Living Strong in Korea

I had that dream again, the one where Lance Armstrong visits my little city in the Seoul suburbs as part of a new tour for LIVESTRONG, and for some reason, the powers that be put me in charge of giving him the bike tour of the city. It’s a strange dream for a few reasons, chiefly among them being that I’m not Korean but in fact a temporary resident of this town, here to teach English for the year and then be on my way. It starts at my tiny office-tel apartment wheeling my Surly out of the oversized walk-in closet of a living space I call home.

This was originally posted as part of 30 Days of Biking, a group dedicated to riding their bikes “every, friggin’, day.” Continue reading “Living Strong in Korea”

Snow Day in Ilsan

It was a sunny and snowy day in Ilsan on Monday.

After a week spent in the crunchy snow and shiver-inducing temperatures of the Midwest, my winter boots got plenty of use. When it came to packing them for my trip back to Goyang, South Korea, I nearly left them behind, thinking of the snowless streets I had left behind only days earlier. Over-packer that I am, I jammed them in my suitcase just to be safe, and by Monday, I was glad to have them. Christmas day brought a light dusting of snow, leaving about 2 inches of packed powder to derail my rolling suitcase on the sidewalks, but little more than that. As I woke up, jet-lagged and groggy, on Monday, I looked out the window and thought, “Is it snowing?” And snowing it was. A lot. And the flakes didn’t just make an appearance in the morning, but consistently fell in a white flurry all throughout the day. Continue reading “Snow Day in Ilsan”

Happy Thanksgiving from South Korea

All the students at school would like to wish you a Very Merry…Thanksgiving! I admit I’m a bit late with this sentiment, as that day of family feasting is likely fading in some people’s memories as Christmas approaches, but the kids are as cute as they were a month ago, so don’t be deterred.

Of course they needed a little prompting to shout, “Happy Thanksgiving,” for the waiting camera, but you may be surprised by just how much they understand about the holiday and its history. The video may not show it, but my first grade students can even rattle off the name William Bradford and spout off a fact or two on the Wampanoag Indian tribe. I suspect that is more than I could say at their age.

Closer Than We Think

Do you ever wake up in the morning, pour some milk into a bowl of cereal, and think, “Hmm, I wonder what on Earth children in South Korea eat for breakfast?” Find the responses to this query and plenty of other questions about the daily life of a student in South Korea in this video.

Do you ever wake up in the morning, pour some milk into a bowl of cereal, and think, “Hmm, I wonder what on Earth children in South Korea eat for breakfast?” Find the responses to this query and plenty of other  questions about the daily life of a student in South Korea in this video created by fellow teacher Seth Mattern.

Seth is a certified educator in the United States, and after the logistics of international pen-pal projects and video exchanges proved too messy, he created this website with another teacher in Colorado  as a convenient forum for cultural exchange between students the world over.

In addition to this, which I imagine is only the first of many videos to be posted in the future, poke around the website to read some essays by both Korean and American students, and responding comments. If you’re an educator anywhere in the world, and are interested in participating in the site, just send an e-mail and I would be thrilled to put you in touch with the appropriate people. Even if you’re not an educator, I know the kids would love to read any comments and answer any questions you may have.

These students are in fourth and fifth grade and recorded this around 8:00 at night, since they stay at our school until 9. You’ll find that later nights and longer hours spent in schools of all varieties are not the only differences between Korean and North American students. And as for breakfast in Korea, I’ll let the kids speak for themselves, but I suspect many will be surprised by their answers. Enjoy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6VMWCKWpP0&w=425&h=344]

One Man’s Trash

The trash piles on the ground floors of apartment buildings in Korea are veritable gold mines for the visiting foreigner looking to furnish a studio-size room. Everything from kitchen supplies to living room furniture, can be easily found lying on the ground left by the latest resident to move out, into fresh digs. The Urban Crowd Effect is the force that compels people to ditch some of their larger belongings and buy (or find) new furniture to replace that which could not survive the trip. It pays dividends for foreign Hogwon teachers still awaiting their first paycheck but hoping to decorate the apartment a bit to make it feel, you know, a little like a home instead of a few blank walls, a tiny kitchen and a bathroom. While the couch we found this week may be a couch from the trash, it is still a couch. The cushions covers are washable, and the rest of it can be vacuumed; it’s also not too shabby for found furniture.
Continue reading “One Man’s Trash”