Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Party Boat

On Monday, our school's staff took a boat ride around Ingu and the surrounding towns and then went out to a sushimi restaurant.
Here are Jon and I with our Co-teacher June, before we got on the boat:

While on the boat, Jon and our office assistant Young On showed off their dance moves:

Dancing on the Party Boat from Sarah Colombo on Vimeo.

Jon and I tried to act Korean:

A lot of the teachers were afraid of getting on the boat. I suppose that's because most Koreans don't know how to swim. They were depending on Jon and I to save their lives. Also, a large percentage of the staff suffered from seasickness:

Jon, the principal, and our 6th and 5th grade co-teachers fed the birds:
Then we ate some raw fish:

Today is the beginning of our Chuseok Holiday. We were originally supposed to have Thurs, Fri, and Monday off, but last week our Principal changed his mind. The school that Jon and I usually teach today has a holiday today, but since our main school doesn't, we still had to come in and sit at our desk all day. The Principal said if we want, we can go home at 2PM instead of 5 today, but that will subtract 3 hours from our vacation time. Although, how you can successfully take away 3 hours from someone's vacation escapes me. Tonight we're taking a bus to Seoul and we'll be there for the weekend, meeting up with some old friends from home and new friends from orientation.
More pictures from the boat ride are here. And my videos are here.

Monday, September 28, 2009


This weekend, Jonathan and I went to Sokcho, a city north of Yang-Yang, to a small "International Film Festival." This was a pet project of some EPIK teachers, so it was a very low-budget but fun event. We saw two good documentaries, both of which should be on DVD if you are interested: The Iron Wall, a movie about Palestine and Israel, and The Future of Food about Genetically Modified food and the patenting of seeds.

While in Sokcho, we saw a familiar face.

We also found this cute coffee shop that sells Vespas and bikes.

Here we are along Cheongchocho lake, hanging out with the official mascots of Sokcho.

Teaching is going well. Here's a video of Jon with his 6th grade students. He's teaching them a chant called "What do you want to do?"

Jonathan Teaching his 6th Graders at Ingu from Sarah Colombo on Vimeo.

And, just because they're so cute, here's a video of some of the Ingu Kindergarteners:

Ingu Elementary Kindergarteners from Sarah Colombo on Vimeo.

Last night, we went on a boat ride and out to Sushimi with our co-workers, and I have more pictures and video from that, so there will be another post very soon.

I added more pictures from Sokcho to the album here. And videos are here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I planned on making a post today about the awesome Charmsori Gramophone and Edison Science museum that Jon and I visited this weekend, but alas my camera decided to do something weird and now i can not get to any of the pictures or video we took. Suffice it to say that this was a very strange, very enjoyable museum. There were, obviously, large collections of Gramophones, as well as collections of many Edison inventions. Some pieces of the collection were actually interesting, like old telegraph stations, others just seemed a tad unnecessary, like curling irons and baby dolls. There were also a lot of things that were completely unrelated to Edison (i.e. Beanie Babies, pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, action figures). We had an English brochure, but all the plaques were in Korean, and the tour guide spoke Korean. At the end of the tour they took us into a room and played clips from several DVDs in English (The Sound of Music, some PBS live concerts) at extremely loud volumes. According to the brochure, the point of this room was to show off the sound technology.

We also visited Gyeongpodae, a pavilion overlooking the beautiful Gyeongpo lake, where we ate roasted chestnuts and talked to a man who said he saw us an hour before at the bus station (this happens to us every day, students tell me they saw me at the convenience store or office workers at other schools say they saw us walking to work. We stick out). We also visited the Korean Traditional Poetry Plaza, which was made up of several large tablets inscribed with poems. We want to go back soon to rent tandem bikes to ride around the lake, although our height differences may make riding one an impossible feat.

As for teaching, everything is going pretty well. We are always very exhausted at the end of the day, which makes it hard to resist the urge to indulge in as many delicious Korean treats as possible. All of the snacks here are filled with chocolate, and I have basically tried every variety. It doesn't help that we live directly behind a convenience store.

This morning I drank my last cup of coffee, and we'll have to drive into another city in order to buy whole coffee beans. Instant coffee is much more popular here than it is in America, and a lot of the ground coffee comes with sugar already mixed in. We'll see how teaching goes tomorrow when I am caffeine-less.

Our students are very cute and, for the most part, very sweet. My third graders are considered the "naughtiest" since they can't resist hitting each other anytime their homeroom teacher leaves the room. Since they don't speak English, they simply pretend they don't know what I'm saying if I get onto them, even though I think it's pretty obvious by my tone and facial expression what I mean, and even though they definitely know the word "no." It's actually pretty comical to be sternly telling a child "No hitting!" and have them innocently look up at you, with wide eyes, making a surprised noise that sounds like "whaaaaa?"

That's all for now! Hopefully I'll have more pictures for you soon!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finally some media to make the surrounding words less boring

After trying for several days to get through to the English-speaking department (which appears to be run by one poor busy woman) we finally have our very own internet! Which means I can finally share pictures and videos!

So first off, here are a few shots from our first day in Ingu, when we explored the town.

We live in a coastal town, so we can access the ocean whenever we want, just by crossing the street. I actually just wanted a picture in front of the water, and was not planning on being crushed by this huge wave.

There is also a big Buddhist Temple across the street from our apartment, and it has a ridiculously huge statue. See tiny Jon on the bottom left for reference.

If you're interested, you can take a virtual tour of our apartment:

A tour of our new apartment from Sarah Colombo on Vimeo.

and our school:

Untitled from Sarah Colombo on Vimeo.

We've been doing a lot of cooking using our handy Korean cookbook. Click the link if you're interested in trying Korean food. I think it's great, but almost everything is ridiculously spicy, so be warned. The first meal we made (mostly Jon made) was Octopus:

Yes, that is a foot next to the pan. We couldn't get our stove to work, so a neighbor loaned us her portable stove. We cooked on the floor.

You can see a lot more pictures here and videos here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dok jo se yo

Hello! It's been a while. Since my last post, Jon and I found out where we would be living for the next year, moved there, met our co-teacher, and explored our new schools (yes, that is plural, 5 to be exact).

We live in Gangwon-do province, in the city of Yang Yang and the town of Ingu. Yang Yang is a coastal city, which is great for us. Our apartment is across the street from the beach, and a huge Buddhist temple. We have a pretty small apartment, with 3 rooms. I guess that's a really small apartment, but it's very nice and the rent is free, so we can't complain. Some of our friends from orientation told us they had three-bedroom apartments, but we live in an area so small that our apartment complex is the only one in town.

About that small town: Ingu is very charming, and hopefully the charm won't wear off and make us stir-crazy. We are the only foreigners in our town. This means people stare at us all the time. We are extremely noticeable and no one is shy about showing that they are interested in us. Sometimes people drive by and put their hands over their mouths and giggle. Sometimes they speak one or two English words to us ("Hello," "Good morning") then laugh and walk off. Old women talk to us in a string of Korean, pointing at things, and laughing the whole time. Some children (students at our school who we hadn't met yet) followed us around town for a while, and every time we turned around they would hide behind a building.

Our first full day in Ingu, we were walking around when we ran into our office assistant Yung On, who we had met the previous night. She speaks a little English, so I tried to ask her if she got her hair cut in a salon I saw in town, she said she didn't, but then walked me over to the salon, talked to the owner, and I was dragged in and given a hair cut. The stylist knew almost no English, so she said "short?" and I said "no." Surprisingly enough, it turned out looking really good.

Our main school is Ingu elementary. That is where our co-teacher, June works, and it is the school that pays us and where our office is located. Despite Ingu being our main school, we only spend one day of the week teaching there, the rest of the week we travel to 4 other small schools in the area. One school only has 8 students total in grades 3-6, meaning that Jonathan and I both have a class with only one student. I teach 3rd and 5th grade and Jon teaches 4th and 6th. It is not normal in our program for couples to be placed at the same school, but it makes things pretty convenient for us since we have to travel around a lot.

Today we went to the school with 8 students, and during the break between classes, the people in the office asked if we would like to go outside and gather chestnuts from their trees. We didn't find many, but everyone else gathered them and then gave them to us. One of the teachers also noticed that the school slippers (sandals that you have to change into once you enter the school) were too big for me, so she found a pair of the children's slippers, and gave them to me as a present. They look like Keds and they have a pink bunny on them.

A strange part of Korean culture is the complete lack of embarrassment about public drunkenness. We had a staff party on Tuesday night, and we got to see our Principal and our co-workers get extremely drunk and talk openly with us about how much they loved the USA and Americans. The principal said Jon reminded him of Bruce Willis, because he was brave just like in "Die Hard." He also said I look like a Barbie Doll (maybe a 5-foot-tall, brunette Barbie?).

There are a lot of traditions revolving around Soju here. It's similar to Sake, and costs less than a beer for a bottle. You are supposed to pour Soju for your elders, and often after you do that they will turn around and pour one for you in the same cup. If you drink the whole thing they'll yell "One shot!" Jon and I wanted to please the principal, so we offered him a cup of Soju. Jon went first and the principal said (through our co-teacher's translation) that the other half of the bottle was filled with his heart. He told me that he had traveled a lot, but never to America, and had never met an American face-to-face, then said in English "I am very happy."

Another teacher (male) offered Jon a drink, then hugged him and kissed him and told him that he loved him. Later he yelled across the table, "Sarah! You are so beautiful! Jonathan! You too!"

It was a lot of fun to get to know everyone a little better and see them in a differnt light. We spent a lot of time with other teachers who weren't drinking, and who were very excited to learn that we were protestants. One lady offered to drive 45 minutes on Sunday morning to pick us up and take us to her church.

The funniest thing about the drinking is everyone pretends like it never happened. I know that happens in America as well, but no one even gives an embarrassed look or mentions that we went out. We had to drive some where with the Principal the next day and he acted very serious and official.

We really love our Co-teacher. We heard a lot of complaints before about people's co-teachers not knowing a lot of English, but June's husband is from New Zealand and doesn't speak Korean, and she lived in New Zealand for 4 years, so we don't have any language barrier. Also, because she's lived in the Western world, we don't have to worry about as many cultural misunderstandings.

Sorry for the long post, I've been wanting to post all week, but we've been very busy finishing our lesson plans for next week. I took a lot of pictures, and will post them as soon as we have the internet in our apartment.