Settling In

Trip Start Apr 01, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

             I have been putting off this entry for some time now. I'd like to think it's because I've been to busy, but I think laziness is the bigger culprit. Or, I could blame it on my computer crashing, which it did. Anyway, the following is a smattering of events and happenings from the last month or so. Enjoy!
Shakespeare Beith I...sort of 

             I am officially a Shakespeare ("S") teacher at my school. Instead of talking about the playwright, I teach extremely basic, quasi-theatrically related subjects such as clothing, feelings, weather, rhyming and actions. Overall, the curriculum is easy fun and full of cheesy songs, such as Teddy Bear, Handy Pandy and Two Little Birds. Anybody recognize such infamous titles?
             I have two groups of ten students and teach the same two hour class twice each day. I modify as much as possible to maintain my sanity, but try to remain consistent for the student's sake.
             As far as I can tell I'm a pretty successful "S" instructor. We have a teacher of the week award, and more often than not I come in second. The students vote for the teacher that taught them the most English. Like most surveys, it is severely flawed. The teacher conducting the survey often "coincidentally" wins the award by a large margin. Also, the teachers with the most students (aka 2 classes) have the most opportunity to win. No matter, I can still use it as evidence of my teaching prowess.
             Every Friday we have a performance where students showcase their newly-enhanced English skills in front of most the school. Usually my students chant, sing, perform simple actions and memorize lines, but one week they did a dumbed-down version of Tortoise and the Hare. When I was filling in for a vacationing Mozart teacher, my students sang yellow submarine with a tag-board submarine constructed in class.  
             Overall, I enjoy my students a lot, and especially relish the low stress and lack of prep associated with teaching. Occasionally, the kids get crazy and annoying, but that's to be expected in a camp environment inclined more to fun than learning. Working on the weekends can also be annoying...

ICEV Festival

             One sunny Sunday in May all the teachers were required to work at an ICEV festival, a massive PR event designed to showcase the school. I'm not sure how much English was learned, but lots of fun was had.
             Activities included water balloon toss, driving around in large go-carts, a soccer circus-like game, pin design and many other events that required minimal English. The highlights of the day for me was filling up water balloons and driving the go carts around. Almost any excuse was taken to not do what I was supposed to be doing. The tasks I was assigned usually involved sitting around and doing next to nothing. Thus, I found my own entertainment.
             After the festivities, Dr. Lee decided to reward us with dinner. Being foreigners, we were naturally treated to sam gyup sal (pork, you cook in front of you and eaten with lettuce and other sides) and lots of soju. Once thoroughly fed and intoxicated, we moved to the next bar, where, once again, Dr. Lee picked up the bill. Seriously, company functions are great!
             Eventually I grew tired and called it a night, but the "official" party continued on to a noraebang (Korean karaoke room). Guess who paid for that adventure! Speaking of paying for adventures, one big-wig at the dinner invited all the ICEV teachers to a baseball game in a skybox. That's how I ended up at the next subheading...
Munhak Stadium

             Korea has many massive, new stadiums built for the 2002 World Cup. Lucky for us Incheon folk, Munhak stadium (a separate stadium for baseball and soccer) is only a 45-minute subway ride away. In the past couple months I saw a soccer and baseball game for free. Although the stadium is aesthetically pleasing from the outside, the field is surrounded by a track, and thus too far away to see the action.
             The soccer ticket was a gift from a fellow teacher. She is the announcer, and graced the staff with 12 freebies. K-league soccer is the biggest league in Korea and the competition is pretty decent, except that Koreans have trouble scoring. Even though the beer and company was good, the game was fairly bland. The final score 2-1. I missed the Incheon team goal, because I arrived late...oops.
             The baseball stadium is a great outdoor design, and definitely puts the Metrodome to shame (all you Minnesotans would agree). The baseball played in the Metrodome is much better though. One star player hit three solo homeruns for Incheon, providing most of the excitement. Otherwise, most of the fun was had taking pictures, eating and drinking.
             Overall, Munhak stadiums are pretty sweet and maybe I will actually pay for a game sometime soon. Or, maybe I won't have time to, because I work too much...
Am I a workaholic?

           Well, I was for awhile. For 20 straight days I was either teaching my Shakespeare classes at school, Saturday school or refereeing soccer. Although the money was good and the refereeing good exercise, it was exhausting. The refereeing was quite interesting. It was mostly a foreigner league comprised primarily of English and Scottish players, who are frankly nuts about football, as they would call it.
             My first game I was totally unprepared. I forgot my cards and I had no watch to keep track of time, having to rely on my phone and a series of guesses. Since I had no cards, I felt stupid penalizing hard fouls, which there were many. The players took full advantage of my hesitance, swearing at each other and me. My favorite was, "let's take his money back." The money is definitely the best part of the job. Referees are paid $70 in cash before the game begins. Apparently, this player was advocating performance pay.
             The second game was much better. I had a watch and my cards. The game was a blowout, so the competitive spirit mostly died by the middle of the second half.
             The third game required no work at all. I showed up early to discover that the away team was canceling. Acknowledging my effort in arriving, the home team paid me $50. I left happy to receive any money for doing nothing at all.
             Lucky for my social life, I have not worked a Saturday or soccer game for the last three weeks.

Rafting and Army meals

             There is nothing like a rafting trip to cool off and have some fun in the middle of a muggy, hot summer; especially if the rafting trip is to take place on the same river as the World Rafting Championships (to be held this summer). A group of English teachers and I headed to Gangwa province, close to the East coast of Korea. Although eastern Korea is beautiful, mountainous and clean (unlike the massive Seoul-Incheon area), it is also far away. Heavy traffic made for a four-hour humid, undulating ride.
             Upon arrival, we were immediately alarmed by a lack of water. Boats were not moving, stuck on the bottom of the river. Some groups were even pushing rather than rowing. After pondering our options, we decided that bad rafting was better than no rafting. So, we ate some lunch and prepared for the worst, which we pretty much received.
             Our rafting guide was pure ridiculousness. Boasting a North Korea accent (claimed Calvin our bilingual companion) and little English skills, the man was a huge headache! If he didn't know how to say something (almost always the case), he would substitute, "me, me, me, me," which rarely clarified anything. Adamant that we call him "King," he would yell "go, go, go, go, go, go, go," and after barely finishing one stroke he was already saying, "stop, stop, stop, stop, stop." Worst of all, we could only have fun his way. Whenever we started water fights with one of what seemed like hundreds of boats, he would quickly end it. Also,   if we strayed too far off from the boat when swimming, he never hesitated to blow his whistle and yell at us to return. We had more fun concocting mutinous schemes, than we did rafting
             Following our debacle of a rafting trip, we were treated to a fabulous sam gyup sal (we are foreigners) dinner with Calvin's former army commander. Eight grungy, slightly sunburned twenty something's sat down with a well-groomed, incredibly hospitable ranking officer. The table was ornate, more symmetrically laid out than any other meal I have seen in Korea. After a half-hour, the army man had to leave, and left us to the rest of the soju, which we gladly finished.
             We tried to play soccer at a hockey-rink sized field, but some ornery Korean boys wouldn't let us join them. With little else to do, three of us left for home at 9:30 p.m., arriving back at our apartment at 1:30 a.m. Needless to say, I don't remember much of that drive, I was passed out in the back seat. I do remember another ride quite well though...

Frisbees and Motorcycles 
             When you go to bed at 5:30 in the morning, it's usually annoying to be awoken by a phone call at 12:30, but the call on this Sunday morning was welcomed. A friend was calling about playing ultimate frisbee (kind of like a mix between soccer and football, for those that don't know) with a bunch of expatriates along the Han River.
             My throws were pretty off so my highlights were mostly long sprints to catch long passes (it's always nice to be the fastest player on the field). It was an absolutely scorching day, the humidity out of control and the air so opaque, you could barely see across the river. To refresh ourselves after the game we went swimming in a public pool close by. Instead of walking, I got to take my first motorcycle ride. Although it was only a five minute ride on a sidewalk, it was still exciting for a first-timer.
             The pool was absurdly crowded, like many things in Korea. The kid pool was not swimmable, rather you could only walk around your five foot square area and hope to not get hit by a ball. The adult pool was only a little better. People were doing laps in all kinds of directions due to a lack of lanes. There was also an annoying dress code. Without a swimming cap you were stared or yelled at until you left. The best part about Korean public pools is bikinis with high-heels.
             After cooling off, I got another motorcycle ride to a friend's place in Seoul. This time we rode on real streets with real traffic and stoplights. Motorcycles are definitely the best way to get around Korea. Traffic is always terrible, and with such lax traffic laws it's no problem to use the opposite lane or run red lights. Who knows, maybe the next blog entry you read, I will be talking about my recent motorcycle purchase....probably not. Thanks for reading and so long!

             In late July and early August, I will be travelling to Japan and Busan, so the entries should be more interesting. Then, in September I'm off to Hawaii, and I now have tentative plans for Thailand in November...yeah! 
             As always, please send e-mails, comments and any other sort of communication. I love to hear from you all.
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jbburghardt on

Travel plans!
Tentatively pencil me in for late February/early March. I'm excited to see you again! Miss you! -JB

mlachnik on

Worth the Wait!
Hi Billy,
Another adventurous blog! Congrats on coming in #2 teacher. Have fun in Japan, China and especially Hawaii with your Mom and Dad in Sep.
We're heading to SFO next month to get away from the heat for a few days; although it was only 96 yesterday and now monsoon season. Take care and keep the blogs coming... Gail and Jimi

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