Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

...and happy Black Friday, for those who braved the maelstrom that heralds the Christmas shopping season. And for those who will storm the Internet gates for Cyber Monday, I say good hunting. The gods of commerce appreciate your zeal for bargaining.

And, more generally, winter arrived in Cheorwon the form of 6" of snow on Wednesday afternoon. Even now the roads are still iced over thanks to a lack of salting and shoveling. More than a few of us have already slipped and fallen while out. The students threw caution to the wind and began another round of snowball fights in their slippers. Some of the fights made their way into the halls of the school and the detached building I teach in. Thankfully, little snow actually made it into the classrooms themselves. 

I'm thankful for that and much more. I'll say it in a Korean for a change: 가족, 엄마, 아빠, 동생, 여자친구, 철원 원어민 선생님들, 학교직원들. You know who you are. Thanks for being here. Rock on, stay warm, and keep the greasy side down while driving.

From Cheorwon with love.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Lunches and dinners

Lunches and dinners from the boys middle school and the high school...I eat well here! Most of the time, the dishes are spicy, but I've grown accustomed to that and enjoy more or less everything the cafeterias have to offer. If I've one complaint, it's that the high school lunch ladies always give me too much rice. Even when I ask for less, they still pile it on. One thing's also for sure: One's never hurting for grains. Some might decry it, but I like it. I'm a grains man...the only problem is, there's too much of them! On some days, we'll get some kind of rice, noodles, and potatoes! It is indeed nearly too. Ich of a good thing, for simply won't all fit in my stomach. It's not good to waste food, but thankfully Koreans tend to dump all their food waste into recycling containers for composting. 

As I may or may not have noted before, most all teachers eat in the cafeteria. We pay about 55 dollars a month (60,000 won) to do so. Some teachers also eat dinner in the cafeteria. Dinner service is also 60,000 won. I'm going to stop going to the school for dinner because cooking stuff at home sounds more appealing these days. It's high time I learned.

Below are some pictures. Enjoy!

Above: This was a special one! Clockwise from the top left: bossam pork and kimchi pancake, gochujang sauce, radishes, spicy tofu soup, lettuce, and rice. 

Clockwise: Beef and quail eggs, spicy noodles and vegetables, kimchi, rice and seaweed, and radish soup.

Above: Fish fillet, kimchi, donut, bean sprouts and other vegetables (surprisingly unspiced!), galbi tang (beef soup), rice.

Another special one for Parents Night at the high school! Clockwise: A big ball of veggie fried rice, black bean noodles (jjajang-myeon), fried mandu (dumplings), radishes, sweet drinking yogurt, and spiced cucumbers.

Spaghetti! This meal marked the only time I've skipped the rice at school in over 2 years.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Nami Island and Zip lining (남이섬 / 집 나이인)

Under the trees at Nami Island.

A friend of ours heard about zip lining at the famous Nami Island in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi-do, so went out there this Saturday. Nami's famous for its trees and scenery and has been featured in the Korea n drama Winter Sonata. As seen below, the island draws a crowd even on cooler autumn days. R and I had been meaning to go to Nami as well as go zip lining for a while, so the trip made a perfect combination of the two.

We joined fellow Sincheorwon teacher Jackie and took the 3000 bus out of Sincheorwon and got off in Pocheon, Gyeonggi-do to transfer to the bus to Chuncheon. The Chuncheon bus passes through Gapyeong, so we got off there and took the 33-5 bus to the Nami Dock. Once there, we met with our EPIK friends from other areas of Korea and began our adventure. The journey there took around 3 hours.

We arrived to find the place bustling with activity, so we got our zip lining tickets and then headed to a restaurant to pass the wait time with some tasty soup and good conversation. We opted for the longer (and slower) of the two possible zip lines because it allowed us to "drop in" on Nami Island and have a look around before we headed home. The other zip line goes to Jara Island is shorter and faster. Riding the zip line was a fun filled descent into a lovely little island. The wind rippled and the harness bobbed a bit. R's line ended up going faster and somehow I came to a dead stop before I could get out, so an attendant had to push me to the finish line. That made me feel like a kid again. Fun times! It's an exciting minute or so and it's more dangerous than a roller coaster.

See below for some photos of the renowned island...our trip back to Cheorwon proved long and eventuful thanks to waiting in the rain, dealing with line jumpers, and running for our bus in Chuncheon. We took the 33-5 out of Gapyeong, got off at the train station, and got on the ITX into Chuncheon. Once there, we dashed to the bus terminal at the E-Mart 10 minutes away. We ran in, got the tickets, and got on the last bus out with seconds to spare.

Zip lining at Nami Island.
The last vestiges of the autumn foliage. Beautiful stuff.

The big field in the middle of Nami.

A big ol' statue of a mother and her boy on the island. We found it striking.
I snapped this picture while riding the elevator to the zip line platform. Nami Island is straight ahead. The zip wires are faintly visible.

People disembarking from the ferry. The sky looked good, but it quickly got overcast and began raining intermittently. Look closely and you'll see the restaurant sign for dalkgalbi [닭갈비]. Gapyeong's near Chuncheon, which is famous for dalkgalbi

The looming zip line tower.
Tour buses here, tour buses there, tour buses everywhere.

Transit info:

Sincheorwon to Pocheon: 45 minutes.
[The 10am bus to Chuncheon was late, so a 15 minute wait was actually 30 minutes]
Pocheon to Gapyeong Terminal: 90 minutes
[~10 minute wait for the 33-5 bus]
Gapyeong Terminal to Nami Dock: ~10 minutes

The ride home took much longer than anticipated. Please be advised: Nami draws the crowds and you will be waiting in line for a bus or taxi. Also please note that you may have to hold your place in line, as a group tried to cut in line. The 5 of us barely made it on the bus. This behavior's uncommon for Korea, but it does happen: Groups have been known to cut in line at the last second for buses.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The College Entrance Examination pep rally

Tomorrow, 7 November, marks the day of the exalted College Entrance Examination. The Examination's the culmination of all those years of studying, for the students' scores on the test will largely determine what universities they can enter. Not only that, but their universities will largely determine what companies will hire them after they graduate. It's a serious occasion. This year's an especially interesting one because these are the students I met as 1st graders upon arriving here 2 years ago. It'll be bittersweet to see them move on. The year isn't finished yet, but they've nearly reached the top of their mountain. FIGHTING!
The high school and girl's middle school principal giving a speech. The banner talks about amazing test scores and realizing your dreams.

We commemorated The Day Before with a pep rally to raise their spirits. The principal and head teacher gave speeches and we cheered for the 3rd graders. They went home after the rally.