Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm really hoping to get to 100 posts soon

Because that'll feel like an accomplishment, even though it's a pretty arbitrary number. You know, it takes 500 homeruns or 3000 hits to be a lock for the hall of fame. Well, it takes 100 blog posts to be a "blogger."

There's not really much going on here, it turns out. I've been spending a lot of the time with the girl lately, and that's going fantastic! However, due to a sensitive situation at the house of learning that employs her, she doesn't feel comfortable making things public around here. So... I don't know. Apart from that, things are really really good. She said she likes being my secret girlfriend. Of course, it's only secret here. In Seokcho and Seoul (where we're going shopping tomorrow, by the way) she's been plenty expressive. Just, around Janghowon... because it's so small and everyone knows everyone else... we're keepin things on the downlow.

Also, I watched the tail-end of the Bucs-Dolphins preseason football game, and after the game was over I got Friends and Seinfeld on whatever Fox affiliate this is. Awesome!

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes -- it's nice to know people are still thinking about me! =) I feel like I've been gone a long time, but only a few more months till I come home to visit! Whoo-ee! And extra special super-duper thanks to Mom for the awesome care package: Some shirts, jeans, brown work pants (which Mi Sun said were all 예쁘다! handsome and/or pretty!), and... Miracle Whip, 2 King-size Paydays which I love, and 2 boxes of Kraft bluebox Mac & Cheese! It's the Cheesiest! Too bad about the bacon, but it's the thought that counts. =)

Also -- thanks for the postcard, Emily! I will send you one, I promise. Anyone else who wants one... I'm going to Seoul tomorrow so I'll pick up a stack. I do need addresses though, so anyone interested, email your info to I'll get those right out to ya, promise!

Oh, and two months later, here's some pictures from that baseball game I went to back in June. Enjoy! Seokcho photos coming soon! Until then, I bid you adieu.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

생일 축하합니다

Yep, today is (or rather was, since I'm way out here in the farther eastern part of the world) my birthday. So, birthday = 생일 (sang-il). Congratulations (in its most polite form) = 축하합니다 (chookha-ham-nida). Happy birthday to me.

It was a pretty good birthday, considering I'm several thousand miles removed from my closest friends and family. Mom -- thanks for the package, and don't worry about the bacon-destruction-by-fire costs. I got it. =) It's the thought that counts, and I'm glad that you thought of me and decided that bacon was a suitable birthday gift. Apparently, I'm doing something right. Awesome. And for all the facebook and email birthday wishes, I'm very grateful.

So -- the party. Last night I went out with Bo Il, Mi Sun, Mi Jin, and Yu Sun. Most of the foreign teachers here either don't like me or were out of the country on vacation. Not sure... but what I am sure of is that it was their loss. We met up in Icheon, went to the sports bar (which, unlike America, does not show copious amounts of sports on big screen TVs). Drank, ate anju, drank more... played Titanic, an awesome Korean drinking game. Basically, you pour a glass mostly full of beer, then float an empty shot glass in there. You take turns pouring soju into the shot glass. The one who makes it sink (hence the name) has to chug the whole thing. Poor Mi Sun -- she was a trooper though, I gotta say. Also had these evil little cocktails, where you take a half-shot of coke in a shot glass and put it in the bottom of a beer glass. Then you take a half-shot of soju and put it on top of the coke shot glass. Then you pour beer into the glass until it's nearly full, while the two shot glasses (if constructed properly) should maintain structural integrity. Then you chug the thing. Good times. Like a Korean car bomb, I guess... although the name does leave something to be desired.

The sports bar also has a Wii, so we played some Wii boxing while all the other Koreans in the bar cheered us on. I kicked ass, in case you were wondering. Undefeated heavyweight champion of the wooooooooorld... and so on. Also played some Wii tennis, which was less fun, it turns out. I mean, still fun, but the rest of the bar lost interest at that point, and what's the point of kicking someone's ass if there's not 30 random people cheering you on? Exactly. We also played some darts. I was on fire the first game (and no, in case you were wondering, I'm not good at darts) but I was nailing bulls-eyes left and right. Won handily at 501. Then came round 2. Since there were 5 of us and only 4 players can play at a time, I got to play as a team with Mi Jin the second game. Now, I'd like to say that this cramped my style, but I was definitely the flat tire on the vehicle that was our losing team. I actually scored a 3 on one turn. Total. With 3 darts. And 3 ones. Ouch. Anyway, our penalty for losing was that we had to finish all the booze left on the table so that we could go bowling. Now, I know what you're thinking... and yes, losing is awesome. Maybe better than winning.

Bowling -- I'm sure you're curious, so let me clear this up. It's exactly the same as it is in America. They even have the computers that keep score for you. The only difference is, Koreans don't drink when they bowl. Which is totally backwards, because they drink at pretty much all other times. Weird. Anyway, I was the clear winner at this little competition. It took me a while to find my groove, and by the end of the 2nd game I was pretty tired, but even with those setbacks and using the house ball I managed a couple of games in the 150 range. Which I was pretty happy with.

Then, off to another bar. More drinking. Then home for sleep. Now then, a list of presents: I got a new Nike golf glove; a "massage stick" with a stuffed puppy on top (no... just no. Not like that); a box of seaweed soup mix; a kick-ass cappucino flavored cake with disgusting amounts of chocolate utensil-shaped thingies on it. My analysis -- the golf glove: very cool. Needed a new one anyway. Can't wait to go golfing and try it out. The "massage stick": at the time, Mi Jin told me it was a one-shot stick. "One-shot" is the Korean way of saying bottoms up. It means that everyone will chug whatever drink they're holding. I'm assuming that the stuffed dog stick is for beating people who don't comply. Which is way more fun than hitting your own back in some kind of masochistic massage ritual, I gotta say. The seaweed soup: this is a traditional Korean birthday meal. It's like eating ham and beans or split peas on New Years; it brings you good luck. So, I dutifully cooked myself a big ole bowl of seaweed soup and rice for lunch today. And it was absolutely delicious. We actually eat this fairly often for school lunch... and it is, I'm sure, much better than it sounds. You don't even really notice that you're eating seaweed. It's just a nice flavorful broth with green things in it, which also taste good and more or less like the broth. So yeah, I think most everyone I know would enjoy it (except perhaps for Gran and my little cousin Erik, but he doesn't count -- he won't even eat pizza). I'll keep you posted on the good luck.

Perhaps the best present of the day was the news my coteacher gave me. We're getting a new foreign teacher next week! An American guy, and that's all they know right now. What this means for me, however, is no more teaching after school classes! He's in charge of that mess now. As much as I love my kids, I'm pretty happy about this no more lesson planning thing. I assume I'll have to help him out for the first couple of weeks, but maybe he's like a teaching ninja and will totally rock the house -- more free time for me! Also, found out I'm getting a Christmas vacation this year! So *sings* I'll... be home.... for Christmas....

And I'll see some (most? all? who even still reads this thing after I completely flaked out on the updates?) of you in a few months! What a great day!

Oh... and today, the girl came over and we watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I love that movie. I'm a dork. But it was really nice -- she just wanted to be here with me on my birthday. 고마와! 너는 최고!

And that was my birthday, Korea-style. I'm planning a little jaunt down to Busan and some of the surrounding countryside for later in the week. Updates on that coming soon, as well as pictures from my weekend by the sea in Sokcho. Don't be a stranger, and I won't be strange.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Last Weekend: A Prologue

This is another of the reasons I love Korea. Last week, I was walking home from the gym and texting Mi Sun when it started to absolutely pour. I had no umbrella, because it was all hot and sunny when I left the house. Naturally.

So, I'm walking home in flip flops and my workout clothes, trudging through the torrential rain, and realize that as I'm texting, the phone is probably getting a lot wetter than is good for it. Next I realize that the shorts I'm wearing are completely soaked through, so the pocket probably isn't a much better place for it. I resign myself to the fact that it's just gonna be wet, and kinda hold it against my belly under my t-shirt, trying to keep the water from literally running all over it.

When I got home, everything seemed to work just fine... that is until (maybe the next day, or the day after) I tried to make a phone call. And the person I called couldn't hear me at all. Thinking it was just a bad connection, I hung up and tried again. Same story. At this point I'm starting to freak out a little, making the connection between prior downpour and current malfunction. This phone was expensive! And while I didn't have to buy the original one, I'm pretty sure I'm on the hook for the replacement if it comes to that, ya know?

Well, I explained what happened to Mi Sun, and she suggests that we take it to the Samsung Service Center to have it looked at. Fortunately we were doing our grocery shopping at E-Mart in Icheon on Friday before the trip, and her friend Yu Sun knew of a Samsung place just down the street. So we go in there and give them the phone. Didn't even have to explain that this was completely my fault. Just told them, the mic's not working, no one can hear me. Please fix it. 45 minutes, they said. Took Mi Sun's number and said they'd call when it was done.

So, they call. We finish shopping (and ate some McDonald's... mmm, Big Mac) and drive back over there. Not only did they replace the mic, they put in a whole new keyboard unit because apparently the first one looked as if it might stop working soon. And, icing on the cake, this repair was absolutely, 100%, god-as-my-witness FREE. Yep, not a dollar, not a dime, not a single red penny did I pay for this 40%-new phone. Awesome!

So, on Friday I got 3 new cotton t-shirts, swimming trunks, McDonald's, a giant bottle of beer (for later of course!) and a newly-functional phone, all for less than 30 bucks. Great start to a great weekend! More updates coming soon, with pictures!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Since last we met

This past weekend I went on a little trip to Sokcho, which is on the east coast of Korea. It was a pretty tiring yet relaxing weekend, the way those little trips can sometimes be. We stayed in a "condo," which is Konglish for basically, a hotel-like resort where the rooms have little kitchenettes. Cooked several delicious meals. Went to the beach on Saturday and got pretty sunburned. Checked out an awesome Buddhist temple Saturday afternoon/evening. Sunday after breakfast we went and hiked Seorak Mountain. Then went down to this fishing area and ate... well, I'm going to tell you all of this in another post anyway, as well as put up some pictures, so we'll leave that part for later. =) My camera is currently in Mi Sun's car, so the pictures will have to wait. Also, she and her friends Yu Sun and Ji Sun (easy enough to remember, right?) got way more pictures than I did, so I need to do some consolidation. But rest assured, pictures will be up soon.

First things first, though: the English Camp I did at Buwon High School! This was, as you may or may not remember, an English Conversation class with 18 9th-graders from all over the Icheon city area. These kids were obviously smart, and for the most part really well-behaved. I had a lot of fun with this camp. It's so much easier to deal with kids who can understand most of what I'm saying -- I think I'd do much better in a high school setting than in my current job, but it's all about expanding my horizons, right? Anyway, back to the lecture at hand. The camp, first off, was crazy. Two weeks of English and Math. Apart from my class, they were mostly preparing for high school entrance exams, which will hopefully allow them to get into some of the more prestigious private schools around. So, from what I could gather, they would wake up around 5:30 every morning, have mandatory exercise and self-study time, then basically do English, Math, English, Math, lunch, English, Math, English, Math, dinner, English, Math, English, Math, self study, and in bed by 1 or 2 in the morning. Oh, and I think there was occasionally some golf thrown in as well(?). Sounds like an awesome way to spend your summer vacay, no? Well, the upshot of this was that my class at 8:30 in the morning frequently turned into nap time. I mean, I did wake them up and all, but I tried to be understanding about it. Two solid weeks of only a few hours sleep each night will take its toll on anybody I guess, but especially 15 year olds.

So, mostly we just played games. Amanda, I took your suggestion and busted out some theatre improv-type warmup games... which they inevitably complained about as being too hard. I also made them write and perform scripts for TV news-style interviews... that was pretty much a disaster. We talked about different types of events that are often covered on the news, either local (which I'm not entirely sure they even have here, to be honest) or national. Then the reporter was supposed to give us the facts (answering the "w" question words, of course) and then he/she would interview an eyewitness or two. I guess, it wasn't totally bad. One group covered the Harry Potter premier in London... another a Big Bang concert in Tokyo. One group reported on why the air conditioning wasn't working in our classroom, which was actually pretty funny. I think, perhaps, my expectations were a little high going in, and they actually did a pretty good job. And yes, I did just talk myself into that conviction, thanks for asking.

I also used a lot of conversation starter questions I found on this kickass ESL website to get them talking with each other. Made things much easier for me, as I could just kick back and observe. I mean, it was actually pretty easy.

I had meant to make this longer, but Mi Sun's coming over for lunch in a few minutes and I need to get ready. More updates coming soon, and this time I do promise. Come back soon!