Monday, December 29, 2008

First Month in the Bag

I have just finished teaching my last class of the month. All things considered, I think my first month went well. There are a lot of things I want to improve upon, but I don't think any major adjustments are needed. I think my students all liked me and I think they all learned and improved their English. There are a few students who I know have improved just by comparing them now and how they were at the first of the month. January sessions starts on the 2nd, so I have three days off til then. I really don't know what I'm going to do with the time. I don't have the money to travel or go anywhere exciting. I'll probably go to a movie at some point but I guess I'll be spending most of my time at home. It'll be boring, but I don't get my first paycheck until the 7th. Hopefully some of the teachers at my school will invite me out and provide ways to stay occupied. I'll definitely try to get people to go to the theater with me and maybe meet up for food here and there. I hope everyone has a happy New Year. There is a park not far from my apartment that supposedly has a big festival type thing for New Year's. There is even a giant bell they ring. It sits in a Asian looking pagoda type pavilion, or something. It looks cool though. Anyway, I may walk up there and hang out some if its not too cold. Until next time, take care.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. Sorry its been a while since I've posted, but I guess there just hasn't been much to say lately. Teaching is going well, but I'm looking forward to next month and a new set of classes. The extra classes I'm teaching on Saturdays are going well too and I was asked this week if I would like to teach them again next month, so I am. (By the way, did anyone get the movie reference in the title of my last post?) Christmas here is actually kinda boring. Even though there is a large population of Christians in Korea, they do not celebrate Christmas like we do in America. They get the day off, but its mostly just seen as a excuse to go out with your girlfriend/boyfriend. So anyone who isn't currently in a relationship is bummed and the other students are just going out or visiting family. The school is having a free lunch buffet at a hotel for us tomorrow. So I'll at least have something to do. Maybe some of the teachers will want to go to a movie or something afterwards. I know several of them will want to go drinking and I'll probably join them, though not to drink to much just for something to do. Last weekend I saw Tropic Thunder with my friend Mike. I had seen it before with Christina when it came out in America, but it is so damn funny. There is only one scene that I don't like at all, but its only a few seconds long and at the end of the movie. I wish they'd just cut that scene out though. I won't spoil anything because you really should see it. Speaking of movies, I've been told that Twilight was really good so I may try to see that. Its out in theaters now here. I also really want to see Australia. I've heard it didn't get good reviews but I love Nicole Kidman and I like epic movies so I think maybe I'll like it. There is also a Jim Carey movie that just came out called Yes Man I think. I might be interested in seeing that. I'm going to talk to everyone at our teachers' meeting today and see if anyone is interested in going to a movie tomorrow. I really can't believe December is almost over. It never felt like Thanksgiving to me and it barely feels like Christmas. Its good though cause it means time is moving fast and Christina will be here before I know it. Anyway, again Merry Christmas. I hope everyone is having a great holiday!!
Thursday, December 18, 2008

Zoltar Speaks! (Part IV of my Apt in Pictures)

Some of you have asked questions in your comments and if those were about food they were already answered.  However, if they were not, now is the time.  Your wish is granted!  
(Caption: My bed room.  You can see my computer in the bottom right corner.  There is one apartment pic left, but my camera's batteries have died so it will have to wait.)
First we have Kate from New Orleans, LA.  She was concerned about Mewster's diet.  So far he is still eating American cat food.  I brought a lot with me.  Eventually he too will have to make the switch to Korean bought food.  I have yet to see kitty kimchee, though I imagine Mewster's pickiness would stop him from eating it.
Next up is Elena from Manhattan Beach, CA.  She has several questions about my students.  First, I'm not sure if taking pictures of them is allowed or not, I haven't really given it thought. My students are mostly college students and business people.  I have gotten to know a few of them a little, but classes are monthly so they will all change up soon.  I've been hesitant to get too friendly, but I think that's mostly because I'm used to teaching middle and high school students and you typically don't want to be friends with them because you have to be the disciplinarian in class.  To answer her last question, I wouldn't say I have got any favorite students but I guess I do like some more than others.
Our last guess is Rachel from Birmingham, AL.  She is concerned about the quality of the Korean beer I have mentioned.  They do have quality imports that vary depending on where you go to drink.  I do not know about high quality Korean beer though.  I've been busy and always short in funds so I've been generally staying away from expensive items.  Perhaps I will know more after my first paycheck in January.  I will do my best to keep you updated.  Oh, and I'm not afraid of competing for my wife's attention.  I know who will win that battle.  :-) Especially since she's hung out with you more lately than she has with me.
That's all the unanswered questions I believe.  Focusing now on updating everyone about myself, this is my first post from my apartment.  I finally got my Alien Registration card this week and was able to get internet and digital cable set up at my place.  I also got a bank account today and a cell phone.  I am really beginning to feel like I live here now, however I still don't think that feeling will be total until Christina arrives.  
Teaching is going well, I am adjusting to the differences well and feel like I'm getting close to finding my style for teaching English to Koreans.  I can navigate the city pretty well, though the real test will come when I find the time to take the buses to places on the outskirts of the city.  (Temples, hot springs, mountain hikes, etc.)  I'll even be getting my own business cards soon.  Anyway, because this is a public blog, I will pass out my phone numbers through email.  Just write me if you'd like them and I haven't gotten around to giving it to you yet.  Take care everyone.
Sunday, December 14, 2008

Set the Wayback Machine month ago (Part III of my Apt in Pictures)

Greetings program!
Today I thought I'd talk a bit about arriving in Korea. It of course started with a really long plane ride, from Atlanta to Seoul non-stop. I believe the flight time was about 14 1/2 hours. I flew Korean Air and enjoyed it very much. First off, it wasn't a full flight, so I actually had an empty seat next to me. It wasn't that way at first, but since there were open seats, the person in the middle seat decided to move elsewhere. Also, every seat had their own, personal TV screen in front of it. Not only that, you could choose what to watch, listen to or pick from a few simple games. It also came with a remote control. (Caption: my living room, a bit messy but mostly cause I don't know where i want things yet. Straight back is the kitchen. First right is bedroom, next right is another room.)
Because of this really cool personal TV, I spent most of my flight watching movies. Many of the choices were pretty new releases and I hadn't seen a lot of them, so it was really cool. In part because of this I didn't really sleep a whole lot on the plane, but this turned out to be a good thing later. Anyway, my plane landed in Incheon Airport around 7 or so. It was super easy dealing with Mewster, all they did was look over his papers and that was it.
I actually got in to Korea about 25 minutes late so once I got all my luggage together and on a cart I found a pay phone and called Andy, the person who was going to meet me at the bus stop. I let him know I'd be a little later getting there and then I purchased my bus ticket. It was a short wait for the bus, and then I was on my way. It was a hour and a half trip on the bus.
So, I arrived at the bus stop and Andy was there waiting. I got all my luggage of the bus, but then we had a problem. The motel I was going to be staying at was only about 2 blocks away so we were just gonna walk. But I had too much luggage for me and Andy to carry at once, and it was raining slightly. What we had to do was Andy grabbed what he could and took it to the motel while I waited on the side of the street and watched over the rest til he came back. Then we both grabbed what was left and made the walk together to the motel. It really sucked. Up until this point I had always had a luggage cart from the airport so I had been able to handle it all. I was not looking forward to the move from Seoul to Daegu later that week. (Caption: My kitchen with washing machine and drying rack. There is a door on the right that goes to the bathroom.)
Anyway, by the time I got checked into the motel and got some quick dinner (from Burger King), it was around 10pm. I had barely slept at all on the plane and hadn't really slept the night before my flight either so I was exhausted. I crashed as soon as I ate and this is where not sleeping worked out for me. Because it was around 10 when this happened, I woke up on my own the next morning around 9am. This had the effect of totally adjusting my sleep cycle and therefor I did not suffer from any jet lag.
It was Sunday in Korea when I woke up the next morning so I basically just kinda holed up in my room that day. I was nervous about leaving Mewster alone and wasn't ready to go wondering around on my own I guess. But once Monday came around I met all the other new teachers who were going through orientation with me (there were 9 of us total) and a few of them had been to Korea before. That was helpful because there was usually someone around who knew at least something about what he was doing.
Anyway, during that week I arranged for some of my luggage to be sent down to Daegu so I could manage the rest on my own. It was surprisingly cheap to do so too. There was one other new teacher who was going to the same school I was so I had company on the train down and someone to hang with that first weekend in Daegu when we were basically just on our own. (Caption: My bathroom, larger than many I saw. You stand in front of the sink to shower. There is a shower head hanging on the wall. Its the kind that you can hold in your hand or set in the mount on the wall.)
All in all it was a pretty painless experience getting here and getting settled in. It was a bit stressful, for both me and Mewster, but all things considered, it could have been a lot worse. I think my next post I will try to just answer questions from everyone's comments. And bonus points to anyone who knows what movie I'm quoting from the title of this post and the opening and closing statements.
End of line.
Friday, December 12, 2008

Korean Alcohol (Part II of my Apt in Pictures)

The much anticipated follow up to Korean food is now here, Korean Alcohol! This will be a much shorter post because I have only had a few unique drinks here. I know there are a few more to try, but I have not yet. (Caption: Opening my apartment door.) I'll start with Soju. Soju is a weak liquor. I would guess its taste is closest to Vodka, but it isn't as strong. I'm not sure what its alcohol content is but it comes in little green bottles. You drink it by the shot and you drink a lot of it in big groups. Everyone in Korea drinks it and if they were to have a national drink, Soju would be it (For all I know it actually is their National Drink). Its not bad really, but its dangerous because you can easily loose track of how much you've had and its so easy to down a shot of it. There are three Korean beers that I know of. I would compare them to Bud Light, Coors and similar types of beer in the States. They are Cass, Hite and Max. I've tried Cass and Hite. There really isn't a big difference and its just like drinking any light beer in America really. Neither of them are bad, but neither of them are special in anyway either. (Caption: Official apartment sentry, must pass inspection for entry.) That's really all I got on Korean drinks. They like tea alot. I've seen buckwheat tea, one or two other teas that are similar and of course green tea and all those other kinds I know nothing about. (I don't like tea). The sodas here taste a bit different. They have Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, Dr. Pepper and such but I think they are all made with Cane sugar instead of Fructose Corn syrup. They are also cheaper here than in the states so I'm assuming they are all made nearby and not imported into the country. Speaking of cokes, they like to serve them as a desert in many restaurants. Anyway, that should about cover it for what I know of Korean foods and drinks at the moment. I hope you are liking the pictures, I was finally able to trick Mewster into looking at the camera for once. Thanks for all the comments.
Thursday, December 11, 2008

Korean Food (Part I of my Apt in Pictures)

If I were to sum up korean food in a few words they would be: very good, pickled, rice and spicy. I really haven't had anything yet that I have not enjoyed. As you may imagine, being that Korea is in Asia, they eat a lot of rice. Many dishes have rice as a part of them, and almost all dishes at least come with a side of rice. They are also really fond of pickling things here. Kimchee is pickled, but they also pickle cucumbers, roots and other unidentifiable vegetables. They are all pretty good, though I still haven't quite gotten used to tasting vinegar with such frequency.
I have tried Kimchee, did so within a few days of getting here. It is severed everywhere as a side dish. I like it. Its spicy and has a strong vinegar taste but I'm slowly getting used to that. As far as I know, kimchee is cabbage, spices, vinegar and who knows what else stuffed into a giant ceramic jar and let alone to ferment for a while. And speaking of side dishes above, everywhere you go you get between 2 and 6 side dishes with your food. (no extra cost)
I guess the best thing to do is just to start listing foods that I've tried and actually know the name of. I'll start with Kimbaab. It looks like a sushi roll but instead of fish it has a pickled yellow root thing, processed ham, random other veggies and can be plain, with meat, tuna, kimchee, cheese, and who knows what else. The tastes actually all combine very well and its super cheap, Plain usually costing around 1,200 won.
Donkass is a pork cutlet that is fried and served with a brown sauce of varying tastes depending on where you get it. Its very good, always comes with rice and can sometimes be stuffed with cheese.
Bosam is steamed pork. It is sliced and served with white kimchee and other side dishes. You put the pork and whatever else you like on the white kimchee and wrap it up. Then you stuff it in your mouth and enjoy.
Galbi fried rice is usually chicken, spices and sauce, rice and veggies all thrown into a large skillet like pan. Its very tasty when done and is a communal type dish. You either scoop some onto your plate or just eat it right from the skillet.
Bibimbap is a rice bowl type dish. It can be any assortment of beef, chicken, seafood, etc with veggies, some sauce and what have you. You mix it up and just start eating it however you feel like.
Mandu are dumplings. Very similar to what you would get at a Chinese restaurant in America. Again these can have various stuffings.
Jay Yook Dop Bap is a rice dish with spicy pork. I'm not sure how else to describe this one. Anyway, thats it for food that I can actually put a name to. I'll try to follow up this post with one on Korean drinks (alcoholic mostly). And as for the pictures, they are my apartment building from a short distance, the entrance to the building and my front door.
Sunday, December 07, 2008

Chillin' in Daegu

And I mean that literally. Its freezing here. According to its currently 24 F, and its been a similar temperature all day. Yesterday morning it snowed. Nothing stuck because it hadn't been that cold until Friday, but it was still cool to see. Anyway, I have finally found the time to arrange my furniture and completely unpack my bags. Clothes are now hung up or in drawers and books and other nik-naks are on my book case. I even got myself a cheap TV and have hooked up my Xbox. Still no internet or phone, but hopefully I'll get my Alien Card this week and can then work on setting those up. I taught today at the school where Christina will be working. The students were middle and high school students but they weren't that bad. I've been told that usually that school teaches older people but on Saturdays they have a 4 hour seminar for school kids. It was broken up into 5 periods and I mostly taught a different set of kids each period. Steven, who works at my school, was also teaching the seminar and he gave me a ride home afterwards and invited me out later. That was really cool, because since I have no phone the only way for me to know about things like that is first hand. The bar was very close to a part of town I know well so it was easy to understand how to get there. I walked up later in the night and got dinner on my way. It was nice to get out a bit. I played some pool and some poker and had a couple of beers. He was nice enough to buy them for me since my budget is so tight til I get January. Anyway, I walked away winning 10k Won from poker games so it was a pretty good night. Back to talking about my apartment, I think I'm pretty set. My fridge is cleaned and plugged in and tomorrow I am planning on going to my local grocery and buying a few cheap dishes. After that I should have everything I need to make it til Christina gets here. That's good because my first paycheck is going to be my smallest. A couple of deposits have to be taken out, plus rent, which will be high until Christina gets here to add her housing allowance. Anyway, I think I'm settling in nicely. Mewster seems quite happy with everything and my co-workers are all very friendly and helpful. Please feel free to post comments in order to ask questions. Or just comment period. I feel like no body is listening when there aren't any comments to prove otherwise. Anyway, its really late so I should be going, I just didn't want to have to walk to a internet cafe tomorrow in order to post something.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008

James and the Local Dry Cleaners

Today I met with James, the academic director of the other YBM school in Daegu. I am going to teach some classes there on Saturdays this month and I also wanted to meet him because his school is where Christina is going to work when she gets here. We had a nice chat and now I know what I'm doing this Saturday. I also got a good look at the school and met a few of the teachers there. The building is older than mine, but its still nice. James seemed really cool and I think Christina will like working for him. Classes are going well. I had a little trouble yesterday, but it was mostly me just adjusting to a new teaching environment than I'm used to. I got a lot of work done today, all my lessons are planned til the end of the week, and I'm looking forward to getting home and relaxing. I still haven't had the time to organize my new furniture, but with the rest of the week planned already, I will have time tomorrow and Friday. I found a dry cleaners near my apartment today. I don't speak a word of Korean (except for thank you) and the lady didn't speak a word of English, but we managed to communicate that I could pick my stuff up Friday. The place is just a few minutes walk from my place so its pretty convenient. I also noticed a small grocery store and a butcher shop too. Those will be nice once I get around to buying my own food to cook. However, eating here can be so cheap its not a big priority. I'll have to dedicate a post strictly to the food I've had so far. Tonight however I'm looking forward to getting home before 10. Oh and by the way, the picture is of the building my school is in taken from a distance. We're on the 6,7,8 and 10th floors.
Monday, December 01, 2008

My first day (at work)

So today I was up at 4:45am (1:45 pm Sunday CST). My first class started at 6:30 and I needed to be really early because its the first day of a new session. Its also about a 25 minute walk to the school from my house. Anyway, I made it in plenty of time and only had to deal with one class change. Things are really hectic the first few days because students don't like to sign up early for classes.
Foreign teachers, ie Me, typically teach what is called a Speaking I class. It is usually a 1 hour class, M-F but can also be 2 hours on alternating days. There are 6 proficiency levels, 1 being the lowest and 6 being the highest. Even at level 1 students have a pretty strong grasp on the language. Most Koreans grow up learning English and usually have a strong book knowledge of it. Our job is to help them go from book smart to fluent speakers.
So, first thing in the morning I have a lvl 1 class. The rest of my classes are spilt between lvl 3 and lvl 4. If things don't change again I currently have 4 classes in the morning, along with a 1 on 1 class once a week right before lunch. At night I only have one 2 hour class on Tuesdays, Thursdays and alternating Fridays. This means as it stands I always have Mondays and Wednesdays off!! I have also volunteered to teach at the other YBM school in Daegu on Saturdays this month. This is the school Christina will be working at and I'm hoping working there will give me a chance to meet some of the teachers and let Christina know what its like over there.
Anyway, all my classes went well today and after lunch with a couple of the teachers here, I went and scavenged furniture from a teacher's apartment who just finished his contract and left this weekend. I managed to acquire a refrigerator, a bookshelf, some drawers, an iron w/board, a coat rack and a few other things. I also almost got a TV, but Tom (one of the office managers) was careless when opening his trunk and it fell out and smashed on the pavement. But, it was all free so it wasn't really a loss.
I got back to the school just before 5 and have been working on lesson plans. I'm now all set for tomorrow and am thinking its time for some dinner. I also need to get home and try to clean and dust all the furniture I got and organize it too. Unfortunately I don't think Mewster did any of that since it arrived. -
I would suggest that you 'follow' this blog, because I'm pretty sure that will let you know when I update it. I won't be emailing everyone every time I put something new up. I don't think you have to have a gmail account to do that, but if so, let me know. Oh, and by the way, a session here is a month long so every month I will get a new schedule.

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