Wednesday, December 28, 2011


            Well Christmas has come and gone here in Gwangju.  I had a great time hanging out with some good people, eating some great food and enjoying a white Christmas.  Before the weekend started I went to trivia and watched Graham and his team win.  It was pretty cool since it was his last trivia before heading back to England.  The next day I went to work with some candy and my Santa hat.  The kids loved seeing me in the hat and it was fun handing out candy.
            On Christmas Eve I went to a dinner hosted by the First Alleyway restaurant.  Everyone paid in advance and showed up ready to chow down.  One thing I noticed was that the bartender was late because of a migraine.  So I volunteered to get behind the bar and pour some drinks.  After everyone had a drink, I helped move some wine cases.  When I reached down to pick up a case, hearing everyone's worst nightmare, my pants ripped. 

It's always funny unless it's you.
            As you can see this wasn't a little rip.  This was a seismic rip down the seam.  I have to blame rugby and trying to do a proper squat when picking up the wine case.  Fortunatly the food came just after this so I was able to sneak out and grab a taxi to get home.  Obviously I wasn't in the mood to chat with a taxi driver but that meant I was going to get the chattest one in Gwangju!  He certainly did talk my ear off by asking the classic Korean questions.  For example, "Oh you prum America?" Ne (Yes). "Ohhhh you so handsome!" Kamsahminda (Thank you). 
            After his last comment I realized that he had a speech impediment.  I thought to myself, "You're bitching about some ripped pants and this guy is proud to be working and getting the chance to practice his English on a foreigner.  Quit being a douche."  So I started asking him questions, making jokes and by the time I got to my apartment we were laughing our heads off.  Once home I got my money out to pay and he said, "Discount."  I thanked him and gave him extra what the original tab was and told him, "Merry Christmas." It really is better to give than receive.
            Afterwards, I went back to First Alleyway and enjoyed the food.  Later on, I met up with Graham and the crew and watched the snow fall. 

Santa at First Alleyway.

It was Kyle's birthday too.

It was quite a feast.

Snowing on Christmas Eve.

Two hours and two inches later it was still coming down.
            On Sunday I got up, made some mashed potatoes, and headed off to German Bar.  There were a dozen or so people who showed up for a potluck dinner.  We hung out all day, played games, sang some songs and had a great Christmas day.  Afterwards, I skyped TL and the family to bring it all to a close. 

North Korean Cognac.

Setting up.

A cosmopolitian spread.

I had KFC, rolls, mashed potatoes, mexican beans and rice, pasta, Korean rice, curry and bulgogi.


Graham, Brian and I.

            It was weird experiencing Christmas in a culture that doesn't get into it.  They might go to church but there's no big dinner and all the stores stay open.  I'll never forget it but I don't want to repeat it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Stories

            One of the fun things about teaching is reading the stories that the kids write.  This week was no exception as my coworker and I had them write Christmas stories.  We decided that the topic would be "Santa has a problem".  They had to make up a solution for Santa too. 
            Here are some of the things that I learned from the student's papers. 

Earth Santa helps out Mar's Alien Santa once every 10 years.

Don't ever get into Santa's bag. He'll kill the reindeer that's in the bag and the Elf that tries to jump in the bag too.

If you put an Elf in a present and then throw him in a fireplace, it'll be ok because the wrapping paper will protect the Elf.

If you steal Santa's sleigh he will eat one of his magic cookies and the sleigh will explode in midair. True story.

If Santa needs help he will pray for Jesus and Jesus will help him.

If Santa disappears it's because he's chilling in Hawaii.

If Santa gets sick with the flu then his grandchildren, Santino and Santina, will deliver the presents. 

The Elves don't help Santa they work for him. And if Santa don't pay them, they don't make the presents.

And my favorite:

Santa's clothes are red because he got in a fight with Rudolph and Rudolph's blood got in Santa's clothes. 

I've also included pictures of the best stories from each of my classes:

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kim Jong-Il's Death

            What a year it's been for the world's madmen! First, Osama Bin Laden was killed, then Moammar Gadhafi and finally Kim Jong-Il died from a heart attack.  In North Korea, Kim Jong-Il was known as the "Dear Leader" but he was anything but that. He consolidated his power by stressing the military first, feeding his people second and stimulating the economy last.
            However, I didn't know that he died until I got on Facebook.  I wasn't sure what to expect from South Koreans but by all accounts it was just another normal day.  There was, and has not been, any celebrating.  It is all over the news but I get the feeling most South Koreans are to busy living their lives to care about him. Now, there are three reasons why they might not be making a big fuss about it here in Southern Korea.  First, people were expecting him to die sooner than later.  Second, I live in Gwangju, not Seoul, so people aren't worried about a military threat. Lastly, I'm a foreigner and might not really know what people are thinking. It's probably a combination of the three with the latter taking the lead.
            I've included some links covering North Korea but the one you must read is the first one.  It's about the journey North Koreans travelled on to escape from Kim Jong-Il's rule.

Korean Herald, English newspaper based in Seoul:

Video released by North Korean media: 

Story about Kim Jong-Il's successor, his third son:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Homesick In Korea

            I haven’t written anything for the past two weeks because I haven’t wanted to.  I felt like a shadow was hanging on to me and I couldn’t figure out what it was.  After this past weekend I realized that I’ve been really homesick.  It is one thing to miss Thanksgiving but quite another to miss out on Christmas and its buildup.  I finally figured it out when I went to Starbucks just so it would feel like Christmas.
            Now that I know what I was feeling the shadow is no longer hanging on to me.  From now to New Year’s I’ve got a full plate of activities.  I’m going to Busan this weekend for our last rugby games and then trivia to start next week. 
            Following that, I’ve got a teacher’s dinner with my coworkers and then for Christmas Eve I’m going to a huge dinner at the First Alleyway restaurant.  I’m really looking forward to both dinners. On Christmas Day I’ll Skype my family, have another dinner and Christmas party.
            However let me show you what I’ve been up to the past couple of weeks.

Maggie and Graham enjoying her birthday dinner.

A Western style restaurant that was delicious.

Our first snowfall.

Mr. Song taking Jonathan and I out to lunch.


Mr. Song took us to Soswae Garden, which is over 500 years old.

Koreans chill too.
This is the view they were looking at.  It started snowing just after we left and I know it would've been gorgeous to see.

Gina, Rachel and Ruby. William, like all cool kids, doesn't want to be in the photo.
            Lastly, I want to congratulate my cousin Rachael and her husband Nick on their first child, Owen. I'm looking forward to being an Uncle when I return home!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


       Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love that it's about being with your family, friends and eating great food.  While I wasn't able to be with my family I did get to hang out with friends and have some American dishes.  The two main Western restaurants/pubs in Gwangju teamed up to host a Thanksgiving dinner.  It took place at Speakeasy and I have to give my thanks to the guys that helped put it together.  Everyone brought their favorite dish, so I made mashed potatoes and Oreo balls.  The turkeys were incredible and there was American Football on all day.  It was great being able to have the tastes, smells and sounds of home, even if it was only for an afternoon.

Having some good scotch.

Cleaned up and ready to go.
I'm ready.
Carving one of the three turkey's we had.


It's not Thanksgiving without sleeping on the couch after eating.

Supporting Movember.

Brian and I at German Bar. Brian's from Kingsport TN!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Weekend Update

      This past weekend was pretty fun for me.  Friday night I went to the new location for Tequilaz.  It's a Mexican restaurant that moved from one part of Gwangju to downtown.  I met up with Darrell and Brooke.  They're the couple that organized the Gwangju FC soccer game TL and I went to in July.  Here's the link for that:
      Also, James finished up his contract on Friday so the rugby guys came in from Suncheon, Saturday, to celebrate.  I met up with them at Yangdong Market to check out the foreigner flea market and then I went downtown to do some shopping with Dan and Gerry.  Following that we went back to their friends place so they could get ready.  We hung out for a bit and went to First Nepal to eat some Indian food and celebrate a birthday for a good friend of the rugby guys, Katherine.  I had the delicious mutton tikka, grilled Lamb, and then we went to one of the coolest places in Gwangju.  It's called Ethnic Bar and it's the last thing you would expect to find in Korea. You go underground and the whole place is stone, with a water pond in the center, candel's everywhere and no chairs.  Instead you lounge around on pillows.  It's a great change of pace from the traditional Korean and Western restaurants here. 

A margarita with no lime.

The flea market was on the roof at Yangdong Market.

Ethnic Bar.

My serious moment for the night.
Found this racquet on my way home. It's four feet tall and I looked for the huge tennis ball that went with it but couldn't find it. Very random, very Korea.
        Living in Korea is a great experience but you have to adjust to the fluidity of the job.  You'll get close to people but their contract will end before yours and they're gone. Some people think that you shouldn't get close to people because everyone leaves at different times.  I feel the whole point is to give 100% to what you're doing and who you're with.  Otherwise, you'll regret the moments that slip away because you didn't focus on that moment, its setting and the conversation that took place.
        Next time I'll talk about having Thanksgiving in Korea.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Quick Update

        These past couple of weeks have been a lot of fun just hanging out in Gwangju.  I've been going to trivia, playing darts and cooking some dinners with the owner of German Bar.  Furthermore Josh, my coworker,  showed me a great website that teaches you Korean.  It's called Talk To Me In Korean and it's fantastic to use.  Here are some pics showing what I've been up to:

That's called, "The Robin Hood" shot.

Check out the beautiful fall colors.

No that's not a misprint, it's just a knockoff of The NorthFace.

This little guy watches me every morning I'm at the gym.  Later, I  watch him try and catch the pigeons on the ledge without falling off.

Ahhhhhh good beer for a decent price.

A delicious lunch at work.

I let the little kids write on me if they do their homework during the week.

This is our practice field in Seocheon.  The mountains surrounding it are gorgeous even if the field isn't.

No words.

Turns out Van Gogh is the spokesperson for Home Plus.

       Also,  I've been reading about the Penn State scandal and I'm shocked.  Being around my kids it really hit home how horrific the actions of Jerry Sandusky, and the inaction of those who knew about it, truly are.
       More to come after the weekend.