Two times a year Korean schools close for a brief vacation, once in the summer and again in winter. This is similar to the North American style with the exception that the Korean breaks are much shorter and the breaks are equal in length. During the school year students of all ages are expected to not only attend school and perform well, but also to attend numerous 학원 or hakwons (academies' or 'institutes' depending on which Korean is talking). These academies range from piano to math, Chinese to English, Tae kwon-do to ballet and include stranger incarnations such as the famous Lego Academy. Whatever the subject, most students are enrolled in a number of differing academies and from first grade onward their lives are dictated by what form of schooling is next.

A typical day for an elementary student may be as follows:

8am-2pm Elementary school
2:30pm-4pm English Academy
4:30pm-5:30pm Piano Academy
6pm-7pm Math Academy
7:30pm-8:30pm Chinese Academy

This is by no means an exaggeration and in fact may be quite less than what many students endure. Even still, most students appear to be well adjusted and, as I'm sure most know, well ahead intellectually of their western counterparts. Nevertheless, they certainly look forward to those two times of year when school lets out and they are free to roam the streets as children do and play in the sun and snow...

Hahaha. If only that were the case. School vacation in Korea doesn't equate to children running around entertaining themselves. When schools close their doors for summer and winter students find unexpected extra time on their hands. And what do sensible people do with extra time? STUDY!!

Which brings me to my point. I teach at one of the aforementioned academies, obviously of the English variety, and we've just opened our 'Summer Intensive Session'. This is the time for all of those children who've just been released from the clutches of their elementary and middle schools to spend five days a week 'intensively' studying English. Some vacation.

Truthfully, it is not the children that I really feel sorry for in this whole process. Sure, they are deprived of their free time and forced to spend the sunny and snowy seasons indoors cramming English into their brains, but who really gets the short end of the stick? Me!

Because of this custom of utilizing every second of a child's life to further their education I'm forced to wake up early (9am) each day for a month and drag myself across town to cover the extra classes. I know, it's torturous. Would it really be such a bad thing to let these children spend two months of the year outside of a classroom? And more importantly, let me resume my usual wake time of eleven-thirty.



The temperature in Seoul is hovering around four thousand degrees right now and the air quality must be two hundred percent smog. So, stepping out of my apartment is akin to stepping into a sauna with an idling car parked inside. In other words, it's miserable.

I've always assumed that I sweat more than the average person, but being in Korea takes this to a whole new level. Not only is the heat unbearable, but I'm surrounded by an entire race of people who wouldn't sweat on the surface of the sun. This becomes especially amusing as I make my way to work each morning. You see, someone had the genius idea to install what appear to be greenhouse panels on the roof of the subway station in Sanbon. So, after I've walked the short distance to the subway, climbed up the long ramp, and proceed up two flights of stairs I emerge, already half wet, into the sweltering hell that is Sanbon station. There I stand, rivers of sweat streaming from every inch of my body, as Koreans marvel at this wonderful freak of nature that is the sweaty foreigner. Often I take refuge behind a little building on the platform, the only place out of direct sunlight, or I stretch and groan, feigning that I've just returned from the gym. Once the subway train arrives I'm granted a short reprieve as the Seoul Subway is mercifully air-conditioned. However, my relief is short lived for after two quick stops I'm forced off the subway and made to stand in the blazing sun and await a bus, which may or may not be equipped with air-conditioning.

Needless to say, by the time I arrive at work I'm soaked in sweat, my clothes have gone from freshly pressed to damp and musty, but most importantly my hair is a mess.

Anyway, all of this is soon to be a moot point for not only will the hot season fade, but I'll be leaving my job in the near future. I've been conflicted with the decision to leave as I've truly enjoyed my current school and hate to mess up a good situation. However, what Koreans refer to as "Seoul Disease" has severely afflicted me as well as the desire to move out of my cockroach infested cell of an apartment. My decision was made mildly easier the other day by news from my favorite student that at the end of July his family will be moving and he will no longer attend my class. It's strange how something like this can affect you. However this is a student I've taught since my first day at the school and not only have I seen him progress, but he's undoubtedly the funniest 10 year old on the planet. I wasn't looking forward to having another teacher come in and get their grimy paws on him, but now that I know he's leaving it's all the more reason for me to do the same.


Bucheon International Film Fest

Sunday I headed to Bucheon to meet Yunha. When I stepped off the train she suprised me with a guide to The 9th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. I'd known about this festival before and had casually asked Yunha to find out when it was, but she, of course, went a little further.

Popular Music

Flipping through the book, we found a showing later in the evening of a Swedish film called Popular Music. It turned out to be fantastic. Throughout the screening of the film the audience alternatley laughed, gasped and cringed in unison. It was one of those rare movies where the entire audience applauded when the film finished. Little films like this in settings like this always remind me what it is that I love so much about going to movies.

However, the highlight of the festival for me was not the film, but the enjoyment I found in reading the utterly horrible English descriptions of the films in the guide book. In a country like Korea where there are hundreds of thousands of native English-speakers teaching English, it is beyond me why companies and events don't hire a native speaker to do the English translations. I would think they would be embarassed by the poor Englsih, especially for an event calling itself an International Film Festival, but I guess not. There are hundreds of examples from the book but I'll only give a few.

First Time

First Time

She becomes a producer of a travel channel with hiding himself who imagine it, meet a choosy artist.



Dante breaks out of prison. His dog, Rott, a devilish homicide who eats human flesh with his awful teeth, follows him. It will be good if you find you the deep intention, you can enjoy a scene of cruel carnage.

The Nomi Song

Diva? Alien? Or a pantomimist who dance electric boogie? No! No! No! All of them are wrong. You can feel pathetic, awe and touching than in any film. Let's follow the film is more than film!!

I have no idea what this film is about, but I'd be pissed if I made it and this was the description given. My favorite part is the two exclamation points at the end.

Strange Crimes

Daniel is a writer who uses pseudonym. At his stepson's wedding, he has one night stand with beautiful woman. The love affair which can be over but give a hint of tragic end with the fact that she is stepson's bride. The woman breaks Daniel heart with a steady temptaion. Her friends watch the tragedy with odd smile. His wife and stepson are jealous. While the secret between Daniel and his friend who was suicide, their relationship run up to extreme.

Wait! His friend was suicide?

There are many, many more...