Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to you and yours. I'll be spending the holidays working. We've no days off for either Christmas or New Years. In addition we are rewarded with a return to work after the new year with winter intensives, so January will be very busy for me. Not in a good way either, just simply working. Fortunately, my school is rewarding us handsomely for our efforts. I hope you all have a great 2006! I know I will!


Speech Contest

The owner of my school decided we should have a speech contest for December. Aside from the obvious irony of a school named 'Reading Town' having a speech contest, this contest was very poorly planned and all the teachers, myself included, expected it to be a disaster. However, despite our pessimism everything turned out fine and it was actually an enjoyable event. I'm still amazed at how wrapped up in these children you become. When my students stepped to the mic in front of a room full of people I may have been more nervous than them.

Before the contest began. The contest lasted two days, Thursday and Friday.

My students mugging for a picture. Korean people in general love having their picture taken and nine times out of ten with give this same obligatory 'V' sign.

Lynn, my manager, preparing to start the contest. She served as emcee for the two days and was forced to kill time between contestants by making up ridiculous questions. A job I would not liked to have had.

Thomas, who was quite sick at the time, giving it his best. My favorite thing about this photo is the girl in the bottom right hand corner who is clearly not paying attention.

I'm disappointed in the way this picture came out, but this is another of my students, Sarah (who always spells her own name wrong: Serah) doing her speech. Sarah, it should be said, is the slowest writer in the world. It seems that each letter she writes is a masterpiece that must be perfect.

Michelle always draws really cute pictures of me and her with captions that read "'Michelle is very beautiful' Jocob said" or "Jocob is very good teacher. I love you.". Unfortunately, she is moving to America next month and will no longer be in my class. By the way, the misspelling of my name is intentional. None of my students seem to be able to spell my name correctly. This is possibly due to the fact that over time I've discovered that to Korean children my name sounds very much like the letter 'J' plus the word 'cup'. So, it's become my custom to teach children to pronounce my name in this fashion. When given a test or book report that requires the students to write in the teachers name many of my kids simply write a capital 'J' followed by an illustration of a cup. Much to the annoyance of the librarian, I am sure.

An anxious crowd awaits. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera died and I was only able to get pictures from the first round of speeches. Several more followed. As I said, it turned out to be quite fun and we got to leave work early on Friday, which is always a bonus.



Now that my camera is working I'd like to share some photos of my apartment.

My apartment is basically one room. Though the kitchen is somewhat separate and the bathroom, obviously, is in it's own room. What you see in this picture I really hope to change soon. I'd like to move the fridge into the kitchen, throw out the desk, turn the red shelf into a computer desk and put a couch where the desk is.

My bed, TV and mirror. This may be the smallest bed in the world. It's also very uncomfortable and has no sheets. I put one blanket on the bottom and the duvet on top.

Here's the kitchen. I very pleased to have a somewhat real stove this year. Both of my previous apartments came equipped with only a camping stove.

The bathroom. Note the lack of a bathtub. Most Korean apartments don't have a bathtub. You can't see in this picture, but on the right is a shower head. The whole bathroom is basically the shower. Also, the hot water is quite sketchy at this place.

I love this picture. It encapsulates so much about Korea. This was taken just outside of my kitchen window. The wiring system in Korea is very haphazard.


Food and computers

One of the best things about living in Korea is that nearly every restaurant will hand-deliver food to your door. The streets of Seoul are packed with young men on motor-scooters hustling in and out of traffic (and on the sidewalks) delivering food. Often the foods arrives in real dishes that you place outside of your door when finished eating. Another young man then comes by on his scooter to retrieve the empty plates and bowls.

Of course, not speaking the language is a hindrance to calling up and placing an order in the first place. So, it's especially nice when my girlfriend is over at my house because I can have her make the call for me. However, sometime last week I was home alone and starving. The temperature in Seoul has dropped tremendously lately, so I didn't want to venture out into the cold for something to eat. At the same time I was chatting with my girlfriend, who lives an hour away by subway, via text message. Swallowing my pride and taking a chance I sent a text message asking if she would, from her home, call a restaurant, near my home, and order some food, to my home. It was an all new low. But being the kind girl she is she simply chuckled and agreed. However, she added that the next time we met she would teach me how to call and place an order myself.

And so she did. I practiced several times with her before she forced me to actually make the call. Of course, it was a disaster. I'm very shy when it comes to speaking Korean in the first place. Having a Korean girl next to me laughing while on the phone doesn't help. Nor does the fact that the particular restaurant I called didn't deliver to my area (something she had not prepared me for). After telling me in Korean that they couldn't deliver and me not understanding a word and saying back in broken Korean "Sorry, I don't speak Korean well", the nice man on the phone simply said in English "Sorry" and hung-up. She tried to get me to call another restaurant but, by this time I was sufficiently embarrassed and my head was pounding from trying to remember my address in Korean.

I did not give up there, however. Tonight, home alone without the shame of her looking over my shoulder, I successfully placed an order and had it delivered to my door. I'm afraid though the whole process was slightly anticlimactic, since the food I ordered was not some exotic Asian cuisine nor did it come in proper dishes I could place triumphantly outside of my door. No, I just ordered pizza.

As a quick note, expect to see this site updated more frequently as I now have a computer in my home (an early Christmas present to myself, thanks Mom) and no longer have to sludge through the cold and into a smoke-filled PC room whenever inspiration strikes. Also, I have to cable to my camera now and can start adding pictures again.


Turkey and phones

A couple of times a year I really miss being in America. Thanksgiving is one of them. The thought of missing out on the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and, of course, pumpkin pie always makes me a little sad. Especially when I walk down the street and am forced to choose between 김치찌개 (kimchi stew) or 김치볶음밥 (kimchi and rice) for the thousandth time. As much as I've grown to love Korean food, something seems wrong about eating it on Thanksgiving. Picturing my family and friends huddled around a table cutting into a juicy turkey makes me wish I could take a few days off to return home.

Fortunately, near my new school is a Subway sandwich shop, so I was able to at least have a turkey sub on Thanksgiving. Though, to be honest, it was completely unsatisfying and made me long even more for a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Also, that night I made myself some mashed potatoes to go with my pork as a weak attempt to make myself feel like I was celebrating the holiday. So, if anyone at home has any leftover turkey (and I know you do) feel free to toss it in a Fedex box and send it to Korea (the non-communist one).

On another subject, my school was nice enough to buy me a new cell phone (hand phone in Korean) which was fantastic since my old one had long since seen it's day. The new phone came equipped with a camera, a baseball game and everything else you could want. Being that I'm a bit of a tech geek I quickly fell in love with it. That is until I LEFT THE FUCKING THING IN THE BACK OF A TAXI!!!! Sorry. Still quite bitter about that. So to those I recently sent my new phone number to disregard it.

I've heard stories from other foreigners living in Korean about leaving phones in taxis and it seems to run the gambit from 'it was quickly returned to my school' to 'never saw it again' and 'driver showed up and demanded an outrageous price to return it'. So, I'm not holding my breath to get it back. My school has agreed to get me another phone, though, of course, I'll have to pay for this one.


chirp chirp

It's been quite quiet around here, I know. I'd hoped to update with some photos, but stupid me left the cable that attaches from my camera to the computer in St. Louis. And of course my camera is a Sony and everything Sony builds seems to be proprietary so I can't just run out and buy a new cable.

In case you can't figure it out, the above photo was taken on Halloween. Or really the Saturday before Halloween when my friends and I donned inflatable clown suits and hopped all around Seoul like the silly, drunken misfits we are. It was one great night, possibly topping Halloween 2004, which was also amazingly fun.

Aside from Halloween my life as of late has been much like my blog: quiet. A result more of economics than desire. I'm terribly bad with money. I always have been and quite possibly always will be. Well, since my previous job ended in September and I spent five weeks home visiting AND I, of course, have to work a month at my new job before I get paid, I've been really broke. However, tomorrow is payday! Hallelujah!!! My excitement, though, will be short lived since while broke I've had to borrow money from people and now must pay it all back. Oh well, at least I don't have to eat any more f*cking ramyeon.

My school bought me a new cell phone (Korean: Hand phone or han-duh pon) equipped with all the exciting little features like a camera. I was very grateful for the phone as my old one was nice when I got it but, alas, had seen it's day.

Now I'm sitting in the computer room at school. I finished my last class at 5:30 today, but must sit here till 9pm. I must do something to change this rule. Well, off to a meeting.


Work & Home

After a week of staying in a hotel and working sporadically, I've finally managed to settle it. I moved into my apartment over the weekend and while it's not what I'd hoped for, it's acceptable. I'm pretty sure it's bigger than my previous two apartments in Korea, though that's not saying much. The new place, however, is quite a bit older. If you've not seen an apartment in Korea, they tend to be similar in size and comfort to a dorm room. At least the ones I've had. If I can fix my camera once again I'll take some pictures of the apartment and neighborhood.

Also, yesterday I started my first real day of work. Technically I started last Wednesday, but on that day several teachers were out sick, so I was thrown into the fire and filled in for the absent teachers. No big deal, as it beat what was to follow. Come Thursday and Friday all the classes were covered, so there was nothing for me to do. So, I did two days of observation. Basically sitting in another teachers class and watching them teach. Needless to say this is not fun for either teacher. If you are observing, as I was, it's terribly boring. Especially since I've taught before and know what to expect. Also, if you are the teacher being observed it can be a bit nerve-racking.

On Thursday, I followed around the teacher that I replaced, a Canadian fellow of, I'd guess, about 24 years old and without question the most miserable person I've ever met. Sometimes you meet people in Korea (and I suppose everywhere) that just hate life, he was one. During one of his classes I asked him about another teacher and he proceeded to go on a verbal rampage in front of the students. This rampage included several four-letter words (think: f'ing c'). After that episode, I kept quiet most of the day, but occasionally had to listen to him explain how bad the world and all of its people are. Obviously, I was happy when the day was over and am happy now that he is no longer here. I didn't get to know him well, but I'm not too disappointed about it.

The next day, Friday, I was relieved to find out that I would be following around various other teachers and observing their classes. All of whom turned out to be decent people with much cheerier dispositions.

The only complaint I have about the school so far is the policy that teachers must stay in the building until the end of the day. For example, yesterday I had three scheduled classes between 2:30pm and 7pm. So, I'm required to be at the school by one o'clock. No problem since I need the time to prepare. However, I'm also required to stay at the school until 9pm, which means I have to kill two hours at the end of the day. There is no work that takes place during this time. Yesterday I surfed the internet and did crossword puzzles, so I'm a bit confused as to why I can't just go home. However, that being said, so far I really like the school and people and can use the extra time to write on my blog.



I arrived safely back in Korea yesterday. After I missed my first flight out of St. Louis I was able to get on the next plane and made my connection in Dallas. Every time I've flown to Korea before I've taken off from Chicago and flew to Tokyo. For some reason the flight from Dallas direct to Seoul seemed about twice as long as Chicago to Tokyo. At least no one died on my plane this time.

The person I'm replacing doesn't leave until next week, so I'm staying in a hotel for a week. It's not bad, the school is paying for it and the room is nice, but I'd like to pick up my things and settle in after living out of a suitcase for the past five weeks.

I don't start working until Wednesday, so I have a few days to wonder around and get over the jetlag. Tonight I'm looking forward to dinner and some beers with a couple of friends.


St. Louis

The city, which is named after Louis IX of France, borders, but is not a part of, Saint Louis County, Missouri

The settlement that would become the city of Saint Louis was founded by French explorers in 1763.

Saint Louis was acquired from France by the United States under President Thomas Jefferson in 1803, as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition left the Saint Louis area in May 1804, reached the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 1805, and returned on Sept. 23, 1806.

Missouri became a state in 1820. Saint Louis was incorporated as a city on December 9, 1822

Immigrants flooded into Saint Louis after 1840, particularly from Germany, Bohemia and Ireland, the latter driven by an Old World potato famine. The population of Saint Louis grew from fewer than 20,000 in 1840, to 77,860 in 1850, to just over 160,000 by 1860.

Militarily, the Civil War (1861-1865) barely touched St. Louis; the area saw only a few skirmishes in which Union forces prevailed

Saint Louis is one of several cities that claims to have the world's first skyscraper

Nikola Tesla made the first public demonstration of radio communication here in 1893

In 1896, one of the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history struck St. Louis and East St. Louis.

In 1904, the city hosted the World's Fair and the Olympic Games, making the United States the first English-speaking country to host the Olympics.

The uranium used in the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb was refined in Saint Louis by Mallinckrodt Chemical Co., starting in 1942.

The Pruitt-Igoe housing project, built in 1955 and demolished in 1972, is one of the most infamous failures of urban planning. (The buildings were the first major work by Minoru Yamasaki, who later designed the World Trade Center.)

The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch is the region's major daily newspaper. Founded by Joseph Pulitzer in the 1800s,

St. Louis has long been associated with ragtime, jazz and blues. Early rock and roll singer/guitarist Chuck Berry is a native St. Louisan and continues to perform there several times a year. Soul music artists Ike Turner and Tina Turner and jazz innovator Miles Davis began their careers in nearby East St. Louis, Illinois.

Forest Park, located on the western edge of the central corridor of the City of St. Louis, is one of the largest urban parks in the world, outsizing Central Park in New York City by 500 acres.

The Missouri Botanical Garden, also known as "Shaw's Garden", is one of the world's leading botanical research center

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the Gateway Arch, is perhaps the most recognizable structure of the city. It is located near the riverfront in downtown Saint Louis, and was designed by noted architect Eero Saarinen. The Arch is the centerpiece of a national park that also includes the nearby Old Courthouse, where the famous Dred Scott case was tried. This area is also the location of the annual July 4th festival, Fair Saint Louis, widely regarded as America's largest birthday celebration.

Enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans give the city a reputation as, "a top-notch sports town" and being dubbed as, "Baseball City USA." The Sporting News rated St. Louis the nation's, "Best Sports City."

Beer commercials have made the city well known as the home of Anheuser-Busch Breweries.

St. Louis once had a moderately extensive streetcar system, but service began to erode in the 1950s and ended for good in 1966.

Historically, Saint Louis has been a de facto segregated city.

The city of Saint Louis has one of the highest per-capita crime rates in the United States, with 111 murders and 7,059 burglaries in 2002

Effective July 1, 2005, the city of St. Louis has quietly extended healthcare benefits to the domestic partners of all city employees, including same-sex partners and others living in committed but unmarried relationships, as well as children of such families.

Saint Louis has eleven sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International, Inc. (SCI): Bologna (Italy), Galway (Ireland), Bogor (Indonesia), Georgetown (Guyana), Lyon (France), Nanjing (People's Republic of China), Saint-Louis (Senegal), Samara (Russia), Stuttgart (Germany), Suwa (Japan), and Szczecin (Poland).

Maybe the best website in the world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis

Be back in Korea on Sunday.


I am an American

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 7 out of 10 correct!

I can't believe I only got seven out of ten.

Photos part 3

A quick update here with pictures of my family.

My parents. These pictures were taken when we all went out one night to celebrate my brother-in-law's birthday.

My sister, on the left, and her good friend Meredith (I don't know how to spell her name).

My sister's daughter, Abby, playing in some pumpkins.



It's amazing the things you can find to do when you have nothing important to do. Currently, I'm reliving my childhood. I found out (okay, I've known this for a long time) that you can install emulators for classic video game systems on a computer. What this does is allows you to run all of the games from that system on your desktop. For example, I have emulators for Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis installed on my computer. Added to that I have seven hundred and eighty-four Nintendo games, one hundred and fifty-three Super Nintendo games and two hundred and two Genesis games. Somehow this must be illegal.

All you do is plug in a controller and it's like having all of those systems all over again. My pick of the moment is Zelda 3 for Super Nintendo. I must have played this game and completed it three or four times in my life, but it's still just as entertaining.

Fun and games aside, my recruiter emailed me and said that now he thinks I'll return to Korea around October twentieth, which is ten days later than we had planned. Not only do I not have the money to survive that long, I don't think I have the sanity either. I've asked him about coming earlier and he is trying. Also, I have pictures of friends and family I've been meaning to put here, but they are on my sisters camera and when she gets them to me, I'll get them to you.


Photos part 2

Here's a little journey through my family's past and present

This is Washington Elementary in Vandalia, IL (those in Korea will remember the girl I meet in Hongdae that went to this same school) where I attended between second and fifth grade. If you look closely at the photo you'll see two doors on the far right. It was there that I first heard about the shuttle Challenger exploding.

This is the house we lived in at the same time.

unfortunately, the lighting on this picture is not very good, but this is the house my parents live in now. My mother designed the house and they built it about six years ago.

The property my parents house was built on is fairly big, so this is how I get around. I love this thing. I've already got it stuck in mud twice since being home.

A shot of the property. The deer is fake and when I first saw it I was fooled.

My parents house from the back. Again, the lighting is not great.

A shot of the lake.

The lake with the ducks. They are new.

And finally, the newest addition to the family, my mom's dog. My mom let my niece name the dog and she chose to call it Bingo, which makes me cringe with thoughts of 'Teacher, Bingo game', but he's a good dog nonetheless.

Photos part 1

Downtown St. Louis

This is the last year the Cardinals will play at Busch Stadium as it's being torn down and a new stadium built. The Cardinals have played in Busch since some time in the 1960's, which includes my entire life-span, so it was nice to see one more game before the place is demolished. Unfortunately, on this day they lost.

A couple shots of the construction in progress. The new stadium (which will retain the name Busch Stadium) will overlap the site of the existing Busch, so they have to wait till the season is over and demolition of the old stadium is complete before they finish the new stadium.

In case you don't follow baseball, the Cardinals have the best record in baseball this season and have secured a spot in the playoffs. I could think of no better send-off for the old Busch Stadium than a World Series win.

The famous sea of red.

One of the highlights of the game was this guy who was sitting a couple rows ahead of us. This picture doesn't do the whole story justice as I had to snap the picture clandestinely. However, every time this man stood up his entire spotty ass hung out of his pants sending the rows behind him into fits of laughter.



As you can see I've very photogenic. Thanks Alf for putting this together.



Like everything else in my life over the past week or so, I've been very lazy about updating my blog. I'm sorry. A lot has happened and I've meant to write about it, but haven't. So, I'll quickly make you a list of what I've been doing.

• Went to a Cardinals game
• Didn't get the job I really wanted
• Accepted the other job
• Watched eighteen episodes of 'Lost' in one day
• Watched six mores plus bonus footage the next
• Bought an iPod Nano
• Took my parents and their friends out for Korean food
• Visited my grandmother

One of the reasons I haven't updated is because I'm having problems posting pictures on Blogger from a Mac. I have several photos to post, but until I figure out what I'm doing wrong it's only text. I'll work on it tomorrow and try to put pictures up.

Finally, I should be returning to Korea around October tenth.



I'm bored now. I've been home a week. I've seen my mother. I've seen my father. I've seen my sister. I surprised my niece for her sixth birthday. I watched football and drank beer on a Sunday. I've eaten real hamburgers, a real steak, barbecued chicken, biscuits and gravy, chimichangas, meatloaf, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, everything I can't eat in Korea. I've driven around in my mothers' obscenely oversized Ford Expedition while pulling my Cardinals hat low and blasting 50 Cent. I've done that thing that if done in Korea equals two years in jail.

Tomorrow I'm going to a baseball game, but after that I've done everything I wanted to do while home. Now, I want to go back to Korea. I knew it wouldn't take me long to get bored here, but I didn't think it would be this quick. It's not that I'm having a bad time. I'm not. I'm just bored. There are only so many movies I can rent from Blockbuster. Only so many times I can drive around and see how things have changed (they haven't). Only so many times I can do that thing that if done in Korea equals two years in jail. Please school hurry up and hire me!!

I thought for fun I would take some pictures tomorrow of things around St. Louis and put them up here. I originally started this blog so people in the States could see what I do in Korea. For the time being anyway, it seems reversed.

Also, today I bought the newest edition of "Top Ten of Everything 2005". Couple of quick facts for those playing in Korea. The number one fastest growing city in the world is Ansan, South Korea. Can you believe that? I guess Gojan really is the place to be. Also, Ireland has the second highest consumption of beer per capita. I know that's not news, but it's also second in tea consumption per capita. And, finally, Canada is still the most boring place on the planet.

Last note: why is the word 'blog' not in Bloggers spellcheck?


Day six

I've been having a good time at home. Friday night I drank a lot of soju with my dad and his neighbor. Saturday I went to a parade with my sister, her husband and my niece. Then Saturday night we had a game night with a couple of friends. Sunday afternoon I went to a friends house to watch the first Ram's game of the season. They lost, barely, but, it was fun to sit around and watch football nonetheless. Now, with the new week starting it's time to get to work on getting things together for Korea. I emailed the job I'm really hoping to get and they won't have an answer until the 16th. I really hate sitting around and waiting.

On a less happy note, I started going through the boxes I have stored at my parents house because I wanted to bring my DVD's back to Korea with me. However, when I found the box my DVD's were stored in, there were no DVD's. It seems my cousin, who was living at my parents house, stole them and more than likely pawned them. I don't remember exactly how many DVD's I had but, it was near thirty. A lot of them were rare and specially ordered, so obviously I'm not to happy about it.

I swear the following story is 100% real. Before I moved to Korea I knew a guy in St. Louis who always reminded me of the Chris Rock skit about guys being addicted to strip clubs (it's on one of his HBO specials, not sure which one). This guy was a decent looking guy in the face, but quite large around the waist. Anyway, he spent the majority of his time not working at strip clubs and was without a doubt the least motivated person I've ever met. At one point I discussed with him the possibility of getting him hired on at my company. Had he gotten the position it would have been a big leap for him both in terms of money and prestige. He was excited about it and after two hours to think it over he came to me and said, with a serious look on his face, that if he got the job he would finally buy a gold membership to the Diamond Club (a strip club). This shows you the level of priority in his life.

Anyway, I ran into this guy last week and after some brief chit-chat about what I've been doing and how I like Korea, he mentioned that he got a new tattoo. He lifted up his sleeve and showed me a tattoo of a girls face with her hair flowing all around her head on his right bicep. I asked him what it was and he told me it was just an illustration by some artist he was a fan of. Fair enough, right? As I started to walk away, he said "It's a great way to get girls". Again, fair enough. I don't have any tattoos myself, but I know there are girls who like them. However, what he said next floored me: "I tell them it's my little sister and that she died last year. Or it's my dead fiancee." Now, at first I thought he was kidding, but there was no smile on his face only the look of a guy who finally figured out how to meet girls. I asked him why he didn't just be himself and he said because when he's himself he's mostly an asshole. I'll say.



After twenty-four hours of traveling, including three lay-overs, one delayed and two missed flights and constant kicks in my leg by a pompous seven year old Chinese-American boy named Alex, I'm finally home. I'm still debating over two jobs. One of which I've been offered and half-heartedly accepted. The other I desperatley want but, won't know for a couple of days if they are going to hire me. In the meantime I'm staying at my parents house, eating all of the American food I've missed and catching up with people. This weekend I'll spend some time with my sister and her husband and next Wednesday my sister and I are going to a baseball game.

Fortunately, my mother has some workout equipment in her basement, so I can work off all of the hamburgers and steaks I eat.


Curse part 2

This is an image of Hurricane Katrina before it hit the southern US.

And this is Typhoon Nabi (butterfly in Korean) set to hit Japan and Korea in the next day or so.

Tomorrow I fly from Korea to America. I'm pretty sure this curse is real.


Last day

Every time I have to wake up early for something important I can never sleep the night before. This happened last night. I had an interview this morning for a job I really want (as I mentioned before). The interview was at 10am and in Seoul so, I had to be up by eight to get ready and spend at least an hour on the subway. 8am is very early for me. Thus, I laid awake in bed most of the night worrying that I wouldn't wake up and that I'd miss the interview. Fortunately, I didn't.

I made it to the interview right on time and was informed that as part of the interview process I'd be required to conduct what they referred to as a "demo lesson". In other words, I'd walk into one of their existing classes, with two managers from the school sitting in, and teach children I'd never met before. They gave me a book and ten minutes to prepare. Obviously, it was a little nerve-rattling as I sat looking over the book and imagined the various ways I was about to make a fool of myself. On top of the obvious pressure, these were pre-school students, which I've never really taught before and who are notoriously difficult to control.

As I entered the classroom, with the managers eyeing me from the back of the room, I discovered that the door to the room did not close completely. So, now everyone in the hallways would get to listen in as well. I mentioned to the class that the door didn't close and a small boy piped up saying he knew how to close it. "Great" I thought and asked him to come up and close the door. Just as I did four to five students jumped out of their chairs and darted to the door to assist. Each of them flailing and failing to keep it shut. So, here I am two seconds into my demonstration and I have half of the class at the front of the room screaming and shoving on the door. I figured I was doomed.

Recognizing how bad this looked, I quickly got the students back to their seats, left the door wide-open and began my lesson. Everything after went very smooth. I worked with the students on contraction, having them make full sentences and followed up with some prepositions. The kids turned out to be great, with most of them living in the U.S. or Canada previously. Of course, I was a little nervous and I'm sure the managers could see that, but I'm sure they expect it as well. Overall, I think I did a good job and the hiring manager seemed confident I would get the job. I should know by next week.

After the interview I hopped on the subway again and headed to my school for the last day. I said before I've never taught pre-school, but it's a little untrue. I've been a preschool activity teacher for the past year at my school. However, as an activity teacher I'm only required to feed the children lunch and then some sort of activity (Arts & Crafts, Song & Chant, etc.). I don't usually do the activities on Mondays, but since I was at school early and the activity teacher had to run some errands, I volunteered to feed the children one last time.

These are the second year pre-school students and I've been eating lunch with them at least once a week for the last year. They are all incredibly sweet and cute, so I didn't mind sitting with them again.

The first year students, while certainly not any less cute, are often more difficult to control. I take the approach of being a drill sergeant with them. When we walk through the halls they are required to march, though they usually just run anyway.

After filling in for pre-school it was time to start my normal lessons. My first class is a group of children that I've completely fallen in love with. They are first year elementary school students and are so enthusiastic about learning. I'm really proud of the progress I've made with them and would put their English against any other students their age. In addition to me loving them, I also know they are quite fond of me and I knew that this would be the hardest class to say good bye to.

As I wandered down to class I realized I'd left my camera in the staff room and went back to retrieve it. On my return trip one of the managers at our school, who is a very sweet lady who has never said a harsh word to me, starting in on me for being late to class. In the whole year I've been at this school that has never happened, so I thought it very strange, but chalked it up to the fact the five teachers were leaving today and it was probably causing her a lot of stress.

As I reached my class I figured out why she'd done this. The first thing I saw were two large arrangements of balloons hanging from my whiteboard and the large heart drawn on the board with the words "I love you" written inside. Then, as I opened the door, I saw the cake and the burning candles.

All of the classrooms in my school are equipped with closed-circuit cameras and one of the mothers from this class came everyday and watched on the bank of televisions in the lobby. At first this was intimidating, but soon I discovered she had nothing else to do and was in fact a nice lady. Well, it turns out she'd set all of this up, for as I spotted the cake I also saw her there in the corner with her camera. I blew out the candles and posed for a few pictures with the kids. Soon after the manager who'd yelled at me for being late stuck her head in my room and gave me a knowing grin.

This is a shot of the white board they'd set up. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the cake. As you can see from the picture, one of my students, Peter, spoke Korean while in class and his name was written on the board.

In addition to the cake and balloons Cathy, the daughter of the lady who did all this, gave me a rose and a letter, written all in Korean.

Here's a shot of Cathy playing One Card (Uno). She was, without a doubt, one of the best children I've ever taught and probably the one I'll miss the most. That grin is because she's about to skip the girl to her left.

Another shot of Cathy with the other girls from her class, Angel and Rose.

Here are the boys from the same class. Robert, on the left, along with Cathy has been in the class since I started teaching it and he likes to refer to the two of them as the "old students". I know it's not nice to say, but when I first started teaching Robert I thought he was a girl. The other two boys, are Peter and Jay.

Since it was my last day and the last day of the session all of my classes had game day today.

As the class finished I lined up the students and said goodbye to them. This proved to be harder than I expected and I had to quickly usher them off before I became emotional. I started back to the staff room and was stopped by another student of mine and her mother. This particular student has been in Germany for the past month and before she left I dedicated half of a class to teaching the students German instead of English. Today was her first day back and she knew it would be my last. Her mother came to me and handed me a plastic bag and said it was a gift from the student. Inside the bag were two bottles of beer from Germany! Nice!

This is a picture of the next class and the girl, Nancy, who gave me the beer is on the far left.

The rest of the day proceeded as normal with students giving me various gifts of chocolate and notebooks. Also, my camera went haywire again so, I was unable to get pictures of my other class. No problem though, the hard goodbyes were out of the way.

As my final class finished I was surprised by how difficult it was to walk out of my classroom for the last time. I've spent a year in the same room and have come to truly view it as mine. All the decorations in the class have been done by my students under my supervision and no other teacher has taught in that room. It's quite strange handing it off to someone else.

Apart from the students it was also difficult saying goodbye to the staff that I've come to know over the past year. This was made either easier or more difficult by the fact that so many people are leaving at once and that at the end of the day the staff room was one big goodbye.

I've had a great time at that school and I will truly miss it. I hope I'm able to find an environment as enjoyable next time around. For now, I'm continuing to prepare to return home. Something I can say I'm not really looking forward to. Mostly because I'll miss Korea, but also it's a place I don't see myself in anymore. I'm looking forward to seeing people and catching up, but I'm looking forward to returning to Korea even more. In the meantime, I'm heading home to open those two bottles of beer and finish packing.



As I gear up to go home I have nearly a thousand things to take care of before I leave. This morning I went into Seoul to pick up my Alien Registration Card which had been lost when I lost my wallet and if I don't have when I leave the country I must pay a W100,000 fine. Tonight is a going away dinner with work. There are five teachers leaving at the same time so we thought it best just to have one big dinner. Tomorrow is my going away celebration with my friends, which is sure to get quite messy. Soju and Norae Bang, I'm sure.

Sunday Yunha is coming over and (she doesn't know this yet) helping me pack. Monday morning I have an interview for a job that I really hope I get, then off to school for my last day. Tuesday morning I'm going to the Pension office to try and get the pension I've been paying reimbursed, then in the afternoon I've another job interview. At night I'll be moving all of my things to a friends to store until I return. And finally, on Wednesday I board a plane for the lovely State of Missouri. I'm expecting a six of Heiniken and some chimigangas when I step off the plane. (doing this from a Korean computer so no spell check. Please forgive me)


update and misc...

The good news is it looks like I will be going back to the States next week. The bad news is I'm paying for it.

Most teaching contracts in Korea come with severance pay. This is typically equal to one month's salary and is paid at the completion of the contract. My school also offers severance pay, but with the twist that it's paid one month after completion of the contract. For me this worked out perfectly as I should only be home for a month and when I return to Korea I would have a fresh paycheck. However, the only way my school has agreed to pay for my plane ticket is to advance me the money from my severance pay. A one-way ticket to the States is 1 million won (roughly $1000) and my severance is 1.9 million won minus taxes, etc. So, this won't leave me with a lot of money to come back to Korea. Though it's better than the alternative of living on the streets of Itaewon.

As for what I'll do when I'm home, I don't really know. I suspect a lot of my time with be spent in boredom, watching television, surfing the internet and what have you. To combat this I've recently purchased a fat new Korean grammar book and an electronic Korean-English dictionary, so I can spend some time studying Korean.

I also assume I will indulge in all the food I've been unable to eat over the past year and a half. Mmmm... Mexican... So, maybe I'll consider joining a gym for a month. This should not only help with the boredom but also prevent me from returning to Korea as an even bigger balloon than I've already become.

The job search for October is still in progress. I've had numerous calls and emails. Just today I received three emails and two phone calls for prospective jobs, but I've not been interested in most of the positions as I've been in Korea for some time now and have grown a bit picky. However, today I got a call that I've very interested in and am looking forward to hearing back about it.

The next few days I will begin the arduous process of packing up my apartment and getting things stored away. I say that now, but more than likely I'll wait until the very last minute as I'm want to do. I, like most people, hate moving.


Coming home?

This post was set to be the post where I informed all of those at home, who are not yet aware, that I'd be in the States in two weeks for a one month break and then return to Korea at the beginning of October. However, the hakwon I currently work for threw a major monkey wrench in my plans today.

No international airfare home will be provided to the Teacher hired in-country except if the Teacher extends for a second year, then a one-way ticket is provided to the west coast of USA or Canada, or a place in other countries within the equivalent cost.

It's a very standard practice for hakwons to provide round-trip airfare for teachers to come to work in Korea. This is one of the key incentives that gets people here. That and the free apartment. However, as you can see from the section of my contract above it states that teachers hired who are already in-country (i.e., Korea) will not be provided with airfare home. I was hired "in-country" as I'd worked at a different hakwon previously.

For the past two months I've questioned the administration at my hakwon repeatedly about my ticket home. I've seen other teachers run into problems and wanted to make sure I had everything taken care of in advance. Every time I talked to the administration I was assured that my ticket would be purchased for me and that I would have it within the next week. Then, today, with a week and a half before my contract expires, I was informed that my school would not be purchasing the ticket. FUCK!!!!

I realize this is ultimately my fault for not paying more attention to the contract, but to tell me with seven working days left is frustrating to say the least. So, at this point I don't know if I'll come to the States. I don't know what I will do. My visa officially expires September 9th so I must be out of the country by then. If I were a responsible and reasonable person I would simply dip into my savings and buy the tickets home myself. But, if you know me, you know why that is funny.

So, I'll be scrambling the next couple days trying to figure out what I'll do. I've sent a letter to the owner of the hakwon, so for now I'm awaiting a response. I considered posting my letter to her here, but figured she deserved a chance to respond first. If it gets more interesting maybe I will put it here.



The summer intensive schedule along with looking for a new job when I return to Korea have kept me very busy hence the lack of updates. But as promised I have lots of pictures and a few stories to share.

Since arriving in Korea a year and a half ago I have eaten nearly every meal out. With the exception of Ramyeon and a few cans of tuna, every meal has been in a restaurant or ordered from a restaurant and eaten at home. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, my apartment is the size of a small storage shed with nearly zero ventilation and the only method of cooking I have is a small, portable camping stove. Second, eating out in Korea in very cheap. I can eat a full meal for about W2500 or about $2.50. A really expensive meal such as 갈비 galbi, barbecued beef, will cost w8000, W9000 if you order rice.

Add these to the fact that I live alone and cooking for yourself is rather boring and you can see why I've never made the effort to make my own meals. That is until a couple of weeks ago when Yunha thought it would be fun to make dinner at my apartment. I thought it odd being that she can't cook, but went along with it anyway. It turns out (many people in Korea may know this, I didn't) that grocery stores sell pre-packaged Korean meals. These aren't the frozen and bagged meals I was used to in the States, but all of the freshly cut ingredients to make meals yourself.

Here's a sample of what I've been making. This is 시굴돼지찌개 Sigul Dwaeji Chigae, which roughly translates to Country Pork Stew. All it took was to open the package, fry the pork, add in the vegetables (onions, green peppers, red peppers, cucumber, etc), pour in the pre-made stock and hot pepper sauce, add water and boil. It was delicious, if not incredibly hot, but then again I couldn't read the Korean directions so I just guessed as to the method. So, now I've been doing a lot of cooking. Today I made some Pork galbi and have a pack of my favorite Bu Dae Chigae waiting for tomorrow.

Apart from cooking, on my time off I've mostly recovered from my hectic schedule, but I did make it to Seoul a couple of times.

Yunha and I went to the 63 Building, the tallest building in Seoul and I think this picture best sums up the enormity of this city. Imagine this 360 degrees around you. Also, she thought if was fun to watch me have a panic attack on the glass elevator on the way up. I'm not so good with heights.

Another shot from the 63 building. I put it here just to show the air pollution.

I probably find this funnier than most people, but I've never seen a historical account actually mention being assassinated by ninjas. This was part of the photo exhibition in the 63 Building.

Along the Han river are these cute, if not cheesy swan-shaped paddle boats. I'd gush about how fun and exciting these things are if not for the fact that it was on one them that I lost my wallet and everything in it. Now I just want to whack them with a bat.

At least the view of the sun setting from the Swan-on-the-Han is nice.