Monday, April 30, 2007

Seoul Race Course

Monday morning, and back to school. Another good weekend. Friday night was the monthly Club Night in Seoul. Samantha, Ben, Kristin and myself hooked up with friends of Ben's who are teachers somewhere near the DMZ. John and Joe were cool people, and we had a good night. A particular high-point for myself being when we wandered into a Salsa Bar (by mistake), John and myself hit that dance floor, and worked it! I don't think the Korean salsa dancers were too impressed with our moves however.

Anyway a good night was had, and so Saturday was a quiet one. We stayed at home, only venturing out for pizza and some DVDs.

Sunday we went up to Seoul Race Course for the afternoon. Samantha, Ben, Kristin and myself had a great day in the rather hot Spring sun putting small bets on. Starting out at 500 won each-way (25p), and then gradually upping the stakes to a staggering 2000 won (a quid) by the end of the day. We all won something and lost something. Kirstin's tactic of betting on most of the horses in any single race, produced winners, but also many losers.

We rounded off the day by meeting up with Jorge back in Suwon for a couple of beers and some food. A good weekend all round.

A Picture Of The Guys

All studying the form of the horses. You'd think they knew what the hell they were doing.
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A Picture Of Seoul Race Course

The place was packed out. Tens of thousands of people all out on a Sunday afternoon.
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A Picture Of Us By A Waterfall

Here we are sporting our Foreign Visitors Lounge Passes, that we hardly used. It was such a glorious day, that we spent it outside for the most part.

They have this lovely artificial waterfall at the race course, that they switch off at the end of the day. Which is quite amusing!
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A Picture Of Number Four

Just coming into shot is Number 4. An unlucky number in Korea, but a pretty lucky number for me that day. This particular number 4 came in first, I had others that placed at least.
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A Picture Of A Winning Post

Fortunately we saw many of our horses come flying past this in first place.
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A Picture Of Winners

We all were winners that day. The stakes may have been small, and the financial rewards tiny, but we all won something and had a bloody good time doing it. Whether we came away with a small loss or a win didn't matter, taking part is what counted.
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A Picture Of Debris

The scattered remnants of dreams and hopes. All that's left as the people make their way home, back to the drudgery of everyday life, and away from the fleeting glimmer of a life as one of life's winners.
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Friday, April 27, 2007

The End Of Another Week

Thank god! I'm tired this week. Not for any particular reason, butI'm really looking forward to 7.15pm when my last class make a break for the door and out of my life until Monday. Hurrah!!

For some reason the kids have been a total pain in the backside today. Must be the hot Spring sun frying their brain. Or it could be my brain that's fried. One way or the other, they've been on one for some reason. Too high on sugar or something.

Well, just over one hour to go.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Photo Gallery Now Online

We now have ALL our images/photos posted for ALL to see on an online gallery. It's hosted by The direct link to our gallery is

I will still be posting a selection on the blog, but a full gallery can be viewed if wanted.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Bit Of Your Proper Korean Culture

Well it's back to school, and time to up-dated the blog and load-up the images from the weekend. This weekend we went to the to National Museum of Korea and hit a few bars in Seoul.

Friday was a usual quiet one, just staying locally. We went and had this BBQ soup thing, whose name escapes me, with Kristin. Then we met up with Ben, Jorge and two new friends of Jorge's Dot and Ian.

Saturday was the big day. We got ourselves up, I knocked-up the now traditional cooked brekkie, and then we went down to the station to meet the guys. Icheon is the area of Seoul where the National Museum is based, a relatively new building, and an outstanding piece of architecture in itself.

So we spent a good long afternoon wandering languidly around the exhibition spaces. Some to be fair were standard museum issue exhibits. Others were definitely more impressive and well displayed. I was particularly impressed with the huge Buddhist painting at 2 storeys high, the room of Buddhas was very contemplative, and the room dedicated to Hangul informative. On the whole a good museum, the Korean people should be proud to have this stand as a national symbol.

After that we headed into Itaewon for food and refreshments. We found an Indian resturant that we'd heard about, that did an all-you-can-eat buffet. So we chowed down there. It was Jorge's first Indian experience, which he seemed to enjoy. Another convert! The bill was on the expensive side, but hey what the hell! We wanted an Indian, we'd been gagging for one since we got here. So no big deal!

Then it was beers and music. We hit a few bars, chatted to people, played pool and listened to live bands play. All good, all good! Another late one, as we hung around until we could get the first metro home. So Sunday was a quite one. We got up late afternoon, rang Jorge and headed into Suwon to do some shopping. Then back home to chill and ready ourselves for school the next day.

A Picture Of Ben The Tourist

Guided Tour PDA in hand, we lost Ben to the tinny voiced virtual tour guide.
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A PIcture Of The World

"Look there we are, right there look!"
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A Picture Of Sam And A Pagoda

This pagoda is in the central hall of the National Museum. It is 10 storeys high and carved with intricate images of Buddhist stories and images. How the hell they installed this inside the museum is anyones guess, it is really huge.
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A Picture Of A Quote!

This is a quote from King Sejong, who invented the Korean script Hangul. The image literally speaks for itself.
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A Picture Of the Amazing Interior

The National Museum building is a work of art in and of itself. The architecture is pretty stunning, with this central circular entrance area, and the open plan central hallways that linked all the exhibition spaces. Very impressive.
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A PIcture Of A Stunning Buddist Painting

This image doesn't really do the painting justice. Especially when it comes to scale. This thing went floor to ceiling over 2 storeys. I'd guess it was about 40+ feet high, and was painted during the 1700th Century.
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A Picture Of The Guys AT Woodstock

No we hadn't been magically transported back to the 60's. Woodstock is a live music bar in Itaewon, that happening area of Seoul where the worst of the west and the east fuse into a melting pot of booze and sleeze.

It's not that bad really, just certain aspects of the place do bring out the worst in people. Hence 'Hooker Hill' and the ever present American Army Military Police on patrol.
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A Picture Of The Lost

"Jorge! Do you think we should have been on that train?"

On the way home we managed to lose Samantha and Ben, by simply standing in one place and not moving. The Seoul Metro can be confusing, especially after a night out.
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Friday, April 20, 2007

Silence 침묵

Our feeble attempt to learn Korean is coming on apace. Our vocab. is nearly into double figures. We nailed 'thank you' and 'hello', 'hi' and 'how are you?' (both formal and informal) early on. Then things went a bit slow.

We knew the number 3, because that's 'sam'. Which amuses the children. The Korean for 'quickly' came soon enough, when having to tell the children to hurry back from the bathroom. And 'here?' or 'here!' soon followed, as the children use it all the time. Then things pretty much dried up all together.

Today we've jumped forward, with my favourite so far 'silence' (pronounced - tim-mu), which I will use a lot in class. Also got 'left', 'right' and 'straight', for use when directing a taxi back home after a night on the town.

Korean is so difficult. They are not very tolerant of even slight mispronouciation. You are sure you are saying the right thing and they look at you blankly. Then they click and repeat back at you what you are sure you've been repeatedly saying at them for the last 10 minutes, uintil you are blue in the face. You repeat back at them EXACTLY what they just said, and the shake their head and say THE VERY SAME BLOODY THING back at you. You can carry this on forever, it can drive you ever so slightly mad at times.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Earth Day (April 22nd)

This Sunday is Earth Day. A day set aside to remind people to care for our planet. Not that we should need reminding, but that's just human natural, in a ironically twisted arse-about-face way. The predominant tag-line for Earth Day is, "Earth Day, Every Day."

Well we've taken on the almighty task of teaching our students about this concept. Including the 3R's which go hand-in-hand with the whole thing. That of reduce, reuse, recycle. What a task! Not only are we trying to teach them English, but get across a concept that most English speaking people wouldn't understand if you explained it to them in elementary level language.

It's been good fun though trying. We've done anything from colouring with kindergarten through to comprehension tests with the middle school students, and everything inbetween. The printer and photocopier have been on over-drive, as we've made-up, knocked-out and copied worksheets, word seaches, mazes, and various ways of testing and getting across the information.

We've had some stuff fall flat, but mostly it's been a success. The test will be when we get back the essays from the older students, which is based on the subject. Then we'll really see if all our hard work has paid off.

Check out these Earth Day websites, for information on what it's all about.

The Earthday Network:

Wikipedia (always the best resource):

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blue Wings and Things

I can't believe it's Wednesday afternoon already, and I'm only just getting round to writing about last weekend. It'll be this weekend before we know it.

Well last weekend, we went to the football. Soccer, in the Americanised world we live in here. Finally after promising to go with Ben time and time again, we did it. Samantha had never been to a football match before, and it had been about 15 years since I last went to one.

The Suwon World Cup Stadium (home of the Suwon Blue Wings), is a cracking piece of municipal architecture. Having been built for the 2002 World Cup, hosted here. The surrounding area of the city was tarted up too. So there are loads of nice modern sculptures, spotlessly clean toilets (one shaped like a football), etc...

We watched the match, for what it was worth. A 1-1 draw, with little in the way of excitement going on, on the pitch. In the terraces however, that was a different matter. Loads of chats, songs and tribal cheers. Fantastic! We didn't understand a word of it, but joined in none-the-less. A sea of blue, swaying from side-to-side. The comradery, of being part of a focused collective, I can see why people like the football experience. It's got bugger all to do with the game, it's all going on in the crowd.

We'd been out on Friday with Ben, Jorge (hope the spellings right this time?!), and Kirsten. Done the disco beer thing and hit a few places in Suwon central, where we bumped into a load of westerners. A few were okay and pretty cool, many were not worth mentioning, and the rest were arrogant arseholes. So enough said about that night!

Sunday, well that was a quite one. Jorge and Ben came round, we missed Kirsten through missed calls and crossed-lines. Anyway the guys came down. We put on some food, had a few drinks, and many many laughs.

Roll-on this weekend! (Oh and last night we went to see Ghost Rider the movie with Nicholas Cage. Not great, not great, I mean it, not great at all. A potential turkey, most definitely.)

A Picture OF Art In'it?

Around the Suwon World Cup Stadium, there is some stunning sculpture.

This one in particular grabbed me. It's about a 6 feet high sculpture of a little girl, where the perspective is all out. It's really life-like, but the stretched out perspective, and visual trickery used by the artist, really throws you when you first see it. The photo, does not do the experience justice.
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A Picture OF Ben, Samantha And The Blue Wings

The mascots of the Suwon Blue Wings. That being the 2 in the middle, not the 2 strange looking creatures on the far left and right.
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A Picture Of The Crowds

The crowds, the flares, the flags, oh the atmosphere of match day. "Ou! Ah! Suwon!!"
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Picture Of Me! At Footie!!

Who'd have ever seen the day! Me at a football match, with my dislike of all things sporting and all.

We had a good time. What was happening on the pitch was secondary. What was going on in the stands was what it was all about. Chanting, cheering, singing and dancing! Great stuff!!
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A Picture Of The Start Of the 2nd Half

Or it could well have been the 1st half, they light a flare and throw ticker-tape at the start of each half. Then the songs kick-in, and they go on and on and on.
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A Picture Of Sam And Me

This was taken after the match, so it was getting dark.

Yes that is a giant rock head whose nose I have my head stuck up!
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Friday, April 13, 2007

Free Friday

I'm on a free period, I have 2 every Friday between lessons. This one I've been using to search out our options for going into the DMZ on a tour. We can go right into Panmunjom, which is in the heart of the DMZ, and essenitally controlled by both sides.

They are so strict on what you have to wear, what you can and can't take, etc... No jeans, sports wear, sleevless clothing, military style clothes, sandals, the list goes on. If you are from prohibited countries then you are not allowed in, as you are crossing from South Korea, effectively into the North.

We plan to go next weekend, as it is something that we said we wanted to do before we came. When we have more time we will take a proper full trip into North Korea. It has to be done, just to say that you have been there. Vistied one of the, if not the, most closed off country in the world.

Well, it's the weekend again. I have 2 more lessons and that's it. We are off down to the Lotte Mart area for Disco Beer (see previous entry for explanation), with Ben, George and Katrine (I think that's the spelling), an American that Sam bumped into near to the school. She lives just behind the school. So she too is coming along. It should be a good night. Tomorrow is footie, or all things! So a fun packed weekend ahead.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Picture Of The School

Here is a picture of the school, I thought it was about time I put one up.

We are based on the first floor (second floor in Korea). Above us is a Maths Hangwan, and below a handy pizza shop, various other shops and in the basement a private karaoke place.
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Disco Beer

After work last night we bowled down to Suwon central for our usual cinema night with Ben. But nothing on! So we wandered around the shops in the mall, and then had something to eat at Outbacks (the Aussie resturant chain). God we were stuffed after eating. Not used to proper western stodge! After a month and a half diet of rice and noodles your stomach shrinks. WQestern food is so harsh, it can't be good for you to feel that way.

After that we grabbed a taxi, back towards home, stopping at the Lotte Mart shopping complex. Apporximately 3 blocks of shops, banks, bars, more shops, private schools, more bars, god knows what offices, and more shops, etc...

We went to a bar we'd been to before for what we have named Disco Beer. The reason for this is that it's a 3000ml pitcher, with led lights in the bottom. They fill it up, switch on the lights which light the beer up in reds and greens. Then they active the special ingredient, which is something akin to dry ice. This is trapped between the lights and the beer, and produces that dry ice effect that is so theatrical and 70s disco style. The stuff bubbles around the beer, and plumes of white smoke pour out the the little chimney on top of the pitcher. Oh so much fun, is the Disco Beer. Well it amuses us anyway, which isn't saying much, but I bet most people would be impressed the first time they saw it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

HTML What The Hell?!

I've been trying to play with my blog template. The new Blogger powered through Goole allows you to drag and drop elements onto your page. Great! Not!! I couldn't add in anything extra, like the Lulu link graphic I have on the site.

I have enough problems understanding HTML, without all this widget nonsense that they now have. So I've sacked it off and reverted back to the old template. I wish I had the time and inclination to learn HTML. I hear it's supposed to be pretty easy to get your head around.

Not having a computer, and only having access at school makes things hard. I can't wait until we can afford to get our own machine, in a couple of months time. It will make my life so much easier. I need to get on with some writing, which part of coming out to Korea was supposed to give me the space to do. I'm just sat twiddling my thumbs at the moment, and getting frustrated by it.

Also if we had our own machine, we could spend the time coming up with better resources for the kids at school. At the moment we are knocking stuff up quickly, or ripping stuff off the internet, which isn't always perfect for our situation.

Only a few months, and hopefulyy we'll have a machine. I'll just have to stick with what we have, or haven't, got until then.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Back To School

Another week at school. A quite weekend on the whole. We went out with Ben on Friday, to his old stomping ground. Another teacher came along, George from Texas in America. We all had a good night and ended up back at George's. Eventually!

We got a taxi home, and it over shot by a couple of miles. The driver just didn't get it, so we got out and had to get another taxi back. We hung around George's all day Saturday, chatting, listening to music, checking out each others home towns on Google Earth, random stuff like that.

On Sunday Samantha and I just stuck around home. We didn't venture any further than the pizza shop and the DVD shop. A good lazy day, watching TV, eating food and not doing very much at all. A perfect Sunday really.

Another week at school now, back to it. Off now to write up some more reports.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Thoughts Of Friday

It's Friday afternoon, and I have a free lesson. The time I'm using to put together a package of worksheets and activities for the up-coming Earth Day, on the 22nd of April.

So I've got together things like mazes and colour sheets for the youngest students, then comprehensions for the rest, getting harder as we progress through the levels. They can use the information as the basis for this month's essay topic, which we plan to be around the 3R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). I'm also making labels for be coloured in and stuck around the school. Things like 'switch off the lights', 'turn off the water', etc...

However I'm starting to flag a bit. The week has flown as usual, but it's been a long week in other ways. Another couple of late sessions, doing telephone interviews, having to write reports, so having to get on top of the filing. It's also the start of a new schedule for April, so getting used to that. So there has been a lot going on this week, on top of the normal day-to-day teaching.

We have also just been paid. Less than we will get normally, due to having to pay a deposit of our apartment, and some other initial bits and pieces. No worries, as we expected it. Anyway, we've been paid, it's Friday and we are supposed to be going out to an area of Suwon that Ben used to live. He recommends it, for bars, etc... At the moment I'm feeling shattered, and still have 3 lesson sessions to go.

Hopefully I'll perk-up when school is over.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Yellow Sand

There is a particularly odd weather condition in Korea, and Japan and China for that matter. It is known as a Yellow Sand Storm. This is a fine dust that hangs in the air, swept across from Mongolia. The cause of the dust is over farming in that region, causing the land to become dry and the sand to be picked up by the wind during Late March, April and into May. In addition, due to open cast mining and heavy industrialisation in China particles of cadmium, mercury and other nasties are in the dust.

The Korean's take it all very seriously. As they should. Many wear face masks, all the time, even at none storm times. There are official warnings of storms coming, and many people stay inside during storm times. Keeping their children from school.

People are told not to go out if at all possible, to close all windows, to protect your skin with creams. They even sell special yellow sand cream bundles in the shops. Contact lense wearers are advised to wear glasses. In fact people are advised to wear some kind of eye protection, during storm periods.

On Sunday, unknown to us was a storm day. There was a noticable haze in the sky, which we simply put down to the regular pollution haze that we've noticed appears from time to time. It wasn't until Monday when Mr. Oh mentioned it, that it all fell into place. The back of our mouths still feel a little dry, and we have a slight cough. Cars are covered in a thin layer of the yellow dust.

Serious stuff. In the future we'll know better. I'm going to get myself one the masks that everyone wears, so I'll be more prepared next time.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Korean Mountain Girl And A Trip To Seoul

Friday morning we went along as crowd control to see Heidi. The story of the little Swiss mountain girl, performed in Korean. We took our kindegarten classes to a children's theatre in central Suwon, to see the production. It was great fun, and they were all really well behaved, which suprised us pleasently.

Friday night was adult time. And we went with Ben into Seoul to a student district with plenty of bars and nightclubs. You paid 15,000 won for a wrist-band, that allowed you into 15 different clubs in the area. So we wandered from place to place, hooking up with various westerners (all teachers), as we danced into the wee hours.

We caught the first train back to Suwon in the morning, after bumping into John, and American teacher we'd met the week before in Suwon. He was staggering into a nightclub we were just leaving, looking at little worse for wear.

Saturday was quite, in recovery from Friday. Not hung-over, just tired nore than anything. A good English breakfast soon put things right, and lots of sofa time in front of the TV did the rest.

Sunday was back into Seoul. Shopping! Or at least checking out the vast array of shopping malls packed into such a small area of the capital. Plenty of cool clothes, at reasonable prices. Brilliant, can't wait to get paid properly. After tramping around and around the shops we caught the Metro to Hongdae another bar and club area that Ben knew of.

This is where all the American GI's hang-out. So a lot of short cropped hair, whining accents and pumped-up red-necks. Great! They have the MP's patrolling the bars checking on the boys. Strange to think the same thing has been going on for over 50 years, since the Korean war. It's not a bad place, full of western faces, and the slightly seedier side of Korean life.

Well back to work now anyway, it's Tuesday, so that means cinema in Suwon. What is fast becoming a tradition on a Tuesday night. God knows what we'll watch tonight, as long as it's english language we'll be fine.

A Picture OF Alex From Apple Class

This is one of Samantha's lot, on the way to see Heidi at a children's theatre in central Suwon.
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A Picture Of All The Kindergarten

Probably the one and only time they all sat still for more than 2 minutes. We all enjoyed the production of Heidi very much, even though Samantha and I didn't understand a word of it. Heidi in Korean is a strange and quite surreal experience.
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