Monday, November 29, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe and Thanksgiving

I have found my favourite indoor place in Pohang (My favourite outdoor place is Sunrise Park, which I've only been to once).  The place is a coffee shop called Edgar Allan Poe.  It was one of the first places Natasha pointed out to me when I got here, but she had never gone in.  So finally, this past Wednesday, we decided to see what it was like.  First of all, it's super cozy.  It's very nicely decorated and comfortable.  There's even a tree right in the middle of it - which is wierd because it's on the second floor of the building, so either the building was built around it, or somehow they got this tree, with all the branches in tact, up to the second floor.   Anyway, it is owned by a really nice woman who doesn't speak much English but doesn't mind chattering away in Korean to us.  I'm not sure, but it seems as though she lives there with her daughter, which might explain why if feels so cozy.  But using her limited English, and our more limited Korean, we learned a little about her and were able to order.  And that brings me to the best part - the hot chocolate.  It's made with milk, so it tastes so much better than the regular powder stuff from the grocery store, and it reminds me of being a kid.  I brought Tim Tams the second time we went, and the Tim Tams with the hot chocolate is probably best thing ever.  But it doesn't stop there. Then, in the background the whole time was a really good music playlist of lots of random, fun English songs including Boney M (who, if you haven't heard about, you should listen to).  So that was a cool surprise.  Lastly, the bathroom was one of the nicest I've been in, which is always a sign of a good place.

American Thanksgiving was this past Thursday (Happy Thanksgiving), and I was able to celebrate it a couple of times.  On Thrusday night, Tilt, the local foreigner bar, made a big Thanksgiving dinner and there were lots of people.  I've never been a huge turkey fan but this Thursday the turkey never tasted better.  Then on Saturday, Ryan, another foreign teacher, had a potluck party at his appartment.  Again, there was quite a large turnout of people - which is always fun, and Ryans apartment is large compared to any I've seen here, so we all fit somewhat comfortably.  And the food was good.  I think these were the first times I've eaten North American food since I've been here.  I like a lot of Korean foods, but it was really nice to eat familiar food again.

I'm writing this blog at school for the first time because tonight Tilt is showing the Grey Cup - woot woot.  So I'll be there.  And a bad cold has hit me today, so I want to maybe get a nap beforehand.

Lastly, today our school got a new set of teachers.  We are starting up a new pre-pre-school class so we needed a new English speaking teacher and a new Korean teacher.  They both arrived today.  Sophie is the English speaking teacher and she also speaks Korean because she is also replacing Alan, who was our translator.  Then Dolly is the new Korean teacher and she spent a year in Toronto, which is pretty cool.

So things are good here.
Thanks for reading,

Monday, November 22, 2010

Korea is interesting

Korea is interesting.  The country itself is definitely at a different place developmentally than Canada or the U.S.  According to The World Factbook, South Korea has only had an elected president since 1993 and this came after 35 years of Japanese rule, 3 years of war, and 32 years of military rule.  Also, before the 1960s South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world, and then their economy took off.  So in many ways, this is a very new country - certainly one that has gone through dramatic changes in the past 100 years. 
But while Korea is a developed, modern society, there are some areas that seemingly haven't caught up yet.  One area is the role of women.  I haven't really researched this topic at all, but from observation there is a clear distinction between the opportunities that men and women have in Korean society.  As I understand it, there's quite a bit of pressure on women to get married.  In this case, it is largely the woman who stays home and the man who supports the family.  A married woman is called an 'ajuma' and they have quite a reputation here (at least among foreigners).  This might be an exageration but they all tend to look much the same - short, with permed hair and a visor on (see picture).  Though I'm not very familiar with the ajuma lifestyle, these women do tend to be seen doing much the same things - working in the garden, selling fish at Jukto market, glaring at people on the bus, and generally being in charge of everything around them.
Also, from my observations, if a woman does not get married, they are then expected to support their father and/or brother.  All my claims are only based on a small amount of observation, and I'm quite sure that women's independance in Korea is changing quite a bit, but it is interesting.
Another Korean trend that seems to be due to Korea's rapid development and change is the value placed on things that are new - especially apartment buildings (it seems to me).  I've heard that Koreans start to consider an apartment building as old after 5 - 10 years.  So then they move to a newer apartment building.  And the fact that there are maybe 4 new apartment complexes being built within a 20 minute walk of my house seems to support this.  I've heard others say that in this way, and many others, Koreans seem to be stuck in the 70s and 80s.  (I wasn't born then so I can't give an opinion on the matter).  But there certainly doesn't seem to be any value placed on old, cultured, historical buildings as there is in North America.  It's interesting.

Here's a picture (that I didn't take) of some ajumas:

Thanks for reading,

Friday, November 19, 2010

Paintballing and Kindergarten Broadway

I went paintballing this past weekend.  It was my first time and I wasn't dissapointed.  There was a pretty large group of foreign teachers who met at the train station and took a bus to place a little outside Pohang.  I didn't know what to expect really but I was pretty excited once we  got there, saw the playing area, and got our gear on.  There's something (not a healthy something) about holding a gun in your hands.   We devided into two teams and played two games of the-last-team-standing-wins, and two games of capture the flag.  Then we played the-last-man-standing-wins.  I certainly wasn't the best paintballer out there, but didn't do too bad I don't think.  There's definitely strategy involved.  At the end we did standoffs where two people stand back to back, then walk a number of paces, turn and shoot.  I thought that was pretty fun because you're at the mercy of the other person's aim.  Then we jumped in the bus and headed back.  I'm looking forward to the spring when they'll organize another trip.

School has been good lately; there hasn't been anything to complain about - which, I feel, can be pretty easy in the teaching profession (probably most professions).  Our school is going to have a Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve.  It will include a play and a Christmas song performed by every morning class.  We're predicting it's going to be a long night.  But I'm excited for it.  My co-teacher already has been taking any free time we have to practice our play.  And this is not going to be your usual kindergarten production.  We're doing a full musical, complete with dances.  It will be sure to rival Broadway.  And I'll be sure to get some of it on video.

Also, I've bought a winter coat.  I'm excited about it because it's getting cold outside, and maybe I'm becoming wimpy but I just don't like being cold.

Finally, I'm planning on changing my blog night to Monday.  I think this will work better for me.  So expect the next one to be this Monday, assuming that I remember.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, November 12, 2010

I went to the city of Andong this past weekend with six other foreign teachers.  It was a good trip.  Let me tell you about it...  The bus ride there might have been the best part for me.  It's not too far away, but it took us a while to get there because the road winds through the mountains.  One thing that was so great about the drive was that the trees have just started to change colour.  But also, all along the road there were farms and lots and lots of orchards - mostly apple - with people harvesting in them.  It was really cool to get an idea of what rural Korea is like - I think it must be a lot different than urban Korea.  The farmers we past seemed to live hard working peaceful lives.  It was a very pastoral scene.
In Andong, we first went to the Folk Museum.  This museum was about Korean traditions and living.  I really like museums because there's a ton of information and stuff to be learned, but, unless you're by yourself, I find it hard to spend the time and read everything in a museum enough to remember it afterwards.  That was the case here as well.  But the best part about being there was an old man who did Chinese calligraphy.  He had a lot of different phrases/sayings to choose from and then he'd paint/calligraph it onto a piece of paper, or for 15,000 won, onto a nice scroll type thing.  I bought the scroll.  My scroll says, "To teach others is to teach yourself".  I thought that was pretty great.
After the Folk Museum we took a bus to Hahoe Village, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site (I don't know anything about UNESCO but it sounds cool right?).  It was cool.  It's this old village that is built in the style of Korean architecture during the Joseon Dynasty.  I think many of the buildings have been preserved from this time period, but I don't know for sure.  I know that Confucian ideals were a major part of this time period and outside Hahoe village is Confucian school that we didn't get to see.  But the village was pretty neat.  It was like a living museum because all the houses are this old style and you can walk through the narrow walled streets as if you lived there, which isn't hard to imagine because there are actually people living in the village.  Beside these old looking houses are Honda Accords and modern cars - which was an interesting juxtaposition.  And all through the viallge there was this great smell of supper being made.  My favourite part of the village was a 600 year old treee.  It's traditionally believed to be the residence of the goddess of pregnancy, but I just thought the tree was cool.
And then we went home.
And I also had the chance to go skating this weekend!  That was pretty great.  There's an ice arena not too far from my apartment and they rent skates - dull skates, but they're skates. I'll be doing it again I'm sure.
Here are some pictures from the trip.  The rest will be on facebook.


I post this picture becuase I'm wearing this sweet Korean sweater that I bought, and my new glasses.

The 600 year old tree.

One of the houses in Hahoe Village.

Part of the farmland surrounding Hahoe Village, with some sweet mountains in the background.

An example of me being artsy fartsy.
My scroll
Thanks for reading,

Friday, November 5, 2010

Starting Up Month Number Four

I took my cast off.  It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be though.  I thought that if I would just soak it in water for a while the cast would become soft and flexible, but that didn't happen.  So it took quite a while until I was able to cut my way through it with a scissors and a knife.  I was surprised by how ugly my thumb looks.  It's still a little bit puffy and my nail is all black and gross.  But I'm happy that the cast is off.  I took it off because I didn't think it was helping any more, and I was tired of not being able to use my hand.  I think using my hand helps my thumb heal quicker anyway.

I also bought new glasses.  I've been loosing quite a few things during the time I've been in Korea, and one of those things was my glasses.  But buying new glasses here in Korea is really cheap.  The eye test and the glasses cost 6,000 won ($60) total; which is a quarter of the cost of buying glasses in North America.

School continues to go relatively smoothly.  It has it's goods and bads.  I enjoy my morning Kindergarten class more than my afternoon Elementary classes.  I'm learning that parent complaints will always be an issue.  But really, when I think about it, I'm in a pretty great situation here.  The kids are mostly great, there isn't a lot of stress involved, and I'm in a completely new part of the world.  I just have to keep reminding myself of this fact because it has been easy to forget.
Halloween was fun.  Every kid dressed up in store bought costumes and we had a party, which included a model-type runway walk where everyone had a chance to strut their stuff.  Then tomorrow we have a sports day, which I'm excited about.

I'm playing a lot of soccer lately.  We have our weekend games, our Tuesday Futsal practices, and then tonight we had another pick-up Futsal game.  It's always fun.  But it's late now, so I'm going to say goodnight.

Thanks for reading,