Monday, October 24, 2011

The next five weeks... ish

NOTE:  For this blog entry, I will limit myself to the weekdays (work days) from the last five weeks.  (Sept 15 to October 21).  In my next entries, I will talk about our weekend excursions and post more pictures! So stay tuned for that coming up soon.

Monday, Sept 19 to Friday, Sept 23

My school (Jason)
Another shot of my school (Shinchon middle school)
This week would have been pretty uneventful had it not been for the student singing and reading competitions, which I like to call "Shinchon Idol" and the grade 3 speaking test.  The latter, of which I was made aware at the last minute, would consist of having students prepare a 1 minute presentation about a story they read.  My co-teachers would pretty much do all the leg work (although I made the assignment sheet and the rubric) and I would just come in each class and evaluate the actual presentation.  So basically, over the next 2 weeks, I administered 15 speaking tests in varying level.  This was actually a pretty easy task and quite funny.  After I was done marking the first class, my co-teacher looked at my scores and told me I had too many perfect scores (6 out of 30).  I needed to adjust that since she didn't want anymore than 4.  OK...  Other than that, it was kind of like a week off teaching the grade 3s.  I would walk in, students would go one after the other presenting their work and then I would leave.  Not bad, but got very dull and repetitive. It also seemed as though all the students read the same books.  

Oxforf room - One of the many rooms in which I teach.
 The top 4 were:

Harry Potter (Of course)
The Little Prince (My favourite)
The Ant and the Grasshopper (A Korean tale)
Please look after mom (A story about losing your mother)

Welcome to the English zone!!!

On Tuesday (Sept 20) we had officially been in Korea for a month.  We celebrated our anniversary by eating out somewhere... just like every other night!!!  On the next day, as I was about to leave to go home, one my co-teacher asked me if I was ready??? (Ready for what? I asked myself)  "For the singing competition of course.  You're going to be a judge!"  LOL!  The competition was actually pretty fun.  About 12 groups had prepared a routine to an English song that they sang in front of everyone.  It takes guts!!!  I was impressed by both their dancing and their vocals.  Prominently featured were songs by Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, Blink 182 and many more.  The last girl who performed blew the competition away.  She was simply amazing!

On Friday, a similar thing happened when one of my co-teachers asked me to judge the speaking competition.  This time, the "vocally-challenged" students had prepared a speech that they could recite on-demand accompanied by out-of-this-world visual aids (usually PowerPoints).  One of the grade 3 students wrote her speech on Harry Potter and claimed first place.  She had grown up in England and spoke perfect English with a British accent.  As she was reciting her speech, my co-teacher turns to me and says: "ARGH!! British... I can't understand a word she says", which I thought was hilarious.

Other notable moments from the week included figuring out how to use the rice cooker (as Jen already blogged) and discovering some Korean Facebook groups, which led us to our weekend expedition (I will blog about it later)

Monday, Sept 26 to Friday, Sept 30
 Jen and I and our co-teachers at the GEPIK orientation

This week was truly uneventful... The only thing I kept in my notes was the GEPIK orientation in Suwon on Tuesday.  Both Jennifer and I had to go to this workshop set up by the board of education for all GEPIK teachers.  On Tuesday morning, Jen and I took the bus to Bundang to meet my co-teacher.  She would drive us to Suwon since the orientation was for them too.  In previous years, the Board of Education put together two to three days orientation for its teachers, but because of financial cutbacks, reduced it to a one day thing this year.  First off, the timing was kind of odd considering we had been teaching for over a month already.  Then, the workshops were pretty useless.  Honestly, I would have preferred to be at school teaching rather than sit at this thing.  I was looking forward to meeting other foreign teachers from the area, but there were not many opportunities to mingle, especially considering our co-teachers were with us.  So overall, I felt like we wasted a day.
Tangsuyuk (left) Jajangmyeon (right, what Jen is slurping)

The only good thing that came out of it was that my co-teacher invited Jen and I for supper.  We went to a Chinese place close to her apartment.  Here, we discovered our favourite food!!!  (Tangsuyuk and jajangmyeon).  Tangsuyuk is sweet and sour pork and jajangmyeon is a sort of Korean noodle with a black soya sauce... It's absolutely delicious and we've had it numerous time since then!  The best part was that my co-teacher flipped the bill!  NICE!!!

I spent the rest of the week planning our long weekend that was coming up. (Yup, another one!!!)  We planned on visiting Everland (5th largest theme park in the world) and meeting up with some people that we had met through (another awesome lifesaving website we discovered).  I will blog about this later!

Tuesday, Oct 4 - Friday, Oct 7

This must have been the easiest, yet longest, four days of my life.  It was midterm week... all week!  I taught a couple of grade 1 and 2 classes on Tuesday and then for the rest of the week, showed up to school at 8:20am and left at 4:20pm with absolutely nothing to do all day.  Well, I kept busy, but there was nothing I "had" to do.  The Korean teachers were running around, proctoring the tests, marking (all of the teacher stuff during exam time) while I sat at my desk and surfed the world wide web!!!  Life was beautiful!  To make things even more awesome, October 6 marked the start of the NHL season.  And since I won't be playing much hockey, I spared no expense to at least be able to watch some hockey.  I bought the NHL Gamecenter live from the NHL website, which gives me almost unlimited streaming of NHL games.  Since we're technically a day ahead, I got to try it at school on Friday!  WOOOT!!  OK, a disclaimer here - I was also doing some work at the same time...  The game was just in the background!!!  But it was great anyway! And I got to rewatch all the highlights as soon as they happened!!  It was great.
Random picture of the school yard...

I also took advantage of the week to get ahead in my lesson planning.  I have the bad habit of procrastinating until the last minute (as you may have noticed by the spotty blog) when it comes to getting ready for class.  With a week "off", I was able to get everything done for the the next couple of weeks.  I also stumbled upon yet another website which is extremely helpful in finding out what is coming up in South Korea.  In fact, one of the activities advertised was a Trivia night on Wednesday at a foreigner bar in Bundang (which is about 20-25 minutes from where we are).  We decided to check it out, since we had nothing to do.  We invited Katie, a friend we met on the week before and headed to Traveler's Bar and Grill for dinner and some trivia.  Traveler's is owned by a Canadian who also runs a recruiting agency (  We're also pretty sure he's originally from Sudbury.  Anyway, we had a great time and even won 30,000 KRW (not for winning.. lol we finished dead last) and it covered our entry fee (5,000 KRW) and part of our meal and drinks!!!  SWEET!!!  On top of that, Jen was delighted with the menu that was filled with burgers, fries and even her favourite - Chicken fingers!!!  We got back home close to midnight and I was so thankful that I didn't have to teach the next day.  It was another story for Jen!!!

On Friday, all the teachers had left by 12:30pm and I was all alone in the office.  Shim Hye Seon had told me I could leave early.  While tempting, if I did, the hours would would accumulate and when they reached 8 hours, I lose one day of vacation.  Since I had nothing to do at home that I couldn't do at school , I decided just to stay and let the day go by.  By 3:10, I hadn't seen a soul in over 2 hours so I decided to leave.  I had to go to the bank to open up a remittance account (to send money back to Canada) and sign up for online banking (to make life easier).

The weather was getting considerably colder everyday and we started thinking about preparing for the fall/winter.  We had left all our winter gear in Canada, thinking that we would have plenty of time to get accustomed before having to go shopping for such things.  But the weather was fast changing and we still didn't really know where to go shopping, so I posted the question on, hoping someone could help us out, and eventually someone did... but this is the first reply I got and wanted to share!!

"yeah yo welcome 2 korea son. check it. go to  uniqlo or spao. they like da chepaest. i saw a phat ajcket thur for liek 50 bucks, puffy witner jacket. and uniqlo got them fluffy ones too for a lil more. ishop at uniquelo man. so chck it out man. ask yo coteacher for some spao or uniqlod man. aiite? payce. one."

Monday, Oct 10 to Friday, Oct 14

Yet another uneventful week...  I was back to teaching and all grades 1 and 2 students left for their field trip on Wednesday until Friday.  So my schedule was altered to teach all grade 3 classes this week.  The only thing that sucked was that my awesome lesson plan on World Food would only last me a week instead of two...  Other than that, the week passed without a hitch!
It's only one block away from our apartment

On Wednesday, we had another dinner date with Katie.  This time, we opted to stay close to home and check out Gecko's, which is another "foreigner" bar about a block away from us.  The funny thing is I found out about it online through  The place is on the 9th floor and the view is pretty good and the menu definitely caters to the international crowd!  I had the steak and cheese sandwich while Jen had chicken tenders and Katie ordered the meatball sandwich.  Y-U-M-M-Y!!!

Enjoying a Cass with my meal @ Gecko's
On Friday, I asked to leave early again since the online banking sign-up hadn't worked last week.  Having a Mac in Korea is not very practical.  Everything is configured for PCs.  Fortunately, I had read on the KEB's (my bank) website that they were "Mac ready".  So this time, I brought my Macbook with me to make sure there was no confusion... 20 minutes later, I was at home and had figured out the online banking with KEB, which is very different than back home.  Instead of accessing it from a website, you actually have to download a program, set it up and go through a myriad of security processes before finally logging-in.  But that was pretty much it for the week.  That evening, we went back to Traveler's for a few drinks then to PUB 210 (another foreigner-friendly bar that we discovered online) to see a live rock band.  By 11:00-11:30, we were pooched and went back home!  Tomorrow we would try our luck with our first real shopping experience around our area.  More on that in our blog about shopping!!!

Monday, Oct 17 to Friday, Oct 21

And that brings us to last week...  (By now, I've been working on this blog for all of three weeks, leaving it unfinished every time.)  Again, there are only a few things worth mentioning for this week.  The first one would be my failed Korean lesson.

A few weeks back, my co-teacher had signed me up for some Korean lesson since I had mentioned to her that I was really interested in learning Korean.  On Tuesday evening, I got an email saying I had been accepted in the government-funded lessons for GEPIK teachers.  I was really excited.  Every Wednesdays and Thursdays for 5 weeks, I would leave school early to travel to Kangnam University (about a 30 minutes bus ride + walk) to learn Korean.  I can stress enough how excited I was... that was, until I got there to find out it was an intermediate class.  All the other teachers taking the class had been in Korea for two to seven years and all had a very good knowledge of Korean.  Some were only there to refresh their repertoire... and here I was, the newbie, with no prior knowledge of anything Korean and only able to say "hello" and "thank you".  hmmmm... well it wasn't long before I realized I was in WAY over my head.  Actually, it was about five minutes.  The teacher, speaking only in Korean, had already reviewed all the greetings and was moving on to so question and answers... like I said in Korean...  That was it!  I got up, went to see the coordinator, told her I was leaving and walked out the doors.  I have to admit that this failure left me feeling a little uneasy and I would consider this my first real "FAIL" moment since we got here...  I guess that's the "culture shock" component that, until now, I hadn't really felt.  Ah well, life goes on... and it was Wednesday, so that meant another dinner date with Katie!!
Dalk galbi before being cooked. (YES, that's octopus)

Ready to eat! YUMMY
Wednesday night dinner date with Katie, James and Jin Sun
Later that evening, we planned to go to Migeum station to eat some galbi (meat ribs) at a local establishment.  Katie knew a guy who knew a place!!  I decided to invite another friend, James, who I had just met at the Korean class.  James is from PEI and had been a huge help for me in my five minutes of learning Korean.  He's been here for seven years and was happy to show me the ropes in our area.  We had exchanged numbers so I decided to text-invite him to our meeting.  Well, turns out Katie's guy who knew a place was James... Who would've thought... it's such a small world!  So James brought us to this nice jokgalbi place (pork) and we ate and drank there.  Then we went to a dalk galbi place (chicken) to meet JinSun (James' friend) and ate and drank some more.  By 11:00pm, we were stuffed and I was a little tipsy so it was time to go home.  I gotta admit, these Wednesday night dinner dates with Katie are becoming quite the staple and something to look forward to in the middle of the week!

The last thing worth mentioning for this week was planning our weekend trip to Itaewon for some more shopping, since our first experience had been fruitless.  For all our sleeping needs, I now deal with to get cheap and awesome places to stay.  A few weeks back, we had a great experience at Miso's guesthouse.  This time, we would go with IS@K guesthouse, which was closer to our destination.  More on our shopping experience coming up in another blog.

So that's it for now.  Stay tuned for more coming up shortly.


PS. Here are some more pictures for you to enjoy...
1st and 2nd graders getting ready to leave on their field trip

Enjoying some pad thai in a Vietnamese restaurant

Jen likes her nuts... and chicken!! (Actually it was cashew chicken, but it just doesn't sound as zingy)

More Jajangmyeon and Tangsuyuk at the local E-Mart food court

Shopping at E-mart (on the automatic ramps)

On the way home from WNDD, these guys were taking a nap on the subway!!!

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