Friday, October 31, 2008

2008 E-MART in Korea

Julianne and I went to E-MART tonight for dinner and to get a few things.

In the food court there are glass display units full of the menu choices for all of the stores.

After perusing the selection you walk over to a clerk and he/she takes the order and gives you a receipt with an order number on it.

You then find a place to sit and wait. It's nice that you can sit down while your food is being cooked. Usually there is some kind of chime that goes off each time one of the stores has an order that is ready. When you hear a chime or sound you just glance up and check if it is your order number.

One thing that shocks most foreign people the first time they go to a Korean department store food court is the COMPLETE LACK OF POP. You will NOT see Coke, Pepsi, or any other kind of soda in most food courts in Korea.

Water. Hot or cold--that's it. This might have a lot to do with why Koreans are generally thinner than North Americans . . .

The metal unit on the right is an ultra-violet ray steel cup shelving unit that is very common in Korea. I'm not sure how much UV rays actually sterilize anything but it seems to be the common practice here. I looked it up on wikipedia, and the conclusion is not that reassuring: "However, since microorganisms can be shielded from ultraviolet light in small cracks and other shaded areas, these lamps are used only as a supplement to other sterilization techniques."

Julianne and I were walking to a table when we ran into some students from my university. Another professor and I split 30-40 students in half and these halves make up our individual classes within the Classroom English course (one of the courses I teach).

So the students from my half, and the students from his, are actually a part of the same class. In Korean national universities of education classes stay together for the duration of their four years of study and take the same courses together too. The students know each other pretty well at the end of the four years after having taken every course, test, done every project, and taken every exam together.

I jokingly asked the students if they had 'heard stories about me' and they laughed and said yes. Later, one of them came over to Julianne and I and gave us a little thing of cookies. It's always a good sign that you're doing something right if the students are giving you a little candy, or some food.

This is what we ordered, "Tongsuyuk" (too lazy right now to check the spelling).

This is what we got. One of the these things is NOT like the other--more VEGGIES JUSEYO ('give me please').

It was kind of nice to see the food court empty. It meant that we weren't being stared at while we ate. Most of the time it doesn't bother me, but Julianne is still adjusting.

After eating we walked around the second floor of E-MART looking at everything and anything from electronics to the toy section.

Then we moved downstairs to the grocery level and bought a few things.

Julianne noticed these guys . . . wow.

Julianne has a wee bit of a thing for cheese.

So we snuck a picture of the insanely expensive Colby Monterey Jack cheese that we bought for 10 700won.

Then we saw the Pepero Day display . . .


"Pepero Day is an observance in South Korea similar to Valentine's Day or Sweetest Day. It is named after the Korean snack Pepero and held on November 11, since the date "11/11" resembles five sticks of Pepero. The holiday is observed mostly by young people and couples, who exchange Pepero sticks, other candies, and romantic gifts.

According to one story, Pepero Day was started in 1994 by students at a girls' middle school in Busan, where they exchanged Pepero sticks as gifts to wish one another to grow "as tall and slender as a Pepero" (Pepero means "thin like a stick"). However, it is more likely it was initiated by Lotte, the company which produces Pepero.

In Japan, a similar Pocky Day was held on November 11 in 1999, which was the 11th year of the Heisei era. The date, 11/11 of the 11th year, resembled 6 sticks of Pocky."

I have a hard time not looking at Pepero Day in Korea through the socio-cultural lens of my own cultural identity and experience. Koreans in general don't seem to know anything about November 11th and what, I think it's pretty safe to say, 'the rest of the world' does every year on this special day.


"Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day (the event it commemorates) or Veterans Day – is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918. The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war; this was possibly done upon the suggestion of Edward George Honey to Wellesley Tudor Pole, who established two ceremonial periods of remembrance based on events in 1917."

Also from,

World War I
"Over 40 million casualties resulted, including approximately 20 million military and civilian deaths."

World War II
"Over 70 million people, the majority of them civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history."

All I'm saying is that maybe Koreans could alter Pepero Day slightly and have major portions of the profits made by selling chocolate sticks go to Korean war veterans and other charities they deem appropriate.

It might also be nice if some sort of international/global awareness was developed of what goes on in the majority of other countries on November 11th . . .

Anyways . . . walking back to our apartment we saw this,

I think it's cool that traditional drying practices are still pretty wide-spread in Korea. I've never seen anything like this in Canada and I wonder what we've lost through the modernization of harvesting and food production practices . . .

Tomorrow . . . shopping in SEOUL! Woohoo . . .

Thursday, October 30, 2008

2008 KOTESOL: Me acting like a cat . . . yikes, or should I say "Meow?"

I was surfing the Net and blogs and came across this pic of me on in the storytelling presentation I went to first on Saturday morning at the 2008 KOTESOL conference in Seoul at Sookmyung Women's University. It was a really good presentation in terms of being well organized, and had a few small ideas that I may use.

The presenter asked for 8 volunteers and gave each of us an animal card. We were told to make a gesture that signified our animal. She then read the story and as she read the story we had to listen for our animal name and make a sound and gesture when we heard the name called. I was a cat . . . Julianne has video of the story being told but I have yet to upload it . . .

I agree with Joe when he says, "The conference as a whole was not as thrilling as I had expected. During the course of the weekend, I wondered about this quite a lot. Was it simply not as good as last year’s? Is there any sort of vetting process for people who submit proposals?I think there is something else at play here. This is my seventh KOTESOL international conference. I really got a lot out of those first conferences because I used them to learn about teaching kids. I took a lot of notes. As time has gone by, I see more and more workshops that are working on things that really aren’t saying much, or they are talking about things that I learned in my first year of teaching (eleven or so years ago) or are things that I think should be pretty intuitive."

My own personal irritation came from a presentation on group discussion tests. I've been teaching for almost four years and during that time I have never administered or designed a group discussion test. I designed and gave one about 3 weeks ago. I made my own rubric, and videotaped the tests so that the students (who had also never done anything like this before so they had very high levels of performance anxiety) could see what I talked about in their evaluation comments, and to understand their test scores better.

Anyways, long story short the group discussion presenter showed us a video of what I thought was a group discussion test--later on someone called him out on the video and he confessed it was actually a video of a group of students being assessed for placement in an English course with different level classes--it had nothing to do with a group discussion test. I then realized that the handout he had given everyone in the room was not a rubric for a group discussion test but rather for the group assessment process for class placement . . . seriously, WTF? The guy is presenting to a roomful of Masters in TESOL and Linguistics professors, and the rest of us who have varying degrees of training and experience teaching--and we PAID to hear him too . . . talk about committing reputation suicide!

After all of us in the room figured out that he was wasting our time with materials that HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HIS PRESENTATION TOPIC teachers in the room began lining up to take a bite . . . one guy behind me asked, "Do you have a copy of the rubric you used in your group discussion test that we could see?" Answer, "Uhm, no, not here. Sorry."

At this point the guy might as well have just thrown himself into the ocean after taking a long chum bath . . . anyone who doesn't know that presenting to a room full of teachers and professors is tantamount to swimming with a bucket of chum held above your head while surrounded by sharks . . . they shouldn't be presenting.

I have presented several times to large groups of foreign teachers--once to a room full of 200 public school foreign teachers--you better freaking believe that I prepped for HOURS, and did a dress rehearsal with five teachers I was working with to practice my 3 hour presentation before I even dipped my toe in the water!

If you don't prepare a presentation for a teacher/professor audience properly you might as well be doing this,

After leaving that fiasco I pretty much lost interest in the conference . . . and just wandered around looking at books and talking to people.

I hope next year is better . . .


Cell Phone Etiquette 101--A Course Korean University Students NEED!

I had just fallen asleep almost an hour ago, 11:00pm, when a student called me. I don't usually answer the phone after 11pm, especially if I don't recognize the number. I also usually stay up later but with KOTESOL last weekend I've been more tired this week. For the past month or so I have had students calling me on weekends, and on weeknights, to ask me questions about RIDICULOUS things.

I wonder if some of the students watch The Simpsons and if they're copying Bart's prank calls to Moe . . .

So to purge my rage in a productive manner . . .

I got up and began researching this topic. This past weekend I also picked up a book called "Telephoning" at the KOTESOL conference, and I'm going to look more closely at it tomorrow and see if it already has a page or two that are relevant to my agenda to educate Korean university students in cell phone etiquette.

A typical conversation runs something like this . . .

A = me

B = student

A: Hello.

B: Hehe . . . Hmmm, Hello--hahah--hello teacher--HaHaHa--I am Park Ji Sung--HaHaHa--(Korean muttering)--HaHaHa . . .

A: Yes, what do you need?

B: HaHaHaHa--

A: What do you need? Why are you calling?

B: I'm Park Ji Sung from _____ department. HaHaHaHa--(talks to friend/s in the background in Korean--friends start laughing too)

A: (waiting . . . waiting . . . getting irritated . . . waiting)

B: I . . . uhmmmm . . . I . . . (more talking to self or friends in Korean--more laughing and talking in Korean) . . . I . . .

A: What do you need? (getting more irritated)

B: I--uhm--need ask kestion.

A: Okay, what do you need to know?

B: What?

A: What-do-you-need-to-know?


A: What----do----you----need----to----know?

B: AHHH! What do need know. I . . . (giggling . . . giggling . . .)

A: What do you need to know?

B: I need know can you edit script activity presentation?

A: No. I told you the rules for the presentation in class. It's also on a handout I gave you.

B: Oh, really? I need you edit my dialogue---

A: No. I told you. The rule is no editing.

B: . . .

A: Do you understand?

B: Yes teacher. (CLICK)

A: . . . SIGH!

Maybe I need to add more "Nnn, Nnn" and "Yeh-yeh" to my phone conversations . . .

That's actually one of the shorter types of phone calls (the dialogue above) I've been getting. I think the following clip from youtube might illustrate the kind of surreal feelings of laughter blurred with something not quite anger but not quite irritation that I get after getting off the phone with a student.

About two weeks ago I got a text message on a Friday night at 7pm while I was in Seoul eating dinner with Julianne.


I wonder if there's a Signals unit in Korea that can decode text messages for me . . . ? I called this student because I had NO IDEA WHATSOEVER about the meaning of the text message, or for that matter that the first part was his Korean first name . . . it took 5 minutes for me to decipher what he wanted to ask me, and then another 5 minutes for me to get him to understand how he could help himself . . .

I often feel like I'm having a conversation with Elmo . . .

Here are my preliminary ideas . . . I have a feeling that this is just another example of the cultural phenomena that make up Korea that cannot be changed by a foreign teacher . . . but I can make my own little ripple in the pond and hope for some kind of change . . .


This morning I asked 5 different Korean students at my university (yes, a small sampling, but I think somewhat representative of the 'whole') what is the latest time that they would call a KOREAN professor on a weeknight. One said, "6 . . . maybe 7pm." Another group answered, "Not after 10pm."

WHY AM I DIFFERENT? Well, besides several other obvious answers that everyone who is living in Korea, or has lived here, knows . . . I think the simple answer comes from the Korean culture phenomenon--in my mind that word is very apt for these kinds of things--of EXTREME POLEMIC DYNAMISM . . . simply put, almost every aspect of life here is one extreme or the other.

You either do things the 'Korean way' (usually defined by the Korean person you are interacting with, sometimes in line with a mainstream cultural definition and practice, and other times more in line with whatever the agenda is of the Korean) . . . yes, I am painting with a generalizing brush that does not take into consideration individual personalities or situations that have been contextualized BUT I think most if not all people in the world can safely make some generalizations about cultures AS LONG AS they have a certain degree of self-awareness about what they are saying, thinking, and the real-world effects of the ideas they are espousing . . .

I think too many Koreans believe that "English culture/s" is pure chaos and anarchy therefore they can say and do whatever is most expedient to their needs and wants in the moment--WRONG!

I think I will blog about the EXTREME POLEMIC DYNAMISM in Korea in the next week or so . . .

Cell Phone Etiquette

  1. Do not giggle or laugh like a middle school girl or boy. It is rude and immature behavior.
  2. Do not talk to other people in the room in English or Korean, or laugh and giggle a lot, when calling a professor—it is rude, and you waste the professor’s time.
  3. Prepare your question/s by writing them down first on a piece of paper. Organize your questions. What do you need to know? Can another student in your class give you the answer? Do you really need to call the professor, or can you ask a friend? If you forget what the professor told you in class, ask 3 friends to help you remember first before calling.
  4. Do not call a professor after 11pm Monday—Friday.

Monday 9am to 9pm

Tuesday 9am to 9pm

Wednesday 9am to 9pm

Thursday 9am to 9pm

Friday 9am to 9pm

= 60 hours a week that you can ask a professor a question.

Saturday ---------

Sunday ---------

NOTE: Use text messages or email for questions during evenings or on weekends. This allows the professor to call you back when they have a few free minutes. We want to help you—but please remember that we have personal lives, and also that we are not on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  1. Do not call a professor on Saturday or Sunday unless it is an emergency.


  1. Hello. It’s __________ (first name) from the __________ (department name) calling.
  2. Are you busy right now?

Can I have a moment of your time?

Can I talk to you right now?

  1. a) I’m sorry to bother you, but I need to ask you a question. b) I’m sorry to bother you, but I need to set up an appointment time with you.
  1. I need to know . . .

Can you . . . . ?

  1. Thank you for your time.

Thank you for your help.

Thank you for answering my question.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Does this mean I don't get a raise???

I was reading the Korea Times and saw this article . . .

Lee Asks Officials to Share Pains

President Lee Myung-bak urged all government employees Wednesday to ``share pain'' with the public from the global financial crisis, saying Cheong Wa Dae and ministries will do their utmost to overcome the difficulties.

All public servants should try harder to address the concerns and difficulties of ordinary people, who are suffering from economic hardship,'' Lee was quoted as saying by presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan at his weekly meeting of senior presidential secretaries.

We've announced a wage freeze for public servants and cost-cutting programs, but they are not enough to share pain with the public. All public servants, including me, should work as if they are in a state of emergency.''

Lee said the global crisis is posing serious threats to the Korean economy, but firms have performed well. He said the current account would swing back to a surplus this month.

The message came one day after Prime Minister Han Seung-soo
instructed government agencies and public firms to freeze wages, cut spending and refrain from taking overseas trips to share the burden with the private sector from the deepening economic woes.

As of the end of 2007, South Korea's public sector had a total of 259,159 employees on its payroll.
Their average wage increased 3 percent last year, according to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

The prime minister said banks, which will receive $100 billion in payment guarantees for their foreign currency loans under the government's bailout plan, will also face belt-tightening measures.

Last week, heads of major banks and financial institutions issued a statement, pledging to reform their organizations in return for the government's debt guarantees.


Obama needs to get into office ASAP!


Monday, October 27, 2008

2008 KOTESOL Weekend

Julianne and I left for the 2008 KOTESOL Conference at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul on Friday afternoon . . . it was a pretty nice day.

We took the train because traveling from Chuncheon to Seoul by bus on a Friday night is crazy.

On the way to Seoul the mountain landscape at night is pretty cool.

If you go to Jonggak Station on the dark blue line you'll find an Indian restaurant in the food court that is above Bandi & Luni's bookstore, and under the tower itself.

I ordered what I thought would be an "Indian-style" salad . . . this doesn't really look like Indian cuisine to me . . .

This particular dish, with pieces of lamb in it, is AWESOME. You get Naan bread and dip it into the sauce, or you use the spoon and load up a piece of Naan bread with the sauce and a chunk of lamb's meat.

Shane ordered a platter of different Indian foods. Tandoori chicken, Naan bread, etc.

I think these are called Samosas. Breaded dumpling full of vegetables and meat.

Update: Oops! Sorry for calling these "Mimosas"--I'm sure I'll catch shit from all the Indian people I know, and of course, all of the other people who know me for being a stickler for details.

I can't remember the name of these--have to ask Shane again, and then add it later.

Basically they're fried bread-balls in a sugary sauce. I thought they were alright . . .

I wanted to walk around the campus of Sookmyung Women's University and take more pics but didn't have time . . .

If you don't like line-ups make sure you get to the registration area before 8:15am . . . we did, and we still had to wait about 3 minutes before registering on a computer, and then getting our name tags and paying the 65 000won fee to get into the conference.

One nice thing about the conference is that Sookmyung students are everywhere to help you if you have a question.

I forgot to pre-register this year . . . oh well. For those that forgot or learned about the conference at the last minute it was possible to register from 8am to 5pm.

You have to enter your name and an email address (use a "spam address" if you don't want emails from KOTESOL).

Also, be prepared to get asked several times if your KOTESOL membership has expired, or if you want to renew it--then, of course, if you say you don't have a membership you should also expect to hear a small sales pitch or suggestion about signing up (and paying the fee).

There is a bag and coat check at the conference. A lot of first-timers to the conference often don't think about how at the end of the day on Saturday, and on Sunday, EVERYONE GOES TO GET THEIR STUFF--keep that in mind if you check something.

Last year, if I remember correctly, there were hardly any tables and chairs put out in the courtyard that sits between the two major areas of the conference. It kind of sucked last year because it's nice to go outside and sit down for a while, and chat with friends and people you see there. This year they brought it back.

KOTESOL organizers finally listened to the attendees about how there needs to be some kind of meal offered at the conference. Unfortunately, it was "some kind of" food that most people said they wouldn't have paid for if it hadn't been free for the first 1000 online registrations.

I also really don't get why KOTESOL doesn't have a coffee, tea, juice, and snack bar. Staff it with students, and watch the cash flow in--seriously.

And now a series of pics of the different booths at the conference . . .

I don't usually pay attention to the draws and other contests that some of the booths have, but friends of mine in the past have walked up to me to display all of the free stuff they've won: books, pencils, stickers, etc. There are also sometimes cash (or is it a certificate? I'm not sure) prizes . . .

KOTESOL has a monster table set up in the middle of the publishers' booths every year.

I bought a lot of books published by Cambridge and Oxford this year. Last year it was Compass Media. I'm going to blog about the books I bought later this week or next week.

While there are signs up everywhere to help you find the room you want it can sometimes be a little difficult to figure out.

What strange and nefarious things go on back there? Seriously, I wonder . . .

Master, I sense something . . .

It's probably not the Dark Side of the Force . . . likely if you walk back there you'll end up here.

More booths . . .

Oxford always has one of the sweetest setups at the conference. They also give you a free day planner if you fill out a short survey. I think other booths/publishers have caught on to this and I saw more of them doing similar things . . . so, if you have time and the inclination there's a lot of free stuff to be had if you're willing to give up a few minutes of your time, and of course, your email address.

One thing I did a lot of this year was filling out "Inspection Copy" forms. An inspection copy is a copy of a book that you are interested in, and that you might use as a course book for wherever you teach. This is, of course, of great interest to publishers because giving one free copy of a book that the teacher might order dozens, or if they're really lucky, hundreds of copies of that students must buy . . . well, they're more than willing to give you a free copy. I'm not sure what kind of limit there is to how many forms (you can put 3 titles on one form) you can fill out . . . but I wonder . . . hmmm . . .

I'm not totally sure what goes on at this "Employment Center" . . . I've heard that there are on the spot interviews but for who and where I donno . . .

If you want to see and meet a lot of foreign public school, hogwan, and university teachers and professors this is the place to be . . .

Around 4pm or so it started POURING! I mean torrential rains thundered down and anyone who was foolish enough to go outside or try to go home got WET!

I really don't understand why KOTESOL organizers can't organize a time where 50 to 100 taxis pull up in front of the university for teachers and professors who are leaving . . . one phone call, one time period . . . is that too much to ask?

I walked outside around 4:30pm to find a taxi. I decided (BABO-ISHLY) to brave the torrential downpour outside for two reasons: 1) Julianne had had to go back to our hotel earlier in the day because she was feeling really crappy, and 2) I thought that the one or two taxis that sometimes hang around would be easier to get because all the other conference attendees were either still at the conference, or were huddling together at the exits staring at the rain and thunder and trying to wait it out . . .

I chose . . . POORLY!

So after walking close to a kilometer in torrential rain and having every taxi that went by not available . . . I tried walking even further away from the campus--no joy.

Then I thought I'd try taking a subway to another station, get out, and try again--NOTHING. Add to the mix that I got out at the Korean War Museum just down the street from Itaewon. Traffic was NUTS so I gave up on trying to get back to the hotel to meet Julianne (who by this point was feeling better and we planned on going to Itaewon for dinner after I dropped my stuff off) and just walked to Itaewon to wait for Julianne and Shane.

This shot is taken from the pedestrian bridge that is at the intersection just before you pass under the Itaewon arch.

Since I always hear foreign teachers in Korea complaining about the lack of Mexican food and restaurants in Korea I have decided to post the entire menu of Amigos, a Mexican food restaurant and bar in Itaewon.

The waitress offered us free nachos and salsa--I can see why it's free . . .

Then the evening's libations,
  1. Informal
    1. A beverage, especially an intoxicating beverage.
    2. The act of drinking an intoxicating beverage.
were selected and given due reverence . . . hehehe.

The live music was good, and while loud, not too loud.

Margarita's . . . not my style. But Julianne loves them . . .

And then the food arrived. Shane and Julianne had "Baja Burritos."

The waiter warned us that the plates were hot---and me being the genius I am didn't believe him--ow!

I ordered "Original Burritos with chicken."

The prices are a little expensive for the portions IF you compare it to food back in American and Canada--this is, however, KOREA. So, that being said, it was pretty freakin' good.

If you walk towards The Hill with the Hamilton Hotel behind you and on your left you will come to the intersection where if you turn right you go towards "What the book?"--turn left and you'll find Amigos about 3/4 of a block in.

After finishing our meals and a few drinks we decided to have a few more beverages . . .

Julianne--after 'a few' beverages . . . Jason--after 'a few' beverages . . . Julianne and Jason--after 'a few' beverages . . .
After that the evening kind of looked like this . . .

The next day was a beautiful day with blue skies and cool temperatures--except for those people who shall not be named who spent the night worshipping the porcelain god in a Dionysian nightmare of gargantuan proportions . . .

On the train ride back I noticed something odd . . . look at the small room . . .

I think this is an extension SITTING ON A POST . . . if I walked into it I suspect I'd have a really really bad day . . . lol.

For the remainder of the train ride I tried to get some nice shots of the blue sky and mountains . . . .

I have yet to have free time and remember to go and get pics of the rice harvests in Korea. The fields in the background have been harvested--except for the golden patch in the foreground.

I like the textures that the speed of the train combined with the trees make in this picture.

More harvest shots . . . taken from the train through a window with a lot of glare--I really wish I could have taken them with my tripod.

The colors of the ready to harvest rice are really nice . . .

I was actually trying to take a shot of the golf range in the background and accidentally got a shot that Julianne and I think is very cool . . .

Home . . .

Walking home I saw this cool tree with the blue sky and clouds . . .

Almost home . . . luckily we only live seven blocks away from the train station.

You can see our apartment complex slightly left of center in this shot.