Thursday, December 13, 2007


The first time I turned on my new cell phone, the startup screen read "Cyon...Idea". Ha, I thought, yet another use of english for the sake of having english there. Then...the phone SANG the words in this weird high pitched robotic voice. I captured it on video and uploaded to youtube. Have a look:

Korean Phones

They do things a bit differently here in Korea than they do in Japan. Actually, alot differently. When I lived in Tokyo, getting a cell phone was an insanely complex process of forms, plans, getting people to translate, required documents, contracts, choosing from about 200 different phones, english menus. With the help of my korean friend Daniel, I ventured out to find a phone for the lowest possible price. I needed only a basic basic phone since I just wanted to send txt messages with it. We hit a couple of stores, hole in the wall kind of places. I settle on a $50 used phone, no idea where it came from. There is no form, nothing, they just pony up the phone and away I go. When I need to recharge credit i just go back into the shop and hand them a $10 bill and they do the rest.

Japanese phones were a marvel of technology and complexity, but theres something to be said for an under the table simple phone. Sometimes ass backwards countries have their benefits.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Women of Dongnae Market

Saturday afternoon was great. I spent it taking photos of the women who work in Dongnae market, a place only 5 minutes from my apartment. I got some great shots of various characters who work at the market, and for once Im happy with the overall results of my photos! Take a look HERE

Saturday, November 17, 2007


On the ferry boat when I met all the teachers, I suddenly heard someone say "Trans Siberian Express". I perked up. It was Dave, a New Zealander. We chatted about it a bit, and quickly figured that we had been on the train at around the same time. Then it dawned on me, I had met Dave once before. When I arrived in Irkutsk last June, after having just come off a crazy 3 day train ride, I spent one night in a hostel there. I got there late in the evening and left early the next morning, but as we talked to eachother it became clear that had already met in Russia. Crazy! He didn't even work in Busan either but in Seoul.

Another in a long line of small world stories.

Visit to Japanland

I was in Fukuoka this weekend on a Visa Run. For those who dont know, I didnt enter Korea with a work visa, so I had to leave the country and pick one up, then re enter to get the visa activated. There is a ferry boat that goes from Busan to Fukuoka. Now, upon arrival at the ferry terminal here in Busan, I was expecting a pretty large ferry. The boat, it turns out, is tiny, but its quick. It will only take 3 hours. On the ferry I met a hardy group of English teachers. Dave and Lisa from NZ, Kirsten from England, Micah from the US (non annoying american finally!) and Jen, who was Canadian but was born in Serbia. We instantly got along, and excitement mounted when we found out we were all staying in the same hotel. Sweet. We get off the boat in Japan, and instantly im taken back into the Japanese mindset. Suddenly everything is clean and modern and everyone is polite. Nice.

We head to the colsulate and put in our application forms and then take the subway to the hotel. Upon check in we meet up back in the lobby and head out for drinks and food. Many many hours and a waaaayyyy too much beer and sake later we get back to the hotel. Although I spent about $100 bucks that night, it was well worth it to meet some new friends. The next day Jen and I rode back to Korea together on the Ferry since we both had the same departure. Problem was that the sea was rough that day. Really rough. Boy did I get a bad bout of sea sickness. First time ever! The previous night was catching up to me.

All in all, it was a good trip. I figured that Id be depressed coming back to Korea after being in Japanland again. Japan is, after all, about twice as awesome as Korea. But actually it was alright coming back. I had a strong sense of returning home. Maybe im finally settling in here?!

taking a beating

Its no secret that Korean teachers in public schools beat their students, but what I found out about the process was actually really shocking! My middle school class gave me the low down on beatings in the classroom. First, the punishment for girls are smacks on the hand or on the legs with a 18in long piece of bamboo. For boys, they get it on the ass or back.

Now, what do the students get beaten for? No, its not disrupting the class, or stealing from the teacher, actually its not for doing anything serious at all. Actually, they get beaten for not doing their homework. They also get beaten for getting low test scores. Shocking! Such a negative way to motivate, the motivation of fear. Its strong, but god how unfair is that...worrying about suffering physical pain if you get a low score on a test. No wonder all Koreans fear authority later in life, its beaten into them from a young age. Even the Japanese, strict though they are, abolished that kind punishment long ago. Korean parents also beat their kids. It could be that Korean adults think that physical punishment is the only way to get through to their kids, and maybe thats true for the most evil and difficult ones, but I had one extremely sweet shy and quiet korean middle school student come into the class with red hands because she forgot to bring her homework to school. I guarantee that beating the poor girl isnt going to help her shy demeanor, nope, its only going to turn her into a more fearful and shy introvert.

Would I even beat my students? Ahh, well with some of them I want to but I never would. Never.

Stick Day

Last week as I wandered into my kids class I noticed that they all had giant bags of candy stuff. Halloween leftovers? Nope. My kids all come up to me and give me long and colourful candy stuff wrapped in foil. One has bugs bunny on it, the others, a random assortment of anime characters.

"Whats this?"
"Its Stick Day!!" "Happy Stick day Will!"

Now, Stick Day was apparently last Sunday or something. Anyways, I talked to my adult students about it. Apparently Stick Day was the brainchild of the Lotte Corporation in Korea. They made a day dedicated to giving and receiving chocolate covered cookie sticks. Guess what, among billions of other things, lotte makes? Sticks! My co-workers and students all gave me sticks that day. They were fairly tasty. Now, I know that mothers day, for example, is the creation of corporations, but at least we arnt so blatant about it!

Im coming back to Canada and starting Stick Day. Guess what the date of stick day is Nov 11. Thats right 11/11. Stick like numbers dont you think.

Koreans seem to love stick day.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Yesterday was Halloween. Its not that I forgot about it, its just, i didnt think that yesterday would be much different than any other at the school. Imagine my surprise when I find that the other teachers have prepared full Halloween parties for their students, complete with goddamn ordered pizza and scary masks. You bet I felt guilty when my students sadly said "Teacher! Where is our pizza! Games?!" Ugh, overachieving teachers are annoying in Korea. I came up with a plan though. I gave the students some lessons in zombie walking, and we marched as a zombie cluster into the other teachers room, and began to eat her classes pizza, as zombies I might add, making a mess of things.

The other teacher was super annoyed. Zombie revenge is sweet.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Busan Fireworks Festival

Recently, Id been feeling a bit down on this city. Now, mostly I think this is because I just haven't had the time away from work to see any of the good things, but also it was that the general atmosphere of the place was a little down. Last night though...last night changed my mind. Alex, one of my students and a genuine nice guy, invited me to go to a fireworks show, promising that it would be worth the crowds.

It was, without a doubt, the greatest fireworks display Ive ever seen. It was 45 minutes long, it had giant lasers, lights, music, and apparently $3 million worth of explosives. Wow, just wow. The show happened down on one of the beaches and it was the perfect venue for fireworks. About 1km off the beach is a massive suspension bridge, the beach is huge and slopes down quite a bit so everyone can have a good view. There were over a million people watching. Alex told me this was one of the biggest fireworks shows in the world.

God, the pushing though. With that many koreans packed in, EVERYONE was pushing. At points I was worried someone would get trampled. After the show it took us an hour just to leave the beach with the crowds, we found a seafood restaurant and drank and ate delicious sashimi korean style. It was a great night.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Photos of Korea

Ive got some new photos up on Flickr finally. Check them out on the link at the right.

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