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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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  • parents who don't care.... Thursday, August 31, 2006 |

    I'll admit it, I've had a shitty week. Things have happened beyond my control that have made me already slightly miserable and feeling frustrated because of the situations that I've been put in. However, something happened today which put me over the boiling point, and its blame rests solely on parents who don't give a rat's behind (and that's putting it politely).
    I had been teaching three students three times a week since October of last year. I took them from a teacher who didn't care about teaching, and openly mocked the materials he was teaching them. Myself, being in the middle of my first contract, and still caring a great deal about the material and presentation, immediately showed these kids that I not only cared about the system, but also about their learning. I taught them not only the crap that was in their books, but also about the good stuff that books for some reason leave out; (like if you're stuck in the woods, and your compass breaks, you'll always know the direction of North, because its the one side of the tree where moss usually grows the most (open to argument).....
    That might be making it seem like a sham, but I taught them a lot, and sooner rather than later, I really cared for these kids. I taught them all about "Dead Poet's Society", and taught them to appreciate books that may seem boring at first, but if you look beyond what the letters.... They devoured it. These three kids showed more growth and aptitude for learning than any other kids I taught. Most importantly however, they were appreciative. They said thank you, had the most polite manners, and knew when to say "Thanks for all you're doing.." when I needed to feel appreciated. And now? They're gone.
    They've switched academies, or I should say, their mothers switched academies. Its most likely that one mother believed that she could get a better deal somewhere else, and got a group discount by taking the other two students with her son. Normally, if I had less students, I couldn't care less; the smaller my class size, the better. But these three? They had no clue they were leaving my class. Their mothers told them some bs about them missing the next class because they're visiting some relative, or some family visit, because as far as they knew, they were coming to class next Tuesday; these mothers didn't even tell their own kids the truth. Another teacher who taught them essay writing and myself bent over backwards for these kids, and we've never pushed kids harder who've responded for each push....I really hate these mothers right now....
    Its taken 19 months, but I'm starting to think I need a good, long vacation... mostly just from these moms.......

    in Korea, we have five seasons... Thursday, August 24, 2006 |

    I can imagine what some of you are thinking; that's impossible. Truth be told, you won't find this season listed on the official Korean calendar; its not technically on any calendar that i know of, however, we've entered a new season here in Korea; the unofficial "speech contest" season. It falls directly before the start of the school term after summer break, and lasts until sometime just after Christmas. This is the time where teachers cringe, groan, and complain, because on top of us teaching children how to learn basic (or in my case, somewhat advanced) english, we also have to squeeze in speech practicing, and making sure that the kids have "their" speeches memorized.
    Now, normally, I would think that a little memorizing would do the children some good. However, the speeches that these kids memorize are such a scam, that the kids are 1) forced into memorizing the speeches by their parents, 2) don't actually write their speeches, native english teachers do, and 3) Korean english teachers tell the children to do excessive gestures and word emphasis that make the poor children look like robots.
    So why would you force your child to participate in a speech contest, when its not the parents who get anything out of it? Ahhh, but that's where your wrong. At my institutes annual speech contest, the children (read:parents) can win as much as a full years tuition for winning the grand prize, along with smaller prizes such as a month's tuition, book certificates, etc. For the children, they get almost nothing out of it, except their parents pushing their behinds to memorize it better and better. The parents also get bragging privileges out of this; and in Korea, that's almost worth the years tuition.
    For the institutes, especially the regional and district sponsored speech contests, institutes will endlessly spend hours helping their kids memorize and practice and practice, because one winner at any of the speech contest winners could mean as many as a dozen new students joining your institutes based solely on the winning child being from your institute. And for my institute, which advertises itself as specializing in "speaking" (not grammar, or writing, as other do) we're usually under heavy pressure to make sure that our best students get ample opportunity to memorize, by giving them less homework (while still expecting them to keep up their levels of competency)...
    It's fun times here in Korea right now, especially for English teachers. We somewhat hate this season, but its something that comes with the job...did I mention lately that i love my job....?
    God Bless,

    leg two....tail end of Siem Reap, and more Monday, August 14, 2006 |

    Well, here's the second wind of my pictures. Some of them will be nature and others will be from different places. Sometime soon, I'll upload a whole host of pictures to my photo site - so that you can see them in a much bigger size, and also a better quality. I hope you enjoy. thank you for travelling Vicarious Airways....and we hope to see you again soon.

    This is the Lotus flower, and its synonymous with the Bhuddist temples - everytime you see a flower represented on a temple wall, they're trying to show the Lotus flower. I unfortunately couldn't fine a stone-etched carving of one, but these flowers are everywhere there's a pond. Most of the ponds were initially meant to be moats, to protect the Wat's (Khmer for temple) however, for whatever reason, many of them have dried up, leaving small ponds located all over the grounds of the Wat's.

    This poor child "snuck" through the ticket gates (I wondered, when I saw how easily they get through, why I even paid for a ticket in the first place...) They are notorious for being quick to pose, offer a great smile that melts your heart, and then, just when you're ready to leave, they'll hound you until you pay them for their smile...and that smile that made it onto your camera? Trust me, it doesn't smile when you don't pay them what they want...
    The next two pictures are from the "floating village" of Tonle Sap - that's right, the whole village is on boats throughout the river. Even their school and outdoor gymnasium (donated by South Korea) are on floating pontoons. Some of these houseboats are outfitted with refrigerators, televisions, and electricity (I'm not joking). The kids scoot around on these buckets, fully propped up by sitting on empty water bottles - they move up to the boats, and then hang on until someone gives them money. Then they scoot off onto the next tour boat going through their "village"...It was an amazing show of persistence and survival, but also depressing, as these people don't even have easy access to fresh drinking water, it has to be delivered every day, in small amounts each day. A stark contrast to the "wealth" of the city dwellers...

    Believe it or not, yes, that snake is real. It's actually on exhibit to try and drag in guests to this houseboat restaurant. It was non-poisonous, and really quite beautiful to feel; its skin was soft and smooth. This restaurant also had an aligator farm, which consisted of aligators tossed on top of each other, waiting to be eaten (which, coincidentally, you could do on demand...you could even pick which one you wanted) Welcome to the floating village...care to try some aligator?

    This was the only picture I could bear to take of the Killing Fields. The actual site is incredibly calming, and even though it was an unnerving calm, It was amazing to see such beautiful butterflies among hole after hole of mass graves. It was not one of the places I dwelled for a long time. God shows beauty sometimes in the most harrowing places. I can't imagine what the Khmer's must have gone through....

    This was the only picture that I took in S-21, the Khmer Rouge's main torture prison. The images and things I saw there will stay with me forever, and I could not bear to take pictures; it didn't feel right. Each of the torture rooms (this was for a political prisoner) at present had flower petals spread through the rooms. Even though not watered, they seemed to bloom as if by a calming power- I nearly cried in some of the rooms...

    Well, that's all I thought I would include in my blog set of photo's. As I mentioned earlier, I'll post pictures sometime on my photo site- they'll be bigger, and better resolutions, so stay posted. I hope you enjoyed the pictures - if anyone soon is heading out to that part of the world, I would highly recommend visiting Cambodia - it will be a trip you'll never forget...

    photo's and descriptions aplenty... Thursday, August 10, 2006 |

    Well, even though the heat has disappated somewhat, I am still wishing I was back in Cambodia, where the heat and humidity were not as bad. That, and I didn't have to work; no work was nice. Here are the pictures, each with a short description of the scene.

    This is the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. The causeway walking up to the temple is nearly 1km long, for processions and the like. Even once inside the actual temple, you don't get an idea of the vast space it encompasses; it's huge. Unfortunately, the weather was not as bright as I would have appeared, but I gladly took the overcast sky over the rain we would get...

    This was the second temple I went to, called Bayon. It was undergoing massive structural repairs, because the underground drainage system is causing the temple to slowly collapse on itself from the unsolid footing. This temple is known for its many faces cut into the pillars that dot the whole temple. It truly was amazing to see so many faces everywhere you look.

    This was one of my favourite temples; Ta Prohm. The forest has run all through the temple, and trees cover the temple buildings everywhere. Once seeing how much the trees have run rampant, then you realize how old the temples really are; they're ancient. The earliest records known show them building their temples as early as the 12th century.

    This temple, Banteay Srei, was believed to be carved by women, because the original explorers couldn't believe that the men of Kampuchea could have done such intricate carving into the stone. It's pinkish hue in the sun also make it one of the frequented temple sites. I got there just after sunrise, so it was beautiful to walk around almost by myself.

    This was my main transportation for my first two days; this here is your typical tuktuk driver - call it an uptodate horse and buggy, only instead of shit smell, you get exhaust. I could never remember my drivers name, however, tuktuk drivers sell their rides like you're their last hope for a solid meal; they're relentless. It often gets downright annoying, because right after you hop off a tuktuk, another one will pull up beside you, and ask you if you need a tuktuk (with him watching you just get out, pay the man, and then start walking). Sure, its their job, but sometimes, you just want to clock them....

    Well, these are my first instalment of two; I don't want to spend too much time tonight; I'm tired. I'll promise to post pictures from the second leg of my trip, and other favourites certainly no later than the weekend. if you are interested in any of the photo's, send me an e-mail, and i'll send you the full copy of the file, instead of copying and taking the blog photo, which has been reduced in quality to store. take care all, and God Bless.

    my trip to Kampuchea, or Kingdom of Cambodia Tuesday, August 08, 2006 |

    Well, i arrived back in Seoul early Sunday morning, after a long five hour flight, and immediately i was reminded how nice the weather was in Cambodia, and how hot it is in Seoul right now. I'm imagining that the weather is close to how it is right now in North America, however, I'm dying here with the awful humidity and the lack of temperature fluctuation; it stays hot all night long. I have no control over the weather, so i’ll quit complaining.
    Cambodia was an amazing experience. I arrived there late Saturday, to find that the whole city nearly shuts down at 11pm, and i had no hotel reservations (in hindsight, this oversight could have been bad) i luckily got into a hotel, with the last room; i had to fight to not be ripped off in my hotel room; not something that i liked doing that late at night. The following day, i continued onto Siem Reap, coming upon the bus “station” almost by tripping over it. Phnom Penh is really quite amazing; 1 million people, and there’s not an apartment in sight- everything is four-story french colonial style houses. This is beautiful to the eyes, but a hassle, because the city is so spread out, with no public transportation whatsoever. After a harrowing seven hour bus ride to Siem Reap (its only 279 km) i checked into my guesthouse, and immediately felt welcomed. Something about Siem Reap somewhat grows on you. Its a city that is due to explode in the next five years, because there is so much development going up in the city, that in five years, it will be miles ahead of where it is now. For example, the city has no major drainage system - when it rains, and it rains a lot, the whole street’s just flood completely over. And the Khmer just act as if there’s nothing wrong; they just walk on through the rain, knowing that they’ll dry really quickly once it stops raining.
    Angkor Wat was just amazing; i bought a three day ticket, in preparation for my next three days of exploring. In the end, i didn’t need all three days, but it was still amazing. Its just incredible how much work they put into their temples, and their belief’s in buddhism that led them to feel so rewarded for their work. The only struggle that I had with Angkor and all of their temple’s was the absolute poverty that surrounds the temples. These people have been treated like shit for the past three or four decades, and land mine’s still dot the countryside. However, when you see so many people with maimed legs, arms, or worse yet, both, you really feel a deep sense of sorrow for them. You try to help, but there’s only so much you can do without making things worse for them.
    In Siem Reap, I was lucky to stay at a guesthouse that, while a tad more expensive, went out of their way to make you comfortable. I ended up meeting two other couples, and we did some touring together, and eating out. This trip only reaffirmed for me that this will be the last trip i make on my own; traveling solo does allow you a lot of freedom, but its just too lonely. In Siem Reap, we spent two nights in a bar called “Angkor What?”, where travelers wrote messages all over the walls. Siem Reap is also home to Angkor beer, by far one of the best beer’s i’ve ever had - it beats Korean beer hands down. I lifted my beer glass just to help remind myself how much i enjoyed it. In the end, it was hard to leave Siem Reap; at first, the city was really unappealing to me; in the end, I had cancelled my other trip i was going to do in Cambodia in order to spend more time there. It grew on me, and I was surprised that when i left, i somewhat felt like i was going to wish I had used my time more wisely when i was there.
    I arrived back in Phnom Penh, to an absolute bleating noise of Tuk tuk drivers - if you don’t know what they are, google it - and you’ll find out. they’re aggressive, try to rip you off every chance they get, and they’re shady... but they’re vital to their economy, because without any other form of income, many of them sleep in their tuk tuks in order to save as much money as they can. The only thing you have to worry about is their sense of direction - many of the drivers have no idea where they’re taking you, and they’ll just start driving anywhere that you think is important, they’ll drive you anywhere you want, but unless you tell them where to go, they’ll just keep driving until you realize you’re lost - and then you still have to pay. i got fooled once, but not the second time - i called his bluff, and he just smiled as i walked away.
    overall, phnom penh was not as nice as i was hoping it would be. its a big city spread out - its got cheap eats compared to Korea, but its often very depressing. the poverty that surrounds everywhere you go makes you appreciate what you have so much more when you return; its often the little things that make me so thankful that God has given me what He has. I spent two nights in a great guesthouse in Phnom Penh, and I got to see some things that will never leave me. the Khmer Rouge did horrible horrible things to their own people, and things such as the Killing Fields, and their S-21 prison left a scar with me that I’ll never forget. I think that it was due to their use of a secondary school as their prison and torture chamber that really made me feel sorrow; maybe if i wasn’t a secondary teacher, it might not have bothered me as much; who knows.
    In the end, I was glad I went, even though I was slightly scared to go. Cambodia is a growing country, and their wealth is making those less fortunate try to take from those who show their wealth. I was blessed to never have any problems, but on my last night, I ran into a gentleman who had been robbed of nearly everything; he wasn’t too bright, but still, it happens. I’m going to post pictures to this site in the short future - with tags and slightly detailed descriptions for each selection of photos. Be sure to stay posted. As for now however, its good to be back home, and I thank God for another safe and poorly planned trip, where things never went wrong.
    take care all, and God Bless
    love me