Here I am with a couple of soldiers from the base were on. From this post, we could see North Korea, and as a student of history I must say I treasured the opportunity to see the area.

After the DMZ we drove back to Wasu/Gimhwa. The teachers had lunch and we went to a park nearby for a while. Pic taken at a Korean War memorial in Gimhwa.

More to come later.

The weekend in Seoul...

Fellow EPIK'er Paula and I met up in Seoul on Saturday. We spent Saturday and Sunday wandering around Jongno-gu and the Dongdaemun areas. On Sunday we checked out the Changgyeong Palace:

Again, more to come later!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mountain climbing and galbi!

The school staff and I went mountain hiking on Mt. Myeongseong Wednesday afternoon. Day II of mid-terms had finished and the principal wanted to celebrate...Had one hell of a good time talking to the teachers and enjoying the scenery. The meadow at the top looked gorgeous and the views couldn't be beat. These were snapped about 3/4 of the way up. The rocky and sometimes steep path turned into a rolling meadow. When I got to the top I cried out "YEAH!" because, well, sometimes you have to do something like that when it's your first time climbing a mountain. If you know the bit in Rocky where he climbs up those steps after a long workout--or if you've done some climbing yourself, you know the feeling.

More pics will come as I get them. For now, here's a few taken on the way up:

I didn't know this picture was being taken. I'd snapped a photo on the cell phone and was looking to see how it turned out when Ms. Kim (purple sweater) and Ms. Yeo decided to catch me in the act.

W/ Ms. Yeo (left) and Ms. Lee (right) on the way up the mountain. Lovely scenery!

w/ Ms. Kim and Ms. Yeo

w/ Ms. Yeo and Ms. Lee.
And then...

What happened after we got to the top? We walked back down and went to a large outdoor dinner and ate galbi (grilled beef that's been marinated overnight; simply delicious), drank soju, and sang karaoke. By now I've figured out the drinking rituals enough to move around on my own and do shots with people. It went down pretty well, I'd say. People seemed impressed. Again I ended up trading some more shots with the principal, or the gyojang seonsangnim, as they say in Korean. The dinner and drinks felt good after that strenuous hike.

A bit about drinking alcohol, Korean-style: in Korean culture, you never fill your own glass--someone else will do it for you in one of two ways. The first way involves asking "would you like more?" or not saying anything and filling the glass anyway. The second way has more intricacies: the first person offers the second person her glass, the second person takes it, then the first one fills it up. Person two drinks, then hands the glass back to person one so she can pour her a drink as well. Make sense?

In both instances drinks get accepted with both hands out of politeness. Older people can take one arm and put across the chest, pledge-style and accept the drink with the right hand, but most everyone does the two handed way. There's also a specific way of pouring the beer/soju/booze: basically, right hand grips the bottle and the left hand supports the neck. The bottle usually touches the glass, too.

This system took some getting used to, given the Western every-man-for-himself approach where we drink at will. The Korean way involves looking out for people and the drinking rituals show respect. They allow everyone to move around the table, too. The system does allow for people to gang up on each other, which sometimes happens with the male teachers offering drinks to the female teachers. Or it allows people to get each other drunk. Both things have happened. Now the system's second nature, but there are moments I'd frankly rather fill my own glass and not wait around. On the other hand, getting drinks offered to you means the other person likes you, so I'm okay with that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My wonderful kids

My students drew me some pictures. Some markers and colored pencils got left out before class and so some of the girls Drew pictures during class yesterday. It distracted them from the lesson somewhat, but they did participate well and the class went smoothly. They showed them to me and I couldn't help but smile.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gimhwa school life

Some students relaxing on their lunch break:

With one of Mr. Kim's third grade HS students. Unfortunately I do not teach the third graders, but I do talk to them quite a bit in the hallways.

Orientation Pt. ___

Seoul / EPIK / 친구 (friends)

My dear friends the EPIK staffers. Above: Ellie (left) and JK (right)

Joomi. We had fun talking about the English lit. we read in college. She likes Hemingway--woohoo!

School dinners/school life

Another lovely couple of weeks have passed by and the fun hasn't stopped yet. One thing I can't help but love about this place is that almost everything happens at the last minute. Certainly this idea has all kinds of negative potential, but consider this: it's mid terms for the MS and HS kids this week, so yesterday left me with little else to do but show up and plan lessons. This, of course, felt good since it gave me some time to plan ahead and consult my co-teachers, but I also find slightly bored...until 10 minutes before the end of the day  my co-teacher Mr. Kim tells me that I'm invited to a teacher's dinner. My mood turned an instant 180: teacher's dinners mean three things: plenty of food, drink, and conversation. Last night was no exception. We converged on an elementary school turned farming co-op and ate magchang, (cow's large intestines), tofu, vegetables, kimchi, and pajeon (potato/vegetable pancakes). It all tasted pretty good. If I recall correctly, and please don't quote me on this, but the magchang seemed similar to chitlins. I should probably do some research on this one, but that'll come later. Either way, grilled magchang tastes similar to sausage but doesn't seem as filling.

There'll be more to come soon. Every time the weekend comes I think, great! I can write! but as much as I love writing here, there seems so much to do and see that I'm often too tired to type much here. With any luck I can get around to reviewing some K-Pop albums from Brown Eyed Girls, Girls' Generation, 2NE1, and 2PM. That and the pictures from Hwacheon I took last weekend.

Until then...

The guitar I bought in Seoul.

From Seoul:

At the Orientation I volunteered to lead my class group, 4A. Part of my duties included working with the Korean EPIK staff members and making announcements to the class. As part of the reward, I and the thre other class leaders got to do this: wear hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) at Deoksu Palace and bang a drum to kick off the changing of the guard ceremony.

Class 4A. A great group of people. EPIK staffers JK (left) and Ellie (right) in the red shirts.