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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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  • somewhat comical....but a little scary... Wednesday, April 25, 2007 |

    So, yesterday, something strange happened that made me realize how different schools here are totally different than schools back home. Aside from the classroom size of 40 students, and other differences, theirs another aspect that makes the schools different; the parents.
    Now, with 40 students in your classroom, its sometimes hard to keep track of all of them - occasionally, students who misbehave in class-time will be disciplined by the head disciplinarian, and will be late to the start of class. Other reasons will keep students late, so its not uncommon for students to walk into class late, or for their to be an empty seat. However, yesterday, two students - a first grade male student, and a second grade female student were skipping class, and, here's the shocking part, hugging, outside of the school grounds, at a bus stop near the school. The problem came when an observant mother noticed the two students hugging while driving by the school, and, realizing that those two students were supposed to be inside the school during class time, immediately called the school, and scheduled a meeting with the principal and vice-principal. This one mother, who had no relation to the two students, made such a fuss over this one instance, that a school-wide meeting for all of the teachers was called on Tuesday afternoon about keeping the teachers accountable, and making sure that all students are always accounted for, and never missing...Responsibility is not something taken lightly here.
    Compared to my student-teaching placement in Chicago from a little while ago, where missing students were considered something of a blessing, here, the more students you have, the better...? Intriguing concept...

    another handy tool... Sunday, April 22, 2007 |

    For those of you in foreign lands, communication can sometimes be a little frustrating. While cell phones have made things usually easier, they can also sometimes be a bit of a pest; you're always reachable, to a degree.
    One of the handy ways that most foreigners communicate is by text messages. They're cheaper than calling someone (especially for those on pay-as-you-go plans) and they don't involve speaking. The only thing is that you have to typically press those tiny buttons on your cell phone. Well, not anymore.
    Callwave.com offers a handy little program, with three choices of how to use it, to send free text messages worldwide - and here's the best part - for FREE. all you need to do is sign up for a simple account, again, for free, and go ahead. you can send text messages anywhere in the world, as long as you properly input the phone numbers, with country code. I've been using it for weeks, and its a handy way to send messages to friends, reminders, pretty much anything you can think of. It's a handy tool, and friends of mine send me messages all the time. There's three choices of the program; for those of you with a Mac, the widget is by far the most convenient. However, for you PC users, the Google homepage application works quite simple on your Google homepage. Otherwise, theirs a Vista widget, and for you Yahoo widget users, theirs one for you too. Enjoy the perks of free programs. They come in handy every so often...
    take care, and don't work too hard
    God bless,

    the unfortunate incident at Virginia Tech.... Thursday, April 19, 2007 |

    I think that what's happened at Virginia Tech is indeed something that should have never happened. I feel truly sorry for the families of those who lost children, family members, brothers, sisters, et al. All of them will be in my prayers.
    I think what has been interesting, living in the country where the shooter was born, has been the reaction from both sides. On one hand, you have the great American broadcast stations, now neglecting to mention the fact that Cho was an American citizen, living in Virginia since 1992, nearly fifteen years. He is now referred to as a South Korean; an attempt I'm sure to deny any possibility that he was at any point a resident-alien citizen of the United States. On the other hand, you have the South Korean perspective, where, this story was not even considered news-worthy in Korean broadcasts until it was discovered that he was born in South Korea. Even then, the story has still failed to catch on. Even the major source for international news, Yonhap, has never had the headline higher than second on its broadcasts (the city of Inchon winning the 2014 Asian games received higher reports than the actions at Virginia Tech). For this, I feel especially bad for the suriving family; each of their countries - both adopted, and home country, seem to be denying their existence, which I find truly unfortunate.
    Now, I want people to know that I truly disagree with the students actions; I think they were hateful and shocking, and nobody deserves to die that way. I hope that this incident however brings some light to the situation that many immigrants face when they move to America.
    I think that what many people fail to comprehend is how much foreigners want to come to the United States. For my students right now, ask them where they want to go to school, or University, and the first place they will say is "America", without missing a beat. Their parents too; its any parents ultimate goal to have their child attend an American school - its a sure-fire job when they come back after graduation. The problem however lies in the idolized view of how things will be when they move to America, because the America that they see on television shows, movies, and hear about, is far different from the real America: the America that can be lonely, isolating, and not always welcome to foreigners. As to whose fault the idolized version of America it is that that they see, I'm sure teachers and the media are both to be blamed. Imagine what it would be like to be a Korean-American living in the US right now....
    I'm not trying to say that we need to be friends with all foreigners; there are many instances where immigrants can acclimate very well to Western society. However, I think that we need to remember that sometimes, for immigrants living in America, it can be really hard. I know not only because of what just happened in the news, but also because I've taught many students who have gone to America, and come back much sooner than they had hoped to, primarily because of struggles. And I think that as the world continues to become more international through globalization, I think that this is an issue that we will need to pay close attention to, to prevent incidents like this from ever happening again.
    God bless,

    Tadah! post number 100 Friday, April 13, 2007 |

    Well, congrats. For those of you who've been actually reading this thing, you've reached the milestone of 100 pages of time well wasted.
    For those of you looking here for cultural differences, I have two reasons why the number 100 is quite important to Koreans.
    The number 100 is actually written as 백 pronounced "Bek"
    At the beginning of Korea's rise to dominance, a definite lack of health care was a continuing struggle. If you were lucky enough to have a child, great. However, many children died not long after birth, for a number of reasons. If your child lived for 100 days, then it was considered a blessing, and so a large party was thrown to celebrate that milestone. Today, these parties are still held - compare it to a baby shower; only in Korea, its held after the baby's born.
    The other significant number involves dating couples; when a couple has been dating for 100 days, its expected of the male to make a special note of the occasion. However, nowadays, this is becoming a less and less important occasion as Korean dating styles become more similar to Western styles - of many relationships before you finally settle on that "perfect" someone...
    Onto less accomplished news....
    Last week, a few friends of mine and I went on a trip to a southern province to see some cherry blossom's in bloom, and to climb up a rather strange looking mountain.....any guesses which animal this rock looks like?

    Now, my Korean friends told me that it was the tail of the Elephant that your looking at (from this angle) - I didn't like that- I didn't appreciate staring for a while at an elephant's ass....I like it better my way. The weather was beautiful spring weather for Korea, and my favourite season of the year was making me feel all fresh and clean. I love this time of year. Too bad that in less than a week, all of the cherry blossoms will fall off, and make fresh "snow" on the ground - too bad. As for right now, I'm enjoying the sweet smell of blossoms each time I walk past the trees....
    take care all, and God bless,

    playing catchup... Saturday, April 07, 2007 |

    So the past weeks have been a little busy, from doing all those things you take for granted when you move into a place that has nothing, to just catching up with old friends, to just plain trying to catch up on things so simple as sleep.
    Last weekend, I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in (K/G)wangju, which is located on the south-western end of Korea, opposite of (B/P)usan. I was invited by a now-good friend of mine who organized the whole trip; I just had to show up:) It was such a wonderful trip; one of my most memorable trips since I've been in Korea. Not only did I get to stay with a Korean family in their apartment, but I also got to be taken around with them, all over Gwangju and Boseong. They had the most adorable daughter, who, once warming to me, proudly went around telling everyone she knew "Have you seen the Canadian person? He's my best friend". There's nothing more cute than having a child lead you around, introducing you, in Korean, and bragging about you. I had such a wonderful time, and I was lucky to experience things with them, talk with them, and share in the experience. They were so gracious in taking me on a trip to see the cherry blossoms in bloom, and also to visit Boseong's famous Green tea farms.

    It was good to get away from the congestion that is Seoul, and visit a part of Korea where things can be appreciated more, as opposed to always being in a rush. The members of my friends church were so polite and welcoming to me that I somewhat wished that I hadn't always decided on Seoul, and instead chosen a smaller city like Gwangju instead (pop.1.4 million). A definate blessing from God to be able to experience this part of Seoul!
    Now, onto other things -
    One of the nice changes that I've been able to experience now that I'm teaching at a public middle school has been an increase in the respect I've been shown as a teacher.
    At my old institute, I was shown the utmost respect that was allotted for an institute teacher. For the most part, parents don't exactly put institute teachers on a pedestal. You don't need to major in English or have an education degree to teach at an institute, and it shows with a lot of the people who teach in each institute. The parents downplay the importance of specific teachers/institutes (they typically change English institutes if they feel they aren't being treated "right"). My kids knew me on a first-name basis, and if they noticed me out in public, they called my name, and treated me like their best friend. While this was nice, and showed they were comfortable around me, it was also disheartening, mainly because I've worked hard for my degree in education, and, well, everyone would like to be respected for what they do.
    At my middle school however, while the students may talk behind my back, whenever they meet me, they show respect just like they do to the other teachers, which feels somewhat vindicating (I don't know why) The other day, after exercising at the local YMCA, I decided to gain back what I'd shed in the gym, and pick up a pizza at a local stall. Three students happened to find me waiting for my pizza, and, after being shocked that I was actually understanding the pizza-mans Korean, they couldn't stop bowing to me as they were saying goodbye as they were walking away (its expected of the students that, if they make eye contact with you, as a teacher, to politely bow their head to you - this never happens in most institutes as far as I know). It's kinda cool, and so far, its not getting old^^
    Lastly, I just finished my day of travelling on Korean organized tour to visit two places in the southern provinces of Seoul. I'll post pictures of the trip earlier in the week. Until then,
    God bless,