Aug 30, 2009

Bogildo Rocks!

no really, rocks, flippin everywhere! Not a drop of sand.

So now that i've got your attention with my catchy headline i'll wisk you away with Nicole and i on our latest adventure to Bogildo Island, South Korea!

We decided after last weekends camping trip that we wanted to try it out solo so we headed due south about 3 hours to Bogildo. The day started about 9am with some breakfast because I love eating breakfast more than most people love their own kids and its just that important. We hopped the 10:15am bus to Wando and then took a ferry over to Bogildo which was fun, especially when Olive pissed all over the deck (oh....right, Olive came with us ;)...). The weewee was the only snafoo on the trip however as we made it to Bogildo about 1:30pm locked and loaded for some serene beach campin.

So as I previously mentioned, this beach was unique in that it is entirely covered in small, medium and large rocks. This was a bit daunting at first but once we started the trek to our site we found the rocks to be pretty forgiving on the feet and the absence of sand actually made for a very easy camping experience.

We found a spot way down the beach away from anyone else and setup shop for the day. After that we took a walk down the shore a bit towards some huge boulders in the water and watched Olive bark at the waves.

We then into the small town nearby and met some lil ones who were fascinated by little Olive and tagged along with us for a bit.

After picking up some OJ, Soju and roman candles....yes, roman candles, we headed back to make some dinner and relax. On our way back we were flagged down by some Koreans who offered us some seafood, fresh oysters, rice cakes, fruit, and Korean wine which was nice. We chilled with them for a bit and tried to talk but the main attraction was yet again, Olive. One woman that was there actually had two yorkies....unbelievable.

Since we were so pumped to do the campin thing this weekend, we picked up this supercool compactable burner and pot set that Nicole used to make curry rice and soy dogs for dinner while I gathered the wood for our campfire.

Both were a success as we ate, drank and watched the fire for a bit until it was dark enough to shoot off the fireworks. The sounds that this beach made were absolutely stunning. The echo of the tide off the rocks sounded like a f15 fighter jet repeatedly flying overhead which in theory wouldn't seem peacful at all, but it really was. We shot off our roman candles a bit later and then packed it in for the night falling asleep to the sound of the South Sea.

We woke up, did breakfast and a short hike down the beach before breaking down the camp and heading back home. On our beach walk Nicole was midly molested by an Ajuma who camly walked up to her and hugged her while mostly grabbing her ass. As I have quickly learned, the Ajuma's do what they want here and thats just how it goes so i politely smiled at her actions and bowed as she walked off, obviously pleased with her interaction with Nicole and I. Our other Ajuma friend was more interested in Olive and when all attempt at language had been exhausted, she threw a rock at Olive....which i found fun and entertaining...Nicole, not so much. I think she just wanted to play with Olive but Nicole felt otherwise.

So that was our weekend, we ferried it back and made it back home by about 6:30pm Sunday night. Hope you all have a fantastic week. I will leave you with a quote from my buddy Henry David Thoreau who has been a fan fav of mine since reading Dead Poets Society to the kids at school....

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”


Aug 29, 2009

Bigeumdo Island

This is Bigeumdo Island, the "Heart"

In Korea, a tent is the best investment you can make. There is no such thing as a camping permit or camping "sites" you just find a place, pitch your tent and enjoy your evening. Last weekend Adam and I embarked on our first ever real camping trip.

20 of us set off for Bigeumdo Island on a 5:20 am bus to celebrate friendship and say farewell to some teachers heading onto their next journey.

We piled onto a bus headed for Mokpo, then took a 3 hour ferry to Biguemdo Island. We sailed through the Yellow Sea heading basically due west.

The men had a pull up competition, in which my beastly beau schooled everyone (I was so proud, and had no doubts!)

While I slept
When we arrived at the island we hailed three minivan/cabs to drive us to the "heart shaped island"

The view from our tent

Some of our group chose to rent out huts for 35,000W for the night, but we decided to use our brand new tent. We set it up on a little patch of beach along with another couple.

(We bought our tent at a market in Gwangju for 50,000W, great deal)

We spent the day laying in the sun, snoozing, reading, swimming, socializing. The boys played soccer, a korean game that is like volleyball with soccer rules, and frisbee. We cooked dinner by neat little propane stoves and enjoyed the scenery.

There was a bonfire lit right outside of our tent, soju and beer were had by our lot.

There was even some sparkler action

By 2:30 in the morning, after a few went for an icy swim (not I) everyone finally went to bed.

Adam and I were up super early with the sun, cooked breakfast, had a great picnic and hiked the curvy road.

I then took a nap on the beach and Adam did some exploring. He took some great shots of natures wonders.

Of course, at the bus station, there was a great sign on the door.
We could the 3:40 ferry back to Mokpo and were home by 10pm.
Immediately following the trip, we went to the camping supply shop and bought a ton of great gadgets for our own trip and now, tomorrow morning, we are off to Bogildo Island to camp by ourselves for the first time...and we are going to take Olive with us!

Aug 25, 2009

A Korean hero dies

The former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung died Tuesday August 18 at age 85. His funeral was held in Seoul on Sunday. People all across the country mourned his death.

Kim was the son of a middle class farmer and grew up near Mokpo, which was where we spent our weekend camping.

Dae-jung was known as the "Nelson Mandela" of South Korea for his long-standing opposition to authoritarian rule.

Kim was almost killed in August 1973, when he was kidnapped from a hotel in Tokyo by KCIA agents in response to his criticism of President Park's yushin program. Although Kim returned to Seoul alive, he was banned from politics and imprisoned in 1976 for having participated in the the proclamation of an anti-government manifesto and sentenced to five years in prison, which was reduced to house arrest in 1978. Kim was reinstated in 1979 after Park was assassinated. In 1980 Kim was arrested again and sentenced to death on charges of sedation and conspiracy having to do with the uprising in Gwangju. The US government intervened and he was given 20 years in prison and eventually given exile to the US. Kim moved to Boston and taught at Harvard as a visiting professor to the Center for International Affairs. When living in the states he wrote many pieces against the Korean government. In 1985 he returned to Korea. Kim had the worst luck and when he returned to South Korea he was sentenced to death. The Pope John Paul II actually wrote a letter to the President at that time, Chun Doo-hwan asking for "clemency" for Kim who was a devote Catholic. Kim was once again put on house arrest and resumed his role as one of the principal leaders of the political opposition. When Chun Doo-hwan allowed the first democratic presidential election in 1987 because of the people's demand. Kim Dae-jung received 27% of the vote and was beat by Chun Doo-hwan's hand picked successor. In 1992 he ran again and once again lost to Kim Young-sam who was a candidate for the ruling party. At this point most Koreans believed Kim Dae-jung's political career was over.
But, in 1995 he ran one last time and on December 18, 1997 he became elected as the15th President of Korea and was inaugurated on February 25,1998. Right before the election, the public revolted against the incumbent government due to the nation's economic collapse just weeks before the election. This was the first time in Korean history when the ruling party peacefully transferred power. The election of course was a huge controversy. But, because Kim was brought up with a limited education and overcame such awful trials and tribulations he had previously endured, the people of Korea sympathized with him.
Because he took over in the middle of an economic crisis, he pushed for economic reform. After the economy shrank by 5.8 % in 1998, it grew 10.2% in 1999. Too bad Obama wasn't able to find out his tricks. Basically he held the powerful accountable providing a greater transparency in accounting practices and subsidies to large corporations were dramatically cut or dropped.
He received a Noble Peace Prize for his work with North Korea. In 2000, He created the "sunshine policy" which was where direct communication with Kim Jong-il and Pyongyang began. This was considered a dramatic breakthrough in negotiations with North Korea. The 2002 World Cup also took place in South Korea during his reign as president. He completed his 5-year presidential term in 2003 and was succeeded by Roh Moo-hyun.
After his reign as President, he actively called for restraint against the North Koreans for the nuclear warfare and continued to defend the Sunshine Policy towards Pyongyang to defuse the nuclear crisis.

I think what was so ironic about the whole event was that this past weekend, during his funeral, we were on an island near Mokpo where Kim grew up. As we ate lunch at a local restaurant his funeral was on the TV. The locals and two Korean friends we were eating lunch with pointed out the other past Presidents who were at the funeral as well as told us more about the President while they had chills on their arms. It was very clear that Kim was loved and treasured throughout Korea.

Mexican Fiesta in SO.K

Ok so yet again I have slacked which in turn has caused for you all to be about two weeks behind on our exciting lives. For this, I am sorry but alas, i am here, between my last 2 classes writing like a madman in hopes of making it up to you with a blog about our en fuego rooftop fiesta two weekends ago in honor of our two friends, Shane and Kaisa's b-days.

The entire thing was really masterminded by Nicole since I do not have the luxury of a mastermind. However, I did take responsibility of buying the food supplies necessary for Nicoles fantastic salsa and spanish rice so I'm not a complete mooch. Speaking of food, that was somewhat of the idea with this shindig. Bring something spanish which means no kimchi and no ramen. The "spread" was actually pretty latino-tastic if i do say so myself. Brought to the fiesta was an assortment of burritos, dips, rice cakes (spanish flavor), cupcakes, ice cream, and of course the cervesas and Sangria which flowed like taco bell hot sauce the whole night.

No fiesta would really be complete without Maracas and a Pinata which was so pain stakingly created by Kaisa over the course of a week and then massively destroyed in 13 seconds by Shane but such is the life of a Pinata, verdad?

The maraca station was Nicoles idea in which party goers used paper plates, rice and markers to create masterpieces like thge ones modeled here by Brenda, Peter and Rupsha (Rupsha obviously feeling the effects of the Sangria allready, or maybe the Burritos, hard to say).

The location was primo on the rooftop which was coupled by some fantastic South Korean weather but without noticing the Korean neons that surrounded us and just focusing on the Salsa tunes you might think you had been transported to Little Havana. This ambience was also enhanced by Nicoles creative lanterns and tea lights that set it all off.

As the sangria with a south korean soju punch hit us, the dancing began.

Some of the Koreans we work with even came.

Olive partied like a rockstar

All in all it was a mucho bueno night for all and something we'll definitely try and organize again.
Buenas noches!!!


Aug 18, 2009

My day at Reading Star

So, to accurately write about work, I am sitting at my desk staring at my computer screen and my 16 different folders of classes I teach. Our workroom is quite a good size with 6 English teachers and 15 Korean teachers. There is one computer for every two people and we have been warned numerous times not to use it for personal surfing… We have a decent library with many English reading books which are pretty out of date or books that I would never recommend to elementary school readers (any elementary schools back home want to donate books? Ship them our way) we also have 8 cassette tape players for the listening speaking classes.

I am due at work by 1 and each day my schedule is different. Some days I have at most 8 classes, other days as little as 4 (which is my great Tuesdays).

The lowest level class I teach is a KE sight words class. I have two sections of them. We go through a book and each week read, read and reread a story about shoes or dogs and the kids are to memorize the stories for their test the following class. I am not sure I fully agree with the memorization technique, but that is what they do here.

1AE3 is a listening speaking class where we listen to a tape and take notes on things like telling time and the days of the week, careers and what to do on the playground. Then, I write dialogue on the board and the kids practice communicating with each other.

I teach two 1C Comprehension classes which consists of them reading short short stories out of a workbook and then memorizing them as well, just to take a quiz during the next class. I have fun listening to them read though and work on their pronunciation. V’s and R’s are very hard for them.

Then I teach 3 sections of 1E writing. These kids read a story in their reading class and then in mine we work on their vocabulary, grammar and writing book reports on the book.

I teach two 2C classes and 1 2B level class on reading which are probably some of my favorite classes. We read a non fiction and a fiction story each month and work on vocabulary and comprehension. These kids know enough English where they begin to be a bit fun.

I teach two preTOW writing classes. Our school prides ourselves on our TOW classes which stand for Top of the World. These kids are supposed to be advanced enough and the true “spirit” of what our school stands for. Teaching writing is annoying. I love it more than anything actually but their text book is brainstorm, outline, rough, final and repeated for two essays a month. There is not much time to expand on their writing and vocabulary. Although I promise this is one that I focus a lot of time on to do mini lessons to improve their skills.

PreTow reading is another story. (the older they get, the less they are camera friendly) These kids are possibly the oldest kids in the school and they are next to impossible to get to speak to me in class. I told them they make me irate and are disrespectful if I call on them or say hello and they just stare directly at me or put their heads down and ignore me. There are only 6 students, but I have two that smirk and one that spends the class talking to me so I always think I am teaching, at least a small bit.

Finally I teach two sections of TOW writing which are the top of the top. These kids know plenty of English and can read very well. The problem is every essay we write about is concerning academics, since that is the Korean way. The kids are fun and really want to do well.

I find myself giving all of my students too much slack sometimes because I feel bad about all of the hours they spend in the classroom when truth be told they have to. If they don’t they fall behind other students their age and never amount to much in the Korean eye.

Behavior among the kids isn’t bad, minus the few that don’t speak at all and the two or three that call each other names. Classes are only 40 minutes so we get down the business right away and if there is time at the end to chat we do…the more speaking the better.

Upstairs we have a cafeteria to eat. Two very nice Korean women cook for both Avalon (adam’s school) and ReadingStar. The food is always interesting and very Korean, usually spicy enough to cause us to break out into a sweat.

Downstairs, below Avalon, is Kenya Coffee where we get a decent discount and Adam and I meet for mini date’s when we both have breaks at the same time. They make the foam in the latte’s into hearts and smile faces…very creative, cute and Korean.

As for creativity and teaching methodology…kids are kids, curriculum is curriculum and English as a Second Language is much different than English as a First Language. I have come to understand that the kids need to learn to communicate first and be creative second. School is of the utmost importance here in Korea and ReadingStar is a business which helps kids learn English. So, I am doing my part to teach kids English as a communication tool and instead of expanding their creative vocabulary too much, I am working on expression and voice when they read.

Aug 16, 2009

bathin in the yellow sea!

Well, its about 12:30am on Saturday night/Sunday morn and as expected, we are doin what we rock stars in Asia do!.....right Nicole!!!??


ok, well i'll carry on without her this time.

So today we treked it out to Gamami Beach which is a little over an hour west of us in Gwangju. The weather was absolutely perfect so after breakfast, which I may not have mentioned, has become a priority in my life, we headed to the bus station in search of sun, sand and scantily clad asians.

We found the sun, we found the beach and we found the asians (usually not an issue here), but the scantily clad part was a negative. In fact, not only do they all wear shirts into the water, some even wear heels! There were only about 5 or six people including ourselves actually laying on beach towels but even they had huge umbrellas. They love the water and their tubes though so most of the day the water was packed but as we have been made aware a few times before, the sun is not a fan favorite amongst Korean folk.

...i know.

As we are not one to shy away from making spectacles of ourselves, we did the unthinkable, we removed our shirts...Nicole even took her whole dress off! So yes, there we were, at the beach, in bathing suits...blasphemous. But nonetheless, alot of fun as all the ajumas looked on in disgust and the teenage boys nearly fainted everytime Nicole walked near ;)

For lunch, we found a tent selling, hard boiled eggs korean corn on the cob, tofu soup and hot dogs on a stick (or what we thought was a hot dog). That with a smothie cost us about $7 so i'll take it every time.

The water was extra warm and the beach sand was very different from anything we had ever seen. There were little balls of sand literally everywhere that looked like dippin dots ice cream that were actually being hand, or should i say "claw" made by these little crabs that were all over the place but you wouldn't know it since they run into holes whenever you come near.

We made some friends with the little one in the water until Nicole called him crazy in korean which prompted him to have a mini seizure so we swam off and pretended it never happened.

Now after some napping by me and reading by Nicole we decided to head out but no day would be complete without some random act of Korean kindness right? Right. So we asked at the beach pavillion what bus to take home and were told where to catch the bus by two very nice people and so we went to wait for the bus. The bus we needed was going to be about a 30 minute wait but after waiting about 2 minutes thise same two people from the pavilion drove up and offered us a ride to the transfer stop about 25 minutes away! Shocked, but knowing that in Korean culture its rude to decline we hopped in and got an express ride to the terminal. Here's nicole trying to figure out how to write "we are very greatful for your kindness" in korean to them while we rode.

So, our first real beach day was a success and next weekend we'll be doing it again but we'll be campin out in our new tent. Stay tuned!

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