Tuesday, October 28, 2008

10. Happy Diwali!!

Happy Diwali Everyone!!!!

Ahh where to start?? I went to Seoul on Saturday, I got on the bus (which cost 19,500won!!) and it took me a total of 5hours and 10mins to get there! I must have missed a change over somewhere.. but it’s great that I had a book with me! I got there and headed straight for Gloria Jeans in this place called Yeoksam - I got off the metro and out at gate #6, and started walking straight (this was what the Gloria people told me in Gangnam). I found a KFC on the way and thought I'd try it.. I had Spicy but its nothing like we have at home.. they have herbs and stuff all through it. Anyhoo then I went into Gloria.. and here's one of those spoilers so stop reading the next sentence if you don’t like spoilers. I'm not going to tell you a thing about it, nope not one.. you have to come and see it for yourself, and I can tell you with 100% certainty that you will be in awe! Next I got to Itaewon to look for slippers (we have to wear slippers at school, shoes aren't allowed inside). I ate 2 Samosa’s and some cha at my regular Indian place and then went off to find some accommodation.. everything was booked except this one hotel called Hotel Itaewon, and they were only giving me a discount because I got there at 11pm and told them I’d leave at 8am.. 80,000won later I’m fast asleep in a beautiful room after having the hottest shower I’ve ever had in my life! Oh and I had a kebab from a Turkish guy who was selling them off the back if his truck.. it was ok. Long story short, I did some more shopping in Itaewon, went to Yeoksam one last time and then went home.. the return trip only took 3hours.

For Diwali I intend on making some Halwa.. just like my momma makes it. I’ve got it all in my head now but the ingredients look as though they’re pre-war era! I’ll give it a go and see how it turns out. Last night they took me out for dinner and told me which teachers were my Naanuu (older sister) and which were my Hyoung (older brothers), we all got a little tipsy (especially the older ones), and I acted to be the same as them for funs sake. It was a lot of fun even though we barely understood each other.. the principle is a really funny man. All of a sudden he went very serious and said something in Korean at one point.. I knew it was a serious topic because when the Principle – a man of so much standing and respect becomes serious in the middle of a light-hearted dinner, then you know that everyone’s eyes are on him, and that it’s important. The teacher next to me turned around and translated in a whisper saying: “He says he envies you… because you’re hairy.” I kid you not; I had to use every power I had in me not to burst out laughing right there and then. I merely nodded my head and poured him another shot of Soju, whilst inside I was on the floor laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes!!!

Now for the future.. tonight we have a ‘reading camp’ where the teachers and students stay in one of the rooms reading English books, playing games, and watching movies all night long. I have no idea how we’re going to teach in the morning but they seem to be quite confident. Then on Thursday (30) and Friday (31) we go to a Korean Folk Museum and Everland for a field trip! And I guess that’s about it.. oh during this week, the leaves off most of the trees have fallen.. it took maybe three days for these trees to end up looking like this from fully yellow to nothingness.. winter is coming!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

9. Rain Rain Rainy Rain Rain..

This morning I woke warm and toasty thanks to my under-floor hot water heating system (I'm sure it has a name, but I have no clue what it is!). It's a great invention, and I don't know why we dont employ it in western countries.. it would be far cheaper than the usual reverse cycle A/C, and have less of an impact on the environment! It's hard to believe that a simple thing like running hot water under your floor can increase the ambient temperature my so many degree's!

Anyway, looking out of the window I noticed that it was raining; it wasn't heavy rain, but just a small drizzle. By the time I had to leave for work though, it had passed. I've made a habit of carrying my camera in my backpack with me everywhere I go, it's just that the scenery changes so dramatically here, it'd be silly not to have it. There have been a few times that I've thought "damn, if only I had my camera". You can find the pictures from this mornings walk at the bottom of this entry, I only wish that I had more time to take proper morning shots before Autumn.. yes AUTUMN.. (I've been reprimanded for calling it "Fall") starts to give way to the wonder of Winter.

So off I went to work, as usual.. and now I'm here. Today I'm assisting the third grade from 10:10-10:50, then the fourth grade from 11:00-11:40. Then I have a break until lunch at 12:30, and after lunch I have another free period. Then at 2:10pm I will be the main teacher in the combined third and fourth grade classes. Finally after that's over I have an after school class from 3:10-4:00pm, after which I will stroll back to my desk and pretend like I'm doing some work.. or what I've taken to doing as of yesterday; I'll find a nice quiet room and read my book until home time at 5:00pm.

Oh and a guy named Mr G teaches from Mon-Wed at the Middle and High Schools in Gurae! So yesterday he emailed me and told me that he's taking the teachers out for beer and fried chicken, and if I'd like to come. I was soooo excited!! I couldn't believe it, another foreigner here.. in lil 'ole Gurae!! So I went over there and he introduced me to a few teachers over there who spoke English! It was great! Mr G (Mark), has worked on cruise ships for the past 14 years and only 7 months ago started his teaching career exactly where I am now. He seems like a top bloke, and the other teachers kept on going on about how great of a Pianist he is.. he's 54 years old and he's been learning since he was eight! So I can't wait to hear him play one day! Oh and on a side note.. the fried chicken rocked!!

Pictures as promised.. The first one (if you can't make it out) is the roof's of these dilapidated houses that people still live in, I wonder how they survive in Winter though!

I'm off to assist with the third grade now.. but don't fret, I'll be back! :-D

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

8.Settling in..

After school on Saturday (it was only half-day), Youngmin's family and I went to a place called Taebaek to do some shopping. I had written down a list of things that I needed still, and they were only very small things like Teatowels and a Bathmat etc. So we went over to E-Mart which is a huge department store with everything in it. I got the essentials, and when we got back to my apartment, we had a cup of tea and Youngmin tried to tune the TV for me (its all in Korean). Apparently the cable isn't connected so they're doing that, with the internet today at 5pm, when I get home. I cooked some fried noodles, and had a bit left over. I thought about keeping it for tomorrow but then thought it'd be better if I gave some to my next door neighbour. She looked really suprised, and I told her in my very bad broken Korean that my name was Shiv. Then yesterday she brought back the dish with a pack of instant noodles in there.

Then Sunday dawned, cold and cloudy. I decided to try and sleep in as I had nothing much planned for the day. I ended up waking just past eight. The night before I had finished chopping the ginger that I bought from E-Mart, and placing them into the ice trays and freezing them (a trick I saw Momma do once), so then I decided to to the Garlic as well. After that was done, and I had finished my lazy Sunday Morning chai, I spend the rest of the day trying to figure out the washing machine and the rice cooker. The rice turned out pretty good, and the thing even talks to me, so i chose the smallest phrase option and hoped that it meant "plain white rice". The washing maching on the other hand was a bit more complicated.. see, it didn't talk to me so I had no idea what pressing the buttons did :D In the end the clothes came out smelling daisy fresh, even though I found out later that I put the washing powder in the wrong place!

Now more about this place. This is where I live approximatly; in the brackets are what I think is the closest translation.. but don't quote me on it.

Gurae-RI (Suburb, even though its more a village)
Sangdong-EUP (Town)
Yeongwol-GUN (City)
Gangwon-DO (Province)
South Korea (Duhh!)

Even though I know exactly where I am, I'm still at a loss to describe this place! I look out of my window and see a multitude of warm colours.. yellows, oranges, all the way through to deep crimson reds all over these great majestic mountains. I've been trying to capture the 'feeling' of this place in photographic form ever since I got here, but it just doesn't seem to be working for me yet.

Ok here goes my first class at my own school..
The little hut type thing is where the whole village fills up their water supply. Its a natural spring tapped into the mountain, and people come from all around to fill up all the PET bottles they can collect there!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

7. Welcome to Gurae!!

I remember saying once that Hongcheon was a small country town, population around 80,000 people, located about 2hours from Seoul. I had no idea what I was talking about! I'm now at this place called Gurae.. On the way here I asked my co-teacher (Youngmin, who came to pick me up from Chuncheon Education Department) how big this place was.. "ohh maybe 100 people". I thought, no, he must be mistaken.. maybe he means 100,000. So I asked him again and wrote the number with my finger on the dashboard.. he said "no, 100 people". So here I am, at a Public School with a whole 32 students!! Its tiny!!!! I'm worried that I'll sooner or later go crazy here.. but the apartment I have is better than any other I've seen.

They've bought me absolutely Everything!! I'm the first foreign teacher here, so I'm being treated as somewhat of a celebrity.. Everything I have in the apartment in brand-spankin' new!! Here are some more pictures of my apartment:









Then there's the views outside my window.. and the walk to work this morning..





















My Co-teacher told me that we're going to Taebek (sp?) at 1:30pm today so that I can get a phone. They have school on every second Saturday only until 1pm though. I'm not usually supposed to be here, but I came in this morning at 9am and got introduced to the whole school. They said that we have a conference every Monday morning, and with no more info than that, I was asked to sit in front of a camera and say a few words to the school. I'm not sure if that's broadcasted to only this school or other schools that I'll be teaching at too..?

So this is my new home for the next year or so. At this time, my schedule says that I work only 19 40-minute periods per week. Three days here and 2 days in a place called Nokgeon, which is a 20min bus away.. I'm really pleased with my apartment, because I have heard and seen a lot of public school teachers who get only a one room deal, called a 'Studio' here. I mean they even got me a computer with the latest Windows Vista and Office on it!!

Ok now since i'm not officially here today, I'm off to explore!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

6. Farewell Hongcheon..

So over the past few days I've been going through the small town of Hongcheon taking in all the sights and trying to capture the feeling/mood of the town on my camera. So far all I've managed to capture is a small glimpse of what this place is like. So this post is will be dedicated to pictures of Hongcheon..

Litte Jon.. he always like to come up to me and pat my tummy (maybe because I did it to him once) I think it was more his personal way of saying Hi!

This is Rose who can be a real brat if she wants to.. otherwise cute cute. You might remember in one of my first posts I mentioned her.. she was the one who pinched my cheek!

This is Chris.. He didn't feel like colouring in so he took over what I was doing.. A word find.. he was looking for the word "Thirteenth". He loves to fight with Rose, and always swears that he's left his books at home.. until I grab his bag and pull them out!

Josapin.. she's forever happy and always willing to learn! One of the few like that I think..

Here's Amy, who is good friends with Josapin.. they love to play up and play their own little games in the corner when they think I'm not looking!

This is Jenny, whose in a higher level than the others so far.. until it comes to chess.. that's where Arlene beats her hands down!

And here they are.. Arlene and Jenny playing Chess..

And here are a few more random pictures I've taken during the last couple of days.. The last one is a dish called Jambong with is Ramiyon Noodles with seafood (octapus and muscles) in a spicy red soup.. Almost everything in Korea is served with Kimchi.. the yellow stuff is Sweet Pickled Japanese Radish.. All for 3,000krw.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

5. WCM Quest - Part II

So I went inside this department store and this is what I saw..

Firstly the building itself..

First thing you see on your left:

and that's when I had to put aside all my wonder at the extravagance of the place and begin finish my Quest.. So I knew it was in basement floor Two.. so down the elevator I went..

B1, nearly there! The fingers started tingling.. the mouth started watering.. the butterflies were doing loopty-loops in my stomach! Then I saw something that took my breath away and made my heart skip a beat all at once..

I couldn't believe what I was looking at!! It was really there! Sure it was small.. sure it was riiiight in the corner of the lowest level of this huge building.. but it was there!!!

Finally... success! The first time they stuffed it up.. they thought I wanted half-strength everything and not just half strength on the coffee shot. I learned that I need to say "Single shot" here instead of "half strength", and when they fixed it up.. I was in heaven! Sure, it wasn't Indro Junction style.. but there it was.. A Large Single Shot White Chocolate Mocha, Extra Hot.. I was going to ask for no froth but by the time I got passed the Single Shot thing I couldn't be bothered to describe any more.. language barrier really sucks! Next time though.. I'll be prepared!

Then I went for a bit of a walk.. feeling good about accomplishing my goal for the weekend..

I got to another building which had a cinema.. Now it's been 2 months since I watched a movie on the big screen and I thought I deserved it.. So off I went. The only English movie that was playing at the time was Babylon AD and Mama Mia.. While I was waiting for the movie to started, I was exploring and found the fire exit stairs, here's the view of Mokdong from there:

After the movie I kept walking and found this 'park' where families were just having fun together.. I decided to get my trusty Memo pad and write what I saw at the time..

"Walking through Mokdong after watching Babylon AD I stumbled across this park. Behind me the sun was setting through a thick wall of pine trees; directly in front was the large, still transparent moon rising to greet the night. Children were absolutely everywhere.. unsupervised and care-free playing everything from Badminton to Basketball. Bikes, skateboards, roller-skates, smiles, uncontained laughter, couples, young and old walking between trees that were continually shedding their warm-coloured leaves. It's hard to fathom that I only need to walk 20 metres behind me and I'd be amidst the hustle and bustle of big city life! So as the golden sunrays begin to disappear I suddenly realise that I can see a lot clearer.. this journey has not been wasteful after all.. "

Total Time: 48 hours.
Total Cost: 52,000krw.