English Village a Gogo

9 09 2009

The unbelievable has happened. Its finished (almost at least). The English Village is finished (or should that be finishy?).

Before I went on vacation the decision had been made to change our newly refurbished computer room into an actual English room. Of course this all occurred after the datacenter style raised flooring and cabling all went it, but so be it.

From Hamtae English Village

They’ve spent a huge pile of cash, to redo the room for my exclusive use. We have all the new toys to play with, and not a single explanation of what the toys are or what they can do.

From Hamtae English Village

The idea is that the kids come to me for our English classes. No more me travelling around the school, into classrooms where the computer may or may not work, where kids spend half their time sleeping or ignoring me. Finally, POWER!!!!!!!!

From Hamtae English Village

As well as the classroom elements, we have an extensive library. Well, extensive compared to our previous English library of 1 book (actually I lie, its 2 books. They split the first Harry Potter into 2 volumes). They even gave me some sofa’s to sleep/study on.

From Hamtae English Village

Another wonderful thing they gave us are 3, just 3 computers for the kids to “search” with. Of course nothign in English, only Korean. Oh well. Could be worse.

From Hamtae English Village

Overall its been a success so far. The kids are excited to get out of their normal classrooms, and usually barrel in 10 mins before class begins. Luckily my office is next door so I can ignore them until class begins. Its also fantastic to finally be able to rely upon a computer being there, working, with sound etc. The number of times you think it’ll work and then it doesn’t are enough to drive me even more exotically crazy.

Next challenge. Keep it clean in working order when my cleaning crew consists of 3 very giggly 1st grade girls 🙂

Back into it again, finally

8 09 2009

Finally, I’m back into it. After soooooo long of no classes I’m back into my normal schedule again.

I looked it up, my last normal classes were July 16th. Since then I’ve had my 4 weeks vacation (woo hoo), 1 week of swine flu quarantine, and then it was into school exam periods, meaning most of my classes were cancelled so the teachers can concentrate on improving the marks.

What made this exam session worse than most is it was a provincial wide set of Middle School exams. Translated, a competition between schools, with the Principals jostling to be the best in town. Unfortunately this meant ridiculous numbers of extra classes, weekend classes, night classes, extra study etc for the kids. And all so the principals can show off to their principal mates. I don’t even know how much the results actually matter to the students.

Even crazier is the kids have school mid term exams at the end of this month for a few days, then 3rd grade have an important set of exams mid October, followed by another set of 3rd grade exams at the start of November. This is all finished up with school exams for all in December followed by High School entrance exams a week later and then a national testing day just before christmas.

And this is for Middle School. Its much much worse for High School. No wonder these kids are going crazy.

Maybe things have changed in Australia since I was at school, but I remember starting school about 8.30, finishing about 3.30pm. Maybe some after school sport or cadets or something and then home again. Monday to Friday. Sometimes sport on Saturday, but never classes. Exams were once a term, with very occasional state wide or national tests.

Here my poor students rock up about 7.30am, go home about 6pm, Monday thru Friday. Then go straight to private study academies for a few hours, then maybe a study room, then home and to bed maybe 12 or 1am if they are lucky. Saturday school happens every 2nd Saturday and is a day full of exams. Again, these are Middle School kids. Academic High School kids rarely leave school before 10pm, 7 days a week.

I blame the mothers here for all the pressure. They are the ones forcing the kids to study so much, pushing the schools to provide extra classes for their sons or daughters, so they can sleep less and study more in order to get into a good high school so they can hopefully go to a good university.

Oh well. Its their system. I just try to fit around it as best as possible. We can’t change it, but the best we can do is at least make English conversation classes more fun and relaxing, allow the kids to be kids and have a laugh. If they enjoy it, I enjoy it. And they are such a nice bunch of Kids too.


This is Nadia. One of the best and funniest girls. She’s going to kill me.

PS, end of rant.

Weekends, shopping and Obama?

3 09 2009

Finally, we have discovered that a long standing rumour is true. Yes, they are real. Really real.

For one of these


we managed to obtain the long rumoured, never before seen (at least by us), mythological


Yes indeedily, they are geniune Obama Socks. Now you’ve seen everything. Only in Korea could you possibly find a treasure such as these, and all for about $1 Australian too.

However thats not the full extent of the bounty. For the same W1000, we also obtained this


W50,000??? Wait, that can’t be right, $1 gives you $50?

Oops, I actually meant these


The amazing W50,000 pair of socks. Some of the most valuable socks ever to be seen in the back streets of Daegu.

On topic (barely), the new W50,000 notes are a godsend. Finally you can carry a reasonable amount of cash with you without needing a huge wallet stuffed with cash. Amazing when you consider that the W10,000 note was introduced in 1973 and so was the top valued not for over 25 years. It ended up being worth about US$10 or so.

It meant to buy even a old 2nd hand car required a huge handful of cash, like this (about W2,000,000)

Photo 44.jpg

Please note, that picture is old. My hair now in no way resembles what you see in that picture.

Apparently the lack of a larger valued note was to reduce corruption, making large cash bribes physically very large. Not that it seemed to stop it happening……

Long Time, No Post.

24 08 2009

Wow, its been a while. I’ve been busy. Yes really. Well, busy and vacation. Can’t be busy all the time can I 🙂

Well, we are back from Turkey and a great time was had. I’ve been slowly working on photo’s, lots more required but I’ll get there.

For now you can see the pics I’ve uploaded so far on my Flickr page. Mostly just group shots or pics of the people on our tour.

We arrived back into Taebaek late Sundey night last week. I’d already been told before we left that quarantine would be required. Yes, for leaving the country we got given a bonus week of paid quarantine time, just in case we picked up swine flu on our travels. Not that we went to Mexico or anything, not even like we went to a country with pigs (Turkey is mostly muslim so pork is completely out). Still, extra week it was. Who can say no to that?

Even more crazy, I was told to get a flu test from the hospital before turning up at work, just in case I really did have swine flu but didn’t know it yet.

Of course like all of these ideas, it was made with the best of intentions but little actual knowledge of the facts. We fronted up to the hospital for our tests, spent quite a while trying to get across to them what we were after, got examined by a doctor for about 30 seconds (all that happened was he took our temperature) and that was it. They can’t or won’t do the flu test for us because we are not symptomatic, and the test takes a few days to process (take swab in Taebaek, send to Seoul for processing, wait, wait, go back to hospital for results, get paper certifying we are flu free) before finally go back to school.

We did manage to get an official receipt from the hospital for our “consultation”, all of W1100 or about AU$1.10 which the schools treat as an official test result document. Crazy.

Bottom line? back at school teaching again after about 5 weeks. Its good to be back, but I think every single student is making a joke asking me if I have SI.

Even the VP told me, in English, to wash my hands all the time. Nice thought, but still no soap in the bathrooms.

Korea, Sparkling.

Incheon Airport, Last flight for the night

24 07 2009

Ah, at last. Its time to leave Korea, for now at least.

We are on the last flight of the day out of Incheon, bound for Istanbul on TK091. A 11.55pm departure with a wonderous 5.50am arrival in Istanbul. Yurgh.

Turkish Flight TK091, 11.55pm

Man is this place boring. For the so called “Hub of Asia” its terrible at night. Everything shuts here at 9pm, so no food other than a crappy snack bar (yay, W18,700 for 2 drinks, a sandwich, 2 donuts and a muffin). Even the duty free shops are mostly closed with a meagre selection available in whats left open. Really really disapointed in Incheon Airport.

Still, chance for a few odd pics in a ghostly terminal. Just messing around putting the camera down on the travelators etc.

Incheon Airport, Ghost Terminal

Incheon Airport, Ghostly travelator

But, at least all of this means that tomorrow morning, probably in about 12 hours we’ll be in Istanbul.

Total eclipse of the heart

22 07 2009

Actually a partial eclipse of the sun.

What a perfect start to a vacation. This evening we head to Seoul and on to Turkey, and this morning is a partial 85% complete eclipse. And I didn’t even know about it until yesterday.

More messing around with the camera to get these shots. Thank you very much Mr ND400 9 stop filter. Shot at ISO100, f25, 1/125sec with stacked ND400 and CPL.

Korean Eclipse

Partial Eclipse

More on Turkey when we get there 🙂

Taebaek Weather, its crazy

15 07 2009

I started the blog by talking about the drought in Taebaek. Well, its over. Has been officially over for a while but with the weather of the past few weeks, its truly over.

First the rain, its been pouring down. Not just light but amazingly heavy rain, lasting hours on end. Days at a time. Amazing stuff.

Just watching the weather roll in over the mountains is impressive. Here it had been raining all day, just stopped for 20 minutes or so and then as you can see the clouds rolled in over the mountains and it all started again.

Here comes the rain...

As a result everything is waterlogged. The small river beside school, normally just a light trickle is now a raging torrent. Pretty impressive and very noisy. As I was taking these pics the kids lost a basketball over the fence and into the water. Within a few seconds it was well downstream.

The full rivers of Taebaek

The full rivers of Taebaek

The full rivers of Taebaek

These were all long exposures taken with stacked filters, a ND400 and a CPL.

EPIK teachers trip to YoungIn MinSeok Cheon (Korean Folk Village)

15 07 2009

I hate early mornings. I hate even more the early mornings for no good reason, and 6.20am is just evil. Still, that was the assigned time to meet all the other foreigners, pile on a bus and drive 3 hours west to the YoungIn MinSeok Cheon, or Korean Folk Village for our day trip (aka, keep the foreigners happy time).

It all began bizzarely. At 6.30am most people want sleep, or failing that, coffee. Warm beer isn’t high on my list of desirables, but it is what we were given.

Beers on the bus, at 6.30am???

While some partook, others tried catching up on sleep.

Sleepy for some

Eventually we arrived, wasted some time waiting and headed into the village which was to be our next 8 hours.

Here we have a large stone mound covered in ropes with attached paper wishes. You write your wish on the slip of paper and attach it in order for it to come true.

Making a wish

(Just a note, some of these pics are a bit ghostly. I was playing with a new super dark camera filter so that should explain everything)

These totem-poles are decorated and placed in villages to protect the villagers and prevent bad spirits etc from attacking.

Korean totem-poles

A traditional Korean game where the aim is to throw the stick (maybe 60cm long) into the metal rings. I think the centre ring is best.

Ghostly games

Next were the performances. The traditional farmers twirling dance with gongs and drums was loud but spectacular. They have ropes or ribbons attached to their heads and spin around and around.

Whirling ghostly dancers

Whirling farmers dance

Bang that Gong

Ancient break dancing?

Then on to the tight-rope walker. I didn’t get an explanation of why but it certainly looked painful, bouncing down onto your crotch and then back up again. Oouch.

Tightrope walking

Sitting down on the job?

Believe it or not, but one of the highlights was the “haunted house”. Not a very good one but more giggles than not. Besides, its not everywhere you get a severed head out the front.

Severed head?

More scary things were to come, with Jessica determined to try to scare me after I scared her, making her fall backwards (sorry Jessica).


How can any trip anywhere be complete without cats? We found 3 wild kittens sleeping in the sun. Soooo cute. I think everyone wanted to take them home.

Sleepy sleepy.

Making a pot the traditional way was also included in our day.

Pottery monster

Some however let the warm beer and festivities get to them.

Take that!

While others just did the more modern traditional Korean things, cutey photo’s

The lovely couple

Overall a great place to visit to experience old Korea, but having been there almost 3 years ago (huge hangover an all), it wasn’t worth getting up at 6am for. Still, if you are only visiting Korea, its well worth the trip.

The Airforce over Taebaek

1 07 2009

Here in Taebaek we are blessed with an Airforce bombing range just down the road next to our famous Taebaek-san.

What does this mean? Regular low, fast flights screaming down the valleys here heading west to the bombing range for practice.

This time I was lucky enough to catch them with my camera as they flew lower than usual right over our apartment.

Airforce over Taebaek

Airforce over Taebaek

What are they? No idea. If you know please let me know in the comments.

TShirt of the Day “Our pussys, Our choice”

26 06 2009

Oh the joys of Korea. Engrish everywhere. Tshirts especially.

This one was captured by a fellow teacher in our small town, working in an Elementary School (no names mentioned). A 4th grade elementary girl was wearing this all day. Of course nobody except the “concerned” teacher was vaguely phased by this.


I’ve seen similarly wrong shirts, but other than this one (below) I haven’t managed to get hold of any.

From Wierd Stuff