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!