Kian in Korea

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Time Flies!

I don't know where the time goes! Here're some brief updates on stuff:

School is out for the summer, but that doesn't mean I don't go to work. Most days I sit in the office and work on other things, like making materials or lesson plans for the upcoming semester's classes. Some days, though, I go to other schools for "English Camp." English camps are an attempt to immerse the kids in the language for a period longer than their 45-minute classes at school. They are fun for the kids and it keeps them practicing even while school is out. It's also a relief for the teachers because usually the kids volunteer to come, so you have fewer disciplinary problems to deal with. Some camps are just regular work, but this week I have a camp that lasts 3 days and for which I will payed an extra 300,000 won! Some teachers get lucky and do enough camps that they can make an extra million won or more, but others, such as myself, do not. This is the only paying camp I'm doing during this vacation period. However, there is also a month off in the winter, and the same camp system applies then, too.

The monsoon season continues apace. Last Friday, I saw the most rain I'm sure I've ever seen in my life. In the morning I was teaching at a day-long English camp, and on the way home around 4, it looked like the end of the world. The streets were shin-high in water and the torrents poured down relentlessly. Bizarrely, everything is dry again by next day. It's bizarre because it's so humid. My laundry, even when it's not raining, takes several days to dry.

After monsoon season, there's suppose to be about a month of really horrendous heat and humidity before fall starts setting in. I've been to some places that are probably as humid as it is here, but somehow it's a lot worse here. It's not just that you sweat. The air is acrid from the piles of garbage everywhere (I don't understand the sanitation system here, so I can't really write much about it) and the shallow sewers. The air pollution, a combination of Seoul being surrounded on three sides by mountains, is oppressive. So when you sweat, it's not regular watery sweat. It's thick, it's greasy, and it smells bad. I will never complain about Southern California's air pollution again.

Fortunately, I will be able to get out of town to escape the smell, if not the heat and humidity. August 12th through 20th, I will be on vacation. My plan is to travel through the countryside. Since Korea is so small (only the size of Southern California), and so well connected (busses and trains connect everywhere in the country to everywhere else, and nothing takes longer than 4 or 5 hours by train), it should be easy to do a tour. Some things I plan on include: a temple stay, where you live and work and meditate in silence with monks for a day and
spend the night with them; and going to Jeju Island, which is Korea's answer to Hawaii. Expect thousands of pictures.

Last Friday I accomplished something amazing and incredible: I got my yellow belt in taekwondo! As a child I was a white belt for over a year and then gave up. Now I'm one step closer to that black belt! If you get a black belt, you actually get a card to carry saying so. In Korea, if you go to class every day (which I have been, hence the yellow belt in three weeks), it can take less than a year to go all the way to the top. Hopefully I'll be a card-carrying black belt before I get back to the USA.

After black yellow-belting it up, I took off for a weekend in Seoul with other native speaker teachers. We met lots of new people who very hospitably let us stay with them instead of spending money on hotels, and they showed us around. We ate Arabic and Italian food to our hearts' content, danced, and shopped. Next weekend, if all goes according to plan, I'll be visiting the Demilitarized Zone.


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