Sunday, November 29, 2009
Grad school continues to be a good experience, and while this semester is winding down, I'm looking forward to next semester even more, as I'll be taking classes that interest me more.
Over Thanksgiving break I was able to spend time with my parents and my sister's family in Alexandria, right outside of D.C. It was a great time, and my brother-in-law is great fun to hang out with, plus he's become a home-brewer recently, and makes great brews that can compete with the best.
My nephew Henry continues to grow fast, and is becoming a better at communicating, as well as walking.
At school I'm mainly concentrating on cinematography and producing, as those are the topics that interest me the most. In my free time I'm working on various side projects, which I will share once they gain a bit more momentum.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
It's been great to get back to doing something that I have a true passion for. While I could see myself becoming a teacher sometime in the future, right now I want to work on my art craft, and grad school allows me to do that. But it was such a great opportunity to be able to be a public school teacher in another country for an entire year. The skills that I learned as being a teacher in Korea will be skills that will be with me for the rest of my life.
One thing that is great about grad school is that I have three day weekends, which means that I'm able to make weekend trips. While traveling through out Asia I realized that there is much of America that I have not yet seen. One seems to forget actually how large America really is, I mean it's huge. Sometimes America can seem boring to travel, due to the over suburbanization of Walmarts and McDonalds, but there is still plenty of unique and independent minded cities throughout the nation. A few of the unique cities I visited since I've been back are Breckenridge, CO, Alexandria, VA, Washington D.C., and Savannah, GA. All of those cities have rich and deep American culture and a since of strong identity, an identity that is not that of Walmart and other corporate chains. And it's this independence and entrepreneurship that is abundant in these cities that I find inspiring. I hope that future communities in America will look to these cities for inspiration and wisely plan the infrastructure and culture layout of the city, because I think being able to walk or ride a bike around a community is pretty important.
I was able to visit my sister and her family in Alexandria, VA, which is right outside of D.C. Henry, my nephew, is growing quick and is a blast to be around. I'll be visiting them again for Thanksgiving. Their neighborhood is excellent, they can walk to the library or any other small store that they would need, and the metro, which goes directly to central D.C. is only about a half mile walk. Then last weekend I met my brother in Savannah, GA, which is another beautiful city.
Grad school is very educational of course, but I'm trying to stay busy with my side projects as well. Also on a note of interest, last week Vincent Laforet came and spoke at SCAD in Atlanta, here is his website: http://vincentlaforet.com/ and also gave a workshop that I found useful.
Instead of a thesis paper for grad school I have to do a thesis project, which will be a movie. I have the movie already down in my head, now I just need to put it on paper. Possibly the most important part of the film process will be getting funding. I plan to apply for various grants from organizations that support art projects, films, or graduate theses. But the most potent way I see myself funding the project is through micro-financing it through small donations, made nationally. I'll be making a website explaining my project sometime next year with my estimated cost of the movie. The movie will be slightly political in nature, so I believe people will help support an art that supports their views.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Well it was a nice flight back to ATL, I got bumped up to 'prestige class', which is like a nice business class. Prestige class included four course and quality meals along with seats that can fully recline to a bed like position, which made the fourteen hour flight much more enjoyable. I left Seoul at 10:20am, local time, and arrived in ATL at 11:00am, local time, so technically it was only a 40 minute flight according to the local calender.
Summer camp was a blast, although it consumed a lot of my energy. The first graders have a lot of character, and really are quick learners. While the fourth graders did a good job, their English level was below that of many of the 3rd graders.
I've been thinking about what will come of this blog. Since it's titled "Seoul" one might think that it would end once I leave the country. I'll post some other Seoul media that I've not yet had a chance to at a later time, but I'll also probably turn it into an 'Atlanta' photo blog. It'll give me a reason to continue taking pictures.
Thank you for taking your time to view my pictures and ready my 'travel log' or 'blog'.
I started graduate school orientation the day after I came into ATL, and am extremely pleased with the communications program. I feel back at home already. :) Ironically there was a South Korean in the communications department, also as a masters student, whom was brand new to ATL and came straight from Seoul. I was able to give him some helpful tips and advice on how to live in this city, and how it differs from Korea and Seoul. He was completely overwhelmed by the differences of the two cities, much like how I was initially overwhelmed by Seoul and the newness of it's Korean culture, so I feel that I was able to understand how he felt. Even though we are in different programs within the department I gave him my e-mail address for any help he might need.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Shanghai has a population of around twenty million people, making it the largest city in China. Before going to Shanghai I had no idea what to expect cultural wise, but I was extremely pleased with my experience there. My friend Ryan, whom is interning at China Economic Review, has really become immersed in the Chinese city lifestyle and was the perfect host/tour guide. His Chinese, Mandarin, is at a very impressive level and was very useful in getting around the city. One of the major initial differences between Seoul and Shanghai is that China is still a developing country, but things are rapidly changing in Shanghai as there are numerous construction projects almost every where you look. Also there is a much more apparent wealth gap in Shanghai, but this made the traveling experience even more interesting. Cost of living in Shanghai can be about as low cost or expensive as you can imagine, really it can go both extremes. Your basic necessities all cost well under a dollar, for example: a bottle of water cost about 14 US cents, or one Chinese yuan, and a plate of dumplings can cost around 73 cents, or 5 yuan. While on the other hand Shanghai has many of the Western franchises and luxuries which can seem very expensive when compared to the low domestic cost of living, but many of the people in Shanghai seem to embrace the international culture. While Ryan and I were sitting down some people would discreetly, and non-discreetly, take a picture with us. Ryan informed me that these people were most likely from the country where seeing a foreigner is much more rare. But being a foreigner in Shanghai also is also an indicator that you probably have money, and there are a few common scams that people in Shanghai try and pull on the unsuspecting tourist, other than that though Shanghai is supposed to be a rather safe city. When some sketchy looking person would come up trying to talk to us in English, Ryan would say a seemingly magical phrase with a small hand gesture sending the other person quietly and quickly walking away. This 'magical phrase' was just "I'm not interested" in Mandarin, which was a quick indicator that he was no tourist.
While in China I was able to experience a wide diversity of food. My two favorites being a dumpling that had a small soupy substance in it (fourth picture) and a giant breakfast egg roll with pickled ginger (second picture). Although not all food was pleasurable for me, I had a minor allergic reaction, that being my lip slightly swelling, to traditional Uighur food, a Chinese ethnic minority. The second to last picture on the bottom is the view from Ryan's apartment, and shows how quickly Shanghai is developing, small apartment buildings were in the desolate lot just a few days prior to my arrival.
I was happy I was able to experience a bit of China before leaving Korea, it helps put my Korean experience into greater context. Both China and Korea have many shared cultural norms, but both are also extremely distinguishable from each other. Although just being able to get out and see another city with an old friend really was great, and Shanghai was a really cool place to do that.
On a similar note, Shanghai's subway system is great and growing fast. While not quite as nice as Seoul's, it's still probably one of the nicer ones in the world and the subway system is going to have a number of additional lines added very shortly. So one is able to get around the city very easily, and taxis in Shanghai are another experience all together, which are another affordable option of getting around, as a typical fare would just be a few dollars or less.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Watering flower pots around the city on a hot summer day.
World Cup Stadium, Seoul
So I went on a trip with all of the teachers to the botanical gardens somewhere north of Seoul. Don't really know where I was, but it took almost two hours to get there. It was nice to be able to get out of the city and relax while exploring the gardens. The bottom five pictures are from that trip.
Regular classes were finished last week and it was interesting and sometimes sad to say goodbye to all of the students. I will miss teaching all of the students. Each class gave a unique expression when finding out that I would not be returning next semester. The third graders were the most upset with my leaving, with supposedly one student broke into tears after the co-teacher and I left, other classes would attempt to not let me leave the class by trying to hold me back. Many of the sixth graders were very nonchalant yet polite about my leaving. It's nice to know that the students seemed to like English class.
I will start teaching an English summer camp later this week, and I'll be visiting Shanghai, China for a quick visit this weekend. Also tomorrow I'll be able to see one of the longest eclipses in modern history, only visible in Asia. Look for photos of the eclipse later this week. Here is an animation of what the eclipse will look like from Seoul. It's not a 100% coverage of the Sun, but close. http://www.eclipse.org.uk/eclipse/0412009/Seoul_South_Korea_2009Jul21_anim.gif
It's monsoon season currently, and it rains extremely hard when it rains.
Friday, July 3, 2009
It's starting to get much hotter and humid here in Seoul, but the humidity is not that much different than Atlanta, so I'm quite used to this weather. The hot summer is a much more welcome experience than the frigid cold of the winter.
This school year is coming to an end and I'm staying busy by having to plan a summer English camp. Most of the lesson plans I created for the last camp will have to be reworked since many of the students will be returning to the program.
While I'm continuing to enjoy my stay here in the ROK, I'm starting to miss my home a bit. Which is why I've started eating more western food again. A couple times a week I'll meet some friends up for some western style food, possibly in the foreigner district. The foreigner district has a bad reputation for being a dirty place compared to the rest of Seoul, but in the day time it's quite nice and there are extensive affordable western style restaurants to choose from. One small place, called Smokey's Saloon, is a regional favorite. The restaurant can maybe only fit about 15 customers and a long line can almost always be seen outside its doors, sometimes as many as 25 people. Koreans and foreigners alike enjoy the wide selection of interesting burgers that they have to offer, many of the burgers at Smokeys rival those of any steak house that I've ever been to in America.
Monday, June 15, 2009
This past weekend I went on a surf trip to Busan, and the weekend before that I was in South Korea's north east province, Gangwon-do, hiking on a mountain stream in the middle of nowhere. The surf trip was a much needed vacation from the city of Seoul, as I always seem to forget how much I love the beach and surfing, also Gangwon-do has much beautiful nature to offer the traveler.
My friends and I stayed in a little motel right on a beach that is not frequented by as many visitors, which made it more relaxing and better for surfing. The surf shop, pictured aboved, had afforadble rentals on both boards and wet suits. And there was pleanty of good Korean and international food available in walking distance for when we took breaks for lunch and snacks. Nothing like a good kimbap after being worn out from the sun and surf.
About two weeks ago I went to a Korean baseball game with my friends, while the game was fascinating and fun to watch I was surprised by the amount of MLB hats I saw in the stadium. Koreans are big fans of MLB, and anytime when going out I often see a few Atlanta Braves caps. This is most likely because there is a Korean pop singer whom has lived in Atlanta and supports the Braves. Still interesting to see my home city's baseball team's cap being worn here. One of the biggest differences between going to a Korean game and an American game is the price. Besides the tickets being about $5 the food inside is hardly marked up from regular prices, meaning that a bottle of water costs less than a dollar and a fast food combo would cost around $5. Also, instead of individual owners the teams are owned by Korean corporations, such as LG, KIA, etc. Although it's not too much of a difference since the owners of sports teams in America are usually the CEOs or owners of corporations.
Another interesting note is that I think I'm allergic to all Korean alcohol, which is not the worst thing since Koreans seem to have an extremely low grade of alcohol here. I assume it might be the great presence of sulfates in their alcohol, but don't really know. Either way, probably a blessing in disguise. Soju is the social drink here in Korea, used in almost all formal social situations, and I found out quite quick that it was not the drink for me. I will go through the formalities of having a glass poured for me by an elder but just not drink it. It's also fascinating to note that I believe that Heineken and Budweiser, among other international drinks, are brewed here domestically in Korea, which does not help my situation.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Last week, while walking around Seoul, with a friend we came across a rather large gathering of people paying their respect to the previous South Korean President whom recently passed away. The people were reading news articles about President Roh Moo-Hyun while also paying their respects by standing in a line to bow as a way to show respect.
On a side note, a friend of mine recently moved to Shaghai, China for an internship with a magazine on economics. Hopefully I'll be able to find the time to make a short visit before I leave in August.
This weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and I'll be traveling to another province to go nature trekking through a river. Should be relaxing. :)
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I don't drink coffee, but I enjoy cafes, and Seoul has many of them. Most of the cafes are grouped together in certain districts of the city, as most things are grouped together in Korea. A couple of my friends are coffee aficionados so they enjoy tasting espressos from various cafes. This man roasts his own beans in a rather small, book cluttered, cafe.
Life in Seoul is much the same as before the North Korean nuclear testing of their bomb. South Korea is technically still at war with their neighbor, so they are quite used to the raised tension. Some of my fourth grade students painted some posters promoting peace and reconciliation between the two countries, and some were very creative. I'll try and grab a picture of a few and post them next week. Maybe there is hope that one day North Korea will rejoin the world instead of trying to provoke their neighbors.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Last Friday caught me off guard, because it was Teacher's Day. I was not really expecting anything from my students, but to my surprise I received flowers (real and fake), chocolate, and many letters. All of the letters were precious and fun to read. Most were in English, and a few were written in Korean where my co-teachers had to translate them for me. I was not expecting it to be such a big deal.
While waiting on some friends at a subway station a radio personality came up and interviewed me on what I was doing in Korea, the radio program being one that helps Koreans learn conversational English. Through the interview I learned that May is the month of family holidays in Korea, the main ones being: Children's Day, Parent's Day, Teachers Day, and a couple others I can't remember. The interview reminded me that I wanted to do some radio volunteer work while here in Korea, but I've managed to stay busy enough not to attempt it. But I imagine while in grad school I'll do some radio work again.
Later this week I'll have my Art, Tech, and Politics Blog up and running, and by politics, I mean general social issues and how they affect us. I uploaded it to my website earlier this week, now I just have to tweak it a bit and make my first post before I post the link here.