Friday, May 28, 2004

Just a small rant about how mommies run the schools here!

Okay so I’m still in Korea for another 4 days, it’s a good thing I’m leaving otherwise I would of quit my job on the spot. I got yelled at on Friday for playing games in class, games that are in the textbook to be meant as learning experiences.

Let me take you back to the moment, it is Friday afternoon and I am in class waiting for a few stragglers to show up, so the kids and I who are there starting playing a card game that they love while we wait for the kids who are late ( I know that they will arrive within the next 10 minutes or so as they are always late ) anyway so after about 10 minutes they start to wander in and so I tell the 3 kids who are playing cards that after this hand they will have to stop so we can start the class, well 2 seconds after that the last student arrives with his mom right behind him and she sees that we are playing cards and goes off to find my supervisor. Man was I mad, anyway so at the break I get this call that Scarlett wants to talk to me so off I go to find her.

Let it be said now that this parent has been a thorn in my side since I started teaching her son, she claims that I don’t give enough homework, a change from home that’s for sure, I have never heard a parent in Canada express concern at the lack of homework, anyway back to my story.

So I go to find Scarlett and she informs that this parent is unhappy, so I tell her what was happening and that I think that it is unfair that she just walks into my class and makes a judgment about my teaching from a 2 second window of watching. She tells me that another parent (she won’t tell me who) has complained too about us playing games. Yes I said I play scrabble with my kids, all my kids whose English level is high enough and they love it, they usually beat me, (can you imagine a parent complaining about scrabble). We also play hangman, Simon says and a version of concentration along with all the games that are in the text book ( in my level 1 book the word game appears 30 times, I counted after). So if you don’t want kids going home and saying that we played games than you’ll have to change out textbook!

I told here that game is a broad term, the kids here think that anything that does not involve a worksheet is a game, even puzzles. If she had a problem with way that I taught then I would stop but that she would have to provide me with enough materials to keep the kids busy that did not involve games ( a joke because the materials at our school are horrible). She quickly back tracked and told me that she would talk to the parent again and I should just try to avoid the word game.

Then at the break she told me that I had to juggle the kids around in some of my classes because some parents wanted friends to be together, no concern for their abilities or level, the moms want them in the same class and so we will accommodate. It was a bad day.

It is a good thing I’m leaving cause otherwise I would of quit on the spot! So that’s my rant for today, I am off to meet Lexi, I think we should go shopping!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

My Lantern is the one on the right, the purple one. Don't ask me how I am going to get it to Taipei, not to sure yet.  Posted by Hello

8 days and counting.

8 days and counting.

Hello world,

It’s Buddha’s birthday today and thus a national holiday, yippee no work. It has been a long and lazy day, I have had fun playing on the internet, I love high speed internet and I have created a blog! For those of you don’t know what Blog means – it’s a web based log or an online journal. I posted my emails that I have sent to you all and a few pictures from this weekends lantern festival. I thought that it would be a little more effective than constantly emailing everyone, not that I don’t love writing to you all, actually it’s that I am enjoying writing so much that I want to do it more often, this way I can write as often as I want and then email you all to let you know that it has been updated and I can link my photo albums to it, fun high tech stuff! You can see my blog at

The last week or so has been pretty good, the highlight was by far the lantern festival this weekend in Insa-dong. They have a huge street festival to celebrate Buddha’s birthday and I am sure that there were more foreigners there than locals. My friend Emma came into the city for the weekend, on Saturday night we went to see the lanterns at the temple and these huge rice paper floats – very cool. On Sunday we went back and got to make Lotus Flower Lanterns and see all kinds of cool things at the street fair (lots of great photos to come soon)

Korea continues to amaze me, last night we went for chicken after work (yes just chicken, most restaurants only serve one or two things, this was barbeque chicken – spicy!) and we wanted to sit outside and so the lasy set us up a table on the street, a patio rather close to oncoming traffic but we all survived. By the time we were quite the sight, 10 or so foreigners sitting in the road drinking beer and making enough noise to wake the whole neighbourhood, it’s a good thing that nothing here shuts down early, everyone else was just as loud as we were. It was fun.

Hmmm what else can I tell you about, not much I am afraid, there have been moments this week when I saw something at thought that it would be funny to write home about but I can’t think of anything at this moment. If it comes to me I’ll let you know. I am off to Taipei in a week and am quite excited so the next email you’ll get form me will be from there, in the mean time check out my blog, there are even a few photos there and I will be in touch with you all again soon.

The Lanterns at the temple Posted by Hello
if you carry your lantern on your head then the crowd can't crush it.  Posted by Hello

Monday, May 24, 2004

Bathing a golden Buddha statue

I am rather proud of myself

Hello all,

This is it, my new blog, I figured it would be a great way to keep you allinformed of the daily happenings in my world and more interactive than emails, I will still email but this will be here too and I will post here more often so check in and see what has been happening. Below you will find all my emails since I arrived in Korea and a couple of photos from the Lantern Festival this weekend, it was fun. I will make a new photo album soon.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

Hello world,
Below is the link for my most current photo album, it is not to exciting but some of the photos are fun. My favorite is the man selling band-aids on the subway. Anyway there is not much else that is to exciting here at the moment. I am really looking forward to moving on to Taipei, I have found even found an apartment and it has a bathtub! The internet and I are such good friends.

This weekend I showed the new teacher around the city a bit, it wa pretty fun. He needed a computer monitor and so we went to the techno part of town, 7000 electronic stores in a bout 5 city blocks. I have never seen so many computer things. He got his monitor and I got the coolest rubber keyboard for my laptop, it is made of rubber and rolls up into a small circle for transport. Those of you who know my laptop know how small the keyboard is, this was a great solution and it was really inexpensive.

Anyway next weekend is the Lantern festival to celebrate Buddha's birthday and I am really excited about it. There will be things going on for a whole week and it promises to be a grand adventure. I'll let you know how it goes.
Enjoy the photos, miss you.


Still here

Hello all,

It has been an amusing week to say the least. Korea is fun, most of the time but some of the people are really starting to get to me. It is almost as though they have never had to deal with foreigners or even seen one for that matter. I want a t-shirt that says “take a picture it lasts longer” in Korean! I am really tired of being stared at like I have 2 heads.

Last Saturday afternoon I decided that I was going to meet Lexi to go to Insadong to get purse for Lisa who wanted it before she left. Anyway to make a long story short I was waiting for Lexi in the subway station and I was so frustrated because not only was everyone staring at me but they kept on sitting on me, here I am waiting on a bench and it was like I wasn’t even there, one person even had the guts to physically push me out of the way. Needless to say I was not a happy girl. So Lexi arrives we get into the packed subway and off we go. We had a great afternoon and lots of fun eating street food, some of it is great if you are adventurous… I find a lot of makes me ill as there seems to flour in everything but there are some things that I can eat. Anyway it was a lovely afternoon and then I went meet everyone else for dinner at this crazy expensive restaurant, it was good though. Everyone one else was going drinking and I wanted to come home so I was subwaying it alone. What an adventure it was.

I got on the train and noticed this large group of teenage boys, they quickly became more interesting than my book. They were playing rock, paper, scissors (with guns! Just for you Myrrh) and then when they lost they had to do a dare, like 15 push ups, or getting out of the train at a stop and seeing how many cars they could run before the doors started to close. There was this one poor kid who kept on losing and he was so embarrassed, it was highly entertaining to watch and I was so busy laughing I missed my stop and had to go back.

I got on the next train and was standing beside a very intoxicated individual who spent the entire ride telling me in his broken English that Koreans are wonderful people, he had beautiful daughters and that I was beautiful and then he would bow reverently. This charade was repeated over and over for the entire 20 minute ride, I was hysterical by the time they got off the train and his wife and daughters were quite embarrassed.

I spent this last week trying to get things organized for Taiwan and that too was an adventure. I went to the embassy to get a visa and they tried to tell me that I could not get one unless I was in Canada, crazy embassy. Needless to say I did in the end, get a visa. I also had to find a travel agent who spoke English, I did and she was very nice and helped with the crazy embassy stuff. I now have a visa and a ticket and I am excited! I am currently apartment hunting online, it is quite fun to be looking for a place from the other side of the world.

Wednesday this week was a holiday and I thought that since it was a beautiful day I ventured out to Myong-dong to shop. I knew that every where would be crowded as it was a holiday and so I purposely avoided that places that draw families, amusement parks, parks and the river walk. I didn’t realize that not only would those places be packed, so would everything else! Me and a million of my closest friends spent the afternoon knocking into one another as we tried to walk through the packed streets. In the midst of the million people they were was a movie crew filming a movie, I am not lying it was the funniest thing I have seen, the crew was yelling at people to get out of the way and no one was listening to them because there were so many people.

Yesterday was Saturday and Lexi I went, can you guess… shopping. It was fun but nothing too exciting. I did find some good books at the used book store though.

Anyway it is Sunday today and it is pouring with rain… sad but true so I am not doing anything to exciting, I have to work in a few hours so I am going to go now and meet Lexi at the mall for a coffee (Starbucks) as there is not much else to do in the rain, it is pouring and has been since last night.

Miss you all, watch for a new photo album later this week, it is almost finished.


Graham has to learn a new country name

Hello all,

Guess what, I am moving to Taiwan! I accepted a job teaching kindergarten and Language arts to primary students in Taipei. The school sounds great, the money is great and I get 5 weeks of paid holidays. If you are wondering about the subject line of this email it is in reference to my friend Lori’s son who knows to places on the world map, Canada and South Korea, he’ll learn one more soon enough. I leave June 3rd and start working on the 7th. I am really excited, if you want to see the school for yourself you can go to the website there is a great hopping kangaroo on the flash version and if you click on the photos they will open in new window so you can actually see them. Oh and funky little bit of small world phenomenon the VP at the school is from Ottawa.

Okay so although I have been very preoccupied with the whole job thing I have managed to have some fun in the last two weeks. My roommate has been busy trying to get in all those last minute things before she leaves for home tomorrow! They went to club night last night but given my current plague status ( I have a horrible cold) I stayed home and tonight we are going out for dinner and there has been a lot of shopping too.

So last weekend I spent Saturday shopping with my friend Lexi, we just bombed around the city with nothing particular in mind but it was fun. Then out for dinner and drinks with some other friends, I eat out way more here then I ever did at home. The shopping here is always great and the city is so big that I can choose a new place to shop every weekend if I want too. Me shopping every weekend…. Why would I want to do that???? Actually although I have done a heap of trips to shopping areas I haven’t bought that much stuff, honest!

On Sunday a big group of us went to Everland for the day, Everland is a large theme park that like every theme park was expensive and crowded but a lot of fun none the less. I think the best part of it was that all the different sections are based on different countries in the world, USA, Switzerland, Africa and so on. The USA was funny, it was from the50’s and had statues of the Elvis and Marilyn and other50’s folks along with a few vintage cars. It was interesting to see how another culture interprets other countries.

When were in the Africa section we went on this animal safari tour in this bus to see lions and tigers and bears, OH MY. But we did actually see lions and tigers and bears, it was the oddest collection of animals. In one section there were African animals including a Liger, what is a liger you ask? It is what happens when a lion and tiger breed, I am not kidding, I didn’t get a photo but I wish I had as it was pretty cool to see. Then we went through this big gate and there were black bears everywhere, they had heaps of bears and they waved and such when the driver threw them food. It was like being in Gatineau Park only with the element of fear that the bear might come after you. Surrounding the bears were teepee’s, I’m not kidding, how they link Africa and teepee’s I am not sure but it was interesting none the less.

We came home exhausted and sunburnt that night but it had been a fun day, my favorite was the log ride, I love the water rides. This past week has been long as I have been sick but it is Saturday again and so I will spend the day on the couch watching TV and drinking tea. Hopefully I will be better by Monday as there are no sick days when you are short one teacher. Our poorly organized school had 2 months to find a replacement for Lisa and didn’t managed to get organized in time and so he is not coming for another week or so and thus we have to cover her classes, They would frown upon my saying I needed a sick day.

Anyway I should be off. Hope you are all well, take care.

100resumes + 4 interviews + 3 offers =

One great job!

Yes I accepted a new job today, in taiwan, the money is great, the school seems good and the best part is that I get 5 weeks of paid holidays.

Okay so only those of you I really love are getting this one, the rest of the world will have to wait until tomorrow as I am sick as a dog and going to bed.

I am so exicited. I will give you all the rest of the info in the morning. I start June 7th!

English is crazy!

Teacher, teacher, what is babystiing? Do they really sit on the babies?

No Julie, they don't sit on the babies, they watch the children while parents go out.

Then why do they call it babysitting?

I don't know Julie, I really don't.

sandals, sandals, sandals.... finally

Hello world,

Hope that this email finds you all doing well and enjoying spring, I hear that it has finally sprung in the east. Spring is here too and has been for a quite a few weeks, it was 23 yesterday... thus the need for sandals... yes those would be the ones that I did not bring from Canada. Those of you who know me well know how much I dislike wearing socks and thus I long for the time when I can discard them and live in my sandals until the snow flies again. Well that great time of year arrived here almost 3 weeks ago and I had no sandals to wear. Why? because I was so sure that I could get sandals in Korea that I left mine at home in a box in Amy's basement. Well I was so wrong...sandals here are not easy to find and when you do find them they all have heels! You all know how I feel about heels - only if my life is dependent on them will they be worn - convocation was the last time a pair graced my feet and that was only so that I could actually be seen as I walked across the stage!

Anyway I have spent the last two weeks wandering in and out of every shoe > store I have seen looking for a pair of sandals that did not have heels. The sales staff thought I had lost my mind as I tried on men's shoes and kept > telling me that they were not women's shoes. They could not understand why I did not want to buy a pair with lovely spaghetti straps and 2 inch heels... > anyway to make a long and frustrating story short I did finally find a pair on the weekend in this great area of town called Myuong-Dong, it is a huge outdoor shopping mall that is literally 8 or 10 blocks wide, it is and amazing shopping experience. ( it is also the sight of the only catholic church that I have found in the whole city) So I was there on Sunday and I must of walked into 30 or 40 shoe stores and then finally I walked into this sports store and there they are... the sandals I have looked all over the city for (it is a big city) just sitting there all by themselves, the only ones in the whole store and needless to say after a happy dance I bought them and my feet are much happier now. The Koreans that I work with think I am crazy because they are not very pretty to look at, just practical and they do not understand why I would spend all that money for something that is not high fashion... ha ha ha they don't know me very well.

Moral of this story - if you want sandals in Korea bring them from home!

It is amusing to find a catholic cathedral in the middle of a huge shopping area, talk about contradictions. Anyway the guide book says that if you are shopping and need a break that you should head there and take a rest - okay whatever. Regardless of that it is quite the sight to see an old stone cathedral in the middle of this cement jungle and a courtyard that is packed with people taking a break from shopping. I could not get into the church as there was a wedding but there are English masses, a bonus, but they are early in the morning which takes away from the bonus factor. We'll see how life unfolds and if i manage to et up early enough to sit on the subway for an hour at 7 am.

So the last 2 weeks or so have been pretty uneventful with the exception of my sandal shopping I have not done to much. I have had weekend staff meetings and workshops... there is nothing as exciting as spending your Saturday morning learning about word walls and high frequency words ( I went to teacher's college for that, it's not why I am in Korea... I was so bored and I could of taught the workshop myself and saved them a lot of money!) So here I am spending my Saturday at this workshop that would have been useful to me 2 years ago ( before I paid to learn about it at school) and they ask me what I what kind of sandwich I want for lunch. I tell them it's ok they don't need to order me anything as I can't have a sandwiches ( this is not news to them as we have had this conversation before) and they say I can have a salad and so I say okay, a tuna salad - meaning a salad with tuna on it - would be fine. Lunch arrives and guess what they ordered me - a tuna salad sandwich! man was I annoyed, it just made a long day that much longer and more frustrating. There are moments when the language issues are the most frustrating part of this experience.

Moral of this story - if you want a salad make sure that they order an actual salad!
Not much else to tell you I am heading into a long and busy week of lesson plans and report cards... fun, fun and more fun! On a brighter note the gang and I are heading to Everland on Sunday, it is a huge amusement park and it promises to be a long and fun day of roller coasters and cotton candy. Yipee! Looking forward to the weekends makes the week go by so much faster. Hope you are all well and keeping yourselves busy in my absence - ha ha ha.
Miss you all.
PS sorry, no really witty story this week but I did have to explain "born in barn" to a 10 year old who thought that standing on the table was acceptable behaviour!

The school Funny for the week!

Thursday afternoon,
Justine is having a bad hair day so she puts on a bandana... little did she know the reaction it would cause...

Justine walks into her one class of 7 year olds with a bandana on her head... laughter breaks out "Agima, Agima" children shout (there are 4 of them) "Agima, Agima" they shout again laughing.

Justine calmly replies " aniyo, agima, aniyo" they still laugh and continue to whisper "agima" to one another, Justine sulks to the board and begins her class even though the munchkins are still laughing at her.

Translation - Agima = old married lady
Aniyo= no

Happy Easter

Hello world, you are still celebrating Easter there and I am procrastinating as I should be getting ready for work but writing to all of you is so more interesting than photocopying worksheets.
The last two weeks have been interesting.

Last weekend we had Monday off as it was Arbor Day here and so I went away for the long weekend. I went with a group called Adventure Korea, we ( me and 35 other teachers from all over the place, Ireland, England and the States) met after work on Friday night and drove all night to make the most of our time. We arrived on the southern tip of Korea in time to see the sunrise and go for a hike... no one told me about all the hiking but it was fun. Anyway we wandered up about a million stairs to see a buddhist hermitage and then me and few other daring women climbed to the top of another mountain because you know that one hike at 6 am is not enough! It was a blast. Then we got back on the bus and went back to see Hallyeohaesang National Park which had a lighthouse and botanical garden. It was beautiful. After that we needed some lunch, considering the amount of exercise we had all gotten in the last 5 hours. After lunch we got on the ferry and headed to the islands where we would spend our weekend.

Geomundo and Baekdo were our destination and we spent a great weekend hiking and sight seeing, there were a few other tour groups there but I think we were the only foreigners that they had seen for awhile and we were a bit of a novelty. We spent the next 2 days hiking, seeing the sights, partying and generally having a great time ( the photos will give you a better idea than what I could describe now.

We drove back to Seoul on Monday afternoon and made a pit stop at a Korean Folk Village, it was really cool. Then back on the bus for 7 hours, it was a 4 hour drive but thanks to the traffic it took us forever to get home. We finally did arrive back in the city and got home eventually where we collapsed... literally as we were exhausted.

It was back to work on Tuesday and a busy week it was, monthly report cards were due and so I spent a long week writing and marking. But then Saturday I ran some errands, you know that you are no longer a visitor when you are running errands on a Saturday, it was fun though. After I tutored I went to this great shopping area that is surrounded by universities so there are lots of students with tables set up selling things and it is really cool. It was a beautiful weekend here and the weather was amazing so it was nice to be outside.

Yesterday I decided (after a last minute afternoon work cancellation!) I would head to Yeoudo park and see the cherry trees in bloom, not a big thrill after growing up in Victoria but nice none the less. Well apparent ly everyone else in Seoul had the same idea and the park was packed with people. The park is on an island in the river, it is like central park in New York being that is is about a mile or so in the middle of an office district, people here say it is the Manhattan of Korea... whatever. Anyway it was fun. I worked last night and after that headed on my ever present mission to find a toaster oven with a temperature dial, I finally found one in and needless to say I was quite excited, I have to go back and get it later this week as I was not up to carrying it around with me but I am very excited about the prospect of banana bread and other treats that I can make. Yipee. Now my weekend is over and it back to work very soon... sad but true. The coming week doesn't hold much promise either as I have to go to a teacher meeting and workshop on Saturday, and I work most of Sunday afternoon and evening... oh well I'll live. So this is it for exciting news at the moment. I am in the midst of making another photo album from my weekend away and it should be finished soon, I'l send you all the link as soon as it ready.

It has been lovely to hear from you all lately, keep those emails coming as it nice to hear of news and events back home even though it may not be exciting to you it is great to hear it, honest.
Miss you all

PS I got myself in trouble on the subway yesterday when I took a picture of a guy selling band aids, he had this huge laminated sheet of them and it was really funny, well I forgot to turn my flash off and so he noticed adn boy was he annoyed... oh well, mental note to self, when trying to take pictures without being noticed turn the flash off... the picture will get to all of you eventually, in an April album I imagine as I have enough on my plate at the moment.

My very own top 10 list

Top 10 Reasons to Ride the Subway in Seoul

10 - You don't need to buy a stairmaster or gym membership, you can just run up and down the stairs to catch a train.

9 - It is so far underground that it would be the safest place to be in the case of nuclear war.

8 - If you ride during rush hour you may be in train do crowded that your feet will actually never touch the ground, the crowd holds you up.

7 - When the train is packed with people and it draws near to your stop you always seem to make your way to the doors on the wrong side, you have pushed and shoved your way to the left doors and then the ones on the right side open.

6 - You can tell by the smell who has recently eaten squid and drunk to much soju, you don't sit beside them becasue they may throw up on your shoes.

5 - You can achieve that great windswept hair look by standing in the subway station and waiting for a train to come, the wind is that strong.

4 - Koreans hire people to pick up the garbage from on the subway tracks. (photo to come soon)

3 - You can buy everything you need in the subway stations, you can actually live in the subway without ever leaving.

2 - You can watch Korean commercials and cartoons on the TV's, the ones that where they try to make you cry are the best.

1- For about 80 cents you can get anywhere in the city.

All here is okay, things are busy this week as I am doing unit tests and planning for next month. I had a great weekend of sight seeing though. On Friday I went to Olympic Park, it was fun to see. On Saturday I went to see the reenactment of the changing of the guards at one of the palaces and yesterday I saw to Seoul's version of Beverly Hills and to a great Buddhist temple, it was a busy weekend but I had a great time.

Hope you are all well... there will be more photos soon as I have been taking tons.


Sunday, May 23, 2004

The Adventure Continues

Okay so I have been here for month and have now been officially lost twice! Lost in Seoul is amusing to say the very least, especially at night. Speaking English is a generational ability (younger) for the most part and so getting lost at night presents a challenge as there are no small people out to ask for directions and the adults are usually to drunk to be very helpful, I did find someone on Sunday night and on Saturday I managed to find my own way.

So why am I getting lost in Seoul by myself, because my roommate has decided to go home early and as a result is working 7 days a week to make extra pennies before she leaves. My other friends where all busy this weekend doing other things and thus I was flying solo. But that was not going to stop me from seeing things. So on Saturday I went shopping with the babies (other teachers, they are really young) to two of local markets were ou can buy anything and everything usually for pretty cheap and then had to go off to my private tutoring (30 bucks to sit and gab with an 18 year old for an hour) after that I decided that I needed to visit the used english bookstore in Itaweon. Itaweon is the forgiener part of town were you can get anything and everything American. So off I went, I had an idea were the bookstore was but had never been there alone, nor had I gone there in the dark. So I started looking for the mosque because the bookstore is near there. The mosque is on a hill, I thought that it was near Hooker hill ( yes it is named that for a reason) but appartently I was wrong. I didn't ever find the bookstore but I did find a few american men who seemed quite concerned that I was lost and thought that giving them my phone number might help. Will guys who try to pick up girls on the street ever realize that we would not give them our real phone numbers... any girl with half a brain anyway. Anyway, I had a good laugh, didn't ever find the bookstore. Instead I bought some groceries and came home. I wasn't really ever very lost because I knew how to get back to the subway... unlike sunday night.

So then on Sunday night ( I work for 3 hours on Sunday afternoon) I decided to go to Seoul Tower (the equivelent of the CN tower) again I was on my own and so I ventured out thinking that it would be really neat to see Seoul at night from up high and that the photo opportunities would be good (they were but didn't turn out very well) Anyway so I followed the directions in the guide book and got off at the right subway stop and started to walk, the guide book said that it was a nice 15-20 minute walk, HA, it was a 30 minute walk and 20 of it was up stairs, lots of stairs! I met a very sweet elderly gentleman (he spoke english and had lied all over Asia) as I was looking for the stairs and he walked me to the foot of them and showed me how to get up to the tower. He was suprised that I did not go up in the cable car but I thought that it seemed silly to pay to ride a cable car in the dark. So off I went I finally got to the top, it took awhile given the billions of steps. The best part walking was laughing at the korean women who were doing the same walk in short skirts and high heels. I get of the top of the hill, pay my 5 dollars, get in an elevator and go 358 feet above sea level. I saw the city, it was an amazing view and then decided to leave so I could get home before it got to late. Seoul is really safe, I mean I feel safe alone at night unlike at home, but still I wanted to get home before it got to late because the subway stops running at around 11. There were lots of people walking down from the hill and so I thought that I would go down via the road instead (mistake #1) as I walked down I noticed some stairs that went through the park (the tower is on hill in a park) and thought that would be nicer than walking on the road (mistake #2) it was a lovely walk but I ended up on some road on the other side of the park. Anyway to make a long story short I ended up lost on this road with few poeple around who could help me out. So I flagged down a cab and told him to take take me to the subway station I thought was nearby... it wasn't and as he was driving I saw what I thought was a subway station in Dongdamun market (mistake #3) so I told him to let me out (cab drivers speak no english!). I get out of the cab and head down the stairs thinking I am at the subway only to discover that it was an underground mall not the subway. I found a person who pointed me in the right direction and eventually found the subway after a very long walk. It was quite the adventure. I did make it home and had a good laugh about my evening. The only sad part is that the photos from the towere did not turn out to well, oh well, maybe I will go back.... maybe!

Ahh the wonders of living on the other side world.... the adventure will continue. I am looking forward to going to the islands off the south coast in two weeks with the Korean Adventure Club and doing some time near the water in a warmer climate. I guess that is about all for now, nothing else to exciting to tell you about. I hope you have had a good laugh at my expense.

Musings of a homesick Canadian

Good morning,
I miss Canada... I miss the space, the clean air and most of all the personal space! Koreans have no sense of personal space, they never say sorry or excuse me when they push you or step on your foot or shove you into oncoming traffic... they just walk on whether you are a forgeiner or not has nothing to do with it!

Korea is good, crowded but good for the most part. There are some amazingly odd things but for the most part the culture shock is not to bad. Every now and then I walk down the street and laugh to myself at something I see that is just so different...

men in suits drunk out of there minds stumbling in front of moving cars on every street, every night, alcohol is cheap here and men (mostly men) start early, like at work and drink all night.

people sleep on the subway until all of sudden some internal alarm goes off and they wake up at a stop, read the sign and get off... and not just one or two people, everyone does it.

men wear pink and boys hold hands but women are not allowed to smoke in public go figure

cops do not carry guns and yet there is very little crime and they have this cool little breath analysis thing that they use to check for drunk drivers, the cars stop and the driver breathes on and then drives away, unless it beeps and then I do not know what happens... there are lots of police though

there are books and couches in the subway stations and no one steals them, people actually sit and read and then put the books back... who would ever thought.

ice cream is as cheap as potatoes at home and potatoes are as expensive as ice cream would be, plus they are not washed, like at all, I buy them almost right out of the ground, literally.

there are stray animals everywhere and there is a dog in my building who barks more than anything I have ever heard, yes even more than Killarney.

the trucks that drive through the markets have these annoying loudspeakers that shout out things in Korean to get you to buy their products and they start in the wee hours of the morning... thank god for ear plugs!

children do not listen.... oh wait that is the same at home, they think because I do not speak Korean that they can get away with murder, they are quickly learning this not the case!

I was told by teaching partners yesterday that overalls were coming back into style so I could wear mine... when have I ever cared about style! hello comfort comes first.

street food looks good but smells awful most days, depends where you are but it is not to appealing to look at squid pieces and silk worm larvae and know that people enjoy eating them.

I am surprised that there are any squid left in the ocean for the rest of the world, there is squid everywhere... fresh squid, frozen squid, dried squid.... you name and I am sure you can find it.

You can buy your fish from a tank and take is home live, like they don't kill it before they wrap it up so the newspaper is still moving.... I'm avoiding that experience along with the silk worm larvae.

people here have little or no support as seniors (unless you have kids to support you) and so you see these little old ladies selling vegtables on the side of the road and men collecting cardboard to recycle on these huge carts that they pull and it is really sad to see but no one here even thinks about it.

you get free stuff when you buy gas, like kleenex and bottled water, actually you get free stuff everywhere because there is so much market competition, my school gives the children backpacks.

Korean women wear the craziest shoes, it is pouring rain and there are women running around in 2 inch spike heels, they are slipping and sliding and yet they all do it anyway.

Anyway I am sure that there are million other things I could tell you about but it would take days and frankly I do not want to type for that long. I am having fun, the kids at the school are fun and although they groan at my high expectations they love that I let them play uno if they get there work done, bribe is a universal word.

I am glad to hear that so many of you enjoyed the photos. I have not seen much this week but things are busy at school and I'm tired. I have plans to go away on the next long weekend in early april so there will be more pictures then.
Alright so that's it for now. Hope you are all doing well.
PS a prize for the first person who can list all the uncountable nouns - yes there is a list and it's not very big and until I had to teach it I did not know that we classified nouns as countable and uncountable. I am serious, treats form korea for the first one... there are

Good Sunday morning

Good Morning Everyone
It is a bright sunny sunday morning and things here are going well. I have so many exciting things to tell you all about I don't know where to start!

Okay, let's start with food... it is amusing to say the very least and spicy! a little too spicy for me. I have experienced a few different Korean restaurants in the last week, some better than others. Last Saturday I went out with the staff from my school to a traditional Korean restaurant, I ate a lot of rice and these great little egg omelet things that are pretty tasty everything else was a little to odd for my jet lagged body to be excited about. After work this week we went to two local restaurants, one they call the mushroom house that has this tasty but spicy mushroom/potato soup. The other was called shabo shabo and is the ultimately Korean fondue, it was really great but expensive. My roommate does not cook at all and thinks it is the best place to eat in the neighbourhood. Yesterday I went out for some traditional north american food with the director of my school and my supervisor.... trying to make up for not giving me the schedule they promised ( more about that later). Anyway we went to the Marche (Movenpick), they are just the same as they are at home but the menu signs are in Korean, it was really good.

So eating out is really easy, I was a little concerned at first about buying groceries but I am over that now. I live near a little street market, it is combination of stores and street vendors who sell things of the back of trucks and vans. It is really neat to see but challenging to but food at. There is a huge grocery store near but, 15 minute walk, but it is really expensive and there are lots of things that you can not get there like cheese and meat! Well that is not true you can get meat but you have to order from the butcher and thus you have to speak Korean, thus I have been a bit of a vegetarian lately because I can not figure out how to ask for what I want.... it would work if I had my roommate with me as her Korean is quite good. Anyway that was the grocery stress until yesterday... then I discovered the real grocery stores! I was the given the email address of someone who was living here by friend in Ottawa ( Ken I will email you about him later) and boy did he have all the info on where to buy groceries! First he took to a small store that imports all it's goods from abroad and has decent prices, although more expensive than at home they had cheese and salsa, you buy nacho chips everywhere but not salsa to go with them. Anyway it was this great little store and it is not to far from my house, about 30 minutes on the subway in this great neighbourhood called Itaweon, the foreigner part of town. This part of town has amazing street stalls with knock offs of everything you could ever want. Anyway so this is where the grocery store is along with a black market store that I saw last weekend, a real back market store that you would miss if you blinked! It is this little tiny hole in the wall that gets all it stuff from the army base and then sells it at outrageous prices but you can get anything you want there.

So after we went to the small grocery store and took a cab back to his apartment to drop off his groceries... I sat in the cab while the cab driver tried to flirt with me Korean... it was quite funny. Anyway then we went on the subway to this other "real" north american style grocery store, it is like a superstore at home. Anyway I was in grocery store heaven, I found peanut butter that wasn't 6 dollars, pringles that were only 2 dollars instead of 3, rice noodles for 1.50 instead of 3.00 and the list goes on. There are still things that you can not get here but I think that I will survive with out rootbeer, ruffles and mangos. The most exciting part of the second store was that I could but meat! in packages just like at home, chicken and ground meat and it was clean and there were no flies or dirty fingers around poking at it. Nice clean styrofoam containers with saran wrap on them, it is amazing how the little things excite me. So I bought some.... won't be a vegetarian anymore.

Okay so aside from food, I have been kind of hung up on the food issue, things are really interesting, oh wait one more food thing. There is a Starbucks near my house! it is a good walk and expensive but it is a starbucks and I can get a carmel frapacunnico when desperate. Okay anyway so the rest of Korea is amazing. I am alone this weekend as my roommate has gone to Beijing because Monday is a holiday so there will not be a lot of sight seeing going on until next weekend but what I have seen has been great. I live very close to Olympic park, a great park and stadium that is just a 10 minute walk. There is a man made lake just a 5 minute walk in the other direction on the way to Lotte world. The lake is the only bit of nature that I have seen at all (besides the park), there are no birds except pigeons and even they are few and far between and there are definitely no squirrels!The irony of the lake is that it is divided down the middle by a 10 lane bridge that traffic races across at all hours and makes a lot of noise, the lake is still nice though. On the other side of the lake is this amazing department store/theme park/hotel/mall, it looks like it was picked up from las vegas and dropped into the middle of Seoul, it is a whole city block and quite the site to see. The department store is amazing... 8 floors or so of designer clothes with designer prices! It is amusing to just wander around the neighbourhood because everything is so different, all of the signs here are in english and Korean even though few koreans speak enough English to read them.The children all speak english but it is definitely a generational skill, few people my age speak english unless they studies abroad, which is popular, but the language barrier makes asking for directions can get challenging.

Alright so finally I'll tell you about the job, I was hired to teach grade 1/2 english in a intensive daily program that the school offers and then teach 1 or 2 other classes after that to make up my 6 hours a day and that was I doing until the middle of this week. They had limited enrollment for the daily program and so instead I am teaching a combination of older and younger children from 2 until 9 each day. There are a myriad of issues that have including the fact that they said all the teaching materials would be supplied, and there are materials for the children ( in all my classes but 1) but there are not teaching manuals to go with them... frustrating to say the very least. So I have a huge variety of levels to teach including one class of new english speakers, just created and added to the schedule on Friday that I am teaching two days a week. It has no curriculum set as it is new and no books so yesterday I went to the book store with my supervisor and the director to find some books to use (thus the free lunch) I did find some things but the whole process is frustrating because the Korean teachers here have a very limited knowledge of teaching materials available and thus want to use old and really lame books when there are amazing materials out there. Anyway I will stick out the job until the summer break and then see if I want to stay or move on to another job somewhere > else... Australia, Thailand... the opportunities are endless... I think that somewhere warm might be nice because then I could mail home my sweaters.

Anyway this email has been more than long enough... there is just so much to tell you all about. I am off to right lesson plans ( i have to hand them in! yuck) and watch the movie channel... we have 4 english channels, 2 movie, discovery channel and the american military network... none of them are great but they are in english.
Miss you all

I made it in one piece

Hello everyone,
I made it here in one piece and have just barely begun to settle in. After 17 hours on the plane I waited an hour at the airport for my ride and then spent and hour and half in traffic in order to get to the school which we did 10 minutes before it closed. I met the teachers and at the directors urging called my parents and woke them up at 4 in the morning, yes the time difference between here and Ottawa is 14 hours but between here and the coast is 17... sorry again Dad
It is now 7:30 on Saturday morning, I am exhausted although I did sleep my body decided it was time to get up around 4. As I sit I am waiting for the tea to be ready... I am so happy that I brought things like that from home because it means it is on less thing to learn about in the next week.
I don't start teaching until the first monday in March but i have orientation next week, the other teachers say I am lucky because I have an amazing schedule with really small classes but I as I have nothing to compare it to I can't really tell you much about it till I start. The politics at e school seem a little intense, I walked into a huge argument between the director of the school and my roommate over apartment access, (the school wants the access code for the door and she will not give it to them, now i am sure they will ask me instead, lucky me) and there seem to be other issues around to but it seems like all shall be well in regards to the school and the teaching aspect of my days.
Hang on, I must get some tea!
Okay that is so much better, the milk here is weird, it is so creamy... i will have to look into that further later as I am used to skim but anyway... Okay so the apartment is on this little tiny road that is barley big enough to drive down and then here is little building with 8 or 10 apartments in it and it's a walk up ( mike and lori, and I almost died with that red bag), I had a lot of stuff to carry up. So I met my roommate she's from Labrador and has been Korea for a year and half. The apartment is small but I have my own room and it is bigger than some other rooms I have lived in so I am not complaining. Although I am in the middle of the city I have not heard any noise from outside, I thought it would be so loud! Things that apartment does not have... a bathtub!!!! I knew that was possibility but I as so sad... I will be finding hotels occasionally when desperate for a long hot soak. There is no oven and the cooking utensils are sparse but I have plans to change that as soon as possible. I will be investing in toaster oven so I can bake brownies, pizza and cookies as soon as I can get around to it. The light switches are in hard to find laces like behind the fridge for the bathroom and I still have not found the one for the living room. I do have a TV and VCR and from the sounds of it you can rent movies and watch English shows. Aside from the occasional moment when I think I have lost my mind by moving half way around the world by myself ... I think that things are going to be good once the culture shock wears down a little and I learn how to get from the school to my apartment and inside ( the password is elephant and there are no keys... strange) the apartment without getting lost then I will be little more confident. Iwill write again soon and tell some great stories I hope, till then take care and be happy that when you want to park your car you do not have to drive it into a car elevator that takes you down to the parking garage, I was really concened about getting stuck in the car in an elevator.... anyway I miss you all already.