Thursday, July 30, 2009

jisan valley, you rock. oh, and so do you VACATION!

jisan valley rock festival was last weekend. we spent an amazing hot and sunny sunday with a handful of korean and japanese bands, patti smith, jet, oasis, and, of course, our long-lost kiwi friends mark and bridget. the weather was gorgeous (finally !!!) and the beer was a-flowing. i made 7 what-i-thought-were-epic oasis videos and all you can hear is me singing. oh well.

mark's sister alicya has safely arrived for a two-week visit and we are really excited to play hosts. also, as of today, we're on a five-day holiday, and we've got tickets for an early morning bus to a beach on the east coast. i've never been more ready to lounge and work on my tan burn; my fingers are crossed for monsoon-free weather as i'm eager to put my 50+ sunscreen to use. we're also loaded up with all the vacation must haves from canada courtesy of ali: twizzlers, swedish berries, a stack of books and gossip magazines.

in the meantime, you can enjoy the select few rock festival pics, below. "see you" next week!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

a day (or really long week) in the life of alex teacher

we've just finished a 6-day week, and i'm feeling a little tired of being a teacher. or maybe just a little tired.

as a sidenote, typically, we work on a monday-friday schedule, and relish our weekends (everybody's workin' for the weekend, aren't they?). however, last week, there was a protest on wednesday and we got an unexpected mid-week day off. to back track a bit, the government in our province is trying to pass a law that prohibits classes past 10pm - which, in my opinion is a human rights/child labour law that should have been in places ages ago before students were ever required to be in school from 8am to 12am in this country ... but i digress. so the big guys want classes to end at 10, and our school is outraged (as are many other hagwons), because this causes their business to lose money, and so on. in response, they decided to cancel classes for the day to allow representatives to attend this public protest and to ... prove a point? i'm not really sure, my mind's kind of boggled at the irony of demanding more class hours by cancelling an entire day of school.

but anyway, what this all meant was that we had to work this saturday, more or less against our will. which also meant that we had a six-day week, followed by a one-day weekend. which leads us up to now: relieved, and worn out.

don't get me wrong, on a good day, i really enjoy teaching. the kids are cute and entertaining and i really can't complain about getting to play a lot of games throughout the day. sometimes the students can be funny, and i like joking around with them and making them sing songs they don't want to (the older ones especially). i love when a kid wears a shirt with a hood and i catch them unaware and put it on their head and tie the strings really tight and in a double knot before they know what's happening (potentially cruel, but ohso hilarious).

but then there are the not-so-good days, where every student is super-annoying, and they won't stop speaking korean instead of english, and you keep hearing them drop "alex teacher"s in the midst of what you can't understand, and they're up out of their chairs and yelling and screaming, and your co-teacher is knocking on the door to check on you to see if you're ok and haven't lost total control because she can hear your little hellions through the wall ...

ok, so my classes aren't always like this, but i admit to sometimes losing the perfect classroom structure. in my defense, sometimes it's this lack of structure that can make class so enjoyable. see below, for jimmy's interesting pastime of giving himself a beard with the board marker. he happily posed for pictures (in his short shorts, no less) before pausing to ask whether they'd be going on the internet. then he did a happy dance at his potential internet fame ...

mind you, he was inspired by troy:

my students are crazy. i'll leave you with a would-have-looked-better-as-a-panoramic picture of my grade 1 class, who in my biased opinion are the cutest ones.

mike, jack, april, and ben (nose-picker extraordinaire)
tony, annie, mike and jack again

andrew, jenny, simon (in motion), christine, and tony.

needless to say, this class keeps me on my toes for 45 minutes every alternating day. oh wait, maybe they all do.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

i know complaining about the weather gets you nowhere, but ...

the view from our apartment on saturday

the rainy season is ruining my life. i use the word "ruining" in the loosest fashion possible, obviously. rather, it's inconveniencing my life. disrupting plans. causing us to stay in our apartment all weekend after a canceled white water rafting trip and avoid getting washed away by the intimidating torrential rain. being outside is like having a shower with your clothes on, and our clothes-line laundry won't ever dry because it's so damp outside! using my over-sized umbrella only prevents my head from getting wet, so our short jaunt to school requires packing a change of clothes (and thankfully i found room in my luggage for my rubber boots, as they're being put to very good use).

apparently, the rainy season used to last for about two and a half weeks."from july 4th or 5th, to about july 21" my korean friend informed me last week. very precise. however, global warming/climate change/what have you has extended the time period, and now it's length is unpredicatable. unnnnnnngggggggggggghhh. (that's my groan of disgust).

this season makes me cranky. but at least simon and martina have made this thorough video so you can get the jist of what i'm talking about ...

send sunshine thoughts our way!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the word "mud" is used 18 times in this post

ah, the epic mudfest.

we spent last weekend in the west coast to town of boryeong, for the annual and much-talked-about mud festival. this event had been on our to do list since before leaving for korea, as it's been attended by friends/former ex-pats in previous years and the hype alone made attendance mandatory. basically, it's a weekend in which revelers can enjoy daecheon beach and the mud that is trucked in from nearby mud flats, which boasts natural good-for-your-skin qualities and is full of minerals. though, i'm hesitant to even write that after seeing some of the activities and their somewhat cesspool-like qualities. scooping mud off the heavily-tread ground (filled with dirty feet and garbage) doesn't seem very purifying for the skin!

the weather didn't entirely hold out for us - it was overcast and rainy when we arrived on saturday, but we made the most of it. one of the benefits of an expectantly dirty weekend is that it's a rain or shine event.

we were lucky to be staying in one of the nicest hotels near the beach - it even had it's own pimped-out water park! we'd lucked out even further and mark managed to get us an "upgrade" on our shared, korean-style hotel room. originally, we were supposed to be in communal accommodations without beds (most koreans sleep on mats or cushions on the floor). but instead we were given a private room with a queen-sized bed, flat screen tv, and private balcony. asah! i was the happiest kid, and looking at the foreboding sky, i kind of wanted to just camp out in the down pillows+down-filled duvet and watch korean mtv!

however, i remembered our original adventurous purpose for being there, and we eagerly headed out to the beach. here we were met with mud slides, mud wrestling, a mud prison, giant inflatable pools of mud, and more. most prevalent: drunk mud-covered foreigners. seriously, it was like a wet t-shirt contest, meets orientation week, meets ... mud. we ran into mark's friend from high school, and she was anxiously trying to rescue a friend of hers who'd, in complete intoxication, turned one of the mud pools into a topless show. yikes! regardless, we grabbed some cans of cass from the nearby 7-eleven, and joined in on the fun. (and don't worry, by "fun" i mean mud-fun, not topless-show-fun.)

and it's kind of strange just how fun head-to-toe dirt can be. it was challenging to adapt to the prospect of intentionally getting dirty - i kept trying to dodge people when we rushed into the throng of muddy bodies. but once you get over that instinctive hump (and get some alcohol in your system) it was a ton of fun.

our weekend ended earlier than expected, as when we woke on sunday there was a hurricane going on outside our hotel window. seriously. looking at the torrential downpour and gale-force winds, we were daunted by the idea of having to check out at 11am with a bus departing at 4pm. ie, WTF are we supposed to do homeless in this mud-town for 5 hours??? keep in mind, the beach and mud events were deserted and there weren't nearly enough DVD bongs (warm, indoor movie rooms) in the town to accommodate 20,000 (estimate and exaggeration) hungover foreigners. i wondered what had happened to the elephants (as yes, boryeong goes all out and even has ELEPHANT RIDES for mud fest!) ... sweet luck was on our side again, as we randomly ran into one of our tour directors who informed us the bus was rescheduled for noon. i wasn't kidding about the hurricane! it was enough to make your umbrella not only blow inside out, but also blow out of your death grip, and bounce down the street. we didn't even have umbrellas! needless to say, i was very happy at the early departure news.

my mudfest review is a solid 3.5 dirt-slicked foreigners out of 5. but regardless, something any visitor to korea should experience for themselves.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who's my homeboy?

About a month ago when I was doing my weekly chore of taking out the garbage, I came upon a discarded framed painting of Jesus

Alex and I had been looking for more apartment decor and as Jesus looked up at me from the heap of garbage he was sitting on, I had to take it
It was pretty much a sign from the big guy upstairs
Once I got it back to the apartment I started having second thoughts
Not being religious and all, I sorta wondered what we would do with it, and if I really wanted Jesus staring at me all the time
Then I wondered why he was even in the garbage in the first place
What had he done to deserve this fate?
Had someone lost their faith and angrily put Jesus in the trash?
A conversion to Judaism?
Maybe the painting had some underlying bad-luck-monkey-paw-curse secret
I debated sneakily returning him to the garbage pile

But as well, I worried that with Koreans being (from what I understand) pretty good Christians, and with us already standing out being the only foreigners in our apartment complex, that they would think I hate Jesus too
I'm trying to give us foreigners a good rep
I decided this Jesus had more life in him and wasn't going to the dump that day
So we kept him, albeit facing away from us 'til we could figure out what to do with him

I wanted to spruce him up
Make him a little hipper
You know, Jesus for a new generation
But alas I'm not very art inclined
So he sat

Then we discovered our friend Dave is quite the artist
So we commissioned him for zero dollars and zero cents to make Jesus a bit more contemporary and not so somber
The long flowing hair and the beard and mustache is always in style in my books, but something about those eyes just wasn't sitting right with me
From what I hear Jesus was pretty hip and to look so sad all the time wasn't really fitting
Now some might say, "Mark, this is blasphemous and you're going to hell"
and to them I say, "at least it's not a picture of Muhammad"

In all reality, if Jesus is so forgiving, he won't mind being spruced up for the good of my apartment
And as Dave reminded me, heaven is very close to the sun, so it's probably pretty bright up there
ergo Jesus most likely wears sun glasses anyway
So here he is, feast your eyes on The King of Kings:

Our place is looking better already!

If anybody is offended, please leave a comment, we haven't gotten many lately


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

kicking ass and giving names

yesterday, i got the long-awaited opportunity to name a new student. as you may know, korean students, like many asians with difficult-for-westerners-to-understand-names, do us the favour of adopting english names to make our lives significantly easier. they usually obtain these early in their school years (sometimes kindergarten, or grade one, or two) and can carry them on for potentially the rest of their "english" lives. nevertheless, i was excited about being given the honour of finding this nameless boy his new moniker.

the popularity of boring old-fashioned names at our hagwon is apparent. you'd never find so many under-12-year-olds with the names lucy, sally, harry, judy, tom, jim, jimmy, bill, etcetera at home. i'm not sure why they gravitate towards these names, but i refused to let it happen on my watch!

as my new student was a 6th grade boy, my strategy was to select ten names that met my approval and write them on the board and allow him to pick his favourite. i chose names that i liked, or potentially would consider for a child of my own (ahem, future child!), and male friends names. and of course, i threw in the name "mark" just in case. there was no "bill", "tom", or "harry" to choose. sadly, there was also no "superman", "batman", or "optimus prime" - maybe i'm too rudimentary, but i don't think i could subject a child to potentially bearing a superhero status for a possible lifetime.

in the end, he chose "paul," which i suppose could also be considered old-fashioned and boring. but i kinda like it. and, in the end, if he ends up being a hellion and ruining that name for me forever, it wasn't near the top of my baby name list anyway.

Monday, July 6, 2009

minor celebrities.

in korea, junk mail reaches a new level with daily taped advertisement(s) on your door. sometimes they become more inventive with magnets or whole shopping bags of flyer-goodness on your doorknob. mostly, it's just instant recycling or decor for our refrigerator. it's lost on us, as the catchy slogans and super-saving deals are all in korean. regardless, without fail, there will always be at least one to be found pasted to our doorway ... our doorknob ... the wall next to our door ... you get the idea.

and we're we ever surprised to come home from seoul last evening to find this precious gem taped to our door:

well, what is it? why it's a (massive) flyer advertising our school, in which our lovely mugs are working as fodder to draw the masses - of our apartment complex and then some. as if being the only white people in the vicinity wasn't enough to grant celebrity status (ie, stares) already!
to be honest, it's a strange mix of pride and embarrassment to be so "famous" ... and absolute relief that they didn't decide to put us on the side of a bus.