Ghetto School (Part 1)

After four and a half months I still can't decided if I like my new school. On one hand there is a lot more work to do than my previous schools. However, my schedule is nice and I'm left alone to do as I please. Another negative for me, and don't ask me to give an explanation for this, is I don't like working with Korean people. I like Korean people as a whole, but for some reason working with them bothers me. This school is mostly Korean teachers.

However, for the most part I don't mind the job. The kids are good and everyone is nice to me. The one thing that continues to bother me is that my school is a shithole. Seoul is the third largest city in the world, behind only Tokyo and Mexico City. And the area I live in, Gangnam, is one of the wealthiest areas of Seoul. In fact, I've been told that many Korean parents move to my area of Gangnam, Dachi-Dong, so their children can receive a higher level of education. Yet, my hakwon looks like it's in East St. Louis.

To begin with, the classroom numbers are taped to the door.

There are all sorts of wires and cables hanging from the walls.

graffiti on the walls.

This picture shows the HVAC coming into the building.

A close-up reveals that tin foil is an acceptable building material in the wealthiest part of Seoul. If someone knows Korean better than me I'd love to know what the sign says.

Really, this type of building is evident all over Korea. Even my apartment has holes cut in the windows to allow room for cables.

This is supposed to be a camera that allows parents to monitor the classrooms. From what I've been told they don't work. Obviously, this one doesn't.

I love this picture because it shows not only how dirty the doors and walls are, but also how the paint is mismatched.

Heat part 1. When I started at this school there was no way to heat the classrooms so they rolled in a bunch of these portable heaters. They work okay, but a few times students have stuck paper in them for fun, which quickly becomes dangerous.

After a weekend we came in to find they had installed a form of central air. These tubes go through most of the classes. They just look cheap to me and none of the grates match.

This isn't really a ghetto school picture, but the day I was taking pictures I thought I'd get one of me teaching a class. This is the kind of thing I spend most of my time doing. I=my, you=your, etc. I'm quite proud of my 'We' and 'they' drawings. It's actually a tough thing to explain.

More photos to come.



I took a nice trip to Gyeongju this weekend. Gyeongju is a small city in the southeast of Korea that once served as the capital to the Silla Dynasty. It was nice to get out of Seoul after a busy January and a vacation where I mostly stayed home.

This is the hotel where we stayed. Usually in Korea I opt to stay in the cheap "love motels", but I decided to splurge on this trip and went to the Hilton. It was worth it for the breakfast buffet. We arrived at four o'clock on Saturday and didn't leave the hotel all day.

We stayed on the 7th floor known as the World Cup Floor because when Korea hosted the World Cup of Soccer the German and Dutch teams stayed on this floor. There was even a photo in the room of the player who slept there. I thought that was a little creepy.

The second day we went out for some sightseeing. Here's a nice little lake near the hotel where we waited for the bus.

We took the bus downtown, put our bags in a locker at the bus station and headed out to look around. I snapped this picture downtown. This is a restaurant that apparently serves beef. It's quite common for restaurants here to put full color pictures of the animals they serve on their signs. Personally, when I'm eating beef I don't want to be reminded that it comes from something that once peacefully grazed in a field.

Here's the entrance to the first stop on our sightseeing trip. This park, if you will, is the burial site for several ancient kings and queens.

Some detail of the entrance.

Each of these mounds is a tomb. I didn't count, but there were quite a few.

This tomb had been excavated and you are able to go inside. Unfortunately, they don't allow pictures of the interior which is disappointing because the way they are constructed is rather fascinating.

Some info on the tomb above.

This is me trying to be artistic. I like the picture.

Of course, Koreans can't leave well enough alone. Even at historical tombs of kings they have to put these goofy-looking cartoon statues. I will never, ever, understand this mentality.

A nice shot of a lone tree and the mountains in the background.

The next stop was this nice lake with a few ancient buildings around it. Apparently, it used to be a massive complex but only three buildings remain (or were recreated, I'm not sure).

Again, trying to be artistic. Don't think this one looks as good, but though I would include it anyway.

A massive bell at the museum. I didn't get a any picture inside the museum, but if you've ever been to a museum you can imagine. Just a bunch of old pots.

I took this shot on the bus back to Seoul. I really liked that even the toll booth was shaped like an ancient pavilion.

I've always thought I should start a collection of pictures of signs on this blog because you see some really ridiculous and funny signs here. Let this and the cow sign above be the beginning. If you can't tell, the sign is supposed to say 'Africa Chicken", but they made a spelling error.


Overdue update

Not five minutes ago I received a phone call I've been dreading for some time. For the past couple of weeks the same number has called my cell phone everyday and I've managed to avoid the call, because I knew who it was and I knew what it was in reference too. I finally picked up and faced the music. It was the DVD store down the street informing me that my movies are now 51 days overdue. I feigned ignorance and promised to return them tomorrow. That has been the state of my life the past couple of weeks. I haven't updated here in nearly as long as I haven't been to the DVD store.

January, and along with it winter intensive, came and went. It was difficult and busy, but I got through it and tomorrow I get the paycheck for it so it will be worth all the effort. I had a week off in January as well, during the Lunar New Year, but I mostly stayed home and rested.

The good thing to come out of the hellish January schedule is that I saw how much I can really do in a day if I just do it. So, I've tried to stick with the same sleeping and waking schedule. Which means I've continued to wake up each day at 9am. This may not seem early to some, but I don't start work until 1pm and usually wake up about 11:30am. In addition, I've decided to finally take some real Korean classes starting next week. They will be five days a week from 10am-12pm, so I'll need to be awake and ready for them. I thought it was best to just maintain that schedule. Also, I usually go to bed between 3am-4am, but I've managed to get myself adjusted to going to sleep around 1am. It's not the best schedule in the world and by no means makes me an early bird, but it's quite an improvement and I feel good that I've been able to stick to it.

This past week I've spent my early mornings exploring the area where I live. I found a great map of Seoul online, saw all the interesting things around me and decided to go check them out. Of course, the first day I resolved to do this I woke up early, looked out the window and saw a few inches of snow on the ground. No problem though, I sludged through the slush and managed to wander around for over an hour.

This weekend I'm boarding a bus and going to the ancient capital of Korea, Gyeong-ju. It's a four hour bus ride from Seoul, but is supposed to be worth a visit. I've finally managed a way to charge the batteries for my camera, so stayed tuned for pictures from the trip. Also, look out for an upcoming post I like to call "Ghetto School".