Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kids Here Learn Too Much And Know Little

There are a few thoughts I've been mulling over as regards the kids here.

Firstly, their actions, being, maturity, etc.. Relative to their age. Or should I really say... Relative to young people and children I am used to interacting with. Namely those in England, with whom I have worked. Now I wouldn't say that many of the young people I worked with in England were exactly mature, quite the opposite in many ways.

They were and are however far more mature, savvy, street-wise, whatever way you want to put it, than kids here. When you have a 15 year old holding out their hands, and chasing you down the corridor for some bloody stickers, you've got to wonder. Their all so sheltered. Which isn't always a bad thing. The English kids I refer to, well they on the most part could have done with some sheltering in their lives. This lot however, are sheltered from everything by being in constant education. The have no time to learn about 'life', as they are permanently stuck inside a classroom learning facts.

Being at school or at an academy until midnight every night, which many if not most kids here do, is beyond stupid. It's going to have some serious results in the future. These kids are being damaged, because 'the system' thinks that as much education as is humanly possible, is a good thing. Little or no down time, no time to relax, no time to be children. Education, education, education! Here they have taken that old 'New Labour' mantra to its furthest degree.

All these intensively hot-housed kids has got to have a negative effect in the future of Korean society. Problem being, by the time they realise there will be a whole damaged generation out there. In fact by the time they realise, it'll be the damaged generation that'll be the ones in the positions of power.

Finally, they are all learning so many different subjects. To the extent that many know very little about lots of things. Some know a lot about a few things, and precious little about the rest. And others, well they just seem to know nothing about everything.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Summer's Here

It's been a good weekend, weather wise. We didn't do a lot, hung-out at home all Saturday. Went out for a sunset beer, at the Neighbor Bar, met Jorge for a bit and then came home with beer and pizza.

We'd arranged to go to see a Thai Kickboxing tournament with him on Sunday. A mate of his was fighting, his first in a few years. So we met up and grabbed a taxi to the other end of Suwon, near to the huge Samsung complex, the home of Samsung in fact. The event was happening in a park there.

Dwayne a Kiwi, is a good guy, and quite a few western mates had turned out as support. The weather was really hot, so it was great to be sat out in the sun for the afternoon. Fortunately he won his match, by a knock-out. A knee to his opponent's solar-plexus seemed to do the job nicely.

Afterwards Sam and I met up with Kristin and tried out the new BBQ place that has opened up near us. Good food and plenty of it. I like Korean food, and all the many interesting side dishes that you always get served. Not long after we'd stuffed ourselves, Jorge and Ben turned up with some guys we'd met a couple of weeks back, Kenny and Rowan. Kenny an American and Rowan a Brit.

We had a few beers with them, showing them around some of our favourite places. Eventually Samantha and I left the gang in DCT's, and came home. Monday tomorrow, which means an early start for us.

A Picture Of Thai Kickboxing

This is Dwayne, one of Jorge's mates in a Thai Kickboxing tournament, at a park near the Samsung complex. We went along as support. He won, by a knock-out.

A Picture Taken At The New BBQ Place

We finally took the time to visit the new BBQ place that has opened up just across from the school. Typical Korean style, lots of side dishes, as you can see by the table.

A Picture Of Us All At DCT's

One of our favourite places to hang-out, DCT's. They have Jenga and Monkey-Plunk games, that keep us entertained for hours.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Buddha's Birthday

May 24th, and we got a day off school for Buddha's birthday. We'd decided that we were going to go to the fortress in Suwon. It was throwing it down, as it did all day, but we didn't let it spoil things. Instead of walking the whole of the wall, we decided that we'd go to Hwaseong Palace, part of the fortress complex.

So Samantha and myself met up with Kristin and we all headed into Suwon. The rain didn't dent our spirits, as we spent the afternoon meandering from courtyard to courtyard in the palace. Not having an umbrella and getting sick of trying to share Samantha's, I skirted along the walls, sheltering as much as I could from what had by this point become torrential rain.

After spending most of the afternoon there, we had noticed a huge gold Buddha on the hillside, only a short walk from the palace. Being the big man's birthday, we thought it appropriate to pay our respects.

The walk up the street was something else, as it was somewaht akin to a fast flowing river. The temple was pretty quiet, the rain likely keeping people away. We hung-out long enough to take in the atmosphere, before making our way back down the street and catching a taxi back to the station.

We ended the day chilling at home, with a DVD. It's still raining even now. We've got school again tomorrow, but then its the weekend. I think that we'll be having a quiet one this weekend, as we gear-up for Samantha's 30 celebrations next weekend.

A Picture Of The Paldalmun Gate

One of the big gates into old Suwon, this is now in the middle of a very busy roundabout.

A Picture Of The Weather Girls

Umbrellas were definately the fashion accessary to be seen with on this day.

A Picture Of Samantha And Kristin Sheltering From The Rain

It threw it down all day, but we stuck close to the walls and sheltered as much a possible from the torrent. We didn't let it spoil things, it added to the fun of the day.

A Picture Of Me With My Korean Girlfriends

I love this idea that they have lifesize cut-outs that you can be photographed with.

A Picture Of A Boy In The Rain

Playing with the camera settings, I caught this black and white picture of a boy walking through a courtyard of the palace in the rain.

A Picture Of Buddha On His Birthday

After being at the place, we went up to nearby temple to pay our respects to Buddha on his birthday.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Lantern Festival

It was the Lantern Festival in Seoul this Sunday, which celebrates Buddha's birthday. Or to be more accurate, the day that he achieved enlightenment. Samantha and myself met up with Kristin and caught an early Metro into Seoul.

Food and a little shopping later, and we went up to where the festival was to happen in Insadong. We'd not been to that part of Seoul before, and were pleasently suprised by it. It's a chilled and arty area of the city, with lots of little boutique shops and art galleries.

So before the start of the festival, which didn't begin until it started to get dark, we had a wander around. Meandering in and out of interesting shops, stopping for a drink in a traditional tea shop, and coming face-to-face with a robot, all seemed par for the course in this part of the city.

As night fell we found our places along the route of the festival. Thousands of people filed passed holding home-made paper lanterns aloft. Many dressing in traditional costume, they were sporadically followed by troops of robed monks and brightly lit floats also intricately built of paper and beautifully painted.

It was a good experience, and very much worth seeing. This was a once in a lifetime thing for us, as we will not be in Korea from the next festival.

A Picture Of Samantha

Hurrah! We'd arrived in Seoul for a Sunday of exploration and spritual connection.

A Picture Of Damnation

Or at least that's what I'm sure he was probably preaching to the heathen masses that had gathered to celebrate Buddha's birthday, here in Insadong.

A Picture Of A Free Hug

This guy was in Insadong, offering free hugs to anyone who wanted one. As you can see, people were more than willing to take him up on his offer.

A Picture Of Buddha On His Birthday

The Lantern Festival is for Buddha's birthday. We all get this Thursday off as a national holiday.

A Picture Of A Float

Some of the floats were stunning, especially considering that they were built from paper.

My Name Is Z

The coolest thing happened while we were in Seoul. We were walking passed this place in Insadong, when I noticed that many people were packed around this little art gallery. I managed to work my way in, only to be confronted by 'Z'. A robot!

Apart from 'Z' himself, or should that be itself?! There was also an animatronic head in a jar, filled with oil. It was slightly surreal to see it blinking and looking around the room.

Even more weird were the eyes, in little plastic boxes, that also did the same.

You can check-out the website of the artist:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Picture Of Neon Streets

I just love the bright lights of the big city.

A Picture Of The Gang

A nice Korean man offered to take this for us, as we aimlessly wandered the streets in search of a bar.

A Picture Of Jorge At Popcorn

The sun was up and it was time to head home.

A Picture Of Our Darkest Hour

This is us, at home, in a power-cut.

Let There Be Light

Finally, nearly 24hrs since we had a power-cut, we have electricity again. It was a bit of a battle, but we got there.

The main switch had blown, and so the electrician had to replace it. There was a moment there when we thought that we were going to be without electricity all weekend. Which would have been totally unacceptable.

I had to express my displeasure, with Mr. Oh at the seeming lack of effort in trying to solve the problem. Originally he didn't ring when he said he would, we had to chase him, to chase the landlady, to chase the electrcian.

What a day. But thankfully we have power, and I'm able to sit here at home and write this first blog post, sat in the comfort of our own home. How cool!

Hacked Off Does Not Even Come Close

There was a big thunder storm yesterday. When we got home our electricity was out. I did all the usual, switched everything off, unplugged everything, tried to flick the power back on. It just continued to trip out, no matter what I did.

We contacted Mr. Oh, and he rang the landlady. It turned out that she was out of town until today. No problem we said. We were going out anyway, so it wasn't a major problem. Our food in the fridge would be ruined, but 'hey what you gonna do about it?!'

Mr. Oh said he would ring us this moring if things hadn't changed, and the electricity hadn't come back on. He was assuming wrongly, that the problem would correct itself. Well the phone call never came. It's now well into the afternoon. We are still without electricity, and have no way of getting hold of Mr. Oh at home. We do not have the landladies number. We are basically without electricity until probably Monday. We can't shower, we can't do anything. I am really, really fucking angry that we've been just left high and dry.

I mean what the hell do you do?! You are stuck in a country where you don't speak more than a few words. No-one (despite the fact that everyone learns English) speaks English. Strange twist that one. Everyone learns English, but no-one speaks English.

Anyway... Buggered we are! If he thinks we'll happily stroll into work on Monday stinking after 3 days without any electricity, then he's got another thing coming. I came to a PC Room, (where I'm now writing this from), to try and find our agent's mobile phone number. No such luck! I thought that I had it, but can only find his home number. Which I've already tried, and had no luck.

That was our last chance. We are now well and truly screwed!


Stranger in a strange land?!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Teachers Day

In Korea they have Teachers Day. Which is a pretty good idea. The kids bring you stuff. Butter you up a bit if they have any sense. Like Jack who just delivered a whole pack of Vit C drinks to me. I like Teachers Day, it is good. We need some pay-back after the shit we take.

The picture above is what we ended up with from our kids.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Fun Packed Weekend

We didn't do anything dramatically different this weekend. We do feel like we need to do some more exploring of places we have not yet been, and in some ways this weekend we did do that, but on the whole it was a relatively quiet one.

Friday we went to the first night of the Hof that has opened near to where we live. The usual crew came and joined us, Ben, Jorge and Kristin. It was nice because they have a small outside seating area. The weather has been pretty warm, so sitting outside made a change from being in all the time.

We got up Saturday and started on our mission to find a laptop. Kritsin had told us to try one place, but we thought we'd give the Gansam Digital Complex a go. So a train ride later and we found ourselves wandering around the streets of this place, bemused by the fact that there wasn't even a hint of anything remotely digital anywhere to be seen.

That was a waste of time, so we went to where Kristin had suggested in Seoul, and found a huge floor upon floor mall of digital equipment. 3 floors dedicated just to computers. A little in awe of the vast array of choice, it took a little while to focus and decide on a suitable machine for what we wanted and our budget we'd set ourselves. In the end we picked up a good high-spec Samsung laptop, at a pretty decent price.

It had took us so long, what with the Gansam detour, we were late meeting everyone for football. So we had to grab a taxi, which took ages in the near gridlocked Suwon Saturday traffic. We eventually made it to the World Cup Stadium, and found the guys right away. By this time it was chucking it down, the proverbial cats-and-dogs. Everyone at the stadium was wearing blue Suwon Blue Wings pak-a-macs, or had a blue plastic bag on their heads, or was huddled under umbrellas. Despite the rain we stuck with it and had a good game, Suwon winning one nil.

After the match we sardined onto a bus, with about a hundred Korean fans and bounced and jostled our way back into the centre of Suwon for a bite-to-eat. So we grabbed some food, had a couple of beers, met some nice people, made some new friends, and headed home in a Disco Taxi!

Sunday was a typical quiet one. We met up with the Ben and Jorge early evening for food. We went to the pork BBQ place that we'd tried before. 4 people fully fed for around eight quid. You can't go wrong.

A Picture Of The First Goal!

Well sort of the first goal, if Kristin had been facing the other way. She'd turned round to take a picture of us. Just as she'd pressed the button, Suwon scored from a free-kick. The crown errupted, she got knocked, this blurred picture is the result.
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A Picture Of The Brits

The British contingent. Myself, Ben, Samantha, John and Jo. Along for the fun and games, was Jorge (the now honory Brit), and Kirstin and her new friend Mike, a US military dude.
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A Picture Of The Gloom

It was a miserable day at the football. It felt like being back at home. The sky was almost black, and the rain hardly relented over the whole 90 minutes of the match. Still the mood of the crowd wasn't affected. They sang their hearts out as they, cheered and chanted Suwon to a one nil victory.
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A Picture Of Downtown Suwon At Night

After football we all caught the bus into downtown Suwon, for a drink and something to eat. This image is typical of a busy Korean city street scene, lots of people, lots of neon. A very Blade Runner moment, wandering down the rain sodden streets.
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A Picture Of The Guys Going Into Hama

A Hof we'd not tried before. It looks a lot more glam on the outside, than it is on the inside. It's a Hof, and pretty much looks like every other Hof, except for the over-the-top neon entrance.
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A Picture Of Me Leaving Hama

Time to go home. We'd had a good day and night, out and about meeting people and catching up with friends. It'd been a long day, and bed was long over-due.
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A Picture Of Our Disco Taxi

You've seen Disco Beer, now witness the Disco Taxi. This guy had it all. Banging sound system, LED lighting system, even the speakers in the ceiling had flashing lights built in them. To top it all, he had the biggest touch-screen TV I have seen in a car so far.

We could of just hired him to drive us around all night, rather than going to a bar. So much fun, and so entertaining on the ride home.
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Friday, May 11, 2007

Hot Damn Hot

The hot weather has well and truly kicked in. Today is really hot outside, which isn't so great when all you have is work clothes in black. We're going to have to get some more gear for work. At the moment I wear shirt and trousers, the tie went when the weather started to warm-up.

The rest of the teashers all wear jeans, trainers, etc. We've stuck with the more formal wear so far, but that may have to change as thing hot up even more. We are off the Seoul tomorrow, so we may have a look around at what there is.

Well I'm only three lessons away from the weekend. This has been quite a long week again, with having to do the telephone interviews. They have taken a lot longer than usual. Half the kids I have to interview, don't have their crib sheets with them when I ring, so can't do the test. No matter how many times you tell them they simply don't listen. The little darlings!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

There Are Dancing Girls In The Road!

There are quite a few new establishments opening in our local area. Just below us at the school, they have opened a... a... er... I'm not too sure really. I think they either sell some sort of Lego type product, or it's a kindergarten, or both. You never know!

Across the road they have just opened a BBQ place. There has been scantily clad dancing girls stood in the middle of the road all day, with a PA system banging out bad K-pop all day. Every so often one of the girls will get on the microphone and mumble something. Which even if I knew Korean, I probably would not understand.

What we are waiting for is the opening of the new Hof. Bucklys needs competition, it had a monopoly in the area. The advantage of the new place is... It's not Bucklys, and it has an outdoor seating area abuted to the street. Perfect for that beer after work on a hot summer night.

It's nearly the weekend. I have more telephone interviews to do tonight. Then a usual Friday... Lesson on, lesson off, lesson on, lesson off, lesson off, and bugger off home! Footie again this Saturday, a big gang of us is going from what I can gather. Then to show John and Joe the sights of Suwon night-life afterwards. Saturday daytime, we plan to head towards Seoul. There is a huge digital shopping area there. We are hoping to pick-up a cheap laptop. We really need our own computer, it would make doing our prep work and creating worksheets so much easier. We spend a lot of time on the PC at work, tying it up, when it is the only one with internet access for all the staff to use.

In addition I want to get on with writing. I've tried with pen and paper, but it's such a drag. Also trying to keep in touch with friends and family is hard at school, we don't have the time to email people properly, just sending quicky emails when we have a chance. In this electronic communication age, how have we survived so long without a laptop of our very own?!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

I've never been to so many sporting events. Last time it was the football, this time baseball. A warm Spring Sunday afternoon spent at the Hyundai Unicorns baseball ground in Suwon. We went with Ben, Dot and Ian, and had a great time sitting in the sun, drinking beer, chatting and half watching the game (which is what you are supposed to do at a baseball game, by all accounts).

The rest of the weekend had been pretty standard. Saturday was shopping in the city centre, I needed to get some more contact lenses as I'd run out of the ones I'd brought with me from England. Also the usual food run, down to Lotte Mart. Saturday evening was spent chilling out in front of DVD's. We'd invited Jorge round for some food. It was nice just to hang out at home for a change.

Friday had been a long one. School, and then out with friends. There had been quite a gang of us went out to Zapi's Western Bar. Most had moved on or gone home by the time we got to DCT's, where things were in full swing. We ended up talking to these Korean Maths Masters students. It made a change to talk to Korean's that had very good conversational English. Before we knew it DCT's was closing, the sun was starting to come up and we really needed to get home.

Now it's Tuedsday, and we know it'll soon be Friday again. A shopping trip into Seoul is on the cards. See what's out there. Apart from that, it's all pretty open ended I think. Football again maybe, I'm not sure, we rely on Ben for those sort of things.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A PIcture Of The Baseball Stadium

Sunday afternoon spent at baseball. Great fun!
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A Picture Of Ben With A Flag

Ever the tourist, Ben got himself a flag and was well away.
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A Picture Of Yellow Balloons

We look kinda foolish here, but it was good fun at the time. There were yellow balloons as far as you could see, after they handed them out to everyone.
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A Picture Of After The Game

After the game we went to a local Hof for a beer with the guys.
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Friday, May 04, 2007

A Picture Of The Play Park

This is near to our school. We take the kindergarten classes here, usually once a week. It gets us all out of the classroom, which isn't a bad thing.
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A Picture Of Richard Teacher

Posing here with Tonny, my student from Kiwi Class.
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A PIcture Of Samantha Teacher

With Leo and Kate, two of our kindergarten kids.
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A Picture Of Leo And Neal

The boys with a cup of ants that they had collected.
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