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About

"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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  • IT SNOWED Thursday, November 30, 2006 |

    Well, it only took until the last day of November, but it snowed in Seoul today. Here's the scene. I'm sitting in the pension office, finishing up my paperwork, Coffee Bean coffee in hand, relishing life, and counting all those numbers on my soon to arrive pension check. (one of the nice things I'm sure you'll always read about Korea - being a "millionaire" never, never gets old....I KNOW I'm going to miss this feeling back home.) So back to my story. I'm leaving the office, and there's some female bank teller's squealing like school girls after seeing someone famous. So as I'm putting on my coat and buttoning up my jacket, another female bank teller leaves the lobby, and goes outside. Inside the building, I hear her squealing with excitement. So I finally head outside, to notice that its snowing. I didn't care that they were squealing, that wasn't important to me anymore. It was snowing. (I found out later tonight from a parent of one of my students that Korean women LOVE snow. They don't like cold weather, but they love snow.) Last year, my Korean friends and I had a contest to see who could be the first to text everyone; I got second. However, this year, I was first.
    So I get to my institute, and all of the Korean staff are jumping all over the place. The kids are all pretending as if we've never seen snow before, and as if everyone who they run into doesn't know what snow is...."Teacher, let's open the window! Let the snow in! Teacher, I want to play snowball fights!".....lets just say that I'm glad I'm not a preschool teacher. So me and one of my Korean friends decide during break time to go downstairs to take pictures of the snow. So we get off the elevator, step outside, and as sure as it was, there was no snow....we were slightly disappointed. However, the most important thing was that it snowed. Took the stinking freezing weather long enough. If I'm going to freeze my butt off walking to school, I'd much rather do it walking through snow as opposed to nothing, or, worse yet, cold cold rain.
    So that was the highlight for today.
    Oh, that and today was my last day of work:)
    cheers all -

    Getting ready to leave... Saturday, November 25, 2006 |

    Well, its getting near my time of expiration at my institute. Just the other night, we had the traditional "welcoming in and going away" party for those teachers leaving the institute, and those teachers who are about to start. As usual, we went for Korean bbq at our favourite Galbi restaurant (its like this -they treat us like royalty at their restaurant because when you show up with twenty-five hungry teachers, we represent a nice bill). However, this time, I was center stage, for the first time since I had arrived. I don't even remember the dinner that well when I first came to my institute, but I do remember two things in particular - I couldn't use the bloody metal chopsticks at all, and the "traditional Korean" restaurant we ate at had brutal food, with no beer (for those of you living in Korea, stay far, far away from HanCook restaurants - the food their is awful - I had better food at the hospital.)
    My going away dinner however felt strange to me for a number of reasons. First and foremost - it was for me leaving. I've been here in Seoul for over 21 months without going home. I'd been to so many going away dinners for other teachers that they had long lost their luster for me; I just partook in the free food and plenty of beer to go around. I always got to listen to their going away speeches, and make fun of them while they stood up there and froze, not knowing what to say, say for the usual "I'd like to thank my director, Mr.Lee for giving me this job. Yes, it's sometimes frustrating, but overall, the experience was really good for me...yada yada yada." Usually the teacher would talk all sorts of kind and sweet words, but after their speech was over, they'd go back to bashing the institute, and spewing some sort of fire over what they saw as illegal shistering over their pension, or some other area they were convinced they were being ripped off in. (For those of you who don't know - Foreign teachers in Korea ALWAYS talk tough when it comes to what they think of their institute. However, when it really comes down to the nitty gritty, they like the attention that they get, and they're really sad to be leaving....at least at my institute.)
    The second reason it felt strange was because it was a little premature. I finished unofficially teaching this past Friday, but I'm actually working at my institute for another four days, where I will be training and doing model classes, and doing curriculum development for books that are poorly designed and shouldn't really be used for teaching. So everyone is telling me goodbye at the dinner, but I'll still be coming into work - many of them know this, but for the sake of the party, they're saying goodbye, because they feel like they should say goodbye at a going away party. Its a little strange.
    Other than that, not much is new. I'm looking forward to some free time to spend in Seoul - it will be different being able to look at certain parts of Seoul in the daytime, and to see parts of Seoul that I wouldn't otherwise bother looking at, because of lack of time. Things like shopping without having to worry about time loss, or, even worse, getting lost when I'm on a schedule, or being confused, and just taking the easy way out; it will be nice to get confused. So I'll have to see what the next two weeks hold for me. It should be fun.
    Take care all, and apologies for the lack of interesting news. I'm sure that if i get lost, it will make for a much more interesting story
    God Bless,
    me

    Handy tool for those who want FREE TV... Wednesday, November 15, 2006 |

    For those of you who are like me in that you're either Dutch, or tighter with your cash than a child with a dumdum, theirs a little program for you PC users that you might like.
    Its called TVU player. Basically, here's what it is. If someone watches a program on their computer who has the software, then with this program, you can see exactly what they're watching; only theirs hundreds of channels to chose from, all over the world. Want to watch hockey on the NHL and NHL2 networks? Go right ahead. Want to watch ESPN back home? They got that too - CNN, CBS, NBC, pretty much every major network is represented with this program. The catch? you have to watch it on a smaller than TV screen on your computer. But the best part? It's free - 100%. And theirs no spy ware that I've noticed on my friends computer which we watch football and hockey on all the time.
    Give it a shot - head on over to TVU Player's Download page and check it out -

    I'm being localized... |

    Just a quick followup to the post i made about my student having to hand over her cell phone to me for using it in class. She came back the following day in the afternoon to pick it up. She was surprisingly a little embarrassed to ask me for the phone, and as my way of showing that i appreciated her following my rule, I told her that she didn't have to do the homework. Sure enough, she came to class today, actually participated more, tried, and sure enough, she'd actually done all her homework. Of course she finally appears to have turned the corner, and I've got her for less than a month after almost two months of frustration with her....go figure.
    ~~~~
    This post however is about something that's starting to scare me a little; after being in Korea for so long, I'd felt for some time that i could really get used to staying here for a while - but there were always those "catches" - those things where, when you look at them, you say "well, until you've changed on those issues, you'll never unofficially be "Korean"..." Now most people know me as being a pretty big promoter for Korea. Whenever teachers i work with presently, and those i work with in the past complain about things in Korea that bother them, I'll come to "Korea's" defense; all except for two things. My most common sentence uttered is this 'In Korea, there are only two evil things: radish and kimchi." That was, until last week. Everyday, I eat with my Korean friends. We have the typical Korean lunch of white rice, a soup, and numerous side dishes. Theirs always kimchi, and i avoid it like the plague. However, i love the soup (I'm Dutch, therefore i love soup regardless of where i live.) My favourite soup was on the menu, and i said "I love this soup - it has all my favourites - good flavoured broth, meat, and cabbage." My friends looked at me a little strange, and then broke down laughing. After they'd stopped laughing, they told me my favourite line: "in Korea...." - only, they changed the ending to say that Radish is NOT evil. I protested, until they pointed to the cabbage, and told me that as much as i like the cabbage, its actually radish; the real deal.
    The second came in the startling realization that I really don't like cold weather. I'm still struggling with this. Until this past fall, I loved winter; at least i used to. Now, I'm shivering like an old man with multiple layers on, shivering despite it. I walk quicker to go from outdoor place to outdoor place, walking inside and embracing the warmth. I love my ondul floor, with its heat spread out wherever i walk. All the things i used to hate about Korean summer's is now looking so welcoming to me as opposed to this heat.... My room ate tells me that its not that i don't like winter anymore; I'm just getting old. I disagree, and remind him that I'm five years younger than him, and then he stops making fun of me.
    The last thing is my dress style. I can already anticipate that once i get home, I'm going to be ridiculed and called nearly every metro sexual joke their is in the book. Don't get me wrong; I love my clothes here. I love my pink shirt. i love my multicoloured striped sweater, and I love all my clothes that make me appear to have some sort of style, even though they're cheaper than anything i could buy at home. But over here, i fit in with my Korean counterparts just as much as a duck in water...
    my Korean friends all point to these three things as obvious reasons to return back to Korea. My family i know would strongly disagree, although my brothers will love the new clothes, as it will give them endless fire-power for jokes galore...it will be interesting to see how this all plays out when i head back home.
    look for a movie review from one of my students very shortly, for those of you who check frequently.
    take care all, and God bless,
    me

    Sometimes this job stinks... Monday, November 13, 2006 |

    Some days, this job can be really frustrating. I'm not talking about teaching in general; I think that all readers can relate that teachers (qualified or not) struggle with teaching English to children who often don't really want to be there. The same goes for general education in North America; this can be seen in the high dropout rates all across North America (if you think that all the stats on high school dropouts are real, trust me; they're lower. My old high school in Chicago routinely brought in extra students to beef up the attendance stats, because with "more" students, your school gets more money...fudging is pretty commonplace, as far as it was explained to me right before I left my school.) Regardless, teaching's tough, especially when you don't get the impression that you're "appreciated" as much as you might want.
    Take for example my last class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They're all there because their parents want them to be there; two of them however do their best to learn what they can, and they make most days worthwhile. The rest of the girls however just really don't care. They often speak Korean in my class, to which I stop them once they start. But aside from them knowing better, they still do it, because theirs not a lot I can do; their parents are too busy to worry, and as long as their child doesn't outwardly complain, then the parents are happy. So here's where things get frustrating.
    One of my students doesn't take her 80 minutes seriously at all. She doesn't try; her two best friends are in the same class, and this is the only time she gets to spend time with them. So she has her friends, and also, her second best friend; her cell phone. Now, I have a pretty strict rule in my class that if you take out your phone in my class for any other reason than to turn it off if its ringing, or if we're disagreeing over what their cell phone's translation dictionary told them was really an English word, they don't take it out. Often I'll let it slide if they forgot their watch, but otherwise, they know that I'm liable to take their phone if i see it. I haven't had to actually follow through on my threat until today. Tonight, on of my students had her phone ring twice on silent mode, and the third time, she felt brazen enough, with my back to the board, to try to answer the phone. And if i didn't happen to see the whole thing after i turned around. I told her to give me the phone, which she does, after telling me that she wants it back at the end of class. I should mention this - my punishment? I hold the phone until their next class. They know this rule, and then, at the closure of the class, she realizes I'm not going to give it back to her until the following day, and she starts crying uncontrollably. Here's where it sucks to be a teacher in a foreign country where the kids don't care. Do i give her the phone, and let her win? She doesn't respect me; she can't stand me because of the homework i give her. (To her credit, she usually didn't do all the homework before, but once i started teaching the class, she's done "almost" all of it..most of the time.) Or, do i keep the phone as a serious statement to the other kids that I am serious about this?
    In the end, I somewhat let her chose. She needed her bus-pass tied to her cell phone, and i let her take it off. She held onto her phone for almost ten minutes and contemplated leaving with the phone (and i wasn't planning on stopping her.) To her credit, she left the phone with me, and for that, even though she'll never understand it, i give her credit - she showed respect to my rule (which shows that although she might hate me, she does in fact respect the profession and rules...) But if i don't feel like the biggest jerk right now as I'm typing this....
    Sometimes, I hate this job....

    boxes, crap and freakin' freezing weather Monday, November 06, 2006 |

    So, where in blazes did fall disappear to? Here I was, heading to the east coast of Korea for a nice weekend to see the coast, spend some quality time with good friends, and right before the weekend, it gets so stinkin' cold that I need to pack like a woman, and bring extra layers and crap. Not my style; I prefer to be cold... (My conscience told me that I was packing for my friends...at least that's what justified my sudden sissyness) Regardless, this fall has disappeared quickly, and left me with one month left to go before I head back home, wishing that I had had the weather from two weeks ago.
    As I'm typing this, my toe is still smarting from when I stubbed it for about the umpteenth time this evening; its partially full of all odd's and sods of stuff that I don't want to pack when I actually get closer to packing seriously about heading home. I've still got so much stuff to do, that actually leaving scares the ship out of me. Its not that I don't want to get home; don't get me wrong. Its more so the fact of actually having to pack up all of the stuff and more stuff that I've accumulated since i've been here. I remember how much stuff I left at home before I came here, thinking I'd only be gone for one year. Even the most serious of minimalists picks up stuff here and there. And while one finds uses for most stuff, its hard to throw stuff away here, because there's always someone else who will take it. That's what strange with the ex-pat community here; they'll take nearly anything, and even if they don't use it, they'll hold onto it. If not just for sentimental reasons.
    My free-time has just become mine again after my institutes final speech contest was conducted this past weekend. I had four of my students competing from one of my classes, and our institute only sent seven students to the all of Korea competition. I figured that four students from a student-body of over 900 students was pretty good; I was proud of them. In th end, my students mopped up, technically. Two of my students received bronze prizes, and two of my students received silver prizes. I think I was just as relieved as their parents for not having to do speech practices anymore.
    Other than that, not much is new with me. I still do not know the exact date as to when I'm heading home; its been thrown into the air by one of my best friends telling me that she's getting married on the 16th of December...I still don't know what will happen with that. While I really want to head home, I really want to be there for her wedding as she's a special friend of mine.
    After that, what will become of this blog? Good question. I still don't know what I'm doing after I've taken a short break at home, and searched out the market at home. It has been fun for me to check all of the different "people" who read my blog consistently. Thanks to stats available on the internet, I can tell you all sorts of stats about how many visits, how much time, where you're from exactly; all sorts of fun stuff. And, in a slightly sentimental thought; thanks. Its been fun for me to write and ramble on. Knowing people read this garbage of poor grammar for an english teacher actually makes it feel worthwhile. Why you read it is beyond me; I'm sure that there are much better ones out there. You just got stuck on mine. Maybe your computer froze on my screen; I don't know. But know that all the way over here, I appreciate it. So thanks!
    Take care, and God bless,
    me