Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just had a fun foreigner-in-Korea post-work evening. After a long day of teaching, we indulged in some tasty dakgalbi, spicy chicken served with potatoes and vegetables in a red sauce, at a local restaurant. The owner tried his hardest to converse with us in his limited English, and we used our even more limited Korean in exchange, which had a similar feeling to many a meal in India. But we got a beer for free - "service" - and had some rice as well, and ended up quite stuffed for $15. It was actually the proverbial 2nd chance for the restaurant, its right behind our school and we'd eaten there once before when it first opened up, but we were underwhelmed by the regular chicken dish we ordered. The "service" chicken feet they gave us then were, ummm, appreciated though :-).
Afterwards it was time for Oprah, a little slice of Americana (thanks to the On Style English-language TV channel), and then a nice bike ride by the river to burn off all those chicken calories. OK, OK, to burn off those beer calories.

Anderson's friend Rob, from way back in high school, came through Busan last week with his family (his mother's Korean) - so we got to spend two delightful evenings hanging out with him, his brother Casey, and his brother's wife Lisa. It was definitely nice to see him, been over a year and a half, and we made the most of the time we had: went to Neo for a leisurely catch-up chat our first night, the owner of Neo, Ken, gave us the royal treatment which was very nice. On Tuesday we went down to PNU, chilled out at a nice coffeeshop, then wandered the Korean streets before blowing a bunch of change at an arcade. We spent a little time at The Basement's open mic before they had to leave, and Rob blew minds with some intense guitar thrashing - the stuff of legends :-). He also brought us some great American foodstuffs - Mac & Cheese, White Cheddar Cheezits (RIP), and oatmeal. Yum, yum.

Last Friday we also had our first school field trip with all the kindergarteners. It was a fun morning at the Olympic Park, playing games. Running races, bubble blowing, spoon/ball relays, and ball parachute games preceded a picnic on the grass. Definitely a nice change of pace from our usual teaching, and it was fun to just hang out with the kids, more as babysitters, than drill them with English sentences. Their moms also packed plenty of great food, so we got to eat all sorts of tasty fruit and snacks. We'll have field trips once a month, so we are definitely looking forward to the next one already!

There's all the news fit to type, be sure to check our Kodak site (remember that ol' thang??) for a few new photos from Liz's trip to Jiri-san and our apartment complex's Cherry Blossom Festival!

Anderson & Liz

Sunday, April 20, 2008

While the days just keep flying by, today was at least a little different from our "same same but different" routine in Korea. A local organization, Busan Buddhism / Han Na Rae, put on a lantern-making class for foreigners at Hongbeop-sa, a temple at the northern end of Busan. So we went, along with around 100 other foreigners, to have an enjoyable cultural experience. We ended up having a great time, and we got to make two very nice lanterns as well: one lotus pedal, and one octagonal lantern. Somewhat like paper mache, the organization had kindly prepared all of our materials, so we got to focus on arranging and gluing, rather than cutting up paper and making metal shapes to wrap up. Our apartment is now looking a bit more Korean, though we have yet to actually hang up our new creations!
Otherwise we are working a lot, on average 3 extra classes per day, and will presumably continue this hectic teaching pace through May, or whenever our school actually manages to hire another foreign teacher. Supposedly we are currently quite close to doing so, but we're not holding our breath. The additional money is quite nice, but we are very exhausted after work, so most nights we literally just make dinner and then lounge about watching downloaded American television and reading books. A reading recommendation: "The World Is Flat" by Thomas Friedman is an excellent guide to the current state of the global economy, and how the world truly is flat concerning commerce and business relations.
In personal electronics news we finally got Liz's computer working again, although her old hard drive definitely seems screwed - thankfully nothing too important was on it, other than some old photos that we hopefully have backed up elsewhere. Next up is our camera, which primarily involves waking up early on a week day and traveling to the repair center - tragically much more difficult than it sounds...

For the curious, here is a sample teaching schedule (Anderson's) from last month:
(all classes are 40 minutes long)

First, 3 Kindergarten classes:

11:20 - 7-year-olds 1st-year-of-English
12:50 - 7-year-olds 2nd-year-of-English
1:30 - 6-year-olds 1st-year-of-English

Next 7 Elementary classes, on a Wake-Up, Hop, Skip, Jump, Boost, Elite system of books... Hop, Skip & Jump have 4 levels each. Boost & Elite have 5 levels.

2:30 - Hop 3
3:15 - Wake-Up
4:45 - Boost C
5:30 - Skip 3
6:15 - Boost E
7:00 - Jump 2
7:45 - Boost B


Definitely a wide range of classes, ages, and levels, so the day is far from repetitive, although jumping from Kindergarten, which require an animated and overly excited teacher, to the more laid back (and disinterested) older children is a bit of a shock some days.

Anderson's DJing is still going well, nothing too exciting to report there.
In May we plan on going to Seoul over one 3-day weekend (thanks Children's Day) and then to Jeonju to visit Sunny and her family another 3-day weekend (thanks Buddha's Birthday). Frankly we can't wait for the holidays, March and April is the longest stretch of the year without any days off, and it is definitely a bit wearing, never mind all the OT.

Hope all's well

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The month of March seemed to fly by... between overtime at work, Anderson's knee injury, and busy weekends, seems we've neglected Watch Out World! a bit. Sorry :-)

With the launch of our kindergarten program, and our school's need for one more foreign teacher, we are now on our 2nd (but probably last) month of intensive overtime. That means we are teaching up to 11 classes some days, at we live at school from 11am until 8:30pm. Good news is, when payday finally arrives this coming Thursday, we'll be won millionaires several times over, since we both - for the month of March - taught the equivalent of an additional week (37 classes). The longer days are a bit more draining, but class itself is enjoyable, and our new kindergarten classes are rather enjoyable. Teaching younger children means lots of activities, coloring, cutting, gluing, etc. - which also makes the hands on the clock spin faster. Our days also, then, have much more variety, as we go from teaching 4-6 year old children in the morning to teaching older kids at the top levels of our school in the evening.

What else, what else...

Liz went to Jirisan National Park last weekend for Sunny's birthday, which was a fun ladies-only hiking party, since cripples (ie Anderson) aren't really allowed to go hiking! Our coteacher Jin also went, and we'll get some photos posted on our Kodak site soon. Spending a weekend outside of Busan, enjoying rural Korea, was a vast change from our typical city-dweller existence and routine. Anderson may or may not be jealous!

Since spring has arrived, flowers are in full bloom, and this weekend in particular it is cherry blossoms. Our apartment complex, Han Yang, even has had (we're still listening to the blasting K-pop karaoke right now) a 3-day festival, with lots of food vendors, singing competitions, taekwondo demonstrations, dancing, and plenty of other stuff. We've spent a while wandering about, and other than the smell of roasting silk worms it has been quite enjoyable, the whole neighborhood, from babies to grandparents, are out and about having a grand ol time. That means we've done quite a bit of student-spotting, with results varying from excitement to shock. Seems some children forget that we are real people outside of school :-)

This weekend Sunny and her boyfriend Sean came to visit us, which worked out well with the cherry blossom festival. We also met some of Anderson's students (they wanted to "hang out" with the teachers), so we wandered around with them, and their cute but crazy dogs, and then went for a walk by the river (Oncheoncheon) and an extended game of catch. Saturday night was also the Busan Beer Olympics, which was a crazy competition/party that Anderson DJed. There were at least 100 people, so the bar Neo was packed, and just like the movie "Beerfest" there were all sorts of games, from Beer Pong to Bat Spinning, Volume Chug to Quarters. An American team won, and a lot of dancing was had, and also a lot of money was raised for charity (a local orphanage). Sunny and Sean even played their first game of beer pong, which they won!

That's that, having a laidback movie night tonight, then back to the teacher grind in 15 short hours :-(

Anderson & Liz