Thursday, November 30, 2006

Winter Term

My school's schedule revolves around four 13 week 'terms' through the year. We just started the new winter term this week and let me tell you, it's quite a relief. For a month now, I've been teaching a full schedule, so including prepping, I'm at school for 40+ hours a week. I'm still teaching a full schedule, but I'm now teaching duplicate classes which means the prepping has decreased by about 3 hours or so a week. This is a welcome break and should turn out to be really nice. It's nice to teach new classes too. The kids are newly motivated. Some kids have leveled-up to the next level and the ones who didn't are ready to work hard. The worthless students have quit too, which to be honest, is a welcome change. Our academy is a little tougher than the many others in Korea, so many kids don't come with the mindset to work hard and even after 3 months, a select few still don't get it. Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing my job as a teacher when I say things like that, but then I think of the gains that the other students are getting and I realize that some kids just don't want to be here. There's nothing I can do about that except my best though.

I've been thinking about talking to my boss to lower my working hours to the schedule I had before. After talking to many other people in Jeju, I feel like I work a fair bit more than everyone else. I don't mind working hard, but 6 days a week every week is tough, even if the Friday and Saturday are only half days. I do also get compensated for the work since my salary is higher than just about everyone I know. I came to Korea expecting a semi-part-time schedule and I didn't come to bust my butt and pay off debt, so I'd like to have just a little bit more freedom. We'll see what comes of it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

(Tol) First Birthday Party

This weekend, The owner of the climbing club's son turned one so they held a birthday party for him. For Koreans, the first birthday is very important since it traditionally shows that the baby has passed the early mortality stage and will likely continue to live. It's called Tol, which is short for 돌잔치. (See! I'm learning a little Korean!) During the birthday, the child does a little ceremony where he's placed in front of a table with a few different objects like money, thread, pencil, book. Whichever object he picks will foretell his future. I came a little late, so I missed that part of the ceremony, and can't tell you what they mean. I got there just in time for the food. It was like an army of people bringing out food and cleaning dishes. There must've been 40-50 people coming through their house. The food was great and I had a great time. I ended up drinking a little bit much soju and whiskey, but that was okay too.

Here's Il Gon (일건)(I think that's how you spell his name?) with his mother Kyung Ah (경아). She's wearing the traditional Hanbok (한복) outfit, and he's wearing a cute outfit someone got him as a present.

This is me and Sang Soo, the father in his Hanbok.

Here's the birthday boy with some money! Maybe that's what he chose!

Here's one of the many tables of food.

And a little birthday cake to finish it off. Ever eaten cake with chopsticks?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Korean Language Class

Unlike most other English teachers here, learning Korean has become a top priority for me. I honestly don't know how these people can keep sane living here for years without knowing any Korean. Most of these teachers only know enough to get food at restaurants and beer at the bars. Learning the language is a slow, painful process, so I can understand how daunting it can be. However, so far for me, the rewards have been worth the effort.

Two weeks ago, Halla College finally offered a Korean course for beginners. There's about 10 or 12 of us that come regularly three mornings a week for two hours. Unfortunately, the teacher is terrible, but I still get quite a bit out of the class. The class is really helping and I can already sense some improvement in my speaking and listening. The three mornings a week kills my schedule, since I pretty much go straight from class to work, but it's nice to keep busy instead of being a lazy bum in the mornings. The class also gives me a lot more direction and pushes me to learn more on a schedule. Learning on my own, I tended to take many days off and would forget everything I had already learned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Ok, so here's a picture of my thermostat(deleted). Pretty interesting huh? Actually, this is provider of one of my new favorite Korean cultural experiences: Ondol heating. None of the buildings in the country really have much for centralized ventilation. Or anything for ventilation for that matter. So every room has its own A/C and its own heat. The heating method used in almost all of Korea is known as ondol. The heating comes from hot water pipes underneath the floor. The radiant heat comes from the floor and heats up the room. Its a pretty awesome system actually. Your feet are always toasty warm and it heats up the place really well. I think its pretty energy efficient also.

I was looking up information about ondol online and I read that this is why Koreans to this day still sit on the floor for meals and don't have beds (they bring out a couple of blankets and sleep on the floor).

Another side note about that thermostat. I still haven't really figured out what all the buttons and switches do. All I know is that I get hot water when I turn it on, and I'm supposed to turn it off when I'm done taking a shower or washing the dishes. It's pretty funny that I've been here almost 4 months now, but I still don't fully understand my own house!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Five Day Farmers Market

Late fall weather and cool temperatures have set in and I've also been a bit sick for the past couple days so I didn't really get any climbing in this weekend. Instead, I decided to do a little shopping at the Five Day Market. Every five days, all the independent vendors get together for a market. You can find a lot of stuff like knickknacks, shoes, clothes, fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and fish. It seems to be quite popular in the area and there were a lot of people there. The stuff is unbelievably cheap, but you can still end up spending a large chunk of change! I'm sure it's nothing compared to the markets in Seoul, but its still quite an experience. I took a few pictures along the way.

Want some beans? I wish I knew what all those other things were!

Mandarin Oranges are in season and absolutely everywhere, so I'm sure these were dirt cheap.

How about some fish?

Maybe some squid?

Cabbage? Make your own Kimchi!

I'm bummed because I forgot to buy some meat! Oops!