Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A weekend in Seoul

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The palace we couldn't get into! It had just closed... they were still letting people out, but not in!

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Kids playing in a fountain by city hall.

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Seoul city hall. Also a gathering spot to watch the World Cup games.
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A phone booth in a park... killing time...

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The cable car up to Seoul Tower.

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Amanda, me and Rosalee at the base of Seoul Tower.

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Seoul Tower.

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Rosalee, Amanda, Attack (Rosalee's Korean friend) and his friend and sister who both live in Seoul and joined us for the evening
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The largest church in the world... can you tell? Sooo many people!

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Starbucks, Korean style.

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Seoul boat tour.

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Our boat. We sat inside most of the time, but went out on the deck to take a few pictures.

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Seoul Tower in the background!

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dictionary of Korean experience

  • Academy - the Korean version of cram schools or buxibans in Taiwan. Private English schools which hire a lot of foreign teachers. Rosalee works at one, while Amanda works at a community center. They both teach 5- 8 hours per day in a series of 50 minute classes. Their "big" classes are 8-13 students! The size of my smallest classes!
  • BBQ - Known in Korean as Galbi (marinated beef or pork) and Sum Gip Sal (thin pork strips, almost like bacon) - one famous Korean dish which we had for lunch yesterday. It consisted of a number of side-dishes and meat which you cook in front of you on a grill, or in our case a large shovel. The meat is then dipped in sauces and wrapped in a leaf (added Kimchi is optional) and eaten. It's delicious!
  • Busan - the second largest city in Korea and our destination for tomorrow! Busan is on Korea's south coast, and we will visit a beach and an aquarium as well as shopping.
  • Fast food - we had fast food in a cinema/shopping center yesterday for lunch. I had sushi and Rosalee had a chicken cutlet. You look on a sign with pictures of everything offered and write down the name of what you want to eat (if you can't speak Korean), then go to the center and order at a counter where you also pay. The cashier then informs the appropriate restaurant and you look for your number displayed at one when your food is ready. So there are anout 5 or 6 restaurants on this system, which seems quite efficient to me.
  • Kimchi - (Kimchee) originated in Korea and served with every meal. It's made of fermented, spicy vegetables. The most common variety is cabbage or lettuce and is red. The flavor is sour, tangy and spicy. Definitely not for everyone, but I enjoy it every now and then. My favorite is in soup, it adds such a nice taste.
  • Korean - has a phonetic alphabet, so reading and writing are actually easier than speaking and listening here. I've learned how to say a very few things including "Anneyeong Haseyo" (hello) and "Comsamida" (thank you). There are Chinese characters under the Korean characters for a lot of place names, and I'm fascinated to see the Chinese influence on the language including similarities in numbers, and in directions (north, east, south, west)
  • Outback - my first Outback Steakhouse experience, it was soo delicious, albiet a little pricey. We had a wonderful waitress and some of the best service I've ever received, including free frozen yogurt sundaes at the end and her running down the street after us to give us our free loaves of rye bread (which we enjoyed for breakfast the next morning
  • Seoul Tower - the tallest building in Seoul. We took a cable car to the base of the tower, but tickets to the top were sold out. We still had a spectacular view of the city in the evening (around 11:00pm)
  • Shabu Shabu - a large hot pot shared by two or more people, starting with beef cooked in a soup with greens and mushrooms. Next noodles are added and eaten in your own bowl, and finally, rice, egg, and onion is fried in the same pot (after the soup is emptied) it was so delicious!
  • Sports - We passed by the Olympic Stadium from the 1982 (?) olympics, and everywhere we go there are posters of the national soccer team, also known as the "red devils" all of the students ask me if I like the World Cup and the Red Devils, and I think the nation was heartbroken that Korea didn't make it into the final 16 teams. When we were at City Hall, they were dismantling a huge stage and display area where people had assembled (at 4am!) to watch the game. Most students we asked also stayed up all night on Friday to watch the game. I, on the other hand, did not.
  • Taxis - base rate starting at 1.80 Canadian... really cheap and Rosalee's choice mode of transportation. I think I've taken every type of public transportation Korea has to offer.
  • Yeoido Full Gospel Church - The largest church in the world, which we attended on Sunday. There were at least 300,000 people in attendance that morning in a huge chapel with extended balconies. There are also sattelite churches other places in Korean and Japan. Also we attended one of 4 packed services on Sunday, bringing the total membership to over a million. Channel surfing in the evening we discovered a broadcast of the service we'd attended. You know your church is famous when.... haha Actually I heard that about 25% of Korea is Christian, and there are tons of churches and neon red crosses everywhere!

Pictures coming soon.

Seoul Adventures



I've been at Rosalee's for a day now, I went to her classes yesterday, and out for dinner with some of her friends. Everyone is really friendly and has lots of questions for me, especially her students (Are you rich? What's your IQ? What do you like?)
We had an exciting but exhausting weekend in Seoul, which started on Saturday afternoon as Amanda and I took the train to Seoul Station, and began our mastery of the subway system. Seoul has a subway network of maybe 8 lines, all color coded. We spent a lot of time underground transferring, and going from one place to the next. We visited a few different tourist areas, had dinner at Outback, went to Seoul tower, attended the biggest church in the world, and finished our afternoon with a boat tour down the Han river. I really enjoyed seeing so much of the city, though it's impossible to "do" Seoul in just 2 days. By the time we reached the bus terminal that would take us South, we were ready to collapse. I took tons of pictures, which will later be uploaded for your viewing pleasure, as well as a more detailed account, but I just wanted to write a short update so you know I'm still alive over here!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Korea!

My last class of the semester was on Wednesday. I got up early on Thursday morning and took the train to Taipei, then I took a bus to the airport, and finally an airplane to Incheon, Korea. So here I am in South Korea! When I arrived, I had to take a bus to Amanda's city, Pyeongtaek. She gave me really good directions, but we were all a little nervous. Fortunately, it was SO simple! Actually when I went out the doors a guy came up to me right away and asked where I wanted to go, then pointed me in the right direction. I had to wait about 30 minutes before taking a 2.5 hour bus ride, but still managed to have what felt like a full evening with Amanda. We went out for Shabu Shabu, which is kind of like hot pot, but a little different and extremely tasty! It's been so fun to see a bit of Korean culture, and look at the differences and similarities between here and Taiwan. Also it's been refreshing to have so much English conversation! Plans for the week include visiting classes, visiting Seoul, the capital city, and visiting the beach near Busan. Impressions so far: Koreans are REALLY into soccer and really excited about the world cup, the Korean lanuage is not simple, and you get 'bottomless' kimchee at all restaurants! More again soon, have a great weekend!

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Students

As I mentioned, we had a party on Friday night, and here are some of my pictures. I loved teaching those classes at the church, even though they usually required more preparation my classes in the high schools.
Well I've been busy cleaning my room, packing for Korea, and trying to help a friend (an English teacher at one of the schools) proofread her master's thesis. Actually, I didn't realize that was what it was when I agreed, thinking it was just a paper, but yeah, it's a whopping 162 pages long (though about half of that is reference, appendices etc). Fortunately, it's a topic I find really interesting - ESL related, so it's going MUCH more quickly than that time I helped someone edit a paper for a business class.

The university group, Paddy, Sheena, and Hubert. Posted by Picasa

Alice and Petty, who live in Luo Dong. Posted by Picasa

Students playing the game "Who am I?" Posted by Picasa

Our feast. Posted by Picasa

Eric, my youngest student, who is in my intermediate class, he's amazing! And Caspar, who I met in McDonald's. Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 16, 2006

gao bu qing chu

I think today could be considered a "stressful" day. It was filled with a lot of confusion, which is the meaning of the title phrase. Trying to figure things out for the fast approaching summer is less than simple. I'm going to be doing camps at 3 different churches, and today involved coordinating times and curriculums, and adding other classes. Plus I had my Chinese class and an end of class party for my two conversation classes (which I baked a cake for). Anyways, here's my schedule for the next few weeks:

June 22-July 1 - Go to Korea
July 2-14 camps in Yilan church
July 17-21 camp in another church
July 17-Aug 11 class in the boys' high school once a week
July 27-Aug 18 class in the girls' high school twice a week
July 31-Aug 1 - camp in the same church as my Chinese class
July 19-Aug 25 evening classes twice a week in Yilan church

Somewhere in there, I want to go to Yuli, and visit my friends who I haven't seen in AGES, perhaps go camping in Taroko gorge or go to Green Island again, oh yeah, and update my blog regularly!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Guang Jie


I am now the proud owner of a Working House VIP card! Which I think gets me a discount on future visits. Working House is kind of like Taiwan's version of Ikea, but on a smaller scale. It's a store where you can buy all kinds of household items with a lot of unique and great looking designs. It's a fun place to shop or just to look around without buying anything. In fact, on more than one occasion when I've been out with friends, they've asked me if I want to go "guang" working house.
The word "guang" in Chinese means to look around, especially in the context of window shopping. Actually when I first came to Taiwan I thought the word for Night market was "guang jie" because that's what people said when they wanted to go to the night market (to go look around the shops on the street).
Taiwanese are experts at the art of "guang." Though sometimes it gets frustrating when you're in a hurry and stuck behind some people leisurely sauntering through the market and gazing at every vendor's goods, it's also taught me to slow down a little.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

International


In church this morning, we had a guest speaker. A pastor from Korea. He spoke in Japanese, which was then interpreted by a Taiwanese woman who was speaking her second language: Mandarin. This was then filtered through my limited Mandarin abilities into English. Talk about the international church!

My classes are slowly ending for this semester. Next week will be my last classes at the church and our party. The week after will be my final classes at the schools before their final exams. On the 22 I'm going to Korea for 10 days! Right after I return I'm apparently helping with some camps here, but I haven't yet figured out in what capacity. Flexibility I guess. My summer schedule hasn't been confirmed yet, but I'll teaching at at least 2 schools and doing various camps and classes. It will be nice to have a change in schedule, since it's been almost the same every week since September. I should know more about all of these things this coming week.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Madame Toussad's Wax Museum

Last time I went to Hong Kong, it wasn't open yet, but now it's open for a "preview" which I think is a pretty worthwhile preview. You can see the museum's website here. They already have tons of figures there! I really enjoyed it, especially upon realizing that visitors are allowed to take pictures and touch the statues. Actually the set up is really original, with tons of props and opportunities to take different photos. You can putt with Tiger Woods, paint with Picasso, and pose with the queen. Unfortunately, I was there by myself, so for the most part was resolved to take pictures rather than join in, though I did get into a couple. It was fairly crowded, so I didn't want to take a long time trying to set up a shot with my auto timer etc. In my opinion they've done an amazing job with the statues, and a lot of them look very realistic, and very similar to the person they represent! So without further ado, here's me hanging out with Hugh Grant, Einstein, the Beatles and more. Actually I only posted about half the pics I took because I didn't want to bore everyone.. but if you want to see more let me know!

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

History Test


Who can tell me the name of this famous person? I "met" him and many others on my visit to Hong Kong this weekend. More pictures to come tomorrow!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dragon Boat Festival 2006

Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and together with Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival forms one of the three major Chinese holidays. Since the summer is a time when diseases most easily spread, Dragon Boat Festival began as an occasion for driving off evil spirits and pestilence and for finding peace in one's life. The festival was later enriched by the legend of the patriot Chu Yuan.
Chu Yuan was a patriotic statesman who lived in the state of Chu over 2,200 years ago. He remonstrated with the King of Chu on many occasions, expounding on the state of the nation. When he could nothing about the fact that the King of Chu believed accounts of lesser officials, and feeling that he could no longer save the nation from the turbulence into which it had fallen, Chu Yuan took his life by jumping into the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Since Chu Yuan was also a famous poet, the day is also known as Poet's Day.
Story taken from here.

Dragon boat festival meant 3 things for me: a day off, people giving me the rice dumplings pictured below (in a previous entry) ALL week (now I know why they only eat them once a year, because they really go overboard during this festival), and watching some dragon boat races. I've been seeing some teams practice at the river not far from my house these past few weeks, and with the appearance of banners and tents a few days ago, I deduced that there'd be some celebrations there. It's nice to live so close, I just rode my bike there. I heard the races and other activities at another river in Yilan county were more exciting with many international teams competing, but I wasn't able to get there. Anyways, I enjoyed the races just fine after my morning bike ride and hung around until I felt like I was starting to get sunburnt. When I returned to the church, the pastor invited me to his house for lunch, where I got to eat both the sweet and salty varieties of rice dumplings.
Now to describe in a little more detail, rice dumplings are made from glutinous rice and filled with a variety of things including pork, mushrooms, peanuts, and egg yolks. They are then wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed. The sweet ones of course will have different fillings like red bean. My students told me that in the story, the common people threw these into the river for the fish to eat so that they wouldn't eat Chu Yuan's body. Speaking of my very dilligent students, when I asked them last week if they wanted the day off, insisted that they wanted class, so we didn't take a break, and they came, albiet a little late, and I was given still more rice dumplings made by Wendy, one of my older students.
Here are a couple of pics from the races.

The starting line and tents for the teams as they prepare to race. Posted by Picasa