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.

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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.





November keeps getting stranger

2 11 2009

Wow, its only the 2nd and odd things keep happening.

Firstly, and most amazingly,

ITS SNOWING!!!!

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Its been snowing since about 9am, so about 4 hours so far. It’s not really settling yet, but it is damn cold and the kids hare having fun being idiots (as usual).

The other unusual thing was lunch. Having been here for over 3 years I thought I’d seen all of the various lunch options. Today was a surprise. Not sure if its because its a new month and the budget has reset, or if its a special welcome back lunch for the VP, but it was special. An absolute mountain of mussels. I don’t even like the things but everyone got a heaping serving of them to go with the rice, kimchee, mini hotdogs in sauce and the miscellaneous stewed fish (yurgh). I think I was given about 15 mussels. Pretty impressive for a school lunch.





November starts with a bang

2 11 2009

While not technically the first day of November, its the first school day and surprises all round.

1. First snow of the season. Well, not quite snow in the town, more rain/drizzle but up at the O2 ski resort there was a light dusting. Hopefully this bodes well for the season ahead. Also the coldest morning to date, being about 1 degree when I left home. We’ve had colder nights but usually its been warming up during the days.

2. I arrive at school at my normal time, about 8.45. Usually Mondays my first class is 3rd period, so about 10.50. This gives me time to get organised, have a cup of tea, do my photocopying and catch up on whatever I need to catch up on. Today? Nooooooo. Nothing of the sort. I walk into panic stations. Seems one of the English teachers has got the dreaded swine flu. Not my main co-teacher but the other English teacher. This obviously means bulk changes to the timetable, giving me some extra classes and moving them forward. No big deal. Then as the bell rings, 9am, start of classes, the timetable changes again. I’m up first class, with one of my worst behaved classes, with nothing prepared. Oh well, 5 mins at the photocopier with a convenient “Reading Builder” book and I’ve got material. Luckily my main Co-teacher, Mrs Kim, helped me out. I’ve never walked into that class to silence before. Throughout the whole class the kids were well behaved, no swearing, no hitting, even no sleeping. Unbelievabubble. Whatever she did to them was magic. They were back to the fun they were last year. Hope it stays that way.

3. Swine flu. We’ve got teachers sick, we’ve got students sick, I feel sick, many people have a standard seasonal cold/flu. Whats going on? What will it take for the government here to do something about it all? Swine Flu is here, now and spreading. We’ve had the local elementary school closed for a week or so after over 300 kids were absent (out of 1600). Schools in other cities are starting to close. Its not just the kids mingling at school thats the problem. After school they all go to private academies and PCBang (Internet Cafe) where they mingle with kids from all the other schools in the area. It doesn’t help either that now its cold everyone is staying in their sealed warm classrooms. Every class has a few kids off sick. Swine flu or otherwise. I’ve heard stories of kids having Swine Flu but their parents not wanting to look after them at home so sending them to school, sick, so the school can look after them. Can we say “Crazy”?

4. Finally, after 8 weeks or so, the school has a Vice Principal again. He’s been away for 2 months on a Principal training course at one of the Education Universities. Good for him. It means he should become a full principal soon. Now that he’s back, a few of the odder things that have been going on here should get back to normal.

5. Procrastination. I have a uni assignment due on Wednesday. Nothing like putting off uni work to make you do other things 🙂

I’m sure there are other things that will only be revealed as the day goes on. Oh well, as the Koreans say, “Fighting!!!”





The 40D of sadness

22 10 2009

Yargh, Urgh, AAAARGH.

Maybe it was in retaliation for purchasing a small point and shoot camera the week previous, or maybe it was just irritated with 2nd grade too, but no matter the reason, my Canon 40D decided that enough was enough. Shooting in sports mode (6.5fps) the first 2 pics worked and then it jammed. The mirror inside seems to have lost one of its hinge points, and now is jammed into the body. No moving mirror, no pictures = expensive fix.

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You can see the mirror in the pic. Mine seems to have jammed off center, with the top left hinge probably being broken. Result? the mirror no longer swings up when a photo is taken.

Usually when you push the shutter, the autofocus does it thing, the camera calculates the exposure, the mirror flips up and then the shutter fires. Now mines still does all of that with the exception of the mirror. So all photo’s consist of just the top 10% of the frame, where light leaks past the faulty mirror.

Never a good feeling when your expensive toy decides to break.

Still, help was on hand. As it was obviously time to send it back to Canon for some TLC I went to see my friend Lee, who runs our local photo/computer store. He helped my out greatly by calling Canon, organising it to be sent back for evaluation and a quote.

Warranty? Unfortunately no. I bought it about 18 months ago, grey market from the markets in Yongsan. Basically I saved about W400,000 by buying a Japanese domestic market body. Very much worth saving. Even so, it would be out of warranty anyway.

Well, it was sent on Friday, was inspected and quoted on Tuesday and I should get it back this week. Amazingly fast. But how much? This much :

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Thats W376,000, or about AU$350. About what I expected really. They are replacing the whole mirror box, so it should come back better than new and hopefully much cleaner. This is where I’m thankful to be in Korea. I’ve heard some bad stories about Canon Australia and the long slow process of repairs. Especially repairs to overseas bought cameras.

So it should all turn out ok, except for the wonderful out of pocket $$$. Isn’t it funny how every single month something crops up to cost $300 or $400 that you were not expecting.

I’m looking forward to getting my camera back and taking more pics. It feels strange using a small point and shoot camera, its just not the same sense of taking a photo. That physical feeling that you just don’t get with an all electronic camera.





Mountain Climbing Day (or ouch, my legs hurt)

21 10 2009

October, oh October. Month of limited classes, ridiculous numbers of exams and those strange, odd and crazy days. Days like “sports day” and school “climb a mountain day”. Last week was very much a standard October week.

Monday? Completely normal. I taught 2 classes, both 2nd grade, both EVIL. Noisy, sleepy and downright annoying.

Tuesday? Exams for 3rd grade. Exams again? Didn’t they have exams 2 weeks ago? Yup, more exams. And more to come in another 2 weeks. Guess which grade I teach on Tuesdays? Yup, right again. 3rd grade. No classes.

Wednesday? Still 3rd grade exams. So just one class for me. Another bunch of evil evil 2nd grade students. How can 2nd grade contain both the best kids in the school, and be on average the worst to teach?

Thursday? Sports Day! No classes for me. Just sadness and depression, RIP canon 40D, I loved thee well. My camera decided to not love me any more. Yup, it broke, and with it my enthusiasm for the day.

Friday, oh Friday. TGIF, or not. Climbing a bloody mountain. Yeouch.

1st and 2nd grade got to climb Taebaek-san, our local famous spot. But 3rd grade? No, they need something different, something more challenging, something more fitting for their growing bodies and emotional requirements. We went into Cheoram (another of the Taebaekian towns) and climbed there.

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Thanks to GoogleEarth and my GPS, I managed to map where we went. All up the blue line you can see is about 9.3km, starting with a brutal uphill section to the lunch spot.

9km to go

I saw, for the first time in this region, some ruins that might be Korean war related. Most of the war bypassed this area because of its mountainous nature. Not to say the locals didn’t fight, they did.

War Bunker?

From the lunch spot, 4km into the hike, you are confonted by this depressing sign. Either way and you know it’ll hurt, but we went left.

Painful Decisions

Being on top of the ridge line gave some fantastic views of the mountains and the results of Autumn. The golden foliage was in full colour, and the light was stunning.

Autumn Valley Views

Autumn Light

The new camera even gave me a few surprised. I’m used to the lens flare from my DSLR and its lenses, but this was something completely new and unexpected. I actually like the effect it gives.

Crazy Flare

The 2nd half of the hike was the worst. Mostly downhill on dry, dusty trails that were both narrow and covered in dry leaves. It was difficult wearing decent shoes to get grip, so I don’t know how the kids and their “fashion” shoes managed to survive with no broken bones.

On the way down we passed a traditional tomb. These “body bumps” are the tombs of a families ancestors and are lovingly tended during varions holidays and festivals throughout the year. Tombs like this can be found all over Korea in the most unlikely places. This one is about 4km from the nearest road, up a mountain.

Korean Tomb

Upon finishing, the kids all left to walk home, or at least walk to the bus stop, another 1km or so. Teachers? We piled into cars and just drove home. The legs really were a bit sore for the next few days.

Fun? Yes. Something I want to do again? Not soon.





The Haechi of Seoul – Gwanghwamun Plaza

6 10 2009

Recently the area in front of Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul has been turned from a 12 lane road into a vast public space, Gwanghwamun Plaza. The old statue of King Sejong is still here, but now is part of a fountain structure.

King Sejong and his Fountians

On a nice hot day, the kids go crazy running around, trying to avoid the water and usually failing.

Upwards Rain?

Strut in those fountains boy

The plaza itself contains more than just the fountains. It is also a vast public exhibition space, both above ground and underground.

Gwanghwamun Plaza

Currently they are exhibiting the Haechi of Seoul. The Haechi is a mythical beast that once protected the palaces of Seoul. Now it is the latest tourist face of the city. They have put at least 20 differently decorated Haechi statues out as an art exhibit. Similar in concept to the decorated cows that were in many cities over the last few years, these seem to have more of a sense of fun.

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Sleep? Really? Who needs it with Emarts “No Sleep Gum”

21 09 2009

My latest discovery in the world of strange candy that E-Mart gives us. No sleep gum. Aimed to keep you awake while driving, or for students who are studying, its a wondrous glossy black colour, something gum should never be.

As part of its magic “no sleep” formula, I think contains about 2% guarana extract. I can’t find anything referring to caffeine but it might also be in there.

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NoSleepGum.jpg

So, how does it taste? From looking at it you would think awful, but in fact its absolutely delicious. A really strong minty fresh hit that blows through your sinus passages, leaving you refreshed and awake. Not sure what the guarana does but I’m sure it kicks in.

If it weren’t for the fact that my kids would stick it all over the English room, I’d be tempted to give it out to them at the start of class. Something to wake them up. Anything…

Recommended.