Tuesday, March 23, 2010

cough cough cough

this is what rolled into town this past weekend.

south korea experienced its worst ever-recorded case of yellow dust on saturday and sunday. and more is expected to come.

this phenomenon is a regular occurrence in eastern asia's springtime months, but it has been increasing in severity over the past ten years due to deforestation and higher pollution levels. the dust is said to originate in mongolia (or, more specifically, the gobi desert), to then blow across china, and turn korean skies an eerie apocalyptic orange.

amongst other things ...

the dust also wreaks havoc on respiratory functioning, what with being full of pollutants and carcinogens, in addition to the long list of contaminants found here. blech. despite closing ourselves in our apartment for the day (what hangover? i was hiding from the dust!), i still have a tickle-y throat + hacking cough days later. we had two co-workers sick with throat problems at work today. time to break out the H1N1 mask.

(photo via flickr korea images)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

the newest and smallest additions to my teaching day

really, there isn't enough content on this blog about my students, considering they take up a massive bulk of my work week/life in general. and while i favour some students over others, the addition of a brand new grade one class in my schedule has definitely won all of my love and attention.

12 new-to-english + new-to-our-academy students arrived wide-eyed and terrified two mondays ago. their backpacks were clean, over-sized, and never used (and they didn't know how to open them ...). they had never had class with a foreign teacher, and i had to assign a dozen english nicknames. it's been an interesting and bumpy start, what with them not knowing any english and me not knowing any korean enough korean to hold a conversation. i've improvised with my extensive charades abilities, and by adding dancing and hand actions to story time - goodbye conventional classroom conduct! they've since been split into two classes of six (one clever class, and one not-so-clever class), so now they keep me busy on both days of my rotating two-day schedule.

i'm totally biased because they get away with so much more bad behaviour as a result of being just so cute! i've had my hair pulled, nosy six-year-old eyes trying to peep down my shirt, and my ear screamed in. oh wait, that was all from little trouble-maker kevin ...

he looks so innocent, no? forgive him his inappropriate behaviour because he's just so small and adorable! i named him after my sister's boyfriend, and big canadian kevin has been inundated with updates about his little korean namesake. and with the pronunciation of "v" being a big challenge for native korean speakers, he can instead be referred to as "kebin."

clockwise from left: ian, blake (and his monkey face), paige, jake's mouth, and alex teacher.

the whole "clever class" crew: dean, ian, blake, paige, jake, and liz. mono-syllable names like woah.

representing half of the not-so-clever class: cindy, travis, and mick.

travis is by far the most polite and well-behaved student. he's super small and had a bit of difficulty with his new name. it took some practice to get away from "cherbis," but he's coming along. definitely one of my faves. every class is ended with his lingering at the door for a second "goodbye alex teacher!" and a big grin. insert heart swelling here.

me and my little group: (L to R) cindy, blake, liz, paige, ian, mick (with an awesome boy band pensive chin holding pose), travis, jake, kevin, dean, simon, and joey.

i'll be really sad when my time with these little guys ends. but i suppose there's only so much hair-pulling i can take ...

Monday, March 15, 2010


this past sunday, march 14th, was "white day" in korea. and while the name of this day could initially be regarded as something potentially racist (woo! caucasian day!), rest assured, it's not.

white day (or, 화이트데이) lands exactly one month post valentine's day, and is sort of like v-day part two. except this time, it's specifically for women to accept chocolates and/or candies from their loved ones. yes! i like. mark gave me a box of chocolates, and even some of my students were on their game, passing me little chocolates and individually-wrapped bags of candies in class on friday afternoon. this must mean they actually love me!

apparently, white day's dark sister black day is also observed in south korea. one month from today, while mark and i board a plane bound for thailand and end our hagwon days forever*, singles in korea will be celebrating their sans relationship freedom by getting together eating jajangmyeon.


(picture via okkorea)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

cats: the animal, not the musical

what better way to fill the void of wanting-but-not-having a pet than by visiting one of seoul's animal cafés?

originating in taiwan, and growing increasingly popular in japan, there are now a number of pet coffee shops popping up around seoul. cat or dog cafés are literally facilities that serve hot and cold beverages, and allow patrons to enjoy their brew while potentially being swarmed by felines or canines. this set up caters to those who are unable to have pets due to limited space at home. or, in my case, ex-pat who had to leave an indulged extremely loved house cat behind.

so, on saturday, maddie and i (shameless cat-lovers) decided to check out hongdae's gio cat. for an "admission fee" of ₩8,000 (which also includes a beverage) you are free to hang out at the café for over two hours. and while it's against the rules to pick up or disturb any sleeping animals, you can enjoy your coffee while they crawl into your lap. or in my case, sleep on a nearby chair. ... nearly as good.

cats, cats everywhere.

the cat "menu" was a sort of yearbook letting us know their names, breeds, and temperament. i liked that mong-sil the himalayan was known for "always closing eyes". uhh ... or, sleeping?

there was a small rumble on maddie's lap.

cat microwave!

best hair cut EVER. seriously.

ok, my stint as a blogging cat-lady has now ended. maddie's feline loving review (and pics) are found here.

Monday, March 1, 2010


congratulations, canada! thanks to the men's hockey team and a nail-biting-edge-of-your-seat game, we defeated USA and proved whose sport hockey is. what an awesome ending to the olympics. feeling so proud to be canadian, and so grateful that mark forced encouraged me to get up at 4:30am and host a small gathering of friends for wee-hours-of-the-morning game-watching.

now, if only we could've joined in the post-game revelry in the middle of yonge street.