Thursday, November 24, 2011

Seoul Trip #7 / Happy Thanksgiving!

[Updated 6 December with more photos and a paragraph about the Record and CD Fair in Seoul]
Today marks my third month in Korea. What looks like a quarter of a year on the calendar feels like a lifetime inside my head. I guess it's fitting that today's Thanksgiving Day, since it's the day where we all reflect on where we are and what we're thankful for. Many things have happened in these 3 months. It's time to give thanks.

I'm thankful for my dear family and friends. Thankful for being here. I wouldn't be here without you. You know who you are.

I'm thankful for my wonderful co-teachers and fellow colleagues at the high school and the middle school. They comprise a wonderful and dedicated group of people. Just two hours ago Mr. Park and I finished a delicous Korean chicken dinner. The soju and the conversation flowed, I'm happy to say.

I'm thankful for my students; without whom this job just wouldn't exist. Despite the myriad barriers with language and culture, these kids are some of the best out there. If only I knew more of their names. With 5 grades and 275+ students, it hasn't been easy, but I get a few more with each passing week. Still, they make the effort. At 14 weeks in, their confidence with speaking and reading has increased. They say hello, they ask, "how are you?", they stop me on the street to ask--in English--where I'm going, and they gamely participate in every class. Lately I've tried some tough difficult lessons with the high school classes, lessons that would prove tough for kids in the States, but they tried them anyway. One student, while responding to a questionaire about his Zodiac sign, wrote that he's lazy because it's difficult to work hard. Now there's an astute observation. I told him "Yes, Joo Yong, it is difficult to work hard. Nice work!" Such a thought's the furthest thing from lazy...and to think that he did it in a foreign language, well hell, that's pretty good.

On a final note, I'm thankful for what I've got here in Korea. It can be a strange place, but it's never dull. I love it here.

Also: last weekend: Paula and I spent the weekend in the Gangnam area of Seoul last weekend. Gangnam literally means "River south," for it's in the middle south area of Seoul. The southern side of the Han river makes up the "new Seoul," too. It's a highly developed and modern area.

She came into town for a DMZ tour and I came in for the 1st annual Seoul Record and CD Fair. The Record and CD Fair didn't go quite as well as I'd thought, but she did have fun at the DMZ. We both enjoyed Gangnam though. It's a densely packed area of wide boulevards with tall office buildings and labrythine side streets crammed with bars and restaurants. Check it out...again, I'm not going resize the pictures because I want to get the full effect of the city across:

The above two pictures: Gangnam Dae Ro. The main street by the hotel.

Street sign marking the side street that our hotel was on.
Inside the Seoho Hotel.

Yes, this place exists: the Drunken Bro bar. Thankfully, we didn't see any drunken American bros there. Whew!

Shopping action on Gangnam Dae Ro.
Sidewalk sales galore.
Paula came to Seoul to for another DMZ tour and I came there for this: the 1st ever Record and CD Fair in Seoul. Despite my initial excitement about seeing more K-pop and LPs, I was disappointed by the fair. As you can see, it was quite crowded--so crowded that there was no point in looking at the LPs along the floor. Never mind that there was no room to even pick up a CD...not that that mattered either. I don't want to sound overly picky, but I didn't see much of anything worth buying. While yes, there were plenty of CDs to choose from, I found the place sorely lacking in rock and roll and K-pop. In other words there were no Stones, no Wonder Girls, no Ramones and no 2NE1. And what's more, the directions on [in Korean, but you can go to Google Translate and paste the address into it and translate the page to English] were horrible. I had to go up and down the street five times and ask four people before a generous businessman helped me find the place. And even then, he had to call the number to confirm the location. Not good. The counter people who took my 10,000won (~$9) admission fee were apologetic about my troubles with finding the place, but even so, it shouldn't have been do difficult to find the place. There was at just one good thing about the fair though: live blues music. Electric blues with Korean vocals, to be exact. It sounded good...too bad there was no room to enjoy it.

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