Friday, February 27, 2009

New School Year

This Monday will be the start of the new school year in South Korea and Kim and I have been informed about our new class schedules for the year.  We will continue to teach Preschool/Kindergarten in the morning (10:00 AM to 3:00 PM) and 1st through 6th grade in the afternoon (3:00 PM to 7:30 PM).  Its a pretty long day but there are few breaks through out the day that gives us some time to rest.  The Kindergarten Graduation was this past Friday and it was pretty neat seeing how excited all of the kids were to be moving on into the 1st grade.  The ceremony that Poly put on was very nice, except for when they made the foreign staff get up on stage on sing "What a Wonderful World".  It was extremely awkward for everyone involved as well as for those in attendance.

I will be teaching Kindergarten.  The Kindergarten is broken into 3 separate classes and they have 3 subjects that they will learn every day: Phonics, Science, and Reading.  I think that will be teaching reading to all of the classes but I will find out for sure on Monday.  

Kim will be teaching the Preschool Prep classes.  These will be 7 kids, around the age of 3, who will be in preschool next year.  They do not speak any English so there will be a Korean teacher n the classroom with Kim at all times.  We are not sure what she will be teaching since this is the first class of its kind at Poly.  Our boss is working on the schedule this weekend.  On Monday, Kim will have a meet and greet with all of her students and their mothers.  Though nervous, I think that she is excited to meet all of the little kids.  

We do not know our afternoon schedule yet so we will post about that later.  We are still in our temporary apartment for today and we will be moving into our "bigger" place on Sunday.  Sang Kwan will be arriving in Seoul on Monday.  Kim and I are unsure about how much we will get to see him since we are working now but hopefully we can work it out.  We will take some pictures of our new place tomorrow and post them up on the blog.  


Monday, February 23, 2009

Odusan Tongil Unification Observatory

Wow, this is another tardy post as we went to the observatory 2 weekends ago with Father. But ever since we've started teaching, time has become much more of a precious commodity and there hasn't been as much time to blog.

Anyway, two weekends ago we took a 2 hour trip north of Seoul to the Odusan Tongul Unification Observatory. This is located on a mountain by a river, which is the narrowest part of the DMZ. It doesn't have the dramatic effect of the 38th parallel line to see, but you can see North Korea from the Observatory, which is pretty cool.

Here's a more precise description.

It was foggy that day (what's new!), so the view isn't great, but if you look into the distance on the right, that's North Korea!

Here's a map. The area with blue signs is South Korea and the area with red is North Korea. The observatory also had North Korean artifacts and told the history of the split. It is amazing to see how much less developed North Korea is than South Korea.

Here are me and Mark standing by North Korean soldiers. Spiffy uniforms, huh! :)

The one thing of the trip that hit me was how much longing there is for North and South Korea to be united as one. There were stories of families that were separated when the country was divided who have not seen each other. And the Korean people don't talk about "if" their country is reunited, they talk about "when."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Class Video

Kim and I have been enjoying teaching at Poly. Right now, we teach preschool in the morning. In the afternoons we fill in for other teachers. I tool a camera with me to my preschool classes the other day. There are three classes and I teach Reading to all three. The first class in the video is my homeroom class. You will probably notice how quickly they can get out of control.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gulp... trial by fire

On Monday we went to Poly School to check out our new apartment. The apartment is much smaller than Father's (not really a surprise), but pretty cute. It is located about 2 minutes from the Guro Digital Complex subway stop. (If you want to find it on the map, it's on the green line and called Gurogongdan. It's four stops away from our school's exit: Seoul National University.) The entire commute will take about 25 minutes, which is much nicer than the over an hour commute from Father's apartment.

The area seems to have a lot of high rise apartment buildings. We'll be living on the 4th floor. And we will actually have a kitchen/living room and two other rooms. The rooms are teeny tiny, but should serve their purpose. In addition, there is a loft area above, which will provide some great storage. (And a place I can hide from Mark since there's no way he can get around up there - hee hee.) We'll take some pictures the next time around, it just felt creepy to take a bunch of pictures of someone's random apartment with all their stuff in it. We can officially move in on Feb. 28th. Until then we will probably be commuting from Father's apartment, though in a few days we'll have a single studio previously used by one of the single teachers at Poly made available for us to shack in.

When we were at the school on Monday, we received some very sad news. One of the teachers got a call that morning informing him that his brother passed away, so he was catching the next plane back home on Wednesday. And the school desperately needed someone to cover his classes on Wednesday and possibly even Thursday and Friday (when we were supposed to be training). Sooo... Mark and Kim to the rescue! We're going to be teaching our first classes tomorrow with absolutely no training whatsoever. (Actually, one of the teachers tried to give us a brief overview, but it was more confusing than anything.) So we're going to show up at Poly tomorrow and completely wing it. We'll let you know how it turns out! Wish us luck.....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hazard of not speaking the language

Mark and I went out to dinner and to a so-called western bar on Friday night.

Many of the bars have a few set drink/foods that you can order together. The entire menu was in Korean, so we decided to take a risk and just order one of them with no idea what we were actually getting.

It started out innocently enough, they brought out 3 different types of beer...

But ladies and gentlement, please see Exhibit A as an example of one of the pitfalls from blindly ordering from an all Korean menu. WHAT THE HECK?!?!? 

Needless to say, I did not take one bite of this, but brave Mark tried a couple tentacles. He said it wasn't that great and he probably wouldn't order it again. I should hope not! (Are we seeing a trend here with me being too afraid to try stuff and Mark taking the plunge?)

SO pretty!

We've gotten a little blog facelift! My good (and super-talented) friend, Julia, created our new pretty blog header for us! Isn't it great?!?!?

By the way, here's a little shameless plug... she is really, really good at digital scrapbooking. Kind of the next generation of Creative Memories scrapbooking since it's all done online. So instead of a normal album, you'd get an album that looks like a book. She has a little business creating photo books for people called J. Lorene Design. Here's the link. I think she may create an album for us of our Korea adventures when we get back... though, I kind of hope to not be so lazy at that point and to maybe even tackle photoshop and all that and do it myself. But at the same time, I'd like some of her talent infused in my albums. We'll see.... :)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gyeongbokgung Palace

As we continue to get in as much sight seeing as possible before Kim and I start teaching, we visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace.  It is located in Jongno-gu and it can be reached by taking Line #3 to Gyeongbokgng Station.  The price of admission is 3,000 KRW.  While we enjoyed touring the palace, we will probably be coming back in the spring or fall so that we can experience it with more greenery.  

The Palace was originally constructed in 1395 by King Taejo.  It was destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and reconstructed in 1868 during King Gojong reign's.  

The Changing of the Guard takes place every hour on the hour from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  Kim and I did not know this but luckily we walked in at 11:59, right in time for it to start.    

We kind of look like the guards, don't we?

Once again, the mountains in Seoul were amazing, providing a stunning backdrop to the views in the Palace.

I was in awe of the symmetry of the buildings.  Every block of wood was perfectly aligned.

On the west wing of the palace, there is a huge garden area as well as a lake.  Trying to be artistic, I think I got some pretty cool pictures using the reflections from the water.  

Both Kim and I were pleasantly surprised by how colorful the temples were.  

There is also a museum located in the front of the palace that we toured afterwards.  This is a map of the entire palace.  

In the Gyeongbokgung subway station is the Seoul Metro Art Center.  The current exhibit was the winners of a local photography contest.  It was a pretty cool little spot to stumble upon.

It was about 2:30 PM when Kim and I finished up and we were kind of hungry.  We decided to stop off at Wangsimni Station off Line #5 on the way back to our apartment.  There is a shopping mall located at this station that has a supermarket and a movie theater that Kim and I have already visited a couple times.  They have an awesome food court that allows us each to get what we want instead of having to compromise on one place.  Kim went with Mexican.  I chose the sushi restaurant with the revolving belt.  If you have not been to one of these before, you sit at the counter and pick and choose the plates that you want.  The price is based on the color of the plate and if you look in the top left corner of the picture below, you will notice the price list.  

It 6:00 PM on Friday night right now and I think that are big plans for the evening are going out with Mr. Kim for dinner and that's about it.  Tomorrow, I am sure that we will find another area of Seoul to visit, but we have not decided on anything yet.  We have really been enjoying the sight seeing, but both of us are anxious to make some friends once we start teaching at Poly.  

The War Memorial of Korea

Today, Kim and I took a trip over to The War Memorial of Korea which is a museum depicting the many wars that Korea has been involved in.  The museum consists of 3 floors which includes 6 Exhibition Rooms as well as an Outdoor Exhibition Area of military equipment.  It costs 3,000 KRW per person.  It is located in Yongsan-dong.  You can get there by taking Line #4 or #6 to the Samgakji Station or Line #1 to the Namyeong Station.  Kim and I spent over 3 1/2 hours at the museum so obviously there is plenty to look at.  

When you enter a museum, you will notice that they have a walking path mapped out for your convenience.  You do not have to follow this path, but it ensures you the best opportunity to view every exhibit.  We saw displays of ways that date back to 100 B.C. and the museum takes you all the way up to South Korea's modern day army.  Almost every description had an English translation below the Korean.  Below you will see some of Kim and my favorite pictures.

A view of the front of the museum.

A couple of sculptures from the front of the museum.  

This hallway is at the beggining of the tour.  It contains several statues of former South Korean soldiers who exemplified themselves during war.  It was very interesting reading all of their stories.  Most of them had to do with the individual sacrificing their life to save their fellow soldiers.

We saw several different weapons ranging from prehistoric knives to modern day rocket launchers.  Below is a device used to get over the walls of an enemy's fortress.  I have seen this before in movies but up until today, I did not realize that they were real and used in actual combat.

A fairly massive cross-bow.  

  Below is a device that can shoot up to 100 arrows at one time.  I can only imagine how scary that had to be for their enemies when they see a sky littered with arrows after 4 or 5 of these things are fired off.   

As you might expect to see in an Asian war museum, there was a larger display of swords.

Look at the size of the arrow that they would fire from this cannon.  

This is a bomb used during World War II.  It weighs 500 lbs.  If you notice the picture in the background, the plane is dropping several of these bombs at once.

One of the best parts of the museum was their wax figure displays.  They were very realistic looking and the detail was unbelievable.  A few of them included audio commentary that describes the battle being depicted.  The audio commentary comes in Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English.

Below of some of our favorite paintings and pictures that we came across.

I am not sure what the letter said, but this is a picture of a POW and a letter that he wrote in his own blood while being held captive.

During the war, the citizens of South Korea had to live on as little as 1 spoonful of rice a day.  Despite these hardships, Korean parents were very focused on their children's education during the war and this determination was one of the driving forces of Korea's industrialization after the war.

Below is a personal letter written by Gen. MacArthur during the Korean War.  Kim and I both felt foolish about our lack of knowledge of America's involvement in the war.  From what I saw, I think the Koreans have a great respect for Gen. MacArthur and were surprised that he was relieved of his command during the war.

There were some fighter plans, helicopters and wax figurines on parachuters suspended from the ceiling.

Another favorite of mine was the submarine exhibit.  The display allowed you to walk through a submarine model.  It really gave you a feeling of how tight the quarters were, especially for me.

Modern day South Korean soldier.

The tour ends with an outdoor exhibit of over 50 different pieces of military equipment.

In my opinion this was the best display in the museum.  It is called a Turtle Ship and it is considered one of the finest battleships ever created.  This ship is credited with being one of the main reasons for Korea's victory over Japan and their invasion.  The name Turtle Ship comes from how the ship defends itself.  The top of the boat is a hard wooden shell with sharp spikes.  Inside there are 2 levels, the bottom contains the rowers and the top contains the captain and the cannons.  The Koreans would pull up close to the Japanese ships and sink them with their cannons.  The Japanese, who relied heavily on their superior hand-to-hand combat skills, could not board the ship due to the shell.  Japan, who had been soundly defeating the Koreans up to this point, could not send additional reinforcements and Korea ended up fending off the invasion.