Sunday, May 31, 2009

Everland Redux Redux

Hi All,

Just a quick update this weekend: We trundled off to Everland this weekend, again, to enjoy the spring air, and the rides. Unfortunately, two of the better ones, Eagles' Fortress (for those of you in the GTA, this is like the Vortex at Canada's Wonderland, a steel, suspended coaster) and Rolling X-Train (Akin to the Bat, or Flashback, basically, standard two loops and flips each steel coaster) were closed. I didn't mind the latter, since it jars my head around a lot, but the former was a bummer.

Nonetheless, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves: I love the fact that Everland is basically a cheaper, greener Disneyland. It's nestled in amidst these massive hills and mountains, like most of Korea, but where, say, Epcot Center in Disney is carved out of the ground and made of pure concrete, Everland is surrounded by hills and trees. It's something that Korea does very well: combining nature with architecture, and Everland is a pleasant, if goofy, example.

I'm starting my new curriculum this month: basically, we're upgrading folks to a higher difficulty level, on the whole. I'm keeping all of my kids, for which I'm grateful. Some of them have been in my class for 9 months, now, and I'd like to see them out to the end of my 1-year contract. 

I'm looking forward to it, since we'll be doing some projects. It feels weird, with 3 months left, but, then, it's kinda fun, too!

I'll link you to Jen's webspace here, since she's got the videos up for Everland.



Monday, May 25, 2009

Folk Village

Hi all,

We visited the Korean folk village, of which Jennifer has some great pictures and videos on her blog, here. For the sake of convenience, I've linked to the pictures on Facebook.

It was neat to see an older side of Korea. While we don't know for sure if this is how things would have looked back then, it was still cool. Korea has, for certain, changed a great deal in the last few hundred years. Heck, even in the last 10 years it's changed a lot.

We spent Saturday with Derek, a fellow teacher in Korea, and fellow gamer. We relaxed, rolled some multi-sided dice, and had a thoroughly good time.

We then toodled off to the Folk Village on Sunday (my kids made me giggle today, by mispronouncing folk... five guesses on what they called it by accident). There's traditional dances (as best as we can tell, that's how they looked), see-saw acrobatics, horsemanship, and a tightrope walker, who was rather amusing, if not bilingual.

It was great, and the only downside was a rather oddball recreation of a marriage, that had two elderly folks re-enacting their wedding for their 60th anniversary. It was sweet, sure, but we felt awful for these two older individuals having to go through a rather grueling performance at their age.

Nice museums, lots of animals, and cool shows. In short, it's quite worth checking out.

Speaking of change: Former President Noh (mispelled rather badly as Roh in English) committed suicide on Saturday. There's been a media furore over this here, since he was one of the folks who helped end the dictatorship in South Korea, and was the subject of a major corruption investigation. He became president after promising to root that out. Unfortunately, the investigation seriously tarnished, or threatened to tarnish, his reputation, and while I don't know that the police have come to a final conclusion, one suspects that he committed suicide to avoid further shame.

It is deeply tragic, however, whenever anyone takes their own life, and I hope he finds peace in whatever awaits us after death.

He, and others like him, helped change South Korea into what it is today.

Best regards,


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

Hi all,

A quiet but busy weekend this time around. Jen and I went over to a friends' house to play a game or two and relax on Saturday, then aborted our trip to the Suwon Cultural Festival when we both woke up with caffeine headaches and the realization that we needed to get some work done.

I'm taking a class with Ontesol ( to get my certificate for when I go back home. As I've probably mentioned before, here, I want to be able to teach ESL when I return to Canada--I've found I enjoy it a great deal, and that I'd like to continue to pursue this as a career in my home country. 

So I slogged away at that for a few hours, and got my assignments done. Then sat around and watched some TV on the Internet, and brushed up on the news. It was, in short a happy afternoon. We got some pizza, and went out to enjoy a blustery but sunny afternoon dinner.

It's nice, this time of year, in Korea. We've got sun, but we've yet to have the pleasure of wading through the monsoons, and while it can get hot, it's not yet so bad that we are forced to stay indoors and turn on the Air Con. I'm going to start planning some ventures to Hwaseong and the Suwon palace, as well as to Seoul to see the sights, and since Jen and I are keeping an eye on our budget (we came here to save money, after all), we're looking at Korean destinations for the remainder of our time here.

We have one vacation planned to Tokyo for a few days, simply to see the biggest megacity this side of the Pacific, but beyond that, we plan on getting out to Korean Folk Village, to Everland, Busan, Jeju-Do, and for me, Hae-in-sa, site of some of the oldest Buddhist scriptures in Korea. 

We also started a weekday Kindergarten class this week on Thursdays and Fridays at school. Guess who got the first two?

It's good to have the same kids in these classes, and to teach them at a more convenient time. The other teachers seem to have been a little surprised at how much I run around with them, but then, if I don't, they'll go to sleep!

It's been a good week, and I'm feeling rather zen about everything--we've got three months left, and I'm becoming more and more actively aware of what I'm doing, trying to preserve the memories for the rest of my life so that, when I return to Canada, I can tell the story of my time here in Korea. 

I hope it's been fun for ya'll, as it has been for me.

Best regards,


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pictures from Thailand

Hi all,

Here are three links to our photos from Thailand.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three



Thursday, May 7, 2009


Hi all,

Well, I'll be adding pictures on a separate post, once they upload to my computer (since we took hundreds, it's taking a few hours). We just got back from Thailand, or Tae-Guk as my kids call it. We departed bright and early on Wednesday morning to Incheon airport, and spent the next 6 hours flying over the South China Sea towards Bangkok. We landed in the afternoon, got our tickets for our next flight, and had our first meal of the day in Thailand.

I had my first of many coconut-based drinks while in the airport, literally straight out of the coconut, along with Pad Thai. This will become somewhat of a theme for us on this trip, as you might imagine.

We linked up with Daniel, who was taking a separate flight via Hong Kong, and then the whole lot of us flew out to Koh Samui, on the south-eastern coast near Phuket. I should add at this point that our group included myself, Jen, Daniel, Sumi, Paulina, and Ashley, all members of the teaching team at our Academy. Daniel invited us down to stay at his Aunt's guest in Mae Nam/Bang Phor (pronounced pour).

We got there late at night, and, after meeting Daniel's lovely relative, Linda, and her roommate, Louise, we settled in for the night, and made plans.

The next morning, we went out to Chaweng Beach (Ban Chaweng), on the east coast of the island. It was Jen's first time swimming in the ocean, and my first time in the Pacific on this side of the world. I considered it a life-long goal fulfilled, to have swum in both sides of the two biggest oceans, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. A goofy goal, perhaps, but I was glad to do it.

We ate lunch at a place called Aladdin in Chaweng. Anyone going to Koh Samui is recommended to visit, as well as the Sea View restaurant in Mae Nam, where we ate that evening with Linda and Louise. While I shall spare you any further references to how awesome the food was (since that was not the main point of the trip), suffice it to say that we all thoroughly enjoyed being able to eat such great food on the cheap. A Pad Thai with eggs, ordered from a street vendor (like an American hot dog stand) cost 35 bhat, which equals 1,500 Won, or about 1.75$CAD. We were, in short, in paradise, food wise.

The beaches, meanwhile, were simply amazing. The view was gorgeous at Chaweng, with a view of the Pacific stretching out to the horizon, deep aquamarine seas that went on forever, and palm trees everywhere. We spent most of the first day on the beach, getting a little crisped by the heat. The temperature was about 40-50 degrees each day, so we all felt a little tired at the end of the day, but it was entirely worth it.

The next day, Daniel and I went off to explore the island while Sumi, Paulina, Ashley, and Jen got facials at a nearby spa. Daniel and I checked out Ban Taling, Hat Lamai, a few temples, got lost somewhere in the south-western end of the island for an hour, before driving through Ban Nathon (na-tawn), where the docks are, and back to Mae Nam. We checked out all sorts of stuff, and it was a good chance to chat with my coworker and get to know him better. We've been working together for 8 months, but Daniel is sometimes a private person, so it was nice to talk with him.

Over the next few days, we would check out Lamai beach and Big Buddha Beach (Bo Phut, in the north), a Muay Thai fight or two at Lamai market, and Jennifer and I went clubbing at the Green Mango club in downtown Chaweng. It was a great scene, and we both enjoyed it. Our coworkers gave us a polite push in the general direction of the club, insisting that we spend some time alone with each other. It was a cute gesture on their part, and we appreciated it, since we both love dancing.

We got a Thai massage (or two) on our last couple of days in Thailand, and checked out Chaweng one more time before we left. It's probably the best beach of the bunch, given that it's so central, and has such great water.

We also went on a bit of a tour around the island, checking out a waterfall, a restaurant on the top of one of the mountains on the island--the view was spectacular, and, as I said, I'll have pictures up ASAP--and riding on an elephant.

In short, we really, really, really needed this vacation. We were all of us stressed as the last four months went on, and I for one have had almost zero break time during that period, between working the kindergarten class on Saturdays, the new curriculum, 4 out of 5 classes having essays, and a mess of other changes at work. I like my job, but, don't get me wrong, I was bushed.

Linda and Louise are great people, and I'm grateful to them for their patience and generosity in putting us up in their guest house this week. We were literally in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by dogs, water buffalo, a few snakes and scorpions, flowers, chickens, the endless sun, and the trees. It was, in short, perfect.

While I have to get back to work this week, I'm feeling a lot less stress, and Jen looks like she literally shed a year or two from her face. My kids all think I look more relaxed, which is good--they still have tests, though, despite the flattery!

All in all, well worth it.



I love this week-end: Wolverine, Star Trek, and Angels and Demons are all coming out at the same time. I've seen Star Trek already, last night, and am going to see the other two over the next two days. Movie marathon! I'll post a review on the weekend.