Wednesday, February 25, 2009

6. Osaek Green Yard Hotel

Silent night, with just a gentle breeze. Feels a lot warmer..

We ran out of glasses, so I had to improvise with a PET bottle. Oh and Steve, and his trusty axe!

We went to Mt Sorak during orientation. That Cable Car holds about 20-25 people.

Steve was very confident on the slippery snow, so he skipped ahead to ambush us with snowballs!

We picked that fish at the Fish Market, along with another just like it. And we ate it with Soju and spicy sauce.. again the need to cook things just causes more dishes.

On the bus to Fish Market.. If it was before 4pm, Steve and I wouldn't remember you.

She started it.

On the way home we caught the train from Gangneung to Yeongwol. Thats a singing room, massage chair, internet access, arcade games, and a cafe (with beer included).. on one of the train carriages.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

5. High 1 Resort..

Clear, starry night with wind chill!
I just came back from a seminar for the Yeongwol English teachers and their co-teachers. The seminar was held over two days and one night at a Ski Resort called High1, in Gangwon Land. I arrived with Linda (my co-teacher, at least for another week), and the others from Yeongwol came on a chartered bus about ten minutes later. First thing was to get all our gear into the conference room and hear a welcome speech and the first lecture. They had asked a teacher (Chris; been teaching here for the past 10 years) from Sokcho to come in with another very good Korean English speaker, and they demonstrated the perfect Team Teaching class to us. At 12:30 it was time for lunch, of course it was provided though me and a couple others were treated to another restaurant because we were vegetarian. After that there was free time until 530pm, at which time we would head over to the casino for dinner. Brett, Kurt and I weren't really in the mood for skiing (and they didn't have my size boots), so we snuck out and went for a beer. As soon as we had cracked open a couple of tallies, we - within the space of 6 seconds - were each called by our respective co-teachers. They were going up to the top of the mountain via the gondola and said that we had to come. We weasled out of it and sat back with our beers (although it took a lot of persuasion!).

We met at the bus stop and were taken by bus down the hill to the casino where, at the Grand Banquet Room, we were treated to some of the finest food I've had in Korea. Everything was served on a silver platter, in buffet form. Entrée's, mains, soups, stews, a whole table full of deserts! Everything! Waiters in their fine white suits serving wine to each table and the down-lights providing a warm yet sophisticated feel to the evening. They had booked the entire hall for us, and while we took everything in, we had to be mindful of the Korean dining and drinking customs (refer to previous entry regarding drinking). As could be guessed, by the end of three hours we were all gloriously pissed. Then came the shocker.. we were to go back to our apartments with a topic and discuss it.. our discussion would be presented to the lecture in the morning. It so happened that Kurt, Brett, Mason, and I were in the same discussion group with a couple of Korean guys.. I bet you could guess what happened next.

We ended up hosting a huge party in our apartment where Kurt and I would go to each room and invite over the others to our little gathering. We recruited about 30 people, and I even persuaded the Heads of Yeongwol Education Office to join us at around 11pm (admittedly, it didn't take all that much persuasion). We ended up staying up till around 2am, then heading to sleep. After everyone was asleep bar Steve and I, we decided that we needed to make some memories.. so I grabbed an unopened bottle of Soju from the freezer and poured it all over Mason.. then turned around and went to sleep. Needless to say, Mason didn't wake up.

The next morning, Brett and Kurt made up some crap on the spot about what we had discussed the night before (meanwhile Mason was silently freaking out about having wet his bed).. I think Supervisor Che (who set up everything), forgave our dismal effort since we had hosted such a big bash the night before. After that came a couple more lectures and then at 230pm we headed home. I came to Yeongwol to have dinner with the boys and then will go home at around 10pm.. at the moment I'm sitting at a PC Cafe in Yeongwol, killing time.

I have been granted the morning off tomorrow so that I can sleep in / pack for my trip to Yangyang for the EPIK teachers orientation which I missed out on. That will begin on Friday and go through to Monday at another Resort on the coast. It has been a busy time, I'm sure I'll be grateful when the semester begins.

Monday, February 16, 2009

4. Obstacles..

Bright sunny day, feels like -12^C with wind chill.

After a few fine days of beautiful weather hovering around the 7-14 degree mark, yesterday the temperature plummeted back down under the zero. At the moment the wind blowing in my little valley makes it so much worse.. and I’ve been told that there’s more to come! We may not see snow again, but now is the time the wind picks up to freeze all extremities.

On Saturday night I went down to Yeongwol to meet up with a few of the lads and have a quiet drink. They said they weren’t up for too much since they had a huge night on Friday night (Alex’s birthday, which I couldn’t attend – due to bus mix up), so we had few drinks and ended up staying out till about 2 in the morning. Mason, a 22 year old from somewhere in the southern part of America, decided that he’d trust Stevo with his hair.. so inevitably he now has a style that would make Mr T. very angry! The next morning I woke before everyone else, as is my curse.. I cant sleep after I’ve had a big night.. so I woke at 730am with an intention to get the 10:10 bus back home and have a proper sleep. First though I decided I needed a burger – bring in obstacle (preventing me to get home) number one: Lotteria opens at 10am. So I was waiting for it to open with my bottled water and the groundskeeper at my second school (Nokjeon) saw me and decided to take me to coffee. So off we went.. and it all passed in a nice little daze. Before I knew it I was enjoying my burger.

The next bus was at 12:40, so I decided to go into a PC Room for a little while to listen to music and lay back on one of those comfy chairs. By this time it was noon and I was making my way to the bus terminal: introduce obstacle number two: Brett. Brett called and said he was coming into town and that we should have a coffee. At first I declined; wanting nothing more than to go home and sleep, but then I called him back and accepted (we only live once, right?). See, Brett couldn’t make it to the bar the previous night as he had some bird to celebrate Valentines with. So off we went to a number of coffee places until we found one that was warm and had comfy couches. By this time (around 1:30), we had woke Stevo and Mason and told them to meet us for a coffee.

As we sat there sipping on coffee and milkshake and generally feeling like crap, Brett (in a very small voice) piped up: “I kinda feel like a beer”. Barrel in obstacle number three: a thirsty Aussie. We all had heard the rumor that more alcohol cures a hangover, so we decided to put it to the test. We called Kurt over as well, since the beer was out.

Now I’ll have to cut this long story short, a quick and simple summary of how these first three obstacles led to so many more after that. Poker cards were dealt, we ended up having four 3L pitchers of beer and staying there till 5pm. We hadn’t eaten much of anything all day, so off to Hoorarah for some chicken, but it was closed so off we went to Isaac’s Toastery and had a sanga.. then to another bar where the Soju began. We finally got to our ‘local’ – or one of – and had our chicken. I stayed until 10pm since my bus was at 1015, and left them after that. I got a call at nine this morning asking where I am, and to be at school by ten. So the moral of this story is that curing a hangover with beer works, but you just have to know when to stop again.. an actually do it!

PS: Momma, don’t worry.. I really don’t drink all that much.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

3. Farewells & Goodbyes..

Slightly overcast at times, but sunny.

I just got back from the grade six graduation ceremony, and have another hour and half to kill before lunch. It went for just over an hour and included presentation of graduation certificates, along with numerous other certificates given by a range of important people. The Yeongwol Education Department was represented of course, but there were others from the air force, the banking sector, some teachers from the middle schools etc. Students were given awards for different accomplishments, but also given presents and gifts for the best of them; depending how well they did determined the quality/size of the present.

There were a few more speeches from a selection of important people and then the students themselves had to give a speech. After all nine of them gave their spiel; it was time to sing. The whole school was there, the sixth graders were at the front; they turned and faced the rest of the school who then proceeded to sing a song. The song was a farewell and thank-you to the seniors, singing that they will soon follow in their footsteps and, much like the stream finally meets the sea, one day they hope to meet each other again in the vast ocean of this world. Then the seniors would sing back to them, wishes of good luck and studying hard. Half way through this part though, the most boisterous of the lot (mainly the girls who loved to sing), who had been singing loudly and proudly would start to lose their voices, they would continue singing though with tears rolling freely down their cheeks. And then it was all over.

Monday, February 9, 2009

2. In a nutshell..

Bright sunshining day.

Pav and Shelly left yesterday; I went to drop them off to the airport and got back around 6pm. It was a good change to have them around; I think I’ve learnt a lot more about myself just by having them back. We had some good times and not so good times, but all in all I think their trip here was heaps of fun all round! Here's a brief rundown for those not on facebook.. over the past three weeks, (during the more blurry/fuzzy times), this is how the Shiv-Steve war begun..

So the story goes..
~ Shelly threw a pillow at Stevo.
~ Stevo thought it was me.
~ Stevo got mad and decided his revenge would be to bite me.
~ Stevo drew blood in 8 different places on my hands.
~ I thought it'd be funny if I gave Stevo a smily (heat up the metal part of a lighter and burn the bugger).
~ Turned out worse than I thought it would.
~ Stevo decides his revenge would be to give me 2 of them in return.
~ He then thinks its still not enough and proceeds to bite the burn.
~ I punch Stevo in the eye.
~ Pav feels left out and gives herself a smily.
~ Shelly remains quiet throughout all of this.
~ To be continued...

Today I’m back at work and I’m bored as! Here’s what my winter vacation timetable is like:

Winter Holiday Timetable 2008-2009.
Paid Vacation: December 20 - January 10. (3 Weeks)
* Winter Camp Prep: January 12 - 16. (1 Week)
Winter Camp: January 19 - 23. (1 Week)
* Nothingness: January 26 - February 6. (2 Weeks)
* Previous Year Summary for Kids: February 9 - 11. (3 Days)
Graduation Day: February 12. (1 Day)
* Nothingness: February 13. (1 Day)
* “Lesson Planning”: February 16 - 27. (2 Weeks)
School Starts: March 2.

So you can tell that most of the time spent is at my desk doing nothing. Each entry with a * next to it means that I’ve been sitting at my desk Facebooking or playing games or watching movies online through that whole period. I get paid for it, but I just can’t understand the logic behind it! What’s the point!?!?! See the dilemma I face here is that every English Program In Korea (EPIK) Teacher has varying levels of freedom. Some I’ve talked to have Dec24-Mar02 where they can do whatever they please but only have to show up for graduation day. Others (like me) have to sit at their desk day in day out and do nothing. Then there’s the majority I’ve spoken to who must come into work but only until midday or only for a couple of hours a day and then go home and do what they like.

Since I’m the first English Teacher at my school, that means everything must be done by the book! Even if I am lucky enough to be granted the opportunity to work from home, I must pledge to stay at home and not step outside for fear of being seen and reported. The real predicament lies here.. if I tell my school that I want to have the days off because so-and-so teacher is doing it, then my school calls so-and-so teachers school and asks if its true. They deny it (because it’s against the rules) and then so-and-so teacher gets reprimanded and loses his freedom.

I’ve decided that it’s just a doom that I’ must bear, well, that is until next year. See my contract runs out officially on the 17th of October 2009, but there are huge incentives to stay until the end of semester (17th February 2010), so all I have to do is say I’m leaving unless I get my days off.. otherwise I wont sit at my desk and do nothing all day for no reason.

Monday, February 2, 2009

1. Foreigners see Itaewon.


Partly cloudy but the snow has melted and all is dry.

This weekend we went off to Seoul to explore the place and if time do a few touristy things. We arrived in Seoul on Saturday around 2pm, from there we went straight to Itaewon to see if we could secure some cheap accommodation (I’ve learnt that one must get in as early as possible on a Saturday to secure a place). When I went there the lady who knows me (sort of) finally had a revelation.. all this time I’ve been telling her I’m from Australia and it mustn’t have sunk in, but when I told her this time she was very surprised! She kept on saying things like “ohhhh hoju good!” and smiling for no other apparent reason than the fact that I was from Australia. Anyway, I paid for the two rooms and then went off to get my hair cut, this was after all Itaewon, the most western side of Seoul there is. It stands to reason that I could get a haircut here and not end up looking like Confucius, Bruce Lee or Pikachu. Thankfully, I was right.

After that was all secure we had some Starbucks and set about looking around the place. It didn’t take long as most of Itaewon consists of one main strip of western goodness. It wasn’t long after that our throats were dry and we went in search for beer. We tried a few different places all which seemed ok from the outside but then wasn’t all that once inside. A place called RocknRoll that played only bad RnB music. A place called Cheers which had funny names for shots of alcohol but didn’t know how to make them. A place called “Oasis – the place you were thinking of”; where most of the women there sat and watched The Bachelor on a big screen and a can of Coke set you back $5! There were numerous other places which I can’t recall off the top of my head at the moment.. but once Pav and Shelly get back from Seoul they’ll be sure to upload some pics. The night ended quite early (around 1am) with Pav getting lost for a while and then rejoining us later on.

The next morning however we were awake at 10am and off to see the view from N Seoul Tower. A memorable quote from Shelly: “Its hard to grasp that the population of Australia is within my eye reach”. We went up there and had a really nice lunch at the restaurant.. well the main dishes weren’t all that special but the buffet was fantastic! I never thought I’d be so excited about Salmon and even more so of raw Tuna! The way they did this Tuna was like nothing I’ve ever eaten before.. it didn’t taste raw at all! I think I deciphered how to cook it though, all I need now is a decent Tuna steak. After we had seen all there was to see at the tower we were off to the secret Gloria for a well earned coffee.

After staying there for a little while I left Pav and Shelly and came back to Sangdong, while they stayed an extra night. I think they said something about being back tonight or maybe tomorrow night.

Well that’s all for now folks.. I hope everyone is enjoying the sunshine over there!