Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pictures copy and paste
I want to talk about the prostitution that exists in South Korea. It is pretty amusing. I was talking to a fellow teacher about this during the week and we could not help but laugh at the situation that presents itself, especially living in the red light district. Every night around 6 Pm there is one guy ( I have noticed this a few times on the way to the gym) who basically puts a bunch of business cards on the ground outside of the love motels. The other night I picked up a card to see what it was. It was a picture of a girl, a phone number, and I could not understand the Korean. Off I went to the gym. This guy does this every night. Then in the morning on the way to work there is an employee of the love motels cleaning up the cards from the street. It is a pretty amusing process. I told my co worker about this and he told me a story about a street around the Suwon Station area. I did not believe it, so we went down there to see it. I could not believe this place existed. It seemed like it was out of a movie. I brought it up to one kid at a bar and he called them “glass houses” it really seemed like he knew what he was talking about. I was still in shock these places existed. It is just really funny. There is a street you walk down and there are literally girls in a glass room, which maybe about 10 feet wide. I wanted to take a picture, but I figured I would get killed or something. If you like a girl, I am guessing you knock or something, just don’t throw a rock to get her attention and go in. This whole situation really makes me laugh, some people might take this the wrong way, but it is just really funny to see this when you had no clue something like this existed and then all of a sudden it is everywhere.These glass house were a few blocks long, it was not just like 5 of them or something small and hidden. Back to the guy that drops the business cards off in front of the love motels, this is not even the funny part. The driver for the call girls, you see them everywhere after dinner. First off, they are in a minivan, just think of a mini van randomly stopping and out comes seven hookers, dressed like hookers from the short skirts to the really high heels, it is a bizarre sight. The minivan is what really gets me. Maybe just coming from the USA you would think a hooker would be in a small fancy sports car, not a mini van which symbolizes soccer moms. From what I understand the government is trying to crack down on this kind of activity but it is a really slow moving process.

Thursday February 25,
Last night I bought a basketball and went to the park and played. It has been 60 degrees here the last few days, which is soon to change and get cold again. Anyways, every single Korean that walked by me stopped to watch a tall white person play basketball. After a while three Koreans aged 23 came to play. We shot around for a bit and two of them spoke some English and the third did not even try. They were funny kids, mention every famous thing about the USA. The funniest part about the night, revealed some truth to my thinking about the last few months here. Koreans, and basically all Asians wear USA sport teams hats. They got no clue what the teams are, they just buy the hats because they like the color or design. One kid had an Atlanta Braves hat and he had no clue. He liked the blue and red. I told him about the team, and he did not even know it was a baseball team. It was worth a good laugh.

On Sunday I went back to the Korean War Museum and they did a really good job with this place. One statue I did not see the first time I went was the statue of brothers. This was a pretty moving statue. The statue is of two brothers hugging each other on the battlefield, one brother is fighting for the South and one for the North. It gives a real creepy feeling when you see it. They somehow got divided up and had to fight against each other. It was the most memorable thing in the museum. I have also figured out why all South Korean men smoke so much, a Korean teacher told me why. It is a pretty simple answer, they all have to serve two years in the military and just about everyone in the military smokes, and smoking of course is a hard habit to kick, so they continue doing it; it makes a lot of sense.

One kid I hang out with teaches at a public school. I teach at a private school, better known as a hawgon. There are a few differences, public gets more days off, a lot more, they can pick when they want to vacation, they are often the only English teacher in the school, they get paid a tiny bit less then a private school, and they can basically do anything when teaching kids. He told me that all he mostly does is play games and watch movies. The hawgon is very different, because there is so much pressure put on by the parents to the director of the school. I think if I got caught playing a game or watching a movie they would ask me politely to go home. From what I hear I am in a very good situation director wise because mine are very nice and hawgons are known for not being to teacher friendly, so that’s a plus. Friday night was the much anticipated dinner with the boss. The three foreign teachers and one rich Korean man; now you have to remember Koreans love whiskey, well all Asians love whiskey. The dinner everything started out normal, just had some Vietnamese food, but then we went to a bar; which is his hangout spot. The bartenders were nervous as hell because there were three white people in the bar. One of the kids ordered a margarita and after about twenty minutes the bartenders came back and told him he needed to order another drink because they did not know how to make it. We got a good laugh out of that. Anyways, back to the whiskey. This bar we were at you can buy a bottle of alcohol and if you do not finish it they will store it for you for the next time you come back. ( I got no clue how much this cost, but it is not cheap.) The amount of money this guy spends for a night out is a lot. He is a real bright man, who has a lot of ambition; he is currently trying to start an international school in the Philippines for the tune of $35 million. A nice quiet night planned, so I could wake up early and travel turned into an exciting night with our boss. Again, all the teachers became victims of the fact that the bars do not close down. I got this one group of friends who live in about 45 minutes by bus in the countryside and they come to Suwon every weekend and every weekend they stay up till 6 and wait for the busses to start up again. I feel bad when I tell them I am going to bed and it is before 6. They always make it out for Friday and Saturday; it is pretty impressive.

Tomorrow, Monday March 1 is a holiday, resulting in another three day weekend. It is there Independence day, in 1919 they declared there independence from Japan. I am going to travel into Seoul and find something to do, just not quite sure yet; that is the best part about being halfway around the world from anyone you are real close to do. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. USA Vs. Canada could be on the menu for tomorrow also. I think this blog is starting to get a little boring, because I am becoming more used to South Korea and most things I do are of the same until the weather gets nicer when I can do a little more traveling which will be really soon. My two biggest things that I still want to do are go to the DMZ and then head to the hang river and go on a nice boat ride and see Seoul, It is still pretty amazing how many Koreans will stop on the streets just to say hello. I have noticed that parents with young kids do it more often then anyone else, mostly all of them are in amazement of an American. They will almost always want to continue talking for as long as you let them. This often becomes difficult; for example, when I go to the gym I put my Ipod in and I can not hear anyone and I will often see people waving to me but I do not notice until they have been waving for a period of time and I miss them and they are often disappointed and I look like an ass, but it happens. This happens every day but it is never a big deal or a pain because everyone is so friendly and I often get amused by it and it kills time when there is nothing else to do. Also in the markets you are more of a target then a celebrity. I know they jack the prices up when the see a tall white person come to buy fruits and vegetables. I do a little haggling with them and it usually becomes very friendly and a pretty fun time because they know they are making money and I know I am getting ripped off even though it is still really cheap for me. Another interesting thing is the old people and how many of them are really hunched over. They literally look like and upside down L. This is because there whole lives they have been dragging carts on there back selling some good or picking up trash from the streets, it is pretty amazing how much they have given to there country in physical labor which every country needs to do in order to prosper. Just like how my grandparents generation was the special generation of our time, theirs is too.

I hope everyone is doing well back home. There is one thing I am pretty amazed at, this blog has hit 50 pages, I never in my life thought I would compile any writing 50 pages. Blows my mind. GO TEAM USA!!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Pictures

I made my first “how did I screw that one up” mistake; well, I made it a while ago but I realized it just the other day and Today (Tuesday) I asked my co teachers. (Korean) This mistake explains a disappointment of mine really well. SEOUL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION IS NOT SEOUL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY. In fact there is a major difference. Seoul National University is one of the most prestigious Universities in the world; Seoul National University of Education is not even prestigious in Seoul. The fact that I was disappointed in what I saw for the campus of “Seoul National University” is a good thing because it was not Seoul National University. I got the idea Sunday when I was on the subway; there were two different stops about six or eight stops away each stating the Universities. Monday I forgot to ask anyone so I did today. The good part about it is I have another day to do some traveling around Seoul just incase if I need an excuse to go out. I got a pretty good routine going. I generally will stay in Friday night so I can wake up early Saturday, go to the gym and then travel around all day. At the end of my traveling in Seoul I go to Itaewon and watch a sporting event, meet some people, (tell them I do not have a phone, which is starting to freak people out) and have some adult beverages. 2500 won for a pint of frost OB beer. You can not beat it. The bar I have been going to is pretty cool, tons of tv’s, dart boards and people from all over the world (this is my favorite part.) it is not just people from the USA (sometimes there is nothing like talking to someone from the USA however, makes it fell like I am back home for a bit,) also the fact that they speak the same language makes the bar nice to go to. That is my typical Saturday, pretty good day. A few Saturdays ago at Sam Ryans I was watching the Celtics play and a lady from Hong Kong was there and she went crazy, I found a video of the lady, copy and past this web address.

And for the people that miss seeing me (hopefully there is one or two people by now) I make a cameo about 25 seconds into the video, I am behind my friend John who is wearing the yellow shirt, I am wearing the grey long sleeve shirt sitting at the bar.

Samsung is a major company is Suwon, because of Samsung one part of Suwon is littered with foreigners, once again not all USA citizens. Therefore with a bunch of foreigners located in one are there must be a bar for foreigners in that little area. Now Bar, it is a gold mind; it is the only bar of its kind located in a perfect spot. I have only gone once; it is not a bad place (no Sam Ryan’s) but not bad. I met some kid from Slovakia at the gym and he is an employee of Samsung. If you are white and live in Suwon you are either an English teacher or work at Samsung. This kid saved my ass the past week, my apartment key fell out of my back pack when I was leaving the gym. Walked about 10 minutes home in the cold to realize I had no key. I figured I was screwed. I walked back to the gym and looked where I last opened my back pack. Somehow, some way the only white person, and the only person that speaks English at the gym found it. Pure shit luck. He told me he found it and he put it at the front desk, this was a project getting it from the front desk because they do not speak English; but after a few motions of someone using a key and me saying key repeatedly I got it back. Trying to communicate with someone that does not speak the same language; like in the case of my key and the workers at the front desk, (even though the “front desk” is located in the back of the gym) makes for a pretty funny situation, no matter what I always end up talking English louder and faster each time until realizing it is not helping. My students do the same to me, they will talk to me in Korean like I know what they are saying. Most times I tell them to stop, but sometimes I will let them finish just to get a laugh.

Thursday February 11, 2010
I just got back from my kids kindergarten graduation; it was funny seeing all the kids dressed up; the best part of the night was when around 20 students dressed up as ninjas. No matter what the situation is, it seems to be funny when Asian’s dress up as ninjas; it just seems right. After our dinner got postponed because some teachers were tired, moved to Wednesday night; so I took the liberty of getting myself a pizza; it will probably be the last pizza I eat in South Korea. Was not good, actually it reminded me of eating cardboard; it had no taste and I got the supreme to try and add flavor, the only thing it added was hot dog. They put hot dog on the pizza; that pretty much ends my pizza cravings for the next four months. Halftime Pizza and Poopsie’s pizza would not be bad right now.

Saturday February 13-
This turned out to be a fun day. It was spent entirely in Itaewon; which is the foreigner district of Seoul. This part of Seoul is awesome, there are people from all over the world; if you want to find someone from any area of the world this is the spot where you will find them. This is what makes Itaewon a special place. Some Koreans never go here, I was talking to two Koreans at a bar Saturday night and they told me that they drink in other areas of Seoul before heading to Itaewon because they need to drink to get the courage to go to Itaewon. This tends to be the thinking for most Koreans. They are intimidated by foreigners. This is the case because South Korea is so traditional. They do not call it racism but it is. Koreans are racist; not segregation racist but enough to know that if you are not Korean you are on the outside looking in on society; Itaewon seems to be the place where all the foreigners can go and be with people of their own race It is funny how this happens and it happens no matter where you go in the world; it is pretty interesting. Back to my day in Itaewon, it was spent watching the opening ceremony, a replay of the Super Bowl, I was correct in my pick last week. Thank you Peyton Manning for that, after watching the Olympics and the super Bowl I met a bunch of new people, some familiar faces; which is weird because the only familiar faces were the teachers and students at my school before this month. I have met a lot of good people here; which always makes for a fun time. We played darts, (during one of the dart games some kid ordered “insane” buffalo wings, these were as the title goes; I could not believe how hot they were. Of course when someone asked me to eat one I said something like “that’s no problem, they can not be too hot; well they were, I did not do anything for the next 20 minutes but flush my mouth out in the sink in the bathroom, it was incredible to taste these things, nothing like I have had before. It would be funny if I ordered them again and recorded a video and see the reactions.) had various conversations until it was time to go to the next drinking facility to play pool. I stayed about 15 minutes longer then I should have to catch the train back to Suwon. I got to Seoul Station to find out that there were no more trains going to Suwon. I made a rookie traveling mistake earlier in the day for what times the trains stop leaving Seoul. I looked at the slot for the trains arriving in Seoul instead of leaving. O well. I got a cab driver down to 20000 won for a ride home from Seoul; it is a great price, everyone that misses the train to wherever their destination is gets grouped together and they go in the same cab. You save money and the cabs make money. Yet, my memories of my last cab ride (the guy driving a million miles an hour, actually kilometers, running street lights, and scaring the shit out of me.) I opted to go back to Itaewon.(remember South Korea has one of the highest fatality rates from traffic accidents in the world) The subway in Seoul still had about twenty minutes of running time. Going back to Itaewon meant staying up till 6am; this is when the trains start running again. I headed back to Itaewon, got some street food which was absolutely delicious and went back into the bars. I made it till about 4 am with no problem, and then I hit a wall and wanted to sleep. I walked around Itaewon and it was amazing to see how busy and loud it still was. After walking around for about 30 minutes I was going to make a decision, either sleep (they have these really cheap places to sleep where it is basically on a mat, I forget the Korean name of them, they are around 10000 won) or I was going to another bar. I didn’t see any sense in sleeping for two hours; I saw a lot of sense going to another bar for two hours and then headed home. I went to the bar; it blew me away with how busy this place was. When I first got there it was basically to kill two hours, then it got real fun and I would’ve liked to of stayed longer but it was time to go home. I left around 7:00 AM and the bar was still packed, it is unbelievable how these bars are busy this late into the morning. The trains opened back up at six but it was too much fun and I stayed an extra hour. I would like to find out how late these people stay up till. I still think this is awful for society, bars not closing down, but if they allow it why not join the winning team. The trains were back up and running and I went home ready for a nice nap.

Sunday February 14, 2010
It is Lunar New Years and it is eerie how quiet it is outside, I have never seen Suwon like this. For this holiday everyone basically leaves the city and goes to visit family. Restaurant that are normally light up the street with fluorescent lights are closed and dark, there is about no one roaming the streets. It is weird seeing Suwon like this because this city is always bustling with people. For this holiday and Valentines Day it seems like they turned the grocery store upside down. They have literally moved everything in the entrance. This meant I had to go look for my milk (which is super expensive, I easily spend $12 a week on milk.) It was quite amazing how much the grocery store entrance changed for this holiday. It is a major holiday for people. This is basically their version of Christmas. It is now Thursday February 18, and the grocery store is back to normal. It is amazing how much quieter it seems to me now in the grocery store. When I first got here I was blown away buy it. They have ladies trying to sell you everything and yelling trying to get any customers attention. They still do this now but I am just used to is so it seems like nothing now. On Monday of the holiday I went back to the Hawseong Walls, it was a nice enough day to spend outside and my friend and I walked it for about 2-3 hours; it is actually a pretty nice walk, it has some really cool views of Suwon and you can see how big and densely populated the city actually is. (I posted pictures) A little interesting piece of information, the swastika is very visible in South Korea and this was not created by the Nazi’s. The original meaning is peace. When I first saw it I was shocked to see it, even asking my coworkers if they were looking at the same thing I was; I was told the history of it and it is pretty amazing how the Nazi’s turned this symbol into such a horror. I am guessing I learned this at one point of my life and just forgot about it which I am betting most people reading this did the same.

I can not wait for the warm weather to come!!!!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday February 7, 2010
I had a very quiet weekend this past weekend. I stayed in Suwon for the most part of the weekend. I went into Seoul Sunday to do some exploring and people watching. People watching in Seoul is fun because there are so many people. It is crazy how many people there are. The city of Seoul is in comparison to New York City in the size, a little bigger. Days when I go into Seoul I can only got to a few parts of Seoul. On Sunday I went to Gangnam and Coex. Gangnam is one of the upscale parts of Seoul. This is where the bus from Suwon drops most people off; it is the last stop and most common because it is closer to other parts of Seoul because the subway is 100 feet from the bus stop. Street food in Korea never seems to let me down, I got a burger for 2500 won ($2) it was not an American burger but not bad. The street food vendors always have a huge crowd in front of them. Whether it be in Suwon on a side street or in the middle of Seoul. Gangnam was where I did the people watching and it is a very interesting place to people watch because everyone in this area is so fashionable. One of the teachers told me about this area and said that if you want to date a girl from Gangnam you have to have deep pockets; so I do not meet the criteria for dating girls from Gangnam. In general girls in Korea are very fashionable; and Seoul brings it to a whole new level, it is quite amazing how everyone is dressed to the nines. The men seem to dress just like the girls, very fashionable……….. only if they were girls. There clothes are all very tight and well they look like a bunch of girls, it is pretty funny. I do not think the fact that they are tiny help them out too much either. After heading back to the subway station I went to Coex. Coex, is a cool area in Seoul; it has a gigantic mall, a casino, and the Seoul World Trade Center. The buildings all around are skyscrapers and it makes it feel like it is an important part of the city.

Next Sunday is the lunar New Year, which means that Monday there is no school. From what I have read the lunar New Year in Korea is not like most Asian countries. China goes absolutely nuts, they basically shut down the country. Koreans mostly leave Seoul and head back to the countryside and spend down time with their families. Since I do not have family here and I have plenty of downtime when I am not teaching I will have a very exciting three day weekend. I am going to head back to the Korean War Memorial Museum, and experience the nightlife of Korea. Hopefully one night I can go to a night market, they are supposed to be a cool sight to see. Our school semester is ending this week. We have a graduation for kindergarten and the rest of the kids I guess they just tell them to move along. ( how it should be) School’s in Korea change every Mid February and September, these are there two semesters. I wish that graduation was not happening because I started to really enjoy my kindergarten classes, finally got to know the kids pretty well, life goes on. I am looking forward to my new students soon. It is funny, when our school gets a new student, the directors of the school do not like to tell the English teacher, same thing when a student leaves. It makes for some confusion. The leaving part is not as big a deal as when a random kid sits in my class and they do not speak any English, so I can not interact with them. And wonder what they hell they are doing in my class; after a while you just get used to it and just realized that the hawgon (private language school) is very inefficient at this process. From what I hear the economy has pretty much put a squash on new English teaching jobs in the private language schools, but the public schools are still hiring for there Sep/Mid Feb jobs. We have had some kids leave because of financial reasons and the fact that Hawgons get ripped apart in the newspaper here because the students just get overwhelmed with school. Our school does kindy in the morning, and in the afternoon it is students coming from public school for the rest of the day. They have a long day for them and most students are just burnt out and it is clear that some kids do not want to do anything. They literally never do hw and do nothing in class because there is too much pressure on them and way too much studying for a young kid to do. None of my kids are more then 10 American years and they have school for 10+ hours a day. It shows how important it is to learn English and how much society stresses it so they can become a powerful force in the world and further advance there country and the growth stage in such a small country takes a lot of investment of time. It is cool see a country like Korea in the present because they are in such a growth period, something you will never see in the United States because they have already been through those times. I did not write much this week because I really did not do much, this weekend was more of relaxation then traveling around and finding new things to do.

My money is on the Saints, I will not be able to watch the Super Bowl until next weekend; A good party can always be put on hold for a week…….