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"So I guess this is where I'm supposed to introduce myself. I'm a Canadian male teaching ESL in Seoul, Republic of Korea. This will be my second stint teaching ESL, only this time I'll be teaching at a High School, using my actual teaching experience to use. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me - no question's too small. Take care, and enjoy the ride."

Other Blogs of Note

  • Student in Korea
  • Seoul Man
  • The Daily Kimchi
  • Surviving South Korea
  • Books I'm Reading

  • "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire" by Niall Ferguson
  • "Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World" by Haruki Murakami
  • "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel P. Huntington
  • "The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth" by Benjamin M Friedman
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  • yellow shmellow..... Monday, April 25, 2005 |

    hello -
    i hope and pray that things are going well with all of you. this weekend has been much more low-key for me, so i don't have any interesting stories to talk about. i could make something up, but that'd take much more work than i'd like; and in the chance that somebody might take it serious, and tell someone else about how Korean men like to hold hands in public (oh wait, they do that already), or how Korean people refuse to use anything second-hand, and so they throw away perfectly decent televisions (to be scooped up by the neighbourhood foreigners - ie, us) - sure, its a huge tv, and the picture's not perfect... but for us, if its something we don't have to buy ourselves, we'll take it. living in a Korean neighbourhood is almost nostalgic; something similar to dorm life at school. sometimes, you feel guilty about taking the stuff: when we were walking through the neighbourhood, we were running with the tv, because the tv seemed too good (to us) to throw away. but in Korea, if its left ON the road, then its fair game. for a country that's crazy about recycling, and saving anything for possible reuse (because of overstressed incinerators), they know how to throw away perfectly fine items.
    right now, yellow dust season has just begun, and for the next few weeks, everywhere you go, you'll see Koreans of all different ages wearing those pretty little masks covering their faces. yellow dust you might ask? hawuh? for those of you don't know of yellow dust (just like myself before i came here), yellow dust is when the winds blow east over the Gobi Desert, pick up all of the yellow desert dust, and then just blow it all over China, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, even as far as the US, depending on how strong the winds are each year. over here, it hasn't been that bad this year; i'm lucky, so i've been told. even still, its during this time that you see less children playing outside on the streets (always nice) if the weather is too dusty. over a short period, its not bad, and you don't notice the effect. but if you decide to go biking, or for a nice long leisurely stroll around the city, you'll think everything is fine. and then you try to take in a deep breath, and it feels like your lungs are going to cave in. that and you wake up in the morning with a hacking cough, and you think that you've just received one of those "acme" anvils straight to the chest. and this is in South Korea - i can't imagine what its like in Beijing, or the more populated cities in china, where they get it worse yet. it almost makes me want to wear a mask. almost. as rediculous as they look, you understand why the older people wear them, especially the ones who are outside planting rice and other mysterious old rememdy plants.
    other than that, not much is new over here. in South Korea, the anti-Japanese rallies have been almost non-existent. most South Koreans are entirely non-violent. you just don't mention the words "love" and "japan" in the same sentence. for those of you not in the know over Japan's soft "glossing" over their own historical accounts/shame, just a usual "Japan" query on any of the international websites (bbc.co.uk, for one) will give you a decent picture. its somewhat shameful, but what can you do.
    well, i need to get going - i miss almost all of you, almost.
    okay, so that last part was a joke. ha ha. come on, i can't make sarcastic comments on a blog like i can in real life. its just not the same.
    take care, and God Bless


    this one's for the guys of Chicago.... Tuesday, April 19, 2005 |

    greetings from my couch in Kangnam, Seoul, South Korea
    well, this blog goes out to the men of chicago, with whom i lived the high life, in the city of wonders. i miss playing euchre and the random baseball games. why couldn't there have been a year long program offered there in Chicago (sure, i'd have gone broke, but i'd have been worth it). that'd be a blast....
    well, this past week was absolutely amazing. for some reason, yet to figure out, God just felt like giving me a free ride for the whole week. i couldn't have asked for better weather, more sunshine, cool breezes, and the amazing ability of being able to - and try to comprehend how important this is - sleeping in until 9:00 am, and then waking up, and saying to myself, "good morning gorgoeous, you're teaching in korea, and you're here for another ten months", and NOT want to get up and bang my head into a wall. i know, isn't life grand? and sure, this monday started off brutally. not only did we have a thunderstorm on sunday evening that was a storm without rain, but it woke up nearly the entire city, all for nothing. that and my students felt like it was a good time to "ruin that "let's get off to a good week" feeling' - hence, no one having homework done, and just rampant korean speaking, at the most inoportune times.
    this past weekend was also amazing. after going out for the typical friday night round at the bar with the co-workers, i went back early, and just hit the sack, falling asleep in double-time. (a short jaunt on the bar. over here, we go to this really cool bar called the ice-pirates. stupid name, but cool concept. over 2/3's of your glass is a cup of ice - you only hold onto the holder of the beer. a plastic sleeve inside the ice cup holds the beer. the ice ensures that the beer stays cold, no matter how long it takes you to finish off a pint. but the coolest part is that when you're done the pint, you get to throw your ice cup at a screen wall, and if you hit the target in the centre, you win one of ten different prizes, from a free drink, to OJ, to french fries, etc. needless to say, we've mastered the art at hitting the target with about 90% accuracy. its pretty cool).
    saturday was absolutely wonderful. after waking up at 8:30am, and feeling rested, we proceeded to go biking for about three hours, all the way across the city, into Itaewon, or, the trashy part of Seoul - the fact that the US has a military outpost has NOTHING to do with the "trashy" nature of the people who "work" there........really.......you've got to believe me.......
    after spending close to three hours in the saddle, my hind quarters needed a rest, so the rest of the evening was spent catching up with a good friend called Xbox.
    Sunday was where the Chicago reference comes in - after going to church in the morning (where, of all the days to go, the english interpretor decided to not show up - so instead, i got to read last weeks sermon notes. i'd say it had a profound effect, but i'd be lying. something was missing. regardless, it was good to be in a church with fellow believers. something about all of Korea - they take intense pride in their choirs, and they provide amazing accompaniment with their musical ability. but the afternoon, we went to a Korean baseball game. that was fun - it reminded me of the random afternoon games we went to at White Sox stadium. the seats sucked, but we made up for it by making sure everyone around us knew that their were foreigners in the stadium. and in Korea, each team has travelling cheerleaders who really know how to get the crowd interested in between innings......i think they should bring this part over to MLB - it got us interested. on a small side note, the team we were rooting for got spanked, 10-4, outhit 18-7, and they had a whitey (read: foreigner) on the mound. not only can they not throw fast in Korea (fastest pitch we saw - the fastball, whizzed by at a startling 80mph - and they throw nothing but junk here. not the offense or home run barrage we were hoping for, but it was fun nonetheless.
    well, i need to get going - its nearly 1:00am, or just nearing noon for you back home - i hope that this finds you all in good health - again, postings are welcome to initiate conversation, i just can't read em. God Bless, and i'll send something else soon....

    Not your typical bath-house Thursday, April 14, 2005 |

    greetings to all - for some reason, i cannot check my actual blog - i haven't been able to for some time. i hope that some of you have been posting comments in the comments section, and i apologize if you were hoping for a response - if only i could check, then i would. if you want to send a comment to me via e-mail, you're more than welcome to. my e-mail address is bwildschut@gmail.com. well, onto the info.
    one of the really fascinating things with Korea that has really got my attention recently has been the whole Korean method with staying clean. i do not know if this style of cleaning is typical for only Korea, or if its for most of southeast asia, but either way, its really quite fascinating when compared to a typical north american style of clean.
    just the other week, i joined a gym right in my neighbourhood, and its incredibly cheap. 50,000Won for the month, three days a week. thats roughly 65 Cad, depending on the exchange rate, etc. either way, its pretty cheap, i think. the equipment isn't the greatest, but for those of you who remember what I looked like before i left, in terms of working out, and also in my opinion, i didn't have anywhere to go but up. so i finish my workout, and head for what i assumed would be the showers. much to my surprise, the mens showering area was nearly half the size of the whole gym where i work out; its not only spacious, but incredibly warm and, believe it or not, inviting.
    the whole system works like this. whether you just came from working out, or, in the case of old men, you come in, strip off completely (and the womens side i'm told, works the same way) and then you walk into the shower area. the whole room is somewhat divided into segments (or at least its this way in my gym). you have two sauna's, one wet, and one dry. you have three water pools, one cool, with a heavy overhead shower nozzle spraying down, a really hot hot-tub style pool, and then a cooling down, but still quite warm pool. and then you have your traditional shower heads, attached to a wall, typical gym style.
    when you walk in, the first thing you do is to rinse down with the cold water, to clean off all of the dirt thats on your body. then you head for the wet sauna. the temp inside is roughly 56-59 degrees, and the water that sprays inside is a really fine mist. you sit in there for the hour-glass time, and then walk out. if you're going to do it right, you head for the cooling pool, rinse off the sweat, and cool down after sweating like a fiend. after hopping out of the cooling pool, you immediately head for the incredibly hot air sauna, where the temp is a raging 90-95degrees, within a tightly confined room. (needless to say, when my roomate and i entered both sauna rooms, the place quickly cleared out; and they hadn't been in there that long... we're foreigners, what can i say?) so you sit in the really hot sauna for your maximum ammount desired time, and then jump out, to be hit by the frigid shower room air. you resist the urge to head back in, hit the cooling pool again, to rinse off the sweat (again) and then head for your desired temp in the really hot sauna water, or the medium temp sauna. and oh, by the way, you do all of this totally naked. the only thing you take in any of the places is a small towel. so you sit in the pool totally naked, or, if desired, sitting on your towel. when you are done, you head for the showers, making sure to take a scouring towel with you. when you get to your shower, you grab your communal bar of soap, and then scrub your personal scouring towel with soap, get it all foamy (and then you put back the bar of soap - it never touches your body - i know some of you are probably cringing while reading that last part...) with your scouring towel, you scrub your entire body. and these suckers hurt bad - but the scouring takes out all of the dirt that's been trapped in the body. and then when you're done, you step out, grab another towel, and you're all set.
    the whole series brings out all of the dirt that's trapped in your body pores. ever wonder why asians in general have really good complexion? spend a few hours in one of these sauna's and you'll know why - half way through, you're sweating so bad, you think that theres nothing left in your body. and by rinsing off multiple times, you keep cleaning the dirt off.
    ever wonder why asians foreigners visiting, or living can stink so bad sometimes? sure, its a well known fact that they seldom shower every day; its because they only go every other day to one of these. families will buy a family membership, throw their kids in the pool, and then when they're all done, each goes to his own sauna and cleans up, together. some of you might be too self-conscious about certain social stigma's that are attached to weight etc. but in korea, people who are overweight are so few and far inbetween that you can count them on one hand. they don't have a secret, they just don't have the junk food over here like we have at home. and i won't lie; it sucks not being able to just grab a jumbo bag of doritoes on the weekend while watching a movie; but it definately helps out the size of the population.
    its an amazing concept - if you ever get the chance to come to anywhere in asia, you'll have to experience the whole bathing experience; its really quite wonderful, and many people pay for a full membership just for the priveledge to use the saunas, they're that nice. and everything is completely tiled, and heated through the floor, so the room is in immaculate shape. its quite nice. its too bad i can't show you through pictures, for obvious reasons. its just one of those things you'll have to experience on your own.
    take care all, and God Bless

    "special" students at SLP Sunday, April 10, 2005 |

    what the korea?!?.....thats right,you're reading the first of two posts, back to back. its like Christmas all over again. its like a two-for-one special. amazing...
    this post will be the first of (hopefully) many that will be dedicated to some of the more special students at SLP. now that i've been here for over a month, i've gotten to know a lot of the kids names (outside of my classes), and some of these stories will be shared here. but be warned, school over here is a lot different than in North America.
    in Korea, as strange as this sounds, physical punishment is still used in the schools as a tool to get the kids to do their homework. if you are a male, and you consistently don't do complete your homework, the teacher has it in their full-right to slap them across the back of the head; unfortunately, it works for them, so the kids nearly always complete their work. for the girls, their punishment is to stand outside the classroom, with their hands above their head, for a long time....neither one sounds appealing tome. its clearly not how i'd choose to do it, but at SLP, with foreigners, we're not as finely tuned in the art of punishment for the children. so the students know that unless you're really firm, they can get away with slacking off on the homework....and so we revert to the less-lethal/physical forms of punishment to get them to complete their homework.
    One such student is in one of my classes. of all of the english names you could possibly choose from, HE chose to be called Cow. as in the animal that goes mooooo - shockingly, they have about 10 cows in Korea - the most popular form of milk they drink here is actually imported from Denmark (1.5 litres of korean milk is about 3.00CAD). not surprising, Cow is quite the class comedian. or at least thinks he is. anytime that i need a good ice-breaker, somewhere in the range of "the class is bored of english, and they're falling asleep", i'll use Cow as a class demonstration, and his squeals will wake any class within two walls of mine up very quickly. to no one's surprise, Cow happens to be one of those students who consistently slacks off on his homework. so everytime Cow doesn't have his homework done, sometime during the class (and its a surprise), i'll give Cow a purple nurple. and i'm not talking one of the small variety; i'm talking the full-blown nurple. he hates it, and its funny to hear him squeal. and the shocking part? the parents have no problem with it happening; (thanks in part) to the whole mantra of class punishment. the parents don't even flinch when they see it. he's never hurt, and he hates it, and the best part? for the next three classes (we meet three times a week), he'll have all his homework done. its like living my own childhood all over again - playfighting at home, school, etc. his other option (not really an option- i just call it that) is one of two; he can spend ten minutes of the class on his knee's, without being able to use his chair, or he can get a half-nelson (a wrestling manouver), where his arm is gently bent behind his back; its rather uncomfortable. now some of you are probably thinking that i'm just as bad as the korean teachers; you have to understand how much is expected of foreign teachers in Korea. because we speak the language, the parents expect that we'll be able to just transfer our language to their children via transfusion. so they pretty much give us somewhat free-reign on making sure that their children learn; the parents themselves are never around, due to work, to ensure that their child is learning - so whatever it takes is within our bounds.
    depending on how you look at it, i've (un)fortunately only given two purple nurples. the kids laugh, and most of the students know that we can come up with really creative psuedo-punishments outside of slapping the students. but as is the case in Korea, the children respond to physical touch so rapidly here - if you congratulate a student by putting your hand on their shoulder after saying a good sentence in english, their face brightens up twice as much as not touching them at all. in North America, i once tried that (more out of instinct), and the student threatned to sue (sure, it was Chicago, but trust me, i'd be lying if i said that i slept more than an hour the same night that it happened). and understand that it goes both ways; they punch and kick us all the time; its rather playful in most classrooms.
    its just another way that Korea is different - and Cow makes my life much more interesting than if i didn't have him. I love this country.......

    oooohhhh, look, foreigners...... |

    one of the joys that i'm you'll get to experience when travelling overseas is the glorious glaring looks you receive wherever you go - people here stare, and they make no effort to hide the fact that you're the only one who looks out of place. "one of these things just doesn't belong here, one of these things just isn't the same...." - that song comes to mind for some reason. over here in Korea, the people, especially the older crowd, the "above sixty - but still working full-time" people are generally quite nice; they'll have no problem helping you out by speaking whatever form of language they seem to call english. if they don't know english, they'll just say whatever form of english they call english (referred to as Konglish), and when you give them a really confused look, they'll just move on as if they've never been talking to you. after a while, you get used to it, and you learn to ignore the blatant staring, and pretend as if you're the only one who's standing in line at the subway, bus, or at the supermarket.
    for some reason though, just in the past week, as people start to come outdoors because the weather has become really nice, people are starting to speak english,or try to more and more frequently. for example, as i'm sitting on the bus tonite, i couldn't help but notice that four korean teenagers who were blatantly staring at me, and then, openly laughing at me, as i walked to the back of the bus. for some reason, they felt ashamed (who'd have guessed) at their rudeness, and then openly tried to say "sorry" about a dozen times, as if i hadn't heard them the first eleven times. the strange thing is that Koreans are so much more respectful in almost all other areas, except when it comes to foreigners who they won't talk to. this past monday, we were given the day off (as i wrote previously), and we decided to spend the day at Korea's "Everland" - basically a really small theme park built into a hill-side; so everywhere you go, there are hills to climb, even for just standing in line. the joy of standing in line however came in all of the people who were staring, pointing, and then saying, in english, "look, foreigners". now, we didn't help our cause by starting a beard growing contest (won by yours truly), and our beards were pretty bushy. any sort of facial hair here is about as common here as, well, english speaking people. so we stuck out, in a big way. but if you were in nearly any other country, and when you saw a foreigner, and spoke loudly, "look, foreigners!" you'd be ostrasized (sp?) - not only by the foreigners, but by regular english people as well. but over here, when i'm on the subway, if theres two open seats beside me, the koreans children will do rock-paper-scissors to see who has to sit beside the foreigner. when that happens, its funny just to laugh at the person who lost, and smile - it usually gets all the other Koreans laughing too, which helps the loser feel better.
    as bad as it sounds, you learn to shrug it off. its just another strange difference between cultures. in some respects, koreans can be so understanding and patient, and in other circumstances, ignorant, rude and standoffish. as is always the case, its only when you understand their culture that they learn to appreciate the work that it takes to figure out this strange land of ancient customs and regulations.

    spring is here, which means one thing... Tuesday, April 05, 2005 |

    Well, over here, spring is in the air, and that can only mean one thing; the arrival of the fearsome "pockets of ___" (for those hangman enthusiests, the word has one two consonents, and one vowel, and rhymes with "bass"). for those of who have never been overseas to visit places such as China, or Japan, or anywhere where the rise in population has fought with the increasing demand for sewage disposal (and won, handily..) your end result is what is known as a pocket of ass(pardon my french..). in its simplistic form, it's pretty much a complete smell of sewage that blows in from absolutely nowhere, completely overwhelms your sense of smell, and then takes away your appetite in double time. its how you know that spring has arrived, because in the winter, the smell is clearly not as strong; unfortunately, i've heard that in the summer, they increase in smell - super - i'm sure that some of you already have checked off South Korea on your list of places to visit.
    thats one of the frustrating things with Korea - as the population continues to rise, there is a complete overwhelming of public supplies such as drinkable water from a tap, or the availability of public services such as disposing of waste. these cities have been around so long, and theres no way that they can change things by upgrading pipes, or changing an entire neighbourhood; theres no way that you can do it. the same thing goes for social services. one of the pluses with Korean society is that there is not a lot of homelessness; the families bear the brunt of taking care of whomever cannot afford to live on their own. its why taxes here are so cheap, or non-existent at all. the price you see on anything is the total price you will pay; it makes it easy to calculate groceries, and multiple-purchase items, but when you realize that their is no such thing as pensions, etc, then you get a good idea why the people here work for sixty hours a week; they're trying to keep up with the stress on the family to provide for everyone. but that's just the way they do things here. when you try to explain things to them as to how we operate in North America, they just shake their head when you explain to them about welfare? if you can't work here, you create a job, and stay busy. over here, you find a niche where they need help, and fulfil it. its one of the things that continues to throw my mind; i'm pretty much over the cultural shock, (i don't think i ever really felt it....) but there are still things that throw me.
    as in regards to making more posts, i know some of you check quite frequently. i've now moved into another apt, with more space, where i also have wireless internet. i'm hoping to make more postings now that i can write at home, but theres still a lot of kinks that are still not working in my favor. i know some of you have posted comments, and for that, i appreciate all of them; but i can't actually look at my own blog site; my last two postings i've done without actually being able to look at my blog. so if you post a comment, when i figure out the reason for the inability for me to look at my site, then i will get around to replying to them.
    well, i must go - its dinner time for me (4:45pm), even though its 3:45 am for you - thank you all for the prayers and well-wishes; know that i pray for you all as well, and wish the best. i wish i could say that i miss the cold weather and small snow that you've received in the past few days - right now, its a nice spring temp of 20C, which we've had for the past week and a half....
    take care, and God Bless