Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekend trip to Jeju Island! (Part 1)

And we're back on the mainland! The Jeju jaunt on the weekend went quite well and we hit most of our destinations. The flights themselves went smoothly and we had little trouble finding our way around the island. We had to check our maps a few times, but we didn't get lost. Our travels took us to Jeju City on the north side and Seogwipo on the south side. 

Getting there and back proved easy. Like I wrote below, getting through check-in and security was easy. We went from the front door to the waiting area in less than 30 minutes. I can't say the same for any time I've traveled in the US. Over there, it's "arrive 2 hours before takeoff," but over here, it's "arrive 45-60 minutes before takeoff" or something similar.

Here's what we saw or did:

Ate delicious barbecue black pig

Drank Jeju Orange makgeolli

Love Land

Cheonjiyeon Falls

Jeonbang Falls

Wandered south Seogwipo

Since we took many photos, part 1 will focus on food, drink, and Love Land. Part 2 will look at the both falls and will include some reflections from the trip.

We arrived at Jeju Airport at 5:30pm and immediately made for the information booth. The lady there handed us maps and bus information and helped us with the evening's plans for food and visiting Love Land. She spoke good English and highlighted our bus stops. We were to take a city bus to the restaurant and get a taxi to Love Land. From there, we'd take take a taxi back to the airport and pick up the #600 Airport Limo bus to Seogwipo. We did precisely that and rode the #5 bus out of the airport.

Black pig at Heuk Don Ga Restaurant

My intrepid co-teacher Mrs. J recommended it "one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten in." R and I couldn't agree more. We partook of the regular black pig and the marinated black pig to compare the two. Portions were generous and there were plenty of side dishes. While both agreed that black pig didn't taste significantly different than regular pig, the special sauce the restaurant served did set off the flavors. The sauce sat in a small cup on the wire grill. It acted as a marinade and had a savory punch to it. Between the two kinds of meat we ate, I liked the regular black pig the most.

Heuk Don Ga's easy to find: It's a block away from the Halla University bus stop. It's hard to miss thanks to having two buildings and a large facade. While walking inside, we noticed a three story black pig restaurant across the street. Both establishments were doing a lively business as well. Think of that though: a multi-story restaurant dedicated to barbecue. If the place is that big and that busy, then they know their stuff. 

As for prices, we paid 34,000 for the spread you see above. Two portions of meat at 14,000 and a 6,000 bottle of tasty makgeolli. The makgeolli (I forgot the name) cost more than usual, but it was tasty. This blog,, has many excellent pictures of Heuk Don Ga. It's in Korean, but the pictures tell the story.

Drinks: Jeju, Jeju Orange, and Olleh makgeolli; Hallasan Soju

One thing I enjoy about Korea is trying the makgeolli in different regions of the country. It can change in subtle ways depending on your place in the country. The Jeju and Olleh brands tasted more or less like carbonated makgeolli: Creamy, but not too thick. The Jeju Orange stuff, on the other hand, was a treat, for it's flavored with the juice from real Jeju oranges and had a stronger, less carbonated taste. R remarked that it tasted like it had more alcohol than it did, but it was the standard 6%. It tasted vaguely like a carbonated screwdriver. I'm glad I got to try it, if only for one time to far. As far as I've seen, it's not available on mainland Korea. A standard 750ml bottle sells for around 1800won. (Readers: Is it out there? Perhaps in Busan or Mokpo?)

On the Hallasan Soju: It tastes like soju and has cool labels. It costs a couple hundred won more than regular soju.

Side note: R and I saw a kind of peanut makgeolli at Heuk Don Ga, but we didn't try it. Anyone seen that on mainland Korea?

Love Land

What a place. It puts the adult in adult theme park, for it's sculpture after sculpture of genitalia and sexual acts. The picture here comes from the VisitKorea tourism site. It should provide an idea of Love Land. We enjoyed wandering about the beautiful grounds and admiring the artwork. And it is art, it's simply art about sex. Love Land, like Haesindang, ranks among our favorite experiences in Korea thanks to its coolness and its incongruity with Korean culture. Love Land highlights how even conservative Korea makes room for outlandish sexual sculptures. We can't recommend this place enough.

Getting there will most likely involve a taxi ride, but it is on a bus line. We paid about 5,000 because it was a short distance from the restaurant. The taxi ride back to the airport cost around 7,000. Admission to the park? 9,000. Age 19 and over. Also, bring some money for the gift shops. They aren't all about sex, for I picked up a fedora there.

More links: (Korean)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Live from Gimpo Airport

I guess we arrived perhaps too early, for having followed "better safe than sorry" line of airplane travel in the States, we arrived 2 hours before our flight time. The Jeju Air plane to Jeju Island leaves in approximately an hour. Check-in and security were a breeze to get through. Both things took less than 20 minutes total. We're in the waiting area using the free Wi-fi now. The terminal's busy, but not crowded. 

We won't have a long time on the island, but we're both excited for the trip. Cheers.

Note: The domestic terminal as a StoryWay convenience store that sells beer, if anyone's so inclined to have a drink before boarding the plane. The prices are the same as any other convenience store. I was surprised that you could drink beer in the waiting area because such a thing would never happen back home.

See the "Archives" sidebar for more posts from this month. July has proven quite fruitful for blogging.

It's Daejeon! Reflections

Greetings, dear readers. I rode the Mugunghwa train out of Daejeon yesterday afternoon and arrived back in Seoul. It's now Friday. R and I will fly to Jeju this afternoon. This post marks the transition between one adventure and another. 

Reflections on the Daejeon jaunt:

Be a man with a plan

The best way to keep from worrying or fiddling about is to stay busy. Keeping on the move meant no time to think of anything else except how to get from A to B and to enjoy everything along the way. Before I went out, I'd written down where to go and how to get there. The plan was by no means bulletproof, but it was something to work from. It centered on staying out from morning to evening and seeing as much as possible. 

Having a plan applies to daily life as well as traveling. I'm one of those people who writes an agenda for every day, including so-called off days. I do so because having a plan means having a purpose for the day. Doing things deliberately means less time for idling and more time to accomplish things. Taking the time to write an agenda also means that the day's events receive more attention than simply blundering along from one thing to the next.*

As a corollary, being alone is fine as long as thoughts about being alone don't come to mind. I've always been fine by myself.

Knowing more Korean helps

Not to be Captain Obvious, but yes, it's true. My Korean skills aren't anything special, but I've gotten quicker at recognizing words and phrases. Speaking the language comes more naturally, too.

Make it a good time, rain or shine

I strode out of the hotel yesterday to find dark skies bringing intermittent rain showers. When it wasn't raining, it was misting and drizzling. It was not looking like a good day for journeying around the city, but I knew I had to go out anyway. Here was a city that had plenty to see and I only had a short time there. Another opportunity to tour Daejeon may present itself for a long while, so I had to seize the day. I had my umbrella and the raincoat, so the pavement got pounded, and it got pounded hard. The rain humidity only became a problem if I concentrated on it, so didn't. What good would it have done, anyway? The weather is what it is: Korea gets rain, rain, and more rain in the summer time. It's not worth fighting the inevitable.

The rains did preclude visiting some of Daejeon's beautiful parks, but like the song goes, "You can't always get what you want." Actually, that's not entirely true: I could have gone to a park or two because the sun did eventually come out, but I was too fried from all the walking to want to do anything else after dinner. What transpired yesterday was more than enough, anyway. If things had gone differently, then that ride with the mom and her kids might not have happened, among other things. The days are what we make of them.

I love traveling by train

The Mugunghwa's not a bullet train, but it does have large windows and a cafe car. I enjoyed sipping a beer and watching the countryside roll by. The large windows on either side provided one lovely picture show. Additionally, train travel's predictable: A stop here, a stop there, and smooth riding in between. Bus travel means stops and starts that go with the rhythm of the traffic. It also means a smaller cabin. Both forms of transport have their share of bumps and jostles, though. 

Korea has many cheap or free attractions

Everywhere I went yesterday had free admission. Repeat: The EXPO Park, the National Science Museum, the Currency Museum, and the Museum of Education charge no admittance fees. The EXPO and the Science Museum do charge for some attractions inside, but they cost no more than 3,000won. The most money I spent at any time in Daejeon was the 10,300won train fare to get back to Seoul. Otherwise, everything else came cheaply. I'm no fan of nightclubs and I rarely stay out late anymore, so anyone who prefers to travel on a budget had best do stuff during the daylight. A few friends have mentioned that Daejeon's a fun place to live, but isn't as good of a place to visit. I disagree, for the city, wide as it is, offers wider and flatter roads to travel on and a good transportation system.

Yet after the short but thrilling time there, I'm not finished with the city. I'll return to it to visit its parks and mountains eventually. Biking along the Gabcheon (Gab Stream) also looks appealing. Until then...

*Dale Carnegie wrote extensively about planning in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. I recommend it for its clear prose and excellent, practical advice.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's Daejeon! The return (Day 1)

As part of the summer vacation, I'm back in Daejeon again for a couple of days. I went here last summer (see below) and stayed for a bit, but I vacillated between enjoying it and feeling like I should be somewhere else. It's different this time because I've got a plan and more of a drive to see new places. Having spent more time researching the city and its interesting places certainly helped, too. There's another reason as well: Wanting get this right, ie to travel and not get paralyzed with indecision. Last year was a missed opportunity. 

It's been less than a full day, but the fun's already begun. The two hour ride out of Seoul on the Mugunghwa train went well. I like trains because they're much more predictable than buses and they don't stop and start as much. The ride cost 10,300won. It provided some time to catch up on my reading.

I arrived at Daejeon Station and set off for the hotel. I'm at the Daelim Tourist Hotel in the downtown area. It's a quality establishment which, to my surprise, has breakfast service! I must have missed that part of the hotel description.

Here are some pictures from Day 1:


Bibimbap with raw Korean beef and plenty of gochujang red pepper paste. A heart meal that quenched my hunger. The vegetables tasted fresh and the kimchi had a good kick to it, but the abundant  pepper paste made the meal a little too spicy for my taste. It wasn't a huge problem though. [Korean name: 한우육회 비빔밥, 9000won)

Along Jungang-ro (중앙로)

The downtown market. That structure next to Mr. Pizza is a video screen that plays looping patterns. It makes the streets as bright as day. The shopping/restaurant area's maybe 5x5 blocks. It feels like a playground for young people.

Photo taken for the name and for the tagline. Soup as the name of a clothing store? Feminism's an interesting tagline for selling clothes, no?

The store's a modest two story affair of Synnara Record's Daejeon branch. I'm a record junkie. Buying music online (either ordering CDs or buying the digital versions) is fine, but nothing matches the experience of browsing the shelves in an actual store. While I had noting in particular to look for, I picked up Crying Nut's Flaming Nuts CD because I'd heard good things about them and because its cover art rocks. If only it were an LP:

[Album] Crying Nut - FLAMING NUTS
Edit: The first track sounds like Dropkick Murphys. Woohoo! [I'd originally heard it as one of Flogging Molly's angrier songs, but the vocals are too deep for them]

Should've done more research dept: Synnara Record has at least three branches in Seoul. Have I been to them? Nope. Will I? Yes.

The above picture's dedicated to Andrew in WI, aka the biggest AC/DC fan I've met. Now you can write AC/DC in Korean, bud.

The Jung Gyo, or "Middle Bridge"

I liked the unique shape and design of the bridge and the park that runs along the Daejeon Stream. (대전천)

A waterfall along the stream. I wish I'd spent more time here because it looked like a good place to relax, but the humidity and heat made the air too stifling to dawdle about.

Biking and walking paths along the stream. Despite the thick summer air, plenty of people were out biking and walking. It's nice to see that.

I'd arrived too late to see any museums or parks, so I retired to the hotel and planned Day 2 after spending the evening exploring the area around the hotel. It's now a day later. The full post about Day 2 will be up shortly. I covered plenty of ground today, so it'll be packed with pictures and stories from this overlooked Korean city. I'll be heading out tomorrow (Thursday), so maybe it'll go up before I get back on the train, maybe not. We'll see. The hotel room's big flat screen TV's screaming out "Play a movie on me!" right now...

On a final note: Traveling alone works best when you stay busy.


Seoul weekend fun: Burn cigar bar and Han Nam bowling bowling alley

R and I checked out the Burn cigar bar in Gyeongnidan, Seoul this past weekend. I'd noticed it a while ago, but hadn't ventured in there until Saturday. The time felt right to see what a cigar bar in Seoul looked like. I generally don't smoke cigars in Korea because they're expensive, but the combination of the semester ending, the vacation beginning, and being with R brought out the urge to feel celebrate end go somewhere new. We ascended the stairs and immediately fell in love with Burn. Jeremy the sajangnim certainly knew how to decorate the place All of the dark wood wall panels and leather chairs had us feeling like we were in a scene out of Mad Men. The prices went in accordance with the decor, but I didn't mind the extra expense. We seized the moment and all went well. As much as I relished the chance for a quality smoke, but sharing the experience with R was even better. After a brief explanation, I handed her the cigar and she proceeded to smoke like a champ. 

Enjoying a Churchill cigar and some Gentleman Jack whiskey.

R smoking a cigar for the first time.

And on Sunday, we went bowling. Despite loving the sport more than any other, I'd been slow in sharing it with R. Other ideas for dates had always came up, so bowling always went on the back burner. Until a couple months ago, anyway. She'd never been bowling before, which to this son of a league bowler, is an nigh on unthinkable! Alas, here was another opportunity to introduce her to something new. It took three separate outings to finally go bowling because of wait times at the alleys. Young people like bowling more than I'd thought, and we'd faced 1-2 hour wait times every time we'd tried going bowling in Seoul prior to Sunday. 

Our luck changed at the Han Nam Bowling Center (한남 볼링 센터), near Hangangjin Station. We did have to wait, but we passed the time with a few games of pool. When a lane became available, it was glow bowling time, so she got to experience that aspect of bowling culture as well. We got our shoes and balls and got ready. Because she'd never thrown a ball before, I went first so she'd have an idea of how to do it. I'm not the best bowler (my dad's much better), but I do have decent form; it wouldn't be good form to put a ball in her hand and not show her how to throw it. She gamely picked up her ball and gave it her best throw. 

R did fine and enjoyed herself. Like the cigars, it was good to finally share this part of my life with her. I've been bowling for 20 years and always have thought of it as the one sport where every person has a good time regardless of his score. This time was no exception. She did well for her first time and had good form. I can't wait to go bowling again. As I said, it's popular among the young people of Korea and it's a fun way to spend an hour or so. It also makes for a good hands-on date.

Get to Burn while you can. It may not be around much longer because of changes to Korea's smoking laws.

The next post will be about Daejeon. I wanted to get this one out before I moved on to other things. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fun at the Samsung Transportation Museum (교통 박물관)

This post is dedicated to my dear grandparents on my mother's side, for Grandpa's a retired transmission shop owner in Ohio who loved his cars. He would've enjoyed this place.

While looking up a Jeju car museum that my students had mentioned, I came across a page about the Samsung Transportation Museum, located near Everland in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do. It looked like a worthwhile destination, so I began Monday by writing the preceding post about the monsoon season and heading down there.

I almost didn't in. I shouldn't have gotten in. Despite looking at the web page multiple times to check where the bus stops were, I failed to notice that the museum's closed on Mondays. The man at the main gate informed me so. I'd traveled over an hour for nothing, or so I thought, because of a kind museum manager who called himself Ken. He happened to have seen me get turned away at the gate and got in his car to give me a ride into the place. When he pulled up, he said, "Hi, were you just at the gate? Sorry, the museum is inconvenient to get to and even though it is closed, I didn't want you go to go home without seeing it. You have come a long way, haven't you?"

I couldn't believe my luck. "Yes, from Seoul," I replied.
"Yes, the 5002 bus? It is hard to get here. Here, get in. I'll show you around."

And so I received free admission and a guided tour of the Transportation Museum. What kindness! He certainly didn't have to come go out of his way to let me in, but he did it anyway. We strolled around and conversed about the cars on display. He spoke excellent English and knew plenty about American cars. It felt great to walk among the Detroit steel of yore and talk about engine sizes again. I haven't done that in years. Here were immaculate our old cars like the Model T and the '57 Coupe de Ville--quintessential pieces of American culture and history on display in an out of the way museum near a major amusement park. But never mind the strange location. The museum's not large in size, but it does have a good cross section of automobile history in it. It wasn't just American cars on display, either. There were, of course, Korean cars like the Hyundai Pony and the Tiburon as well as Formula 1 racers and Mercedes limousines. Because the museum wasn't open, none of the numerous video screens were running, so I can't comment on them or the other video exhibits the place had. They did look impressive though! 

After seeing everything that could be seen, Ken generously gave a ride back to the bus platform at Everland. I couldn't thank him enough for letting this absent-minded foreigner in. In characteristic Korean fashion, he said, "You're welcome, no problem," in the manner of one saying, "Just doing my job." Maybe he wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary in his mind, but he was certainly doing an extraordinary thing from my perspective. 

Next to a '63 Corvette Stingray. The '63 model was the only one with a split rear window.

An "exploded" V-8 engine

Part of an exhibit showing the steps involved restoring cars

A late 1970s Hyundai Pony

A first generation Hyundai Tiburon racer

If anyone's interested in cars, check this place out. It's out of the way, but it is next to an amusement park, so maybe you can do two things at one. Ken mentioned that the museum doesn't see many foreign visitors, so maybe we can change that in the future.

How to get there:

From Gangnam Station exit 10: Take the red 5002 to Everland and take a shuttle or taxi to the Samsung Museum. The shuttle buses run at 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, and 16:00. 
Note: the bus stop is located a block or two from exit 10. It is next to a tree and a few other buses stop there. 


Look for a post about random acts of Korean kindness in the future. Today marks but one instance of the overwhelming kindness and generosity I've witnessed from Koreans here. They've helped me (and me and R) out of more than a couple jams and often done so without being asked to help. I'm in awe of that. To Ken and anyone from the museum, thank you

On summer vacation now! (Summer 2013)

My 2 week summer vacation has begun. I'll be posting from Seoul and Daejeon for the next few days and will be going to Jeju with R for the weekend. We're both excited about the trip! The semester's been excellent, but this vacation came not a moment too soon.

Stand by for posts from the road...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Surviving (the rest of) monsoon season

Thanks to Staged Reality for inspiring this quick post. The blog recently featured an article about what its author picked up after a week at his new job. While I like the entire post, his fifth point bears repeating and commenting on here:

"You will overcome the elements and look down on people that whine about them"

It’s monsoon season in Korea now and everyone’s fretting about the rain and humidity. Rather than join the whining, I did three things: I bought a raincoat, began wearing rubber rain boots more often, and carry my umbrella everywhere. I learned my lesson from last year: An umbrella is not enough.
Already the rain coat has proven effective against the rain. It's a huge olive one. It's big enough to cover a messenger bag or a backpack, too. The students sometimes point at it, but I don’t care because I know that even though it’s huge, it keeps the rain out. Ditto on the boots–so what if I “look like a farmer,” my feet are dry. Or sometimes, I hear "Teacher--rain boots--why?" and a proceed to explain that I'm wearing rain boots because it's raining. It's a simple enough line of thought, but perhaps the student are merely curious and want to practice their speaking. Kids are funny that way...On second thought, I'll consider it speech practice. 

Altogether, yes, the elements can be hard to deal with, but the problems they bring on aren’t insurmountable. For those incoming EPIK teachers, I offer the following advice:

  • Bring a raincoat or buy one here. Ditto on the rain boots. 
  • Umbrellas are everywhere, so you can buy one here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Make it a good day

My father's fond of saying "Make it a good day," as opposed to the more common "have a good day." He started saying it a few years ago. 

Verbs drive language. They convey action and do the heavy lifting of expressing thought. My father understands this, for once he explained what prompted him to change the verb from "have" to "make." As he explained it, making implies action and movement--doing something. He figured that "have" sounded too weak and passive to work as a statement of encouragement and that "make" sounds stronger. Indeed it is. We possess within ourselves to make every day as good or bad as we want it. He says "Make it a good day," as an encouraging statement as well as a command, or perhaps an encouraging command. According to him, he dislikes the idea of things "happening" to him, and so he changed his tune because he knew he couldn't sit back and let life happen to him. 

It's important to remember this idea as teachers. Our classes are what we make of them. Our students look to us for guidance and for that, we owe it to ourselves to provide the best classroom experience possible. Not only that, but we should remember that our thoughts determine our actions, so we must stay positive as well. It is not always easy, especially in the ever-fluctuating sphere of the school and the classroom, but it is necessary. Growth doesn't happen without challenge, and making every day good stands as the goal to meet. 

While my father's words echoed in my head in the States, I don't think they fully sank in until I landed at Incheon Airport nearly 2 years ago. I had just turned 25 and had arrived in a new country to begin a new chapter of life. Then as well as now, there is more to life than simply staying afloat: To float would be to not stand tall and take ownership of life here. To let things "happen" would mean not taking charge of life in and out of the classroom. I'd been hired to do a job and to do it well. Doing a job well by letting things "happen" does not compute. Jobs are done well because of action and resolve. And with the ink on the 3rd contract signed, sealed, and delivered, I must strive to making a good life here for myself, the students, and for the larger community. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The 3rd contract has been signed - Another year in Cheorwon!

That's right, I'm here for a third year. The contract arrived in the mail today and I signed it as soon as my co-teacher got it out of the envelope. Yes, I was jumping up and down for it. Signing it was even more exciting than last year because after an entire year on the Korean school calendar (March-July and August-December, basically) I now know of what's in store for next year. This past semester has not been perfect, but it's been the best one yet. Every semester gets better than the one before it. The role play and cultural lessons have paid dividends, so I'm going to continue with them. I'll also include some reworked writing lessons from last year as well. Staying a third year does come with some strings, for Gangwon EPIK's vacation days are being reduced from 35 to 18* and I will have to do a night class once or twice a week. Both of things are fine, for they're balanced out by a raise, a bonus, a week of extra vacation time, and the satisfaction that comes from teaching in Cheorwon. 

To finish up this quick post, I'm reminded of something I read in a book about doing business in Korea. I'd read it when I was applying to teach here in summer 2011. An American businessman was talking about the difficulties in culture and said something like, "It took me a year to find my way around, a second year to learn names, and a third year to get anything done." The quote's stuck because it's come true in many ways:
  • Year 1 was learning to read and write in Korean, adjusting to Korean culture, and finding my footing with teaching English to Koreans. 
  • By Year 2 the culture shock was long gone and I was expanding the Korean knowledge and applying the lessons learned in and out of school from Year 1. 
  • Year 3 will be spent on bringing more conversation and cultural activities to the students. It will also include more travels around the country. (I'm going on a quick train and bus trip next week, too)

* This is to bring Gangwon EPIK in line with the other provinces. Gangwon has had more vacation days than the other provinces, so the move makes logical sense. I will miss those extra days, though!

** For any Korean teachers who come across this blog and would like help with understanding some of my phrasing or figures of speech, feel free to email me.

And now, sleep...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Playing UpWords with the HS kids

It's been a family favorite since childhood. I was thrilled to see GMarket carried the game, I bought four sets of it and got ready to give the kids...


UpWords went fairly well this week. I'd expected the game to be easier to pick up than Scrabble because it doesn't have any double/triple word or letter scores to worry about: Each letter's worth 2 points or 1, depending on the situation. For simplicity's sake, I told the students to make every letter worth 1 point. I also relaxed the rule on stacking and said stacks could go as high as necessary. Finally, I said dictionaries were okay to use. Normally, dictionaries are only allowed as a last resort, but for ESL purposes, they help students with spelling and sometimes inspire them to try new words. The idea was to get them off and running and introduce the rest of the rules later.

Explaining the game took around 5 minutes. I demonstrated some movies and showed them (via the game's box) how words can be stacked and connected. The kids seemed to understand.

Seemed is the key word because in every class, there was one group that didn't get anything about how to play them game. They acted as though they never heard or saw my instructions. And despite having the instructions for the game in Korean, each arrant group paid them no mind. I stepped in to redirect and reteach as often as possible to no avail as well. After a while, I gave up and let them build letter towers, cover the board in alphabetical order, or make every disconnected word they could think of. I saw that they chose to ignore the rules of the game. I thought about punishing them, but figured it best to let them be. They were occupied and using English. Some battles are better left unfought.*

Oh well. One group out of three or four isn't bad. The rest of the kids caught on and had fun playing UpWords. Many didn't bother keeping score, a fact I found interesting because of how competitive the students can act. The kids knew how to keep score, but they didn't. I'll return to the game in the future, for it's good for building vocabulary. It'll go better next semester.

Update (17 July): Participation hit 100% in the last couple of classes!

*It's the end of the semester and many students have lost the will to do anything other than sleep or moan. Most get going when everyone else gets going though.

Investing in Polyurethane Discs: Catch up on Kpop?

I forgot to link this post here since it deals with Korea and with music.

Investing in Polyurethane Discs: Catch up on Kpop?: Maybe. I haven't had much motivation to listen to it lately. Even my favorites 2NE1 haven't graced the stereo in months. Until thi...

My opinion's still the same after hearing "Falling in Love" a few more times. It's not their best.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Typing in the rain

Short post today. It's jungle time's either boiling hot, raining, or about to rain over here. The air's grown thick with humidity and the clouds have formed a seamless blue-grey sheet overhead. It doesn't bode well for the optimism, but it does put me in a reflective mood. These two songs fit:
The Beatles: Rain. From Past Masters Vol. 2. Originally the B-side to "Paperback Writer" in 1966.

Neil Young, "See The Sky About to Rain." From On the Beach, 1974.

Edit: My raincoat arrived yesterday. Should've bought it upon arrival. A raincoat's essential for life on this peninsula.

More posts to come. In the meantime, enjoy the stories about dinner and smart phones.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Adventures in patriarchy: Smart phones and table manners edition

A short time ago, I was at school eating dinner. Just after I’d sat down, a few of the HS students joined me. This is a rare occurrence. Usually, the teachers eat at separate tables from the students, but it didn't happen that night. Getting to eat with the students was a nice surprise. 

The students were among the better English speakers in the school. As they joined the table, I could see that all of them were carrying their smart phones, which wasn't surprising.I figured that sooner or later, the students would stop eating and pick them up to do whatever students do with their smart phones at dinner. Sure enough, it began with Gina.* She was sitting next to me and had the phone out within seconds of sitting down. I wasn’t about to let a potentially fun conversation with the students pass, so I intervened. The phones could stay away for one dinner and we could enjoy some conversation. I tapped her on the shoulder and when she turned, I made eye contact and said, “Gina, we’re eating. Put it away.”

A look of surprise shot across her face. She hadn’t expected me to say anything. She murmured, “But, my friend…” and trailed off.
“No. We’re eating now. You can message later.”

My words came slowly and calmly. She acquiesced and put the phone away. We proceeded to have an enjoyable talk about the food, the weather, and about how the school week had been progressing. It’s true that I was “testing” their English, but they were fine with that. Everyone spoke, or tried to speak, at any rate. When they faltered, their classmates would help, and failing that, I’d help with the appropriate words or phrases. We touched upon a few expressions and topics from class, and they enjoyed “testing” themselves. During the conversation, Gina’s phone stayed out of sight. Everyone else’s phone did too. It made for a refreshing change: Actual conversation at the table. As an added bonus, I noticed a less fidgeting among the kids because now that their phones were off-limits, they could focus their energies elsewhere.

When the conversation was winding down and people were finishing eating, I turned to Gina and said, “Okay. We’re done. Now it’s okay.” She said thanks, but she didn’t get her phone out right away. I thanked her for complying and said goodbye to everyone.

It felt good to put a stop to the phones at the table. In the past 10 years I’ve witnessed how cell phones have eroded social etiquette to the point where people think nothing of checking their messages in the middle of a conversation. Such behavior is rude and inconsiderate because it shows that the phone is more important than the other person. It shows that the online world trumps the real world and that the real world isn’t important enough to acknowledge. By and large, it has been younger people who started acting rudely thanks to their embrace of certain technologies, but the rudeness can be stopped. Adults and elders may not hold the same sway as they used to, but their behaviors do not go unnoticed. Part of my job as an educator involves guiding young people as they make their way in the world, and that includes warding off rude behaviors. The job is as much about readying them for the future as it is about guiding them in the present.

*Not her real name.

Korea Joongang Daily: "14% of schoolkids are addicted to smartphones"

Rafting on the Hantan River

I’m going to let the pictures tell most of the story for this one.

Going rafting has become something of yearly tradition for those of us in Cheorwon. Though we didn’t go last year because of scheduling conflicts, this year we made sure to do it big and do it right. Thanks to knowing the right people and good luck, Josh and his co-teacher swung a day that allowed all of us to go rafting for free in exchange for getting our pictures taken for a Korean magazine. We then used some of the money we would’ve used for rafting and put that toward a galbi and makgeolli bash at a famous restaurant overlooking the Hantan River. And we had a hell of a time. Neither me, nor R had ever gone rafting before, so we greeted the occasion with tremendous anticipation. The day proved better than we expected. We had an exciting time, made a few new friends, and enjoyed some excellent cuisine.

The journey got off to a fun start as soon as we hit the first rapid. It was too much for us, so we had to let our guide get the boat through it while we walked along the edge of the canyon. I would’ve joined everyone had I not fallen off the raft and into the river. Going overboard and nearly getting swept away makes for a fun exercise in problem solving. As soon as I hit the water, I heard my dad’s voice in my head saying, “It looks like you’re going for a ride, buddy.” Perhaps that was my way of not panicking. I got out of there okay. One sandal got lost in the water, but it had had a good run. It’d lasted five years and had gone halfway around the world.

But aside from that, everything went according to plan. Our group divided between three rafts, which ensured plenty of splash fights and crashes with each other. We did those two things when we weren’t holding on for dear life in the rapids or feeling enthralled by the lush greenery of the canyon. What a fun time. I can't wait to do it again.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Link: "Schools to offer more PE classes"

Korea Joongang Daily: "Schools to offer more PE classes"

Some key quotes:

The Ministry of Education said yesterday that it will expand the required hours of physical education classes of high schools nationwide, mandating them to offer at least two to three courses per week from next year. 
“We need to break down the predominant idea that arts, music and physical classes are minor parts of our education and the majority of time should be allotted to math, Korean language and English,” said Education Minister Seo Nam-soo. 
“Our future talent should be well-rounded and the course schedule should go hand in hand with that objective,” he said. 

Despite the possibility that this may encroach on the English classes taught by NETs, I applaud the Education Ministry for this change. The students do indeed more PE classes and time away from their books and desks. Movement and exercise form two key ways of staying in shape, and from what I've seen, students don't move around nearly enough. Many lead sedentary lives of studying, smart phones, and ramyeon eating. The kids out here probably do get around more than their urban counterparts because of all the extra room, but even so, more fresh air will do them good. Coming from the fat country of the USA, I can attest that academics, while good, aren't the only thing. PE classes and exercise have been shown to maintain or boost students' academic performance. Let's get moving.


I began exercising more often a couple months ago too. Despite a penchant for walking and hiking, I figured I wasn't doing enough. Thus, I began biking, stretching, and doing push ups and sit ups every day. I also do pull ups whenever a bar's nearby. Those exercises take but a few minutes, yet have noticed that they lessen tension. Flexing the muscles lets me know I did something more than sit in front of a computer all day too.

Also from the JA Daily: "Building a rigorous body and mind"