Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Singing in the Rain

We know, we know, we have not been keeping up with the blog this past week. But we have a good excuse.......ummmmm.....ok, so we don't. But here is a brief catch up blog, and we promise to do better this week!

Last week, we decided to spend Sunday at a neighbouring city, Gyeongju, which is known to have particularly beautiful cherry blossoms. Our friend, Melissa promised good weather. So when Sunday arrived and I had the biggest sore throat ever, and dark clouds had filled the sky.....I thought the mission would be aborted. But Matt, Melissa and Brett are such big fans of the cherry blossom that neither rain, nor dark clouds, nor sore throats could keep them away. How could I deny them their dreams of roaming streets lined with beautiful cherry blossom trees? I simply couldn't face their wee sad faces. So I bravely took some medicine for my sore throat and prepared to face the rainy day.

Well, our mission started with a taxi incident. We simply had to take a taxi to Matt and Melissa's house, and would continue the journey from there. But, alas, we did not know how to give the directions in Korean. We tried our best. But as the taxi driver turned a direction we knew was the wrong way, all we could do was call Melissa to say that we would call them again from wherever the taxi driver dropped us off. Luckily, while the taxi driver wove around the streets of Daegu, we recognized the bus station we thought we needed to be at later on that morning to take a bus to Gyeongju...so we yelled a loud "yogi-yo" (which means "over here") and the taxi screeched to a stop. We hopped out, called Matt and Melissa to tell them to make their way to the bus station, and then headed into Dunkin Donuts for a much needed cafe latte.

After Matt and Melissa arrived, it then took four confusing conversations with Korean bus employees, and five trips across the road to check other bus stations nearby, to find the bus station we needed to be at. But...success....we eventually got on a bus to Gyeongju. The four of us were given the seats that stretched across the back of the bus. There are five seats along the back wall. Two of us on one side, two of us on the other, and a sleepy Korean man in the middle. He clearly did not know about my sore throat as he rested his head on my shoulder, exposing himself to my germs and a gentle poke from my elbow.

As we drove to Gyeongju, the sky got darker and darker. Then it started to rain. We got off the bus in Gyeongju, made "oh yuck" faces at each other as we pulled up our hoods and zipped our jackets up as far as possible, and began our wander of the city.

Eventually it did stop raining, although it never did warm up. We found the cherry blossoms, however they were not fully out yet. We also found something very strange- in Gyeongju, they rent small motorcycles and tiny cars to children and adults. We spent a lot of time watching people zip around on these small vehicles, nearly killing each other and having a lot of fun doing it. The tiny vehicles were allowed to go on the same sidewalks as the pedestrians, so we had to live in fear of our lives the whole day, but the entertainment we got from photographing them was worth the risk.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring has Sprung

When we returned from Australia we were very happy to find that Korea had warmed up. The first two days back were warm enough that we wandered the streets in just t-shirts and jeans. So lovely. Of course, not every day is that warm. We often need jackets or sweaters, but before we went to Australia we also needed mitts, hats, and a winter jacket. The change is amazing.

Spring in Korea has brought two noticeable changes besides the weather. One good, one bad. Beautiful flowers have started to come out on the trees and bushes in our area. I was anxiously waiting to see cherry blossoms, and it seemed like suddenly they just appeared. We wondered how trees we passed on the way to school seemed to grow buds and flowers while we were teaching. This past weekend we took a short stroll through our neighbourhood to take some photos of the flowers because if they disappear as quickly as they appeared, then they will all be gone overnight!

The negative side of Spring is the yellow dust. We knew nothing about it until now! Every Spring, yellow, polluted dust is blown into Korea. It comes from the Gobi Desert in Northern China. Intense wind/sandstorms bring the dust into Korea. The dust picks up pollutants from China along the way. I am sure that some pollutants from Korea also get mixed up in there, however, according to the Koreans, the toxic yellow dust is all China's fault. We have seen an increase in the dust and smog over the last week, and my sinuses and allergies have been going crazy. The "yellow" dust we have seen has been more gray than yellow. Regardless, the whole thing is unpleasant. Good thing we have beautiful Spring temperatures to distract us.

These next two photos are not ours. They are from internet sites about Korea's yellow dust problem. They are a good example of what Koreans see when the dust moves in. However, the face masks in the bottom photo are worn by many women everyday all year, not for the dust, but to protect them from the sun. Tanned skin is not popular in Korea. To them it means that you work outside, and are therefore lower class.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Week We Waltzed With Matilda

G'day! Last night we returned to our wee apartment in Korea. We were tired, smelly, and in my (Cindy's) case- very ill . But we were also very very happy. A week of sunshine, family, friends, beautiful scenery and heaps 0f fun was the perfect cure for the homesick blues we had been suffering from previously. We packed a lot into our week, and although we wish it could have been longer, we feel much better having caught up with important people, basking in the Aussie sun, hearing the birds sing, and enjoying some good eats and drinks.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Under the Southern Cross

On the 22nd of January 2008 I said goodbye to the golden shores of Western Australia and set off on an epic journey. A journey that has taken me to Dubai, Canada, Alaska, South Korea and Japan. I have experienced -30C snow storms, built 6 foot tall snowmen, taught French, taught English, eaten poutine and pupa (both equally as disgusting), taken Korean lessons and now.... 412 days later... I'm coming home!

It has been nearly two years since Cindy left WA and I know she is equally as excited about catching up with the special friends she made during her exchange. Between you and me, I think she is looking forward to some good old Vegemite toast too, not that she will admit it!

We will land on Australian soil at 1:50am Sunday the 8th of March. Ma and Pa have agreed to collect our weary souls from the airport and take us back to my little sisters place for some rest and relaxation. A few hours later we will get up with the sun and try to squeeze a months worth of activities into just one week.

Advance Australia Fair!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cold Snap

Hello again, Brett here.

I thought the Canadians might get a laugh from this West Australian newspaper article.

Perth shivers through coolest night of the year

Perth has shivered through its coldest morning for the year with temperatures plunging to 7.7C at 7am this morning.

My Favorite Teacher

Hey, Brett here. I thought you might enjoy this piece of writing I found on Cindy's desk last week.

Write Paragraph - My Favorite Teacher.

Do you know who has the most unique individuality in the world? I know, She's Cindy Teacher!! She's not boring at all. She always starts lessons with some jokes. Also she smiles a lot so she makes everyone happy too. Before I don't like yale because my teachers were bored and scary. But Cindy Teacher always listen my chat very carefully and give us some presents so I think she's different with another teachers. She's very cheerful and important friend for me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Another day at the office

G'day, Brett here.

I thought it was about time we told you a bit about our jobs here in Korea, considering that is one of the main reasons we are here.

We work at a private English academy, otherwise known as a Hogwan, called Yale Foreign Language Institute. Yale was established in 1993 and has since expanded to 5 campuses across the city of Daegu. It has a reputation for being one of, if not the best Hogwon in Daegu and employs over 60 foreign teachers.

We work at the Siji branch with around a dozen foreigners (4 Americans, 3 Englishmen, 2 Canadians, a Scot, an Irish lass and an Aussie) and about 15 Korean teachers. It's a good crew with plenty of characters who enjoy a good time and a few drinks. Amongst the other branches we are known as the "party school', not that Cindy and I can take much of the credit/blame for that!

We currently teach 24 forty-five minute classes over 6 days. Most days we start at around 4pm and finish just after nine. Class sizes vary between 4 and 12 students. Children come twice a week for reading, writing, and conversation classes.

The students are mostly well behaved and enthusiastic about learning. Although, the older they get, the more pressure they have placed on them and the less eager they become. I nearly gave my first detention last week.. Heaven forbid, one of my 6th grade kids hadn't done his homework! Luckily for him, it was my last time teaching that class and I didn't want to waste my "detention free" record on him. Added to this, my dad had just been telling me that he has suspended 6 kids from his class in the first 3 weeks of school and lets just say, it was for a little more than incomplete homework!

Of course, it's not all beer and skittles. There are plenty of frustrations and annoyances and like any job, most days we don't want to go! Regardless, we often remind ourselves about our jobs back home, getting up at 6am, the 45 minute drive, the class of 30 hooligans, the parents, the staff meetings, and think... it ain't so bad.