Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Week Long Summer Vacation Not Spent Wisely

Remember as a kid, growing up and getting something ridiculous like 3 months of summer vacation? They could be used in so many different ways and usually all spent outside enjoying being a kid? Yea, those were the good ol' days.

Well Korean kids don't get that luxury. They go to school all year long and their summer vacation is generally about a week or two. AND because they go to so many schools their vacations might not sync up right. For example, my school's vacation is this last week of July but some of my kids don't get off from their public school until next week. SO its LESS school, but possibly never NO school. What a sad life for these kids when you think about it.

Either way, I did jack during this week. I wanted to travel somewhere BUT current funding levels are at a low so I just stuck around the Suj. I got a haircut, did some shopping, ate food I haven't had in months, and watched an AWFUL lot of Prison Break. Relaxing has been nice actually. Tomorrow I may do some touristy things and go see an old Korean Prison and maybe a palace. I have realized I am a creature that needs routine in order to be productive. Laziness does prevail with me. Also, this is how you know you've been in a country for too long - nothing seems entirely new anymore.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Need a Job? My School Got Screwed.

Teaching in Korea is like any other job really. You work so many hours a week, you get an expected paycheck, you have your ups and downs everyday with the job, the subject matter, the staff - just like you would at any normal job. The differences are anyone can do this once you figure out what's expected of you and you're in a completely different culture that does things ass-backwards sometimes and you just have to roll with it. And the idea is that you're using it as a means to do other things like travel, or write, or just kill time and make money.

While living in Asia or teaching a second language, may not be for everyone if you've signed up for it you should at least give it a chance. Why do I say this? Well last month one of the girls on my staff was getting ready to go home since her contract was finished. My school hired another Canadian to replace her. The girl leaving left detailed instructions on all of her classes, was very organized, and helped the newbie with the lesson planning and such. The newbie was in Korea for 5 days, had training only and hadn't even taught a class yet, and did what we here call a 'Midnight Run.' She left Friday night with a note saying she couldn't take the heat (it was pretty hot the week she was here), the school and the kids seemed great, but she had personal reasons for going back home. I will not begrudge anyone for their personal reasons, but you're telling me you didn't have these reasons 6 days ago before you got on a 14 hour plane ride after 2 months of planning?

It takes anywhere from 1-2 months to secure a Visa to teach in this country now with all the new requirements. So in that one decision a person made to leave her responsibilities she has now created at least 2 months worth of extra overtime work for the people still here.

SO if you're reading this and want a job I have one for ya. If you've read this blog before you can see the kids and the field trips and such are pretty fun. Here are the specs:

Pay: 2.0 - 2.2 Million Won per Month (Roughly $2,000 USD)
Work hours: Up to 21 units per month, overtime if more (units being 80 minute classes)
Hours: 9:30am-7pm MWF or 9:30am-6pm T/T
One Month Bonus Pay at the end of a 1 year contract
50% health insurance
Round Trip Airfare
Single Apartment very close to the school, shops, subway, food.
10 days vacation + all major Korean Holidays
Staff includes 7 foreign teachers and 8 Korean teachers
Children ages are 5-13 all speaking levels.
Location: Suji (Yongin City) - 40 minutes south of Seoul (very cheap by taxi/bus/subway to go anywhere).

Native English Speaker
4 year Bachelor's Degree
Clean Criminal Records
Signed Contract
Picture of yourself

contact me if you're interested.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Field Trip: Kids Sports Club

I've been SO lazy about updating this blog lately. For the summertime you are probably expecting more out of me, but due to a few circumstances life has been pretty slow. We did however take a field trip with the kiddies recently and it was actually pretty hilarious.

We hopped on our school buses, braced for a ride lasting an hour (it's what we were told) and about 2.4 minutes later we got off the buses to head into the Kids Sports Club to take the childrens swimming. Sounds like harmless fun right?

For the most part it was pretty entertaining. At the Kids Sports Club everything there is built for kids. The pool is in this room that I even had to bend down a bit as to not hit my head. They all went into their respective locker rooms to change and they came out in what looked like a parade of children in their stylistic bathing suits. I took a few pictures but it seems wrong to put photos of kids in very little clothing up on line.

I feel that the kids got gypped because once we got into the pool they had maybe 30 minutes of pool time? And I only got to play with maybe 6 kids in the "deep end". We were back at school by noon and we weren't supposed to be back until 12:30. They had fun though, so I guess that's all that matters. And I know I love field trips, especially ones where I don't have to do much babysitting and actually get to play. Plus I got to spend the morning with my favorites (and I do play favorites). I mean, look at these kids - how could you not?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Getting Down and Dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival!

(For More Information go to worknplay's website here:
Boryeong Mud Festival )

I got to Korea at the end of August 2007 and missed a number of fun summer things to do being that I was such a newbie. However, there are a few things that people have discussed over and over in the past 11 months, and one of the most common of those things is the Boryeong Mud Festival in Daechon Beach.

The discussions started a few months ago with attempting to find some rooms, and transportation but no one ever really seemed to do anything about it. Well, with one month left before the opening day after a quick search through all of the tour groups, a friend suggested which had an excellent tour package all set up. I'm a big fan of planning events, and having to do as little thinking as possible so it was perfect. After a last minute scramble to wire some money over to them, my group of about 15 secured their spots and were on their way.

We met at 8am Saturday and were welcomed with coffee and delicious, cheesy focaccia bread from California Pizza Kitchen, we boarded two nice coach buses down to Daechon and watched some movies, and 3 hours later got to our quaint lodgings at this little hostel type place about a mile down the road from all the crazy action.

The festival was actually rather intense. Everything is free, and there's mud wrestling, mud water slides, mud pools, mud massages, and so on.

All of the mud is used in making cosmetics and if you signed the guest book at any of the booths you got some free mud soap (which is incredible to use by the way). I spent all day on the beach going from getting all mudded up to hanging out, to washing it off and swimming in the ocean only to do it all over again. They had tables and brushes set up all over so it was pretty easy:

And man, was there drinking. Basically Daechon goes from this tiny little sleepy beach town into this massive sprawling spring break-esque party town for a week. If you never participated in a traditional spring break back in the states, and always wanted to - Boryeong is where you gotta go.

Even though I'm explaining it as a party-town, hook-up-a-thon, crazy good time - there were actually a ton of Korean families sprawled all down the beach. I have to tell ya, Korean children all mudded up are absolutely adorable.

If you didn't want to be part of the insanity, you could easily go a 50 meters or so in either direction and get some peace and quiet. Sunday morning actually, I wondered over to my little portion of the beach, got all mudded up, and just hung out. It was kinda nice actually - AND there were no lines at the mud slides!

The weather for this upcoming weekend looks rather terrible so I doubt I'll be going back, but this past weekend was one of the most fun I've had in Korea. Saturday night we didn't even need a bar - just get some beers from any of the conveniences stores, pick up a handful of roman candles, and hang out on the beach until the wee morning hours. Nothing more fun than that. And going through worknplay was one of the best decisions we made as well - hell - even got a free t-shirt out of the deal and some of the best food I've had in months. If you're reading this - and plan on doing ANYTHING in Korea next summer - book with worknplay and just go experience it for yourself. If nothing else, man does that mud make your skin feel about 5 years younger.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Don't Want To Be Illiterate Anymore...

So I've been in this fantastic little Asian country for just about 11 months now. My Korean language skills are pretty null and void (but to my credit, it is a rather difficult language for most foreigners). I have been able to get by as far as getting food, giving directions, and even asking for discounts and shopping for the most part. Conversation is generally where I'm lacking, and if I can impart any wisdom on some newbies it would be to take a free lesson or two.

However, if there's one area that I felt could make up for this, it would be in reading the language. Hangul is actually pretty easy to understand if you know the rules. King Sejong back in the 1600's created this very easy to read little system of symbols. If you can read it, you can speak it. Hangul isn't like Chinese where you have to memorize thousands of characters - it has roughly 24 characters that get read clockwise in each little pictograph for each syllable of a word. Every symbol basically correlates to a sound that can be found in the English language, and a lot of the time if you can read Hangul, all they've done is put an English word into the Korean writing so it helps sometimes IF the actual English letters aren't present.

Here's an example of all the consonants:

People have been known to learn this in about 2 days. I on the other hand just tend to learn it as I'm riding the subway, or staring at random buildings. I'm still a little fuzzy on some of the characters that aren't so common, but I'm getting there. It's like breaking a code that you're not meant to know, and the Koreans are so surprised and impressed if you can actually read what they're writing.

The trick is understand the word that you're reading... BUT that's for another time. Seriously, if you're thinking about coming here - its one of the best things you can do for yourself. And makes you look better ;)