Friday, December 30, 2005

Life in Seongnam

I'm still up near Seoul, having just completed my three day training for the school I'll be teaching at. Overall, it was a good training - there is a very structured set of activities, so I won't be having to do a lot of class planning. On the down side, it's a lot to learn and remember. Next week also starts the busy vacation period, so I'm being thrown right into the fire. The Korean school children (at least the middle class on up, who can afford it) go to public school during the day, and then to private hagwons after school until late at night. During vacation periods (7 weeks in the winter and ?? weeks in the summer), they go to the hagwons all day long. The 7 week winter "break" starts next week.

The area I'm in currently is probably one of the most densely populated areas I've ever seen. I'm in the midst of a business district - 6 to 10 story tall buildings that are packed with restaurants, offices, schools, and whatnots. Every floor of every building is filled with businesses. Looking out my window I see signs for about 10 restaurants in the building across the street. This area stretches about 3 or 4 blocks on all sides of where I'm at. Outside of this area, there are the residential blocks. Consisting entirely of high rise apartments, almost all 10 to 15 floors each. These apartment buildings are clustered in like-minded groups, and stretch as far as the eye can see.

The apartment I'm staying in is right across the street from the school branch. It's a nice studio apartment with an upper 1/2 floor for storage or, I suppose, sleeping if you remembered not to stand up. It even has a washing machine built into the kitchen area. The only problems are - the heat comes up from the floor, and doesn't really warm the room. They just got the apartment (I'm the inaugeral visitor) so there are no curtains on the windows (annoying when there are 20 shop lights blaring outside my window, not to mention the restaurant that is directly across from my window), and no pots, pans, or cutlery. At least there's a mat to sleep on and some blankets. Interesting facets are the video monitor of the front door - not the front door of the building, but the front door of the apartment. Also, the public address announcements that come in - being in Korean, we weren't quite sure what they said, but our trainer picked up "slowly", so we assumed they were warning us about the slippery streets outside. This announcement came on three or four times today.

So that's the new news from Korea. I've got a ticket to Daegu for Monday morning. On the bullet train. Until then, I get to do a little exploring. And hopefully meet up with a couple of my Peace Corps friends who are in the Seoul area teaching as well. I'll try to get some pictures added before I head south.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Busan un-bound

The latest highlights:

1. took the train (8 hours) from Minneapolis to Chicago
2. managed about 2 hours of sleep in Chicago (thanks to the train being over 10 hours late - at least I didn't have to wait at the station for it)
3. flew from Chicago to Incheon, South Korea (14.5 hours). Might I add that Korea Air has great inflight entertainment - individual seat screens with several games, on demand movies, and customizable music. Slept about 2 hours that "night" (we were chased by the sun all the way over and had light the entire time)
4. took a cab (2 hours) to my training sight, just south of Seoul.
5. was informed that the position in Busan was filled, and could I instead go to Daegu. A little disappointed with that, but it's not too bad. Daegu is the third biggest city in SK, with around 2.5 million people. Plenty of expats (or so I read), and close to a lot of national parks and cultural sites. Just not on the coast. Oh well.
6. Got a good 10 hours of sleep.

So on Friday or Saturday I head to Daegu. Then, at some indetermined point in the near future, I head over to Japan for a day or two to get my visa (I just came over on a 30 day tourist visa and need a work visa to teach).

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Something fun to look at.

Your basic Asian toilet.

A Japanese toilet - with seat warmer, adjustable spray & bidet functions.

The toilet at the Ambassador's house in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Heated floor.

Toilet on a plane that was once used as Air Force One.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Busan Bound

After a month of sitting around doing nothing, I decided to merge my two blogs (livejournal and travelblog) into one site. The result is what you see here. I hope you enjoy, and feel free to ask me any questions or offer any suggestions.

For those keeping track of my travels, my next journey is off to Busan, South Korea. There, I'll be teaching English for a year or so. I'm leaving on Monday, December 26, with no return date in sight.

Check back in the near future, and hopefully I'll have had some blogworthy experiences.