Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Today's meeting was bizarre.  We were about 15 minutes late, which turned out not to matter at all because Montana was in a meeting with Julia.  We came and sat in my classroom and a few minutes later, Montana joined us.  No Julia.  Even though she was on campus she did not show her face at our meeting.

Montana jumped right into giving Ian a rundown of how the classes went on Thursday (the day after we were fired).  Montana covered them at Haso while Ian and I took a day off work to clear our heads and figure out what we were going to do.  I stared out the window while Ian and Montana talked.  The meeting was hardly relevant to me at all.  It reminded me (exactly) of when Gene was working here.  This meeting was basically a carbon copy of every meeting we ever had with Gene, pointless and short.  At one point, Montana sketched a worksheet template suggestion (saying the note was from Julia) for Ian that is literally the graph style template we use for 95% of applicable worksheets.  

There was no mention of the firing.  There was no chastising or correcting.  It was as if we were normal, well liked employees and it made me so angry.  I will never let something like this happen to me again.  I know, now, how to see this kind of shafting coming and I am no longer naive enough to give an employer the benefit of the doubt.  There is too much at stake.

Montana went to close the (20 minute) meeting, but Ian and I stopped him to ask him some questions and clear up our timeline.  He supposed to get back to us with tax information, since he doesn't know much about that.  But, our last day of work is the 21st and we'll have someone (Julia, David or Montana) inspect the apartment on Thursday.  As soon as they see that we've left it in good shape (aside from a couple of burn marks from our gas range which we hope they'll overlook) they'll give us our last check.  Based on the bizarrely kind way they've been treating us this past week, I have a feeling they'll say the apartment is up to snuff.  After all, they've already got what they wanted, they're already saving themselves $6,000.   With check in hand, we'll be off to the bank to send the last of our money to our Chase account, change some currency and close our Korean accounts.  That will be a good day indeed.

Good night!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Out of Steam

The only other time I can remember being so thoroughly exhausted as this was UPS finals/ graduation.

For me, it's not necessarily all of the things that I am doing that make me tired.  It's the thought of everything that needs to get done.  I'm a notorious list maker.  Through college I had a cafe board on which I made lists of everything that needed to be done.  Everyone always talks about wonderful it feels to cross something off the list; I get almost as much relief our of making them.

But, sometimes the lists don't help.  Since we got fired I've been having trouble sleeping.  It takes me an hour or two for my brain to stop cataloging all that needs to be done (packing, cleaning, Visa applications, itinerary finalizing, etc) and fall asleep.  Then if I wake up at any point, it starts all over again.  Last night I nearly hopped out of bed because I randomly remembered that I wanted to find a vegan whipped cream recipe for Mom.  Stress does ridiculous things to me.

It's not as if I was sleeping well before we got fired; our bed is rock hard and the mattress is starting to break down where I normally sleep because it has no give at all.  I went to bed at 11:30 last night and got up at 8:40.  I was doing a little reading during one of my breaks and I actually dozed off for a minute or two.  I should be functioning better on 9 hours of sleep.

Aside from physical energy, I don't have much either.  I'm so disconnected from this job.  The lesson plans I made today are lazy and while I feel bad for the students (the ones who aren't urchins), I honestly don't think they care.  I'm officially a warm body to fill a (legally sanctioned) position until they find a replacement.

Julia tried to greet me in the hall and I mostly ignored her.  I tried to smile a little to be polite, as I don't want any complications regarding our last paychecks.  But, I think I only managed to twist my face into a grimace.  Later, Montana popped his head into my classroom to tell me there was pizza for the staff.  I said okay and sat back down at my desk, not intending to do any interacting that wasn't obligatory.  Then Terry (Julia's son) came in with the pizza box and a cup of Coke.  I told him I didn't want any.  I wanted to tell him where he could put the pizza and coke, but I didn't.  He seemed very surprised and left.  

We have been told that our presence is required at a meeting tomorrow at noon.  I don't know what it will be about, but Ian and I have several things we need to clear up (taxes, date of our last payment), so we will take full advantage.  I'm not sure if Julia will be there.  Either way, we're going to discuss the effectiveness of such meetings.  We don't want to attend any more.  After all, our letter cites seeing no solution to our faults as a reason for letting us go, so why bother?

Good night!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Inner Child

When I was a kid, I was really into making bracelets out of embroidery thread.  At first, they were simple braided things, but then I learned a few different knot patterns and they got more interesting.  Unfortunately, I've forgotten most of the patterns.

Today, Ian and I were in the Daiso downtown and I saw a packet of embroidery thread for 2000 won.  I couldn't resist.  So, I spent several hours today making silly little bracelets and necklaces.

I made Amy a little bracelet.

And myself one, too.

I got these two dol hareubang (grandfathers) from Jeju Island.  I bought them specifically to make a necklace.

We had two ¥50 coins, which have holes in them, so I decided to make another necklace.

The two necklaces share a lot of elements, so they can be warn layered or separately.  I'm pretty stoked about them.

Good night! 


Dear Grant,
         Happy 5th birthday!  We miss you so much and we can't wait to see you.  Have the best birthday, buddy.  Tell Mom and Dad to take you to the Grilled Cheese Grill.  I have a feeling you'll like their menu.

We remember your first birthday when you smeared blue frosting all over your cute face.  I hope you have as much fun with your cake this year.  We wish we could be there with you, but we'll have to make up for it when we get back.  What do you want to do when we get home?  

Happy birthday, little man.  See you soon!!

Casey and Enon


(Said "Daehan-Minguk!!) That's the chant for Korea's World Cup team.  Actually, it's just "Republic of Korea" in Korean.  We had a good time last night, but Korea lost 2:1.  They pushed for it at the end, but it was too little too late.  Uruguay's defense was like a wall.

We didn't have the best view, but most of the bars were so packed that we were lucky to get seats at all.

Bar snacks.  This particular bar served pupa as one of their snacks.

Amy was brave and actually tried them.  Throughout the night different people tried their hand at stomaching the infamous street food.

Though they were a fun challenge for those brave enough, they remained largely rejected compared to the other snacks.  I didn't eat anything from that tray as it was all a little too close to the critters for comfort.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Enchilada Dinner

Ian made enchiladas tonight for dinner.  He made the sauce from scratch using this adapted recipe.

Served with a heap of sauteed "mexi seasoned" (garlic, onion, green chili and salt) veggies.

Surprise!  They were stuffed with seasoned tofu and purple sweet potatoes.  The sweetness of the potatoes went well with the spiciness of the sauce.

Tonight we are heading over to Metro (a bar) to watch the Korea/Uruguay game.  It should be fun and this time I'll have the camera.

Good night!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Another Day Another Dollar

Today was one of the most difficult days at work I've had in a long time.  My students were fine, I just had absolutely no motivation to be there.  It got better as the day wore on, which is good because when my first class began I was considering just sitting there and letting my students read or something.

I'd love to walk out on Yoon's now.  Leaving them without wanamines (foreign teachers) would leave them in financial and legal limbo.  But, if we quit now we'd lose July's paycheck and likely June's.

I've done a little more research on "Unfair Dismissals" and it isn't looking good.  Because Yoon's gave us a letter of warning two months ago, it would be nearly impossible for us to prove our side of things.  It doesn't really matter that Ian and I worked hard to do well by them or that their complaints are mostly ridiculous, the company followed proper procedure and are therefore in the clear.  I feel ridiculous in saying so, but I'm certain they planned their moves from that point on very carefully.  I wrote up a report on a major ESL Blacklist site and I will contribute to other sites' lists as well.  For now, it seems that's the best we can do.

By the way, Julia was at Goam today.  She completely ignored us and didn't even make eye contact.  I'd like to confront her, but the possible consequences (financial and legal) aren't worth it.

The good news is that we'll have about a $1000 refund from our Korean taxes coming back at us.  I want to get it before we leave, but it might be easier to apply from the states.

We booked our flight home last night.  Instead of flying directly from Munich on the 26th, we're flying from Prague (an easy train ride away) on the 27th.  It's saving us $850.  We will arrive at SEATAC at 7:53pm on Friday, August 27th.  Who's picking us up?  Do know that whomever gathers us from the airport thereby agrees to take us to Denny's (Ian stipulates that it's the Aberdeen Denny's or bust, but I have no preference).

This is a much needed weekend, indeed.

Good night!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Beginning

It's the beginning of the end around here.  The more Ian and I research the Labor Board, the more it seems like it would be a full time job (before and after our actual dismissal) to bring any kind of consequences to Yoon's.  And, while I believe in fighting for one's rights, it's always important to weigh the cost and benefit and choose one's battles wisely.  We haven't given up, we're still looking for options.  But, if it comes down to it (and it likely will) we will choose moving on and traveling instead of bringing Yoon's to justice.

We packed up our winter clothes and some of the things that we don't need around here.  That's what is in the two big boxes.  The small box is full of textbooks and teaching materials that we need to give back to Yoon's.  It felt really good to get some things packed away.  Parts of our apartment look a little empty, but it brings us a lot of relief to be finally moving on, even if it is under unfortunate circumstances.

We fully planned our trip today.  The only thing we have left to do is actually book our flight home (either in to SEATAC or PDX).  Here is our basic itinerary:

  • We fly out from Incheon Airport on July 24th at 2:15pm.  After a four hour layover in China, we'll arrive in Ho Chi Minh City at 9:55pm.  
  • We will stay in Vietnam until the 27th, when we will head to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for two nights.
  • Then, on the 30th of July, we'll head up the river to Siem Reap where we will spend five nights (including our one year anniversary)!
  • On the 4th of August we'll fly from Siem Reap to Prague (Czech Republic) via Bangkok and then Moscow.  Our layover in Bangkok is 12 hours long.  It's at night, but we're going to see if there is a safe place to get something to eat so that we can get a little view of the city.  We'll spend 4 days and 3 nights in Prague.
  • On the 9th of August we'll hop a night train for the 7 hour trip to Budapest, Hungary where we'll spend 3 nights.
  • On the 13th of August we'll get on the earliest morning train (3 hours) to Vienna, Austria.  We're spending 3 days and 2 nights there.
  • On the 15th we'll get another night train (7 hours, again) to Venice, Italy where we'll spend 3 days and 2 nights.
  • On the 18th we're hopping on yet another night train for the whopping 11 hour trek to Paris.  We're hoping we don't have to change trains, but we might.  We'll be in Paris for 4 days and 3 nights.  Our original plan included spending my birthday in Paris, which can't happen, but (ironically) we'll be in the city during Mom's.  Hey Mama, what would you like?
  • On the 22nd we'll get on our last night train (6 hours) to Munich, Germany where we will be until the 26th, when we plan to flight back home.  We haven't bought that last bit of airfare yet, we're still scanning for a good price.

For those of you keeping score at home, that's 10 cities (9 countries) in 33 days.  It'll be one hell of a whirlwind, but it's what we've been waiting for.

I don't want to go to work tomorrow.  It's tough to be motivated for a job from which you've already been fired.

Good night!

A Strange Encounter

Ian and I spent some time downtown today. We picked up our American Eagle package at the post office, had lunch, spent some time drinking coffee and planning our trip and did a little shopping. Right after lunch, as we were walking through the shopping center we came across a group of young people fervently praying, led by a man with a guitar.

The sign on the left has the word "sarang," meaning "love" on it. Other than that, I have no idea.

Her sign simply says "Jesus Christ."

It was very passionate, but peaceful. The group prayed aloud and did some call and answers with the guitar man. People walking by watched passively, but left them alone.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I know that I'm most likely preaching to the converted, here, but I'd like to take a moment to talk specifically about why the reasons listed on our letter of termination are complete and total bull.  So, beware, for below is an organized rant.  I don't blame you if you choose not to participate.
  1. Abiding complaints from students and their parents as well as principals for the last 8 months
 I cannot account for the principles, but students complain about everything.  If I gave them a lot of challenging work, they complained.  If we played language games (taboo, pictionary, charades, etc.) they complained to the principals because they thought it was funny to see if we'd get in trouble.  As for the parents, they send their kids to hagwon once a week and expect them to be fluent in one term (3 months).  It's common knowledge that Korean parents will pick up their kids' text book, flip to a random page and ask their kid to translate/answer/explain.  If they cannot do it perfectly in English, the parent calls the hagwon.
     2.  Caused serious financial damage to school management as well as lowering school's reputation by losing students

 Personally, I think that opening four campuses in a small town of 140,000 people within your first year of business is financially ridiculous.  There are many established hagwons in Jecheon, it would have been smarter to open one campus, build a rapport with the city and move from there.  Oh, and as for a reputation, it's the hagwon division of Yoon's first year of business, so there was no reputation to "lower."

     3.  Poor class preperation

This is a stack of lesson plans from one month of Ian's time at the Goam campus.

This is an average lesson plan of mine for a forty minute class.  Some of them are more interesting than this, but all are at least this thorough.

     4.  Using inappropriate words and behavior in the class

About two months in, Ian and I were told that we weren't to use the word "crazy" or the Korean equivalent "babo" in class.  Since then, neither of us has used it and we've implemented disciplinary measures for students who use it in class.  In fact, Ian made a list of inappropriate ("do not say") words on his board at Goam and I retained it.  Ian has been reprimanded for playing with his students.  He pokes, teases and bops them on the head, riling them up and making them laugh.  For several months, this is how Ian bonded with his students with no one telling him not to.  Last week, when Montana was sitting in on his class, Ian was playing with the students when he used the paper folder to lightly bop them on their heads.  Rebecca, a student that is all around good but routinely whines and needs attention, began to cry.  She told Montana that she had fought with her friend earlier that day, had been hit in the head and it still hurt.  Later that week, at our meeting, Montana flew off the handle at Ian and told him that he could invite lawsuits for "hitting" the students.

     5.  Not using textbook with felicity

I don't even understand this complaint.  We use the textbooks and as for "felicity," we've never complained about them unless they've explicitly asked us for criticism.

     6.  Assignment is not checked up properly

I can only assume that this is referring to homework.  I check the student's homework everyday at the beginning of each class.  Julia even once complimented my thorough grading.  They have hours of CCTV videos of my teaching to prove that.  When Ian first started working for Goam, there was a lot of confusion regarding the essays that were assigned and who (the students see their main teacher and then come for our conversation class) was supposed to assign homework to the younger students.  Every time the question was posed to Julia or any authority figure, a different answer was given.  But, for the last two months Ian has had complete control over his classes, which means that he assigns and checks homework everyday.

     7.  Teaching method is not as developed as expected

There's really no way to argue this.  Maybe we're not good teachers.  Maybe we're not what Yoon's wants.  But, the time to fire us for that was months ago.

     8.  School management can't find any possibility any of the above situation would be corrected

Right, because finding a solution would mean paying us our severance.

Our notice of dismissal is illegal on two counts.  A) It is not signed or dated by both parties.  B) It lists a time of less than 30 days.  This could mean that we're due another 30 days wages.  So, we're gathering information.  We asked for the day off tomorrow (and got it), so we'll be getting our ducks in a row.

Good night!

Worst Case Scenario

"What's the worst that could happen?"  That's the question you ask yourself each and every time you stand at a juncture, deciding whether or not to take a risk.

Ian and I were no exception when we were looking at jobs in Korea.  We were fully aware (or, at least, as aware as we could have been) of the potential problems and deceptions of taking work as a foreigner in Korea.  But, we came anyway.  With that in mind, we are trying to move forward (up and out) during this time of crisis.

This morning we arrived for our scheduled meeting at Goam.  Only Montana was here.  We talked to him casually for a few minutes and then he instructed us to wait in his office while he sent a fax.  A few minutes later he came in and told us that apparently Julia wasn't going to come.  Then, he bluntly but professionally told us that, "The company has decided to let you go."  Ian and I didn't react.  We just stared at him, so Montana repeated himself, said he was sorry, but "that's business."  We walked out of his office and he gave us our official letters (which, still unsigned and undated by anyone are not legal):


Casey Whitlatch

We regret to inform you that your employment with Yoon's English School in Jecheon is terminated effective in four(4) weeks from receipt of this letter for the following reasons:

  1. Abiding complaints from students and their parents as well as principals for the last 8 months
  2. Caused serious financial damage to school management as well as lowering school's reputation by losing students
  3. Poor class preparation
  4. Using inappropriate words and behavior in the class
  5. Not using textbook with felicity
  6. Assignment is not checked up properly
  7. Teaching method is not effectively developed as expected
  8. School management can't find any possibility any of the above situation would be corrected
Please vacate the premises with your personal possessions within four(4) weeks.  We will forward your salary to date in due course or pay at your leave only if both you and Yoon's English School agree.
Please contact the management if you need explanation for these items and the school management also will arrange with you for the return and maintenance of any company property including housing.  If school management finds any maintenance issue including cleanliness, the cost will be deducted from your last payroll.

Yoon's English School
56-1 Haso-dong
Jecheon-si, Choongbuk-do, Korea

The good news is we have the day off tomorrow.  We'll be heading to the labor offices in Chunju.  Stay tuned for a post responding to our outlined deficiencies.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Internet Food Fad

Hasselback Potatoes!

They're all over food blogs, but this Swedish-born creation is just a fancy baked potato.  Most recipes call for Russet, but we don't have access to those, so we used yellow.

Before cooking.

Cut the potatoes in thin "almost" scallops.  Be careful not to chop through the bottom.  Brush (we use a little spray bottle) on a little oil and top with a generous amount of the seasonings of your choice.  We used salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and basil.  Then, to save on cooking time, we nuked them for about 7 minutes.  We "baked" them on the stove top, but most recipes say to brown at 400.

Served with tofu steak (with sauteed mushrooms) and steamed broccoli.  Mine fell apart a bit where I cut in a little too far.

Good night!


There's a strange feeling in the air at Yoon's.  Everyone (all the teachers, that is) can feel that something is happening.  Changing.  Maybe.  No one is really sure.

The "secretary" (there's a man who works at the Goam campus fixing computers, making schedules and doing the other odds and ends- my mother would remember him as the man with the shiny suit) told Rahee today that he saw a new schedule and that her and Stephanie's names were missing from it.  In fact, they weren't just missing, there were other names in their place.  But, Julia told Stephanie today that if she wanted to work another thirty day cycle that Rahee needed to work, too.  Somehow, they're contracts are contingent on each other's.  Neither Rahee nor Stephanie have any idea why.

I talked to Rahee for about a half an hour today.  She was told that someone would be sitting in on her classes today.  She couldn't remember the girl's name, only that she was Korean-Canadian.  But, when I walked by her class, no one unusual was there, just her students.  I wonder for what position this person is being hired.  Terry (Julia's son) is also back in Korea for summer break, so they'll probably find a position for him here, too.  The amount of excess baggage at this company is unbelievable.

Rahee's mother, who is a "home teacher" for Yoon's, has been ill recently, so she has been unable to take on her normal load of students.  David, Julia's husband and the real owner of Yoon's, has been pushing her to take a larger load.  Her mom has worked for Yoon's for six years, but she's seriously considered quitting.  She told Rahee that she may even leave before Rahee is finished.

Julia and her children lived in Australia for four years.  During that time, David was running the Jecheon Yoon's franchise.  Julia and her youngest (Terry stayed for university and to get out of mandatory military service) came back to Korea and the family went to work expanding their franchise to include hagwons (the Korean word for cram school).  Julia is in charge of the hagwons and David still runs the home-study portion of the business.  It seems that her management style has poisoned that division, too, because they are losing home teachers left and right according to Rahee via her mother.

I'm very nervous about our meeting tomorrow, but I'm ready for it.  I hope that the idea of firing us or "shortening our contracts" doesn't even come up, but if it does Ian and I are armed to the teeth with information.  My guess is that they do not expect us to know the laws.  They expect us to take everything they say as gospel and, in the beginning, that's what happened.  Julia and David think we're stupid and they treat us like children.  Because Korean workers rarely act on their own volition, they will be surprised if they end up  confronted with our appeal to the Labor Board.

I'm trying to find information on the web about Wonderland Jecheon (the hagwon that Julia worked at before Yoon's), but I'm not having any luck.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Ian and I got up this morning and went to the gym as usual.  Luckily, Ian happened to check my phone when we got back because Montana had called and texted to say that the meeting was moved to Wednesday.

I'm not sure what signal to take from that.  Is she delaying the inevitable?  Julia did tell Rahee that she avoided dealing with her because she found it stressful.  Or is the meeting much less weighty than we're imagining it to be?    I don't want to wait any longer.  I just want to know so that I have a clearer picture of my future.

Rahee is seriously considering quitting.  Julia is trying to push her out.  Rahee is going to wait and see if Stephanie leaves (another teacher who told Julia she wanted to quit about a month ago, but agreed to stay for another thirty days).  If I understood her correctly, Rahee will leave if Stephanie does.

I'm fairly certain that this hagwon won't make it past the end of the year, if it makes it that far at all.  This hagwon has been shady from the beginning (if you'll remember, they didn't properly put our information through with immigration until we'd been here for three months).  I can't wait to open this blog and write about the abusive practices here.  I really don't want anyone else to come in as blindly as we did; which is why the very last post on this blog will be a guide to getting good work in Korea and making the most of your experience.

The good news is that my students have been especially wacky and energetic today.  It's tough to resist that sort of pick me up.

On a side note, Laurie at the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee has begun her fund raising for the Pierce County Humane Society's Dog-A-Thon Fundraiser.  All donations made through her group go directly to help the cats and kittens at the shelter.  Last year, she and her group raised $23,000 and helped build an entire new wing in the cat area.  This year her goal is $40, 000.  I gave last year and I will again.  If you're feeling generous, please visit her blog and follow the links to give.  To learn more about the Dog-A-Thon, go here.

Good night!


Here's wishing a happy Father's Day to the main dads in our lives:  Poppa Max, Al, Bruce, and Rob.
And, of course, Grandpa Swan and Grandpa Bob who are no longer with us, but always in our hearts.

For fun, here's some dad related humor from Engrish.com:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Runners' High

Nothing looks quite as bad after a good run.
Even if I'm in a terrible mood, a good run turns it 180 degrees.  But, today I was already in a good mood, so our trip to the park just made it even better.

Ben and Amy met us at our apartment at 5 o'clock and we all walked to the park that's just a few blocks away.  It was pretty packed today, lots of kids and parents and also many elderly folks getting some fresh air.  It used to make me nervous to have such an audience, but I've gained a lot of confidence in my running, so it doesn't bother me anymore.  And most of the little kids that run after you are more cute than obnoxious, so it just makes the run more interesting.  A treadmill can be very mind numbing.

We guess that it's roughly 6 laps to a mile (the track is about 3/4 the size of your average school track, we think).  I easily ran 18 laps, pushing it to a sprint for the last one.  But, Ben is hands down the fastest runner out of all of us.  We're no competition for him; he ran 21 in the time that it took me to run 17 of mine.

We decided to make this a weekly event.  Every Sunday (unless it's pouring) we'll head over to the little track and put on a waegookin (foreigner) show for all the people there.  I'm really excited it.

I am not, however, excited for tomorrow's meeting.  We know our rights and options.  If Julia fires us outright or threatens to without putting down a four to six week time line, we will take action.  The tricky part will be not losing our cool and not "threatening" her by telling her that we're prepared to go to the Labor Board.  We actually emailed the Ministry of Labor today.  We didn't name our hagwon or Julia, since we're just hoping to get some advice.

Here's hoping it turns out we don't need it.  Good night!

Dinner and a Show

Ben and Amy came over for dinner last night.  We made stuffed pepper, spicy sweet potatoes and glazed steamed carrots.  Amy brought pa jun (veggie pancakes) and peanut butter cookies.  We stuffed ourselves.  Then we stuffed ourselves again with popcorn and mini snickers while we watched Lovely Bones.  

Just as the movie ended, around midnight, a thunderstorm picked up outside.  It was really active with high lightening and thunder every few seconds.  So, being the silly people that we are, we ran outside to get a better view.  We ended up underneath the covered entrance to Sinback elementary.  We watched the storm and talked for another three and a half hours.  We didn't get in until after 4am, which is why this post is late.  My apologies.

There aren't any pictures because we were having too much fun.  I promise I'll get better at getting photographic evidence of such events.

Ben and Amy are considering Portland for when they return to the states.  Ian and I couldn't be more excited about that.  We try not to be pushy (well, I try, Ian's pretty open with his peer pressure), but it would be fabulous to have them there.  I think they would fit very well with the other great people who already live in that area.

We're currently doing more research on the labor laws in Korea.  So far, we've discovered that if Julia does fire us or threaten to, we must walk a very fine line.  If we tell her outright that we will go to the Labor Board, it could be taken as a threat and (because of archaic libel and other laws here) she could have a civil case against us.  So, we have to inform her that we know what we are owed without alarming her or coming out and saying what we will do.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Here's an update in case you find yourself wondering.

Ian and I did a little research this morning about our rights in case we get fired on Monday.  Here are a couple of points of interest from the more experienced folks on the Dave's ESL Cafe forums:
  • The written warning we received a few months ago is null and void because no one signed and dated it.
  • Because of this, if we are terminated on Monday it is as if we were never given warning.  Therefore, we are (supposedly) entitled to a percentage (83%, since that's the amount of our contract we've completed) of our severance pay and airfare or equivalent payment.  This goes against what it states in our contract, so I am a little confused.
  • This money would be owed to us on the day of termination.
  • Also, because we would be fired "without notice" we would be owed one months pay for lost income, but I don't really know how this works. 
  • If we do file a report with the Labor Board, it will take 14 days for anything to happen.  But, after that it seems (by most accounts) that things would turn out in our favor.
I emailed Asia to see if she had any information that could help us.  This is all very confusing and overwhelming, but we're not going to take it laying down.  A few people on the forums reported similar incidents (which is where we got this info) and most people agreed that they were being hosed by their hagwons.  If necessary, we will go to the Labor Board and the US Embassy.

As we learn more, I'll keep you posted.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Ian's a big fan of these propaganda posters and today's events reminded me of this one.

Randomly, and in passing, Danny said something very troubling to Ian.  He said, "So, I heard you might be leaving soon."  To which Ian replied, "Not that I know of.  Who said that?"  Danny just seemed confused and said he didn't know.  Since they live together, we figured that it was probably Montana who said something.  So, Ian mentioned to Montana what we'd heard and asked him if he knew anything specific.  In true Montana form, he vaguely alluded to Julia being the boss and him not knowing anything.  He said we'd all discuss it on Monday (here's to a relaxing weekend, right?).  Montana's a good guy, but he hasn't proven any help when it comes to Julia.

So, Ian and I spent the day vaguely nauseated and anxious.  Our Europe plans may be for naught.  I had gotten a little too attached to the idea of having my birthday in Paris and I'm trying really hard not to pity myself (prematurely, I hope).  Our tickets to SE Asia are nonrefundable, but if we do get fired on Monday, we'll be calling to see if we can change the end destination on our ticket from Siem Reap.

I can't wait for this ordeal to be over.  However, I'd like my effort to be worth something and I'd like to complete our contracts.

Good night.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Korea Fighting!

Well, Korea put up a fight, but their defense was no match for Argentina's offensive onslaught.

But, Ian and I enjoyed the game, mostly because of our company.  We were invited to watch the game over at the Sinback campus with a few of the other Yoon's teachers. Ian got a ride with David, the Korean teacher who took Eun wha's position.  I met them after work.

I don't have any pictures because I didn't want to waste time to go home and grab the camera before I went to the Sinback campus.  I didn't get off work until 8:40, so I missed most of the first half anyway.  At Sinback, they had taken out all the desks in Ian's classroom and spread cardboard on the ground, where we sat in front of the large t.v.  They had beer, soda, fried chicken, pork and all sorts of snack food (including red grapes, which I was really excited about).  I picked up bibimbap for Ian and I, since there wasn't anything substantial enough for us to call dinner.

It was a really good time, as our coworkers turned out to be very vocal fans.

The last ten minutes or so of the game were pretty terrible, with Korea's defeat already obvious (it was 4:1).  I hope we can get together with everyone for the next game, which is on Wednesday.  USA plays Slovenia tomorrow.  You can only watch it stateside if you have ESPN, which is really too bad.  We're pretty behind when it comes to the world's sport.

Good night!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Penny Candy

I have a sweet tooth.  Some studies say that it's genetic, but I have a hard time believing that, since my mom has less of a taste for sugar than anyone I've ever met.

I've tried to eat less refined sugar in my meals (for example, we eat very little bread, especially for Americans), but when it comes to sweet treats, I've had to make allowances.  That said, since we've been in Korea I've worked very hard to retrain my palate.  I don't crave junk food anymore and I feel completely full and satisfied after a meal without any simple starches.  I think some of that has to do with Ian and my nightly "dessert" of some kind.  We make (caloric) room for a treat because deprivation simply doesn't work.

My love of candy gives me a nostalgia for an era that is not my own.  I wish that I had experienced the time when kids could spend a handful of change and get a big bag full of assorted candy in return. Candy is much more corporate now, and much more expensive.

In Korea, there is still some very cheap, simple candy.  You can buy it at any of the one off marts (the big chains just have brand name candy).

Two types of 100 won (dime) candy from the mart next to the Goam campus.  The round one is a citrus hard candy and the flat one is a pumpkin chew.  The pumpkin chew is (very) lightly dusted with rice flour so that is doesn't stick to the plastic.  This gives it a flavor reminiscent of the Japanese Botan Rice Candy that you can buy in the foreign food section of most Safeway stores.

I love that stuff.

Good night!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Same Same

"Same same" is Konglish for anything that is, for lack of a better term, the same.  Students use it for people who look alike, similar things and ideas and anything that matches.

In Korea, it's popular for couples to dress to match each other.  So popular, in fact, that stores sell pairs of entire outfits dedicated to the past time.  Lingerie shops sell his and her underwear and pajama sets.  We saw a lot of it on Jeju-do when we went with Mom.  A very large percentage of Korean newlyweds honeymoon on Jeju and the spirit of dressing to match was definitely in the air.

So, when the two boys in my last class today showed up in matching outfits, I had to take their picture.

They're brothers and their mom put them in matching outfits.  But, the boys (Mattew and Eric, respectively, and no, that's not a typo) seem to be in on the joke.  I said, "Your clothes!" to Mattew and he replied, "Yes, couple.  HA HA HA! It's funny!"  Indeed it was.

I really like these two boys.  There was a very strange little girl in the class named Cathy, but I think she switched to a different class, so it's just the three of us on Tuesday evenings.

I didn't see much of Julia today.  She had a meeting with Rahee last night and, since then, she's been gunning for her.  Julia is sitting in all of Rahee's classes and generally making her life terrible.  She told me that in the meeting Julia told Rahee that classes have been very bad, but she didn't bring her in for a meeting until now because it causes her (Julia) too much stress to deal with her.  Talking with Rahee reminds me that I'm very thankful that Julia and I are not fluent in the same language.  Rahee is trying to decide whether it's better to stick out her contract and fulfill her responsibility or to preserve her self worth and quit now.

Good night!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mala Gente

"Mala gente" is Spanish for "bad people;" but (in Spanish) those words carry a lot more weight than their childish sounding English cousins.

Today's meeting went poorly.  So poorly that my memory of it is clouded with anger and difficult to flush out.  It was nearly 90 minutes of abuse and condescension.  I lost my temper, I didn't yell, but I spoke sternly.  Julia laughed.  I remember telling her that the students should bear 50% of the responsibility in the classroom.  She laughed and set me straight.  Toward the end, she realized she wasn't getting the responses she wanted out of me so she started talking to Ian about my inability to catch the many mistakes I make in the classroom.  "Why can't you see so many mistake?" she asked me again and again.  Then they (Julia + Montana) would pose "questions" like, "Your teaching skill isn't change enough, what do you think?"  I tried to explain that it wasn't really a question, but I was met with a simple, "Yes, it is."  

Montana didn't have our (my) backs.  No one in the country can be trusted to stand up for you.  It's every man for himself and, if there's any benefit to it, feel free to throw your neighbor under the bus.  Climb upon the backs of your peers if it means success.  Korea is a reflection of the worst in any industrialized nation.  Japan's business culture may be equally rough, but at least people treat each other with real respect (as opposed to the feigned variety); and Americans may be dog eat dog, but at least it's (usually) kept on a professional level.  You don't gain anything by tearing your employees down.

I'm sorry.  I try to keep these posts reserved because I don't feel there's a need to complain to a captive audience.  But, today's been a very, very bad day.

A face to the name (from 9 months ago):

Good night!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup!

Korea beat Greece last night 2:0 and the US and England drew at 1:1.  I'm not sure how tie breakers work, since I'm pretty new to this whole tournament.  Tonight Algeria plays Slovenia and then Serbia plays Ghana.  Korea plays Argentina on the 17th, the US plays Slovenia on the 18th and England will go against Algeria on the 19th.

If you're like many Americans (including us!) you might not know much about this sporting event.  So, here's a starter kit:

  • It's officially called the FIFA World Cup and is contested by 32 men's teams, each representing their home nation.
  • Like the Olympics, it's held every four years, with the intermediary three years devoted to qualifying matches.
  • Brazil holds the record with 5 wins (there have been 18 tournaments).  Italy is the current champion.
  •  It is the most widely viewed sporting event in the world (715.1 million people watched the final game in 2006).  
  •  It's in South Africa this year and it will be in Brazil in 2014.  South Africa is the first African nation to host the event.  The host is chosen by vote of the FIFA Executive Committee.  Each association puts in a bid and is then visited to ensure their nation could support the event and meet the requirements.
  • The trophy is not a permanent award.  It is passed on from each champion to the next.
  • There are two stages in the final tournament, the group stage and the knockout stage.  The group stage consists of teams completing in eight groups (four teams each).  Each group plays a round-robin tournament and the top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage.
  • From what I can tell (every "expert" has their own opinion), the teams to watch are: England, Spain, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands.
 Now you're fully prepped to watch the madness happen.  Good night!


As we were walking through the markets downtown today, we noticed a makeshift yut board.  We never got a picture of us playing over at Chun wha's, so we thought we'd share it with you.

It's black stones vs. white stones.  You move on the dots depending on how the sticks land when you throw them.  When you overtake the other player's stones, they have to start back at "go."  So, there some pretty serious strategy involved because you can choose which of your pieces to move.


Ian and I have been eating a lot of junk food this weekend, so we thought it would be a good idea to clean out our systems and eat fresh fruit for the rest of the day.

Watermelons come with convenient twine nets here.  It makes the walk home from E-Mart much easier.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Outside the Box

One of Ian and my biggest frustrations with Korean culture is "group think."  Unlike in our native society, creativity and individuality are not encouraged here (that's true of most Asian cultures).  Our students and most of the adults we interact with have a noticeable lack of critical thinking skills because of this.  

 I found this sticker album at E-Mart while I was looking for birthday presents for Grant.  See all the tan silhouettes?  That's where the stickers go, because, you know, you wouldn't want your kid to put them in the 'wrong' places.

The World Cup is on and Korea is currently playing Greece.  They are ahead 2:0 and most experts predict Korea's victory.  Every time something interesting happens in the game, you can hear the whole neighborhood shout and cheer.  It's like the Superbowl, only it's more about the sport.  I personally hope Korea does well, as I found my Red Devils shirt today at the Converse store downtown.  It doesn't say "Korea Fighting," but it does say "We are Sure to Victory," which is equally awesome.  I'll be sure to post a picture of it soon.

Good night!

Friday, June 11, 2010


Ian made this fabulous polenta casserole last night.  It was adapted (Asian-ized a bit due to our ingredient selection) from this recipe I found on FoodGawker.

If you're disinclined to follow the link, it's a polenta base with sauteed veggies, marinara sauce and a little cheese on top.  Since Korea doesn't have much in the way of decent dairy products, we eat mostly vegan (and incredibly simply) here.  So, this casserole was quite rich to our taste buds, but in a good way. 

We're getting pretty bored with our food choices, so you're likely to see more interesting dishes here.

Today was an interesting and tiring day.  As I've mentioned, I have seven classes in a row (with five minutes between each one) on Fridays.  Julia came in and sat in my sixth class.  Without warning or explanation, she took over my class (in Korean) for fifteen full minutes.  Though it never feels great to have the rug pulled from under you, as long as she's not explicitly debasing me I'm likely to simply sit by.  Her phone rang four times during her fifteen minute reign and she answered it each time.  I want to find a lake in which to deposit it.

I randomly met two talented English speakers today. The first was a woman at the gym who asked me some simple questions about where I worked and so on.  The second was the clerk at Buy the Way when Ian and I were buying our movie snacks (we saw The A-Team tonight).  She lived in Australia for a year, but never took a formal class.  She held an extremely vernacular conversation with us and even took down my number to find a "Korea Fighting" t-shirt.  Julia lived in Australia for four years, took formal classes and can hardly string a sentence together.  I believe that's proof that self importance and language study don't mix.

Good night!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

비타민 C!

I haven't felt great all day.  I woke up with no energy and I felt pretty weak.  

It didn't help that I had Basic B27 to look forward to today.  That class makes all the teachers (even the native Korean ones) want to hide in the corner.  I saw Danny on Tuesday just after he'd had them and he looked like he wanted to cry.

Rahee had an open class today which means that the parents (mothers, Korean fathers are too busy with man things) come and sit in on the classes.  She was so stressed out that she had a nightmare that one of her students committed suicide in class.  Yes, Korean mothers are that bad.

One of the mothers brought Rahee a couple boxes of fruit flavored 비타민(Vitamin) C tabs.  There were probably 100 tabs in each box, so she gave a couple sheets to each of the teachers.  Because I was bored, hungry and not feeling well, I proceeded to eat 24 tabs.  I expected to have a rocking stomachache, but I didn't.  In fact, I felt quite a bit better.  Maybe I'm coming down with something and the 비타민 C was just what I needed, though I probably didn't need it in that dosage.

Vitamin C is a popular "boost" here.  They sell it in tabs, drinks, powders (for water), etc.  You name it, I bet vitamin C comes in that form here.

Good night!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stuffed Peppers!

Tonight is my first time eating a stuffed pepper.

I'm stoked!

Good night!

Meeting, resumed

I mentioned yesterday that I had a mini meeting with Julia and Montana during one of my breaks yesterday.  She was unhappy because I skipped a couple of pages in the book (and my students had forgotten the main point of last week's lesson) and Montana softened the blow by jumping in and playing translator, thus shortening our interaction.

Unfortunately, when Ian and I showed up for our meeting this morning, Julia picked up where she left off.  More accurately, when we walked in Julia was watching a video of me teaching the class she had sat in yesterday.  She didn't really say anything to us as we sat down and then she ran out of the room to make a phone call (presumably to Montana, so that she didn't have to interact with us too much).  No good mornings were exchanged.  Instead, I was greeted with instructions to watch the video and find the many mistakes I apparently made and a lecture about my student's inability to recite their addresses during the warm up review.  When I reminded her that I had spent an entire 40 minute lesson teaching them how to say their addresses in English, she told me that my students' forgetfulness was due to my lack of "times enough" spent on the subject.  She reminded me that my student's studying (including any and all work at home) is my responsibility, not theirs.  If they forgot, the problem is with me, not them.

So, by the time Montana got to campus, I was fuming and failing at all attempts to keep myself from arguing.  Just before Montana showed up, Julia came back in from one of her many phone calls and asked us if we thought that she caused us too much stress (with a smirk, just in case we mistook it for a sincere concern).  Actually, what she said at first was "Do you think I am amazing to you because I push to you so much?"  I told her I didn't understand the question.

Montana sat down and Julia spoke to him in Korean for what felt like 10 minutes.  Then they left the room together and only Montana returned.  He told us what she wanted, which was exactly the same thing that she had him tell me yesterday.  Then we chatted about the bizarre world that is Korean culture.  Montana told us that after 10+ years abroad, Korea seems crazy; no one has any manners and the whole nation is obsessed with CCTV and other forms of surveillance.  At Yoon's, when a student arrives the put their thumb on an electronic pad and it sends a text message to their parents telling them where their child is.  Then as they are leaving they put their thumb on the pad again and it tells the parents to expect their child home shortly.  While that's a good use of technology in some safety and parenting aspects, for children who are disallowed any free or play time, it's just another way to be held hostage by a culture that no longer believes in childhoods.

Montana is observing Ian tomorrow; hopefully that means I'll see less of Julia. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


  I was supposed to have my Leaders class at 7:15, but it was cancelled.  My last class ended at 6:25 and I was told about the cancellation shortly after that, but I'm obligated to stay on campus until at least 8 o'clock.

Even though I have had all this extra time that I could have used to work on planning our Southeast Asia trip or writing the article that I started (and keep telling myself I will finish), I've done nothing.  

It's funny how having a job, which take up a very large percentage of most people's actuality, you dislike can drain the pleasure from other areas in your life.  Even though I'm excited to go on vacation and I want to write the article, I can't muster up the motivation to work on either of them.  I spend the bulk of my life in Korea dealing with things that I find daunting; so even the smallest amount of effort required outside of work seems unreasonable.  Maybe it's a defense mechanism I've built up: creating a comfort zone inside an uneasy environment.

This intermittent self-defeating attitude of mine snowballs until it sits pretty heavy on my shoulders.  It's days like these that I feel like I have nothing to post about here.

I got to know Montana a little better today.  He has a triple citizenship: Korea, Italy and the US.  Actually, he recently gave up his US citizenship for tax reasons in Korea.  He lived in Northern California where he owned and ran a vacation spot on Big Bear Lake.  The economy hit the travel industry especially hard and his little operation was bought out.  So, he looked for work elsewhere and decided to come back to Korea for awhile.  

He was present for a mini meeting I had with Julia today in which she got onto me about skipping pages in some of the units.  I skipped the pages because they were reading intensive (the students would read a paragraph and answer questions) and in a forty minute "conversation" class I didn't think they were a good use of time.  I told her that and, since I was disagreeing with her, she repeated herself over and over again.  Julia doesn't understand differences of opinion; to her, you must be misunderstanding her if you're not in line with her point of view.  Montana seemed to notice that I was bustling with rage internally, so he came to my rescue, jumped in and acted as a translator so that Julia would back off.  It worked and I got to see that Montana isn't afraid of Julia.  There was no kowtowing, ass kissing or shyness like we saw with Gene.  Montana translated her words to me and told me pretty frankly that I should just comply, but in no way did he even feign an alliance with her.  So far, I'm feeling pretty good about him.  He's definitely got a spine and this company could use somebody with one. 

Good night!

Monday, June 7, 2010


Today was an all in all good day.  But, things took a a turn for the strange when I met a man named Montana.  He came into my classroom, introduced himself as a new employee and asked if he could sit in my class.  Of course, I obliged.  I found his English nearly incomprehensible, but not for the reasons you'd expect.  He is fluent and his vernacular is very American, but he speaks so quickly that his accent (though not very pronounced) obscures everything he says.  I didn't even catch his name until I asked him again after work.  His name in Korean sounds like "Ian" which apparently means mountain.  He worked as a cook for the Italian army for two years, so he took the name Montana to reflect the root of his Korean name.

I noticed that he took notes during my class.  When I was finished for the day, he came in and gave me a can of flavored water.  He came back a few seconds later to tell me that Julia wanted to say a few things to me.  He told me not to take it personally.  Our Korean coworkers are constantly telling us not to take things personally.  I wonder if this reputation for sensitivity applies to all Americans or just Ian and I specifically.  So, he and Julia sat down and gave me some notes regarding the class that Montana reviewed.  They mostly dealt with my apparent inability to control my students and garner their respect.  That class was in especially psychotic form today, namely Tom who knocked over his desk, fell down and nearly broke his glasses.  Tom is difficult to control on a good day, let alone a day like today.  All of my students acted as if it were a full moon tonight.  They were just silly with energy.

Montana will apparently be moving into a house with Danny soon.  He said Ian and I should come over sometime for bbq, his apparent specialty.

It seems Julia has finally replaced Gene with his near antithesis.  Where Gene was nervous and careful, Montana is frank and to the point.  He seems like a nice guy, but I'm reserving judgment until I get to know him better.  Julia must not be too concerned about money if she feels comfortable hiring a new, only somewhat necessary person.

I spent about twenty minutes talking to Rahee after work.  She told me that in a meeting between her mother (who is a home teacher for Yoon's) and Julia, her mother asked about Rahee's position at Goam.  Julia told her that Rahee would be finishing work at the end of July because she didn't want to work anymore (implying that Rahee has a poor work ethic).  In reality, Rahee had told Julia that her flight back to Europe was on August 25th and that she should leave Yoon's about a week prior.  Upset, Rahee's mother called her and asked what was going on and why she would say such a thing to her employer, leaving Rahee to explain everything.  She was pretty upset about it.  Apparently, Julia also recently worked her magic on Stephanie and Sue, turning them against each other.  Julia asked Stephanie to work a month longer than she had planned and then turned around and told Sue that she couldn't be put on the payroll because Stephanie had asked for another month's work for more money.  Now that the business is fully failing, Julia is completely out of control.

By the time Ian and I leave, we'll have seen nearly two complete staffs at Goam (and Haso has had several changes, as well).

Did you notice the new countdown to the right?

Good night!


On Friday, Sue told us that we were to attend a "foreigner meeting" at 10:30 on Monday (today).  I had read on Facebook that it was apparently a "sex ed" class and that only hagwon teachers would be in attendance.

I expected a big meeting hall in city hall with a moderately formal atmosphere and a Korean official of some kind doing the talking.

When we got into the cab and handed the driver the note (in Korean) we were given, he had no idea where to take us.  He asked us many questions that we didn't understand and eventually Ian called Julia and had her talk to the driver.  He took us to a parking lot surrounded by three buildings.  No one else was in the lot and we had no idea which building our meeting was in.  There was a man walking into one of the buildings, so we gave him the note hoping he would help us, but he just smiled and bowed.  That building turned out to be a gym.  The next one was an empty Tae Kwon Do studio.  So, we tried the last building and found the meeting and were handed pamphlets.  They were already 30 minutes into it.  Our hagwon had misinformed us.  There were maybe 15 people there and Andrew (a foreign teacher who has been here for about six months) was in the middle of the room doing the speaking.  Unfortunately, Ian and I arrived just seconds before Andrew spoke briefly on taking one's job seriously (as in, show up on time).  Andrew's far too nice to call us out or even think to, but I apologized after the meeting.

The topic was not sexual education, at least, not really.  The first half hour (which we missed, but I read in the pamphlet) seemed to be about cultural and workplace differences and how to deal with them.  Basically, foreigners are to kowtow (a word which, by the way, literally means to bow and touch one's forehead to the ground- a bow practiced in Korea under special circumstances and on holidays) to everything their employers  ask.  Supervisors do not expect to be questioned, so it should not be done unless one's reasons are very strong.  The second half of the meeting covered appropriate behavior between foreign teachers and students. Basically, they have parents at home to cuddle them and Korean teachers to discipline them, so do not touch them.  It is too easy for children to embellish stories and too difficult for foreigners to defend themselves.  No touch is good touch, completely contrary to what Julia has been demanding of us.  She has told me on several occasions to touch and cuddle my students so that on the street they may run up to me and hug me.  Ian actually told one of the Korean teachers at the meeting about our hagwon's request and she told us we were better off not touching students at all.  At the end of the meeting they reminded us not to private tutor.

Andrew later told us that it wasn't until Friday that he was told he'd be speaking at this meeting.  And even then, he was told he'd say a few words (in reality, he was handed a pamphlet and told to go for it).  Apparently, these meetings will be held twice a year.  Luckily, we'll be gone before the next one.

This meeting was just a further reminder of the bum deal we got with our hagwon.  Granted, they pay us well and on time, but they treat us pretty terribly.  As far as I could tell, all the other teachers came in groups, escorted by at least one Korean teacher.  Many of the schools provided transportation and lunch or coffee afterward.  Ian and I were left to catch taxis with no information as to where we'd be going (not too mention the start time miscommunication).  We left feeling alone and abused, not a good start to a week.

Last I heard, we still have a mandatory meeting with Julia tomorrow, so the good times will keep coming.

We Shall See

Today was very laid back.  Ian and I mostly sat around being languid; it was really hot today.

Ben and Amy came over later and Ian gave a tutorial on preparing tofu.  We had a sampler of bbq tofu, pan fried salty tofu and golden fried tofu for dipping with curried cabbage.  Amy brought some sweet biscuits and made strawberry shortcake.  We drank iced coffee and watched Hot Tub Time Machine, which was a little stupid, but funny nonetheless.  It was a laid back evening, perfect for nights that are not much cooler than the days that come before them.

Tomorrow morning we will head out to our sex ed class.  Ben's director told him to be there at 10 and we were told 10:30, so we'll see what happens.

Good night!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Day in the Sun

Due to our jobs and somewhat Korean lifestyle, Ian and I spend a lot of time indoors. Recently, we've been remedying this by having picnics.

So, yesterday was a blast, even though the temperature hit 91 and the humidity hit a peak of 82% in the middle of the day.

They (Chun wha, Chang su and their son Min su) picked us up a little after 9 and we headed to the Andong Hahoe Folk Village. The coolest thing about the village, which the Wikipedia article doesn't explicitly express, is that people actually live there and they are a part of the heritage preservation.

Andong is home to Korean mask culture. These two masks are from a satirizing a shamanistic exorcist (say that three times fast). There are four traditional masks assigned to that play. The top mask is the aristocrat and the bottom is the bride.

Puppets for sale.

Elizabeth II celebrated her 73rd birthday in Andong in 1999. There is a whole mini-museum dedicated to things like the food they served her and the table at which she sat. She planted a tree while she was there and these are the shovels used in the ceremony.

Rice paddy.

Lily pads.

This man lives in the village. He was very friendly and he was wearing a sweet bolo tie.

Different types of roofs and building materials originally designated standing in the village.

These houses used to be made out of clay soil, but now they use cement.

This is part of one of the noble houses. As far as I could tell, no one lives in these. They are more like museums with a few rooms made into displays. The noble houses are built up on stilts while the commoner homes are ground level.

This house burnt down. There were people touring it, but we didn't go over there.

In the middle of the village, this man painted "family precepts" (or "golden rules" specific to one's family) on rolls made of fabric and parchment. The one here is written in Hanja (Chinese characters).

The small lettering is the date: "Summer of the Tiger..."

Chun wha and Chang su asked us what our "family precept" was. Ian and I then took to discussing how to explain that Westerners don't have the concepts of honor and filial piety that Eastern societies do. We never had to explain, though, because Chun wha chose one for us and had it painted. "Faith, Wish, Love" in Hangul (I believe she chose Hangul and not Hanja because we can read the former). Ian took a video of the whole process, which will be at the end of this post. I am so stoked to have been given such a gift. It will definitely hang on our wall in the states.

Commoners used these swings to try to peer into the houses of the nobility, since they were built higher than their homes.

I'm not sure where this ferry goes.

Lastly, we visited the mask museum. It had masks from all over Asia and other parts of the world.

For lunch, they treated us to 콩국수 (kongguksu), which is a cold noodle soup made from soymilk. It was interesting. I'm not a big fan of Korean soymilk. It's full fat and very rich. But, I was happy to try something new.

On the way home, we stopped in Yongju which is famous for growing gingseng. Chun wha wanted to make drink for us with the ginseng back at their place. It was made by blending fresh ginseng, milk and honey and, though chunky, it was delicious. It felt like eating a power breakfast in a glass.

Then we drove back to Jecheon. We stopped at E-Mart to do some shopping, presumably for dinner. They kept asking us what we wanted (expecting foreigner specific requests like "bread"), but we just told them we would eat whatever they wanted. In the end, she made tons of banchan, rice and doenjang jjigae and lettuce to make wraps. It was fabulous. Nothing beats a homemade Korean meal. I really wish that we could have given that to Mom.

We started with a bunch of delicious, summery fruit.

And, upon Chang su's adamant request, several types of alcohol (beer, soju, whiskey, mokkoli, and later sake). Between the fruit/booze fest and dinner, we played yut. Yut is a traditional game played by throwing four sticks and then calculating your move based on numbers assigned to the possible positions the stick can land in. It is especially popular on New Year's. We played this game once before when we ran into a group of older Korean people having a block party. Here's that post in case you forgot.

I hope to have more adventures with Chun wha and Chang su. They mentioned going to the East Sea, so we will make sure that happens.

I left the video uploading all day (literally) and it still wasn't finished when I checked it tonight.  So, it will have to wait.