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Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Dry Woods

While touring the Buddhist temple site this past Saturday, we discovered a side trail that had few people. It ran into a forest, the path bordering a dry streambed. The path itself, as well as the streambed, was rocky, and a bit hard to walk on, but all the more pleasant and peaceful as we were away from the throngs of tourists that had gathered to view the autumn foliage. It was, quite simply, nice to be alone with friends, to listen to the wind rustling the tree leaves, and to mingle with the essence of nature that, all too often, seems to get lost in our daily lives.

Buddhist Temple Pics

Saturday I took a trip to a southern province, via high-speed train, to view fall leaves and tour a Buddhist temple. I already posted a few pics, but here are some more.

The temple is called Naejangsa, and it is located in Jeong-eup city in Jeollabuk-do province.

There were hordes of people there, transported mainly by tour buses. I am guesstimating that several tens of thousands of people visited the site on Saturday. We managed to get off on our own for a bit though.

As you can see in the pics, there is a blend of tourism (and businessnes catering to the tourists) and nature, along with a dose of religion.

The weather was great--sunny and cool--and made for a very enjoyable day, though it was a long day trip from the Seoul area (left 7am/returned 11:30pm).

Fall Leaves in Korea

Here are some pics from Jeong-eup city in Jeollabuk-do province, South Korea.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Jack is Back

Yesterday morning I woke up early and decided to go for a short walk to stretch my legs. Knowing it was cold out, I decided to check the internet first for a weather report, and was a bit surprised to see that the recorded temperature was -2C (28F), with wind chill pushing the "feels like" temp. down to -6C.

Yikes! It's the first time Jack Frost has shown up this fall.

I dug out my winter clothing and suited up.

Fortunately it's not going to stay that way. Meanwhile, I hope a lot of mosquitoes went to the "sky country".

Saturday, 23 October 2010

And Now You May Leave . . .

My Korean students are usually anxious to get out of the classroom. Some have other academies to go to, others just want to play. Some have mothers waiting for them, while most are catching the academy bus.

So they are eager to be first out, first to scan out (we have an entry/exit scan card system). However, as I learned a long time ago, 10 mad kids rushing out of a class can create a bit of chaos, especially when those 10 kids are combined with the multiple students from other classes.

So I have this litttle "game" I play with some classes.

I make them all sit down before the bell rings. No one can leave before they are sitting quietly in their chairs (and everything has been cleaned up).

Then I say, for example, "If you are wearing jeans you can leave." Students take a moment to think, look at their pants, and the lucky few cheer and get up and exit the classroom.


"If you have yellow socks, you can leave."

And so on.

But the other day I decided to focus on pets. So I began, "If you have a dog for a pet, you can leave." No one left.

"If you have a cat for a pet, you can leave." No one left.

Now, this was a class with 10 kids, so I was starting to get worried about playing the odds. Granted, Korea isn't America, and dogs and cats aren't primary pets, especially when so many live in high-rise apartments, but, still (I thought), give me a break.

Aha! I remembered. One student had a fish.

"If you have a fish for a pet, you can leave."

1 gone.

"If you have a . . . turtle, you can leave."

Another gone.

Ok, pets aren't working . . .

If you have a brother, you can leave." (I thought this would clear half of them out, but Korea has a population problem.) Nobody left.

"If you have a sister, you can leave." One student. Sigh. That's a bit depressing.

I was committed now, and feeling a bit of strain . . . time to be direct.

I pointed at one girl. "What is your pet?"


"If you have a hedgehog, you can leave."

I pointed at another girl. "What is your pet?"

"I have a beetle."

Missed that boat!

"If you have a beetle, you can leave."

Time for them to go. The bell had long since rung, and I had learned a few things.

"Everybody, goodbye, see you on Monday!"

Mad rush.


Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Weather Report

The weather report--and I just checked again to make sure--says that today we have a 0 % chance of rain.

But right now there is a thunderstorm.

Go figure.

(Maybe it's the North Koreans!)

Halloween Poster

I saw this poster on my apartment building and was a bit surprised, as Halloween is not a big holiday here. But then again, there is a small shopping mall in our building and undoubtedly some Halloween items will soon be on sale.

To the right of the poster, through the large glass window, you can see the front entrance to the apt. building with two "security guards" at the front desk (as there is very little crime here--where I live anyway--their role is more varied: they assist with recycling, maintainance, problem-solving, etc.).

Whiteboard Pic

An example of one of the things I have been doing with some mid-level classes: W-H questions. They read a story (fiction or non-fiction) in our large reading book and then, in small groups/pairs, make some questions. They write their questions on the whiteboard, then everyone writes the questions down and answers them, with volunteers writing the answers on the wb. Only one of the sentences you can see is mine. The process can be time-consuming and is harder for the students than you might think, but it challenges them and is (I think) a good activity.
(The red x's you see are for speaking unnecessary Korean in class; the students get three chances, then everyone writes lines or something in their notebook at the end of class, which makes them late getting out. It's surprisingly effective, and they hardly ever have to write after the first time or two.)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Kid's Thoughts

One of my kids told me that her pet hamster died. She was quite upset about it, and wrote in her diary that she thought it must be "crying in the sky". I thought that was a wonderful use of English from a Korean student.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Kimchi Crisis

In South Korea, as you may or may not know, kimchi (a cabbage side-dish) is a food staple, along with rice. However, prolonged summer rains + hot temperatures have combined to increase the price of cabbage (and lettuce, etc.) two or three times past its normal price, in addition to limiting its availability.

Some grocery stores are running out of the product, something I experienced a few nights ago when I went food shopping. I looked and looked, but could not find the kimchi. Finally, I bought a few small packets of radish kimchi, which is about all that was available. It wasn't until I read this news article today that I realized the reason that I had not been able to locate the cabbage product in the store: it simply wasn't available.

So Korea ia planning to import 100 or more tons of Chinese cabbage in order to lower prices and to simply make the vegetable available to the normal family. The government is also looking at bringing in the winter crop early and planning for the spring crop to be ready early.

Also, I read a quote today in a newspaper, which might seem a bit funny/wierd, but completely fits with the Korean psyche, that "cabbage grown in a different soil in China might not be good for Korean health/bodies" . . . and, of course, here, as elsewhere, there are concerns about many things made or grown in China.

It goes beyond that, though, as most Korean restaurants are obligated to serve kimchi, yet the price increases are forcing them into dire straits. They feel like they can't increase restaurant prices but still must serve this side dish; and, for those of you who have not eaten at a restaurant in Korea, refills on side-dishes are free, so this is potentially a huge monetary burden on restaurants.

Not only that, but many Korean grilled-meat restaurants serve a basket of lettuce leaves to wrap meat in, and that is also pushing them into financial loss, again because they really can't increase their prices (or no one will eat there).

There is kind of a cyclical effect happening that the newspapers haven't pointed out enough--households are feeling the pinch for kimchi and lettuce, so when they go to a restaurant they expect to fill up on these foods, but the restaurants can not afford to keep supplying their customers with firsts and seconds on such (this year) seasonally expensive products.

So, for all the above reasons, the government is stepping in. Ironically enough, last year the government intervened also, but rather to buy a surplus of radish and other crops that were then decomposed.