Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Korean Folk Village

Another week of teaching flies by, and the weekend arrives. We didn't do much on Saturday, just hung around the flat. We didn't get in until late on Friday night, as we'd been out with Ben and met up with some other teachers, from America.

Sunday we headed into Suwon centre, and caught the free bus to the Korean Folk Village. This place is huge, all reconstructed buildings and homes from Korean history. From peasent and farm housing to merchant and government homes. The place is a living museum, with people living and working in some of the houses there.

We had lunch and spent the afternoon wandering around all the various places to see. Aswell as the village side, they have a traditional market, an amusement park and an sculpture park. We didn't see it all, so we plan to go back again to see the rest. It's cheap enough to go to. The free bus and entrance in is only 11,000 won, about a fiver. So a cheap day out.

We want to go back further into Spring, when the wild flower garden and all the trees will be in full bloom.

Now it's Tuesday, and we are into another week at school. We've got quite a week of it. Telephone interviews with the children start this week. So that means we have a couple of late sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Also I've started to write reports on some of my students. Oh, and we have to do our lesson plans for April. It's that end of the month thing I suppose, that we will have to get used to. It's no great problem, just a lot of work, and the first time for us this time round.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Picture Of A Farmer's House At The Korean Folk Village

This is what a 19th Century farmer's house would have been like, in Korea.

This was taken on Sunday, when we spent an afternoon looking around the Korean Folk Village. It's a living museum on the outskirts of Suwon.
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A Picture Of Samantha Outside a Korean House At The Folk Village.

It was a really warm Spring day. Perfect for wandering around the Korean Folk Village.
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A Picture Of The Interior Of A Typical 19th C Korean House

In fact this would have been the house of a middle class Korean. A farmer, who owned land.

Note the paper walls!
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A Picture Of Me With Some Famous Korean Film Star

They film various traditional dramas at the Folk Village.
This is supposedly one of the stars, of one of those dramas.

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A Picture Of Inside A Chinese Medicine Practitioner's House

This was just a nice photo, of all the posters on the walls and the bags hanging from the ceiling.
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A Picture Of A 19th C. Korean Nobleman's House

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Actually this was a building that was part of a District Governer's Mansion complex.

A Picture Of Suwon City Centre

This is actually a street just off the main road, across from the station.

It's full of bars and boutique shops, DVD and karaoke places, etc... This was taken outside Samantha's new fav shop SKIN FOOD. Like Body Shop but much much cheaper!
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Friday, March 23, 2007

Spring Is Here

Last lesson of kindergarten today we took all three classes round the corner to the local play park. It was lovely out there, the warm weather bodes well for the rest of Spring and into Summer.

With the timetable change we have had recently I only have to work first and last lessons on a Friday. Which means that I have from 3.15pm until 6.30pm off, until things change again. It will give me time to sort of stuff that we can't do at the weekend, like banking. Banks do not open at all on a weekend in Korea.

This being my first such Friday I have plenty to do. Prep for next week, so much filing, the pile on my desk is starting to lean at a dangerous angle.

I can't do our internet banking here at work, so I'll have to pop down to one of the PC Room's to do it today. Also I need to email a guy that contacted us from the IUCN, regarding Laos. He wants some advice and information from us. Which I said I'm more than happy to provide.

Lunch calls, so off now...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Nearly A Month In Now...

This is our fourth week at school now, and and fast is has gone by. We are pretty much settled in, and are adding to the existing resources available. This mainly helps us in our work, and helps the children better understand the concepts and ideas that we are attempting to get across. Sometimes these are quite complex. You forget how complicated the English language can truly be at times, and how easy what seem the simplest of mistakes are to make.

We've more than settled into the routine of living here. Language is still an issue, and is going to take a long time and some effort to get over that initial hurdle of being able to communicate even at the most basic level. I have started working my way through the Korean alphabet, which is supposed to be simple but isn't so when it seems so alien. I've got the vowels nailed, and can recognise them in words. Just the constanants, and the various complex and double combinations to go. I feel once these have been mastered, the rest of the language should begin to fall into place.

We've not yet ventured beyond Suwon, and plan to expand our horizons into Seoul and the surrounding area in the next few weeks. Then when money is better, we will do some weekends away around Korea, getting to know the country that is to be our home for the next year at least. We particularly want to visit the DMZ, probably the most heavily protected border in the world. As part of the only remaining divided country in the world. Eventually a trip into North Korea is on the cards, as that is something that must be experienced to understand the country as a whole.

We have summer and winter holiday time also when we can venture further afield. Japan will be one of the desitnations as part of a holiday trip, that is a must. Also China at some point. Although only the smallest fraction in the time that we will have. Maybe it will be something that we will do after our contract comes to an end. I know that thinking that far off seems like some serious forward planning, but its good to look to the future. and time does seem to be flying.

At the moment we think that at the end of our contract we will most certainly be returning to England, even if only for a visit to see friends and family. We'll probably head to Oz to see Mum and Dad, and then fly to the U.S. (via a Pacific island or two), then on to England. Flying that way round means that we will have circumnavigated the globe, something else we could tick off the list of things we have done.

Well that's still some time off. We have the rest of our time here to go. I'm sure there will be ups and downs, as there always are in life. The one good thing is that the school week does go passed quite quickly, so we are unlikely to feel the drudgery of the daily grind. Plus the children are always there to keep us on our toes.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I'm An Alien, I'm A Legal Alien, I'm An Englishman In Suwon

Last Thursday Mr. Oh brought us our Alien Residency Cards, so we are official now. That meant that we could go and open a bank account, which we did on Friday at the post office just next to the school. In fact having Residency Cards means we can do all sorts, like join a video club for example!

We had a quite weekend this weekend. We had planned to go into Seoul, but I got a bit of an infection, and started to lose my voice. I bought some lozengers on the way to work, when Mr. Oh heard my voice, he insisted that he take me to the doctors. It's a good thing really. As it did start to get worse, and being in a job that means you are speaking all day non-stop, I needed to get it cured as soon as possible.

So like I say, a quite weekend. Saturday I managed to get a hair cut without a word of Korean, and still didn't come out looking like a complete idiot. We wandered down to Lotte Mart and did the usual weekly shop, which is still a bit of a novelty for us both. Samantha rang her Mum and Mark and I rang Mum and Dad, to give them all our contact details here. We popped our for a couple of beers late on, as places don't really start to get going until elevenish here. But still we had an early night.

Sunday was a typical lazy Sunday. We managed to find an english language newpaper. So we had a full cooked breakfast (bacon, eggs, the works) and read the paper. For lunch Smanatha knocked us up a lovely Spam sandwich (Richam as it is called here). We even managed to cook fish and chips of Sunday night, so a very English day was had on Sunday.

Well back to school today. Lots to do!

A Picture Of Samantha and Me

Well here we are sat in our apartment in Korea. Get us, the global citizens that we are.
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A Picture Of Me In Our Living Room

This is me chilling in our living room. The table and sofa were found on the street by previous residents.

Korean people leave things they don't want any longer on the street, and people are more than welcome to take them if they have use for them. How good a way to live is that?
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A Picture Of Our Kitchen

Small and compact, with everything we need. The door on the right leads through to a small storage room, where the boiler is, and we keep all our junk.

The unit above the sink is a sterilising unit, that the Koreans' seem to be into. Instead of a draining board, you stick your pots in it, and they get blasted with warm air and UV light.
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A Picture Of Our Apartment

From the kitchen / entrance hall this is a view into our living room on the left and our bedroom on the right.
Through the living room you can see the sliding doors onto our balcony / utility room.
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A Picture Of Sam At The Window Of Our Apartment

This is Samantha at our balcony / utility room window, above the entrance to our apartment block.
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A Picture Of Our Apartment Building

203 Opera House. One of the smaller apartment buildings you find in the area. Everything else towers over us. You can just make out Samantha in the bottom middle window.
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A Picture Of Our Street In Suwon

This is our quiet little back street, to the right is the High School we face onto. You can't see but behind our building is a vineyard. We are on the very outskirts of the city where we are based.
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Another Week Draws To An End

The weeks at school seem to fly, I can't believe that we been here 3 weeks already. It's no sooner Monday then before you know it, it's Friday again, and the weekend.

I forgot to mention that last weekend, on Sunday, after the cyber cafe thing. We went into a bar nearby, and met another white face, another English teacher called Ben. He's doing the teaching thing after leaving uni (paying off student loan and all that).

Anyway, I'll continue this later, Sam is on my case to go home...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Finally Worked Out This Bloody Computer Thing!

At last I have the blog coming up in English, so I know what the hell I am doing.

So to catch-up... Things are going great at school, we are getting used to our classes, learning the childrens names, and just generally getting into the swing of things. Time seems to fly by, we just start and its the weekend again.

Last weekend we didn't do too much. After being taken by Mr. Oh during the week to sort out our residency cards, we realised where we'd gone wrong trying to find E Mart the week before. So this Saturday we headed there. Mr. Oh said you can easily spend half a day there, we probably spent almost a full day wandering around the place.

It's huge, three floors of everything you could ever need. Apart from decent bedding! Korean's don't seem to do good bedding. Or what they do is really expensive. Anyway, E Mart has it all. Even a kids Robotics Shop, which I loved, like a kid in a sweet shop.

Sunday, well Sunday we went to one of these huge PC cyber cafes places. Still couldn't get on the blog. So gave up there and then. The places are very impressive, full of children playing computer games online. It's very cheap to use, and only cost us about 3000 won for over an hour.

Must shoot now, am surrounded by students and have a class in 2 minutes.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Computers In Korean

It's so bloody hard to use the computers here. They are all in Korean, and I can't work out how to turn them into English. There are bits and pieces I can do just from pure memory, of click here click there. But little more than that. It's no good, we'll have to get on and learn Korean.

This weekend we tried finding the E-Mart, the alternative supermarket to the Lotte Mart that we used for our shopping. Mr. Ho had reccomended it to us, and said it wasn't too far from where we lived. So Saturday we set off walking towards the university, where we were told it was close to. Under and over monsterously huge fly-overs, across 6-8 lane super-highways cutting through the suburbs of Suwon, we eventually found the university. No E-Mart though.

We carried on walking, soon realising that we'd gone wrong somewhere. Coming across the railway line, which cuts through the middle of the city, and I had our bearings. A map at the bus stop (with a YOU ARE HERE arrow) confirmed that we were actually near to the Lotte Mart. Having done almost a huge circle around the north west quadrant of the city. At least we knew where we were, and headed for the bright lights and flashing neon that we recognised.

Even the 4-5 block area that is the shopping district nearest to us, surrounded by the imposing tower blocks that make up the suburban landscape of Suwon, is a multi-story oasis of neon and Korean script. Shop upon shop, school upon school, mini tower blosks (mini compared to the apartments around them), crammed with private schools, cyber cafes, hair-dressers, bakeries, 7/11's, etc...

Must sign-off, tech here to check the PC...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hello Richard Teacher and Samantha Teacher

Well only a few days in and we are many classes in to our year of teaching English in South Korea. We landed on Sunday at 4.00pm, and was met by John the agent at the airport. He drove us though to Suwon where the school is based, about 40 minutes from Seoul. I was impressed enough that he had a DVD in the front of his car, never mind when I realised it was a TV, and he could receive many channels. A little worrying that he spent a lot of the journey watching the TV rather than the road.

We arrived at the school and met Mr. Ho, who gave us a quick tour of where we are teaching. Then off to see our apartment. It is only a 5 minute walk from the school, and well proportioned. You walk into a large enough entrance and kitchen area. Off here is the bathroom, a good sized living room, the bedroom and a storage room. Through the living room is the balcony come utility room. The place has all mod cons, and will more than do as our home for the next year.

That night we had a little wander around our local area. I'd spotted a place that had a sign that said HOF outside. I knew that was Korean for BEER. So we headed there for beer and food. An early night, that night, as we were tired from the trip and also had our first meeting at 9.00am on Monday.

Monday came and we got to meet the teachers we took over from. We shadowed them for the day, sitting in on classes, to see how things were done. It is very intense. We teach kindergarten in the morning for an hour, then the older children in the afternoon from 2.00pm. Our classes are every hour, for 50 minutes with only 10 minutes between each, so very intense. Some nights we don't finish until 8.00pm on a night. It all does fly by though, which is good.

That night we went with Fiona, one of the teachers we have taken over from, to meet some of the other English teachers working in schools near to us. We all had a traditional Korean meal, a couple of beers and a shot of Sujon (dodgy spelling), the traditional Korean liquor. Once again an early to bed, as we were still shattered from the whirlwind of it all.

Tuesday came and went. However this was our last day with the teachers, so they let us run some classes to build our confidence. On the whole it went OK, and we felt ready for going it alone on Wednesday. That night we met some drunk Korean high school teachers at Buckly's, the bar/restaurant across from the school. Shows that nothing changes whichever country you are in.

Wednesday, our first day going it alone. On the whole it was fine. A little problem of getting to know your class, and the level they are at, and how to pitch things. There are the odd one or two disruptive students, but that is to be expected. They are only kids afterall. And wherever you are in the world, kids will be kids. Most are really on the ball, which helps you to know where you are at in the course work, as they are more than ready to point it out. That night we just crashed out at home. I'd had a really late class, and was worn out.

Thursday, a holiday day already. Independence Movement Day, so no school. It gave us time to catch up with ourselves a bit. We went on the bus to the local Lotte Mart supermarket and got some shopping in. It is weird being here, as unlike when we where in South East Asia, it all looks so familiar, with a surreal alien twist. Mostly western in many ways, and so so alien in many others. Having no Korean is making things a little hard, so a lot of pointing and hand signals get us through. Despite their desire to learn English everywhere, not many ordinary workers speak it. Plus the total lack of roman script makes it even harder. WE MUST LEARN KOREAN!

Today it's Friday. Back to school, back into it again. They say that it may take us a good month or so to really settle into the job. Which is fine. I really want to get a little Korean sorted as so as possible, to help in class communication. Also learning everyones name, despite them all being given English names, is going to take a while. Oh, here's a fun fact... We have had the chance to name some of the new intake. So there are now kids running around Korea names after friends and family, as well as all the locals who go into the Arden Arms.