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Friday, 31 January 2014

Ukraine Mistake

Though I am not a supporter of violence, I do find this "mistake" funny:

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Short Film

An interesting short film about a dream:

Lunar New Year Holiday

This Thursday and Friday are national holidays in Korea due to the lunar new year.

Most of my students are going to their grandparents' home for the holidays, and we talked a little bit about who is going to travel the farthest, the idea of traffic (it can be horrendous on the highways as Seoul experiences a massive exodus), etc.

One of my 4th graders asked in class if I was going to my parents home for the holidays.  I had forgotten that some of them don't have a good perspective on world geography and travel.

I said, "Amy, it takes one day for me to fly to America, and one day to come back to Korea, so I can't visit them in 4 days.  We use Skype."

I showed them on the classroom map how far apart Korea and America are.

"Wow!" they chorused.

I will be interested to hear their travel stories when the students return next week.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Short Films

Here's a comedic action take on sushi restaurants:

And an action-packed (violent) short:

Neither are "family" films.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Article: Spam (the food) in South Korea

This article is quite timely as the lunar new year holiday--one of South Korea's biggest--occurs this week, and I have been seeing Spam gift sets in the stores:

Article: North Korea and Choco Pies

Choco pies are indeed very common in South Korea, but I had never heard about their connection to North Korea:

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Bright Sunny Day

Here are some pics of the skyline in Gunpo, Korea, courtesy of this nice sunny day:)  They start out at street level and then move up to a pedestrian walkway and then to a 12th floor rooftop:

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Retail "Clumping"

In Korea it is common to see retail stores in the same category clumped together on the same street or in the same area.

From outdoor gear to pet shops to electronics, you can often find the same types of stores bunched together.

Clearly this is nice for consumers who want to comparison shop, but I have often wondered at the frustration the first store might (must?) feel when competitors start piling in.

Here's an example:

If you look at the store signs on the left side of the pic, just above the guy with the light-blue and black jacket, you can make out the New Balance shoe store sign.

(Click on the above picture to enlarge it.)

Then, moving to the right, there is Reebok, and next is Adidas.

Around the corner is another shoe store, though I forget which one.

This 'clumping' is also true for food: chicken restaurants, seafood restaurants, etc.

This tendency clearly isn't unique to Korea, but it seems more pronounced here, for better or worse.

Mostly better, I think.


I ate lunch today with friends at a 'risotto, pilaf, spaghetti, and steak' restaurant (called "Seoga & Cook" I think) in Ansan (Jungang station), not too far from the city I live in. It's a big restaurant and was packed; we had to wait 25 minutes.

The food was good, but the steak was a bit overdone and the spaghetti was spicy (though surprisingly not red:) . . . I think they used some Thai chili pepper).  Overall I liked the shabu-shabu place that we ate at last week better.

Here are some pics:

Monday, 20 January 2014

The Weather Today in Gunpo (near Seoul), Korea

Around 4 pm today it got very dark outside, and then down it came.

The snow was thick at times, though there wasn't much overall accumulation:

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Rosetta Comet Chaser

Has anyone heard about this space mission?  The Rosetta comet chaser?

I hadn't, and I find it fascinating.

I really hope that it works (so many things could go wrong).

It reminds me of NASA's "Seven Minutes of Terror" when the rover Curiosity landed on Mars.

(If you never saw that video--or don't remember it--it is here:

Everything described in the video worked perfectly, which is truly amazing.)

Anyway, the article about the Rosetta mission, and the fantastic things the scientists are trying to achieve, is here:

Itaewon Subway Station

From pics from down in the Itaewon subway station:

Itaewon, Seoul

The Itaewon district of Seoul is quite multicultural, with lots of foreigners and foreign restaurants.  It developed that way partly due to its proximity to an American military base.

I go there occasionally to buy things at a foreign food store, located on the same street as the oh-so-creatively-named "Foreign Restaurant" (which serves Indian food):

Shabu Shabu Restaurant

For those not familiar with shabu shabu, it is basically a pot of vegetables and often some meat that is cooked at the table.

The restaurant that I went to with two Korean friends for lunch had electric burners embedded in each table instead of the usual gas grills--nice.

This restaurant also has a good salad bar/buffet area (including sushi), so the $21 price per person was worth it for a special lunch.  Here are some pics from our dining experience:

Friday, 17 January 2014

Classroom Vocabulary/Writing Exercise

Most of the students in my classes have to participate in an activity like this once or twice a week.

Their textbooks usually present them with a short list of vocabulary words (6-8), and I ask them to write--on the whiteboard--the English word, the Korean word, and a sentence that uses the word correctly.  I will tell them how many words (minimum) to put in the sentence, otherwise they will naturally make very short ones (so, 8+ words).

This often involves using dictionaries and/or asking a Korean teacher to come in and check the translations.

After the students have written on the whiteboard they must copy everything into their notebooks.

I have found that, in doing this exercise over a long period of time (6 months to a year), the students greatly improve their ability to make well-ordered sentences.

Sure, they make mistakes, and I try to correct those before they write the sentences into their notebooks, but, for the most part, I am pleased with the progression that the students have made.

In the attached picture, I did make corrections, but not a lot (and I missed a few things).

What is important is 1) the long-term improvement and 2) the empowerment that such an exercise gives the students, for I make sure to tell them when their writing is good.

Also, writing on the whiteboard gives me a chance to point out who has good hand-writing and who doesn't, though I usually do it in a question mode: "Which numbers do you think have the best handwriting?"

"Wow!  Ok, who wrote those sentences?"

"Great job!"

A bit of peer pressure is often a good thing.

*A note--this is not a normal class for my academy (hagwon); they are what I wold call 'advanced 4th graders', and I have been teaching some of them for several years.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Civilian Efforts to 'Open' North Korea

Here is an article from The Atlantic about citizen groups in South Korea trying to get information into North Korea:

Second is a link to a new documentary about the hardships of daily life in NK, apparently composed of video footage smuggled out of the country (I haven't been able to watch the film yet, due to region restrictions on internet viewing, but I hope to soon):

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Squid Vs. Fish Video

If you're interested in the natural world, here are two videos:

squid vs. fish:

Fish vs. bird:

(video embedded in the article)

The cycle of nature just got a bit more extreme!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Classroom Experiment

I told several of my classes today that, while the weather here in South Korea has been very cold, the weather where a friend lives in Argentina is quite hot, since the southern half of the Earth is experiencing summer.

In two classes--4th and 5th graders--I asked the students to make a choice: did they prefer Korea's cold winter weather, or did they want to choose Argentina's very hot summer weather (about 39C/102F today).

It was interesting that one class chose Argentina's summer weather, while the other class voted in favor of Korea's cold weather.

Both classes felt quite strongly about their choices, and I had a hard time not laughing about their emphatic tones.

When I told my friend in Argentina that one class had chosen her weather, she said to send them there:)

On Thursday I am going to tell that class--9 girls--to pack their bags!

"How to Give Up Sugar in 11 Easy Steps"

An article from The Guardian, a British national daily newspaper (therefore the strange humor, spelling, references, etc.) (if you're British, sorry about that, it's perfectly normal):

Article: U.S. Military in South Korea

If you are not aware of it, the U.S. maintains a strong military presence in South Korea, close to 30,000 military personnel.

Here's an article from the Korea Herald presenting a short summary of that presence:

Short Films to Watch (Mostly Comedy)

Here are links to some short films, usually 4-8 minutes in length.  I have shown most of them to students during break times or for summary writing activities (so they have been previewed for violence/sex/language).  I think I have posted all of the links before, but a friend needed some comedy  and so they came to mind and I am posting them again:


Monday, 13 January 2014

Home-Cooked Korean Food

Above is japchae (잡채), a mix of noodles and veggies.

Here we have a kimchi 'pancake' (for want of a better word, but it's spicy, not sweet) (김치전).

In the big pot there is a chicken stew (닭도리당, 닭복금탕).

All of the foods were delicious!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Near Gangneung (강릉), South Korea

Here are some pics of a country village and Buddhist temple over on the east coast

.  I posted pics of the same place in the fall, but I visited it again and--of course--everything looks different in the winter:)

It's very peaceful there!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Articles about Learning/Teaching English in Korea

If you are interested about English education/learning in Korea, you might be interested in these two articles, both from the Korea Herald, one of the two main daily English language news sources (the other is the Korea Times):

Saturday, 4 January 2014


Thursday and Friday were teaching days.

It was nice to have just one day with each class (we work on a MWF/TuTh schedule) in order to get reacquainted.

Many of my students I have taught for a year or more, so we are comfortable with each other.

It's nice to get back into that zone, but I think I will need to shake things up a bit,

We have two months left in this semester (the new school year in Korea begins in March), and I want to introduce some new activities.

It's also nice to be back in Korea just because so many places are within walking distance; I enjoyed visiting the U.S., but having to drive every where can be a pain.  Here the grocery store is next door, my workplace is 5 minutes on foot, and the subway station (should I want to go to downtown Seoul) is 8 minutes away.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Back in South Korea

After a long vacation in America to visit my family (inconveniently spread out out all over the place--it took 7 airplanes), I am now back in Korea.

I teach tomorrow--wow!

So much to do . . . it will take me a while to catch up, but for now I am just happy to be back and to return to some regular order and balance.

Here's an article I saw this morning about the importance of learning English in Korea, the good and the bad:

If that doesn't work go to the Korea Herald website and find the article on the front page.

Happy New Year!