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

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Peculiar Places of Korea: Penis Park

4 12 2009

Thirty(ish) minutes South of the port town of Samcheok, you can discover one of the strangest places in Korea. Haesindang, or Penis Park. Why is it called “Penis Park” you might ask? Easy. Its full of statues of Penises.

Penis Park, Samcheok

We are not talking one or two of them, but hundreds, some highly elaborately carved out of huge tree’s.

Penis Park, Samcheok

Penis Park, Samcheok

Why does this place even exist? Being Korea, there’s a legend behind it. Instead of trying to paraphrase, I’ll just copy and paste from the Korean Tourism Page on the subject.

Legend of Aebawi and Haesindang – There once lived a young maid who was engaged. One day, the maid took her husband’s boat out to sea to harvest seaweed. Her husband dropped her off at a rock that was at a distance from the beach. After promising to pick her up later, he returned to the beach to do his work. Later, the weather changed, and brought with it strong winds and pummeling waves. The man couldn’t rescue his wife and she ultimately drowned. Since then, the village people caught no fish and some said that it was because of the dead maid. To soothe the spirit of the dead maid, the village people made several wooden carvings and held religious ceremonies on her behalf. After a while, the fish slowly returned and the villagers were able to live comfortably again. The place where the maid died was named Aebawi Rock and the building where the religious ceremony is held twice a year was named Haesindang. The ceremony is still honored today as a traditional folk event.

Since then, its turned into a kind of outdoor art sculpture garden dedicated to the, well, penis.

Penis Park, Samcheok

Penis Park, Samcheok

Penis Park, Samcheok

Thats not all. Everything is penis themed. We even have a water fountain style thing that moves up and down by the power of water.

Penis Park, Samcheok

Strange?

More odd are the museum style outdoor exhibits, showing how Koreans used to live and work. Similar to many folk village exhibits except for one small (large?) detail. Guess.

Penis Park, Samcheok

We also have the 12 signs of the zodiac done as penises. Each granite statue is carved with the relevant animal and exhibited in a circle looking out over the water. (This pic is actually a huge mega panorama. 15 shots stitched together, so click it and have a look. Beware if your computer is slow or your have a slow internet connection, it might take a while.)

Twelve Penises of the Zodiac

If you come to Korea, I’d recommend this place. Its one of the nicest parks, in a stunning part of the country. Yes its a good long way from Seoul, but worth it.





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





November keeps getting stranger

2 11 2009

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

Firstly, and most amazingly,

ITS SNOWING!!!!

PB020135.JPG

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!!!”