Wednesday, August 19, 2009


As I was passing out at the gym today listening to Korean pop music (no AirCon in the gym..) I realized that I had not yet blogged about K-pop. K-pop is a loving rip-off of the term J-pop or Japanese pop music. It's everywhere, blasting out store doors, being sung by my students and all over the TV. K-pop falls into two categories, bouncy dance music or intense ballads. The bands seem to go in and out overnight (I don't hear "Sorry Sorry Sorry anymore). The songs seem to go hand in hand with dance moves that all my students young and old recognize. If you thought the boy band craze of the 90's was silly, try turning your average group of five into twelve. You now have Super Junior, who was super popular when I first arrived. I bought the socks with their faces on them and everything. Socks deserves its own post BTW...

What shocks me the most about K-pop is its uniformity in popularity. I have yet to find a soul who dislikes Big-Bang (including me) and K-pop seems to be listened to all generations. My eight year old students and my co-worker all listen to the same groups. The only exception so far is the older male taxi drivers who listen traditional Korean ballads.

Makes me miss Tunisia.....

K-pop bands are all very similar, Groups of boys or girls dancing and singing. When I asked my students to name one band were the singers played their own instruments all of my 200+ students could name only one band!(FT Island, who I might be a little in love with...) As much as I like "I hope" its mind boggling that it was the only "rock" band my students knew of. Korea's complete lack of counter culture never ceases to amaze me. I admit though, it could just be Daegu.

Korea also has one rapper named "Outsider". Allot of English used in group names and song titles. Making it easy for me to know who is popular at the moment. Thanks students!

A symbol of the tie between K-pop and corporate consumerism is that songs in commercials turn into huge hits. Big Bang and 2NE1 are the most popular boy and girl bands in Korea. They worked together to makes a song for a cellphone, at first it was just on the ad and then it was everywhere! In fact 2NE1 debuted in this song and are now by far the most popular girl group in Korea. All my middle school students sing their songs and write 2NE1 lyrics in their notebooks. One girl even attempted to trick me by showing me song lyrics and claiming it was her homework.

K-pop is getting old fast. Its everywhere and always sounds the same and, it doesn't help that I don't understand the lyrics. At least its up beat(until you read the lyrics) and it gives me bonding material with my students. Now that you know more than you ever needed to know about K-pop i'll leave you with one last song. Its cheesy, bouncy, super old in the K-pop world (2008) and I never seem to get sick of it!

I <3 G-Dragon arm-warmers. Also lets go west? Really? The beach is like a 20 minute drive from Seoul..

Saturday, August 15, 2009

School Schedule

Hello everyone, Sorry I haven't written in a week. This weekend and last I didn't travel. I'm trying to save up money for Brett's visit. I'm so excited!

So instead of fun travel stories I decided to fulfill a request and write about my work schedule. I work Monday-Friday from 4:10 to 10:20. I teach six 50 minute classes a day with ten or five minute breaks between. The prep work is all done for me and to tell the truth the material is completely mindless. The interaction with the kids is the challenging part.

On Monday and Tuesday I teach my least favorite class, presentation. The kids memorize a five paragraph essay. Each paragraph is the same with only one or two words changing. I have to watch around 25 of these often about the same simple story. I go a little nuts. My smallest students (about age 8) have a workbook instead of presentations and are decidedly crazy.
On Wednesdays I have no Middle School students and teach eight 35 minute classes about a random topic. We play a lot of English games in these classes as the curriculum is often the same lesson as the week before but with different vocabulary. Thursdays and Fridays are similar to presentation days with the number of classes but I enjoy reading day better. The class it first tested on a story they read online the night before, then we read over three more stories. The goal is not only how to read but to understand and I work with my students on creating summaries. The stories are short never filling up one full page and the topics are mind numbing but I try to spin it to their interests and get the students to practice speaking.

Each child is at the school for around two hours, they get pick up in the Academy van and driven back home to their apartments. I have 12 set classes (Six on Monday, Thursday and Six on Tuesday, Friday) along with the random Wednesday students. Total I have over 160 students. I know all their names (some take English others keep their Korean) and I can tell them apart. I wasn't very hard at all. I was convinced it would be impossible coming over here. If the kids are bad I give them retest which means they stay at school for another 50 minutes. Sometime students stay until 1130. Retest is for bad behavior, scores and no homework. Its nice working for a school with a discipline system as the kids don't get any "real" grades for the school.

So far I enjoy the daily interactions with the kids except with my most of my middle school kids who never talk but, in their defense its 10:00 at night and they have been in schools all day. I just wish I could attempt teaching for real. I still don't know if that is the career I want in life but I want to try teaching with more freedom.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Busan Weekend

This weekend (yes I am writing about it on Wednesday, lazy blogger strikes again) my friends and I packed up for a weekend in Busan. It was a half birthday, half goodbye trip as five out of eight of my core group of friends are leaving in the next two weeks. Busan is much more than Korea's beach resort town, it is also the second largest city in the country. My friends and I centered around Haeundae Beach, the main touristy spot.

Haeundae Beach is the most beach popular in Korea and my friends and I had inadvertently chosen the most popular weekend of the year. It was a national five day weekend (not for me of course, Koreans need their childcare) and Saturday night boasted a fireworks show and a K-pop concert. Once we settled into our over priced Love Motel my friends and I went down to the beach. It was a little crowded.

In case my picture doesn't get the point across, here is a great image of a major street in Seoul and Haeundae courtesy of the Korean Times.

Where is the sand? I'd like to say that the situation was better in the warm water but to no avail. Very few Koreans take swimming lessons as children (although this is changing) so the water was packed with yellow innertubes. It was like playing human bumper boats. To make matters most no one could go more than ten meters away from shore. Lifeguards zipped back and forth on jetski's ensuring I was never in water more than four feet deep. I still had a great time however playing a game of stand-in-the-water-volleyball (no room on the beach) with my friends and a nice group of Indian men. Indian's are one of the largest minority groups in Busan as Students and Laborers. Thank God they are in Busan as the bring with them fantastic food.

That night my friends and I listened to the concert (my students are super jealous) and watched the fireworks. Then we stayed up still two siting on the beach drinking and chatting. It was a nice intimate way to end the night. Except for the fact that...the beach was still packed! Two a clock in the morning and all the youth in Korea had the same idea as us. It was actually pretty exciting and surreal.

The next day was more of the same lounging on the beach and eating great Indian food. We took the KTX train home that night. I am going to miss everyone. Its like starting all over again with no friends!

Oh and if you ever wondered what a million people will do to a mile of beach, the answer is pretty disgusting.

This guy must hate his job.