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Monthly Archives: September 2009

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My love affair with Yongsan Station (용산) and its electronics market started long before I arrived in Korea. This is one of the biggest electronics markets in the world. The prices are rumored to be cheaper than most other places, but that’s not completely true. TVs and other home entertainment stuff can be had for slightly cheaper elsewhere, but you can bargain with the retailers, and they’ll often give you a gift certificate for larger purchases… not like I’ve been able to make any large purchases or anything.

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Yongsan Station is a major transportation in hub, linking with Korail’s high-speed and regular trains to many different destinations around Korea, such as Pusan (Busan), Taejeon, and other major cities. Lines 1, and the Jungang line link here. It’s always busy, but both its location and major transit availability make it a very convenient addition to the Korean transportation system.

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There are always many different events going on here, such as performances and minor sports events. It’s a place where you can go on a nice day and just hang out and people watch, which is one of my favourite hobbies here in Korea.

If you’ve got a free day, Yongsan Station is definitely worth checking out.

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This past Sunday, I was lucky enough to be invited to a traditional Korean wedding. When I say traditional, I mean traditional. The bride was carried in a box carried by 4 guys, and the groom was carried on a chair. The handbook (한벅) that the bride was wearing was absolutely breathtakingly bright and vibrant. She looked absolutely incredible. I didn’t even recognize her.

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To be honest, at first I was dreading coming to this. As much as I love my coworkers, the thought of spending a perfectly good Sunday with them was kind of off-putting to me. I am so glad that I came. This was one of the most moving and culturally educating experiences I’ve ever had in Korea.

The whole ceremony was about an hour or so. So much went on that it was hard for me to take it all in. I was also shooting the hell out of the whole thing. I took over 400 pictures. I wonder if I took more photos than their hired photographer. A lot of traditional stuff went on. It seems the groom gave the bride’s parents a wooden bird wrapped in cloth (?). I could be totally wrong on that one. After that, she got into a wooden box, and he got onto a chair. They were both carried in procession to the altar.

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There was this really old guy who talked and sang, and there was a traditional Korean band playing. It was a perfect day for all of this. The sun was bright and there was a cool breeze. After all the marriage formalities, we went to a hall for lunch, which was a huge buffet.

I wish that I could explain more about the formalities and tradition in the wedding, but I really have no idea, and I was also busy shooting the entire time. It was my hope to get an iPhoto hardcover album for her, but Apple doesn’t deliver those to Korea. Dangit. So I think I will print a nice photo of her and her new husband and put it in a nice frame.

Cathy and I have not got along in the past, but we’ve been really good lately, and I feel very lucky that she had me be a part of her wedding.

I made some videos of it. I’m not sure if I will post them or not, depending on how well they turned out. I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet.

I was so lucky to be able to go to this wedding. This is the reason I came to Korea; to see things that I would never see in Canada. While I do miss Canada, it’s things like this that, strangely, make me feel more at home.


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On Saturday, August X, I went to Lotte World with a good friend of mine. Lotte World is located at Jamsil (잠실) station. I was surprised at how awesome Jamsil station is. It’s like a huge shopping mall, really good for clothes and cosmetics.

Anyway, it was about 35,000 won for each of us for a ‘1 Day Special Pass’. It was definitely worth it. We went on many rides, and the lines weren’t even too bad, considering it was a Saturday. They have this hot air balloon-type thing that brings you along a track all around the park. That was really relaxing and enjoyable. It was a good time to talk and reflect on how our lives have been going.

They also have a roller coaster build right in the park! Indoors! I’ve never seen an indoor rollercoaster before. It was REALLY fast, even a bit violent. Rollercoasters don’t usually scare me, but this done definitely did. It was a great adrenaline rush, and since it’s indoors, there are a lot of dark places, so you can’t see exactly where your’e going.

There is also an outdoor place there, and they have a lot of rollercoasters and rides out there as well.

Note this picture. The people in the front are holding on for dear life. Buddy at the back is fixing his hair. I went on this ride, and let me tell you, the last thing I was thinking about was my hair. It was REALLY fast, and even a bit scary. I loved it. There were times that it felt like we were going to fly off the track.

Note the guy fixing his hair.

Note the guy fixing his hair.

This ride scared the heck out of me. For real.

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My favourite rides were:

– Atlantis (아트랜티스)
– Gyro Swing
– Something about a comet
– This drop thing. They bring you up really high, and you get an awesome view of beautiful Seoul. Next thing you know, you’re rushing towards the ground at over 100km/h. Needless to say, my pants were a bit heavier after that one.
– These ‘spinning cup’ things, where you turn a disc at the middle of the cup and you spin around. They call it ‘Drunken Barrel” for a reason.

If you have a free day, and some extra cash, I highly recommend checking out Lotte World (롯데월드). It was a fantastic day.

For more information about Lotte World, visit their website.

Me, Julie, Elly, Jack, Kevin, and Ryan. Eagle class.

Me, Julie, Elly, Jack, Kevin, and Ryan. Eagle class.

Alright.

Yes, I am a teacher. Some people would say I’m not a “real” teacher, because I didn’t go to teacher’s college, and I don’t have a ‘teachable’ major.

I’ve been in South Korea for 1 year and 1 month, since August 2nd, 2008. To be honest, I came here thinking the same thing… this isn’t a ‘real’ teaching job… it’s just something for someone with no direction to take up, to bridge the gap between university and the real world.

Boy did I ever get a swift kick in the ass.

I now realize how important a teacher is to a student’s life, especially in a fast-paced city like Seoul. I spend more time with my kids than most of their parents are able to, and that to me is both moving and horribly sad.

You may be thinking ‘come on Mike… you just have to stand there and speak your native language… how hard can that be?’

I’d love for you to spend a day in my slippers. I’ve found that teaching is an exchange of energy between the students and I. Some days, they put out so much, which I have to counter with just as much, if not more energy, in order to keep them in line. Tired? Too bad. Hung over? Too bad. (I don’t drink anyway) Woke up at 4am and couldn’t sleep because your mind decides to go in infinite loops about how the universe was created, and how we may be as small as atoms to other giant beings? Too bad buddy.

If they’re not responding to me, not getting excited about learning, I have to push my positive energy onto them. This is the ONLY way that the kids will respect you and learn effectively, especially the 6, 7, and 8 year olds.

My day is typically like this:

Wake up at 8:45, shower, get something to eat, head to school, start teaching 7 and 8 year olds at 9:45
Lunchie from 12-1
1 – 6:30, teaching 8 – 12 year olds

Teachers of Canada, I don’t mean for this to be an insult to you, or to devalue your job. All teachers are extremely important people, I’m just expressing my perspective.

Now, if you’re still thinking that I’m not a real teacher, and that teachers in Canada have it tougher, ponder this:

– Teachers in Canada have the support of their friends and family. While I have a lot of support from my friends and family as well, they’re about 15,000km away.

– Not only do I have to teach, but I’m teaching to students whose native language isn’t English. They could be speaking Korean to each other and calling me Mr. Bojangles for all I know.

– School in Canada is free. At an English school in Korea, parents are paying a LOT of money for their kid to be taught English, and they want to see results, even if the parents themselves don’t speak English. Now, think about that for a second. Some parents don’t speak a word of English… so how can they effectively gauge their son or daughter’s progress? You get some parents who will rip their kid out of the school because they think you’re some two-bit moron who’s just here for women and alcohol.

– You know the culture in Canada, since you grew up with it. Did you know that in Korea it’s considered really impolite to toss something to someone? I had no idea. I tossed one of my older students a book and she looked at me like I killed her grandmother.

I’ll admit, teaching does have some pretty good perks. I have weekends off. I have the support of great coworkers and directors. There are times that I feel so honoured to be a part of these kids lives that it almost moves me to tears. Also, while teaching is an exchange of energy, it’s also an exchange of knowledge. Sure, I’m teaching them English, but they are teaching me more about myself and the world than I ever would have expected.

There are times that I would love to just take off back to Canada, but when I even mention to my kids that I’m leaving in March or April, they get visibly upset.

Imagine that.

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Last weekend, I went to Seoul Forest Park (사울슾) with someone I met in Itaewon. She’s a photographer too, and so we decided to get together to take some photos. We had a great time, and got to see all of Seoul Forest Park. It’s really beautiful there, and they have an insect sanctuary, as well as many ponds and gardens.

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After that, we went for a long walk along the Han River (한강) and got some samgyeopsal at a restaurant near my place. It was great to be with someone who actually appreciates my company. We did some photography lessons as well.

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It was a great day.