Posted by: jovonp | June 30, 2010

Day trips

To Seoul

As previously mentioned, during orientation there were particular days for off campus field trips. On this trip to Seoul, we were treated to a performance entitled Nanta; a popular Korean non-verbal musical that combines acrobatics, cooking, and comedy. The performers were really good. There was lots of energy and quite a few laughs. It was also special because our viewing was closed to the rest of the public at that particular time slot to accommodate for the hundreds of scholars who filled the seats at the venue.

Nanta ticket

Below are a few shots taken on that morning during the drive.

trafficcrossingbusy streetsmountain in the distance

More from this set can be viewed via my photostream.

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School visit

We left the campus early in the morning and began what was roughly a 4hour trip to another province with the purpose of visiting an elementary school. When we arrived, we were directed to one of two classrooms where we observed an English class being taught by a Korean teacher. The topic of the day was ‘Food’ and the children seemed really eager as their teacher split the class into two teams for a game. At one point the teacher invited us to participate in the class during a question and answer section of the lesson where she discussed favorite foods. It was nice being included and following the lesson, we were able to chat with the children who were all really excited at the sight of so many foreigners at once. One student was so happy he started taking photos of us with his cellphone 😀

Having found ourselves surrounded by children, we asked them their names and they in turn asked our names then something quite random happened. They all asked us to sign their worksheets! That was probably the first and only time in my life where someone’s asked for my ‘autograph’. Anyways, play time ended and we were directed to another room where we sat down and had some light refreshments and was greeted by the school’s principal who then gave us a tour around the building. We walked around a few floors of the school and saw some of the classrooms, nurses office and the staff meeting room. After the tour was over, we said goodbye and boarded the bus where we had kimbap (김밥) for lunch. The drive back to the campus was just as long as the morning ride, but we made it back to the dorms in time for me to catch a nice glimpse of the sunset over Suwon.

Sunset

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Shopping

A floor mate and I left campus one Saturday afternoon to head to Myeongdong, a shopping district in Seoul. We didn’t have any solid plans, but we decided to check out some of the electronics and game stores when we got there. Initially we were a bit lost, but fortunately we were able to manage thanks to my friend’s cellphone with a subway map display. At the electronics marketplace, we looked at some games and computer accessories, and I picked up another memory stick for my camera to supplement the other stick which reached its maximum capacity far too quickly.

We caught another train and hit the streets where we met another fellow scholar who joined us as we dropped by a few of the outdoor vendors and some of the stores that lined the busy streets. The crowds were a slight reminder of crowds encountered while hanging out in the city back home during the summer. In the midst of all the clothing and accessory vendors, there was a particular stand that sold a number of figurines based on numerous characters from video games and animation. There were many versions of the Super Mario Bros. and several characters from Dragonball/Z/GT. There were also some Western characters including Spider-Man, Batman, and Mickey Mouse. Before departing for Suwon, we stopped and grabbed a quick bite then hit the subway for the last time thereby ending the long day.
100_6532100_6540

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Cooking and a Theme Park

Today’s side trips began with a drive to a cooking institute in Seoul. After arriving and being split into groups, we were directed to one of several kitchens and greeted by an instructor, who (via a coordinator serving as a translator) informed us that we were going to learn about Korean dishes including Bulgogi (불고기) – marinated beef, and Kimbap (김밥) – steamed rice rolled with other ingredients and wrapped in seaweed. While the instructor spoke about the ingredients and processes involved in preparing the dishes, she gave a visual demonstration of what needed to be done.

Rolling kimbap

Following the demonstration, we were then placed into groups of 4 whereby each individual had a specific task on hand. My fellow group members and I began working on the kimbap and took turns dividing the rice into sections before flattening, adding the other components then rolling them in the seaweed. The latter part was slightly tricky, but we managed and the completed rolls looked pretty good if I do say so myself.

As for the bulgogi, fortunately the meat was partially prepared before hand so there wasn’t a lot of work to be done on our part. I was glad because it meant that we’d have a shorter time before we actually got to eat ;). It smelled great and tasted even better!

lunch time!

Later that day…

After finishing our lunch and cleaning up our work area, we boarded the buses and set out for the next stop. It was still cloudy, but the rain eventually ceased and the sun began to emerge. As far as I recall, it wasn’t very long before (maybe 35-40 mins) we reached our destination and I could see quite clearly one of the monorails that sat above a sign that directed drivers toward the parking lot. Before entering the complex, our coordinators distributed the admission tickets and cut us loose. These 1 Day special passes not only allowed entry on all of the rides, but also allowed us to avoid having to wait on long lines 8) It was nice having higher priority for the rides considering that there were many guests there.

Inside, there were rides and attractions for kids to adults. Among the attractions, there were the usual food courts, various shops and a stage area where performers sang and danced. Some of the things that stand out in my mind are the indoor roller coaster, large ice rink and bowling alley. There was even a…wait for it…shooting range. On the outside there were other rides and a few castle like structures. Next to some of the structures, one could see the monorail and track that ran throughout the park area, connecting the indoor and outdoor sections. Of the rides we went on, my favorite was probably the Gyro drop (vertical free fall).

One of the castles

The Gyro Drop. Video clip can be seen on my photostream

Posted by: jovonp | May 22, 2010

Pigged out

BBQ

Dinner is often my favorite part of the day. On this particular evening, a few of the guys and I went to a nearby restaurant for dinner and a few drinks. Samgyeopsal

(삼겹살)/grilled sliced pork was our meal of choice; and during my time here, it’s become one of my favorite dishes. There’s not much to be said here, Korean barbecue is simply amazing.

The main course

The main course on the grill

Shots up!

Posted by: jovonp | May 21, 2010

Beating the walls…

Beating the walls…

One evening I sat at my desk casually surfing the net. The silence was broken by the sounds of random yelling and cursing. Even louder, was the sound of a wooden door or desk being smashed repeatedly. This noise went on for about 20 minutes before I began to hear some familiar voices in the hallway.

“Yo chill out man…chill.”

I opened the door and saw the guys who explained that the ‘door kicker’ had not too long ago returned from a hangout where he drank himself silly. Needless to say, this guy wasn’t the kind of drunk who quietly drifts off into the night so instead of passing out in his own room or a gutter somewhere, he took the elevator up to our floor and proceeded to curse and beat the hell out of the locked door of an empty room.

The verbal and physical assault in its entirety must have gone on for almost a half hour before the noise finally died down.  Thinking it was all over, the guys next door and I ignore it and returned to our respective rooms. Not too long after, there’s a knock at my door…guess who? It turned out that he’d began looking for company to go hangout on the roof lmfao.

“Hey man, wanna go chill on the roof?”

“Nah, I’m good.”

“Alright bro…have a good one.”

I doubt any of us would’ve liked having to explain to SK police how someone in our midst fell to his death from the roof.

Posted by: jovonp | April 22, 2010

On orientation – lectures, trips, etc

The Beginning: Throughout the next few days there were many new faces. The empty dorms quickly began to fill up and the campus came to life.  The new arrivals were definitely a mixed bag that ranged from pseudo-intellectuals to party animals to straight up weirdos. On the other hand, I met a handful of cool people during the first week, some of whom would become class/group mates who would later move to the same province as I would at the end of orientation. Before things got on the way, there was an opening ceremony that consisted of introductions, welcoming speeches and various performances ranging from instrumentals, song and dance, and taekwon-do. After the ceremony, we were treated to an amazing outdoor buffet style dinner and relieved for the weekend. More hanging out marked this particular weekend and many people tried to enjoy the last bit of free time before the next week’s lecture sessions would begin.

Class Time:  Lines, lectures, and thermometers

As there were still concerns about the H1N1 virus, everyone was subjected to temperature checks at the nurses’ office. I got there early while the lines weren’t too long and got it out of the way. Everyone was issued a thermometer, a set of instructions for use and was then required to take our temps on our own daily throughout the first week of classes.

Concerning lectures: The topics ranged from Korean culture to classroom management and other school related topics, but generally, I felt as I’d heard what was said during previous class or the one before that. That said, the subject matter wasn’t really an issue, rather the dry delivery by some presenters made classes feel dull. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for the sessions to end and some days seemed like a repeat of the last. On the plus side, there were some interesting and fun classes like Korean paper crafts, taekwon-do and there were trips to local Elementary schools. The latter was also beneficial because we had the opportunity to observe classes in session and to interact with some students. In the evening time things were much more relaxed and there was time to go to dinner, chat with friends, play sports or just hang out around campus.

Sports Day: Dodgeball and other activities

Following the lectures one evening we made our way to the field for the evenings festivities. The aim of Sports Day was to further encourage team building among scholars. I think it was a really good idea and it certainly stands out in my mind as one of my favorite parts of orientation. Everyone enjoyed themselves and when I look back on it, I have really fond memories because each class group really pulled together as we competed with one another for top place. Apart from that, it was all around fun and a nice change of pace from monotonous lecture Ad nauseum :-P. The event’s lineup included rounds of dodgeball, various relay races and other team based activities.  As far as dodgeball’s concerned, there were 2 stipulations pertaining to game:

  • The first team to lose all their female players loses.
  • When throwing, guys aren’t allowed the use of the dominant hand.

Perhaps the condition about throwing with the non-dominant hand was added for “safety”, nevertheless it added an extra layer of fun watching as players put their energy into a throw only to fumble or completely miss their intended targets. On that note, there was one particular team where one girl had a canon for an arm. In one round she single-handedly took out almost an entire team’s female players.

Let the games begin!

The rest of the evening was a blur of fun and excitement. The night was still young and curfew wasn’t going to be enforced that evening. After the event ended, the celebrations began.

Group shot

Posted by: jovonp | April 18, 2010

Looking back…

Below is a quick recap of what took place prior to the start of this blog.

As it happened:

  • Research on TESL Abroad
  • Graduation
  • Application
  • Interview and the results thereof
  • Gathering documents, criminal background check, fingerprints, visa, etc
  • Departure for and arrival in Korea

Almost there…

Leading up to the day of departure I had chores that seemed like they’d never end. My to do list included finishing a large batch of laundry, tidying up my room, pinning up some of my drawings, visiting a few folks to say my goodbyes, and packing my suitcases. Packing in itself was a bit tricky, but I managed to fit just about everything I needed for the consequent months ahead.

At the airport – Having gotten to the airport early, the check-in process turned out a lot better than I had hoped. I was pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t a long line at my airline’s check-in counter. With itinerary and boarding pass in hand, I made my way toward the security checkpoint and said goodbye to my parents and brother. I had a few hours to burn before boarding so I sat at my designated departure gate, listened to music and surfed the net on my phone. I also made a few last minute calls to contacts I couldn’t see in person before leaving. Boarding began around midnight and though I was filled with excitement, I braced myself for another long flight. Having previously flown from USA to Asia, I knew what to expect in terms of the hours I’d have to sit. On that note, Asiana Airlines was quite comfortable and I slept really well (also helped by the fact that I had only gotten a few hours of sleep each night in the weeks leading up to my departure).

Arrival

After  14 hours in the air, the flight touched down at Incheon Int’l Airport in Seoul. Having landed safely, I had a feeling of being well rested, however this feeling was broken instantly by the humidity I felt upon exiting the aircraft. I’ve always heard of how humid Korea can get in the summer time, but I wasn’t expecting a high level of humidity around 4a.m. It seemed as though everyone was sweating and the heat wasn’t going to be helped by the fact that all passengers were required to stand in line and wait for our temperatures to be checked one by one via the use of a digital infrared ear thermometer. This temperature check was all due to the heightened sense of paranoia surrounding the outbreak and reports of the H1N1 virus. A minor inconvenience, but I suppose they had the right idea in their efforts to make sure that no one needed to be quarantined upon entering the country. Everything turned out OK and the rest of the walk through immigration/customs and luggage claims was a breeze (except for the bit about carting around my 4 piece luggage set lol).

I was happy to see some coordinators who greeted us at a designated booth then guided us to the waiting area where our attendance was checked and extra luggage taken off our hands to be later shipped to our schools. We were given some time to sit and were provided with snacks and cold fruit drinks. At the time, there were about 12-15 of us and we were told that our flight was the first to arrive and that there would be more scholars arriving the next morning and over the course of the next few days.

Next stop, Suwon.

Kyung Hee University yo!

After everyone was accounted for, we were directed to one of two buses that were waiting for us and began the drive to the Kyung Hee University campus, where we would stay for the first phase of orientation that would last exactly 3 weeks. During the bus ride, I had a chance to speak with fellow scholars who I’d met in the waiting area at the airport and throughout the drive, there was excitement and anticipation although we really had no idea what was in store for us. We finally rolled onto the campus, the sun started to come up and the effects of the many hours of travel seemed to start to kick in. No time for sleep yet, but it was great being among the very first group to arrive, thereby not having to wait on a very long line once checking into the dorms.

After checking in and dropping off our bags at our rooms it was time for some exploration. It was still quite early in the morning, and being the first ones there, the campus was a ghost town. We eventually saw some students engaged in various activities including soccer practice, archery, tennis and basketball. I should mention that there weren’t any classes in session (summer break) so the rest of the campus would remain unoccupied…that is except for the few hundred other scholars who would fly in over the next few days. With no solid plans, the guys and myself set out on foot to walk around Suwon’s streets. The streets weren’t too busy at the time (still early), but it was cool being able to just check out what was located around the area. In the days that followed there was a bit more exploration and during the week the banks were available for business. With cash in our hands, we once again hit the streets and discovered Homeplus, a large dept store/shopping center. That said, we made our way to the amazing food court and satisfied our cravings for some local cuisine. Long story short: the food was cheap and delicious.

The main entrance
Homeplus

Posted by: jovonp | February 24, 2010

Let’s ROK!

Hello world! This is my new WordPress blog.

In fact, it is the first post of my first blog.

After some requests by a few folks, I’ve finally decided to start writing. For people whom I’ve met in person, you’re already aware of some of the happenings that took place throughout the past few months. For first time visitors, you’re welcomed to read about my experiences.

Read More…

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