Honoured Veterans? EPIK reunion says so.

14 12 2009

That was a nice weekend. 3 days in Seoul. Can’t complain about that at all.

Why did we get a bonus long weekend? Why did we spend it all in Seoul? What is this EPIK thing of which I speak? Lets go backwards.

EPIK Logo.png EPIK is the name for the “English Program in Korea”, similar to Japan’s JET program. Basically they bring foreigners in to teach english to kids within the Korean school system. Here in Korea it gets a bit confusing. While it all sounds like we work for EPIK, we don’t. EPIK acts as a kind of umbrella, bringing us in, training us then passing us out to the provinces. Once out of their hands, we have very little to do with EPIK at a national level, its all provincial. Some provinces are good, some so-so and some pretty terrible. Gangwon-Do where I am? For the most part its good. Like most things it has issues, but what place doesn’t?

Back to the weekend. Having not heard a single thing out of the national EPIK crowd in a few years, it was a surprise to get invited to a reunion for honoured teachers. Seems we’ve been here quite a while and are now classified as veterans, and national EPIK wanted to do something nice. Even nicer was finding out that the reunion was a Friday/Saturday and in Seoul, meaning a bonus long weekend.

Honestly we didn’t expect much. Usually in Korea things get done with the best of intentions but the minimal of organisation. What a surprise we had. They put us up in a reasonable hotel (sure it was a bit 1980’s but it was ok), gave us steak and wine for dinner and then took us out to see a show. The show was a comic martial arts performance called Jump. Mostly non-verbal, it was great until I got dragged on stage to be part of the performance. I’m thinking I was picked because I was sitting on the aisle and had slightly “odd” hair. Oh well, nothing can prepare you for being on stage in front of a few hundred people better than a classroom of crazy students.

We had the obligatory presentation and handshake ceremony, but this time it wasn’t for certificates but for a plaque!

EPIK Award.jpg

Very nice of them to do something like this. Shame its soooo heavy. Lugging 2 of them through Seoul was a bit of hard work 🙂

The Saturday was a small amount of formalities and then back into tourist mode. We had lunch at a fantastic traditional restaurant, then up to Seoul tower for some more touristing. Fun fun fun.

Leaving the EPIK crowd, we had Saturday afternoon and then Sunday morning shopping in Seoul, then back to Taebaek and some sleep.

Overall, really nice to see that the national EPIK people are serious. They tried really really hard to make a great weekend and succeeded. They also spent a huge amount of cash on us. Can’t complain there. Just a shame as it really contrasts the differences between our local education office who really don’t seem interested in us, and the national people who really have put in the effort.

Short version : Went to Seoul, got award, came home.





Winter is completely here, at last.

7 12 2009

Not much to write really, I’ll just let the photo’s do most of the talking.

-5 and snowing.

Yup, its -5. And that was the warm day 🙂 Winter is finally and completely here. In and around Hwangji Pond, the snow really makes it beautiful. Not quite spring but just as nice to look at.

Wintery Wonderland

Welcome to Taebaek ......

Snowy Bridge

An ex-student of mine.

Orange Umbrella

The roads are all icy and snowy, creates all sorts of entertainment watching people try to drive around. Snow brings out the worst in drivers.

First Big Snow of the Season

And finally, our local water monument. This was erected a few months back to commemorate the drought we had. 3 months or so of water rationing. Hope this year things are more sorted out, but I don’t want to hold my breath 😦 Its made up of a great number of plastic water bottles and is supposed to remind us to save water. Its not working very well.

Taebaek Water Monument

Taebaek Water Monument





Monday monday monday I hate mondays

30 11 2009

Yurgh, Monday. Worst possible combination of things. The end of the weekend, the start of the work week and worse, 2nd grade students.

Making things worse, we didn’t really have a weekend. We worked a camp for 2 days. About 30 students, 1st and 2nd grade, boys and girls, too much candy and coffee. Fun fun fun. Actually it was fun, mostly.

The obvious problem when you take 30ish kids is that they separate into 4 distinct groups. 1st grade boys, 1st grade girls, 2nd grade boys and 2nd grade girls. Usually its an absolute struggle to get them to combine at all into any form of team. This camp was better than usual for that. All sorts of fun activities, games, movies etc were planned. We almost managed to stick to the plan too, however the study time for the kids really didn’t work out too well.

We’ve both worked many camps. We’ve learnt from past mistakes. We know not to even bother attempting to sleep at the same place as the kids as sleep is not what the kids want. Usually Sunday morning arrives, we roll up about 9am, the kids look like zombies. A few hours sleep if they were lucky. Ha ha ha. No sympathy here.

For me, the saturday was a struggle. I was off sick for most of Friday with a stomach bug (mental note, don’t drink blue powerade when you can’t keep anything down). Saturday I was completely drained, but the kids were fun and I struggled through. Sunday was shorter and better.

Today, Monday? The worst. I got about 4 hours sleep last night for no apparent reason. 2nd grade are the worst classes I have to teach. They are at that middle stage; the’ve been in the school long enough to think they know everything, they are not the youngest, but neither must they work hard to get into a good highschool. So they just drive me crazy. Evil munchkins, most of them at least. I can’t believe that my best students and my worst are all bundled together into 2nd grade.

Today also marks the start of the next course of my online uni stuff. This time round its “Managing the Transition to eBusiness”, which promises to be interesting but kinda awkward as I’m probably the only one participating who isn’t involved in any kind of online venture at all at the moment. Teaching kids is decidedly not eBusiness, about as far as I get towards eBusiness at the moment is internet shopping, something Korea leads the world in.

I also finally managed to get the “avante of power”, the car, in for its snow tyres. Probably should have done it a few weeks back but we’ve had no snow in a month and its been a busy busy month and I only just got round to it. Lets see what that costs this time around.





Late to school? That’ll hurt.

17 11 2009

Oh my poor students. This has got to hurt.

Punishment for being Late

I’m not 100% sure what time the kids are supposed to arrive at school. Its before me for sure, and I arrive usually at 8.40am. I think its closer to 8am. Unluckily for them sometimes they are late. Usually its not a big deal, just a few words from their homeroom teacher, maybe some extra cleaning duties or the like.

Not today. Every now and then the school goes on a lateness campaign. A teacher, usually a PE teacher, waits at the school entrance and directs all the late kids into the corridors of the school where they must kneel down with their hands above their heads. Usually only for 5 minutes but sometimes much longer.

Punishment for being Late

Punishment for being Late

Did I mention that it was about -8 celcius last night and about -4 when this was happening? And the school isn’t heated except for the classrooms? And thats cold cold concrete they are kneeling on? Ouch.

But wait, it gets worse. Depending on the day, the teacher and the level of their hangover, corporal punishment sometimes rears its ugly head. They are made to assume the “downward dog” position, hands and feet on the ground, bums up. Then the teacher (usually PE teacher, again) comes along with a love stick and administers a few “taps” across the cheeks. Nothing hard or violent but intended to be a physical reminder of not being late.

Punishment for being Late

This isn’t too bad. You should see what happens when they get caught smoking……..





Espressamente Daegu

15 11 2009

I live in Taebaek. Seoul is 3-4 hours away. Chuncheon, our provincial capital is about 3 hours away. Daegu, 3rd largest Korean city is about 3 hours away. Taebaek is the middle of nowhere.

Sometimes we need to get away and have our dose of western goodness. These days we are turning to Daegu more. Why? Its closer than Seoul, we can drive there, its like “mini Seoul” and it has Costco.

Major added bonus is this place.

6C18CE72-7128-464F-ADEF-1138A08272D6.jpg

Espressamente Illy, Daegu

We’ve been going to Daegu for a few years now, and about a year ago discovered Espressamente Illy. Think of one of the most modern and funkiest coffee shops anywhere in the world, then put it in downtown Daegu. Its an amazing place. I know Illy associate themselves with design and fashion and this place is no exception.

Espressamente Illy, Daegu

Delicious delicious coffee’s, amazing cakes, awesome sandwiches. Hard to beat (actually there is one place better, but its in Seoul).

Espressamente Illy, Daegu

Espressamente Illy, Daegu

We usually go for breakfast. Korean breakfasts are usually nothing flash. Rice, Kimchee and Soup. Other alternatives are opening up, Dunkin Donuts, Macdonalds etc, but they can’t compare with first rate food like this

Espressamente Illy, Daegu

Yes, its expensive, but so is every coffee shop in Korea. What you see above was W19,000 and worth every individual won. Its perfect coffee with the milk steamed to perfection, the sandwiches are freshly made, with (by Korean standards hard to find) fresh ingredients.

Enjoy

Espressamente Illy, Daegu





40D of sadness is now happy.

9 11 2009

I should have updated this a week ago, but my camera is back in fine working order. Thanks to our friend, Lee, It was sent off to Canon, quoted on, repaired and delivered back to me all in the space of about 2 weeks.

Final cost? Pretty well bang on the estimate at W380,000 including shipping.

What did they do? From what I can gather they replaced the whole “mirror box”, seeming the entire guts of the camera from the shutter forwards.

Does it work? Yup, as good as, or better than ever. Everything is sparkling clean inside and if anything, it feels slightly more solid now. Mounting lenses is a slightly tighter fit, with more of a machined finish, in no way a bad thing. So far I haven’t taken many pics, but focus seems spot on, which was my biggest concern.

All up, great work from Canon Korea.





Random observation of the day

3 11 2009

Why is it that when it is 30 degrees outside the teachers in my office set the AirConditioning to 18 degrees, but when its 5 degrees outside they set the heating to 28 degrees?

Someone please explain?

I came in this morning to the heating on high and everyone dressed in their warmest winter clothes. I almost died from heatstroke.

And then there is the whole argument for keeping the windows open in the middle of winter for “health” so the classrooms are freezing even if the heaters are on full.

Sparkling.