Chili Pepper Bridge

Chili Pepper Bridge

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wow, its been nearly a month now.  I'm back into the full swing of teaching again and its great.  I really like everything about my new school.  So far the only downsides about my new place is that I live kind of far from everything in Incheon (or at least where my friends live).  Most of the foreigners who live I'm my building are Hagwon teachers so their schedules are way different from mine, which makes hanging out on weekdays pretty much impossible, and to get to where my other friends live takes about an hour on public transportation.  However, I discovered that I do live right next to an awesome park with lots of cool hiking trails which is nice.  And through this park I can walk to Incheon Grand Park (where the zoo is) in about 30-40 minutes.  Not too shabby.  Anyways, I finally got a new laptop so expect some new pictures soon (I know its been a while...), and I'll post my mailing address soon as well (I keep forgetting to ask what it is).  Heading into Seoul for the weekend to meet up with some friends who flew up from Jeju Island and also hang out with some of my old friends from Jinbu (where I lived last year).  Should be fun!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ok, I know I've been slacking off of the blogging... I'll try and update it more often from now on.  But anyways, as most of you know I'm going to be working another year over here in Korea, however now I am in the EPIK (English Program in Korea) program and am living in a new city (Incheon).  I arrived back in Korea last week and was picked up at the airport by the EPIK staff.  We had a one week trainging/ orientation period in Seoul with about 150 other teachers.  There were about 25 teachers going to the same city as I was so that was nice.

So yesterday orientation finished up and they took us to Incheon.  I got to meet one of my co-teachers (I have 4) and saw my school for about a minute.  My school's name is Namdong Elementary School (남동초등학교) and has about 1000 students! yikes! My last school only had 125 students.  The teacher I met seemed very nice though so I am excited, I go in for my first day of work tomorrow.

I also got to move into my new apartment, which is only 5 blocks from the school.  Its very nice one bedroom studio type set up and its fully furnished.  The last teacher who lived there was a girl though, so I need to make a few changes to the decor, haha.  There are about 7 other foreigners living in my buidling as well.  I met most of them the first night there.  They were all going out to Seoul to celebrate Halloween but I was so exhausted from the week of training I stayed in.

Today, several of the other new teachers and I headed out to explore some of Incheon and do some shopping for random things we need in our apartments.  Unlike the last place I lived there are actually big stores here and I was able to find everything I needed in one place, without having to tracel an hour away.  So thats the update for the begining of round 2 in Korea.  I still don't have a computer yet (I'm at a PC Bang right now) so it will be awhile before I can upload any pictures.  I will most likely buy a new computer with my frist paycheck next month.  Anyways I hope all is well, I will let you know what my new mailing address is once I figure it out.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Busy Spring

     Wow, ok, I haven't updated this thing in over two months, I guess its time...  Unfortunarly there wont be any new pictures on this one because my laptop finally ( after 7 years of faithful service) crapped out on me, soo all my pictures on there were lost :(.  However on facebook there are other pictures of me that my friends have taken of the past 2 months that show some of the things I've been up too.
     Ok well the past two months have been extremely busy.  Nearly every single weekend had been booked with some sort of trip or activity.  The first week of March I hosted a ski trip for the new TaLK scholars.  I somehow managed to cram 16 people into my apartment!!!  The trip was a huge success however, although one guy had to go the the hospital and get stitches after getting in a ski accident (nothing too serious though).  One of the new guys actually made a little video of the trip and put it on youtube, so you can watch that (
     Anyways.... Also in March was St. Patrick's Day.  The local a Jinbu Teachers and myself all went to Seoul to celebrate.  There was an Irish festival in one of the areas downtown that we went to for a bit.  There were live bands and lots of people out and about.  The main even of the night however was a Boat Cruise down the Han River that we had booked tickets for.  A big St Patty's Day part on a boat with food and music and all you can drink craft beer.  It was a good old time.
     The next week was when my Mom and Strega came to visit!  I met up with them in Seoul on Friday night where we went out to dinner at a Korean BBQ place.  We grilled samgyupsal (pork) and galbi (beef) on the right on the table.  It was delicious!  Mom and Strega were happy to because before I had met up with them they had been encounter some "interesting" food choices.  The next day we went to Gyeongbok Palace, one of the old palaces in Seoul from hundreds of years ago.  The grounds are huge and the architecture is amazing.  I love how intricately painted all the ceilings on every building are.  After the Palace we went out shopping at some crazy market that was completely packed with people.  Later we met up with one of Strega's friends who took us to his uncle's restaurant in Insadong.  Had a assorment of seafood rice served with edible flowers, bulgolgi with fried mushrooms, and pork ribs. mmmmmmm......  Sunday we headed out to Jinbu so they could get a taste of the country life.  The town didn't smell to pleasant that day because all the farms are recently fertilized their fields with manure.  We made my way to my apartment where we relaxed for a while.  That night My Korean friend's mother made us a home made meal.  This feast was massive and had so many different dishes i can't even remember what everything was.  The next day i took them to my school and did my lessons with them.  Everyone was very excited to see them!  the following morning they left Jinbu and headed down south to Gyeonju.  Just in time too as a snowstorm had just hit my town!
     The following weekend we had organized another TaLK get together, this time at a water park up in Sokcho (north of Jinbu right on the Coast).  There were about 16 of us in total, but instead of cramming them all into my apartment we had booked 3 suits at the resort hotel.  The water park was alot of fun, although it was still a bit chilly out, so we were sprinting from hot tub to hot tub.  There was even one area where you could sit in a pool of fish who ate the dead skin off your body.  It felt sooo weird!!!  We spent the day at the water park and then the next day went back home.
     The next weekend I went and visited my friend in Seoul.  He just moved here about 2 months ago and works at a Hagwon (private academy).  That Saturday a group of his friends and myself (about 12 of us in all) went to Everland, kind of like the Korean version of Disney Land.  Here's the kicker, we were all dressed in animal costumes.  Needless today we got quite a bit of attention, haha.  Almost any time we stopped parents and their kids started lining up to take pictures with us.  After a full day of going on rides and enjoying Everland, we went back to my buddy's place and crashed.  The next day we hung out at a park and just relaxed.  The weather was so nice!!!!
     Ok, I think I'm finally to the present time.  This past weekend I went to a Baseball game in Seoul.  It was nuts!  Everyone cheers and sings songs the entire game.  Serisouly, im pretty sure every single player has their own song and they fans sing it every time they go up to bat.  I've been going through some baseball withdrawals since I've been here so it was good to finally get to a game.  I will definitely be going again.
     So anyway, for those of you who don't know yet, I've decided I'm am going to stay in Korea for another year.   However, I want to switch over to the EPIK (English Program in Korea) program because then I can work full time (right now only teaching 12 hours a week) and get paid more money.  I sent them my initial application last week and today I got an email back saying I passed the initial review and they want to schedule an interview!  So I'm excited about that.
   This next weekend me and some friends are going to hike Seoraksan mountain.  Its the tallest mountain on continental South Korea (there is a taller mountain in North Korea, and the tallest one is on Jeju Island).  Its going to be an intense hike but its supposed to be breathtaking scenery.  Expect some pictures of it on the next update (hopefully not 2 months from now).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

End of a long vacation...

     Well I am now on the final week of my nearly two month (paid) vacation.  I have to say though, I am ready to go back to school.  It will be nice to have some kind of set schedule again (not that I didn't have a ton of fun these last two months!).   I also found out that I will be getting a new mentor teacher this semester.  I will get to met her on Friday when I got back to school.  Hopefully she is as nice and helpful as So Young, my last mentor teacher.  I'm not to worried about it though because So Young will still be at my school, but for only one day a week.  She is doing administration training in YangYang, a little town on the East Sea.  So anyways, my first day back to school is this Friday, but my first class isn't actually until March 12th.  So the next week and a half or so I'll be creating my semester curriculum plan and working on lesson plans for the first week of classes.  I am excited to see my old students again and also to meet my new ones!
     In other news, this past weekend we had the local orientation for the new batch of TaLK Scholars in the Gangwon-do province.  We got just around 27 new teachers (although me and Kevin at still the only ones in Pyeongchang).  It was really cool seeing all the new people and also neat to finally be on the other side of that interaction.  This time I was the experienced one, answering questions and telling people about life in Korea.  It also snowed like crazy while we were there.  Just when some of us thought winter was nearly over, bam, 3 straight days of snow.  I was excited though because it meant some quality snowboarding for my last week of vacation.  We finished up the Orientation on Monday, and the new people got picked up by their mentor teachers, and me and everyone else went back on our own to our towns.  I managed to get back in time to catch the night snowboarding session with one of the EPIK teachers in Jinbu, we also went again today (like i said, the snow was to good to pass up).  Well that's about it for now, I'll probably have more to talk about once I start back up with school again.  Until next time!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year!

Ok so time for another long overdue update.  I keep trying to remind myself to write on here, but the longer i put it off the easier it is to keep putting it off, and then the thought of writing two months worth of news makes be want to procrastinate even more but.... ok finally I am sitting down and doing this, haha.

So its been while.  I finished my last day of the regular semester classes on December 22nd.  The last two weeks of school were a lot of fun because I basically just taught Christmas stuff and made decorations with the students.  We sang Christmas Carols and made paper snowflakes, and I gave out candy canes to everyone.  The next semester starts March 1st of next year and all my students will move one grade up.  It will be interesting to see them in their new classes (and to have fresh 1st graders right out of kindergarten...)

After, the last day of school I still had two weeks of English camps to teach before my vacation time started.  The first week I taught at a different school where one of the EPIK teachers works and the second week I taught at my school and an EPIK teacher came out to help us.  The English camps are a lot of fun because, since it not an actual school class you can do more fun activities.  I had one in depth lesson on Pyeongchang Tourism where we learned about all the things to do in Pyeongchang and then I had the kids make brochures advertising their favorite things to do and for my other lessons we made chocolate chip cookies and played review games.  The last day of camp was on January 6th.  We had some fun quiz games and did an auction with fake money the students had earned throughout the week.  After that I was free for a month!

 The 3rd (soon to be 4th) grades on the last day of school with Candy Canes in their mouths.

The 4th (soon to be 5th) grade boys getting their faces in there.

Before school was out though, our province had a training/cultural trip for all the TaLK Scholars in the Gangwon-do area.  We spent 3 days at the DMZ peace village.  Some of the time we had lectures on teaching and stuff like that but we did a lot of cool stuff also.  We went to the DMZ and got to go into tunnels that the North Koreans had dug to try and invade the South.  Of course we couldn't go all the way though, haha.  The tunnels are sealed in the middle by three concrete barriers.  But we got to go in and ride on this mine cart type thing, because the tunnel was only about 4 feet tall.  Were weren't allowed to take pictures inside but I got a few of the entrance.

After the DMZ experience we went to an art museum and a natural history museum.  We got to look at the works of several famous Korean artists and also at many ancient artifacts from the stone and iron ages that were found in Korea.  There was one painter (I cant remember his name) that only painted with his hands (so no brushes or anything) and his work was amazing.  The paint was so think that that picture was literally popping out at you.  And there was another artist who's style was to start with a black sheet, and then put 7 to 12 layers of different colors on top of each other.  Then when he wanted a part of the picture to be a certain color, he took a chisel and chipped away the top layers until he reached the color he wanted.

One of the very interesting things that stuck with me from this trip was the fact that the DMZ is actually one of Korea's most preserved wildlife refuges.  Mainly due to the fact no no people can go there, so the animals are  truly (at least on that narrow strip) free of human interaction.  It houses several endangered species and many of Korea's  notable animals.  I remember our guide said, "In Korea the people cannot move freely, but every year the fish in the river go back and forth from the North to the South."  It was really cool to see how in touch with nature he was.  The one big problem with the wildlife refuge however is that there are still hundreds of thousands of land mines scattered all over the area, and from time to time animals will step on them and be maimed or killed.  The area itself however is beautiful and it was interesting to finally be that close to the heart of the Korean conflict.  Within just a few miles of North Korea.  If you saw a bird flying, chances are it was in the North earlier that day.  It was truly amazing.

 Some North Korean Brandy.  No, we didn't drink it, it was in a glass case.

 Me at the South Korean entrance to Tunnel 4, running from North to South Korea.

 Area around the tunnel entrance.  Over the mountains on the left side is North Korea.

                              Some ancient Tombs at the History Museum.

                                                  A Christmas Tree in the city of Inje.

So now I am on my winter vacation.  After January 6th I was finished with class and had several weeks off.  The first two weeks or so I spent in Jinbu, putting my YongPyong season pass to good use.  I did a a lot of snowboarding those first two weeks.  Also, I made several new Korean friends in town (which is good because at this point all the foreigners had left, making be the only westerner in the whole town).  One guy is a local bar owner and is only 2 or 3 years older than me (its always hard to tell in Korean age) and another one owns a Sushi restaurant in town (both good people too know).  They are both interested in improving their English so we hang out and they practice Enlglish and I attempt Korean.  I also met a woman who lives in Jinbu who is the Hagwon (private English academy)  teacher in the town of Jangpyeong (the same town I teach in!).  After talking for a while we realized we have many of the same students!  They will attend my class at the public school and then go to her class at the private academy right after.  She is good to talk to too, because since she is an English teacher her English is very good, which is rare out int he Korean country side.

This past week I was going a little Jinbu stir crazy, so I decided to hop on a bus and visit my friend who lives in Gwangju.  Gwanju is Korea's 6th largest city and is know for being the center of Korea's art scene, but mainly I just needed some city time.  Also, Gwangju is pretty far south so when I working its too far for me to go for just one weekend.  Its about 5 and a half hours each way on buses.  So I figured I'd take the opportunity of my time of to make the trek down.  Once in Gwangju I had my friend show me around.  I really wanted to do things that I couldn't do in Jinbu and take advantage of the large Expat community in Gwangju.  One night I had a delicious bean rice and pork burrito!  It was so good, and it even came with fresh salsa and sour cream.  Another night we went to an Indian Restaurant called First Nepal and got several curries.  That's probably my only real complaint about living in the country, is that if I want anything other than Korean food (well we do have a pizza place and fried chicken) I have to travel.  Don't get me wrong, I love Korean food, but every once in a while you need a hamburger, or some Indian food, or some fish and chips, and the bigger cities have all those options, simply because they have larger expat communities.  But anyways, I got my fix so I'm happy!

So now today is the Lunar New Year (don't call it Chinese new year out here, people get mad) and I am now officially 26 in Korean age (in Korean age you are 1 the day you are born, and then get one year older on the Lunar New Year).  I spent the day snowboarding and it was awesome.  The Lunar New Year is a great time to go because since all the Koreans are doing family things, the mountain is pretty much empty.  I didn't wait in a single lift line today.  And now I writing this extremely long but much needed update.

My actual Birth day is coming up in a few days.  25 years old!  A quarter century!  I am having a little get together out here and several people are coming to celebrate  with me.  We will go hang out at the Trout Festival, do some ice fishing, sledding and eat lots of food and then spend the night out on the town.  It's nice because me and Kevin finally get to show off our apartment (which is the bigger by far than anyone else's in the TaLK program) and show people our little slice of Korea.  Well anyways I do believe I'm all caught up now.  I will try and remind myself to update more often.  see ya!