Thursday, November 29, 2012

END OF THIS BLOG!

This is the last post I will be making on this blog, as my space quota has run out!  I have been toying around with several different blogger sites over the last week, and have finally settled down on Live Journal.  

I appreciate everyone that has read along so far, and I invite you all to follow me along to the second leg of my Korean experience here: Mr. Manary in Korea; YEAR 2! 

I am sitting on about 10 posts right now, so there is lots to share.  Hope you tune in!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Teacher Trip to Go Je Island!!

This past weekend I joined all of the teachers and administrators on their annual teacher's trip.  Last year we went to a fairly nice hotel up north, but this trip was WAY more fun!  To do this trip any justice, I have to include TONS of pictures and videos :)  We went to Korea's second largest island, Go Je.  It is just South of Busan, and is connected by a tunnel that goes under the sea, and a new state of the art bridge.


We left the school on Friday at 3 PM, and arrived at our hotel around 6 PM, so it was not a very long trip to make, AND it was probably the most fun bus ride I've ever been on!  Two of my favorite teachers at the school (who I know from volleyball) were the MCs/entertainers, Wook-Ho and Woo-Sok.  As soon as we departed, all of the teachers were given some delicious snacks, and EVERYONE was encouraged to have either a shot of whiskey or champagne.  As I have mentioned before, Korea has a drinking culture, and co-workers are encouraged to bond via alcohol.  We (with the exception of a couple teachers) didn't drink too much on the bus ride, but the fact that we were still "on the clock" until 5 PM made it pretty funny to me.  

                                        Here is Wook-Ho (in the orange) giving me my round.


Here is Woo-Sok with the champagne (or wine?  Not sure.)

We received maps and information about the trip we were embarking on (Mr. Park was nice enough to translate the important stuff for me).  Then we were all given a number that we had to use for all games played on the trip.  Female teachers had to answer questions by first saying "yeo-ja 3 ho" for example, and the male teachers had to say "Nam-ja 6 ho," which meant girl number 3 and boy number 6 respectively.  We then played a number of games which were hilarious in which the participants were picked at random from a hat.  Unfortunately my number was not picked, but it was still very entertaining!


Some teachers playing one of the games.


In this game the teachers had to pop the balloon via hugging.


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For this game the MC's showed us a very zoomed in picture of a teacher, and then we had to guess who it was.  What's so cool is I understood most everything that they say in this video!  (That is partially why this was so much fun!)

We stopped at a rest stop just before crossing the bridge to the island, then we drove about 40 minutes to our hotel.  It was funny because one of the teachers told me: "this hotel.. nicer than your house."  haha  It was very nice by Korean standards, however for a Westerner that is debatable since we all slept on the floor, lol. 


Gorgeous view from the rest stop.

When we arrived we dropped our stuff off at our rooms, then went straight to dinner.  When I walked into our party's room, one of the workers started talking to the teachers next to me as if something was wrong.  I figured out what she was saying on my own and thought it was funny.  She was warning them that most foreigners can't eat the kind of food we were having: Raw fish and soju.  NOT A PROBLEM.  haha, I have adapted quite well to Korea's cuisine, and can actually appreciate things like raw fish (it's quite expensive!)  We had a very good and fun dinner, then we moved on to the norebang portion of the evening.  Unfortunately nobody got pictures of dinner or the norebang (some of the pictures in this post are from other teachers that shared them), but good times were had.  I sang Hotel California, Obla Di Obla Da and I'm Yours  :)

The next morning we had breakfast at 7:30, and then toured around Go Je Island.  We visited a famous pebble beach, a very cool looking windmill, and a few other beautiful viewpoints.  


Group photo on the pebble beach!


Here I am in front of the old school windmill.


Many of us did 'jump shots' in this spot (right in front of the windmill).  Here is Mr. Park's shot!


Here is mine, haha.



These guys are hilarious.  They tried like 5 times to get this shot.  I was behind them taking videos of it, but I'll just include the successful one ;)


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Next we went to "Long Snake Island" which is a pretty small island off the coast of Go Je island.  We spent 2 hours there, and it had tons of cool stuff to check out, so I'll include the most interesting pictures from that island.  


Here is the ferry we took to Long Snake Island.


I was sitting right next to the captain for the whole 10 minute ride before I realized it (my back was to the front).


Here you can see how small this island is.


Here are some teachers under this cool looking bridge.


The classic "Peeing Child" fountain.


This was an outdoor concert venue with some very cool looking head statues along the top.


This is Min, a really nice teacher that plays volleyball with me.  Each of these statues has an interesting theme.



This statue's theme is religion.


Here I am at lunch with Wook-Ho!


We had some very delicious seafood.  You can see a shrimp, a bit of octopus and a clam in my bowl here.


The last thing we did was hike this mountain.  Only 8 of us teachers did it, and it took about 1 hour to get to the top.  Here I am at the peak with Mr. Park and a beautiful view!  After this we took the bus back to Ulsan.  I'm so glad I went on this trip!  I almost didn't go because there were other events this weekend.  I figured this would be the most unique trip, and I was right!  (Not to mention it was all free!)



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Artwork In My Neighborhood

Some local artists recently gave one of my local backstreets a serious face lift with some beautiful murals.  They primed (or painted white) about 20-30 meters of the walls on a narrow street located between my school and apartment.  When my Dad came for his visit they were still in the pencil and outline phase, and finished painting them a couple weeks ago.  It is really nice to see almost every day.  I don't walk by it on the way to school, but whenever Mr. Park and I go on our (almost) daily walks we go down this street.


Here is a picture from further down the street, so you can have a sense of what it looked like before this beautification project went down.

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Video of the wall coming from my school..

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Video of the opposite wall walking back towards my school.


This is my favorite one.  


I guess this is part of an old traditional game called "horse."  It looks like an initiation or act of bullying to me though, haha.


Here is a very different, but cool portion of the artwork.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ulsan World Music Festival!

This past month Ulsan hosted the annual World Music Festival (UWMF) from October 4th through the 9th.  I was aware of this festival last year, but I missed it and went to the Global Gathering festival in Seoul that weekend instead.  This year I was able to check it out a few times, and perform an acoustic set with my band for the Ulsan orphanage T-HOPE tent.  The festival was much larger than I expected, with 3 big stages, and tons of tents with of foods and goods from all over the world.


Here is an Ecuadorian pan flute band that was pretty cool.  They were mostly there for show, as most of the music they did was just from the CD player.  I did buy a little pan flute though!


Here I am inside of the T-Hope tent talking with Jazzie, one of the main coordinators of the orphanage.


Here we are playing the acoustic set!


Here is my friend Connie fixing my harmonica harness during our set.


Me enjoying the music :)


This was a cool Ska band called Babylove & the van Dangos from Copenhagen, Denmark.  


I was able to be right next to the stage for several of the bands, and these guys were awesome.  Afterwards Keenan and I ended up chatting with the lead singer for about 30 minutes while watching a Korean ukulele band.  It was pretty cool!


This is Iva Lamkum from New Zealand, and she was something else.  A true diva!


This is Iva's keyboardist, and he was probably the best one I've ever seen!



Here is the Korean Ukulele band Keenan, Babylove and I watched play.

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Here was a random tent I came across.  Right before this there were a bunch of kids doing Psy's Gangnam Style dance.


Here is my friend Fawn cracking Keenan's back.  haha.

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This is a guy making noodles.  At first it looks like he is just kneading the dough, but at the end you can see he is stretching it out and creating noodles.  Very cool to watch! 


Here is a concert poster for Kim Hi Ho, a famous rock star in Korea.  I saw him for free once with Mr. Park on the same stage as Babylove and Iva.  I couldn't make this particular concert, but I like this photo, and you can see me in the reflection!


Here is my good friend Jon Taylor from the band Karaoke Dokey.  This was on the last day of the festival in the party tent.  This was officially their last show ever, and they played a great set.  Jon is currently traveling through Russia and Europe, and we all miss him a lot.


This is Jason from Karaoke Dokey (and Shil on the drums).  Jason is one of the nicest guys I know, and one of the best guitarists I know too.  He makes it look soo easy.


Sunday night there was a Korean orchestra playing, and they were very good.

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Here is a video of the orchestra, and some of the friends I was watching it with.  That is Barry at the end, hah.


These guys got up front for some soloing.  This whole orchestra played very well, but some how held back.  Every time one of them was given a chance to solo, they did it with such flair and enthusiasm!  Very fun to watch.

There were so many things to do and see at this free festival.  I wish I would have been able to see all of the musical acts, but obviously that was impossible (and I didn't make it there Thursday or Friday!)  If you are interested in some any of these bands, there is more information about the big names here: 2012 UWMF Artists.  If we (my band) is still around next year, we will probably be able to play on one of the stages, but I might be moving on to the next country by then.. we shall see!  In any case, good times were had!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Puff the Magic Dragon & Hero!

An exciting part of my teaching job does continue to be the English pop songs that I get to teach my kids on a daily basis.  There are more in the works now, but the most recent songs we have finished are "Puff the Magic Dragon" by Peter Paul and Mary and "Hero" by Mariah Carey.  Enjoy!


Here is Puff the Magic Dragon.  The fourth graders are doing it as well, but I only see them once a week (I see third grade twice a week), so the fourth grade edition will pop up on my You Tube channel in a few weeks.


Here is Hero, which I was really happy about doing.  I love the message behind it, and I love how into it they get.  Unfortunately the 6th graders could not get excited about this one (too slow for them I guess), so they are moving on to the next song already.  I also decided to use my guitar and amp from my apartment, because sometimes the students (5th graders in particular) get so loud that you can't really hear the guitar in the video.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Racism...

I have briefly discussed racism before on this blog, and noted that I would eventually come back to it.  I feel that this is as important of a subject as it is a touchy one, so I will try to be careful how I word this.  Racism is a very real thing in the world, as everybody knows, but it is very different in the United States than it is here in Korea (and I would imagine most other countries).  The fundamental reason for that difference is Nationalism.  America is a country of immigrants, so we have a very diverse demography, most of which consider themselves American.  In other countries around the world (Korea and Thailand being my only real experiences so far, but others seem to apply), there are immigrants/foreigners/outsiders, and they are clearly that.  The reason is when one Asian person sees another Asian person, they know immediately if they are Japanese, Thai, Korean, etc.  Not only do they recognize that immediately, but to some degree, it matters.

I'm not saying that the racism that I have seen, experienced, or heard about is worse, or terrible.. but it IS very different.  I think it is important to point out that in America, racism is often hidden, because in this day and age it is so looked down upon.  Of course it still exists, but we don't have clan rally's like we used to, we don't have institutionalized slavery, and we do have a Black president.  


(photo from internet)

(I will take this opportunity to point out that the term "Black" is just as politically correct as "African American."  I prefer to use the term Black these days because we don't refer to White people as "European Americans."  I am not racist at all, just a realist.  Because of this I feel comfortable discussing race-related issues, though some other people do seem to feel uncomfortable discussing them.  One of my biggest pet-peeves living in Korea is when an American acquaintance refers to a black South African [for example] as an "African American" by mistake.  They are so afraid of saying "Black," and sounding racist, that they automatically refer to them as African American.)

Anyways.. I digress.  I am happy that racism is beginning to fade away with the times, but as someone who is a certified Social Studies teacher with a particular interest in Sociology and Anthropology, I enjoy discussing such matters, because they are very real, and relevant   Living in Korea I have the unique opportunity to gain some perspective on racism around the world.  When you identify with a Nationality that is the same as your race, it is much easier to be influenced by history and contemporary issues in this matter.  Koreans have a very bad history with Japan and China, and many still have hangups with them.  The younger generation is much more open minded than the older folks I've encountered, but there are some problems.  China and Japan have some fairly serious issues as well as you may have read about in my post about Craziness in Eastern Asia (and/or you already knew that).  Well when they had an international incident, the Chinese people targeted Japanese people living in China.  That must have been a terrifying time for those people, and that was blatant racism.  Those people didn't do a thing wrong.



These kinds of things don't really happen in the United States.  They have happened in the past (Japanese Internment Camps?), but these days people who are racist mostly seem to notice skin color.  Black, Brown, Yellow, Red.. I've never heard of an American say "I hate Koreans.. but the Chinese?  They're cool"  Nope, they say "Those Asians.. blah blah blah."

I have experienced racism in America, Korea and in Thailand.  I haven't had any HUGE problems from the several occasions that I experienced negative racism towards me, but it is enough to bother me a little.  I'm not going to get into the incidents back in the States or the minor instance in Thailand, but I will give 2 examples from Korea.

One example, and the most common, is positive!  Me, along with many of my fellow WHITE foreigners here in Korea, are constantly feeling like we are being regarded as better than other people.  We are very "handsome" or "pretty."  We are very "cool."  We get respect from many before we even say a word.  My Indian and Black friends don't encounter this here... sadly.


I love this because it's so true.  You don't know that different is bad until society tells you that it is.

The other example was a negative one, and I was fairly offended.  About 3 weeks ago I worked a Saturday English program (the one with the picture doing arts and crafts).  Afterwards my friend Justin and I went to have lunch together at a Lotteria, a Korean fast food joint.  I happened to have my guitar with me and my bike helmet, so if we didn't stand out enough to begin with, we definitely did this time.  As we stood waiting in line having some small talk, the workers behind the counter definitely took notice to us, and started making fun of us.  I don't know all what they were saying, but as Justin was ordering I started to notice this, and they were being very obvious about it (it was 2 or 3 young girls, maybe 19 years old taking part).  Justin was ordering in a normal manner, doing nothing out of the ordinary, but they were practically laughing in his face.. and he either didn't notice or chose to ignore it.  I wasn't happy, but I was planning on letting it go.. until the girl taking his order loudly made a comment using the word "Waygooken," which means foreigner.  So just in case any of 40 people in the restaurant didn't know she was making fun of us to our face in a different language, now they all did.  I tapped Justin on the shoulder and told him what I had been noticing, and he had basically been oblivious to it (if you don't speak much Korean, you generally tune out what the random Koreans around you are saying).  Well I speak a little more Korean than Justin, so I decided I had a social responsibility to say something.  I was up to order, so I ordered using as much Korean as I could, just to see her reaction to it.  She did not slow her roll at all, and just kept carrying on, having what appeared to be the time of her life.  Since she didn't get the hint I said "Shila hamnida.  Waygookens.. jamy kay ta, eh?"  Which means "Excuse me.  Foreigners look funny, eh?"  In the tone that I said it, the whole restaurant seemed to go silent!  It was a bit of an intense moment, but boy was she embarrassed.  I thought about asking for her manager to complain, but since she didn't say another word the whole time we stood there waiting for our food, I just let it go.  The other customers in line didn't say anything, but I don't think I offended anyone, and I actually  feel like they respected that I stood up for my friend and I.  I'm not much for confrontation or conflict, but some things are worth causing a bit of noise about.  Racism is one of those things.  (However do keep in mind, this is very low level racism.. nothing like what so many other unfortunate people have encountered.)


Lotteria (photo from internet)

So there are some interesting differences that can be explored in regards to this topic, and this was one of the most significant culture shocks to me living abroad.  I needed to wait as long as I did to report on it though, so that I could really have a grasp on the social atmosphere.  I wanted to end with a Bob Marley quote, but I couldn't find one containing this message, so I will quote the movie I Am Legend, and hope that Will Smith wasn't lying... But if I ever have the opportunity to really impact the world in a positive way, I will carry Bob's torch, since he did not get to see his dream come true:

"He [Bob Marley] had this idea, it was kind of a virologist idea, he believed he could cure racism and hate, literally cure it by injecting music and love into people's lives. One day he was scheduled to perform at a peace concert, gunmen came to his house and shot him down. Two days later he walked out on that stage and sang. Somebody asked him why. He said the people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness."



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Construction On My Hiking Trail!

An interesting thing that has happened lately on my hiking trail is the government has built several new bridges.  There were a few places where hikers had to walk across large rocks to get along the trail, but have now been replaced with bridges.  I actually enjoyed that part of the trail quite a bit (unless of course there had just been tons of rain and the water was raging), but the bridges are actually quite nice.  During the construction there were some interesting trips for Mr. Park and I, where we found ourselves really hiking on our lunch break.


Here is a shot of the workers carrying the beams along the trail.


Here they are taking a short break.


As you can see, this is a pretty serious looking bridge!  Not just a dropping a tree trunk across the creek kinda thing.

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Here you can see some of the building supplies that they had ready for use.  Also one of the preexisting bridges where a nice stream was running under.  


Here is a nearly finished bridge.


On the right is the way that we were supposed to go while the construction was going on.  For some of them it was quite challenging to navigate.  


 Two of the finished bridges (and Mr. Park).

These bridges are nice, but for me.. they were unnecessary additions to our trail.  The only reason I point that out, is because Mr. Park and I have been talking quite a bit of politics lately (on the same side of the coin, fortunately), and this is relevant to the issue of government spending.  Now you don't have to be very involved in politics to recognize when tax dollars are being misallocated.  This isn't the worst of those occurrences (even thought it was quite an expensive project when you think about all of the labor costs), but I have learn about many other instances where the government here has spent tax dollars for.. their own agendas.  I don't feel like I have enough information to really cite specifics, but from what I understand there is a certain amount of bribery and corruption going on here, that is disappointing to learn about.  One of the major ones Mr. Park has talked about is the "4 Major Rivers" project that involved building dams on the 4 biggest rivers in and around Seoul.  When I Googled it there was not a lot of information on it in a negative light, but Korea (again according to my source) does control its media outlets pretty strictly.  Wikipedia for example mentions some of the negative things I heard, but it focused much more on the positives of the project.  Mr. Park says it was a complete failure, and waste of money.  Also many of the current President's friends and family members made tons of money off of this project from buying land along the river, then selling it to the government at a very high rate.  I would love to look further into these kinds of issues, and if I do I will report back!