Friday, October 30, 2009

Last Night in Sanbon

Well I made it folks for this is my last night here in Sanbon South Korea. And it's about darn time really!

Today was filled with kids coming to me giving me presents and saying goodbye. Some begging me to not go.

I think I touched the hearts of most of the girl students since they seemed to come by the office most often.

It's heartbreaking but I know that eventually one of us would of moved on, either they would go to middle school or I would leave the school.

There wasn't a big goodbye party for me. Instead a gathering in a conference room where the Principal said something and I was given a small sum of money. Then I gave a little speech saying how I enjoyed my time at the school and will miss the children dearly. It wasn't translated and so I spoke slowly in hopes they would understand. I said thank you and bowed, then everyone clapped and returned the gesture. The meeting commenced and we went our separate ways.

All in all, it feels really good to complete one year at a school. I stuck it out through thick and thin and in the end can now feel accomplished.

I now have one month that is mine to look forward to where I will be living in Seoul and do some traveling to Japan for my new visa.

Thanks to everyone and your kind and thoughtful comments that helped me through the dark times and kept me excited during the brighter days.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Flooo Masking

Hello readers.

It seems one can't escape from the H1N1 Flu mania while working at a public school here in Korea. I am sure you are sick of hearing the stories and opinions. Probably agreeing with how crazy they overreact here and why can't the citizens of this country practice good hygiene to begin with.

Let's pretend that you are the Principal of a public school. I would suspect your job is to protect the children and staff at your school from this "crazy" virus. What measures would you take?

You could shut down the school till all the sick victims have recovered.

You could give out hand sanitizer bottles to all the classrooms. Make the teachers educate the kids on washing their hands and covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough.

In general it is your duty to protect the health of your pupils and staff so that the learning process can truck on without hindrance.

At my school, from my observation, the Principal has been implementing his Flu prevention program not because he genuinely cares about the student's or the staff's health but for public relations sake.

How do I know? The Principal installed hospital grade hand sanitizer stations in the hallways on every floor in the school. It is an automated device that when you put your hands in they are sprayed with sanitizer. Also he provided every classroom with sanitizer bottles just in case.

But did that stop the virus? Does dousing your hands in sanitizer every chance you get really a way to stop the virus?


Last week 17 kids came down with the virus at our school. Spread out amongst the grades these kids were sent home, and a few classes were told to stay in as well.

Did the school close?


The teachers were told to tell the parents that the school has installed these fancy hand sanitizer gadgets and that their kids would be safe. And that we all wear masks (not true) and wash our hands frequently.

I was told by my coteacher that he installed these gadgets because he wants his school to be the first in the district with them. In other words he is caring more about his image than the actual health of his pupils.

It's pathetic if you asked me, but doesn't come as a surprise. My last day is tomorrow so I don't have to take his hypocrisy anymore.

All in all, though it makes me wonder how many more schools are reacting to this flu thing as a way of boosting their career image. In fact when I think about it I am sure the private schools are using whatever "protective" measures they enlist at their schools as PR campaigns advertised to the mothers. Yet we have to remember that this is how things function here and how they have worked for a long time.

In the end, this is just another cultural difference to add to the pile. It is also one that can't be reasoned with. Like so many cultural differences we expats experience out here many are left like unsolved mysteries. Thankfully and hopefully the leftovers of all this hysteria is a more "germaphobic" society.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Sorry for any lack of blogging. As you can imagine I am busy with moving and paperwork.

In the meantime, I woke up this morning with a bug bite on my right hand index finger. It's not terrible, but just makes me wonder what crawled around and bit me in the night. Or if it happened before I went to sleep. Oh those mysterious bug bites.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Bloggers Who Have Blogged About Suji

Suji is the new neighborhood of Yongin that I will be moving into. This will be a link dump as I post links to other bloggers out there that have written about visiting Suji or have lived there.

From what I can tell there aren't any thrills to living in Suju but just normal quiet life, something I actually look forward to.

When In Korea wrote a nice piece. Hmm after reading through that post seems like the area isn't really clean. But I am not sure if this person lives in the same are as where I am in Suji. Sigh, it is so hard to tell.

Sarah in South Korea seemed to have lived there last year and again her remarks are that things were a little dirty. Still I feel it is a bit cleaner than living in a crowded part of Seoul. In general most parts of Korea share the same "Dirtyness" which are people spitting, air pollution and lack of trash cans.

Tour of Korea blogger lived in the area or still does and seems to have enjoyed it. Looks like they did the typical stuff and spent a lot of time up in Seoul.

The Foot that Feels the Foot When it Feels the Ground doesn't live in Suji but closer to Everland, which is nearby. They are a couple with a baby and so it is interesting to get their experience. They seem to like living in the less crowded area too.

And then of course there is the Dave's Esl Chatter to think about. But I think your experience depends on what you want to do and what you do in the area.

St.Joe to Suji Jo looks like she is enjoying the hiking opportunities.

Besides life in Suji, Yongin has many attractions to offer. I found there is a nice temple to visit...anyways I am trying to make myself excited for my move and keep positive.

All in all, I know that I will be making adjustments and getting use to my new area when I move in. It seems that the more exciting stuff is in Bundang (20 min ride on bus or subway) or of course up in Seoul (45 min ride on bus) (subway option that goes straight into Gangnam).

If any of you live in Yongin, Bundang or Suji then share your experiences or blog, for that would be great.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Boxes, Tape, Scissors

How many times have I moved over the course of my adult life? In college I moved from dorms to roommate house-shared living.

So it is that I got good at packing my stuff and remembering where everything went.

Out here there is really only so much you can accumulate that will fit into your shoe-box sized home. Nevertheless, I have gathered quite a good chunk of books and other odds and ends.

I have packed up so far mostly the non-essential stuff using one of my three suitcases to store a lot of it.

JH is letting me store my stuff at his house's storage facility till I move into my new place in December. This weekend he helped me pack and take apart a desk I own.

Oh here is the MP3 player I won for that blogging contest. I haven't really opened it yet, but think it would be fun to turn it into like a "mix-tape" sort of thing and give it to JH every now and then as a treat.
After packing and watching Season 2 of Lost (I am catching JH up) we had lunch nearby at a typical Korean restaurant that serves the usual set of food.

We went to the park nearby and played Scrabble until JH won. He is getting really good at the game and although I let him use his cell phone dictionary I know it is helping him build his vocabulary.

Afterwards we went back to my officetell to rest. However, I spent the rest of the time hitting the panic button as I thought about everything that is to come.

Ah yes, you are probably curious about the goshiwon situation.

We found a suitable goshiwon in the Konkuk University area of Seoul, which is on line 7. If people have told you that a goshiwon room is very small believe them. Because a goshiwon room is indeed very small. Actually the ones we looked at were on the pricier end of the goshiwon spectrum.

The first goshiwon we checked out the rooms were very small but had a built in shower in the room. The floors were separated by sex. There were several kitchens but the bigger one being on the top floor. The location was semi-okay, with a love hotel nearby and a galbi restaurant underneath. They offered me a room with a window that looked out onto a neighboring roof top. However the window was kind of small.

We wanted to see a few more before making a decision and found another goshiwon in the area. This one was pretty much similar but I felt was in a somewhat cleaner part of town. The rooms were a bit bigger and appeared to be more clean. The room she showed us had a window that was big but it looked out onto a brick wall of the building that is adjacent. And yes it includes a built in bathroom.

There was a small kitchen on the same floor and a laundry room nearby as well. This one was actually more expensive, although they provided cooked rice and eggs for residents. I decided to go with this one since it seemed more comfortable and I guess a little bigger. I put down my deposit and will send the rest via wire transfer before I move in next Saturday.

I have to say that I feel sorry for anyone who has to live in a goshiwon for a long period of time. I am really grateful I only will be living in one for a month. I see now that if I did stick with my plan to wait till February that I would have gone insane staying in a goshiwon.

So anyways I started to panic a bit this afternoon as I realized that I am going to be moving. Thankfully JH is patient with me and talked me through how everything is going to be okay and end up better.

He really is a saint and I can't believe sometimes how well he handles my insecure tantrums. Thank you!

Well I have more packing to do and get everything ready to move out. I still haven't signed the Yongin contract so I can imagine they will be sending me some paperwork soon, actually I hope so!

All in all, at least this signals the last days in Sanbon and the start of my future. Since I will be living in Seoul for the next month if anyone wants to get together during the week or weekend lemme know ^^. Trust me I will not be wanting to spend all my time in my goshiwon room.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Things End Things Begin

Yesterday I went on a fun roller coaster ride as I got an offer for a private public school in Nowon but after some thinking decided to stick with Yongin.

I was so stressed out the past few days having made my choice with Yongin and then wondering if I should check out another school. It was tough falling asleep last night as my body was all shook up from the stress.

Not to worry, though, I slept well afterwards and had a fun dream too.

Now I am excited for the next months to come. I will have November off as I will be in between contracts. JH and I are going to go put a deposit on a goshiwon this weekend up in Seoul. Then I guess it is packing time.

I am starting to wonder what I will do with my free November. Leaving my current school I am coming into a lot of money. What with pension, severance, deposit return and a flight ticket sum I am going to be looking at a fatter bank account. If you know me then you would know that I don't usually spend money on myself. I do plan to send a chunk to America to pay off some debt that I would like to get out of the way. As for the rest I will probably save it for my next vacation and maybe buy some shiny new toy. Who knows, right?

Also I am pondering about things I would like to see or do while I am free. Maybe take the KTX to another part of Korea and explore it for a few days. I don't know, but if any of you want to get together lemme know for I will be available to travel.

It's come down to the part where my kids at school know I am leaving. They seem sad and express that they don't want me to leave. But I am sure they understand the cycle. I bought a little notebook for the new teacher and wrote in it my tips and instructions for his new job. I hope it comes useful to him. Otherwise he will have a free notebook.

All right well time to start packing up and getting ready to live in a goshiwon (very small space).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Said Yes

It was a fun trip into Yongin today seeing the school. I was skeptical whether I would say yes or not until I saw the housing. I am just going to briefly sum up for you what I learned about the school and housing:

  • There is no English classroom, instead you go the homeroom class and teach there. They expect to build an English class room next year.
  • I teach 2nd, 5th and 6th grades only.
  • Teaching hours = 25 (3 extra hours of overtime)
  • Schedule is heavier than I have been use to, but I can take on the challenge.
  • No after-school programmed classes to plan for.
  • New coteacher is a very experienced and focused person. She told me exactly what she will expect of me. Planning for classes will be done together and I should teach 80%. I agree with her and I believe I am capable of teaching more on my own.
  • Location is about 20 minute walk from the housing.
  • I share a teacher's room with another Foreign teacher and coteacher.
  • Doesn't start till December.
  • Inside a modern building with a security Ahjusshi (man) at the entrance.
  • I didn't see my exact room, but an example of what I will be getting.
  • The officetel is separated into two rooms. One big living room type space with the kitchen in it, then the bathroom in the middle, then an extra small room near the entrance.
  • The building is shaped like a triangle. One side looks out onto a busy street. The long side looks out onto a small river/creek, and the short side looks out onto a gas station. Guess which one I want?
  • House includes a washing machine.
  • Across the street is a huge Lotte Mart.
  • Area is suburban with mostly housing surrounding it. Not much "Downtown" stuff until you walk a ways to where the subway station is.
  • Seeing the house sold me the position and it was a done deal.
I haven't signed anything yet and am still in the process of figuring out the visa stuff. It's complicated since I extended my visa into November and the job doesn't start till December 5th.

For now it is time to start packing because no matter what I will be moving out of here on October 31st. Possibly moving into a goshiwon in Seoul, while my stuff is stored at JH's house.

I am nervous, excited and feeling anxious all at the same time. I just have to believe in myself and my choices and live them out.

Shakira Shakes it With Korean Drummers

Found this through the lovely interwebs. Shakira appeared to sing on Saturday Night Live with Korean drummers in the background.

Sure looks like one huge spectacle, of course, but I am not entirely sure if the great American audience even knew those were Korean drummers. I have a sinking feeling most people assumed they were Japanese Taiko drummers.

But if entertainers are starting to look towards Korean traditions as a way to spice up American pop culture, then I guess that's a good thing. Ah well...I'm not a fan of Shakira but it was interesting to see this musical mix.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Be Your Own Spy

It's great that in this day and age you can use Google Maps and Panoramio technology to take a closer look at someplace further away.
What am I talking about? Well throughout my job hunt I have been using Panoramio to I guess spy down on where these schools are located. The recruiter might tell me the school is close to the subway station but the map will prove this right.

First you need to find out the address of the school or the Hangeul name of the school. That is the Korean version of the school's name. Then you go into one of these mapping programs and send it in. You come up with a road map version and a satellite version. The road map version (seen above) labels certain places that are of good interest. Such as where the Emart is or subway station. The satellite image can let you know how much greenery is in the area. You can also take a guess at how well the place has been planned out. I like the Panoramio program because people submit pictures of the places nearby giving it a more living feeling.
So far on my mapping experience I have been able to get a much more 3-dimensional feeling for where a school is located. Also by zooming in I can see how large the school is and what is in the general area nearby.

The only thing I wish this thing showed me was where the Office-tel buildings are, because if I could see them then I would know what might be available.


I am going to meet the Yongin school tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Casual Weekend

This weekend has gone by and there isn't much that was eventful to report, just the same-oh same-oh.

In other words, I did stuff but didn't take pictures of what happened. Although, I wish I had but on the occasion I wanted to I was without my camera.

Saturday JH and I got up early to go visit my new doctor at the Yonsei Severance Hospital in Ewha, Seoul. We had to get up early so we could get to the hospital by 8am to do a blood test.

Yonsei Hospital is huge and also very accommodating place to wait for an appointment. Since I could not eat anything before giving some blood I was hungry after I finished the test. The hospital has a whole huge food court in it, with many restaurants to choose from as well as a few marts. We chose Burger King because I was craving a breakfast like item. It is rare for me eat to fast food, but I figured this one time wouldn't hurt.

We had a lot of time to waste waiting till 12pm for my appointment with the GI Doctor. The hospital has wifi and computers available for internet access. So I spent some time on the internet looking at the Yongin School's website and trying to figure out the classes schedule. I couldn't find what I was looking for, however I did figure out that there are a lot of class groups at the school.

I was so tired at that time, because I hadn't slept well the night before due to thinking about what to do with this Yongin offer.

It sounds good to take this offer because it is in area that is new and near Bundang. For those who don't know where I am talking about. You have Seoul, you know kind of in the center, then you have Bundang which is South underneath Seoul. This area is pretty new as far as development wise goes and is a popular residential area. Also there are many buses that go straight into Gangnam, Seoul.

But the school is at the end of the yellow line, and so is still kind of far out.

What are my real fears?

Whenever I am faced with these big decisions I fear that I will make the wrong choice. That after I sign the contract a few months later a better position will come up and I will regret my choice.

Yet, I am starting to realize that although every school varies that in general the job remains the same.

Fear is gripping though and when I can't get my mind out of it I start to second guess everything.

Thankfully the recruiter got me in touch with one of the teachers at the school. Apparently, there are more than one native teacher at the school but I am unsure of how many. I think there may be 4 of them and I am going to be replacing one.

Anyways, the recruiter gave me her email contact, and so I emailed her with my questions. She got back to me letting me know that most of the teachers live in the same building which have big and clean rooms.

Other information included that I might be teaching 2nd, 5th and 6th grade only. That was a bit of a red flag. Hearing that I would teach 2nd grade makes me worry a little. But she also said that they just read a story to the 2nd grade and the coteacher helps out with translation. Sounds simple.

Then she went on to tell me that classes finish at 2:30 and then we are left to plan till 4:40. That means that I would teach 6 classes a day. Four in the morning and two in the afternoon, which equates to 30 teaching hours a week. This is overtime due to that I am contracted to teach 22 hours a week. Of course it wouldn't be a surprise to have a few extra classes on a few days.

Basically what is going on here is that I have been working at a very small school, while it is typical for most schools to be bigger. So I would end up making a leap from a small school, where I was the only foreign teacher, to a bigger school with more Native Teachers, staff and kids.

Yet I realized that it is time to be professional and not whine or care about the schedule. Point being that I have the experience and knowledge now to be able to take on a bigger school.

However, this girl is new to the school so she may not entirely understand everything. She didn't tell me what my exact schedule is so I have to wait till I visit the school to see what it is.

If the schedule and the housing are agreeable, so far I can't see why I would say no. The area has two Emarts and a Lotte mart within the surrounding perimeter. On the map you see a lot of greenery and parks. JH says he is fine with this place even though he knows that if I took more time I could find a school closer to where he lives.

I guess this post became more about my job hunting than this weekend. In the mix this weekend was as you know a hospital visit (which went well -- everything is fine), a wedding ceremony for JH's coworker and just sitting around at home with JH pondering my future.

All together I am starting the last 2 weeks at my school and living in my shith*le. That second part is what I am so excited for.

Goodbye Beeping parking garage! Goodbye Stinky Seafood and Octopus Restaurant! Goodbye Shabu Shabu noisy-music-outside restaurant. Goodbye creepy neighbors. Goodbye!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fate of Mr. Billy the Bug

Poor Mr. Billy the Bug crawled his way onto my desk this afternoon and thus started what would be the last hour of his life.

Mr. Billy the Bug crawled around my desk until finally he fell to the floor. From there he went in circles trying to climb the wall and heater. But oh dear his little legs weren't adapted to climbing sheer cliffs such as the smooth surface of my office wall.

If you got too close to Mr. Billy he would jump and do back flips, one time landing on my head. So one had to be cautious when approaching temperamental Mr. Billy the Bug. But I knew that he was after getting out of my office and wanted to be free.

So I propped up a cardboard box for Mr. Billy to crawl on, and once inside I picked the box up and put it against the window so he could crawl out.

Yet I am a believer of evolution and letting Mother Nature do what she should so I didn't help much further. I watched as Mr. Billy the Bug crawled along the windowsill getting nowhere by going back and forth several times.

He was a cautious bug, testing out corners several times before attempting to climb them. Seeing the world outside the window he tried to do many back- flip- jumps to get out, but they failed him. Finally, he started to climb up the side of the window and I thought he was home free.

But he fell back on to the ground and so had to start from back at square one. I propped up the box for him to climb in again but he took off in the other direction.

I grew tired of watching him go in circles and resumed my time on the computer. When suddenly some 5th grade boys came in. These weren't your ordinary pack of budding 12 year old boys. For they were the "tough" boys, and especially one of them was the meanest of the group. I have deemed him the "scary boy" because he sports a menacing face. But in reality he just has an attitude problem.

Unfortunately, for Mr. Billy the Bug having Scary Boy come into the room meant his fate was sealed. Of course, I am guilty myself too for having pointed out the defenseless Mr. Billy. Without hesitation Mr. Billy felt his fate under the crushing power of Scary Boy's rubber soled shoe.

I screamed, "No!" in astonishment that Scary Boy had quickly and without a second thought crushed Mr. Billy the Bug. Sorry

R.I.P. Mr. Billy the Bug.
Forgive Me

Shabu Shabu

I met JH after visiting the Gwanghwamun Plaza and we first stopped at the Han River for a mini romantic pick me up. But it was cold and we were hungry so we took off.

Shabu Shabu seems to be our favorite choice for dinner sometimes. In Gangnam there is a restaurant that we went to a few months back where I met his mother and sister. It was really good and so I asked if we could go there again.

This Shabu Shabu place has a cauldron in the center of the table.We ordered a vegetable platter with thinly sliced beef and a lettuce wrap.
You put the vegetables in the pot to cook and every so often they are plucked out by the waitress.
There you can see the vegetables and beef piled up near my side dishes.

Here are the lettuce wraps and thinly sliced beef.
I think Shabu Shabu makes for a great meal because it tastes really healthy. Typically after the vegetables and meat noodles are put in that makes a nice noodle soup. And after this there is the occasional jook or rice porridge that is made.

Just a simple post here folks. I believe the name of the restaurant is Chin Sang Shabu Shabu. It is near the part in Gangnam where that giant Gorilla is attached to a building. Look around there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Many Recruiters?

There are a plethora of recruiters out there to help us Native Teachers find our job. But I had a question come up in my mind whether using more than 3 would be a bad idea.

So I did what anyone would do and I googled the question. I came upon this website gone2korea, which is a recruiter themselves but one I am not using.

They listed their answer as such:
Using Multiple Recruiters - When applicants start using many recruiters (5+) to secure a job it has a negative affect on the overall success of their placement. Recruiters and schools quickly hear about such applicants and they often label them as difficult to work with. Recruiters feel that it's not worth their effort to source a school only to have these applicants say that they have gone with another recruiter, and schools feel that these people are very unstable to have as an employee. Doing your research and then deciding on 2 or even 3 recruiters that you trust is the best approach to getting a job you want. We are not exaggerating!
This sounds like a big red flag. Logically I would assume that a school receiving an application twice from two different recruiters would think that this person is merely just using multiple resources. But then since I know that logic tends to flow backwards here I was starting to believe that what these guys are saying might be true.

I took the next step and contacted a reliable recruiter that I have been using on my job hunt. They are honest with me and I know would provide me with a real-time answer.

Within minutes after emailing I received this response:
There is nothing in Gyeonggi
We have literally nothing until February in GEPIK
Contact as many recruiters as possible
Simple and to the point. It also reflects the growing new trend these days, which is that of competition. The demand for jobs is higher than the supply. So why not put your name out there with other recruiters?

Just another part of the whole process. As you can see this job hunting thing has pretty much taken over my life.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Job Hunt Update: Oct. 13

There are periods where I get notices back to back and my cell phone is buzzing like crazy. Then there are periods when all is quiet and I start to panic a little on what is going to happen.

But I have the time to let the right job come to me. Besides this is going to be another year or so of my life and I don't want to take something just because half of it looks good.

Some might say that you only need one or two recruiters when looking for a public school position. This is true if you are going the official route and applying directly to the GEPIK, EPIK and SMOE positions that hire only twice year (spring and summer). If you apply to more than one recruiter your application will be moot.

But you don't have to apply directly and can find a public school that is looking to a fill a position. There are some schools that operate independently and so hire a teacher personally instead of having a new Native Teacher dropped into their school.

With that said I am still faced with the fact that not a lot of schools go that route and if so they usually hire around March.

So this is a waiting game.

Anyways, let's take a look at what is on the table:
  • Yongin position: Waiting to hear back about getting an interview. Starts in December
  • Nowon position: At a private public elementary school. Offers 7 weeks vacation. They want someone ASAP so I am not sure they will consider me since I can't start till November.
That's it thus far. I had a position and interview for Anyang but after checking out the school and housing location made the decision of "no". Sure they wanted me but I still feel like waiting it out till I have more to chose from. It is always a gamble when you say no to a job opportunity, for you are betting that something better will come along.

But I am not in a desperate situation as I was last year and so feel I can be picky. Just don't want to be too picky that I am left with nothing.

In the meantime, I am nearly finished with TEFL certificate. Also I am rejoicing everyday that goes by as I know it means less and less time spent in my officetell-hell.

Anyways, we will see!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gwanghwamun Plaza: Treeless Wonder

Going to Anguk station. Transfer at Chungmuro. Waiting for the train.

After the 2S2 initial meet up at the Twosome Place cafe near Anguk station, we took off to visit the newly renovated Gwanghawmun plaza.
Although the new design was interesting and funky there was a strong lamentation by Rob that there are no trees. In their place were these, as he called it "plastic pods" which offered minimal shade.

Rob isn't the only one with lamentations on this treeless wonder. Blogger "Seoul Village" writes:

As pointed out earlier, the square itself cruelly lacks natural shade. It was a deliberate choice for security reasons : like Seoul Plaza, the area might be used as a demonstration spot, but this time right in front of the Government's headquarters. On the other hand, no more ginkgo trees means that you can enjoy the panorama on the mountain from any point. But this flat area will be as chilly in winter as it is mercilessly hot in summer. More than the embarrassing sea of flowers covering the Northern section of Gwanghwamun Plaza, waterworks do provide some welcomed refreshment, and flower pot benches do grow a few useful metallic umbrellas... but under a scorching sun, it's safer to bring your own shade.
Everyone must suffer the eye-sore of no trees and the berating heat and cold due to the fear that protesters will come to this area, which they often do. I also wonder if the scheduled water fountain display that shoots up water can double as a way to deter protesters..hmm?
Consider this though, before the area was restored there were ginkgo trees but due to planning issues they didn't make it into the renovation. Actually you can still spot them on the other side of the road.
The plaza restores Gwanghwamun’s significance as the center of Korea’s history, politics and culture. To restore the uninterrupted view of Gwanghwamun, Gyeongbokgung, Mt. Bukak and Mt. Bukhan, the gingko trees planted by the Japanese were transplanted in May of 2008, signaling the start of the Gwanghwamun Plaza project.
One wonders that if those trees were of a different variety and planted by Koreans that they would have been spared being pulled out. I guess their main purpose was for one to get an uninterrupted view of it all, which yes is very possible now when you walk through the plaza.

Minus the trees and you are left with a granite floor, pod like shelters and various sculptures along the plaza strip.
The waterway, 2 centimeters deep and about 1 meter across, runs for 365 meters along the plaza's east side. On its floor lie 617 stones recording with major events from the beginning of Joseon in 1392 through 2008

The carpet of flowers is located at the northern part of the plaza. Measuring 17.5 meters wide and 162 meters long, it presents 220,000 flowers symbolizing the 220,000 days from when Seoul became the capital of the Joseon Kingdom up to the opening of the plaza.

For a great synopsis of the history of Gwanghwamun area take a look at My Nice Day!'s post. If you look through this post you will see design choices for the plaza, one of which includes trees.source

Apparently we came around the time when they recently revealed the new King Sejong statue.

The second quarter will be unveiled on Hangeul Day, commemorating the birth of the Korean writing system, on Oct. 9.

The long-awaited bronze statue of the Great King Sejong (1418-50), who is credited with promulgating ``Hangeul'' with a group of scholars, will join that of Admiral Yi Sun-shin on Gwanghwamun Plaza. It will be the landmark for entry into ``The King Sejong Story,'' an artistic underground museum space for pedestrians below the plaza's bed of flowers and water fountain streams.

Wanting to check out the underground museum required waiting in a very long line. I will have to check it out when the crowds are fewer.
There will be five permanent multimedia exhibition halls focusing on King Sejong's humanity, democratic ideals, sagacious leadership, the creation of hangeul and developments in science and the arts under his rule. A sixth zone will be allotted for temporary exhibitions.

Seated up high above everyone and glistening amongst the sunshine you do feel a sense of awe. I tried to find out what material it was made from. My guess is bronze but really it doesn't look like it. Maybe a mixture of something.
Anyways, the statue sure sits proudly in the plaza.

Although there are a lack of trees and amazing urban design the plaza is a new hot spot to check out. Who knows? Maybe as time passes additions and subtractions will be made to the plaza. I hear it is a wonder to check out at night as the fountain performance is lit up. Finally, the Gwanghwamun gate itself will eventually be reveled and I guess the whole thing will be complete.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2S2 Wrap Up

I would like to say that 15 people showed up for the first 2S2 meet up. In addition, I wish I could add that we mingled and met new friends. All the while sharing experiences and exchanging ideas for an expat community in Korea.

A few of us played monopoly in a cafe, while others went around site seeing. Later on we met up and had a little ranting fest on the tree-less nature of Gwanghwamun plaza.

And as much as I would love to gush about how equal the number of guys to gals there were at the meet up, the truth is that most of this is not actually true.

Only 3 people showed up, including myself and we didn't play monopoly (although I toted it with me). But that doesn't mean we didn't have a good time.

The three of us know that in the beginning there will be few. I for one feel that most people who read about us trying to put this together are skeptical, but really just want to see what happens first before stepping in.

And we understand that not everyone lives in or near Seoul. We agreed that if this got off the ground with more planning that 2S2 could be like a package. Give the "2S2 package" to folks in Daegu and see what they come up with.

Let's just remain with the same vision of building a connected expat community and what it means to us. And we can also discuss why this doesn't make sense and whether it is really necessary anyways. All in all, we have generated buzz on this through a survey and other posts so the idea must be floating around in your head.

Why not come out to next month's meeting, or we could meet via skype, and let's talk about ideas and visions.

For now the discussion can remain on the interwebs, and I would like to leave you with this idea I had:

A community garden.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Seoul Grand Park Zoo

Last Sunday I met up with JH and we went to the Seoul Grand Park Zoo in Gwacheon. It was one of those days that was sunny and a little cool. A perfect atmosphere to walk around a zoo.

To get to the back of the zoo, instead of walking through it all we took a ski lift type ride. It certainly was a great ride as you can look around and see a horizon.

As far as visiting the zoo and seeing the animals that was a lot of fun too. However, some animals had great living enclosures while others seemed sparsely adequate.

I am not going to write much on the visit and just let you view the pictures. I am sure you have been to a zoo before in your life and know what it is like.

A few notes on what made this zoo notable:
  • In the outdoors with mountains and forests nearby.
  • There aren't that many rangers present, so people got away with feeding the animals and taunting them.
  • The variety of animals and species were pretty good. I enjoyed the reptile section.
  • Come during feeding time and you will see some action.

Oops~ JH fed the monkey.

Cactus farm

Hand sanitizer~
Go to the zoo for a lovely stroll and to see some animals. Soon it will be winter like and walking around a zoo won't be so exciting.

Oh and look out for the snake pens, they feed them live rats and you get to watch as they devour them.
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