Thursday, August 30, 2012

North Korea

I get questioned a lot about North Korea. Whats the situation over here? Do you feel scared so close to North Korea?

Truthfully... no. I don't feel any fear at all. It may be because i've always grown up in a safe place, but it could also be that the South Koreans aren't scared either.

Maybe not scared isn't the right way to put it... they are indifferent. They don't think about North Korea because it's too much to think about, so they ignore it. 

The fact of the matter is that if anything were to happen, whether good or bad, it would disturb South Korean life and they don't want that. Their economy is growing quickly and they don't want anyone to disturb their current lifestyle.

Some people call for a reunification of the Koreas. While this seems like a great idea at first (given that the NK government falls of course), their economies and lifestyles are too drastically different now.  It would end up costing South Korea incredibly large amounts of money.

Their mindsets are also very different.  NK citizens are grown up brainwashed (at least the older generations, the younger ones more or less realize the situation they are in I believe). Just by looking at the defectors from NK to SK we can see the differences. NKs who come to SK have an incredibly hard time adjusting to the new lifestyle.  Even though they have the same language, the SK version is drastically different now because it includes english. NK doesn't. The education systems are too different as well. NKs that come to SK often have to learn everything over again and need extensive tutoring in English. 

(FYI: it is very difficult for a NK to come to SK. We're talking extensive planning, money, and risk being caught over and over again. I'll write an entry on this subject later, it's too extensive)

With the recent US elections coming up, there is a joke going around with my crazier students. The joke is that we're all going to die in November. I figured out that it was because we currently have the support of Obama, but if he doesn't get re-elected, then we could possibly lose the support of the US and could face a bigger conflict with the North.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Online Gaming in Korea

Online gaming is huge in Korea. You may have heard that Korea even has TV channels dedicated to it.  This is true! The best way I can describe it is how in the US you sometimes see poker on TV. They have commentary in the background and everyone looks very serious as they plot their next move. There are a lot of famous players and they even have their own fanclubs.  Gaming in Korea is just like that. There are these huge tournaments where the games are placed up on screens and the players are put into soundproof cubes where they compete against one another.  These players play ten or more hours a day. This is all professional level though.

With the normal population, gaming is still huge, in fact there are a lot of government programs to help stop gaming addiction. Though, at the same time there are actually gaming acadamies where people go to learn and improve their gaming skills. 

You see, in Korea there are these places called PC bangs. (Literally PC 'rooms') They are all over Korea and every street has at least one or two.  They are high speed computers where people go to play games.  You pay a small fee, like a dollar an hour. I know a lot of my students go there after school.

The level of addiction is getting greater though, and there is an actual ban on underage students so they cannot be online gaming from certain hours at night.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

As I continue to teach students, I learn more and more with each passing day.  Here are some more things that I have picked up:

Never interrupt a talking student: Again, a lot of these seem like no brainers, but a lot of times you don't use your brain in basic conversation.  I was talking to a student outside of class just about sports, and he misunderstood my question so I interupted him to clarify.  It threw him off. I realized afterwards how difficult it is for students to speak in another language, and I should let them finish their thought even if it's not what I had asked about.  Even if it is different, they are still practicing their English skills and that's what's the most important anyway. If I cut them off and correct them they become discouraged and won't want to speak with me so openly.

Always pick the less pretty kid: Now I know this sounds weird when it's put that way, but I'm not sure how to phrase it.  The fact is that when you're a young teacher, your students will ask you a lot of times who you find handsome in class, who your type is, or ask you to pick between students. Usually when they do this, its because one guy has a big ego and wants to show off to the other students. On my first day teaching, in my very first class, my students asked me which boy was the most handsome.  My coteacher whispered something to me but I didn't quite catch it. I chose one of the handsome boys and the class went wild, including that student doing a dance number for me complete with hip thrusting... it was only afterwards that I had realized the teacher had choosen someone for me to pick. He hastily whispered to me again to chose another student that had low self esteem. So I said he was my second choice, but I think it was too late.

Luckily I learned from that incident, and I know now to boost up the confidence of the quieter students who may be very self concious of their looks.  This came up again the other day, when one very egotistic and handsome student asked me to pick between him and a shorter average looking student. Having learned before, I pulled out my smirk and started praising how amazing the average student looked. It gave him a boost of confidence as well as knocked the egotistic student down a bit, and also provided a laugh for the other students.

Go with the flow and always have extra materials: Teaching doesn't always go how you plan it to. I have 28 different classes this semester so if I have a lesson that works for all of them, I'll teach it 28 times! You'd think that after so many it would become easier. This is true, it does, but things don't always work out the same way. With one class you may get through the lesson super fast, and another you may only get through the first part.  Sometimes this has to do with the level, and sometimes its just the kid's mood.  Also, you can run into unexpected problems like the computer or projector not working. I had a shiny new lesson plan for today, it was perfect in every way, then when I got to my first class the computer didn't work! I had to think on my feet. I had some games planned for that day so I did some improve teaching with just the blackboard and then I stretched the games out. I explained the rules very carefully and slowly, then modified the games as we played them. Maybe I'd have them repeat phrases they learned or talk to one another... I was missing half of my lesson plan due to the lack of the computer, but I was able to fill up the whole time slot no problem. 

If you can't do that with your lesson plan, always have extra materials just in case. On my flashdrive I have several games in case the class runs short, but I also carry around bingo sheets with me in case the computer somehow doesn't work. I haven't had to use them yet, but they are there in case I need them.  Having these will help you not to panic if something goes wrong in class, and something will every week.  You just have to be prepared when it happens. 

Also, sort your priorities: With different classes I have different priorities.  With my high level classes, I want them prepared for high school exams so I push the book as my highest priority.  With my low level students, I know that they either lose their books or run crazy though class, so my highest priority here is to keep them entertained.  If they are not entertained they will get into trouble and make your life hell. The problem with keeping the lower level students entertained is that you need to switch things up a lot.  Last semester I played a lot of games with them, but the style of the games was all the same so they ended up getting bored anyway.  My problem was that I played Powerpoint games constantly, when I should have mixed in physical games as well.  It's okay if sometimes the English is at a minimum, as long as there is some English used. Remember, with low level students they probably won't continue their English studies, so its good to just go over the basics over and over so that they will retain the main points when they get older.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Wasabi Popsicle

Above, Christine enjoying her wasabi flavored popsicle.

There's an ice cream shop in Hongdae that specializes in specialty popsicles called Molly's Pops. They create popsicles out of unique flavors. The ones we tried were apple pie as well as cherry wine. They were both really good.

We finished off with a wasabi flavored one. It was very strange... It wasn't hot because its ice cream, but instead of left your tongue feeling tingly. It still tasted like wasabi, but not hot.. very strange and interesting.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Online Security

Being one of the most wired countries in the world, Korea takes its security very seriously. In Korea, you don't just have passwords, you have these little things called 'certificates' to log into places with high level security like your bank account.  The certificate is an electronic key that you can install on your computer or onto a flash drive. If you do not have this 'key' (which also requires a password) then you cannot log into your account.  It's very nice to have extra security, but having not grown up with this at first it was very burdensome. 

When I was given one I didn't know what it was and subsequently later deleted it off my computer not knowing what it was.  This gave me trouble later when I couldn't use my online banking correctly.  I had to go to the bank several times because they never understood what I was talking about. ("Certificate is what they are called but when you try to translate it they get the english word for certificate rather then password, its all very confusing). Finally I contacted them via phone and was connected to a great translater that understood everything.

She not only helped me out, but she actually virtually hooked up to my computer and controlled it through the internet to show me what to do.  It was cool but kinda creepy at the same time. I was a little embarrassed at the kpop stars on my desktop, but i'm sure they get much worse things.

I'm also pretty sure there are a lot of other Korean security measures, but this is just the one I understand now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shopping Genius/ annoyance

One thing that they do here in Korea often is place what you want really far away and you have to walk through large shopping areas to get to it.  For example, there is a movie theatre in Sincheon that I go to.  If you take the escalators, they are not stacked on top of one another like usual. You go up one flight, walk through all the clothing shops to the other side where you go up the next one and so on.  Its incredibly annoying but I can see why they did it.

I've also seen a large department store where most of the escalators all go up and it took me forever to find one that went down...

Another thing they do is hire people (usually hot girls) to stand outside of store and try to lure you in. They usually are bilingual or trilingual enough to get all the tourists. They will dance or sing, and hold free samples or free products you can get--only if you buy something.

Monday, August 20, 2012

River Baptisms

So I was able to experience something really great this past weekened. My church held a water baptism picnic. At first I honestly didn't even think about going. I've been baptised before after all, but I was encourage to go and support. I'm really glad I did!

We took a day trip out of the city and into the countryside. There, we went down into a stream and baptised several members of our church. It was incredible. We started with some simple songs and they ended up continuing through the baptisms.

At my old church, it was so big that you saw baptisms every week, but from a balcony far away. This time I was literally in the water with them!

On the way there we stopped at a rest stop. Curtis, Minjeong and I found a picture taking area. They are members of my Cell group at church. (Small group) Curtis is an American soldier and Minjeong is Korean.

The picture above is our strapping young members digging out a hole in the river so the baptism would be easier. (The water was too shallow)

Above is our worship, just one guitar and multitudes of voices.

 Below, is a church inside of a ship!

We found some really friendly dogs

Above, our boys playing foot volleyball. Which is like volleyball, but you use your feet like soccer instead. It's very popular here in Korea.

Above, our boys and pastors playing soccer together.

Above, us enjoying a mixture of cultures, Korean food and fried chicken! (Curtis, Minjeong, Christine and Me)

Below are some extra pictures from church in general. Below is our newest pastor, Pastor Yoon. He's a Korean american from Chicago.
Below was our latest Friday night International fellowship. Left if Vitalous from Cameron, then one of our Korean worship team members, then Pastor Phil who is a Korean American, then Me and finally Pastor Karen!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Couple Clothing

In Korea there is a big 'couple' culture. Everyone is very lovey in Korea.  I was shocked when I arrived and saw so many couples everywhere.  Its funny because whenever someone new comes to Korea, they always state its one of the things that surprised them the most.  Everywhere you go there are people holding hands. It's very strange to me since there are actually a lot of Koreans who marry for status and security rather than love.  I know a few people who have done this. They tell me that its because they believe that love will fade over time, but if you find someone that you can live with and have a good life with, then that's more important.  I don't necessarily agree, I want to be head over heels when I marry after all, but I do see their point too. I just believe you can have both.

Anyway, couple culture! There is this thing called 'couple clothing'. Young people in love buy the same clothes or matching keychains... cell phone charms... matching shoes even! Now, its popular but it does take a dedicated male to do this.  It's still very embarrassing to a lot of them.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jeju Island Part 3

Day three was our last tour day, and it was comparitively a lighter day than before.  We still left at 8am though, and headed for Seong San Il Chul Bong (Crater Mountain Peak).  It was a long hike up the peak and there were a lot of Chinese tourists. So many actually, that it felt as if I were in China rather than Korea.  Our tour guide told us that the two safest places in Korea are the DMZ and Jeju island.  Its because of the Chinese population in Jeju. No one would dare bomb it.

The crater was amazing though, its one of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage locations. (Jeju was awarded THREE of these!)

After the crater, we took a ferry to UDO island. Udo island is a small island just off of Jeju. There we rented scooters and had four hours to ourselves to roam the island and do whatever we wanted.  It takes about half an hour to circle the island.  Christine and I got seperated at the beginning so I just drove around and it was quite relaxing to explore on my own. 

After our scooter rides, we left the island and went to a hedge maze! This was really cool, i'd never been in a hedge maze before.  It was actually really difficult, you don't realize how confused you can get. Some areas you can remember but others look so similar... it took us 20 minutes to reach the end, though near the end we recieved from help from people who had finished and were watching from above. 

After the maze we went to another UNESCO World Heritage site, which was the Manjanggul Caves/lava tubes. These caves were created from lava pouring through. It was quite spectacular, but it was so dark that no pictures could be taken.  It was also very cold, I borrowed someones towel to cover up during it.  It was really interesting walking on what used to be a river of lava.

Afterwards we went back to the city for dinner. Christine and I split off from the group and decided to eat dinner on our own.  We saw a cool looking chicken restaurant covered in grafitii inside and our so we went inside and looked at the menu in horror as we realized it was a chicken gizzard restaurant. It was the only thing on the menu. The waiter brought us our waters while we wondered how to leave without it looking awkward. Finally we just left and didn't look back. We ended up having some nice Japanese instead.

The next day was so relaxing for me. Christine went to go hike the tallest mountain in Korea (8 hour hike!) and there was no tour planned so I slept in, then walked around the beaches for a couple hours, and watched some tv until she came back.
The flowers above were picked by Christine on her 8 hour hike up Mt. Hallasan for me! :)

 It was a very lazy day, she came back and we lazed around for a while before meeting the others for more black pig bbq, then at night we had our own little going away party for just the two of us, which included trying some orange makeoli (korean beer, it was kinda gross) and watching our favorite Korean drama together. (Gakshital) It was our last day, the next day we woke up and headed for the airport home.  


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