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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
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  • Surviving South Korea
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  • "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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  • the DMZ, or demistifying zone... Sunday, May 22, 2005 |

    I hope that for some of you who were looking forward to this, that you won't be so disapointed.
    Let me start out by saying that if you had any visions or ideas of what you thought the dmz might be like, erase those images, but they're nothing like what it really is. Secondly, any movies that you might think might be close to the DMZ, such as one of the recent Jame's Bond movies - not even close. So now that you've erased all preconceived notions of the DMZ, i'll tell you what it was like, or at least what the half-day tours consist of.
    We chose the half-day tour, because like all other tours in Korea, they don't tell you whether the tour time includes travel time or not - but the only real differenc between many of the tours is the order they do the tour in, the price, or what days you can travel on - theirs not a lot of difference. Being that my cousin and I are both dutch, we chose the cheapest option; cheers to heritage. We also chose the half-day tour, because we didn't want to spend an entire day at the DMZ; when you're here, most Korean's will just shrug if you ask about the DMZ. for Korean men, military service is mandatory for minimum two years; so most of the men will spend some amount of time working at or near the dmz in their lifetime, and the women do pretty much what the men suggest to do- so the women just don't really show any desire to go.
    so after our hour long ride on really rough korean highway roads, inside a bus that didn't appear to have ANY shocks or support, we arrived at the dmz (the dmz is only 45 minutes north of Seoul - its pretty close). we then hopped onto a different tour bus - in the dmz, you don't really travel with just your tour - you take your tour to the dmz, and then you hop on a bus with other tour groups, travelling on a dmz approved bus. we really only had three stops on our agenda, and all of them showed promise. our first stop was at one of the discovered tunnels from the North. North korea is always trying to find ways into south Korea, and the first stop if they were to attack would be seoul. even though the south has discovered only four tunnels, they guess that North korea is always digging tunnels, and could have more than ten tunnels all directed in the general vicinity of seoul. however, as we found out was the case in many of hte spots on the tour, no pictures were allowed in the tunnel. rather frustrating, because my description is pretty much that its just a typical tunnel, generally about five feet, five inches high, and wide enough for two people to pass through. so through the whole tunnel, you're somewhat haunched over. but no pictures. a little annoying, but still cool to experience. the tunnel itself was pretty deep in the ground, so the walk to the tunnel was interesting.
    our second stop on the tour was the closest spot in south korea to the actual dmz. we saw an interesting demonstration. watching the demonstration, he pointed out a big picture window wall of glass to points in north korea, such as their closest city to the south, where their big flag pole is located, etc.
    at this stop, you could take pictures outside of the demonstration room, but you had to take them behind a big yellow line - the reason being is that they don't want you to take pictures of the south korean military positions - its not as if the north doesn't know where the south korean posts are, its more rules and regulations. so not a single picture really turned out - from this spot, you could look into north korea, and see the actual land of the dmz, but not a single picture from behind the yellow line turned out at all - apologies. regardless, from my vantage point, the north looks just like the south - an east asian country.
    our last stop was at Dorasan station. in the year 2000, the north and south agreed to complete a railway that would like the south all the way to europe via the trans-siberian railway. but to no one's suprise, the north hasn't completed the last 2.2km of railway. their official response is that they've run out of money. for a country that spends 90% of their budget on military expenditures, they run out of money more often than not. this station is the last stop on korea's way to becoming a superpower in Asia. without a railway, they cannot ship anything out of the country unless by ships, and that can get expensive with fuel costs rising. ironically, korea has set up a full immigration office, full train station, etc, for when they actually connect the two countries; i don't think its going to happen for a long time, but i could be wrong.....
    and that was the dmz. on the way back, we had to stop at an amythist shop (right.....a dmz tour cannot be "complete" without a stop at the Seoul amythist factory......)they dropped us off downtown, and that was the whole tour. it was somewhat anticlimatic for me; i came in with really high expectations, and i somewhat left disapointed. it was nice to visit, but i won't need to go again, thats for sure. its one of the places i'm glad that i could see, and if you come to visit me, i would encourage you to go. its informative, and lets you see what its like to have a demilitarized zone. just don't come expecting to see north korean outposts watching your every move....
    well, i need to go - i hope things are going well. i'll catch you all later


    website "o" pictures.... Tuesday, May 17, 2005 |

    well, hello to all who can read....cheers
    to the joy of all who can also see, i have set up a website where i've posted a few pictures - some of then you'll notice as the pictures from my website, but many of the pictures shown will be new to nearly all. i hope you enjoy the pics - feel free to do with them as you wish.
    here's the link:
    you'll be prompted for a password, to which you'll enter:
    "southkorea" minus the quotations...
    enjoy -


    a common question- not a common answer Sunday, May 15, 2005 |

    hello all -
    this was meant to be a posting on my weekend trip to the DMZ, or demilitarized zone, but that post will be waiting for another day, when i can think of what i'm going to write. this posting is going to be about living in a different country. i know, i know, you're probably thinking "why couldn't he choose that dmz topic", but i'm hoping you aren't.
    one of the questions i've been asked lately, by both people living in korea, and from people through e-mails is the question of "hows the loneliness"? its an odd question, and when you first get asked it, you have to think about it. part of the reason for people asking me now is that i've almost been here for three months - i arrived in korea on february 22 (or 23, i can't remember). it seems like just the other week when i was here, and in that sense, you rush to answer the question, and say something close to "oh, its not bad at all. when you work wierd hours like i do (mwf - 12:30-8:30 - tth - 12:30-6:30) you don't have a lot of time to think of things such as home life, etc.
    shamefully, i'll admit that i've become somewhat self-centered since i've been here. i was blessed to have my cousin just finish visiting me for two weeks. as much fun as we both had, for the first few days, it was pretty tough for me to adjust to. after two months of only having to worry about myself, its odd when you have someone visiting, because you a)get jealous of their time to go to all sorts of places that i haven't been able to visit myself, and b) you get excited, because you can actually see someone new - they're another person to talk to. speaking of speaking, its becoming more apparant to me that i've been here for a little bit. i'm sure that peter (my cousin) could tell you multiple times (and if he doesn't, then he's being too kind) where i've had to stop myself from speaking in broken english even though i'm talking to someone who has no problem understanding me. even in my house, where i live with three other guys, we do it all the time; you get so used to using the most simplistic form of communication, that when you get back to your house, or anywhere talking to other english people, you just get used to it, and used to hearing it, that its somewhat second nature; its funny to hear (interesting as well that while i've come to Korea to speak english, my vocal skills are decreasing, while my grammar knowledge is increasing).
    getting back to the lonliness part, one of the things that really helps is the students. as odd as that sounds, its not the students as much as it is their names. when i asked some of the teachers leaving my hog-wan, the trick they told me helps them remember people and friends back home is naming your students after your best friends and family members. so pretty much all of my best friends are represented in my classroom - if they aren't, its because they're somewhere else in the school, in someone else's classroom. initially, i din't think that it would mean anything. but after a while, when you say their name aloud when teaching, or as they're walking by your classroom door, just hearing the name yourself can't help but make you visualize the reason why that name is triggering a response in your head. its pretty cool. especially siblings - having students in school with siblings names has helped out a lot.
    in that sense, have i been all that lonely since i've been here? yes and no. loneliness is a strange feeling; some days i'll really miss just having a good close friend to talk to, sit, chat and have a beer with. and other days, i sometimes feel as if i could see myself (after coming home for a month or two) teaching esl for another few years after i'm done here.
    well, i hope and pray that things are going well with all of you - time is flying by here, and the weekends go far too fast. sometime this week i'll post on the dmz. until then,
    annyanseo - (good-bye in korean, for those who are at a lost)

    Gyeongju - the old version of Korea Sunday, May 08, 2005 |

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    Image hosted by Photobucket.com

    Hello all

    This past weekend, my cousin Peter and I spent two nights/three days in Gyeongju, considered to be the version of Korea that's remained untouched. Truth be told, when we arrived in Gyeongju, untouched wasn't what first came to mind. The main part of the city has definately been upgraded to meet their tourist demands; its when you get outside of the city that the major historical aspects begin to show. The city's phrase is "the museum without walls", and as you go from one historical moment to another, you get the idea that they're actually telling the truth. Located all over the city are burial mounds from former kingdom kings. I haven't included a picture, but they're basically just massive mounds of dirt. Their tombs were enclosed by over 5 metres of stones, so that if you tried to access the kings treasures in the tombs, you would be buried by heaps of stones; you had to access the tomb from the top, decreasing the chances of people raiding the tombs.

    When working our way through the whole city and surrounding countryside, you realize that when the tour guides say that South Korea is 85% mountainous, they're not far off - the whole city is enclosed by mountains 365degrees. One of the major tourist mountains is Mt. Namsan, the mountain Peter and I climbed. Apparantly, theres over 30 different treks up the mountain, and on our way up, we had no clue where our path was going to lead. When we reached the top, we were rewarded with an absolutely beautiful sight - we could see over the entire countryside, all the way to the other ridge of mountains. The train ride in was beautiful, and even though we rode the KTX, Korea's bullet train, we could still see the whole ride in, and it was worth the three-four hour ride.

    One of the major sites in the city is Bulguksa Temple, a massive ancient temple thats still in great shape today. The frustrating thing with travelling further and further away from Seoul is that the people know less and less english - and by "less and less", I mean they know virtually nothing. The really frustrating thing, (and this is typical through the entire country) is that Korean's will never tell you that they don't know what you're talking about - they'll pretend that they understand you, and when you try to tell them a second time, because you're almost positive that they didn't get it the second time, and they'll give you a really ignorant look. It can be really frustrating, especially when you just want to eat chicken and beer, and they're looking at you really funny.

    Well, I guess that's pretty much the whole story. The pictures that I have really don't do the city and view justice; if you want more pictures, just drop me an e-mail at (notanymore) and i'll send you some collections of pictures; they're pretty big in size, so if you don't have broadband, it will take a while. If you're interested in more information Gyeongju, then feel free to click on thier link here: http://www.gyeongju.go.kr/eng/main/index.asp