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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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  • For all those Teachers out there.... Wednesday, December 26, 2007 |

    For all of you who read this blog and are teachers, I have a belated Christmas gift for you, especially those of you lucky enough to have computers and projectors in your classroom.
    For those of you who have ever used Jeopardy in your classroom, you know how it can be a great group exercise (read:time killer). However, without someone doing the prep-work, Jeopardy can be a bit of a hassle to set-up. Sure, its easy to write stuff on the board - I digress. I'll stop explaining, and just show you.
    This board is entirely modifiable, and it even has the back/forward/menu buttons included, and you can just about add any slide you wish - from "What are they doing" to "Change the grammar" type questions.
    Now, I cannot just upload this powerpoint slide as a file with blogger - I don't have the patience to figure that out. However, if you would like a copy of the full powerpoint, you have two options. You can either post a comment, and I will send you the file via e-mail. Or, if you want, you can head over to ESL-Resources and find all sorts of cool time killers that are quite useful. From mazes that will beat any from Discovery Zone to Tongue Twisters, they have lots of helpful stuff.
    Enjoy. More real news to come sometime in the not-to-distant future.
    God bless all, and enjoy the family time. If you have family/friends living in foreign lands, try to remember them. The Holiday season is really hard for those teaching overseas/working in the military.
    till later,
    me

    it's not the "R" word, but..... Friday, December 14, 2007 |

    So, today, I went about trying to find a reservation for my holidays that are in January and February. Its an unusual time for holidays, and its right near the end of the school year holidays, so its a tough time to get tickets.
    So today, I had the afternoon off because the kids had just finished their middle school end-of-year tests, and all teachers get one afternoon off during testing times (the students finish their tests at 12noon, so its not like I'm missing time at work.
    So I headed to the local travel agent near my house. Now, normally I shy away from travel agents.....they're a circus-carney-folk type of people who are shy to tell you the seat prices, charge you a nice fee to do something most people can't manage to do at home in Korea (search multiple travel companies for tickets in an instant). However, they can search faster for tickets than I can from home, so I thought I would give them a chance again.
    The local office near my apartment was closed, so I went by subway to the next office, located only two subway stops away from my apartment. When I walked into the office, I asked her if she spoke Korean, and she said "A little", and so the process began. I am looking for tickets during peak season, which means that searches take longer, and with the minor language barrier, a wee bit slow going, but nothing that I'm not used to. It was going fine until another "customer" came in behind me, and sat down behind me to wait for the next available service agent to help them. Then something happened which could only be mildly described as racism...the "R" word. (now, I profess to have never experienced anything like TRUE racism. Being "white" and from Canada, I hope to never have to experience something like Racism. I'm merely saying that this was something similar to racism) The service agent helping me was a female, and the other agent was a male. The male leans over, interrupts me in mid-sentence, and tells me that he doesn't sell tickets to English speakers. At first, I thought he was joking, so I asked him for clarification: "I can check the ticket prices, but you won't serve me?" He says, in perfect English, "Yes. You see, the language barrier is too difficult". So I ask him why he refuses to sell to foreigners, and, as if I'm some sort of idiot, he repeats in English exactly what he said to me earlier; the language barrier is too difficult.
    At first, I didn't fully understand what was happening. I immediately sat up, took my bag, and walked out without saying anything. I was in shock; this was the first time I'd ever been denied service in Korea, ever. And then, it all became clear to me. Their was a Korean waiting behind me sitting on a chair, and the Korean "owner" as he called himself, wanted to talk to the Korean instead of making a sale with me, and he was willing to do anything to get me out of his store, so he could possibly make a sale to the foreigner.
    The more that I thought about it, the more I was disgusted by how I'd just been treated. Here, for almost three years, I've been treated with the utmost respect, sometimes much more than I'd deserved. And here, for the first time since I had been in Korea, I was treated as if I was a second-class citizen; not worth his time or money. The shameful thing is that had I thrown a fit in his office, yelled, cussed, and screamed, he would have used that as justification for why he refuses to, "as per his company policy" to NOT sell to English speaking people.
    It happens in Korea, and I feel blessed that this is the first time it's happened to me in Korea. That doesn't change how I feel - I feel like I'm just a second class person, here, but not useful.....
    It happens, and I am sure that when I tell my Korean friends, they will be disgusted as well, however, there's not much you do about it, so you try to not take it personally, and move on.....Now I have a small inkling what its like to be treated like you're second class.....and I've got to tell you, it sucks.
    Have a great weekend all, and God bless

    embarrassing oneself is always easier.... Saturday, December 08, 2007 |

    Many of you who have traveled anywhere in this amazing world can relate to this story.
    So last week, we received some nice snow-sprinkles everywhere on the ground. In Korea, snow is always nice, because it makes the otherwise dirty city appear more clean-ish, so to speak. Anyways, I digress.
    Some of you have probably read or heard about Korean saunas. If you haven't, here is a short introduction. In Korea, many apartments, or older styled houses have very small bathrooms, where your "shower" consists of a shower-head sticking out of the wall. The whole room is tiled, and there's no heating in the bathroom; never. So many people just come to the Sauna everyday to take their shower/cleaning. The sauna's here vary in size and quality, but your basic sauna will consist of showers, hot and cool whirlpools, lockers, benches, and usually what we back in North America would refer to the actual "sauna", the steam room. These sauna's will be full of fully naked men and children walking around with nothing on. As strange as it might sound to some of you, its very simplistic, and once you get past the paranoia that "everyone" is starting at you (they generally aren't) then you can get down to relaxing and enjoying the joys of a full-service shower/sauna/locker room, free of the opposite sex.
    Now, I've been here in Korea for over two and a half years, and I've seen my share of sauna accidents, from old men slipping on the floor, to children running on the stone floors, and slipping all over the place (with the old men telling them "I told you something would happen!!" Well, this past Thursday, instead of being the witness, I was the guilty party. Because of their being showers, people coming in from the pool, and frequent traffic, water's everywhere (you would think this would be obvious, but sometimes you forget about it...trust me.) So before I was scheduled to play squash, I thought I'd take a quick dip in the hot pool to ease some aching muscles...only I never got past the second step. Not only did I fall down both stone steps, but I also proceeded to throw a water bucket across the sauna floor in the process of flailing my arms to regain my balance...
    Now, one good thing about falling in the sauna, nobody rushes to help you....you're naked - nobody is going to touch you. Secondly, if you're hurt, you just hop in the hot water, and everything feels better. However, the best part? Being a foreigner, I could care less about the whole incident, because as much as they talked, gasped, winced, pointed, and looked the other way when I glanced at them - truthfully I could care less about what they think, because I have NO CLUE what they're saying about me......
    Something about not feeling embarrassed in a foreign country when you don't know what they're talking about.
    The only thing that hurt, besides the bruise on my tail bone the size of New York? My own personal pride :)
    Have a great weekend all, and don't forget to check your steps when you're walking^^
    God bless

    Christmas, and the season of wanting... Wednesday, December 05, 2007 |

    So, as this Christmas season has come around quite quickly, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what God's will is for my life. Many of you who actually read this will notice that I usually end my posts with God Bless-a belief more than just a simple way to end my posts. This past year, I've really grown a lot spiritually, and its one of the reasons that I am looking at extending my time here in Korea.
    The Christmas season is always a time when we think of how we can give to each other, but, in reality, it usually puts us in a mood of wanting "more" for the upcoming year. This comes out in many different ways: wanting more money (for the increasing cost of living, no doubt^^) wanting more time off, nicer weather, more time spent with those we love and less time with those we dont, etc.
    This past week start to my week was a pretty big struggle. I had been looking at applying to a Christian University, and after a slight error on my judgment, I included something I shouldn't have in my application. I haven't heard back from the hiring committee, however, I'm pretty sure I won't be hearing anything. This immediately exacerbated every other small minor problem into something much bigger, and dragging me further into one of those moments of frustration that can only be described as "crap". This year, I've been learning to trust God more, and take what happens as part of God's plan for me, and trusting what happens is because there is something greater in store.
    It really forced me to realize a few things, and thinking back on those two days, I've come to realize that things aren't really so bad. I started remembering all of those blessings that one takes for granted any other time when they aren't thinking about how frustrating their life is. I've really had to remind myself how much God has blessed me leading me this far, through as much as I've experienced so far since I've returned to Korea. And I realized just a few blessings ^.~.
    One, I've got an amazing family who continues to love me, in spite of the fact that I am living on the opposite side of the world, searching out God here instead of closer to home. Nothing matters more to me than this.
    I've got an amazing family of friends here, who love me so much more than I can ever realize. In addition, I have one amazing friend in particular who encourages me not only spiritually, but also in so many other ways that I've lost track.
    In spite of my job frustrations, I have a job, at least until March. If the need be that God wants me somewhere else, I KNOW I'll be where He wants me to be.
    I've got an amazing church that loves me as much as I love it. By the way, if anyone out there is in Korea, and near the South of Seoul, and you are interested in going to church, or have any questions, please let me know.

    LifeChurch Korea website
    I attend at LifeChurch Korea, an amazing church located in Suwon. If you would like any information, directions to the church, or just a contact- post a comment to this blog, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
    So what I am trying to say is, in this Christmas season, even though we see so many commercials and requests for money, try to remember just how blessed we really are. If you're like me, it won't take you long to think of even a few things that remind you of what you have to be grateful for.
    Have a great week all, and God bless


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    Things you didn't know were Korean... Monday, December 03, 2007 |

    So, just the other night, I was able to spend a night at the family of one of my Korean middle school students. It was nice to spend time with a family for a change - spending time with friends is great, but you miss a lot when you do everything in pairs, and not as a "family" so to speak.
    But during the discussion that we had after the meal, where the father talked about how proud he is of Korea, and he just started listing off all of the things Korea is known for, IN KOREA. So it got me thinking of all of the things in North America that are Korean, the thing being that people just don't KNOW that they're Korean. So, without further ado, here's just a short list of things that are Korean, only you might not have known. (feel free to comment and add other things to the list)
    Samsung - In Hangul,
    삼성. Revenue (electronics) 79.18 Billion USD
    Yup, its Korean. Many of you know that they make some of the coolest cell phones on the market. But did you know that they also make cars, apartment buildings, own drafting/construction companies, design subways, and a host of other things? No wonder then that the latest scandal in Korea over their current potential slush-fund issues has Newsweek citing that the current scandal at "The Republic of Samsung" could "reshape Korea" At Samsung, they could say "Yup, we make that" to just about any product question or request.

    LG - Revenue:61 Billion USD
    Yup - also Korean. Known primarily for their technology, LG also manufactures a host of home appliances, and other amazing things operating as the parent company of a dearth of different names. LG operates the second largest conglomerate of businesses in Korea, smaller only to the Hyundai Group. The third largest is Samsung.

    Hyundai - in Hangul,
    현대 Revenue: (motors) 51.3 Billion USD
    Seeing a pattern here? I've commented on this before in my post about the slogans in Korea, but it deserves mentioning again. If 1 million people buy a car, the same car, then its a safe bet that they're doing something right. When that holds true, 10 Million Koreans can't be wrong, can they? Maybe their's something to them. Hyundai however manufactures more than just cars. Similar to Samsung, only on much larger scale, Hyundai seems to have their hands in nearly everything, if you look hard enough.

    Kia - In Hangul,
    기아 (a subsidiary of Hyundai, but still big)
    What you see as a cheap student car option is also the second most popular car brand in Korea. If people don't own a Hyundai, then the other car of choice is a Kia. Most known for their cheaper but close models of the Hyundai name, Kia's are known for their cheap repairs, and near indestructability; knowing the way Koreans drive, its a good thing. If your car doesn't have a scratch, then it means you just drove it off the lot.

    Hynix - In Hangul, 하이닉스 Revenue: 6.48 Billion USD
    Who? you might ask, is Hynix. Well, formerly Hyundai Electronics, were you to open up your computer, pull out the RAM stick, and read the label, I would argue that a lot of you have Hynix RAM in your computers. Hynix is one of the largest makers of RAM in the world; take your pick, if it's memory, they make it. And its cheap too.

    Daewoo -
    In Hanguel, 대우.

    Daewoo, that's who! Remember that ad campaign not too long ago in the US and Canada? Count this experiment one in a long line of failures by GM to implement for success. Daewoo manufactures a large number heavy industries in Korea, and they also manufacture cars, very cheaply. Known for looking really classy on the outside, but running like its on its last legs under the hood, Daewoo's didn't survive in North America for long. However, they're manufactured a lot better here in Korea. They're the Kia's of North America. If you need a cheap "student" car, you buy a Daewoo. Daewoo's similar to Samsung and Hyundai in that its a massive family conglomerate of industries, more known for their cars than anything else.

    Posco - Revenue: 27.18 Billion USD
    Who? Only the worlds third largest producer of steel in the world. That's pretty much all they do, for the most part. However, when you make as much steel as they do, it keeps you pretty busy.

    SK Group -Revenue: 75.8 Billion USD
    Known primarily in Korea for their telecommunications, SK also operates a large number of oilfields all over the world. Not having any oil in Korea, Korean corporations are not only forced to bring in their oil by tankers, but to finance oil explorations in countries in order to bring their oil here, refined or not. SK also operates the highest quality cell phone network in Korea, and they are the third largest conglomerate in all of Korea.

    These are just some of the larger companies in Korea that you might have heard of. If there are any others that you can think of that I have clearly missed, feel free to let me know - I am sure there are many more. If you are interested in finding out more info about Korean companies, here is the FORBES website which lists the Korean companies in lieu of the 2000 largest companies in the world, circa 2006. enjoy

    So you want to be a President? Sunday, December 02, 2007 |

    Welcome back to the blog that formerly wrote frequently, and recently has come up with creative excuses. Now that I've run out of them, I'm back to writing about things more often. Thanks for tuning in. Now, onto today's news.
    So recently in the news outside of Korea, the talk has been about the presidential elections in the United States that happen NEXT YEAR. I, for one, am happy to be living outside of the US, where I would rapidly get quick sick just from all of the debates,
    primaries talk, stumps, et all. Here in Korea, the next president will be elected on December 19. Now, just this past week, was the day when all of the presidential candidates had to announce they were running for the Presidency of Korea. 12, count 'em, 12 people are running for the office of the Presidency of Korea.
    The government pays for all of these wonderful banners of all of the different candidates, and what number candidate they are - I guess they are hoping that by everyone seeing all of these banners all over Korea, they won't be able to forget what number they want to win.
    12. The fact that so many people want to run for this country baffles me. Here in Korea, the presidency is a five year term. The problem's I see are those that the present President is facing now; people are tired of him. Current President
    Roh Moo-Hyun was elected five years ago, and he was elected primarily on the support of the middle-aged crowd. For a few years, his approval ratings were quite high, and overall, he had support across Korea. Now, in the past few years, he has lost the support of his own party, has contemplated stepping down early, and has changed political parties in order to continue trying to move things through the Korean government.
    Now, the problem that I can see with having 12 presidential hopefuls is that, when all of the ballots are casted - if the winner does not manage to have a majority of the population backing him, he's guaranteed to have a rough go at things, because
    everyone's going to be saying "I didn't vote for you, so therefore I hate you!" Or something possibly a little more mild-mannered.
    The ironic thing going through this whole election is that the front-runner is currently in the midst of a huge cross-country scandal that spans even into the United States. Presidential candidate Lee
    Myung-bak is currently being investigated for being in charge of a wide-spread financial fraud investigation spanning the US, Korea, and abroad. Lee Myung-bak's camp is denying the charges, and the investigation looking into the allegations has been given a deadline in order to come up with something in a few days time, or cancel the whole claim, at fear that the people could end up electing presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak, and then finding out after the election that he's been the mastermind behind the financial fraud case.
    It's actually interesting reading, if you're into politics. The link can be found at both Chosun News Online and at JoongAng Daily two major online news sources for English news in Korea.
    Lastly, the positive thing about having such a short candidacy period is that we don't have to hear all of this every-single-day.

    And with 12 different candidates, that's twelve times the trucks, music, fun, dancing....
    Have a great day, and God bless,