Thursday, August 31, 2006

Off the resort...

I've finally made it to Seoul.

I got into tonight and met up with my co-teachers and they took me to my apartment. It's really small (as expected). It's one room with a fridge, stove, TV, and a loft where my bed is. I'm in a really convenient location but it's kinda secluded from the center of the city.

When we got to my apartment we opened the door and it was rotten dirty. Thankfully, there was a lady inside cleaning it up. My co-teacher and I then got on the subway and went one stop away to the GS Mart. It's a large store equivalent to a Walmart, but bigger. I got a few things such as a power converter, some toilet paper, and a few groceries. We then went back to my apartment and I put away a few things and they left. I went for a little walk around my neighborhood and found this PC Bang.

I'm in the far south-east section of the city in Songpa-gu (the district) and my neighborhood in called Moonjung-dong. When I look out my window there are hundreds of greenhouses in an area that's a few square kilometers. In the next year or so they are gonna build a giant law office building there.

I was told by a another English teacher that I'm in one of the poorest schools in Seoul. I hope this ain't true but if it is I'm gonna try to make the best of it.

I'm finally on my own and I've already had my first awkward encounter with the locals. When I walked into the PC Bang I went to the counter and looked at the clerk and he started talking to me in Korean. Obviously I had no idea what he was saying. The other PC Bang I went to was self-serve; you just walked in and took a card, used the computer and paid when you left. Here, you buy a card up front and when you leave I'm assuming you take the card and can come back later and use the leftover minutes. I'm not sure about this but I'll find out very soon.

I still haven't been talking to my parents so I'm gonna head out and try to find a payphone.

I haven't seen one anywhere in Korea yet! I guess nobody uses them because everyone here has a cell phone. Someone told me you can get some phones that allow you to call home and record stuff from your TV. Dunno if I believe them but I wouldn't doubt it.

And oh yeah, I had a hamburger for supper.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

U-Turn lane...

We went into Seoul today to observe a lesson. My group went to one of the best schools in the city where students are drawn from a lottery to attend. The students wore uniforms and couldn't help but stare and laugh at us all. It was very cute. I said hello (in Korean) to a couple of kids in the playground and they just laughed at me and ran away.

I was talking to the English teacher after the lesson and he said what we observed was not a typical class. The students all knew the answers and behaved frightfully well. According to the teacher, it was the best class in the school and they had done all of the activities we witnessed before. I've heard people saying that Koreans love to have something to show people, and this was a fine example. So is our orientation, for the most part.

I'm glad I finally got to see Seoul. It was pretty much what I expected but there were way more mountains. The city is built around, between, and on mountains. We went to a huge Korean museum and when looking out the window all I could see was skyscrapers and mountains. It was quite a sight to behold.

One strange thing I noticed (and have been told about) is that all similar businesses usually exist right next to one another. For example, for one full block both sides of the street were filled with stores selling chairs. Any type of chair you can think of was there. Yes, even rocking chairs. Imagine that.

The coolest/craziest thing I saw was the driving of the locals. These people should all be Indy car drivers. They swerve and weave into spaces that I wouldn't wanna drive a power wheels jeep into, and they even have arrows on the road allowing u-turns. We were on an eight lane road and the bus pulls a u-ee and I'm thinking "What in the hell is the driver doing." Then I ask the girl sitting next to me (she's been here for two years) "What in the hell is the driver doing" and she tells me u-turns are legal here. People just cut u-ees with masses of cars heading in their direction without any street lights to allow them to do so. Korean drivers must be extremely focussed people and have much faster reflexes than all of the drivers in North America.

No wonder they are so good at ping pong.

I'm gonna eat a slice of Pizza Hut tonight!! My roommate went to visit his Korean girlfriend while we went to the museum and he brought back a slice. I'll pay whatever he asks for it.

Tomorrow we move into Seoul permanently and work our first day Friday. Then I'm gonna try to catch up with some friends from Newfoundland over the weekend and figure out the subway system a little. Everyone says it's super easy to navigate and everything is labelled in both Korean and English.

Now, it's pizza time. This is going to be friggin' amazing!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Just like home...

I finally had a meal that I enjoyed tonight. Macaroni and cheese and salmon. Much needed.

It's the first time I've been full since I got here. Yesterday's meal was decent too, and they even gave us forks. The meal consisted of a pork patty and battered chicken, both smothered in ketchup. I'm not actually sure it was chicken, but it kinda tasted like it, looked like it, and had a chicken-esque consistency. But who knows, it could have been fish? They served meatballs with one meal, and yup, they were made out of fish.

But on a down note, I'm getting a nasty sinus infection. I usually get about two of these a year but this one is just bad timing. Hopefully it's gone by the time I start work because I don't wanna be calling in sick during my first week.

I can understand why my immune system is weak with the jet lag mixed with my new "diet." At least I brought some sinus pills.

And as a word of warning to all of the frisbee users out there. It is a dangerous sport. One of my Aussie friends busted his leg up pretty bad trying to make a leaping grab the other day. None of us have any health insurance yet so he's hoping it's nothing serious.

I have some great pics I'm gonna post when I get my own internet connection. Not quite sure how I'm gonna do it but I'm gonna look into starting a photo gallery somewhere on this thing we call the world wide web.

Computers still freak me out sometimes you know. I don't really know how people lived without them. I can't imagine looking everything up in books.

And is the word eunuch even in a dictionary?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dancing machine...

The last few days have been crazy.

The day before yesterday we spent 3 and a half hours doing traditional Korean dance. It was a lot of fun watching everyone trying to do the dance and sing the chants. It was a great workout and unfortunately the room was not air conditioned.

The last dance involved a select few people (who were chosen by losing at a very simple game) had to put on traditional Korean outfits that looked like karate suits. The rest of us had to wear masks. By the end of it we were gettin' pretty good.

That night we watched a Korean film with English subtitles. It was one of the weirdest films I've ever seen. Apparently, it is the most popular Koran film ever but I can't remember the name of it. It had weird homoerotic sexual overtones involving these showmen from 500 plus years ago. One of the entertainers used to be pimped out in his village so his friend, or maybe brother, got them out of there and went to Seoul. They ended up as jesters for the King. Then the King started having "feelings" for the Eunuch guy (look it up if you don't know what it is). We never did find out if he was a Eunuch and the film had no resolution besides the brother getting his eyes burned out by the King.

I thought the film was terrible and very twisted. I couldn't believe it was the most popular Korean film ever.

We spent today and yesterday learning "teaching methodologies" but in reality we sang children's songs with actions all day. It's a bit overkill and I have to go back and do more tomorrow. Most of my fellow teachers were having a difficult time getting the actions down so I don't really see how the kids are gonna be able to learn it. I suppose the people who have been bashing the Korean education system are right, including the Koreans Profs who have presented to us.

I drank my first bottle of Soju last night. It wasn't too bad. Then I ended up at the Beer Hunt for a few hours with the usual gang. We almost feel stranded here at the resort now and the Beer Hunt is one of our few escapes. Most people are getting anxious to leave by now and check out Seoul and their apartments. I am one of them.

Last night I was out my balcony and the resort was putting off some type of function for one of the cell phone companies here. I went to get a closer look and just about every man there was totally wasted. They played a version of pass the parcel (well, they used a balloon) and the person with the balloon had to go to the stage. They had a group game of paper-scissors-rock and if you were eliminated, you had to give the MC money. The final person on the stage got to keep the money. It was over $100.

They also had sexy dancers, a DJ, and a one-man band.

We are now sharing the resort with the Samsung Lions, a professional baseball team. They won the Korean championship in 2002. One of the players is from the US and he walked into the Beer Hunt and saw all of us Westerners. He sat down and was so excited to be able to talk English with some people and have a few beers. He has a translator who shadows him and it must've been nice to have a conversation without having it go through another person.

The PC Bang is crazy today. There are about 50-60 computers here and at least 80% of them are filled with people playing Starcraft. I thought it sounded like a war zone before, but today it's almost deafening. On our TV there is a channel that shows professional gamers playing it all day long. Strange.

Well, I'm outta here to go do some more Patty Cakes.
Hurray!!//.... . . . . . .

Saturday, August 26, 2006

On the hunt...

Last night I experienced my first bit of night life here in Korea. Mind you, we are on the outskirts of Suwon outside of Seoul in an area that is mainly just a road with some bars and restaurants and a bunch of other weird stores that make no sense to me.

We started off at a norebong, which means karaoke room in English. You go there, pay 25000 Won (about 25 bucks) and you get a room for yourself with a full fledged karaoke machine. I didn't know what to expect but I had a great laugh there. Me and this British guy did a few tunes, including Barbie Girl by Aqua and an N'Sync song. The Brit really could sing but my terrible skills were drowned out by the over the top amount of reverb they have on the mics. It's actually more of an echo than a reverb but I won't get into any music jargon right now.

Then we went back to the resort and the crowd I was at the norebong with split up with most people going back to their rooms. I was not going to allow myself to go back to my room. It was my first chance to party in Korea so I went wandering the streets looking for my fellow teachers.

One really cool thing about Korea is that you can drink on the streets so I went to the Family Mart and bought a bottle of beer while I walked around peering into each bar for Westerners. As expected, I found my Aussie and New Zealand posse at the Beer Hunt. The pitcher's of beer kept coming and we didn't leave there until 3 AM. At the table next to us were some locals and these guys weren't out for a just a few beers. They were out to drink anything and everything they could.

One guy same over to our table with a pitcher of dark brown liquid. Turns out it was a mix of beer, soju (Korea's poison liquor, but it don't taste bad at all), and Coke. They poured us up some glasses and wanted us to chug them, so we did. It sure hit the spot, but I'm not quite sure what spot.

We tried to leave a number of times but the jugs of beer just kept appearing and the bartender even gave us a couple of free ones. When we got the bill, it only came to 80000 Won (80 bucks). We split this between us and paid about 12 bucks each to drink for 4 hours. Not bad at all.

Unfortunately, today we have to play some traditional Korean percussive instruments. I don't know how this is gonna go over because there are a few people who aren't feeling 100% today, to say the least. It starts in 20 minutes so I'm off.

I think I'm gonna get some earplugs.

Video games are bad for your health...

I've been here a few days now and I'm starting to get hungry. The food ain't that bad but kimchi is. The stuff is disgusting, yet I'm forcing myself to have a mouthful each day. People keep telling me "Man, soon you'll love the stuff and you'll be ordering kimchi pizzas." I'm not sure if I hope they're right or not.

What I really want is some processed food. A chicken nugget or frozen pizza would suffice. The preservative level in my body is running low and I fear what will happen to me when it's totally depleted. We all know what happens to things that aren't preserved.

Okay, enough of the sarcasm already.

Today we had a lesson in Korean language, got into our groups for our presentation, and had a presentation from Korean Tourism. It was all very useful but most people, including myself, were too jet lagged to really stay focused and I think we've scientifically proven that yawning is indeed contagious. My jaws are even sore (sorry, I'm sarcastic by nature and I don't think I can stop).

Tonight we're scheduled to watch a "Traditional Korean film" that begins in four minutes and there's no way I'm gonna make it on time. I'm about five minutes down the road at the PC Bang with a friend and we're both quite content to be computer nerds for a while yet. I know a lot of people who are skipping the film (man, they are truly rebels) so showing up late ain't too bad.

This place (the PC bang) sounds like a war zone. Behind me are a bunch of kids playing some crazy online games that are extremely popular here. There's a rumour that this one kid died at a PC room after four days of chain smoking, not eating, and playing Star Craft (whatever that is).

Well, I'm off to the movie I s'pose. Nothing like a good traditional Korean flick to pass away the evening.

And oh yeah, I saw my first squatter toilet last night at a bar called "Beer Hunt." Unfortunately, nature wasn't calling.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Green eggs and ham... That ain't ham??

I'm here in Korea now. Me and my fellow teachers are staying in a resort/country club outside of Seoul called La Vie D'ors or something like that. I think it's a pretty swanky place for Korean standards. It's twenty stories high and has a golf course. There are about 20 teachers here including myself.

When I got to the Korean airport there was a man waiting for me with a sign that had my name on it. Cool! All the teachers were herded together and sent to a bus. We were soon off to the resort but the bus driver got lost on the way so it took us an extra hour to get there. There were a few impatient westerners on that bus, to say the least.

When we arrived at the resort, we got our rooms (4 guys to a room, 2 girls... sexism!!) and then went down for supper. Our meal was a soup like dish made with Mr. Noodle, wieners, and Spam (yes, Spam!?). It was spicy and not very good. Some of the teachers who have been here before said that this wasn't typical Korean food. Thank god.

For breakfast, we had scrambled and boiled eggs with green insides. There was hashbrowns, bread, bananas, and then a bunch of stuff I don't know what to call. A pea soup like dish, corn and peas in a sauce, tomatoes, salad, and a few other things I can't even begin to describe. Interesting to say the least.

It's crazy humid here but we have air conditioning in our rooms but they weren't turned on when we arrived. By the time I fell asleep the air was beginning to cool. The elevators are the coolest room in the resort.

Will, I'm off to the resort to grab a shower and begin the orientation.
I can't even think of anything witty to conclude, so I'll just say this......

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's a give and take relationship...

I just wanna tell everyone that I'm expecting comments. You don't have to leave them after every post but at least say hello once in a while to let me know you're out there.

It's only fair right?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Only 36 hours remain...

I have about 36 waking hours left in my native country of Newfoundland.

It seems like an eternity since I left Canada, but only three weeks ago I was living out west in Calgary, Alberta.

I can't say I really miss Canada yet, but I know I will miss Newfoundland once I leave.

That's just the way it goes for a young man from Newfoundland.