Saturday, November 29, 2008

This is my crib, these are my rides, i am a rolling...

Ok so I have no ride, unless you count my bus pass, but here are some pics of my apartment. The Korean cut out was left by the teacher who lived in the apartment before me so I decided to keep it have them be my Korean host family. Do you guys also like my improvised computer desk, aka t.v. box and end of the bed as a chair? T.V and Computer both provided by my director, which is pretty impressive. I know people have been here longer and don't have these amenities yet, so I'm very grateful to have a generous director.

Munsu Stadium and the Surrounding Sports Complex

So I received some instructions on how to get Munsu Stadium, home of Ulsuan Hyundai Football Club (aka Ulsan's soccer team), and decided to make the trip out to the stadium last weekend. I went several hours before a game that Ulsan had with the Pohang Steelers but held off on the game cause I didn't have anyone to accompany me to the game, still working on that one. The actual stadium is pretty cool looking and they have a multisport complex surrounding the stadium, with a walking track, swimming pool, inline skating track and some 30 points of interest in all.
As you can see in the pictures, the stadium was one of the many sites for the 2002 World Cup so they have a memorial/museum for the World Cup in the stadium just by the suites. Also, the stadium has a ceremony hall inside it, right by the World Cup museum, so it's good to know if I ever decide to do that marriage thing, there is a place appropriate for my tastes.
Coincidentally, Ulsan is fighting F.C. Seoul in a tightly contested game to see who will play the Suwon Blue Wings for the K-League Championship while I write this. Ulsan pulled a late equalizer and the game is now going to E.T. Yes, I realize how predictable I am...... I am awesome!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


More pics to come. I've been playing with my toys for too long and I should get to bed. If you would like to see some more, check out my facebook page. If you aren't on facebook, I'm sorry that you'll have to wait but I'm too lazy to put up a link so people outside the facebook community can see my pics. The rest should be up by this weekend.


So I now have a p.c. in my place and was able to upload the pictures I have taken so far so I'm going to try and put some up on the blog. The first one is the mascot of the Ulsan Basketball team that I ran into my first day wandering around the Lotte Mall. In picture number 2 we have soju on the right with some Kiwi drink that you can mix the soju in. Soju is a liquor made from Rice. Lastly, there is a sign of Seong Nam Dong, my hood.
Side note, I wanted to put the text at the top and put captions but in between the photos but I couldn't figure it out and it's 1:30 a.m. here so I'm too lazy/tired to figure it out. If anyone has any insight on how to work with blogger and pics, you'll be my best friend for 32 minutes, potentially more. That is all.

Corporate policies follow you around the world

Hey everyone, I know I just did post the other day but there have been so many things going on that I wanted to keep you guys in the loop. Plus, my director just dropped me off with computer in hand, and since they ran the internet through my apartment to the guy next door's apartment, I was already hooked up with internet so that means no more P/C gaming rooms for me, yay!

So I wanted to write about a meeting that Craig, the other american at my institute, and I had with the vice director Sebastian (he's Korean, Sebastian is his English name). The hagwon that I teach at is called GnB, which is actually a corporation of Hagwons throughout Korea. I think they're the 2nd biggest or biggest in Korea and there's actually multiple GnB's throughout Ulsan.

So Sebastian has us in the office and explains to us that the home office would like us to be using more GnB text books. Currently, Craig and I are using these books called "Match" which are ok, they involve a lot of coloring, songs (which I never do anyways cause I can never find the cd. Each classroom has 30-50 cds in it, how am I suppose to find the right cd in 25 minutes time?), listening activities that I can dictate, you know using the foreigners for their exact purpose.

On the other hand, the GnB books are a little bit harder to gameplan as the book has a story in English which you read with the kids, then have them write the Korean translation underneath and then go over some key phrases, and then next chapter, more or less. Obviously Craig and I don't know enough Korean to know whether they are writing it correctly or not and there aren't as many break-ups with different activities for the kids, making it harder for us to use the book.

I think Craig and I did an adequate idea of explaining that those books aren't really the best way to utilize our time, and Sebastian was very understanding however home office policy is....well, home office policy. Sebastian made it clear that we need to follow certain procedures, book completion rates, etc. in order to continue our status as a GnB school, which I imagine carries some prestige.

I guess the moral of the story is that you think you're leaving the corporate world and entering a different sector, but really things are just the same anywhere. To quote #2 from Austin Powers "there is no world anymore, it's all corporations". On a positive note, the meeting wasn't really bad, Craig and I weren't doing anything completely wrong, and to be honest, it was really the first instruction from Sebastian on how to do my job (quite standard really, or so I've heard).

In other news, the last 2 days of work had been really positive and I'm definitely feeling more comfortable. I had no 7:10-8:00 pm classes tonight so I got to talk with the director, Mr. Choi, during that time. It was really nice talking to him and getting to know more about him, and he was interested in knowing about me and my experience in Korea so far, which was cool. Craig had told me that Sebastian and Mr. Choi (they're brothers, just a side note for you), were very nice and I have not been let down so far.

Lastly, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope by this time you will have loosened your belt a couple of notches, watched the lions lose and ponder whether you should eat a 3rd piece of pumpkin pie or not. For me, it will have to be kimchi and some fried pancakes off the street....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Hagwon

So I'm teaching in what's called a Hagwon, or a private school where children go after their elementary school to learn English. There are other schools for Korean, math, etc. and I think they're called Hagwons too but I'm not sure.

Since the students are coming here after their elementary school, my schedule is as follows: m-w-f 2:25 till 8:35, and t-r 2:00 till 8:00 pm. The classes run on the hour intil 10 minutes till (so 50 minutes) and I am in a class room for 25 minutes at a time and then switch to another class room, then we have a 10 minute break except for there is a 20 minute break after the 6:00 clock class, so the next class starts at 7:10. Everything is clear so far?

The classes are small, anywhere from 5 to 11 children or so, for which I am quite thankful. The children can be well behaved but a lot act up all the time. I can empathize in the fact that they are in some type of school for most of their day and then go home to do all of their school work. I think they're even in school on Saturdays. When do they get time to be kids?!?! But that is the life that many adults live in Korea and that's just Korea in general. And unfortunately the parents pay my salary so until the kids can come up with a salary comparable to the one I receive now, boring bookwork will have to do for now.

As forementioned, a lot of the work here is just going by a book. I've found that when I can't anymore then it's Hangman/Pictionary time for the students. I've tried getting some of my students to do charades but that didn't work, i think something got lost in translation. I also heard from someone that she tried playing heads up 7-up only to have one of the children cry so I'm reluctant to try that one out. Anyways, if you do have something that might be fun for the kids to do, feel free to leave it in the comments. Hangman and Pictionary can only last for so long......

Friday, November 21, 2008

So much to post

Ok, so week one is in the books and as you can imagine, there are so many things to write about so I'm going to try and get you up to speed. Well after my rocky start, things have settled down and I am now getting accustomed to life in Korea. I live in a small studio apartment with a stove top, mini fridge/freezer, bathroom thats almost as big as my bedroom as it has my washing machine in it, and that's about it. The director of my school is actually in the process of obtaining a t.v. and desktop for me, not really sure where it will go, but it's cool that I will have those amenities in my place.

My apartment is located in a part of Ulsan call Saeng Nam Dong (not sure if I spelled that right or not). Every district has a dong in it, so there is Samsung Dong, Moogoo Dong, etc. My school is in a different district, which is actually pretty good because I'm not sure if I would want to see the children when I'm going out to eat, staggering out of my apt hungover, etc.

As far as being in Saeng Nam Dong, and the exact location of my apartment, it's pretty sweet. I'm right in the heart of everything, anything I need or want is pretty much a block away. I walk out of my apartment turn right and I can find a shopping mall, an adidas and puma store, MacDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, a 7/11, banks, a computer lab (although everyone uses it for gaming here), lots of bakeries and korean restaurants. As I said, anything I really want. On a sidenote, one of the landmarks to guide me home is a lingerie shop called Sexy Cookie. Try not to laugh at that, I dare you!

I've done a little traveling around my area and I've already come across some personal faves. Just next door to my apartment is a Japanese Ramen Restaurant. The owner is Korean but speaks some English and is super friendly. I've been getting the same thing, this spicy Japanese Ramen, it's by far one of the spiciest things I've ever had. Also, just a block over is this bakery called Papa Roti, which has these little buns that are about the size and shape of an oversized grapefruit cut in half. Anyways, the bottom part has like butter baked into it so it's all buttery and delicious. I've also realized that Papa Roti is ridonkulous at 10:00 am, when they open, and just plain old good at noon.

The other nice thing about being Saeng Nam Dong is that I am about 2 blocks away from Benchwarmers, a foreigner bar. It's a little hole in the wall that is pretty hard to find but a good thing to know about. I could go on and do a post about Benchwarmers, as a matter of fact, I just might when I have the time. For now, lets just say that I went there last Sunday and it was dead but one of the bartenders is the team manager for a soccer team of koreans and foreigners and invited me to play with them. He, Ryan is his English name, said he does a Korean class for foreigners, so I think I'm going to look into that. In that same trip I met some Canadian woman who knows someone who would like to practice their Spanish, which combined with the soccer, made my day.

So this is where I live. I know a lot of you are anxious to hear about my school and other things, so I will try and post about that when I can. Until next time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I'm here, barely...... (mom read at your own will)

Well after some 20 hours of travlel or so, I am here in Ulsan, South Korea. I must say it didn't come easy, at least the final part leg of the journey. What happened you ask? Well after getting in to South Korea from Tokyo, got my luggage and went through customs, everything normal so far. One of the ladies from my recruiting company greeted me at the airport and then showed me to a bus that I was to take to Ulsan, the directions being 'get off at the last stop'.

Upon arriving to Ulsan we made a stop or two and there were some directions in Korean and English telling people which stop it was, etc. and I knew I was good. But then we made a stop and there were no directions at all and everyone got off the bus. Well I followed and tried to ask the driver where we were, but of course he speaks no English and I speak about 5 words total of Korean, so we're pretty much at a stand still there. Well at this point the driver goes off and I am on outside some hotel and quickly coming to the realization that I am not where I need to be.

Ok, time to act, lets not panic, I'm thinking to myself. So I decide to hail a taxi only to go to the same motions of him not speaking English and me knowing 5 words of Korean, awesome. I end up pointing in my Learn Korean Book that i need to go to the airport cause there is a bus terminal there, taxi driver says he understands and we're off. Get to the airport and the taxi driver lets me off and I realize once again that I am not in the right spot except this time it's worse. This time, I'm in BFE Ulsan at 9:30 pm, at an airport that is entirely closed and dead. Honestly, what airport closes at 9:30

Insert panic feeling as I stroll around this parking lot looking for a single soul to talk to when my answers are heard and I run into some security guard type characters at the Ulsan airport. These guys could speak some English and we finally come to an understanding and decide that I need to be at the Ulsan bus terminal, another taxi ride.

Get to the bus station and stroll around for a bit but at this point I assume it's a safe bet that my director has already left and that I'm better off on my own at this point. Enter taxi #3, albeit a much shorter ride as there were several motels/hotels near the bus terminal.

Now I sit at my motel writing this blog post, which is pretty astounding that a motel would have a computer and internet connection. Since I do have internet I was able to see that my recruiter had e-mailed me concerned as I wasn't where I was supposed to be, so I gave her a call and explain the situation and they will get in touch with the director who will pick me up tomorrow.

Having gone through the worst of the first evening, I can look back and laugh at it. I mean nothing happened, I got to see a lot of the city and have agreat story for you the reader. Plus, I know I can get by in almost any situation now, right? The one thing I feel bad about is having the director/recruiter worry about me, but they know I'm safe now so its good now. Until next time.........