Archive for the 'life in korea' Category

02
Dec
08

Update

3075946401_4aebe48144_oThings have been kinda crappy here for the last week or so.  Without going into detail, I’ll just say that I hate working for Koreans and that the exchange rate is at the bottom of the garbage bin right now.  In two months, my salary has dropped by more than 1/3rd.  It’s rather depressing.

At least I will be back stateside soon.  Exactly when is still under negotiation, but it looks like I will be headed back to the states either January 24th or 31st, and then will be heading back on February 28th.  I’m hoping I can convince my school to let me go on the 24th, but I’m not holding my breath.  But, even if I return stateside on the 31st, I still have essentially a full month back at home in DC before I have to return to Korea to go back to teaching for 3 more months.  It’s less time than my Korean co-workers get, but more than I will get in the US unless I can actually make a living freelancing, so I suppose I can’t really complain too much.

2102576447_f43c91f808_b

I’m looking forward to being back in the states.  I have two kickass reenactments to attend in February, both of which are hosted by groups I am a member of (being the host is always great), and I will get to see some of my friends, and my family is going to come visit Marc and I in DC, and, of course, I will be staying with Marc for the duration of my vacation, which will be nice.  I miss him quite dearly, and I know for a fact that the sentiment is mutual, and it’s good that I have such a relatively long vacation.  By the time I see him, it will have been 6 months since I last saw him, and even with the strongest of relationships, that is a very long period to be apart.  I miss my Frenchman.  After I finish teaching here in May, we might spend some time in France, before he starts work.  We can visit his sister and I can work on my French, and we can just in general use that as decompression time; me from Korea, him from grad school.  I think it would be good for both of us.  Plus, after having lived for a year here in Korea where bread is pretty non-existent and cheese is unheard-of, I think my body would appreciate some good French food.

27
Nov
08

A Book List and a Note about North Korea

So, since I spend a lot of time on buses, there is a good online used bookstore here in Korea, and Marc left me some of the books he brought with him during his visit in July, I have accumulated a decent number of books while here in Korea.  Here is the list (ones I have completed are crossed out, those I am close to finishing are in italics):

I prefer to read two books at once (keeps me from getting burned out by a book), and I think that my next two will be Frontsoldaten and North Korea: Another Country.  I need to read a German memoir or two from WWII before I go portray one at the reenactment I have in February, and Frontsoldaten seems to be one of the better ones.  As for North Korea: Another Country, well, given that the collapse of North Korea seems on the horizon, I figured I should learn a little bit more about that last relic of Soviet times.

On that note:  Last week, the Chinese moved an invasion force to the North Korean border that is slightly larger than the force that the US sent to invade Iraq.  My friends in the military (including those who are serving here) say this is very significant, if that wasn’t obvious enough already.  It has been almost confirmed that Kim Jung Il is very sick, and possibly already dead and replaced by a double, and the country seems to be destabilizing.  The reason the Chinese movement is doubly significant is that while South Korea has spies in North Korea, China actually has ties with North Korea, and they communicate regularly.  If anyone knows what’s up, it’s the Chinese.  So, the fact that they have seen fit to make such a large and sudden troop movement should be taken as a rather important sign.

On one hand, that scares the bejesus out of me.  On the other, I’m a photojournalist and an opportunist, and if shit goes down, it could be a boon to my career.  If there’s one truism about us press folks, it’s that our priorities are royally screwed up, and I am certainly no exception.

18
Nov
08

Public Service Announcement

Know what I miss?

Crepes.

 

 

(yes, this deserved a blog post.  stfu.)
18
Nov
08

My town’s attempt at a sewer system…

Jindo's Sewer System

 

I wish I were kidding.  A few feet below that hole (there are holes about every 6 feet) is a stream that has been diverted to run under parts of the town, serving as a rudimentary sewer system.

09
Nov
08

Relativity

As I approach the half-way mark here of my time here in Korea, I have noticed that time has once again slowed down again, unfortunately.  For about a month or so, time was speeding by.  My weeks seemed almost over by Tuesday, and before I knew it it was the weekend and another week was happening again within moments.  Time was going very quickly, which is good, because while Korea is interesting, I don’t particularly enjoy my time here, and I dearly miss Marc.

While my weeks themselves are still going fast, it feels like time in general has slowed back to a normal pace, which is to say, too slow.  When I look at my counter toward my hypothetical vacation date (I have not gotten my vacation time set in stone yet), which is also the date I get to fly back stateside and see Marc again, it never seems to get closer.  I mean, sure, it now stands at about 2.5 months, rather than the 5 months it was back at the end of August, but…that still feels like a long time.  Too long.  Really, anything more than a month feels not all that much more different than 5 months, I have found.  While the weeks go by quickly, looking at my calendar and thinking “Oh, I only have 2 months and 2 weeks left instead of 2 months and 3 weeks left” just isn’t all that satisfying.  Know what I mean?

Added to this is the fact that Marc has apparently been feeling what I have come to call “reverse loneliness”.  He has been hanging out with his female friends a considerable amount recently, but instead of it making him feel less lonely, it seems to only make him miss me more.  In his words, “They are nice, and they keep me company, but they are not you.  Their presence only makes me more acutely aware of your absence and makes me miss you more.” .  I am not a jealous person in the least, and I have no problem with him hanging around with other women or even having them sleep over (so long as they know his heart is taken).  But, it does pain me to see him so lonely, with or without other companions.  So, I want to get back to DC as soon as possible, a sentiment he very much mirrors.

Anyway.  Time needs to speed back up.  Now.  I need to get back to this:

Aw, we're so cute.

I miss my Frenchman.

27
Oct
08

Semi-Silence

I realized today that I haven’t spoken to another native speaker of English in 11 days, other than a skype session with Marc mid last week.  At this rate, I’m going to return to the US with halting, pidgin-esque speech patterns.

Strangely, this (the lack of contact) doesn’t really bother me.  I have never had much trouble being alone.  I entertain myself by talking to imaginary people (mostly real people who are merely absent, though the occasional fictional character makes an appearance) and daydreaming a lot.  I have traditionally found that I am far better at retreating into my own mind without going nuts than most people.  I spent most of my childhood in a very rich inner world, and I think that probably was a major contributor to that ability.

I probably won’t see any of the other foreigners until Thursday at the earliest, and mid next week at the latest, which would bring my total days without seeing another native speaker up to around 20 days.  There are 7 other foreigners on the island, and I don’t dislike them, I just don’t really have that much of a drive to socialize here.

Anyway.  Just some thoughts.

24
Oct
08

A Glimpse at my Week

My life has definitely calmed down now that I am only teaching at 3 schools instead of 7 and have been able to thus develop a routine.  I was told by many, many people that after the first 3-4 months, which seem interminably slow, that time really speeds up.  I was skeptical about this, due to the snail’s pace at which my life seemed to crawl for awhile there, but it is definitely proving to be true.  It feels like I go from Monday to Friday in about 3 days, which is good, because right now I’m just counting the days until I go back to the states for my month+ long winter vacation.  For those curious, here’s how I generally look at my work-week:

Monday:  My first two classes of the day are also my worst-behaved of the week.  So, if I can make it through those two without getting too angry, things are good.  Plus, at that school (which I will call GS), the teacher has decided that she doesn’t like my lessons, and so I’m basically a pronunciation monkey for her.  Makes my life easy, so I don’t complain.  Mondays I teach 4-5 classes, and I am usually done teaching by 2 or 3, and my remaining hours (until 5) are spent anxiously awaiting someone to upload the week’s new episode of True Blood, and then downloading it.  That evening, I go home and treat myself to one of my Belgian or German beers that I hoard when I find them.

Tuesday:  On Tuesday I am at my favourite school (which I will call US), and the students there love me and come to my desk to try and practice their English with me, which 90% of the time is cute, and not too annoying the other 10% of the time.  The students there are generally actually interested in learning English, and their pronunciation is the best on the island, in my opinion, so my job there is relatively easy.  Plus, the teachers there are generally happy, so the environment is nice.  The best part about Tuesdays, though, is that by 1:00 or so (and I only teach 2-3 classes), I get to head home, because that school is sane and releases me after I’m finished teaching, rather than making me sit uselessly at my desk until 5.  Tuesday evenings I spend either in front of my computer or out walking, or both.

Wednesday:  Wednesday I am back at GS, which is rarely pleasant as the teachers always seem very angry and stressed.  The students are my worst-behaved and their English is the worst, so my job there can be relatively stressful sometimes.  But, my afternoons I have no classes, so I spend that time working on my various websites, or on editing photos, etc.  Plus, after that day is done, I only have two days left in the week.  I theoretically have a workshop for the middle school teachers that day in the afternoon, but it only happens about half the time.  I teach 3-4 classes on Wednesday, plus the occasional workshop.  Wednesdays are cooking days, so my evening is usually a mix of cooking and cleaning.

Thursday:  Thursdays I am at GN, which is a decent school.  I love my co-teacher there, and like US, the teachers and students are generally in a pretty positive mood, so it’s a comfortable environment.  Some of my students there are good, some are bad, though the ones that are good are really good, so that’s nice.  I usually teach 3-4 classes on Thursday, and they’re almost aways all in a row, which can be hard, but I’m usually done by 2:30 at the latest, and then I go home.  I teach a workshop for elementary school teachers at 4pm at another school, and so I go home and surf un-censored internet for an hour or two before I have to head out again.  The teachers in that workshop are pretty low-level, which is a challenge, but all my previous experience has been with teaching adults, and the teachers are nice, so it’s usually fun.  Thursdays I almost invariably eat at the street-stand sandwich place in town, where they know me so well they start making my sandwich as I walk up to the counter.

Friday:  Friday is, well, Friday, so it’s almost always a good day.  Fridays I am back at US, and I usually only teach 2 classes, so I’m done by 11:30.  I usually stick around until lunch at 12:30, as a free meal is welcomed, and US has the best food of the three schools, but if I need to head out earlier to catch a bus or something, I can.  Because I am finished so early, and my days at US are so easy, Fridays almost don’t feel like a work day, which results in my weekends feeling almost like a three day weekend.

So, in short, Monday sucks, but then Tuesday goes by like a bullet train, Wednesdays suck but then Thursdays are okay and I spend them looking forward to Friday, then Friday is almost a non-workday.  So, really, it makes things go by rather quickly.  I have mostly been sticking around on the weekends, though I was going to head up to the province north of here to check out the foliage this weekend, until the weather called for rain and clouds there.  Maybe next weekend.  Sometime in November I need to make a trip up to Seoul to hit the expat store and an expat bar or two (I now have a ring I wear to fiddle with in class, and if I go to a bar by myself, I just switch which finger it’s on and the men mostly leave me alone – haha), but in general, I’m trying to stick around town more, since with the economy the way it is, I need to save my money.  I am still going to do the Trans-Siberian on the way home, but I may cut my time in Europe a little shorter than I originally planned, unless the economy rebounds.

Anyway, this entry is long enough, so I’ll stop now, especially since I’m cross-posting it to Waygook Next Door.




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