Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Archive for March, 2008

Reading, Writing, but not Arithmetic

Posted by quirksalight on March 31, 2008

Starting next week, I am starting Korean language classes to improve my reading and writing skills. The classes are given by the Korea Foundation Cultural Center for free! Which is awesome, but there’s a tradeoff (for me), as I have to commute into Seoul for the lessons.
I went there tonight to take a placement test. Turns out my reading and writing is at a high beginner level and my speaking is in the mid-intermediate. So I’m taking the high beginner class…as it’s my reading and writing that need the most TLC at the moment.
Though the girl who graded my test was a bit baffled at my test, as I got all the hard questions correct, but missed a couple of the easy ones. Go figure….

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Posted in Incheon, Korea, Korean, language, Seoul, travel | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

My principal is a matchmaker and the vice principal is a party hound

Posted by quirksalight on March 29, 2008

During orientation, we (the brand-spanking new English teachers) were told that our schools will have a large social outing from time to time, the amount varying on the school we work with. In these outing, which would start right after the school day was over, we are to expect a massive quantity of food and drink. By drink, meaning soju and beer, sometime liquor. In addition, there will be multiple rounds of this, going from restaurant to noraebang (karoke in a private room) to bar.
I was wondering when my school would have this; most of the other teachers were regaling me with their stories within the first week of starting teaching. So I figured that my middle school was breaking the mold and not having these raucous affairs.

Not a chance. Yesterday was Buheung Middle School’s social night, specially to welcome the twenty or so new teachers, including me. The other English teachers warned me that the principal is a very social fellow, and loves these kind of things. Add to this with drinking culture, where if someone (higher in rank) pours you a drink you have to drink it and then you’re supposed to pour them back a drink… well.. it can get messy.
Round 1 was at a very good seafood restaurant in the Bupyeong market area. There were massive quantities of seafood and ban-cheon, which are the little side dishes that come with every meal. And I thought I had eaten most everything, but there were definitely some unrecognizable things in the seafood dish. Still not really sure what I ate, but I think one of them was fish intestine. Not bad.
After the people started digging into the food, the principal, head Physical Education teacher, and the vice principal all started the rounds of drinking.
vp-drinks.jpg
This is my vice principal toasting with the new teachers. He wanted to know what you say when you toast in English… I told him “bottoms up!” or “Cheers!”

They went to every table, and drank with all the new teachers. That’s about 20 shots of soju, which is 13% alcohol by volume. Oh boy…

One of the oddest things in the evening was the principal wanting to act as a match matchmaker! I was talking to him, and he asked me if I was single. When I said yes, he got this look on his face that all but screamed “plotting” and said, “there’s this guy, very smart, I know his mother, do you want to meet him?”
To which I replied, “Um…well, I am going to go back to the US.” Keep in mind, that this is my BOSS… can’t really offend him.
He replied, “Oh, that’s OK, he lives in NY, works for Daewoo engineering. Do you want to meet him?”
Thinking, OH CRAP, I replied, “Er… I don’t know…umm… can I tell you on Monday??”
He replied, “Don’t you want to get married? How old are you?”
I know I had a bit of a panicked look on my face as I replied, “Err… 28 in the US and I’m not sure if I want to get married.”
He laughed and let the subject drop. Of course, this conversation is in Korean, so all the other teachers and admins were either howling in laughter or turning red because they were trying not to howl in laughter. I know the expression on my face was very comical, and so was the convo. Ay-ya…

Round 2 was at the noraebang across the street. At this point, three off my co-teachers had left and about 20 teachers were left. A noraebang is like karaoke, but in private rooms. You rent the use of the room and equipment (which is the karaoke machine, song books, video projector and screen) by the hour. It’s very popular here, you’ll see them on every block.
It was totally great to see the teachers and VP (the principal had gone home) in a much different light then the professional setting that I am used to seeing them in. People were dancing and singing (and drinking) and having a pretty good time.
noraebang1.jpg noraebang2.jpg

Yes, I was “encouraged” to sing, but that’s not something I’ve ever had an issue with. 🙂

Round 3 (and last one of the night!) was at the beer hall next to the noraebang. At this point, we had been going for 5 hours! Even with the marathon party session, I was very glad that I came, because I got to talk to my fellow teachers, many who I had never spoke to at all. (the middle school is pretty huge) Some of them spoke pretty good English, but were just too shy to try it out. At the beer hall, (with encouragement of the VP) we were playing drinking games. Yes, middle school teachers playing drinking games, with beer soju, and boilermakers. Needless to say, everyone was a bit tipsy and then some.

But it was a very fun night, and I’m glad I made it through all the Rounds, as people did open up and were less reserved as the night went on. I wonder how the dynamic will be on Monday.

Posted in adventure, Alcohol, amusing, ancedotes, Beer, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, camera, Food, fun, Humor, Korea, liquor, People, restaurants, teaching, teaching english, thoughtstream, travel | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Part 4: The motorcycle

Posted by quirksalight on March 25, 2008

The original plan for Saturday night was to explore Itaewon, get some salsa dancing in, and maybe hit up this fundraiser for an English teacher (Bill Kapoun) who died due to injuries received in an apt fire in Seoul.
We (Wietske, Lindsay, and I) had split up after shopping and were planning to meet up at salsa dancing in Itaewon, when I get a phone call saying that there is nothing to drink at the dance club, and they are charging a cover. Ugh. So off we went to satisfy a more pressing need, food, as Jake and I had not eaten dinner at this point (10pm!). We were able to find a Thai place, but the food was only mediocre, so I will not bother to post the name of it.
After, we were hopping locations, and the first place we checked out was Gecko’s Tavern. They had better beers than most places I had been to, which isn’t too surprising, as it’s an ex-pat bar in an ex-pat area of Seoul. Played some darts, but just really wasn’t happening there. Off we went to search for a noraebang – aka, a place where you can sing karoke in a private room.
During the search, I spot the Wolfhound, an Irish bar that happened to be the location of the fundraiser. We all donated 10,000 won at the door (some of us more), and settled in for a drink when we hear the auction starting. It was a charity auction to raise money to cover the medical expenses of Bill Kapoun, and whatever left over to go into an emergency fund for English teachers in Korea.
Yup – you guess it. The motorcycle was on the list. Jake and I were bidding, but more to drive the price a little higher (come on, 250,000 won for a motorcycle that was just bought!?!?). But… we did too good of a job, and Jake’s bid of 460,000 won was the winning bid.
Now the question – how the heck are we going to get it back to Incheon, much less Hwaechon, which is in a different province all together???? It’s raining, cold, and about 2am in the morning!! A taxi ride is at least 45 mins to Incheon (my apt). So, I talked to the taxi driver to go slowly and to take a route that a motorcycle can go on back to my apt. IT took over an hour in the cold rain to get back. So now, it’s parked at my apt until the shippers come pick it up on wednesday morning to ship it to Hwaechon. Yes, even with the shipping, the bike was a total bargain. Just a rather unexpected one. 😀

Posted in adventure, amusing, ancedotes, friends, Humor, Incheon, Itaewon, Korea, motorcycle, Seoul, travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Part 3: People, charity, and a motorcycle

Posted by quirksalight on March 24, 2008

It’s interesting on how you meet people. For me, I usually just talk to people. Literally. For example, after Wietske, Lindsay and I were in a dire need of coffee, sugar, and a place to sit for a bit after our shopping expedition, we ended up at a 2nd floor coffee shop across from Dongdae-mun, which is the gate. There, while, relaxing, we overhead a foreigner jokingly hitting on a pair of Korean girls in English and of course, failing miserably. Not too sure if the girls were ignoring him or like a lot of Koreans, not understanding rapidly spoken American slang, but still, definitely tanking. Seeing and overhearing this, we laugh and I made a comment of the likes, “totally shot down, dude…” Which led the three of us chatting with Quentin and Ted (I think that was the 2nd guy’s name), exchanging info about social life in Seoul, things to do, and contact info. One guy was visiting, while the other was also teaching English in Korea.

So the weekend ended with this motorcycle: Jake’s new bike

And how so, you may be asking. Well… it involved roaming around Itaewon, nixing the dancing, and a charity auction.

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Humor, Incheon, Itaewon, Korea, motorcycle, Seoul, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Part 2: Dongdae-mun

Posted by quirksalight on March 24, 2008

Dongdae-mun

I’m standing in front of Dongdae-mun gate, which was originally the east gate of Seoul (formerly a walled city). From city edge, this is now one of the biggest shopping districts in Seoul, if not THE biggest. I don’t know how many malls and markets there are in this area. All I know is that my friends and I have not touched the but the tip of this place.
One of the best things about shopping here is the bargaining. I love haggling over the price. And I can haggle in Korean and English, so it works pretty well for my friends and I.
Here’s my new purse:Purse
I used the fact that two people were buying and haggling to get about 40% off of the original price. 🙂 Lots o’ fun!
One of the things I was afraid of not finding was jeans. But at Dongdaemun market, I was able to find $10 (10,000 won) jeans that was a pretty good fit. Not too bad… I bought two. 😛

Posted in adventure, amusing, ancedotes, Bizarre, Humor, Incheon, Korea, motorcycle, People, Seoul, teaching english, traveling | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bupyeong, Handbags, Itaewon, and a motorcycle: Part 1

Posted by quirksalight on March 24, 2008

… is a quick summary of the weekend.
Two EPIK-ers from other providences were going to be in town (and crashing in my apt) this past weekend. Lindsay was in on Friday night, crashing that night as the first person to sleep on my new sofa/bed. =)
Wietske and I had dinner earlier, as we waited for Lindsay to get to my apt… mmmm… Korean Fried Chicken!
But the evening’s festivities was hitting up Bupyeong station. Starting off at the Goose Goose, we met up with Linda and Mick for some drinks. Randomly, we ran into three Canadian English teachers I had met the weekend before at a kim bap shop in Bupyeong Market. Apparently they were also hitting up the ex-pat bars in Incheon that night. The Goose was a bit mellow and Linda, Mick, Lindsay and I went to check out some of the locales. One was closed (Motown), but the Woodstock had an interesting music selection and a mini-porch for people watching. The latter being the draw, Lindsay and I decided to linger there when Nick and Andrew (more Incheon EPIK teachers) wandered in. These guys were total jokers, and very amusing to hang out with for the evening.
Trio at Woodstock
Nick, Lindsay, and Andrew, hamming it up. Mind you, this was before the “ass-kicking” game proceeded to occur… yes, it was basically a bunch of fools running around, trying to kick each other in the rump while avoiding getting kicked in the rump. Ow.

Wandering about some, we ran into another EPIK-er and her friends in front of a mini-mart. While chatting, the boys found a coin-operated kicking machine and Nick proceeded to kick to his heart’s content with the group of guys already there.
img_0323.jpg
The kicking machine…

Kickin’ it in Bupyeong
Kickin’ it in Bupyeong

After a fruitless search for a no-cover disco, Lindsay and I called it a night as we were to head into Seoul early on Saturday to check out one of the largest shopping districts in Seoul.

Posted in amusing, Bupyeong, EPIK, Humor, Incheon, Korea, motorcycle, Seoul, shopping, travel | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

I think I get it?

Posted by quirksalight on March 19, 2008

Which is about what sums up my first week of teaching. It was pretty fun, the kids are for the most part, pretty enthusiastic and interested.
The second week has been a veritable roller coaster of classes being rowdy, highly motivated, to very not so much. It’s midnight on Wednesday, and I’ve still got to prep for next week. At least it’s not Sunday night before. 😛

Will update more later, especially on the day trip to Wolmido when I get a chance to breathe. 🙂

Posted in Buheung MS, Bupyeong, Incheon, Korea, musings, teaching, teaching english, travel | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Chugging through the first teaching week

Posted by quirksalight on March 12, 2008

And it’s been a tiring, but highly amusing, couple of days. My classroom is pretty large – quite possibly twice the size of my old apartment, which would make it 450-500 square feet. So speaking to three dozen middle school kids takes a bit of voice, and to do so 4-5 times a day, well, it’s quite a lot of talking in a slightly raised voice. =P
But the best part of being in Buheung Middle School are by co-teachers. There are five Korean English teachers who I work with, and I don’t know what kind of Karmic payment I did to deserve this, but all five of them are fantastic! We get along quite well, communication can be rough, but everyone is more than willing to work on it until we are sure that everyone understands what the other person is trying to say. Even in the classroom, our ideas on how to teach the speaking class (the one I am teaching) just ended up meshing very well. They had wanted someone who would teach the class, so they can work in a more observational role, and getting involved in in the main activity section of the lesson, where we both roam the classroom to help out students as they are completing their group lessons. That was exactly what I had in mind, so it was perfect. I love my co-teachers! The amount of planning dialog is phenomenal. They have made my transition in to living in Korea and teaching middle schoolers so smooth and relaxed…it’s just excellent.

Monday, I was a bit nervous, as it was a lot kids at once, and I was basically doing a trial run of my lesson plan with the first class. This week’s lesson (I only have the kids once a week) was on introductions. Introducing yourself, interviewing others and introducing them. Basic questions on name and interests. I tried to keep my cousin’s advice in mind, that I need to be able to change the lesson plan on the spot due to the response of the students to what I was teaching them, but it was hard to balance that with trying to keep my eye on them, while trying to elicit them to speak in English, which most were reluctant to do so.

But by the end of the day, i was comfortable with my Introduction lesson, and was able to adjust the presentations and games in relation to the students engagement level per class. Some classes were very quick, so we covered more material. In one class, I ran out of material, even my extra stuff, as that particular 9th grade (Middle school, 3rd year) class was extremely quick with the material.

One consistent bit of humor was the Q&A session I let the kids have with me. The majority of them are very curious about the “Native English Speaker” who’s been dropped in on their school. So I let them ask their questions, as long as it’s in English, for 5-10 mins in the Introduction class. I’ve gotten a couple amusing ones, such as: “Do you have a boyfriend?”, “What is your ideal man?”, “Is your brother handsome?”, and “Do you know Kim Sin Yeong? You look like her; she’s really cute.”

Two more days of Introduction lessons to go, and planning for next week!

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Bizarre, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, english, Humor, Incheon, Korea, teaching, teaching english, travel | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Out and about in Bupyeong

Posted by quirksalight on March 8, 2008

I organized a get-together for the Incheon EPIK 2008 teachers this Friday at Bupyeong Station, as that was the intersection of the two subway lines in Incheon city. However, this station is HUGE. Multiple levels, underground shopping mall, aboveground shopping mall…. tons of exits, etc. Convenient location, yes. Meeting up… well, not so much.
Two days prior, Brian and I even went there to scout out a meeting place. Decided to pick exit 2. However, apparently there are TWO exits marked “2” in the station. Amazingly enough, 4 out of the 6 of us found each other, and we were able to call Wietske to meet up at the only Starbucks in the area. But Linda and Mick we didn’t see and couldn’t call as she (like most of us) did not have a cell yet.
Dinner was awesome – we were all craving lots of grilled meat, and lots we found. I love the fact that Korea has fantastic food for mad cheap…. it’s wonderful! As was our marinated beef ribs and pork loin that we grilled over the charcoal pit in our table!
Post dinner, we headed to Goose Goose, which has a long standing rep as the “ex-pat” bar in Incheon. Settled down for drinks, and who but Linda and Mick walk in! They found the bar, and figured rightly that we’d head here. A bit of amusing trouble occurred, which you can see here.

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Bupyeong, Incheon, Korea, teaching, teaching english, travel | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

End of the first week

Posted by quirksalight on March 8, 2008

My observation and prep week has wrapped up, and I have to admit being a tad nervous for my first day of actual teaching, which is Monday.
It was a really good idea to have a week to just get used to being in the school. To figure out the equipment, learn how the school operates, to see how the classes are taught, etc.
Also, there was a bit of paperwork that I needed to take care of for legitimately staying in Korea (visa issues) and having this week to hash it out was great.

Posted in adventure, ancedotes, Buheung MS, Bupyeong, Incheon, Korea, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »