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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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  • A whole new year....

    So, belated happy new year to all of those who are still reading:) Apologies for the long break between posts - I actually was scared to check to see when the last time I had actually updated. So allow me the joy of posting a little longer post than normal.
    First, Christmas in Seoul.
    Korea is predominantly two major religions: Christian and Buddhist. The Christians love Christmas, for it is a very large holiday, and its a time of blessings, love, and for the kids, presents. The Buddhist's love it because they get the day off, and because Korea is such a "service" type of country, most of the restaurants stayed open.
    Last year, in Seoul, Korea finally converted their wide-open city-hall space into a massive ice-skating rink, to massive popular approval. Koreans are known world-wide for their speed-skating (who would think that a country so inept at skating could produce Olympians in speed-skating. It'd be like Canadians winning, I don't know, a host of surfing medals, only, in consecutive Olympics....if you lived here, you'd understand the head-scratching of this....Anyways, I digress. Here's a picture of what their whole ice-skating rink looks like.
    Its actually quite a beautiful rink. That "castle like" structure goes all the way around, and it lights up the whole neighbourhood. The best part of this whole scheme is that renting skates is 1000 Won, or effectively 1 dollar. You usually get to skate for just over an hour and a half, and then they kick everyone off, clean the ice, and by the time the kids get their skates off, they run around to the doors beside the Zamboni platform, and play around in the huge pile of snow the Zamboni dropped out of its front. To these kids, they stare at the truck as if its a snow-making machine...a Zamboni? In Korean, its written as 참보니 - with no "Z" in Korean, its pronounced "cham-bo-ni". So that's the story of Christmas in Korea. They open the ice-rink around late November, and it stays open till mid-January. And then in typical Korean fashion, the whole thing will be dismantled in less than 24 hours, and it will look like the whole thing was never there.
    New Years Eve. New Years Eve in Korea is quite a spectacle. For once in the country, fireworks are allowed to be lit, but only in the street. Korea, which has mandatory military service or police service (you basically do Riot Police duty) were there in huge numbers....almost one riot police officer for each Korean or foreigner there. My friends and I went to the main area, without knowing what or where we were going; we basically followed the "follow the crowd" principle. The main area for New Year Eve, where there's a big bell, which gets rung quite a few times to ring in the near year. I have no idea how many times, because there were more than 100,000 people all trying to get within viewing range of a massive bell that was completely cordoned off by riot police four deep, upwards of seven, depending on how close to the celebrities they were. Basically, the only "legal" firecracker you could use were "roman candles" which actually made the air nice and smoky, which worked well for taking time-delayed shots, or slow-motion photography, showing the streaks of the roman candle firecrackers. Here's the best shot I could manage during what henceforth shall be known as the "Human Stampede of 2008".

    I have never been so tightly packed into one place. For the most part, you had no control over where the crowd was moving; you just all moved as "one". At one point, it was so crowded, and the people were pushing so hard that I could not put my foot down - there was no room for my foot. It truly is a miracle that no one was stampeded to death; and this was before the Korean Pop sensations "Super Junior" took the stage.....Curious who they are? check out the video below....

    When that started, it was mayhem. They sang only one song, but the push towards the front of the stage was the tightest space I've ever been in my life. Good times. Not the song so much, but just being in that area. Strangely enough, when doing the countdown, in most places I've been, they countdown the number that is showing on the big digital screen, and everyone counts along - not so in Korea. They were always one number ahead, so when the 10 flashed on the screen, everyone screamed "9" in Korean...and when they got to "1" the whole place went bananas for Koreans...they screamed, made some noise, and then quickly forgot what they were supposed to do, and started pushing around to get their way out of the crowd. Definately something i'll remember for a long time.
    So that's my recap of Christmas and New Years Eve in Korea. I promise to report on two comical incidents sometime soon, and I will also do a more concerted effort to write more frequently. Enjoy the nice winter weather.
    God bless,

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