My Life In Korea...

Monday, December 21, 2009
...is basically like this


Minus the sweet ride :(

I'm A Winner! (or, Men Are Stupid!)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009
So, I did something pretty dumb this weekend.

In Korea, there's a chain of restaurants/bars called "Garten Bier". The drinks are pretty cheap, and you aren't required to buy food like at some other places (a common practice in Korea), so it 's a good place to meet up with friends.

Anyway, one of the other gimmicks they have is a sort of "mini-fridge" for your beer. The table has a built in cooling apparatus, which cools your beer. And the beer glasses fit in perfectly. Pictures below.



Anyway, I challenged my friend to see who could keep put their hand inside the beer holder, and keep it in the longest. My friend is from Toronto, which is further north than Wisconsin or Minnesota, the two states I've lived in. But, he's always complaining about how cold it is here, so I give him crap from time to time. So, that's why I put forth the challenge.

I didn't keep track of how long I kept my hand in, but it was definitely over 10 minutes (although we started with the cooler off, so it took awhile to cool down.) It was a struggle.

And after I took my hand out, I realized I had some minor frostbite.

Needless to say, after a couple days, my hand now looks like this:


It's a little sore to the touch now, but I don't have any loss of motion in my hands, which is the only thing I was really worried about.

And hey, you know what? My friend quit before I did, and it's a good thing he did, because his hand doesn't look nearly as bad as mine. I guess he didn't have his pressed against the metal as tightly.

So, in the end, I'm a winner!

And that' s what counts!

2NE1 - Fire

Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Well...it's Tuesday here, but it's still Monday somewhere, so here goes.

2NE1 were one of the first K-pop groups I started listening to after I arrived over here.

Honestly, especially by Korean girl group standards, they aren't that attractive, but I totally dig CL, the "lead rapper".

The music is catchy as hell too. I actually recommend listening to the whole mini-album instead of just the single.

Anyway, here's a live video.



And a link to the whole mini-album:


And if for some reason, you want it in wav instead of mp3, you can get it here.
DYEJJNBJHCJA

Big Bang - Haru Haru & Oh My Friend

Monday, November 23, 2009
Well, today you're in luck!

I missed Music Monday last week, and I actually had a couple people tell me they also missed it. So, no promises, but I'll make a better effort to get something up every week.

Anyway, this week I'm giving you double the music to make up for last week. Well...sort of. It's two songs, but they're both from the same mini-album.

The group is Big Bang. They're a pretty big deal in Korea, and they've actually crossed over into Japan as well. You can read more about them here.

The first song is "Haru Haru", which roughly means "Day by Day". The song is kind a of hip-hop ballad...or something like that. I dunno, give it a listen!

There's also a music video, but I posted a live version. Mostly because of T.O.P.'s big red gloves.


The second song is "Oh My Friend", which features the Korean ska/punk band No Brain. It's definitely a rock song, and it's also the first Big Bang song I liked. I had actually heard of No Brain before, and when I heard this on TV I recognized the singers voice...it's quite distinct. Anyway, enjoy!


If you want both of these songs, the download link is below!

Sleepover

Monday, November 16, 2009
It's been awhile since I've written anything here. I have a lot of things I could write about, positive and negative, but I haven't really been in the mood to share. I'm not exactly in a writing mood right now either, but I have some downtime at school and a story to share, so here goes.

My co-teacher and her family have been very kind to me, so a few weeks ago I offered to invite them out to dinner, my treat. The date was postponed a couple of weeks, but it finally happened this past Saturday.

We started out at a shabu-shabu restaurant, with 5 people: my co-teacher, her husband, her daughter, one of her brothers, and me. We ate some delicious shabu-shabu and drank some soju. It was a pretty good meal, although in a rare display, I was actually have a little bit of trouble with the soju. I think I can blame Friday night for that...

Anyway, the food was good, and afterward we went up to my co-teacher and her husband's apartment. To be honest, in many ways, it really wasn't anything special. We just sat around, ate some more, chatted about random things, and played drinking games. Eventually my co-teacher's other brother showed up. I had met him briefly one time before, but I had a chance to interact with him a bit more this time. Both of her brothers are pretty cool, and they do their best to communicate with me despite limited English ability, which I appreciate.

This continued until pretty late, and I eventually started to feel pretty tired, so they let me go to sleep in one of the side rooms. Then I think the people who were still up played some Wii Sports. Late the next morning, everybody woke up, we had some breakfast, and then I went home with my co-teacher's brothers in a taxi. And that was that.

As I said above, on the surface this experience might not seem like anything special, but it was actually pretty important to me.

Why?

Well, I've been in Korea for about 3 months now, yeah? Especially the past few weeks, I've really been feeling like an outsider here at times. And I suppose that's only natural, because I am an outsider here. And because of my living and working situation, I think I feel it here even more than I did in Japan.

So, to chill with my co-teacher's family for a night, and feel almost like a part of her family for that time was a pretty big deal for me. It reminded me that despite Korea not being my home, it's still possible to feel at home here.

Really, I wouldn't say I'm homesick. If you asked me right now if I'd like to stay here another year, I'd say yes. I've having a good experience overall. But some days are better or worse than others, and that's something that's probably amplified a little bit here. Today I'm feeling a little down, but I'm sure something will come along to cheer me up.

And frankly, despite what I've been feeling recently, I know I've felt like an outsider before even in my home country, probably to an even greater extent than I feel it here now. So, I know I can survive this feeling. The key is to keep moving forward, and that is something that I know I can manage.

Lee Hyun - 30 Minutes Ago

Sunday, November 08, 2009
Alright, today we're going with a Korean ballad. Stuff like this is pretty popular over here.

I choose this song for two reasons:

1) The video is kind of strange...I can't decide if it's sad or just kind of ridiculous and over the top. Especially the ending...
2) It's pretty slow, so I think with a little bit of work I could probably sing it at noraebang. Badly. But hey, you have to start somewhere...

Anyway, enjoy!


You can download the whole mini-album below.

A busy week, in brief

Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Monday: Okay, nothing special happened Monday. Fair enough.

Tuesday: Went to Outback Steakhouse with some teachers from Seonhwa Elementary. I'd never been there before actually, in the US or Korea. Not bad, and it was fun. The same group is going to go somewhere again in two weeks, with some drinking this time.

Wednesday: School got out early for some reason, and I went to get noodles with 2 teachers from Jungang Elementary. And tonight I'm meeting a group of teachers from the same school for some food and beverages (probably soju).

Thursday: Some kindergarten teachers are taking me on a hike to a temple. Too bad the weather is so cold these days...

Friday: My main co-teacher has been really generous to me, so I offered to take her and her family out for dinner. Should be fun. Also, I don't have to go to school, because there's a big EPIK teachers conference during the day. That should be a nice break from the usual "grind".

Yeah, busy week, but it's better than being bored in my apartment. I'm the kind of person who needs a good bit of alone time, so I probably couldn't handle this much stuff every week, but it's fun on occasion.

Now...to find something to do on Saturday...

Recipe Band - Vol. 3 - Shine Days

Monday, November 02, 2009
Alright, after a one week hiatus, here is another edition of Music Monday.

This time we have a band I found over the weekend, "Recipe Band". They have a pop-punk kind of sound.

I can't find much information about them. Naver (a Korean search engine) doesn't have their lyrics available like they do for most other groups, so I suspect they're still pretty underground.

Give it a listen!


And here's the link to the full album!

My EPIK Failure as a Blogger

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I suppose I was never a very prolific blogger to begin with, but I feel like I've really been slacking the past week or so. Perhaps it's time to rededicate myself to the craft.

There are a lot of things to I could write about, but I haven't really felt moved to write about them.

I kind of wonder if I'm falling into a "rut" here. Not a terrible one, but a minor one. I'm still enjoying myself, and I'm not homesick, but I'm just a little bit bored I think. I think I felt that way a little bit when I was in Japan after a few months as well.

However, I was only in Japan for about 4 months, so I never really had time to get out of my "rut". In fact, I think my limited time there made it worse in some ways. Knowing you're only going to be someplace for another month or two changes how you interact with other people, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

I don't have a harsh time limit like that imposed on me here. I'm interested to see what will happen as I stay here longer. Will I start to feel more "culture shock"? Or is it something I'm already past? I guess we'll see.

And who know, maybe I'll blog about it too! :P

How do you communicate with the teachers at your schools?

Thursday, October 22, 2009
Classes have been cancelled for today and Friday because of the Swine Flu...but teachers still have to be at school! Lovely! I suppose it leaves me with time to blog, at least.

In another post I was asked if teachers at my school speak English or Korean when they are around me, and it seemed like a good enough question to make a full blown post out of.

The short answer: Unless they are addressing me directly, they speak Korean. Many of them speak English to varying degrees, but I'm the only native English speaker here, and obviously it's much easier for them to communicate amongst themselves in Korean.

The looooong answer: I suppose this means that I often find myself unsure of what is going on exactly, but frankly, it doesn't bother me that much. In fact, I kind of enjoy trying to figure out what they're saying, and you'd be surprised how much you can understand if you can pick out a word or two and then interpret tone and body language.

I think I should also say that I expected it to be like this, and I appreciate it. One of my big reasons for coming here, and my primary goal while I'm here is to learn the Korean language. So, having people around me speaking natural Korean all day is bound to help me out in that regard. For the time being I don't really understand anything, but it will come with time as long as I in the effort. Also, this is definitely the reason why I decided to work in a public school rather than in a private, after school English school where I would probably be surrounded by English all the time. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but for my purposes, I feel I made the correct choice.

I could probably rant more, but I want to keep it short this time. If you're curious about my motivations or anything else, feel free to ask!

Girls' Generation - Genie

Monday, October 19, 2009
The second edition of Music Monday.

Today I'm showing you the group Girls' Generation. They're considered K-pop (Korean pop), which is pretty hard to avoid over here.

If you're in Korea, and you don't recognize at least a few of the current top K-pop songs, I reckon you are one of 3 things:
1) You're deaf.
2) You're a hermit and you never walk around outside (or maybe you're just stuck in the countryside).
3) You're not actually in Korea.

Anyway, a lot of this stuff is pretty catchy. And frankly, it doesn't hurt that the group members are all absolutely gorgeous :P


The mini-album it's from probably isn't worth your time, but if you're interested, the link is below.


I'm going to try to alternate between mainstream Korean pop music and other stuff that's not quite as well known, so if you aren't into the K-pop, don't worry! Although I'm definitely going to have to give a shout-out to 2NE1 (CL!) at some point...

View of Daejeon

Saturday, October 17, 2009
Jungang Elementary School is kind of up on a hill, so there is a pretty good view of the city. I took a few pictures and I'm posting them here for you to see. Click to enlarge.








That's all for now. Enjoy!

"I'm fine, and how are you?"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
This is a completely random thought I decided I just had to post up, so bear with me!

As many of my fellow English teachers know, when dealing with South Korean students, the following dialogue is fairly common:

Person A: "Hello, how are you today?"
Person B: "I'm fine, and how are you?"
Person A: "I'm fine."

I think to many English teachers, this seems pretty unnatural and a little goofy. More advanced students will say other things other than "I'm fine", but having "I'm fine" as the "standard" answer to the question seems somewhat awkward, because few people say it. I can't speak for the rest of the world, but in the US, I think there are other more common answers (such as "I'm alright") that convey the same general meaning.

However, tonight I'm working on a "self-introduction" lesson, and I've come to realize that I also used to abuse the word "fine".

Back when I was in grade school, every day my parents would ask me "How was school?"

And 95% of the time (not an exaggeration...I actually may be underestimating), my response would be "Fine." And I wouldn't go into any more detail. If I responded with something else, it was quite the event.

So, I guess I was just as good at giving out a "standard answer" as all of these Korean students!

Anyway, that's my random thought of the day. Hopefully it wasn't too random.

Jisun - 1st Album

Sunday, October 11, 2009
Alright, here's the "new feature" I promised!

I'm going to post up some Korean music every Monday. When I'm in a different country, I really enjoy finding and listening to the local music, both mainstream and otherwise. I'm always scouring the internet for new stuff to listen to, so I figure I'll share some of it here. I'll try to post up a Youtube video so you can listen to one song easily, and if you're into it, I'll have a download link posted as well.

What I have today is the debut album from the Jisun, the former singer of Loveholic. The entire album is pretty chill; some of it doesn't excite me too much, but there are some pretty good tunes, and Jisun's voice is amazing.

Anyway, here's a sampling, the song "Universe".


And here is the entire album, if you're interested.


More next week!

The Power of a Donut

Last Friday, I decided to bring in a little gift to my main school, Jungang Elementary.

At EPIK Orientation, one of the recommendations I heard was to bring in some sort of food to share with the teachers at your school after you get your first paycheck. I actually got my first paycheck a couple of weeks ago...but better late than never, right?

Anyway, I decided to bring in some Krispy Kreme donuts! There are only a handful of Krispy Kreme stores in Korea (Dunkin' Donuts is the big thing here), but one of them happens to be in Daejeon. Lucky me!

I brought in four dozen, which I'm pretty sure was enough for everybody. Overall, I thought it went over pretty well, I received a number of "thank you"s. I'm thinking it was definitely a good thing for me to do. While I think the school definitely still has a positive opinion of me, a little extra show of gratitude on my part will hopefully give me some extra "brownie points". And it can't hurt that Krispy Kreme donuts are the most amazing thing in the world. Just looking at a picture makes me krave them...



Haha, alright, enough of that!

In other news, this week I start teaching afternoon English classes for the teachers at Jungang. My co-teacher had told me about it at the beginning of the semester, but it wasn't until this Friday that I was told they would actually be beginning. It happened after I brought in donuts...probably a coincidence, but who knows.

I'm probably going to make the focus of the lesson on English self-introductions, but I'm going to think of some other fun, light-hearted activities as well. One of the things that has been difficult for me has been getting to the know teachers at my school. I'm a little shy sometimes, and in the first month I don't know if I've been as outgoing as I'd like. So hopefully these classes will offer me a fresh opportunity to build some friendly ties with the other teachers.

Alright, that's all! Oh, and I think I might be starting a new "blog feature" on Mondays, hopefully beginning tomorrow. Stay tuned!

My Korean Life (in 14 Seconds)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Daejeon Expo Bridge

Monday, October 05, 2009
I promised pictures in my last post...well here they are!

The Daejeon Expo Bridge was built for the 1993 Expo in Daejeon. It's one of many structures built specifically for that expo.

I think it looks pretty cool at night, but hey, judge for yourself! Pics below!

As usual, you can click for a larger view.










A couple of the are a little blurry! Sorry, I didn't have a tripod!

Also, for reference, here is a link to a picture of the Expo Bridge in broad daylight.

I think it looks pretty cool myself! What do you think?

"You want me to chew a sock...?" "NO, CHUSEOK!"

Sunday, October 04, 2009
First, let me apologize for my bad attempt at a humorous title.

I'm sorry!

Moving on, this weekend Korea celebrated "Chuseok", which is a big harvest festival type of celebration. Korean families get together, enjoy food and drink, and basically just enjoy some nice time with relatives. If you're interested, here's more information about Chuseok.

For me, Chuseok meant a nice 4 day vacation. A bunch of my EPIK teachers went to Seoul, but I decided I'd be a little bit more low key and spend the weekend around Daejeon. In hindsight, I definitely made the correct decision, for a few reasons. I'll explain in my day-by-day breakdown below.

Wednesday - School's Out!

I actually had work on Wednesday, but I got out a few hours early. Because I and some others didn't have school on Thursday, a couple of us decided to go out for some food and drinks. I originally thought I was meeting only one other guy, but he invited a guy, which made it 3 people. But then, the 3 of us ran into another group of friends, and we ended up going to get some samgyeopsal as a big group. In that respect, things worked out great.

Afterward, we went to a convenience store, bought some drinks, and sat down at a picnic table to enjoy them. After doing that for awhile, we decided we'd hit up one of the dance clubs in the area. My put my legendary dance moves to work for a few hours, and then wandered around with a couple of people for a bit before catching a taxi home.

Sounds like a good night, right? Well, for the most part it was. But, if you remember my last blog post, I've been dealing with a lingering cold-ish type illness. I was still kind of sick on Wednesday, but I figured I was in good enough shape to go out for a night on the town.

Thursday - Licensed to Ill

But oh boy, was I wrong. When I woke up on Thursday, I felt terrrrrrible. My whole body just didn't feel good all over. And that was just in the morning.

Later that night, I started to feel pretty warm, so I decided to check my temperature (courtesy of the thermometer given to me at EPIK orientation). It clocked in at 38.3C, which translates to 101F. Being the "tough guy" I am (haha), I decided I'd sleep it out and call somebody to help me out if was still in bad shape the next morning. And hey, I'm writing this blog, right? So my decision worked out fine. However, I do kind of wonder if my temperature went any higher after that, because I was either having some REAAAALLY weird dreams, or just straight up hallucinating. I don't know, but it was quite the experience. I wasn't enjoying it at the time, but in hindsight it was pretty cool. Anyway, I had trouble sleeping for awhile, but then I cranked up my AC pretty high and managed to fall asleep.

Friday - Bridge Expedition

On Friday, I still felt kind of sick, but significantly better than on Thursday. A couple days before I had decided that I would venture to the Daejeon Expo Bridge at night to get check it out. I considered putting it off because I still felt kind of crappy, but ultimately decided that going out for a bit would probably be good for me. Anyway, I got some pretty decent pictures of it, and I plan to make another post within the next day just for the purpose of posting them. Keep an eye out.

Oh, I almost forgot! I decided to give my apartment manager a bottle of wine as a Chuseok gift. 5 minutes later he comes back to my apartment and gives me a plate of Chuseok food. Not a bad deal!

Saturday - Chuseok!

Saturday was pretty cool actually. My main co-teacher had me over to her family's house for a Chuseok breakfast. Her mother, husband, 2 brothers, daughter, and another friend were in attendance. The food was really, really good. Also, my co-teachers (~18-month old) daughter was wearing traditional Chuseok clothing that looked really cute (kind of like this, only better). I wish I had brought my camera so that I could've taken some pictures.

While the celebration was really cool, unfortunately I still wasn't feeling 100%, and they could definitely tell. They gave me some cold medicine, some leftover food, and told me to go home to get some rest. I'm glad I could join them for a bit though.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I spend a lot of time resting. However, that evening, I heard my doorbell ring, and when I opened it there was the apartment manager with a whole tray full of food! I was really surprised. Unfortunately, while I was really appreciative, my appetite wasn't up to eating a whole lot of it. I made a good dent, but ended up returning the tray and some of the food back to his wife...

From what I've gathered, most restaurants and families seem to prepare too much food for meals, but I still felt kind of bad for returning the tray with some of it uneaten. Also, my small refrigerator was already pretty full, so I didn't have much of a choice. Hopefully I didn't commit some sort of cultural faux pas.

On a final note, I managed to watch (on the internet) the Wisconsin Badgers football team pound the Minnesota Gophers. A good chunk of the game anyway.

Sunday - Today

Uh, yeah, today has been pretty boring.

I continued to try to sleep off my sickness. My sinuses and cough and getting really loose, which is usually a sign I'm getting over something, so hopefully that prognosis comes true.

And now I'm writing on my blog.

In Closing

Well, I'd say I had a reasonably successful Chuseok, especially given that I was sick for most of it. Like I said, it's a good thing I decided not to go to Seoul, because I would've been about as fun to hang out with as a pet rock. I'm glad I got to eat a bunch of traditional, home-cooked Chuseok food too! Also, checking out the Expo Bridge was a nice way to relax and walk around outside for a bit.

Anyway, look for the Expo Bridge pics tomorrow! Peace out!

So very sweepy...

Monday, September 28, 2009
I Need Sleep

Today was a bit rough.

It goes back to Saturday night, when I didn't do anything in particular, but I could tell my throat was starting to get a bit sore. That's always the first sign that I'm coming down with some sort of cold-ish thing.

Sunday I woke up and felt a little sick. I didn't have anything planned for Sunday, so I decided I'd spend most of my day resting, which meant getting some extra sleep. Which I think actually worked pretty well, because today I think my minor illness is regressing.

But, the side-effect of sleeping so much was that I wasn't tired Sunday night. I couldn't sleep at all. At 2am, I actually ended up watching the Green Bay Packers for a bit on my computer, which was pretty exciting. I probably won't make a habit out of it because it's so late, but I'm glad I figured out how to watch them.

Anyway, I watched until halftime and then decided to try to go to sleep again. Needless to say, it didn't really work, and by the time I woke up, I probably only had 2 hours of sleep under my belt.

As you can imagine, school was a bit of a drag. My voice held up well enough, but I just didn't have any pep. I also had to teach one of my rowdier classes today, which is difficult enough when I'm not dead tired. Although on the positive side, my co-teacher and I discussed ways to keep them in line in the future. She made up a seating chart so they aren't all by their good friends, and we have some punishments in mind too for when they get out of hand. So, I guess some good came out of it.

I made it a point to avoid taking a nap today, so I should get plenty of sleep tonight. If I nap, I tend to just perpetuate the "cycle of tiredness" by staying up late again, so I'm glad I broke it today rather than later this week.

The Two Words That You Can't Escape When Living Abroad

On a related note, today made me start thinking even more about those "dreaded words" that every foreign traveler hears about:

Culture Shock

I've been thinking about what impact culture shock has been having on me (if any). Culture shock is usually described as a phenomenon that happens in stages, the first one being the "Honeymoon Phase", where everything about the new country you're in seems amazing. To be honest, I don't feel like I've experienced this very strongly, both in Japan and now in Korea. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of cool things here and I've had lots of good times, but I don't think I've had many "highs" that have been significantly higher than doing my favorite things back home.

Anyway, after the honeymoon comes some other stage that I can't remember the name of right now. But it basically involves becoming upset with lots of things about the culture that you're surrounded by.

This leaves me with a question: Is the way I'm feeling today a result of culture shock, or am I just having a crummy day?

The answer? Probably a little of both, but I'm inclined to believe it's mostly the latter. Maybe I'm lying to myself, but I think I'm still holding up alright in this new culture. I've been reading some other blog from people who recently came to Korea, and many of them seem to have a lot more to complain about than me. I'd like to think I'm a bit more open to just going with the flow, so to speak.

(Of course, it's possible I'm just repressing all of my feelings of discontent so they can all come out in one HUGE outburst!)

Okay, I honestly think that's unlikely, but the fact that I'm even writing about this suggests there's probably a little something going on in my head. Whatever it is, I'll deal with it.

So, in closing, don't worry! I think I'm just a bit tired, and overall I'd say things are still going well.

Peace out!

P.S. For those who haven't heard, The party's in DAEJEOONNNNN!

PAYDAY!

Saturday, September 26, 2009
I became a multi-millionaire this weekend.

I bought an AM/FM/Cassette Radio.

And a broom.

Don't worry mom! That new house you've always been dreaming of will be coming soon!

Oh, did I mention that my millions are in South Korean won? Presently, 1 US dollar is worth ~1184 won. So a million won is actually worth less than $1000.

Uh...on second thought, that house might be a while mom! Sorry!

Actually, on a somewhat related note, I showed my 5th and 6th graders some pictures of my parent's house this week. It's a fairly standard sized two-story house. It's quite old (think early 20th century), but it's well built and I do think it's a fine house. But by Korean standards, it's VERY big. So all of my students think I'm rich now...

If only they knew the truth...

Finally, Pictures! (At School)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Alright, here's some pictures, as promised. These are all from my schools.

You can click the pictures for a larger view!

Seonhwa Elementary




This is a view of the school from the front. Only half of this building is actually the school, the other half is some sort of Educational Office or something.





This is the English room at Seonhwa. It's also my office. It has 3 big LCDs, and one of them is actually a touch screen that you can use to control the cursor on the computer. The touch screen is nice...but for whatever reason, even if you turn the TV off, the touch screen is still active. Needless to say, students can't seem to keep their hands off it while I'm using my computer...*sigh*

Jungang Elementary



This is the view from the front. This is actually the only picture of it I have, I think I'll try to get some more.






This is Jungang's English room. I'm in an office with some other teachers at Jungang, so it's only used when class is being taught. It has only one LCD screen...and it isn't even a touch screen! Actually, I think I like this setup more because it's nice and simple, and I don't have students molesting the TV after classes. I there are 5 computers in the middle of the room, I haven't seen those used at all. And the desk in the back (by the 2 tables) was originally going to be my desk I think, but I'm glad I'm in a shared office at this school.



This is a semi-staged shot of me teaching. My co-teacher wanted to get some photos for a local newspaper, so we brought in the class that had missed my lesson and ran the bit about American lunch.




These photos were basically staged, I never get to work with a group this small. It was pretty easy to get everybody to laugh doing my "Hello, how are you today? How is the weather today?" shtick though. But wait, it gets better...




Soooo...my co-teacher told me that she gathered the unmarried teachers in our school to be in some photos with me...um...thanks Mrs. Choi! *blush*

Alright, that's all for now! See you next time!

For future reference...

Sunday, September 20, 2009
So, I just tried sending a text in Korean for the first time. Hopefully the first of many.

Actually, it was only half in Korean...but close enough, right?

Anyway, that's all, I just wanted to note the event for myself, but I guess you all get to hear about it to!

Epik High - [e]

Saturday, September 19, 2009
This doesn't have a whole lot to do with me personally, but I really want to post it.

Epik High released their 6th album, [e], a few days ago, on September 16th, but I just found out about it today!

For those who don't know, Epik High is a Korean hip-hop group. Generally speaking, I'm not too big into hip-hop, but I really like Epik High for some reason. I'm not sure if I can concretely explain why...I guess they're just really really good! :-)

I've been listening to the album for a bit, I'm not sure if it will become my favorite Epik High album, but I do feel it's quite good.

If you're interested, you can check it out at the link below.

Epik High - [e] at Asian Reloaded

P.S. I'll actually write something and get some pictures up sooooooon! I have internet at my place now...I've just been kind of lazy! Sorry!

Q&A - Part Deux

Sunday, September 13, 2009
Alright, I've been in Daejeon for a bit now, so I feel at least somewhat comfortable putting this up. It's part two of a previous call for questions.

If anybody has questions for me about Korea or Daejeon, please ask them in the comments or via e-mail (it's on my profile page). As I said in my last post, I'd appreciate some questions because it helps me organize and condense my thoughts, and also lets me know what people want to hear about! And maybe it'll require me to do some research too, which would be excellent because there's still a lot I need to learn about my surroundings.

Of course, if I don't get any, I'll still continue blogging as usual.

I hope to hear from you! Thanks!

One week down... :-)

Saturday, September 12, 2009
It's been awhile!

It's Saturday now, and I've completed my first full week of classes. Overall, I'd say it was a success!

I teach at two elementary schools, so I'll break it down.

Seonhwa Elementary

I teach at Seonhwa Elementary School on Monday and Tuesday. I have 7 classes there on those two days, and I teach with 4 different co-teachers. They all greeted me when I came in on Monday, and seemed fairly receptive to working with me. Out of the 4 teachers there, 3 of them are comfortable with spoken English, but one of them really isn't, which is a little difficult. He seemed friendly though, so I'm sure it'll all work out!

On Monday, I worked with 5th and 6th graders. I showed them a Powerpoint about myself, and then played a bingo game which involved them asking questions about me. Invariably, in every class, the question "Do you have a girlfriend?" would arise. Older elementary kids are funny like that. Some of them tried to ask for my phone number too. I told them "000-0000-0000". I'm sure I'll be getting a lot of calls soon!

On Tuesday I taught the 3rd and 4th grades. They don't know much English at all, so it's quite difficult, but I did my best. My co-teacher for those classes, Tiffany, had to do a lot of translation into Korean, but that's to be expected. When they only have English class once a week, I think it would be quite difficult for them to make any headway in a class that is completely in English.

At Seonhwa, my office is also the English room. It's a nice room, but it also kind of isolates me from the rest of the school. At the same time, it doesn't offer me any protection from students after school. I'm at school until 4:30pm, but the students get done well before that. And they decided to come visit me in the English room. It was fine for awhile, and I definitely enjoy interacting with them, but I really wanted to get some lesson planning done and I couldn't really do that. I'll have to find some way to deal with them in the future.

I felt like my time at Seonhwa went well, and I look forward to going back there next week. My co-teachers were all friendly, and the other staff were friendly too. On Tuesday I ate lunch with some of them even though none of them spoke English. Like I said, the English room isolates me from the other teachers a bit, but hopefully I can build a good relationship with the school in time.

Jungang Elementary

I spend Wednesday through Friday at Jungang Elementary School. It's my main school, and the school that my "handler" (the person who helps me deal with stuff I can't do myself) teaches at. I was actually there Thursday and Friday the week before do to some lesson planning, but I didn't start classes until this week. I have a much busier schedule there, with 15 classes over 3 days. I only have 2 co-teachers though, which is nice and I think it will allow me to co-teach with them more harmoniously. They both speak English well enough, one of them was a bit shy about it at first but she's been getting more comfortable with speaking to me, which is good!

On Wednesday, I worked with 4th graders. As in Seonhwa, their English level is quite low, so my co-teacher did a lot of talking in Korean to them. I introduced myself, and then I walked around the class and they all introduced themselves. We then played a bingo game which involved them pointing at each other and asking "Who is she?" Simple stuff, but it was pretty enjoyable for me.

Thursday and Friday were spent with 5th and 6th graders. Their English level is a little higher, so my co-teacher for those classes uses less Korean, but still a heavy dose to explain rules for games and things. We played some educational games, and then at the end of class opened things up to allow them to ask me questions. The asked me all of the expected questions, and also made me "sing" the chorus to a song called "Nobody" by "Wondergirls", which is a very famous K-pop song. All in all, things went pretty well. On Friday after school I also kicked a soccer ball around with some of the kids for a bit. I was wearing dress shoes, but I still had a solid showing, and it was fun!

At Jungang, my office is located in a room with some other teachers, so I have some protection from the students after classes are finished. I also like it because it affords me more opportunities to interact with other teachers at the school. The cafeteria at the school was under construction this week, so everyday me and some of the other teachers would order in some food, and actually on Thursday I went to a restaurant with some of them. I really appreciated that, and it makes me feel like I'm a part of the school. I also had some of the non-English teachers stop by and chat with me in English. There are a number of teachers who speak English quite well, which surprised me a little bit. Hopefully I can find some time to interact with them outside of school sometime, because I think it would be fun.

Thoughts

Because I'm not a teacher by trade, I was a little worried about how things would go, but overall I'd say everything went fairly well. I definitely need to improve my classroom management skills, but it hasn't been a huge issue because my co-teachers do a lot of that for me.

Also, I should say that's it's really interesting just being in these schools. In both schools, I am the first ever foreign teacher, so the kids are really intrigued by me. On Tuesday at Seonhwa, they all decided that they wanted by signature! I must've signed my name over 50 times, it was pretty nuts. I'm a good sport about it though, and I'm glad that they're reacting positively towards me.

I guess that's all for now, I'm sure there are a lot of things that I'm forgetting but feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences and I'll get back to you. In fact, I'd appreciate questions, because they help me organize my thoughts better and also let me know what people want to hear about. Maybe I'll post up another Q&A thread...

As I say at the end of class, "Goodbye! See you next time!"

A little poetry

Friday, September 04, 2009
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-"The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost (Full poem here)

I'm really not that big into poetry. Not because I think it's bad, but we only have time in indulge ourselves in so many hobbies and poetry isn't one I ever really got into. Music is much more my thing (as you can see here).

Anyway, this particular bit of poetry is special to me for two reasons. In fact, I had it up as my Facebook quote for a long, long time. First of all, I think that it describes my life at least somewhat. Secondly, I had to memorize it for Miss Hess's drama class during my senior year of high school, which was quite the endeavor.

First point

As cliched as it may sound, I'd like to think that my path in life so far has been "the one less traveled by". For example, while I'm sure that I'm not unique, I have yet to meet another person who majored in Japanese and Math. Doing both was a huge struggle, especially during my final year in college when I had returned from Japan and my interest level in mathematics was approximately zero. But somehow I finished it. Seeing that I'm currently teaching English in Korea, I don't know what good (if any) my majors will do me yet, but it'll be interesting to find out.

I also have a more concrete example, that I realized after I read this poem in high school. On the outskirts of my hometown, there was a bluff where I could look down and see the two roads that entered the village from the east. There was Highway 14, not a "major highway" by any means, but the main artery to the village. And then there was County Road KP, which was the secondary road that had far less traffic. Anyway, one night while I was sitting up on the bluff, I looked down at the car lights passing on the roads. A fair number of lights on 14, yet very, very few on KP. Visualizing this was really striking to me, and I realized that even though I always had the option of taking Highway 14, I'd almost always take KP. To me, it just felt like the thing to do, and it think it's a concrete example of how I like to lead my life.

(Okay, to be honest I probably only drove on KP because there weren't any cops to pull me over for speeding...but it made a good story! Right? Right?!!)

Second Point

So, like I said, I had quite the endeavour memorizing this poem in high school. Our drama gave us an assignment: pick a poem, memorize it and recite it. I think she recommended this one to my friend Alicia, but I decided I liked it and chose it. Anyway, I tried hard to memorize it, I really did! But when it came time to recite the poems in class, my brain just wouldn't do it! I completely butchered it, and Miss Hess told me to try again the next day.

I was soooo frustrated, so I decided to try a different approach. Putting my frustration to good use, I went to our family's piano and recorded a couple of minutes of me playing some scales and chords in C minor and decided to use this as background music for my poetry read. It was a reasonable short poem, but I had a couple minutes of music, so I ended up spacing out the lines so that there were pauses between them, which I figured would make things more "dramatic".

I went to class the next day, and read the poem as I had prepared it. I think having the music added helped me remember it, because I had absolutely no trouble the second time. Furthermore, to my surprise Miss Hess liked my reading so much that she made me read it again for her drama class the next period. She told me that when she first heard me pausing between lines, she thought maybe I was struggling to remember the next line, but she then realized what I was doing with my timing and really liked the approach aesthetically. So, despite the failure and frustration of my first try, things ended up working out really well!

So...what?

I imagine you're wondering what this has to do with teaching English in South Korea. When it comes down to it, I'm not really sure myself. Reading some quotes on another friend's blog made me think of this quote, so I decided I'd go ahead and write about it. So maybe it has nothing to do with what I have going on here.

At the same time, perhaps this quote and it's place in my life have everything to do with being here in South Korea. First of all, despite being a more popular choice than it used to be, teaching abroad isn't exactly a "typical" career move. And thus we see a clear tie between my first point and what I'm doing here.

I think the second point is probably more important though, both because it's more personal, and because it has an important lesson in it that I need to try to remember while I'm here. And that lesson is that if I fail, I need to take a step back, reconsider, and try again. Being in a new country is a challenge, and while things have been going pretty well so far, there are definitely going to be "failures", both big and small, so I'm going to need to do my best to roll with them, learn from them, and get up and try again. And the experience of failing to memorize this quote, only to end up reciting it very well is probably an anecdote I should try to keep in mind as I deal with my new surroundings. I know I'll be able to overcome the challenges I encounter here, even if it might take me awhile.

Closing

Alright, I'd like to think that turned out fairly well. I'm writing in a PCbang and it's about 3am here, so please forgive any mental lapses in my grammar! Anyway, now it's back to reading about my Green Bay Packers...I think they're gonna finish 19-0 this year, for sure!

Til next time, cheers!

I Don't Think I'm in Kansas Anymore...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009
So, I had a bit of an adventure last night.

Around 9pm, I decided I'd go outside and take a little stroll around the neighborhood. I wasn't really planning to do anything in particular.

Anyway, as I'm walking out the front door of my apartment, I run into the apartment manager. I greeted him with an "Annyeonghaseyo!", which roughly translates to "Hello!" Then, he asks me something in Korean...and makes an "eating with chopsticks" motion with his hands.

Now, I had no idea what he was asking me, but I have heard that in Korean culture a common greeting is to ask "Have you eaten?" So, I figured that's probably what he was asking me, and responded with "ne", which means "yes".

Well...I have a feeling I got it wrong.

He must have asked me if I wanted to eat, because he proceeded to show me around the local restaurants, all the while talking to me in Korean. No joke, I think I understood only about 5 of the words that came out of his mouth. I was sooooooo confused! We ended up in a restaurant across the street from my apartment, and he ordered something for me. He then tried asking me some sort of question...and I just kind of struggled and acted extremely awkward for a bit, thinking "I have nooooooo idea what you're saying to me!! How am I supposed to answer?! AHHHHHHH!" At least when I was in Japan, I could kind of understand what people were saying to me...but here I'm am COMPLETELY LOST!!!!!! But hey, it's exciting that way, right?

Anyway, although I wasn't hungry at the time, I ended up eating some sort of dish made of beef in a sort of broth, plus a bunch of side dishes. It only cost me 5000won (less than $5). A very good deal, and I really liked it!

In conclusion, this was a VERY stressful situation, but it all worked out okay. I was smiling most of the time, so I probably made a good impression on the apartment manager as well as the hosts at the restaurant. I'm sure I'll go back there sometime, but hopefully not by myself...I need to find some Korean friends!

Anyway, I'm sure I can't perfectly convey how my experience felt in words...but just know that it was quite the little adventure!

I'm sure I'll have many, many more before my time in Korea is up.

EPIK Orientation Fall 2009 - A Review

Monday, August 31, 2009
Hey everybody, I'm once again blogging from a local PCbang in Daejeon. It's less than $1 per hour...but I still wish that I had my own internet. Oh well, hopefully I'll get that soon.

I just wanted to take another moment to write a bit about EPIK Orientation this year.

General Thoughts

First, an overview of how I thought everything was put together. In brief, I thought that everything was organized very well by EPIK. Before coming to Korea, I had read a lot of information about how EPIK wasn't a well organized program, and because of this I had pretty low expectations about orientation. Well, my expectations were easily surpassed. The week was well designed, with numerous lectures that were very useful, a field trip, and a "mock lesson" presentation on the last day to give us a bit of experience. I was very satisfied with how everything was put together. Yes, a couple of the lectures were terrible, and with four 90 minute lectures each day, it was occasionally a struggle to make it through them without a quick nap, but I persevered.

Jeonju City

I also thought that both the city of Jeonju and Jeonju University did an excellent job of hosting us. The Univeristy made most of its facilities (Gym, computer labs, etc) open to us, and the city put together a big picnic for us in the traditional part of Jeonju. Furthermore, the local businesses near the Jeonju University campus did a great job of dealing with a bunch of goofy foreigners invading their businesses. I'm sure we were quite a hassle for them, but I'm also sure that we gave them plenty of business in what is usually a slow time of year.

My Thoughts

Lastly, from a personal standpoint, I think I took away a lot from the orientation. From my experience with YFU Japanese camp, I've seen how these sort of short "10 day new country orientation" camps affect people mentally and emotionally, but in at those camps, I was still in my home country. This time, I was the one moving to a new country, so it was interesting to see how things went. Needless to say, I met a lot of people in a short period of time, and I'm curious to see how well I'll keep in touch with them. I'm notoriously bad about keeping in touch with people, but I think I met some people who will be in Daejeon that I can hang out with, as well as a few others who I would like to keep in contact with despite being further away. So, to any EPIKers who are reading this: I know I only met you guys for about 10 days, but it was a lot of fun, and I'm better off for it! Keep in touch!

Oh, and on a side note...lets just say I'm glad I made it through the week without being deported. I'm sure at least a few of you know what I'm talking about :P (Don't worry, nothing too bad!)

In Closing

I could probably write a whole book about EPIK Orientation if I set my mind too it, but I think I'll end here. If you have any questions about the orientation (either general or personal), feel free to ask me via comments or e-mail. Oh, one more thing, I do have a few pictures orientation, I'll put them all up on Facebook and probably upload a select few on here at some point. It will probably happen once I get internet either at my apartment or at my school, we'll see.

That's all for now, see ya!

IT'S DAEJEON!

Saturday, August 29, 2009
Hey all, I just made it into Daejeon 2 days ago, and so far, things have been going well.

I have my own place, but I don't have internet yet, so I'm currently writing from a PCbang, which is what the Koreans call a PC Cafe. It's probably a bit different than what you would expect though, because I'm basically surrounded by Koreans playing Starcraft and other games.

My apartment is a little small, but the location is GREAT! I am within walking distance of both of my schools, and about a 20 minute walk from a big bustling downtown area that is full of stores, bars, and shops. And there's a noraebang (Korean karaoke) place on the same block as me. So, things are so far so good in that regard!

I've only met one of my co-teachers, but she has been very friendly so far. I'm going to be teaching at two elementary schools, and in at least one of them, I am the first ever foreign teacher. My co-teacher said she was nervous about meeting her new foreigner teacher, but after meeting me, she is very relieved. I guess I made a good first impression! :) She and her husband took me out for food and drinks last night. It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to meeting the other teachers at both my schools and joining them for school outings.

Anyway, I'm going to end this here, but there are still lots of things I'd like to write about. I still want to make a post summing up EPIK Orientation, particularly. I'll probably write it up on my laptop and post it later.

'Til next time!

P.S. Watching Japanese anime dubbed in Korean is a total mindf***.

Tireeeedddd.......

Monday, August 24, 2009
Today marks the end of my first week in Korea, so it seems like a good time to write something. I was hoping to write updates more often, but between classes and after-hours activities, I've hardly had time to relax, much less write on this blog. In fact, I'm skipping lunch right now to do so! (I'm pretty sick of the cafeteria food here.)

EPIK Orientation has been an interesting experience so far. The first few days were really really fun, just meeting all sorts of new people and experiencing the area around me. The past couple of days I've been feeling a little more blue though. I think my energy level is starting to dip a bit, and I think that has been affecting me a bit, both my mood directly and probably the quality of my social interactions with the other teachers here. Case in point: I'm in my room blogging and kicking out some jams rather than talking with people at lunch. Perhaps I just needed a little break today. In any case, overall I'd can say that I'm having a positive experience so far.

I think it's possible that it's also really starting to sink in that I'm going to be here for quite a bit of time. A few nights ago I was standing outside of a convenience store with some fellow foreigners, have some drinks (it's legal to drink outside here). I started thinking about exactly what all of the Koreans walking by us were thinking about this huge mass of foreigners, because we were obviously not Korean, nor following proper Korean drinking etiquette.

I kind of took a step back from the crowd to think about it for a bit, and also observe all of the "locals" passing by. Most of them didn't give us a second glance. I guess I was also just curious to see how they act in general and stuff. I don't expect to "become Korean" or anything like that, but I'd like to at least make an effort to fit in here, rather than completely rejecting the culture and separating myself from everything around me. I think that will make my life more enjoyable and run more smoothly.

Anyway, that's all for now I guess. Like I said, overall everything has been going well, and I hope they continue that way going forward! Peace.

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Friday, August 21, 2009
I really haven't had much time to write here, unfortunately!

But, a quick update: I'm currently at the EPIK orientation held at Jeonju University, in Jeonju city, South Korea.

I'm meeting a lot of cool people, and enjoying myself so far. For the time being, I'm basically in an "English bubble", so I suspect my real battle with culture shock won't get started for a bit...but we'll worry about that when the time comes.

Anyway, I have to go out and enjoy Jeonju with friends, but hopefully I'll write a better update sometime soon!

And I'm Off!

Monday, August 17, 2009
Right now it's noon, Monday August 17th, 2009.

In about 6 hours I have to catch a bus from Madison to Chicago, and in 13 hours I'll be on a plane to Seoul!

We'll see how this all goes, stay tuned!

Excited? Nervous? Naaaaaahh...

Friday, August 14, 2009
Short post today.

Yesterday one of my friends asked me if it's sunk in that I'll be in Korea in a few days.

And the answer is a definitive no.

I really don't expect it to hit me until the plane starts flying over to land in Incheon. I had the same experience when I landed in Narita, Japan last year. It wasn't until the plane was landing that I started thinking "Oh crap, I'm gonna be in Japan for half a year".

It's not that I haven't been thinking about it; I've definitely been doing that. It's just that it doesn't feel "real" right now, and emotionally speaking that's how I'm acting. If you talked to me right now, you'd have no idea that I'm leaving the country for a year or more in 3 days.

I think the biggest difference in my mental preparation for this adventure compared to Japan is my expectations. Before I went to Japan, I had the idea that it was some kind of magical wonderland that would fulfill all of my hopes and dreams. Maybe that sounds ridiculous, but I had basically listened to all of the good things my friends told me and combined them into one glorious picture. Japan was good, but there pretty much no way it could've lived up to my expectations.

And thus, my expectations for Korea are positive, but probably much closer to where they should be. Also, this time around I have a better idea of what to expect as a foreigner dealing with a new environment. Whether that helps me adapt or not remains to be seen.

Oh, and I still haven't packed! I'm going to be busy most of tomorrow with a wedding, so packing may be put off mostly until Sunday...I guess it's just how I do things. Everything seems to work out somehow or another.

That's all, peace out!

KOREA POWER

Thursday, August 13, 2009
Right now it's Thursday, and my flight leaves at 1am Tuesday morning from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. I'm taking a bus from Madison to O'Hare though, so I'll essentially be leaving Monday night. This means I leave in about 100 hours! EGADDDDDSSSS!

I haven't really started packing yet, but I have been doing a lot of "prepacking". That is, making sure I have everything I'll need. Once I actually decide to pack, it shouldn't take too long. For the most part, I'm only going to bring clothes, a supply of toiletries, a few electronics and some souvenirs. Am I forgetting anything?

Speaking of electronics, I got 2 adapters today that will let me plug things into Korean power outlets. They were $3 a piece. Here are some pictures!


Notice that the prongs are round instead of flat, and that there is no third "ground" prong like in a US outlet.


Korea does use a different power standard than the US, so some things you bring from the US may fry if you try to use them in Korea without a power converter, but all of the things I'm bringing are already designed to handle the differences. So all I need are these little nubs! I'll probably want to find a few more once I get there, but the two I have will suffice for my PC and external hard drive, and I can always unplug one of those two things to charge my camera or whatever else when necessary.

That's all, just a little heads update on how my preparations are coming. Like I said, I leave in 4 days, so things should get more interesting soon! Hopefully I'll have enough time and energy to continue blogging regularly once I actually arrive in Korea. Cheers!

What Challenges and Limitations do I expect?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
This is another post in my Questions and Answers series, this time from Ivan.

I see challenges and limitations as somewhat separate entities, so I'll break this down.

What do I expect my biggest challenge to be?
Well, I believe that I'll have many challenges. Living in the country you've been raised in is challenging enough. When you move to a new country, it becomes even harder. While I have 23 years of "life experience" and some "Asia experience", I don't have a whole lot of "Korea experience". And yet I'm expected to enter into this new society and act like an adult. That's the expectation, but the reality is that I'm really much more like a "Korean baby," so to speak. I don't know the language, and while I understand a few customs, I certainly don't have them internalized. It will take me awhile to adjust to these things, and "grow as a Korean," but they will be expected of me from Day 1. Yes, I do get some leeway because I'm a foreigner and I should have some support from my school to help me with things, but largely I will be on my own. It'll be a challenge, but one that I'm ready to face.

Additionally, I worry about how things will go at my school. EPIK doesn't tell me what age group I'll be teaching or where in Daejeon my school is located until near the end of EPIK Orientation. Like many people going off to Korea, I don't have any formal teaching experience. I think it may be a challenge for me to conduct a class properly. I do enjoy working with kids, but usually I've worked with kids in an environment where they're energized and motivated. English education is mandatory in Korea, so the motivation may or may not be there. To most of these kids, English will be just like any other boring school subject, yet it'll be my job to keep them engaged. We'll see how it goes.

What do I expect my greatest limitation to be?
I kind of answered this above, but I expect my biggest limitation to be my unfamiliarity with Korean culture and language. Right when I get over to Korea, I'm basically going to be like a deer in headlights...and there really isn't anything I can do to change that, at least initially. And since I don't really know any Korean, I'll be somewhat limited in who I can befriend, and who I can have meaningful interaction with. I'll also have trouble dealing with day to day things that would be simple in the United States. I've already had some experience with this in Japan, but it was a year ago and the memories are already a lot less distinct than they used to be. I'm sure they'll be revived soon enough...I suspect I'll have more to right about this subject once I actually get to Korea and realize I have no idea what the person behind the fast food counter is saying to me!

That's all I have! Hopefully those answers provided some satisfactory insight.

I only have one more question left to answer, and while I'm aware of the issue, I'm not sure if I know enough of the details to give it a good answer. We'll see.

Feel free to give me some more questions! Otherwise I might have to resort to answering my own, and we definitely don't want to see that! ;-)

Why Daejeon?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Well, it turns out that I did actually have some questions suggested for this (as seen here)! And that makes me glad, because it gives me some ideas to ponder, as well as the satisfaction of knowing that somebody is reading what I'm writing. So thanks!

Anyway, let's get started! I think it'll be easiest to break this up into a few parts.

Why not Seoul?
Frankly, I'm not sure if I have enough soul to live in Seoul! *rimshot* But seriously, I did consciously make the decision that I didn't want to live in Seoul. Last year, I spent 4 months studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan, and while there were certainly a lot of things to do, I felt that the city itself was little too large for me. Because of this, I decided early on that I wasn't particularly interested in living in either Seoul or Busan (the second largest city in Korea, on the south-eastern coast).

Additionally, one of the goals I have laid out for myself is to study Korean while I'm in Korea, especially if I feel early on that I'd like to stay for more than a year. Larger cities tend to be a bit more "English-friendly", and while I'm sure that's something I'd appreciate early on, I think a smaller city will be more beneficial to me in the long run.

So, then why aren't you going to live out in "the boonies" where there is even less English?
I did consider this, and actually when I filled out my application for EPIK, my second and third choices were provinces rather than cities (Daejeon was my first choice). That said, after giving it some thought, I'm happy that I'm going to a city. First of all, right now my Korean skills basically consist of being able to say "Annyeonghaseyo!" and a few other words, and being able to read Hangul (kind of). Because of that, I don't think it'd be best for me to be placed in a tiny farming village hours from civilization. Perhaps it would force me to learn Korean, but it's also possible that I would just go insane.

In connection, right now I'm still fairly young (23), and I feel like living in a city will provide me with more opportunities to meet and converse with interesting people my age. So while maybe there will probably be less need for me to learn Korean in a city, if I decide it's something I'm serious about, there will be more resources available to me. Also, from what I've read, I believe there is kind of an "age gap" in rural areas of Korea. There will be a lot of school age kids, and then a lot of older people who have moved back into the countryside to settle down. However, most people in their 20s and 30s are instead off in cities somewhere. (Waiting to meet me, I'm sure!)

Well, then why Daejeon?
Honestly, I don't have a particularly good answer for this. When I was in Japan, I took a trip down to Nagasaki for no particular reason, and it was great, so I guess sometimes I just like to do "random stuff". That said, there are some things about Daejeon that appeal to me:
-It's only 50 minutes from Seoul by train, and while I don't want to live in Seoul, I'd like to be able to visit
-Supposedly it has better air quality compared to many of the other large cities in Korea
-Wikipedia called it the "Seattle of Korea", and I've also been intrigued by Seattle, even though I've never been there (and we all know that Wikipedia is always completely accurate)
-Generally speaking, I get the impression that it's a young city that is still rapidly growing, which hopefully means that some excitement will await me there
-I'm sure I'll find more things to like once I get there too! I've found that there are interesting things just about anywhere, if you know where to look

So, in a nutshell, that's why I'm going to Daejeon! It seems like a good fit for me, but I suppose I'll find out if that's true or not soon enough.

Also, for Jud, the person who proposed this question:
While it was my choice to go to Daejeon, I also understand why people choose to go to Seoul as well. And if that's where you want to go, you should make sure that you don't let a recruiter place you elsewhere. While I'm no expert on ESL in Korea, from what I understand, while it is probably easier to find a job outside of the Seoul, there are still plenty of options within Seoul. It may just be that your particular recruiter doesn't have access to them. It's in your best interest to keep talking with different recruiters until you find one that offers you the location that you want, be it Seoul or otherwise. Don't settle for something that doesn't sound good to you! (Within reason, of course.)

Feel free to ask more questions here, or get in touch with me using the contact info on my profile page. Otherwise, the forums at Dave's ESL Cafe can be a useful resource, and the people there certainly have more first-hand knowledge than me.

Give me your tired, your poor...I mean your questions!
That's it for now. I have a couple more questions on deck, but if anybody else has suggestions, feel free to post it here and I'll probably get to it.

Later!

Q and A

Monday, August 10, 2009
So, apparently I leave for this "Korea" place in a week...

With that in mind, I think I'm going to dedicate this week to a little Q&A.

But, I'm not expecting questions from anybody, so I guess I will have to make up my own!

I mean, I could just write posts about random things...but putting everything in the framework of a question is so much more...sophisticated...yes...perhaps...not.

Anyway, I'll try to post something up tomorrow. If you do actually have any questions about what my motivations for going to or thoughts about Korea are, feel free to ask. Just keep in mind that I'm not actually in Korea yet, so I can't really say much about the country itself. I can only really talk about my expectations and stuff like that.

And make sure to play nice!

YFU Japanese Camp 2009

Sunday, August 09, 2009
After not being able to participate last year because I was studying abroad in Japan, this year I was once again a staff member at the YFU Japanese camp at UW-Richland (in Richland Center, Wisconsin). The camp is a 10 day English camp for a group of Japanese students who are preparing to spend a year in US high schools. So, the camp basically acts as a buffer between Japan and the United States for the Japanese students.

The participants can basically be divided into three different categories:
Japanese students - High school students from Japan who will be spending a school year in the US. After camp the get sent to high schools all over the United States.
American mentors - American high school students who participate in most of the same activities as the Japanese students. The idea is that they model how students in US high schools will act, and give the Japanese students an idea of what to expect before they're thrown into a true high school environment. I did this once a long time ago, in 2001.
Staff - Work "behind the scenes" to make sure that everything runs according to plan. Staff also have plenty of opportunities to work with both the Japanese and American students if they choose. This is what I did, and I had the same position in both 2006 and 2007 as well.

Camp was both a lot of fun and really interesting for me this year. In 2006, my first year, I was a little bit quiet and unsure of what my position was, so I probably didn't do the best job I could have. In 2007, I was better, but after camp was over I felt that perhaps I hadn't divided my time amongst all of the students as well as I could have. I made some good friends that year, but felt that I could've done better. And I really feel that I did an excellent job improving in that respect this year.

Before it started, I was actually a little worried about how things would be this year. At the staff meeting the week before, I discovered that besides the director, I was the only returning full time staff member. Sally (a YFU camp legend) had done a lot of the planning, but she had other obligations and couldn't help out this year. This put me in a position of more responsibility, which I was a little apprehensive about, but everything managed to work out all right. Also, seeing as it had been two years since I was last at camp, and I was two years older, I was a little worried about how I would relate to the students this year. I also didn't have any trouble doing that (I guess I'm still really immature!), so that made me happy.

Like I said above, this was an interesting camp for me. There were two big things that I think helped me connect better with the campers this year. First of all, during the past year I've spent a lot of time with international students and other people who aren't originally from the United States. I think this extra exposure made it easier for me to see to individual differences within the students quicker, rather than seeing them as a massive group of foreigners initially. (This might sound stupid, but trust me, it happens when you happen upon a group of people from a different culture.) Additionally, I also now had study abroad experience of my own, which meant it was easier for me to understand what the students were going through.

I'm intrigued to see how my experience at this camp will compare to my experience with kids in Korea. I'm pretty sure I'll have less individual interaction with the students. Also, camp is so short, there is no time for the initial excitement of it to wear off. When everybody leaves, people are still just getting to know each other. In Korea, I'll easily have time to reach the stage where the sheen starts to wear off of everything. And that's fair enough, it's part of life and experiencing new things. I know I can adjust and go with the flow.

Anyway, I guess I don't have a whole lot more to say. I just hope that I'll be able to see some of the people I met again sometime in the future. Many of them I may never see again, but if I ever go back to Japan for an extended period, I bet I can meet up with at least a handful of them. Also, I wish them all luck during their year in the United States!

A couple of pictures from camp to end with:

Until next time!

Minneapolis and Me

Saturday, July 25, 2009
I'm not too sure who my audience is at this point (or if I even have one), but this post is probably of more interest to people who know me.

I know this is supposed to be a blog about Daejeon, but it's also a blog about me. And hey, I'm not in Daejeon yet, so why not write a bit about college and Minneapolis! I just moved back to my parents house this past week, and after 5 years in Minneapolis, I think it's worthy of some attention.

For those of you who don't know, I graduated this spring from the University of Minnesota with a BA, double majoring in Asian Languages and Literatures (Japanese) and Mathematics. The homestretch was pretty rough in regards to my math classes, but I survived somehow.

Anyway, don't get me wrong, there were definitely some enjoyable classes and professors at school, especially within the Japanese department. But with that said, I think the thing that really made my college experience special was all the different people that I met. Without you, college would have been pretty lame. Unfortunately, if I tried to call out everybody here in list form, I think it would get pretty long. So, I'm just going to have to give everybody a blanket thank you very much.

However, there is one thing I'd like to address. As you may or may not know (and most of you probably don't, I didn't talk about it much), I was pretty down on myself for a couple of months this past winter. Anyway, in light of that, I made it my New Years Resolution to make my final college semester better and happier than the one that preceded it. (I even wrote a Facebook note about it, if you feel inclined to read it.) And through this spring and summer, I feel confident in saying that I succeeded in my goal. I have all of the awesome people that I hung out with to thank for that. So, if you spent any time with me this past semester or during summer, thanks for making me laugh, smile, or just keeping me company. I needed it, I really appreciated it, and I feel a lot better now than I did during the winter.

Mmm...yeah, that was a bit sappy, but whatever. I hope somebody reads this and it brightens up their day a bit.

Again, thanks! Til next time...

Quick Update (Visa)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Hello faithful readers!

Just thought I'd say that I got my passport back in the mail today from the Korean Consulate in Chicago, with my visa stamped in.

So, I now have my visa and my plane ticket. There shouldn't be any more barriers preventing me from leaving for Korea.

That means this is for realz. And I leave in less than a month. Good thing I have some stuff to keep me busy until then (more on that later though).

Peace.