Category Archives: Korea

Art Adventure

Yesterday I went on quite the adventure.  I visited two art supply stores, found a museum for Catholic martyrs, saw the outside of Seoul’s World Cup stadium, and romped through several parks.  I’m going to break up this adventure into two parts, with lunch being the dividing line.  So today you’ll get up through lunch and my tomorrow you’ll get to find out what happened after lunch.

My adventure into Seoul started with me failing to get an early start. ^_^;   I wanted to take our video camera with me, but it needed to be charged.  I also wanted to empty out one of my memory cards and charge a spare battery for my DSLR, just in case I took a lot of pictures.  I brushed my tail.  And I had dishes to wash from breakfast.  So it was that I didn’t get out the door until around 9:30 am.

The walk to the subway station was pleasant.  I didn’t even have trouble crossing the street at one particularly busy intersection that is lacking in walk signals.  >.>   Though I did regret forgetting my Irish whistle.  By the time I got on the subway heading north, it was 10 am.

Ever since the 신분당 (Sinbundang, but ‘sin’ is pronounced like ‘shin’) line opened, travel time to certain subway lines and stops decreased.  For instance, I no longer have to take the 1005-1 bus to get to 양재 (Yangjae), which is where Costco is located.  I can also get to Seoul subway line 2 much quicker, which makes travel to and from StarCraft 2 matches that much faster (not that I’ve been to any in a long while…).  The current northern terminus of the Sinbundang line is Gangnam Station.  Yes, it is located in the district that lends its name to the song “Gangnam Style” by Psy.  No, I haven’t seen anyone dancing like that while walking through Gangnam.  Though perhaps that will change if I wander through Gangnam next week… ;)

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Typhoon Bolaven

The passing of Typhoon Bolaven did not affect me as much as I would have thought.  My wife did get the day off from school – closed just in case the storm was really bad.  I noticed gusts of wind by watching the trees outside my window thrash back and forth.  I saw the rain-soaked pavement.  But when I ventured out the next day, there was little sign of the storm’s passing.  A few leaves and other plant parts were scattered about, but no visible damage to signs or buildings in my vicinity.

In other parts of Korea, however, there was visible damage from the typhoon.  One picture I saw showed a car smashed by bricks that had toppled off a building.  There was a picture of a cargo ship that had apparently been torn in half by the storm.  I am sad to report that Typhoon Bolaven did cause deaths in South Korea.

On Thursday there was a downpour in my region and it seemed like it rained more on that day than it did on Tuesday, when Typhoon Bolaven passed by.  It turns out that the rain was the result of Typhoon Tembin hitting Korea.  Typhoon Tembin had struck Taiwan, looped around to strike Taiwan again, and then went for the Korean peninsula.

The people I am most concerned about right now are the North Koreans.  They had some severe flooding in July and more flooding in mid-August. Typhoon Bolaven passed through on Tuesday and Wednesday and I think Typhoon Tembin dumped some rain up that way on Thursday.  What this means for North Korea is that the population faces a humanitarian crisis.  And while their government is not at all friends with either South Korea or America, the people (most of whom hardly have a say in the government) are the ones that will suffer for it.  Depending on the amount of damage caused, it is possible that North Korea could experience a crisis on the scale of the famine in the 1990s, though it is hard to know for sure what state North Korea is in.  So please keep the North Koreans in your prayers.

“Our indifference to the plight of the homeless and the refugee, Father forgive.” ~from the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation

Dead Poet’s Society

Last night I watched Dead Poet’s Society, which is a fascinating movie about an English teacher at an all boy’s school and a group of students who are inspired by him. It isn’t a movie for young kids, but it would be a good choice for discussion with teenagers. Themes include: conformity, pressures on students (academic and parental), thinking for oneself, creativity, and poetry. It is not a happy movie, though the ending does shine a dim ray of hope for some of the students. There are moments of beauty and moments where teenage boys push against the great expectations of parents and headmasters in ways that aren’t always healthy.

But I’m not here to convince you to watch or not watch this movie. Rather, I want to delve into some of the themes brought up by this movie because of how they connect to my own experiences. So let this be a spoiler warning: what comes after the break will reveal aspects of the plot and ending; caveat lector. Continue reading

Reminiscing, Part 1

It has been a while, hasn’t it? As the school year winds down and I find myself with more time, I realize that I haven’t kept up on my rambling. I’ve also been reflecting on my past. It’s something I often do in my “sessions of sweet silent thought” (Shakespeare’s sonnet 30). I suppose I am drawn this time to remembering things past due to the fact that I will once more be unemployed. :(

You see, while my wonderful wife has been hired for another year at the school we’ve been working at here in Korea, I was not. To be honest, I’m not surprised. My classroom management skills are seriously lacking – a fact that has not been improved by hands-on experience – and I don’t have (and haven’t had) the time to observe other teachers. The only surprise was that I was never told by the person who decided not to hire me again why I wasn’t, especially considering the fact that he had never observed me teaching. So I’m left wondering if parent complaints, which have never really been relayed to me (and would be skewed by the fact that the parents only hear through the students and get a very lopsided picture… >.> ), played a major role in the decision and left to figure out by myself what I need to improve on. At least the person who observed me sat down with me the following week and explained why he thought I wasn’t asked back. That was the first face-to-face meeting I had on the subject. >.< A word to the wise: sit down and spend some time explaining why you aren't re-hiring someone - even 5 minutes could work wonders at preventing bitterness in your employees. The school is blessed by the fact that rather than saying, "to hell with you for how you treated me," and slacking off, I have redoubled my efforts to finish the library inventorying so that whoever they saddle with that responsibility won't have to worry about trying to figure out how I was doing things. As you can probably tell, I am still bitter about the manner in which I wasn't hired back. I don't mind that I wasn't hired again, but the way... And it's been about a month. >.>

In any case, trying to figure out what I will be doing for work next year has got me thinking back on what I have done.

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The Nearer Your Destination…

…the more you slip-slide away. (there’s a song with those lyrics, but I can’t remember the details abut it) I feel this way about my den, for it seems the closer I get to finishing the re-imagining, the farther I get from actually being finished. And this feeling of sliding down a scree slope comes up with my novel (I need to do more revising than I have), with my re-inventorying of the school’s library, with taking Korean fencing 검도 (keomdo), and with staying in contact with all my various friends and family who are several time zones away. I don’t want to be distant and yet I seem to be sliding down the slope.

Perhaps if I managed to juggle my time better, I could get everything done in a reasonable manner, but… I’m distractable and there isn’t much outside incentive for most of these. The library project is closest to completion because it’s my job and I want to finish with what we currently have before all the new books arrive. z.z I’ve come to realize that my self-motivation can only take me so far, especially when I have no definite timeline to work with.

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A Winter Adventure Part 3: The Stomach Cannot Hold

(In case you missed the previous parts, here is Part 1 and Part 2.)

By the end of the third full day in Cambodia I was getting better, or at least, I thought I was getting better.  And Eruanna was off the IV that evening, so we decided that we would fly to Siem Reap (rather than take the 6 hour bus ride) the next day, which happened to be the 1st of January.  The doctor gave his blessing on such a trip and reminded us to eat only cooked foods.

We didn’t stay up for the New Year’s countdown.  So how was it?  You can tell me about it in the comments, you know, and let me know that there are more than just bots and spammers visiting my den…  :p   In any case, I enjoyed the first good night’s sleep in several days.

On the morning of the first, Eruanna and I gathered up all of our things and went to Phnom Penh International Airport.  Our flight took only 45 minutes and I took several pictures.  The airline provided sealed water and some sealed banana bread, which I consumed. :)   We flew over Tonle Sap Lake, which is enormous!

According to Wikipedia (so caveat lector), it is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia.  I’m inclined to believe that, though I’m not sure what constitutes South East Asia, so I’ll put it as most likely true.  What I do know for certain is that Tonle Sap Lake is both fed and drained by the Tonle Sap River.  That’s because the Tonle Sap River reverses direction twice a year! O.O   That’s right, the river flows into the lake during the monsoon season and out of the lake during the dry season.  As Serrena or Julie or the guidebook explained to me, it has to do with the water pressure of the Mekong River; when the Mekong is swelling from the monsoon rains, the Tonle Sap acts as a release mechanism and drains excess water from the Mekong into the Tonle Sap Lake; when the Mekong is lower from the dry season, the Tonle Sap flows into it, shrinking the lake.

From the Siem Reap International airport we got on a Tuk-tuk, or a motorcycle with a passenger trailer hitched to the rear, and rode it to the inn (or whatever it was) we were staying at.  Well… actually we had to wait a bit because Julie and her husband, who had come up the night before on the bus, went to the international terminal to wait for us while Eruanna and I were waiting for them at the domestic terminal, which was a separate building.  But the waiting sort of adventure is more fun than the vomiting sort, so I didn’t mind it at all, especially since I got to work a little on drawing.

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A Winter Adventure Part 1: From Korea to Cambodia

Now that I’ve recovered from the attack on my person by the agents of Darth Salmonella or Darth Escherichia Coli (rather, they are the two most likely suspects – it was too quick to be the work of Darth Giardia and while I may have spotted a figure with a red fedora measuring up the temples, her modus operandi is lifting famous things, so it couldn’t have been her), I have enough energy to ramble on about my adventure this winter holiday.  :)

You should find a comfortable seat, for I shall be rambling for quite a bit.  So much, in fact, that I’ve decided to take breaks in between.  This is the first part, the second shall come on my Saturday, and the third on my Sunday (this will also allow me to test whether or not I can schedule my ramblings to appear at a set time in advance).

You’re comfortable?  Good! :D   Now you’ll hear a tail, errm… tale, of a fateful trip that started from a snowy airport aboard a flying ship.  Actually, that’s jumping ahead of things – I think we need to go back to December 26th and go from there.  For it is around then that the sleepless nights first started…

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It’s a Foxiful Life

Merry Christmas to you all! ^^

Christmas is actually nearing its close for me, so I hope you will have as much fun as I did!  There’s still some snow on the ground, so that was nice to have around.

We’re currently cat-sitting some friends’ cat, so last night was interspersed with yowling as their cat made it known that it did not appreciate being in a strange apartment.  The cat will also occasionally swat at us, so one of the first things we did this morning was acquire a suitable stick to attach a piece of tinsel to.  We now have a toy to entertain the cat with while keeping ourselves out of striking distance.

We opened our presents, worked a little on getting ready for Church while also keeping the cat entertained, had a dinner at a Korean restaurant with some of the members of the English worship service, and worked on a puzzle when we got back home.

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Death and the Dictator with a Helping of Spam

It feels a little weird being in South Korea in the wake of Kim Jong Il’s death.  This is a major world event that may have far reaching effects and I’m incredibly close to where it happened. O.O   A couple of my friends actually took a tour of a part of the DMZ just a couple of weekends ago; now such tours are probably put on hold until a little more certainty can be found.  Supposedly the South Korean military has been put on alert, though I haven’t noticed much.  About the only thing that has changed for me, personally, is that my ESL students will occasionally break out into a happy song about the dictator being dead.  The rest of life marches on the same as it has.

I imagine it is quite different in North Korea, where he was the “Dear Leader” and rather revered by his people.  Considering the nature of his regime, it’s no surprise; he had an efficient propaganda machine.  I wonder how many of his people realize that the “Dear Leader’s” policies contributed to the famine in the 1990s.  And I wonder how his son will lead North Korea.  Will there be a North Korean version of perestroika and glasnost?  Will there be more of the same?  Or will “two regimes, unalike in dignity / in fair Korea, where we lay our scene, / from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, / where civil blood makes civil hands unclean?” (adapted from the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

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