Monday, August 29, 2005

I'm in Korea!

Everything on this browser except for what I type is in Korean, so I'm randomly clicking things to post an entry. If this entry doesn't go through.. well, I tried.

It's hard to sum up the past 4 days in one entry. But the short of it is, the flights here were great, until flight #3 that is. Ryan's main suitcase didn't transfer to flight #2 so we were 3 minutes late for our flight from Inchon airport to Daegu. (We ran from one end of the airport to the other, pushing our carts.) So after quite a hard time navigating the airport, we managed to take a bus from Inchon up to Seoul and then take the KTX (highspeed train) from Seoul to Daegu. It was POURING rain and we were wet and exhausted when we arrived at 12 am Korea time.

The next day we had to be at the school at 1 pm to observe classes till 8. And we taught our first 40 minute class on the second day.. after a few minutes notice. Then we had a weekend.. and today is the third day at the school. I taught 8 different classes today, and Ryan taught 7. My largest class has 9 students (I think), my smallest has 4. I have two preschool classes in the morning and the afternoon ones are older. We aren't really taught how to do anything.. we just teach based on what we observed. Despite the difficulties, my students were all pretty good today. Some naughty, but overall an 8 out of 10. If they get naughty I'm actually not sure what I'll do but I'd like to find out :]

As far as home is concerned, we didn't have our home to ourselves until Saturday, when the couple we are replacing, left. Ryan also got his lost suitcase on Saturday. On Sunday we went shopping. It was the highlight of the week. We took a cab to a place nearby called E-Mart. E-Mart has three levels: the top is like Ikea with a petstore, the middle has clothes and cosmetics, and the bottom has food. We bought $100 of groceries and stuff for the house. We were going to get a fish too, and we decided to get it last. But when we returned, there was a 100 m long lineup of kids.. apparently they were giving away free fish. So maybe next time.

We don't have the internet at home yet. To get stuff like the internet, or a library card, etc, you need an 'id card' which apparently purchased at the immigration office. Our director said she'll take us Wed or Thurs so I can't forsee internet at our place for at least another week or two.

Anyway, I'm getting tired, so time to get out of this smokey PC-dong.

I miss you. And you. And you. And especially you!

Take care!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

1 more day

Last week I did most of my packing.. but then I unpacked most of it as I dug up clothes to wear, so now I have to pack again. Most of these last few days in Van consist of simple but numerous errands.. get vaccinations, photocopy documents, write will, fix camera, hem jeans, call msp, etc. I must thank my boi Julian for being so incredibly patient, helpful, understanding and humorous in these times of distress. Without him I'd probably have already spontaneously combusted in a big firey ball fueled by visa and tax documents. (muah!)

MSP was particulary frustrating to deal with. After 45 minutes of being on hold, the guy who answered spent so much time cracking jokes and being unabashedly flirtatious ("where are you going? if it's australia or hawaii, can I fit in your suitcase?") he didn't really answer my query about what to do if I'm gone for a year. I suspect his flippancy stems from the current resignation of his company's president (Maximus is the US-based company hired by our gov't to handle MSP) after our gov't fined them 3 times for not meeting phone wait time and document processing quotas. Hopefully I won't return to Vancouver next year to find a big stack of MSP bills at my door.

Provincial woes aside, Ryan's blog is up: In it is a brief synopsis of the wacky and supernatural way we all know each other. Basically, I knew Brent and Ryan from SFU. However, both did not know of the other's existence. One day, Ryan meets a cute girl on the bus. He informs her he's going to Europe for the summer and as they part she challenges him to find her brother, providing only his name. He accepts. Meanwhile, Brent and Ryan both go to Europe and it occurs to me their itineraries overlap a bit. I exchange their emails and suggest they meet up to travel. They end up meeting for the first time under the Eiffel Tower, eyes a-twinkle. Ryan discovers that Brent is the brother of the cute girl he met on the bus, and that he has inadvertently fulfilled the challenge (See Ryan's blog for photos) When they returned, we all hung out at the 'Parade of Lost Souls' halloween celebration on Commercial (which I really recommend seeing). Then, this Christmas, Brent galloped off to Korea, invited us, and the rest is history, and history yet to be written.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

North Korea

Since visiting Romania in 2002, I've been fascinated with communist countries. I like the tenets of communism.. the reciprocity, self-reliance, goal of equality, and resolve to be the best. If only communist leaders didn't need to horde so much wealth for themselves and spend money on huge, impractical displays of power to ensure they don't get ousted. If there were a way around that, perhaps communism would work. Karl Marx writes about capitalism and the eradication of the middle class. The CEO's get richer and the poor get poorer. As Nike profits the sweatshop labourers it commissions to do its dirty work struggle to survive. Marx showed how large corporations self-perpetuate into behemoths.. they need increasingly larger profits to stay in power, which results in cutting jobs, outsourcing, and a greater divide between the rich West and poorer East. Communism's ideals seem to hold some answers.. but why does Communism have so many of the same predictable flaws in practice?

For example:

In 1987, Kim Jong began building what was to be the world's largest hotel. Construction stopped in 1992, due to lack of funds and instability due to sub-par concrete. It now looms over the city, window-less and empty, costing 2% of the country's GDP, as the citizens starve..

^For comparison, here is Ceacescu's (former communist leader of Romania) palace. Built to be the largest palace in the world, it was also made out of low grade materials, resulting in a ceiling caving in. Like the hotel, the palace is pretty empty.

A few months ago, while I still worked at eBay, Brent sent me a bunch of intriguing North Korea links and suggested we visit it. It sounded like a great idea at the time. However, the trip is rather pricey and involves a lot of paperwork. In the meantime, these are some fascinating videos:

The Dear Leader Kim Jong II on horseback (check out his feet.. they barely reach below the saddle)

Korean schoolgirls marching

Some of the frighteningly talented North Korean kids dancing

Brent also sent me one of the most revealing journals of a westerner who toured N. Korea. I lost the link but I'll post it later after I ask him for it. > Ps: 1 week left till I leave!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

12 days left!

Only 12 days left before I move to Daegu! On the map, it's near the bottom right, spelled as 'Taegu.' I haven't packed yet, or bought a suitcase, or gotten my vaccinations, but I've been focusing more on enjoying Vancouver, Vancouver island, my family, and friends here before I leave.

My friend Ryan, who is going to be my roommate for the next year in Daegu, is already ambitiously teaching himself Korean phrases. He even spoke Korean to our travel agent when she answered the phone in Korean.

So far this is what I've heard about Daegu:

-The girls are pretty and the guys are aggressive
-It gets to 35 degrees in the summer, and feels like 40 degrees because of the humidity
-It's about the size of Vancouver

My Korean friend Sera ( who made me this really delicious 'New Years Morning' soup the other day) told me I should never drive in Korea if I can help it as the traffic is nuts. Too bad, because I was hoping to get a moped or motorcycle there. But alas, she also said the transit is air conditioned, so that's a relief.

The school I'm going to be teaching at is called Ding Ding Dang. They have numerous schools throughout Korea. I'm lucky enough to be teaching at the headquarters, thanks to my friend Brent who is currently working there, and was able to get Ryan and myself hired without a recruiter.

I can't wait to update more! Until then, ciao!