Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top Blogs In Korea!

Hello readers!  I previously mentioned that I was included on a list of the Top Expat Blogs in Korea by GoOverseas.com, which is wonderful!  This site aims to be a resource for people who are looking to study, volunteer, or work abroad, and its chock full of interesting info.  Right now there are fifteen Korean blogs on the list, all informative and interesting in their own way.  In the past the blogs have been ranked in random order, but THIS WEEK, Go Overseas is allowing people to vote for their favorite blogs so that the blogs can be ranked accordingly on their site.

That is where you come in!  Simply follow this link and VOTE for my blog, "My Adventures Teaching English in South Korea" (look, I didn't know that it was going to be used in a competition when I picked the world's most boring blog title...).  It's easy, its quick, it requires almost no effort at all, and yet it comes with the reward of my everlasting love and appreciation.  Pass the word along to your friends!

As an added bonus (in addition to my everlasting love and appreciation, obvi), if you vote for me (okay, okay, even if you DON'T vote for me) you can expect an entry about my Chuseok adventures in Japan, the battle I am engaged in with every single electronic item I own, and my birthday trip out to Andong to soak up some culture at the International Mask Dance Festival.  EXCITING!

Go vote please!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Summer Vacation Fun!

The current lesson for sixth grade, How Was Your Vacation?, aims to help the kids improve their use of past tense verbs.  After spending a week talking about various verbs and playing games, I wanted to see how well they could use what we had reviewed.  I gave them a paper that had the first sentence started: "Last summer vacation I..." and I asked that they complete that sentence and write at least two others.  Below are some essays I got in response:

Last summer vacation I went Gapeong for my vacation.  We went to Tayang village Pension.  I swam at the swimming pool, and played at stream.  The water was very cool and I caught minnows.  I ate samgaetang.  It was very delicious. -Seong Taek

Last summer vacation I visited my grandparents in Kang-ju and Kun-san.  I had really great time there.  Secondly, I went to seriously a lot of academys.  I was really busy.  I had tons of home work too.  Third, I watched a lot of movies.  I watched a lot of funny movies.  It was a really good time.  -Wi Yeon

Last summer vacation I went to Urope.  I ride a airplane.  and I went Paris and Roma....I ate that country's food.  But It's not delicious.  but pizza is very delicious. -Ryeong Tae

Last summer vacation I went Phillippine this vacation. So, I learned about Philippine.  I missed my classmates everyday.  I was busy in Philippine.  Because, I had so many schedule.  I was healthy in there I went aquarium, shopping and swimming pool.  There were very fun.  The camp was near the beach.  Beach was very beautiful.  I arrived Korea.  It felt so good!  Because, I saw my family and friend and can watch dramas. -Oh Jeong

Last summer vacation I studied English.  I went to academy.  It's fun.  I saw a movie.  It's 인셉션 (Inception).  It's funny.  But very loud noisy.  I have a headacke.  I have a fun time.  Because I went to pool.  The day is hot.  and I went to 한강 (Hangang, the river in Seoul) pool!  It's funny. But I have sunburn.  I'm sad.  I studyed math.  I hate math.  It's too hard.  And I missed my classmates.  I missed (insert names in Korean)...It's by Best friend!  I saw a drama.  I love it.  It's funny and lovely~.  -Da Hui

Last summer vacation I went to Chaina to visited my cousins.  I enver went to Chaina before, but I went Japan many times.  I missed my cousins very much.  I went beach three times with my cousins.  It was near from cousins's home.  One time I was sice.  I had a fever.  But, I recover soon! We had fun time.  Also I learn Chaines.  I miss them very much now. -Seung Hyeon

Last summer vacation I go to the rand parents I see the (scribbled out) my cousins bad spik to me by by. -Jong Wan

Last summer vacation I visited my grand parents I played with my younger brother.  It was fun, but some boring.  and I played with my tamagotch "Tama-go".  It's very very fun! I loved that but Tama-go is very expensive.  So I'm very sad- because It's my money! -Yeon Kyeong

Last summer vacation I went PC room.  It PC room keeper was very kind.  It Free! I play computer game.  It's name count strike online.  It's gun game kill the zombe.  It's game my best game. -Tyler

Last summer vacation I was very busy.  I went to Math Academy every Monday, Wednesday, Friday PM: 1:00~PM: 11:55.  And Sunday.  I went to other math academy every Tuesday, Thursday PM: 4:00~7:00.  And becasue there was to much math homework vacation was not fun.  but I took rest in Tuesday or Sunday by plaing games. -Billy

Last summer vacation I went to a Jeju.  I played a swimming and went to a Drema Pantion (Drama Pension, a hotel).  I visited my grandparents.  So hug my grandmother. and I saw movie with my family.  I learned math and English and violin.  Last summer vacation very fun. because quited my Academy!  Oh! I went to to water park.  I ate orange ice cream.  ~luck~ -Ye Young

Last summer vacation I went to Turkey with my cousin.  and I visited my cousin.  and I went to swimming pool with my cousin.  -Kyeong Tae

Last summer I visited my grandparent's house. And next, I went to Cambodia and Vetnam.  Finally, I come back home and study.  After few weeks, I watch movie "Last Airbanders" with friend.  -Seong Yoon

Last summer vacation I was busy becasue of my Academy.  But it was until Aug 19th.  So after I went valley in Aug 21th.  After I went to 설악 mountain and waterpia and 석조 (Seokcho) beach.  And than I prepare for the school and do some homeworks.  and I watch TV programs.  The fun one was Undercover boss.  It is the CEP act like his compeny's work and work like worker.  It was very fun vacation.  I'm waiting the winter vacation! -Yoo Hwan

Last summer vacation I slept all days.  I went Bangcok.  I played all days. -Yeon Ho

Last summer vacation I felt so borring.  Becuase I'm not going to beach! I want to go to beach...But we go to waterpark.  That's fun.  And I visited my grandparent's house.  My grandparent's house is a few far from my home.  So I usually go there.  and my cosins come to there so I played my cosins.  We played computergame.  watch TV...outside is very hot so we played was only inside.  Umm....This vacation was So So. -Han Bi

Last summer vacation I went to camp.  I cooked Rice cake and boiled eggs.  It's delicious!  then I played with puppy who has brown fur.  she can run with me and she can sit on the stairs.  In camp I swam in pool.  -Jina

Last summer vacation I went to U.S.A. to visit my aunts and uncle.  I had a b-day party with them.  I had a meal with my cousins who live in Malaysia.  Then, I studied.  It was half-fun. -Moon Young

Last summer vacation I played.  I went to grandparent's house so I go to stream and I become to die.  & I go to pool which water is very dirty because of bugs. Also I went Ocean World with my cousin sister. -Lucy

Last summer vacation I visited moon.  There was space monkey and he was delicious and yummy.  Just kidding~ I saw mvie.  It was funny.  I thought space monkey when I saw movie.  I went Chuncheon. I went swimming pool.  -Young Jae

Last summer I play soccer everyday.  And I kick the goal very many.  I go to Carriben Bay too.  I play with my friend, and swimming.  That's very fun.  But I'm so black.  I want to kill Sun.  I have sun cream every day....oh no. -Sam

Last summer vacation I went to Kyungju.  Kyungju was very hot, compared to Seoul, even though Seoul is apparently hot as well.  Our family stayed there for 3 nights and 4 days, at Daemyung Condo.  On teh first day, we went to Shilla Millennium Park.  The second, third day was spent at Oryu beach, where the water is very cold and extremely transparent, considering that Korea's sea is not very un-polluted.  I was very astonished to see such a clean and transparent beach in our country.  On the last day, I visited many old places of Shill dynasty; such places like Bulkwangsa, Chumseongdae, and the national museum of Kyungju.  I had a very splendid and hot summer. -Krystal

Last summer vacation I went to Shaghi in China.  I wanted to go to Japan, but my little brother insisted.  I had a hard time there.  It was really, really hot, and those weird Chinese didn't sell any kind of cold drinks! Also, the Chinese food didn't suit me well, so I threw up from the food and the car!  Worst of all, these Chinese computer networks were so slow!  The only time I liked was the time on the plane!  In over all, my trip to China did NOT go so well to me. -Ho Kwan

Last summer vacation I traveled to Europe.  I rode planes for 13 hours.  I ate a lots of Europe foods.  and I played without going to academy. -Tom

The question is, did I have a good vacation?  More fundamentally, what is a good vacation anyway?  To answer this question, I will define what "vacation" is.  A vacation is a time of rest, a time of preparation, a time of fun.  So, basically, having a good vacation is having a good time while resting and preparing for the next term.  I have done all these at least parcially, so I had a pretty good vacation!
One of the most important things in a vacation is resting.  I think I did more than enough of this, sleeping until 9:30 and loafing around, though I DID do other more important things too.
The more important part of my vacation was preparing.  I did at least some of this too.  I studied mathematics (seventh grade) in my free time and practiced algebra, etc.  However, there still is one more important thing.
The most important thing in my vacation was...well, having fun! I did this by going to Ocean world, playing video games, and the sort.
-Dong Min

Last summer vacation I played computer game.  Then I watched TV.  I do my home work.  I love to sleep, so I slapt all day.  I visit my friend house to.  I play baseball with my friend. -Kyeong Hui

Last summer vacation I went Singapore to study English.  I went to China town, and I studied at the CIS (Canada International School).  I met many friends and people. -Gyu Won

Last summer vacation I visit my grandparents.  I rode bike from Seawl to Chuncheon (hour and a half BUS ride).  My leg was very painful.  My father leg was very painful to. -Jake

Anyway, this isn't all of them, but a pretty good sampling.  I am quite proud of my kids, they did a good job.  They also traveled like CRAZY!  

Out of about 100..

  • More than 30 went outside Seoul
  • 17 went to water parks in Korea
  • 5 went to China
  • 2 went to Cambodia
  • 2 went to Vietnam
  • 2 went to the Philippines
  • 2 went to Hong Kong
  • 2 went to the US
  • 2 went to France
  • 1 went to Italy
  • 1 went to the UK
  • 1 went to Germany
  • 1 went to "Europe"
  • 1 went to Singapore
  • 1 went to Turkey
  • 1 went to Thailand
That is pretty amazing!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fun Festivals & Exciting Events: October 2010

Ok, quite a few people have asked me how I find out about upcoming events.  Basically, thanks to my mom, I am a planner by nature.  I do a lot of research and my track record is pretty good for finding fun places to explore and interesting events to attend (last weekend's "festival" was the single glaring exception to that rule).  My goal for this, my second and final year in Korea, is to get out of Seoul as much as possible.  Specifically, at LEAST one weekend per month.  It is amazingly cheap to travel around this country, and I want to see as much of SoKo as I can while I'm still here!

Anyway, since I am already compiling information about upcoming events for my friends and I, why not post it on the blog too?  Here is the October 2010 edition of what I hope will become a staple on my blog: Fun Festivals & Exciting Events.  There are, obviously, other events, however these are the ones that most appealed to me, and therefore the ones my friends and I will be attending.  For a more complete list of events, check out the KTO Events site.  We'll start with a bonus September Event!

Event Name: Seoul Drum Festival
Date(s): Friday, September 24-Sunday, September 26 (schedule)
Type: Quick Trip
Location: Seoul Forest Main Stage
Description: Each year professional and amateur percussionists from across Korea and around the world join together at the Seoul Drum Festival.  There are a ton of shows from various performance teams, as well as a parade.  This year they will be featuring international teams from Japan, France, India and Mexico.  It is right in Seoul and relatively easy to get to.
Cost: Free!
Getting there: Option 1- Go to Ttukseom Station on Line 2 (Green) and go out exit 8.  The stage is a 15 minute walk away. (map)
Option 2- Go to Ttukseom Station on Line 2 (Green) and go out exit 1.  Take bus 2413 or 2224 and get off after two stops.
Option 3- Go to Hanyang University Station on Line 2 (Green) and go out exit 4.  Take bus 410 or 2014 and get off after to stops.
More information: Korean Tourism Organization Site

Date(s): Friday, September 24-Sunday, October 3 (schedule)
Type: Overnight
Location: Downtown Andong and the Hahoe Village 
Description: This is one of Korea's biggest festival events.  It was cancelled last year because of H1N1 and I was so angry!  But it is back, so all is well with the world.  Andong is considered to be a very special and unique place in Korea.  (Fun fact: When Queen Elizabeth visited Korea and asked to be taken to the most Korean place, she was taken to Andong.)  The city is especially known for it's architecture, as it is one of the few places in Korea where people live in traditional homes, called hanok.  When you visit for the festival it is possible to stay in one of these buildings. The festival has over 50 events and hands-on experience programs the center around traditional Korean performances, mask making, and international performance troupes.  You can make masks, watch cultural shows, and "join in the fun with careless abandon," according to the KTO website.  
Cost: 3,000-5,000won admission
Getting there: Andong is pretty far from Seoul, so you can either take the train from Cheongnyangni Station (about 4 hours long and roughly 32,000won RT), or the bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal (about 3 hours long and roughly 33,000won RT).  

Date(s): Wednesday, October 6-Sunday, October 10 (schedule)
Type: Day trip
Location: Suwon Hwaseong
Description: Suwon Hwaseong is a huge, beautiful fortress that is right in the middle of Suwon.  This fortress played a major role in Korean history and the Culture Festival celebrates the history of the fortress and those who built it.  The festival includes parades, traditional performances, reenactments, exhibits, etc.  It is the biggest festival held in Suwon each year.
Cost: Free!
Getting there: Suwon its own city, but it is still connected to the Seoul metro system. Go to the Suwon stop on Line 1 (Dark Blue).  When you exit the station, find your way to the bus stop where local buses are leaving. Take any one of the following buses to the Jongno Intersection (Hwaseong Haenggung): 2, 7, 7-2, 8 or 13.  You can also take a taxi for a minimal fee.  Just ask to be taken to Hwaseong Haenggung.

Date(s): Thursday, October 21-Saturday, October 23
Type: Overnight
Location: Busan's Gwangalli Beach and Gwangan Grand Bridge
Description: The Fireworks Festival is a major event where teams from all over the world compete to put on the best fireworks show.  We're talking a few hours of solid fireworks action over the water.  How could you go wrong?  And since the fireworks are only at night, you'll have plenty of time during the day to explore Busan and maybe even check out their Biennale, which is a huge art festival, featuring artists of all varieties including outdoor sculptors that are ready to show off their talents.
Cost: Fireworks Festival- Free!, Biennale- TBD
Getting there: You can take a bus to Busan, but your fastest bet is to take the KTX high speed train.  They leave regularly from Seoul Station (Line 1 and Line 4) and should take around two hours.  The cost for the KTX is about 103,000won RT.  If you are looking for something a little cheaper, you can also take a bus from Express Bus Terminal (Line 7 and Line 3).  It will only run you about 44,000won, but it will take you four and a half hours to get there.

Date(s): Saturday, October 23-Sunday, October 31
Type: Overnight
Location: Gwangju 
Description: I mean, I think the name says it all. This event gives you a chance to eat at a kimchi buffet, learn to make your own kimchi, and take tons of pictures of you elbow deep in vats of fermented veggies! WHO COULD ASK FOR MORE?  This is truly a uniquely Korean experience, so why not get out there and try something new?  Worst comes to worst, you can use it as a resume builder!
Cost: Not sure...I think it's free.
Getting there: You can fly to Gwangju from Seoul, however I think that is out of most people's price range for a quick weekend jaunt.  The two more cost effective travel options are the bus and the train.  Buses leave from all of the major terminals in Seoul and should run you about 50,000won RT, while taking roughly three and a half hours.  Trains leave Yongsan station and cost about 77,000won RT for the three hour ride.  Once you arrive in Gwangju there are free shuttles running from the station to the festival grounds throughout the day.
More information: Work-n-Play Site

Another thing to keep in mind is that thanks to the Visit Korea Year 2010-2012 (let's not even pause to discuss the name) there are free shuttle buses running from Seoul to Jeonju and Gyeongju.  They have English speaking guides (including our friend, Boram) and they are FREE for foreigners.  Check out their schedule and availability here.

Well, that is all for now.  Look for an update about November sometime in early October!

Monday, September 13, 2010

All Fun and Games!

Oh man, I seriously need to get back into updating more regularly.  I'll do better; I promise.  Soon my schedule will be packed with cool events and trips, so I'll have a lot to talk about.

Life has pretty much settled back down to normal.  Work all day, go home and watch seasons of Dexter, go to bed, wake up, repeat.  It is good to be back in the groove of things.  We've also gotten back to having Gangdong-gu Cru meetups, so that is nice.  On our first Thursday after the school year began, Liz and Papa Kim took all of the foreigners in the building out to dinner.  It was really nice to put faces to the remaining names of newbies, and just generally bond with people in our building.  The food was fantastic...it was the same restaurant that she took Carl, Monica and I to when they visited.  I am so thankful to have landlords who are caring, generous and parental.  They make up for any negative things about this apartment.
Clockwise from left: Caitlin, Josephine, Bryan, Andrew (being a dork), Cory, Frank, Jamie, Shannon (Liz told us to invite friends!)

Clockwise from left: Liz, Me, Lee-Rae, Adam, Michael, Dave, Erika, Melissa

Clockwise from left: Teresa, Diana, Carin, Papa Kim, Sang

Last weekend I organized a group going to the Seoul FC game against Gwangju.  I love the soccer games here, I only wish they weren't on the other side of the woooorld (read: Seoul).  We had a quality group: me, Erich, Chrissy, a cool couchsurfer named Heather, Julia and two of her friends, Lee-Rae and Michael, Shannon and Jamie, and Frank and Melissa.  We held it down for the foreigners, making up our own cheers, etc.  Gotta represent.  In typical Korean soccer fashion, the first half passed without any score, and the second half was all shots at the goal.  Seoul actually got it in five times, but only three counted (offsides).  Still they won, and all was right with the world.  We also killed about four dozen double chocolate chip cookies that I had baked on Friday.  It was great.  After the game most people headed home, but Chrissy, Heather, Jamie, Shannon and I hung out for a while drinking and talking outside the GS25.  We ended up staying longer than expected so we had to take a taxi half of the way home once the trains stopped running.  Taxis are so cheap here that it didn't really matter, though.

Michael and Lee-Rae donning their warpaint

Holla at the waegook cheering section.
(Lee-Rae, blame Erich's faux hawk for you being blocked!)

Let's go Seoul!

Sigh, the vuvuzela (or boo-boo-jael-ra, when directly translated from Korean) has made its way to Korean soccer stadiums.

Like a herd of angry bees.

Sunday I got to sleep in before meeting up with Dave, Chrissy, Shannon, Jamie and one of their friends for a trip to the board game cafe in Gangnam.  I've heard of Cafe Oz before, but I had never actually made it out there.  As I was standing in the subway station waiting for everyone to get there, I heard a HUGE clap of thunder.  Like I am talking EVERYONE stopped.  Cue the downpour.  I am so sick of rain here.  I know weather is going crazy all over the world, but this is just getting annoying!  I swear that for the first three months I lived here it never rained.  It certainly never rained like this.  I was able to leave my house without an umbrella and not constantly walk around in squishy shoes. Is that too much to ask for?  From what I hear, monsoon season came really late this year and typhoon season has been unusually bad for Korea (see last post!).  It is just incredibly annoying to always have to lug around an umbrella and an extra pair of socks.  The ground gets saturated so quickly and everything floods so you're wading through huge puddles.  Yesterday I went on a train over the Han and I couldn't believe how high the water was.  It came completely up to the grass (there is usually quite a drop over the concrete wall on the edges of the river).  Crazy.  It wouldn't be quite as bad if Koreans had any kind of umbrella etiquette, but they don't.  I can't cont the number of times that pointy little umbrella spears have hit me in the face/glasses as someone walked by and bumped into me.  The umbrellas are even dangerous when closed- people swing their arms as they go up and down the subway stairs, turning their already pointy umbrellas into little clubs.  I almost punched a guy who hit me directly on the bruise I have on my knee from falling up the stairs (cest la vie).  I also DESPISE how when its raining really hard, everyone stops at the top of the subway exit.  They form a wall you have to push through as you struggle to put up your umbrella, dodge their pointy bits, and try not to get soaked.  It is a mess and a half.  SO done with the rainy season.

Giant puddles swallow the paths everywhere.

Anyway, we battled our way through the wall of people at the top of the Gangnam subway exit and walked through the POURING rain to Cafe Oz.  It is a pretty neat idea...basically you pay 3,000won a person (about $2.40) per hour and have full access to a huge inventory of board games.  They really run the gamut in game types, difficulty level, etc.  It is pretty sweet.  We warmed up with some Halli Galli, which, coincidentally, I SUCK AT, or so I learned.  There are cards with various pictures of fruit on them and you go around the table placing down cards.  In the center of the playing area there is a bell and whenever you see five of a single type of fruit you are supposed to ring the bell.  SURPRISE, I suck at counting quickly, haha.  Boo math and number games!  After that we transitioned to a drawing game (one person had a minute and a half to describe a picture and points were awarded to each person who drew various parts of the picture that was described) and word games (first a game where you were given two letters and the first team to come up a with a word that started with letter 1 and ended with letter 2 won, then Taboo!)  We had a good time and it was just a good way to kill a few hours on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Super disturbing (and complicated!) German board game called Porn Star at Cafe Oz.

Tuesday was Shannon's birthday and I really wanted to bake her some homemade cheesecakes to celebrate. Monday night Julia, Frank and I met for dinner at Gimbab Sarang and then came back to my apartment to do some baking.  I've been kind of riding a baking high since I came back to Korea.  I've made some SERIOUSLY delicious cookies (regular chocolate chip and milk chocolate/white chocolate chunk) and muffins (apple cinnamon muffins that were to DIE for) so I was ready to tackle mini-cheesecakes.  How hard could it be, right?  I amassed my supplies (including package upon package of costly, imported Philadelphia cream cheese) and we were ready to get to work.  Um...it was an EPIC fail.  Really terrible.  The cheesecakes looked exactly like someone made a tasty cheesecake, dropped it on the ground, a truck ran over it, and then they scooped it up and smushed it back down into mini muffin tins.  Horrible.  Thankfully they tasted okay...but they looked HIDEOUS.  We did, however, have a fantastic time baking them, including lots of laughing at our misfortune.  I was really glad Julia and Frank were there...if I had been alone I would have likely been crying in the corner!

Frank whipping away at cream cheese.

Julia toiling as she chops apples (which we didn't even end up using!)

Baking...it is all downhill from here.

Smiiile, though your heart is breaking...

Whyyyy, for the love of god, whyyyy?

Wednesday night was the Cru meet up at Shannon and Jamie's so we got to celebrate her birthday with my monstrosities and an ice cream cake from Coldstone.  Lots of people came, including Josephine, another new teacher who is working middle school in our district.  She is working at a BRAND new middle school (only one grade level so far) so she may or may not be working with those crazies for winter and summer camps.  We aren't really sure what part of the district she'll be grouped with.  Anyway, the get together was good as per usual.
The ice cream cake and carious cheesecakes (yes, some have crushed cookies on top).

Everyone looking giddy.

One of the things that has really consumed a lot of what would otherwise be blogging time was acting at the friendly neighborhood waegook activity planner.  Basically there is a lot I want to do this year, especially since I know it is my last year teaching here for the foreseeable future.  Shannon was saying that it is strange because this year rather than thinking "Wow, I have a whole year ahead of me," I find myself thinking "Holy crap, half my time here is already over!"  There is a lot I still want to experience, and a lot of places I still want to visit.  One of my goals for the year is to get out of Seoul at least once a month.  Living in a city 24/7 can be a little soul crushing, so I want to have a chance to explore even more of Korea.  To that end I've been stalking the Korean Tourism Website, trying to find fun stuff for us to go experience.  Fall, especially September and October, are really festival heavy here, so there are literally more festivals than we will be able to attend.  I picked my favorites and sent out a mass message to everyone to see what they would be interested in.  It is a lot of work organizing everything, but at the same time I enjoy doing it and if I plan it it means we do what I want, haha.  I had some big and/or famous festivals that garnered a lot of interest (Andong International Mask Dance Festival), some that just sounded hilarious (Gwangju Kimchi Culture Festival), and some that were just smaller, more local events.

The Anseong Baudeogi Festival was hyped up a lot on the KTO website.  "Prepare yourself to be dazzled and delighted by puppet shows, plays, acrobatics, and plate-spinning.  Don't forget to visit the traditional marketplace or take part in one of the experience programs," it encouraged me.  Dana and I woke up early and trekked over to the Express Bus Terminal to take the hour and a half bus ride from Seoul to Anseong.  I had specifically asked Yeon Ah to call them the day before and confirm that the festival still took place even if it was raining. They assured me (through her..perhaps that was the problem) that should it rain they would just move the events inside.  Ok, I can work with that.  Dana and I caught up on the way out, as well as napping, so that was restorative.  All of a sudden we were in Anseong at a bus stop and everyone was getting off...so we got off too.  Later we learned that this was not the Anseong Terminal, but some random stop outside a university along the way.  We grabbed a taxi and he took us out to the festival "grounds."  Basically a small river cuts through a ghetto area in Anseong and they set up the festival along the river's banks.  In nice weather, this would be picturesque.  Thanks to the rain, everything looked dirty, and the river was moving really fast and beginning to overflow its banks.  The entire festival grounds basically turned into a swamp with reeking mud that squished over your shoes.  Lovely.  We walked the full length of the festival grounds, confused by the fact that NOTHING WAS GOING ON.  At that point it was really just misting, so we were unsure as to where all these fun and dazzling events were happening.  It was deserted.  Not only were there no performances going on, but all of tents where I was promised an opportunity to experience things or shop for traditional items were empty.  Some of the vendors were actually packing up their tables and loading up trucks when we arrived at noon on Saturday...and the festival was supposed to last through Sunday night!  Dana used her mad Korean skills to ask a vendor what the heck was going on and they said that stuff wasn't happening because it was raining and they had no idea when or if things would start again because no one told them anything.  Helpful.
I think this picture really captures the festival.  

In nice weather, I bet this festival is AWESOME.  In rain...it is abysmal.

Overflowing river + stinky mud = no festival.  They were actually shoveling the mud with snow shovels.  (Not sure where those snow shovels were when it actually SNOWED.)

We figured that if worst came to worst we could at least buy a delicious lunch in an air conditioned restaurant.  We started walking towards the main road, but then stopped to ask a girl for directions to a restaurant with aircon.  She was sweet and helpful but ended up taking us the absolute opposite direction and depositing us at an open tent where they were unsanitarily (made up that word, embrace it) cooking up various dishes, but (strangely) not the dishes we wanted from the menu.  The food was alright, but expensive for what it was, and there was a hair in the kimchi.  Just icing.  After that we were ready to bolt.  It was clear that nothing else was going to be happening at this illustrious festival, so we went to catch a taxi.  Standing on a corner near the festival grounds was obnoxious, because EVERY car stopped at the light stared at me as though I were on display.  I don't know if they don't get a lot of foreigners over in Anseong (we were the only ones we saw) or what, but JESUS.  Entire cars of people would just sit, idling, and stare.  No embarassment, nothing.  Dana was laughing really hard...she's not used to it because as a Chinese American she is able to blend in a little bit.  No such luck for me.  Eventually we got a taxi and it dropped us off a the Anseong Bus-uh Ter-mee-nahl.  We only had to wait a few minutes for the bus to spirit us away and back to Seoul.  Dana stayed to do some shopping and I went home to sulk about my first real failed adventure.  I was so thankful that it was only Dana and I...we are both pretty good at just letting go, so we still had a good time.  What a bizarro adventure.

Dana sporting the giant paper ajumma visors we snagged.

Sad face.

Hair in the kimchi is a major party foul.

When I got home I started up season 2 of Dexter and changed into my pajamas.  I was pretty much intending to stay parked there, but then I got a text from Shannon asking if I would be interested in meeting them for burgers at an American owned joint by their house.  I had heard of this place before, but I'd never been, so I decided it would be worth it.  I met them at 7 and enjoyed a tasty bacon cheeseburger.  After dinner I was going to head home and clean my apartment since I'm hosting the get together this week...but instead I went on a shopping trip to HomePlus with Jamie and Shannon and their back to their place for a bottle of Cuervo, hilarious viral videos, a sing-a-long, and good discussion.  Oh, and some New England Clam Chowder.  Delicious.  As I stumbled home, exhausted after an excellent night, I couldn't help but be thankful for the friends I've made here.

Sunday I had to cancel my ASL meet-up, so I spent the morning laying in bed and cleaning the apartment.  I also did some laundry...I'm just hoping it is dry by WEDNESDAY when everyone comes over.  That is another major annoyance with the rain...everything is so humid it takes forever and a day to dry.  Last night I went to see a live stage performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show at COEX with two teachers who I had either met only once (Naomi) or had never met (Linda).  I have blog stalked Naomi since we got here, but we had only met once at orientation when she borrowed a power cord.  We talk on Facebook and I kind of felt like I knew her already, and vice versa since she also reads my blog.  She had sent out a Facebook message to all the people who stayed in Seoul asking if anyone was interested in Rocky Horror or a Shakespeare performance, and I was intrigued by Rocky Horror and wanted to go, so it all worked out.  The show was great...the voices of the performers were phenomenal.  Dr. Frank-N-Furter was played by a VERY muscular, tall, black man, which was interesting.  He was even more cut than Rocky!  But man could he sing and move in those platform heels.  I would have died, no question.  It was nice just to have dinner and bond with two other random SMOEers, too.  After the show I came home and cleaned some more before hitting the sheets.
Linda, Naomi and I, pumped for Rocky Horror.

As far as school goes, things have been going really smoothly.  I got two new co-teachers: Ga Young replaced Eun Kyung, and JunHee replaced my hated male CT.  Ga Young is more of a disciplinarian, while JunHee is brand new to teaching and very bubbly.  I liked her instantly.  She is friends with my old CT so I can't bad-mouth him, but it really made me laugh when one of the fourth grade students asked if he was her boyfriend and she laughed out loud before saying "Ummm, no.  He is not my style."  Love.  She was really nervous because this is her first time teaching ever, but I think she'll do just fine.  Today I almost lost my voice as I had to sing a song over and over again with the kids.  This lesson is about asking if people want more of something (usually foods) so I rewrote the lyrics to "Brother John" and the kids sing it.  For example...

I am thirsty! I am thirsty!
Is that so? Is that so?
Do you want some water? Do you want some water?
Here you go. Here you go.

Then I have different verses for different drinks, and a whole set of "I am hungry" verses that we all sing together.  Then we sing two verses as a round.  The kids were surprisingly good singers...I am going to have to video tape on of my classes on Wednesday.

One thing that is kind of crazy and mixing things up at school right now is the fact that each grade is practicing for a big sports day.  I think last year's must have been cancelled for swine flu, because I would not have missed this.  Every grade has to learn some choreographed, synchronized, very involved traditional folk dance.  Sometimes using unconventional props.  The third graders (and keep in mind this is like 120 third graders) are doing a synchronized dance with hula hoops.  The fourth graders have multi-colored umbrellas. I am actually not sure what the fifth graders use, but the sixth grade girls are using these huge, traditional Korean fans.  It is fascinating to watch them practice, but it is definitely screwing up our schedule.  The first two classes of third graders that I usually have on Friday have been moved to sixth period (which I honestly didn't even know our school had) on Tuesday and Thursday.  That makes my Tuesdays extremely long- six classes back to back.  I do not love.  However it only goes for another few weeks as the sports day is October 8.  I am excited to watch it!

It is still a challenge to work with Yeon Ah sometimes.  She is absolutely pleasant, but her English is really low.  I'll give you an example of a conversation from the other day.

I am sitting at the computer between our classes.  She is fiddling with her cell phone.  She walks over.
YA: Can I ::mumble sounding like post:: on something?
Me: Sure.
I stand up to let her use the computer because I think she needs to post on some message board or something.  Instead she stands right in front of me and sticks her hands out, palms down.  Confused, I wait a beat for something else to happen.  Then, thinking maybe I am supposed to do something, I put my hands out in front of me, palms down.
YA: Nails!
Me: Nails...?
YA: I paint.  So I want boast on them.
I realize she has painted her nails with little flowers, and she wanted to "boast" about it.

Sigh.  Imagine that times eight hours a day times five days a week.  And this week I am also going out to dinner with her and her husband.  The back story is as follows: a few months ago I may have mentioned that she brought in an essay that her husband had to write in English for some project at work.  I edited it a few times and made a ton of changes, while still keeping his ideas in tact.  Turns out that her husband recently got a promotion at work, and his boss actually said that it was because his English essay was so good!  Can I open a business writing these things for Koreans?  I mean, I'd much rather write their essays than my grad school application personal statements!

Yes, in case you were wondering, I am still plugging away at grad school apps.  I have pretty much taken Oxford off my list because their application is excessively long, very confusing, and incredibly detailed.  Weighing the chances of me getting in (WITH funding) against the amount of work it just seems silly to keep going.  That will also give me more time to concentrate on my other, more probable schools.  Moral of the story, after about 20 revisions, I never want to see my resume again.

Aside from school and graduate school applications, I'm also planning my trip to Japan over Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving).  Because of how the lunar and solar calendars worked this year, we ended up getting almost an entire week off for Chuseok.  Many people DID get a full week off, but we have to come in on Monday.  Basically this weekend I chill, I go to work on Monday (though I'll be kind of surprised if I teach), and then I am off Tuesday-Sunday.  Tuesday afternoon Diana and I are going to fly over to Osaka.  Tuesday we'll tour Osaka in the evening and then stay there Tuesday and Wednesday night (with a day trip to Nara on Wednesday).  On Thursday we'll head over to Kyoto, stay there overnight in a really nice ryokan, spend Friday exploring some more, and then come back to Osaka on Friday evening.  Saturday we fly back to Seoul in the early evening.  I am excited...I mean Japan isn't really a place I have a super strong desire to visit, but I think I would regret it if I hadn't gone when I'm so close (only an hour and a half flight from Seoul to Osaka).  Good god is that country expensive!! I don't know how teachers live there...it is deadly to get around at all.  And the cheapest hostel we could find was like $40 per person each night.  That is crazytown.  Better be worth it!  Tonight Diana came over and we had breakfast for dinner at Bunch before coming back to my apartment to plan for the trip.  It is exciting to have all of our hotels booked...I feel accomplished!  Next we just need to finalize some plans about things we want to see, etc.  I think it will be great.

This Wednesday I am hosting a party for the new kids in my building as well as old friends.  My mom planted the seed in my brain to do a Minute to Win It themed party.  Basically it is a new reality/competition show in the US where people are given a minute to complete various challenges that call on all types of skills.  The common thread is that I am pretty sure they were all thought up at a frat party.  Look forward to hilarious stories and pictures! Now it is just a matter of where I am going to put the 20+ people who RSVPed that they're coming!

As sort of a post script I just wanted to include a picture of something I love about Korea.  Since people all live in crazy high rises and it is often difficult to move, they have come up with an ingenious system.  Big moving trucks will send out this cool elevator to whatever floor you're on and send your belongings up and down.  So smart!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Typhoon Kompasu!

Wow, this morning we experienced only the second truly crazy weather pattern I've seen since I got to Korea (the first being the BLIZZARD last January).  Last night we had one of our weekly get-togethers for teachers in our area, this time at Erich's apartment over in Myeongil.  It was especially exciting because 1.) We had all been strewn about the globe for the past few weeks and most of us hadn't seen each other, and 2.) We brought two new people into the fold!  Last week when handing out cookies we met Lee-Rae, an Australian girl who took over Candace's apartment two doors down from me.  I had also met her boyfriend earlier (Michael from Scotland), who happens to live only one stop away at Gangdong.  Shannon did a little investigative work and found out that Michael took over Ed's old position, so he would be in the same cohort as them for winter camp and stuff.  This incited a flurry of exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and we invited them to our little outing.  I am surprised we didn't scare them off...they are a hearty pair.  Both excellent people I look forward to hanging out with in the future.  We even had a little We-Survived-A-Full-Year! cake, courtesy of Julia and Paris Baguette.

Yaaaay, we made it!

After the festivities died down, I left Erich's to find that it was starting to get a little windy and rainy.  I waited (FOREVER) for the subway, came home, and crashed soon thereafter.  This morning around 4:00am I was awoken by noise of wind and clanging outside.  I drifted in and out of sleep for the next few hours, woken up each time downpours of rain were whipped against my window or a particularly obnoxious sound (I think it was the street sign shaking) made itself known.  When I finally got up and looked out the window it was clear that we were still experiencing Typhoon Kompasu, which tracked directly over Seoul during the early hours of the morning.  Roofing tiles were flying off the building across from me, tarps were snapping in the gusts of wind, and awnings from restaurants and stores were being stressed to (and sometimes beyond) their breaking point.  It was crazytown!  After calling my parents and speaking with my Dad about the storm, I decided to head to school a little early so that I could follow the State Department's advice and get some money out of the ATM.  It was SO windy.  As soon as I got down to the corner my umbrella blew inside out.  I scrambled through the rain and into the little bank vestibule where the ATMs are, only to find out that their network was down.  Probably thanks to the same winds that were making my electricity flicker on and off this morning.

I got on the subway (warily, as I am STILL not sure what would happen if they lost power...I mean there have to be back-up generators, right?) and headed to work without incident.  When I came out of exit 5 at Jamsil it was clear that there was a LOT of destruction.  HUGE trees were down all over the place, smashed through the metal fence and brick walls that separate the apartment complexes from Olympic-ro, the main street that runs in front of Lotte World.  Walking a little further I find out that the ENTIRE huge sidewalk (at least 2 car lanes wide) is eventually blocked by giant downed trees.  I had to walk in the street to get to school and back track twice to avoid areas that were too blocked/treacherous.  When I finally arrived in our office, Yeon Ah was the only one there.  As I sat down she got a text message saying that students didn't have to come in until 11:00am because the storm was so bad.  Finally it blew over and the kids arrived, even though there is NOT A CHANCE IN HELL that we would have had school in the US.  Never run the risk of bringing kids into buildings where there are huge windows surrounding them in high winds...just doesn't make a lot of sense.  Here are some pictures, for your viewing pleasure.

Kompasu in its way to Seoul, 5:33pm last night.

In our faces, 1:33am today.  That is one large storm system...and on the scale here it is a "small" typhoon!

Main street by my house.  Notice the leaves and debris all over.

Trees a-swayin' across the street (and at least one down).

Fighting to keep up our umbrellas in Jamsil.


All the trees just popped out of the ground.  They must have really shitty root systems.

My path to school, now a path of destruction.

But...how do I get to school?  Ah, yes, walking in the (ever so safe) bus lane.  During rush hour.

Another large tree down by the other side of the station.

After extensive clean up all day.

All in all, I would not like to be a clean up person in Seoul this year.