Thursday, August 7, 2008


After six years of blogging, it seems that it's finally time to call it quits. I haven't updated in months and, while I still have stories to tell, I no longer feel I need to tell them here.

Today is my last day in Korea and it hasn't hit me yet. I'm sitting here in my empty apartment wondering where the year went. It was a long year. And a hard year. There were absolutely fantastic things about this past year and other things that left me lower than low.

I've spent the past two and a half years here in Asia and now I'm heading back to Canada to try my hand at "real" teaching. This coming year will be tough. Teaching jobs are few and far between in the cities and everyone wants in. But, you've got to start somewhere and that's what I'm going to do.

Keep your fingers crossed for me and, who knows, maybe I'll be back with more adventure stories some day soon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


This week in middle school we're studying Lesson 5: How MP3 Files Work. In theory, the textbook authors are brilliant. They've created a topic that will capture the interest of "today's youth". In practice, try teaching students who answer the question "How are you today" with "I'm 14 years old" about "downloading" "copyright" and "convert a file".

However, in reviewing the worksheets students used for a debate in class, I found a small gem that reminds me why teaching can be great.

The topic of the debate was: It is impossible to stop file sharing, so music and film industries should not try to do so.

The student said:

I agree with file sharing. Because there are two reasons. At first, it can help an access of people to the culture. Many people, especially the poor, can't access to the culture easily because they have to pay a lot. File sharing helps people to access to the the culture and improve their culture level.
Second, we cannot stop file sharing. There are billions of file sharing network. If we try to stop file sharing, it must be a waste of time. Instead, we should work hard to develop other forms of products that can compete with file sharing network.
In these reasons, I agree with file sharing. I know it's illegal but some people have to sacrifice for the more good.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Finally, something news worthy!

In Grade 3 this week, we're practicing the sentence structure "Have you ever heard of ____" and "I can't believe it! What else can you tell me about him/her?"

Using the textbook example with Paul Bunyan (and this only begins to highlight my problems with the middle school textbook), the students had to create their own dialogue using a famous person from Korea or abroad.

Just incase that's too small to read, the dialogue is as follows:
A: Have you ever heard of Sara?
B: Sara? No. Who's that?
A: She is a teacher in Noil middle school. She is good at teaching.
B: I can't believe it! What else can you tell me about her?
A: Well, she is more beautiful than any teacher in Noil middle school.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Suwon Folk Village

Last week, Kelly, Richard and I spent much too long on Line 1 travelling to Suwon to go to a Korean folk village. The village itself is actually a 30 minute bus ride outside of Suwon city but the trip was worth it.

Richard got tired of carrying his camera around so he gave it to Kelly. She managed to capture the day with a grand total of 500 pictures.

There were traditional acrobats and numerous kimchi pots along with too much spring mud.

It was the most successful day trip yet... we'll ignore the fact that it's been the only day trip yet.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

JimJilBang: A Trip to the Spa

After a morning spent perusing the Yongsan electronics market and a lunch of on kim bap (Korean sushi) and kimchi jjigae (spicy cabbage soup), it was decided that the only thing that could possibly conclude this very ‘Korean’ day would be a trip to the sauna.

Now, if you remember my first Korean sauna experience, you’ll recall the whole the only-clothes-your-wearing-is-your-birthday-suit “thing” about Korean saunas. I was feeling confident, though, and determined to push through with the whole thing. We had done our research, this was a 10 000won sauna (approximately $10.00) so it was pretty much guaranteed to be a good one.

After a few minutes of standing facing my locker, avoiding eye contact with anyone near me, I finally felt brave enough to march down the stairs to the baths area. With a hand towel draped casually over one arm, which also conveniently doubled as full frontal coverage, I made my way to the baths.

My confidence was immediately shattered when a group of 12 year old Korean girls, who were splashing around in the ‘Children’s Bath’, stopped what they were doing and started giggling and pointing at me. I made a hasty retreat to the “36 Celsius” bath (they’re were all labeled by temperature) and plunged in. While relaxing (read: hiding) in the bath, I saw the scrubbing ajumas and decided that it had to be done.

At a sauna/spa/jimjilbang, there are ajumas (older Korean women sporting black undergarments) and ajoshis (older Korean men with no undergarments) who work in the female/male parts of the baths. They offer scrubs (a full body exfoliating treatment), massages and other things that I couldn’t understand from the ‘menu’.

And so I walked over hesitantly. One ajuma took my locker-key wristband while another gestured for me to lie flat on my back on the plastic covered massage table. I laid down and fought hard not to burst out laughing. Here I was, laying stark naked on a plastic table, in a bath house with a nearly stark naked woman about to scrub me down with exfoliating gloves. What had I been thinking?

And so the scrub began. Ankles, calves, thighs and… oh my! Then stomach and something akin to a breast exam. Shoulders, arm pits, arms and hands. Repeat all of this on the left side and then change to lying on my side where there was more scrubbing of legs, thighs and oh dear!! and up to the torso. Repeat while lying on my stomach and then again while lying on my right side. Add some washing with soap and a few buckets of water thrown on me to rinse off and it was a done deal.
I'm still not sure what to think about the whole thing - definitely the most invasive experience I've ever had - but when in Rome...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dr. Fish

Sunday marked 2 years since first coming to Asia. It seems that I have indeed been here for awhile when things like this are just part of another Saturday night.

Jeff's feet enjoying a fishy nibble.

I first heard about Dr. Fish in China. I believe it was somewhere between Lijiang and Dali that I heard about the phenomenon of sitting in pools where little fish nibbled the dead skin off your body. No thank you very much, I though. I’ll stick to my loofah. At the sauna in North Korea, there was the opportunity to have the little suckers nibble the dead skin off of your feet. But the idea of a nude-sauna was more than enough challenge for one afternoon so I again declined. Finally, a few weeks ago, I got brave (read: all my friends were going) and decided to see what the whole thing was about.

While everyone plunged their feet in…

Jen and Jeff in the Dr. Fish pool. Apparently Jen's feet didn't taste so delicious. I however, spent most of the night like this...

For the 2 hours that we were there, I spent most of the time putting the heel of my right foot just below the surface of the water and yelping every time a fish came up for a nibble. I would gradually work myself up again to put a heel in the pool, wait for a fish to come, yelp, and retract the foot. And so the process continued for the evening. The nibbling fish felt like a cross between pins-and-needles in your legs and a strange tickling sensation. That combined with the fact that I generally have a fear of fish eating me (snorkeling is a whole adventure in and of itself), Dr. Fish and I have agreed to disagree.