Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Cold

Just wanted to say that it is really cold. Today was freezing. Tomorrow's predicted forecast is the high of 16 degrees Fahrenheit and the low of 4. That's -9 and -16 respectively in Celsius. I sure do miss our Southern California winter. Please think warm thoughts for us.

Monday, December 14, 2009

27 And Out Of The Country!!!!






I was really bummed about celebrating my birthday in Korea. I didn't want to go to dinner or have a night on the town but wanted to celebrate it in my own fashion. So 27 and out the country cocktail party was created. At a Marilyn Monroe exhibit a few weeks back with the girls there was a picture that really caught my eye it was used for inspiration of the party. It was a black and white picture of Marilyn's face matted with a pink hue of light making the picture a striking hot pink color. My goal was to create a party where everyone could get dressed up and forget they were in Korea. Between Dondaedmun (a craft area), the won store (the dollar store), and my husband's help we were able to transform our apartment into a hot pink New York loft. The party was a success food was eaten, my cheeseball was a hit, cocktails were flowing, dancing was had, and I believe everyone in attendance spent the better part of Sunday laid up in recovery mode from the good times.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wine Train





On Halloween morning, Dan and I met up with our neighbors Jess and Fran and headed to Seoul station via the M2104 bus. At Seoul station, we met up with Ben, Lydia, and 3 other friends to embark on our Korean wine train adventure. At first we had trouble finding the line for the train then we noticed a long line of Koreans standing in front a sign that said “Wine train”. We checked in and waited for 10 minutes until the train came. The train featured four themes under which the cabins were divided: red wine, white wine, ginseng, and herbs.
On the exterior of the train was photographs of wine while the interior was decorated like a wine bar. We sat in the ginseng cabin; instead of regular passenger seats tables of two or four filled the space. En route to the winery we made about 4 or 5 stops picking up passengers. We sat around talking anxiously waiting for the wine and snacks to be served. Finally a platter of snacks was served crackers, peanuts, muffins, and Kraft cheese slices along with 4 types of wine (red-merlot, white-sparkling chardonnay, grape juice wine, and plum wine). Overall, I didn’t like most of the wines but I’m not really a fan of red wines to begin with. The red wine was too dry, the plum wine tasted like cough syrup, the grape juice wine tasted like wine from communion (Dan enjoyed this one), and the sparkling chardonnay was my favorite it tasted like champagne mixed with wine. We were pacing ourselves to taste more wine at the winery.
The train stopped and we hopped onto a bus to the winery Wine Korea. We were served a Korean lunch with wine (red wine and plum wine). After lunch we walked around the grounds taking pictures and admiring the leaves changing for fall. We followed our wine tour group of about 30 people to a large meeting room and the tour leader told us about the winery in Korean. Being fluent in Korean I was able to understand. This winery has been producing wine since 1998. After about 10 minutes of having no idea of what was being said I assume it was an explanation of the wine-making process. The tour group started to remove their shoes and we followed. I was excited because I thought we going to stomp grapes like on I love Lucy. Instead our group just put our feet in a wine foot bath. After the foot bath, we went back into the meeting room and tried to make a bath ball out of wine. We were unsuccessful cause Ben poured too much wine into our ingredients causing the ball to be to wet. We took a tour around the winery seeing bottles of wine being processed, a museum, and wine-making booths. Anxiously waiting for the wine tasting to begin we were told that the wine tasting only takes place on the train. Slightly disappointed we were told to get back on the bus to head to our next destination.
We headed to Geumsan, a town which produces 80 percent of domestic ginseng. We walked around a ginseng museum and along a street where you can buy ginseng, other roots, and herbs. The locals were happy to see foreigners and invited us to have some dong dong ju and fried ginseng. Dong dong ju is a traditional drink made from rice and has a milky appearance. It is served out of a large bowl and poured into a separate cup with a ladle. The Korean men were especially happy to see Dan and Fran cause of their blond hair and blue eyes. I swear these two get the most compliments I have ever seen. We departed from our new friends and headed back to the bus to catch the train. We hopped on the train and headed back to Seoul. We were served a light dinner Kimbap and hard boiled eggs. Someone in our group found out that the wine was unlimited and let’s just say we drank our money’s worth.
We arrived at Seoul Station feeling good and ready for the rest of the evening. The group parted ways to enjoy Halloween activities Dan, Jess, Fran, and I headed to Everest an Indian restaurant for dinner. This restaurant had the most amazing chicken tikka massala, garlic naan, and chicken tikka. Dan and I enjoyed the food so much that we ended up having it 4 times that week for dinner. We headed back to our town to go to a Halloween party but it started raining and we were all tired from the day so we called it a night.

Beijing (Day 4)


So on day four we slept in a little but still woke up relatively early. We had a few more sights to see and we wanted the evening to relax. We first headed to the Tiananmen Square again to see if the mausoleum was open. At this point we did not know that it was closed for the festivities. After the disappointing discovery we headed to the Temple of Heaven. It was a good walk from our hotel, we did not mind. We were up for yet another adventure.
After about a 45 minute walk we arrived at the Temple of Heaven. We had to pay admission to enter the park that surrounded the temple. It was quite beautiful. There were many flower displays set up for the 60th anniversary. The grounds were well kept and the weather was perfect. We strolled through the massive park for some time. We made our way to the center of the park to see the temple. We knew we were going the right way because we were following the mass amount of people.
The temple was nice. It was quite impressive. It was yet another place for worship and sacrifice. We took many pictures as well as had many pictures taken of us. After the temple museum we made our way to the south gate (opposite of where we entered). We thought we knew where a subway station was according to our map and headed in that direction.
While walking we stumbled upon an interesting public display of anger. A man was standing in front of a bus refusing to move out of the way and was yelling obscenities at the driver. We found a place to sit and watched the drama play out. After twenty minutes of yelling and the passengers exiting the bus it was a stalemate. We continued our walk and could not find the station. Apparently the map we had was made before the station was built and we were a good twenty minute walk away for where the actual station is now.
After finally finding the station we made our way to the center of the city. We had some Outback for lunch. It was pretty good. We picked up yet another Outback pin to add to the collection. After that we went to the Silk Road building. This place was floor to floor of knockoffs. Latanya was in heaven. It made the Bangkok one look like a kiosk. They had so much more fakes than the other one had, as well as good one's. Unfortunately we were on a budget and could not go berserk, though we wanted to. We did buy a sweeter for Latanya, the lady started at $75 and I got her down to $20. I must say, I sure can haggle.
When we left the Silk Road we stumbled upon some interesting neighborhoods. We came to little Moscow, full of Russian writing and advertising as well as a fur coat mini mall. Then we walked through the area with all the embassies. It was fun playing the game, guess which embassy, by looking at the flag. I won. We found North Korea's embassy and threw a rock at the window of the main entrance...not really, just kidding. I did stick my foot under the fence and I can officially say that I stepped foot on North Korean soil. Latanya was angry with me. She thought I was going to be shot or something. Hehe.
Next we made our way to our hotel. Before we got back we got some coffee and relaxed for the evening. The next morning we needed to leave the hotel by 8am to head to the airport. We had such a fantastic trip. The weather was so clear and perfect. We think we did a lot in the time allotted. The Great Wall was by far the best moment of the whole trip, but going to North Korea was a close second.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Beijing (Day 3)



When we booked our Great Wall excursion, we had many choices to choose from. We had decided to first choose a part of the wall that was not going to be overcrowded. Seeing as it was their National holiday weekend, we did not want to be walking the wall alongside the entire population of China. So we decided on the Mutianyu section of the wall. Our next decision was whether we wanted to have shopping included or excluded. The shopping with, was cheaper than the shopping without. We did not quite grasp why it was cheaper for shopping than without, but we chose with, because it was cheaper. I know, cheapskates.
Our driver and tour guide arrived bright and early and we headed off for a great Chinese sightseeing day. We were driven in a small van and were accompanied by four other foreigners. Our first stop was at a jade factory. It was there where we realized what the shopping meant. The shopping included, simply meant that the tour guide would take us places and people would try and sell us stuff. With the exception of having to stay at the jade place for 45 minutes, it was not too bad. We did confirm that we still think Jade is tacky, but at least we understand the historical significance behind the jewelry in China.
After the jade place we headed to the Ming tombs. The Ming tombs were included in our Great Wall package and I for one was really excited to see them. Over the rule of the Ming Dynasty the Emperors were buried after death in an area just north of Beijing. They built tombs for themselves similar to the Egyptians. However unlike the Egyptians they were nothing like the pyramids. There are only three tombs open to the public of the 13. The tomb we went to was actually not too breath taking. It was merely another small palace, much like many we had already seen. It was fully equiped with several buildings and a water way, along with a sacrificial temple. The tomb itself was underneath the temple and we were unable to see it, mainly because it is still buried and untouched.
After the Ming Tombs we headed to the Great Wall. We had a delicious Chinese lunch at the base of the wall. The restaurant was nice and the food was amazing. It was starting to get a little warm so we made sure to buy some water before our hike. Hike? Yep, you read correctly, hike. I know most of you are thinking Latanya=Hike, no way, right. Well we both decided that we came all the way to the Great Wall of China, and there was no way that we want to take a cable car to the top. I mean what kind of story would that be.
This portion of the wall sat a top the mountain side. It curved its way across the Chinese terrain. We started our accent and made a good pace for ourselves. It was not an easy hike by any means and we were feeling the burn about ten minutes in. The trail had steps all the way up that were really steep. We made sure to take a little break here and there. Over all it was about a 30 minute hike. Our tour guide told us it was a 45 minute hike, so we felt accomplished to do it in 30.
Once we arrived at the base of the wall we were taken back. We just kept looking at the wall for a couple of minutes. We could not believe where we were. As a kid you learn about the Great Wall of China in books and even as a non history buff one understands the historical and cultural significance it has. We were actually here. Actually at the base. We then eagerly made our way on to the wall itself. Once atop we had a view unlike any we had ever seen before. The country side was absolutely beautiful. We could see the wall curve its way through the mountainous contour. The wall went as far as the eye could see. We were pleased to see not a huge crowd of people. This was exactly what we wanted. We wanted an experience special in the way that could not be interrupted by mobs of tourists.
We started to make our way to the different towers. We found a cannon facing towards Mongolia and I could not pass up such a perfect photo opportunity. As we hiked along the wall we kept reminding ourselves that we were on the The Great Wall of China. It was an accomplishment. I had always envisioned seeing the Great Wall but actually being there was nothing like I would have ever dreamed. We were thrilled with excitement and satisfaction.
We walked the wall for about an hour we said good bye and made our way down the steep path. It was still rather warm but the tree lined path kept it cool. Once down at the bottom we met up with the rest of our tour and headed back to Beijing.
We had one more stop before our hotel. We stopped at a silk factory, where we learned all about the silkworm and silk. We were again propositioned to buy, but we knew it was a huge tourist trap.
Our tour guide then took us to a tea house, where we had a lovely tea ceremony. We got to sample several different teas. They again tried to sell us tea. We gladly took our free samples and enjoyed the information.
After the tea we were able to get a foot massage and learn about herbal medicine. We sat down in a small room and one by one everyone got a wonderful foot massage. But wait, not exactly everyone. We all had our feet soaked in warm water and when it was my turn the staff was starting to pack up for the end of the day. I, awaiting eagerly, just thought they needed to get some more towels, or maybe some more warm water. The masseuse came back and asked me to take my feet out of the water. I thought, yes, finally. She then proceeded to ask me to kindly dry my feet, and she removed the bowl. I asked the herbal Dr. in charge, if I was going to get a foot massage. She laughed and walked away. It's not often that you can get mad at not getting a free foot massage, but I was. I was more disappointed than anything. I had been saying all weekend that my feet were hurting; Latanya can attest. Everyone else got one but me. I told our tour guide and he was shocked. I figured since the place was closing and everyone was done, I did not want to try and make everyone wait on me. So as sad as I was Latanya promised to give my feet a rub down back at the hotel. What a great wife.
We then were dropped off at our hotel. We made arrangements to eat with one of the ladies on our tour. She was really nice. She was from England and lived and worked in Shanghai. We took a stroll to see the street eats. We walked through a long row of street food stands. They had everything you could imagine. They had: fried starfish, dumplings, snake, eel, scorpion, seahorse, silkworms, sheep testicles and much much more. We decided on some delicious dumplings. After our appetizers we made our way to a local Chinese restaurant. It was quite busy so we new it must be good, and it certainly was. We had some nice conversation with our new friend and then said good night. We went back to the hotel to turn in and I cashed in on the free foot massage; oh how I needed it. The next day was our last full day of Beijing and we still had some more sights to see.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beijing (Day 2)


We woke up the next day and took a good look at our hotel/hostel our room was the size of a small storage unit at public storage. We had two small twin beds with a nightstand in between. We had an attached bathroom that we discovered was absolutely filthy (I thought Latanya was going to vomit on sight)let's just say it was not what we pictured but hey we only had to sleep there. We woke up early at 7:00am got dressed quickly took a shower with the lights off and made out way to Tiananmen square. We wanted to get a head start because of the celebrations the day before we knew it was going to be crowded. From our hotel it was a seven minute walk to the square we quickly discovered that China has a heck of a lot of people. The crowds were massive and it was only 8am we waddled our way through the crowds towards the square. The first thing we saw was the gate towards the Forbidden City with a giant portrait of Chairman Mao. We knew right then that we were standing in history. We were speechless for several minutes and just took in the amazing scenery around us. From our vantage point we could see that Tiananmen Square was enormous. We walked under the main street to enter the actual square itself there were huge lines going through security check points. We made our way through one of the check points there was pushing and shoving galore this was the first of many times on our trip that we felt like cattle. After the checkpoint, we walked around the square once again we realized how massive this place was. They had all the floats from the parade celebrations the day before on display. The decorations were so beautifully done we must have taken twenty minutes to do a full circle around the center of Tiananmen Square. We tried to visit Chairman Mao's mausoleum (where his body is displayed) but unfortunately it was closed because of the celebrations. We made sure to take many photos and made our way to the Forbidden city. Before we left the square, we had started to notice many people not taking pictures of the sights but taking pictures of us there attempts to be sneaky was obviously obvious it was quite funny. This would be the first of 2 million photographs of us in China (they must have heard of our fame all the way from Korea).

As we made the way to the Forbidden City we realized it wasn't as easy to find the entrance as we thought. A short 45 minutes later we found the entrance to the walled city. We bought our tickets and entered through a gigantic gateway. The Forbidden City is fully equipped with a mote, many palaces, gardens, thousands of tourists, and many more of our fans. The creativity of their picture taking ability seemed to get better as the day went on. For example, they would pretend to be taking a picture of something behind us while in reality they were zoomed in on our faces. That did not distract us from seeing such a grand and beautiful place. The Forbidden City was closed off to commoners for over 500 years it was special to think for the day that were apart of royalty. Our feet were hurting by this point so we made our way to McDonald's to eat lunch and sit down for a while. It was good to have some familiar food and rest up a bit because we had much more to see.

Next on our itinerary were the Olympic sites. We had to catch a subway in order to get to the Olympic park. Now that it was early afternoon the crowds had increased even more. As soon as we stepped into the subway station Latanya started to hyperventilate. We attempted to buy subway tickets there was a lot of pushing and shoving. Latanya freaked out so I had to step up and plow my way through the sea of Chinese people and buy the tickets. After a great deal of struggle I was able to obtain two subway tickets. This was only half the battle we now had to make our way down to the subway itself. We were now apart of a river of people that flowed down the stairs to the train. Once on the platform we were again elbow to elbow with many people. After the train arrived we were not surprised to see it completely full. When the doors opened only a few people got off and we shoved ourselves with the crowd onto the train. I was pulling Latanya's arm so we could stay together and we squeezed our helpless bodies onto the train. Obviously, it was standing room only we did not have to worry about falling over because we were being held up by the other thousands of people next to us. It was such an experience to get on the subway. Two transfers later we arrived at the Olympic Park.

When we got out of the subway station we saw the Bird's Nest. Latanya kept talking about all she wanted to see was the Bird's Nest she was so excited. The stadium was breathtaking, the architecture was so modern, and the scenery was so serene. Across from the stadium was the water cube. We decided to take a tour inside the cube and stadium. It felt so amazing to be under the same roof where Micheal Phelps won his 8 gold medals. After the water cube, we took a tour of the Bird's Nest. Being inside the stadium was such an amazing feeling to know that the world's greatest athletes all stood here about 13 months ago. Also, to be in the same place as the Beijing opening ceremony brought back all the excitement we felt watching it from home. We then made our way to the top of the stadium where we would be greeted by many more of our fans we had a 15 minute photo shoot with people lined up to take pictures with us. They must of realized that we too were Olympic athletes that participated in the 2008 Olympics. After our photo shoot we headed out of the stadium and took a nice leisure walk around the area. It was growing dark, we got back on the subway and headed to our hotel. We knew we had to wake up early the next morning for we were to go to the Great Wall of China.



You can look at the rest of our pics using the link below- Enjoy
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=28446&id=1654712300&l=e55fd1e28b

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Beijing (Day 1)


Well we are back from our Beijing trip safe and sound. Let me start by saying we had an amazing time. We originally were suppose to leave Korea at 8:00am on Thursday. The early departure meant we had to get up at around 3:00am. Fortunately our flight was rescheduled for later that day at 1:00pm. So we got up at our normal time and made an identical journey like Thailand to Incheon Airport. Because it was the Chuseok Holiday (Korean Thanksgiving/Harvest Festival) there was expected to be a lot of traffic. On the contrary, in the morning it was a typical drive to the airport. Before we took flight Latanya and I made a traditional Korean fan in the airport. They were having a cross cultural experience center, free cross cultural experience center that is, and we thought it would be fun. At first is was great and then we realized we do not have too much patience for art.
We arrived in Beijing at about 3:00 in the afternoon. The flight was only an hour and a half, however we were delayed over an hour in Korea. When we arrived we made our way through customs and met our shuttle driver, so we thought. She was not the driver but took us to a waiting area for the shuttle. After about twenty minutes the van pulled up and we hopped in. The Beijing sky was so blue. It was such a nice afternoon. The temperature was a little warmer than Korea. The Van ride lasted only about a half hour or so.
We then arrived at the New Dragon Hostel. Hmm...but isn't our place called the Forbidden City Hotel, it sure is. What in the world? We asked the driver why we were where we were, and he said that our hotel was closed for the day. You see China was celebrating their National Day (much like the Fourth of July). Not only their National Day, but it was the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Regime. So one could say it was a big deal. Well anyways our hotel lies with in a mile radius of Tiananmen Square (giant parade grounds). The mile radius was completely closed off to anybody not involved with the festivities, which were the commoners, us.
So the driver told us that we should stay at the hostel until maybe 9pm and that they would take us there later. He said we would definitely get there by midnight. We obviously had other plans. We did not want to stay cooped up in there for 6 to 9 hours, we wanted to see Beijing. So we grabbed a map and made our way towards the festivities.

Shortly after we headed out we started to realize that our backpacks were rather heavy. As the minutes passed they grew heavier and heavier. But we knew that this would not stop us. We walked towards our hotel and were met with crowds of people just standing around looking towards Tiananmen Square. All the shops in the nearby malls were closed. As a matter of fact everything was closed with the exception of a few small restaurants. We zigged and zagged our way down many streets to try and reach our hostel, because at this point we did not know that there was a strict barrier closing everything off. After countless failures we rested for a while on the sidewalk. We had some food from a local restaurant and ate it on the curb, literally street eats. It was delicious. It was simple, rice and a stir fry of veggies in a spicy glaze sauce.
Finally night came and more people gathered on the streets still looking in the direction of Tiananmen Square. Shortly there after we heard some loud booms. We were like, are they firing the tanks from the parades. We sure hope not. We stood up quickly and realized it was not gunshots but fireworks, many fireworks. We could see them just over the buildings in the direction of Tiananmen Square. So now we knew what everyone was looking for. The fireworks display started out like a Disney show but then grew to a magnificent extravaganza. There were fire works of different shapes, sizes and colors. We were impressed. After about 45 minutes of fireworks the festivities were officially over.

We attempted to cross the barricade but were told that we had to wait another hour. We did not want to take no for an answer and tried to weave our way to our hotel instead. Once on the other side of the barricade we attempted to find our hotel. It was like being behind enemy lines, very sneaky and exhilarating. We finally found our hotel and ran inside to check in. We were exhausted from caring our backpacks the whole day. It turns out that our hotel was only about 100 yards away from where we were standing watching the fireworks, so close. We were so tired we did not even look at our amenities and passed out. It was not until we woke up the next day when realized what we got ourselves into.

You can look at the rest of our pics using the link below- Enjoy
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=28212&id=1654712300&l=8f1aca18d5

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beijing


Dan and Tan are embarking on another adventure for 5 days. On October 3, Korea will be celebrating Chuseok (한가위) which is equivalent to Thanksgiving. During this holiday Koreans return to their hometowns to pay respects to the spirits of one's ancestors. We decided to leave Korea all together and are headed to Beijing to celebrate their national day on October 1. This national day will be a special one for China they have shutdown central Beijing to celebrate 60 years of Communist rule. We are so excited to continue learning about other cultures, be in the same city as the 2008 summer Olympics...the birds nest that we watched in awe from home, and most of all climb the Great Wall of China. We have been very blessed to have this opportunity and want to thank you all of you readers for keeping up during our year abroad.

Dan and Tan
(P.S. The picture above is a Chuseok gift from Dan's principal..these little fish are usually served at bars and restaurant as snacks)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Co-Workers

Sometime ago I posted about my co-teachers. Well, since that time our English Department has grown some. When I first started back in March I had two co-teachers, Kate and Grace. I taught with them for the majority of the time. In the first semester I taught 3rd and 5th graders with Grace. I had six 3rd grade classes and four 5th grade classes. I taught four 6th grade classes with Kate. Now that we are in a new semester I am now teaching five 4th grade classes instead of the 3rd graders. Co-teaching is really easy. We pretty much dominate the classroom together. In our textbooks there are four sections to a chapter. I do the lesson plans for the 2nd and 3rd periods of each chapter and Grace and Kate do the other two. We feed off of each other very well. I must say, lesson planning for these classes are really easy, mainly because of the book. The book give us a basic outline and we add and subtract from it as we please.
I have had another co-teacher, her name is Heather. I don't actually teach with her but we share an after school Special English Class. I don't particularly like the title but oh well. It is suppose to be for gifted kids not special in the sense of challenged kids. We have worked our schedule out so that she teaches the two hour class on Wednesdays and I on Mondays and Fridays. I fill in for her if she needs me too. She tends to be really busy. You see, she is not a designated English teacher she is actually a homeroom teacher. She teaches second grade. But because she ran the English program the previous two years, they Vice Principal felt it necessary for her to run the class.
I have yet one more co-teacher to bring it to an even four. Her name is Un Hey. She teaches in the BEST (Baekbong English Special Town) program. Once again, more of that special business. The new facility was built for after school English studies. The center is state of the art with a cooking room, dance studio, green room, reading cafe and huge multipurpose room. I answer to Un Hey when it's about my class in the BEST program. It's a writing class. and I just started it a few weeks ago. I teach it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I love this class because I only have 10 students. It is much different than my regular classes of 35.
My other co-workers in our English department are Ben and Lydia. They teach strictly in the BEST program with the exception of a few hours. They are a couple from England. Latanya and I hang out with them often. We always seem to have a great time together.
So that's our staff. We all get along really well. I have heard many horror stories of really bad co-teachers and I find myself very lucky.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

School Overview (Dan)

To start off school life has been a bit busy. I have been on the move ever since the semester started. School here in Korea is structured differently than the States. For one it is completely ran by the government, and with government comes a lot of paper pushing, bureaucracy. To order a new ink cartridge for the printer, for example, can take awhile. There are forms that need to be filled out and signed. All while, I could easily go down to the Staples equivalent and buy it in twenty minutes. Instead there is a process that must be followed.
It is also a process to record my overtime hours. When I work extra teaching hours I must fill out a paper with my lesson plan and all. That paper must be filled out by my co-teacher with the Korean translation. I must then sign the paper and then go down to the first floor and get the administrators signature. From there I move to the Vice Principal and get his signature on the second floor. Also on the second floor I must go to the Principal's office and get his signature as well. This is all assuming they are all in their respective offices at the same time, which is never the case. I teach twice a week for this particular after school class and must get the signatures often. It's a hassle to say the least.
Another difference in the school system, is the start of the school year. The school year in Korea starts in March. The first semester goes from March to July. They have a little over a month of a summer vacation, and then the second semester begins in late August. The second semester for the most part lasts from August to December. The winter vacation is a little over two months long. The students do have to go back to school at the beginning of February for two weeks to wrap up the second semester. I have been told that those extra two weeks are designed to finish up any curriculum that was not covered in the bulk of the semester. I also have been told that most classes are usually taught with fun activities for the students.
Another major difference is the school hours for the faculty. Here teachers and faculty are at work from 8:40AM to 4:40AM. Though school lets out at 2:40 we are all obligated to stay the remainder of time. It is designed so the teacher does not take work home. It gives us plenty of time to lesson plan. I am usually done with my main English classes by lunch at 12:10. From their I have about two to three hours of free time to prepare for classes. I am running two after school classes at the moment. One of them is an special English class and the second is a writing class I have mentioned before. Other than those major differences school is school. Kids still act like kids.
Next post I will go into more detail about my co-workers and students.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall

Fall is here. I don't know if I should be excited or not. I mean the weather is nice and cool and the humidity has subsided. It's just when I think of it getting cool I only think of the Winter to follow. It is definitely a light jacket kind of weather, in the mornings and evenings anyways. During the day it is warm. Not too much is happening as of lately. I started an additional after school class for some overtime. It is a writing class. When I told my mother I was teaching writing she was quick to point out all the mistakes I use to make in primary school as well as the mistakes I continue to make as an adult. Thanks for the support mom, just kidding. Anyways I have ten students in that class and I bought a couple of books to use for the semester's curriculum. It's only two days a week, so pretty easy money, I say. My other special class has dwindled from 22 students at the beginning of last semester to 17 as of late. And because of this Swine Flu epidemic our whole after school center has seen a drastic drop off in registration from the previous semester. I just realized I have not really talked too much about my school and keeping you all updated. I think I will follow this post with a focused post about school life. Bye for now.
Dan

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Long time no see


Is this week over as yet???? The weather is starting to change California weather has spoiled me. It is too chilly in the mornings and evenings that I have to bring a jacket! I have traded my summer dresses and shorts for pants and long sleeve shirts...Argh. This has been the longest week ever so I decided to write on the blog. It has been a long time. I am enjoying teaching and traveling it has been an absolute blessing now I'm trying to guide my life in a way that it has more meaning and purpose. This really stresses me out cause I have no idea been what I want to do. Anyway, my school hired a new English teacher named Shin. I am so relieved to have a new English teacher. This is her first job out of college. Over the past few weeks we have spent a lot of time getting to know each other it amazes me how much we have in common. She is really outgoing and loves to ask questions about America the way she talks about it sounds like some magical place. It is but when living there you take everything for granted. Shin cracks me up her new dream is move to New York be a teacher and a part time NBC news correspondent because she read an article about Jenna Bush her exact words "If Jenna can do it so can I"..lol. Her positive outlook on life inspires me. After lunch we started a language exchange program I help her with her English and she teaches me Korean.

Tan

Monday, September 7, 2009

Poll

Well according to the poll I posted last week (to the left), we have very few followers or we have a lot of oblivious followers. I wanted to get a feel for our audience. According to the poll thus far we only have five people who read our blog, one of them being me. If you can please take the time to click the appropriate answer, we would appreciate it. It will help us out, so we know if we should be blogging more or less.
Thanks,
Dan

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back to School

We are back at it again. The second semester officially started this week. It's sad to know that our summer vacation is over. However it does feel good to be back in school. I must admit I missed my kids. Latanya most certainly is not too happy about being back at work. The getting up early is not her idea of fun. Other than school starting back not much else is going on.
We had some Mexican food the other week. In fact we practically had a whole Mexican week. There was a Mexican festival in Seoul. It was a grand re-opening of a restaurant. Plenty of tacos, quesadillas, margaritas and beer. We also ate at On the Border as well. It was really good. The unlimited chips and salsa were wonderful.
Also, I will be trying to get a lot of overtime in the second semester. Because of the new after school program my school asked if I wanted to work in the afternoon as well. It should be a good opportunity to make some more money.
Peace for know.
Dan

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thailand Vacation (Day 7 & 1/2)


Our flight out of Ko Samui departed at 6:05am. We had to be there an hour before take off and it was about a 45 minute drive. Take into account getting ready and eating something, we basically got up extremely early. The taxi came promptly and we soon headed to Bangkok. The flight was quick and before we knew it we had landed.
When we arrived in Bangkok we went straight to the left luggage department and dropped off our bags for the day. We were going to be walking all over the place so we did not want to carry our stuff with us. It was only a couple of bucks to leave the bags.
After dropping off our stuff we went towards the airport shuttle bus area and bought a ticket to take us to Ko San Road. Buying the ticket was convenient and we hopped straight on the bus. I had done some research and mapped out our modes of transportation, however I did not expect it to be this easy. It seemed as if we were just having the best timing. The bus ride took about 40 minutes to get to our destination. We got off the bus and walked Ko San Road. This particular strip is a haven for foreigners and it is usually really lively, we were told. But at 9 O'clock in the morning, not much was happening.
We then headed to the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is home to the king and queen. It was only about a 15 minute walk. We bought our tickets and went right inside. Before we bought our ticket though we had to rent a few pieces of clothing. You see, you can't wear shorts, me, and you can't show your shoulders, Latanya. So we needed a shirt and a pair of pants between us. We gave them the $6 deposit and put on the loners. It was especially funny looking at Latanya wearing such a big and baggy shirt. Let's just say she did not want her picture taken (I was able to take a few though).
Once we got in we took the tour around the grounds. It was pretty crowded. Because it was Sunday they were having a ceremony inside the large temple. The temple housed the Emerald Buddha that I wanted to see, but because there was a ceremony going on we were not able to see it. The Grand Palace itself was really beautiful, all the architecture looked amazing. We walked around for a little while longer and then returned our loners and headed over to our next destination.
The main tourist attraction we wanted to see was the Reclining Buddha. It's a giant golden statue of Buddha and he is reclining, pretty obvious right? The best part is that it's inside a building that is barely bigger than the statue. It was really amazing. Because we got there early in the day hardly anyone was there. We got to take our picture with no one else in the background. We stayed in the building for awhile and just took in the magnificence. We then left to our last must see destination in Bangkok, the shopping.
We hopped in a taxi and went to MBK. MBK is a giant shopping mall with individual vendors selling everything you could imagine. It was basically a huge mall designated for knock off everything. They sold knock off designer jeans to fake Rolex's. The best part was they were mostly really good knock offs for really cheap. The one thing they did not have an abundance of, were designer purses. They did not really have what Latanya was looking for. But as for clothing they had it all. I bought five polo brand shirts for about $4 a shirt. What deal right? And they look great. Latanya got some jeans, skirts, shirts and souvenirs. We also bought a cheap duffel bag to put all our stuff in. We were having such a great time shopping. After many hours in the mall, mind you Latanya also got a massage, we decided to check out the rest of area. We went to a couple other well known malls and walked and walked. We were really worn out when it came to the early evening time. I don't know how celebrities and rich people can go shopping all the time, it's exhausting. We ended up just sitting in a Starbucks for a couple of hours to kill some time.
It was about 9:00pm now and we needed to make our way to the airport. We grabbed a cab and he dropped us off right at the left luggage area. We got our stuff and then headed for our terminal and then gate. Our day in Bangkok was almost too easy. I had allotted some time for getting lost or longer transportation routes, but over all we made it around the city easily. I almost wished we would have fit some more sights in. We did do all we wanted though, so I guess we did not need to squeeze in anything else.
Our flight left at midnight. We took off just fine and actually I had started to fall asleep right away. I mean we had been up since 3:30am. So I was in my little dream land for a little while and then suddenly I was awoken by my neighbor to my left. She had put her pillow on my lap. That's odd, why would she do that, she should obviously know that I am clearly married and my wife was sitting on my right. Well she put the pillow there to catch the water that was leaking from above. Oh just great! It turns out it was the air conditioner that was leaking, and it was leaking onto my lap. The stewardess was very apologetic and was helpful. She tried her best to fix it, but the only solution was to have me switch seats. I ended up a few rows towards the front on the aisle. I was actually happy about the aisle. Dinner soon came and went. I then proceeded to fall asleep, again. About twenty minutes had passed and was awoken again by my new neighbor. It was an middle aged women who did not speak any English. She wanted me to move. I quickly said why? I was half asleep while we were conversing or charading. She wanted the extra seat for her son to be able to lie down to sleep. She pointed to another open seat that was between two people and I preferred not to sit next to. We argued back and forth for a few minutes and I finally decided to get up. When I got up I noticed the boy already fast asleep and not only that but he was like 14 or 15 years old. You have got to be kidding me. And why couldn't she have said something before when I first sat there? But no she wanted to wait until I was fast asleep. So because I was really frustrated and tired at this point I went back to my original seat that had a paper towel plugging up the leak. The stewardess attempted to talk to the crazy mother but she was not budging. After a leak and two seat switches as well as some always fun (not) charades I was finally fast asleep again. This time I slept for the rest of the flight.
We landed in Beijing and our layover was only 2 hours and then we got on our last flight to Seoul. Once we arrived we bought our ticket for our airport express bus and then passed out as soon as the bus left. Two short hours later we were back home. At this point is was about 1:00pm. The journey was long and interesting to say the least. We would have done it over and over though, it was all worth it. We had such a great time in Thailand. We will definitely go back.
Next trip, Beijing in October!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thailand Vacation (Day 6)



Saturday was our last full day in Ko Samui and our second to last day in Thailand. We had one more sight to see on the island and then back to relaxation on the beach. Latanya wanted to see the Big Buddha which was about 15 minutes north of Chaweng and about a half hour drive from our hotel.
After our usual breakfast we hailed a cab to the Big Buddha. We told the cab driver as well as the bell hop and a front desk person exactly where we wanted to go. The taxi driver and I decided on a price and we were off. We were driving through Chaweng when the driver kept asking us what hotel we were going to. We responded with, no hotel, just Big Buddha. This is where the communication got rough. He ended up stopping in downtown Chaweng and said here you are. We said, we wanted to go to Big Buddha and he said Chaweng. After a couple of minutes of back and fourth conversation he finally said, oh Big Buddha with a thick accent that we obviously did not have. We said yes Big Buddha, trying to replicate his exact pronunciation. He then told us double the fare. I said no way. I said, we told you Big Buddha and decided on a price we did not want to come to Chaweng. We argued back and fourth pretty calmly as a matter of fact for a good five minutes. It got to the point where I said we will not pay because we did not want to come to Chaweng. He then pointed at the traffic police stand and said, I will call the police. I then said, go ahead I will explain how you are trying to rip us off. Once I called his bluff and attempted to get out of the cab he said, ok. After another 15 minutes or so we finally arrived at the Big Buddha safe and sound with the original accepted fare.
We looked around the site and made our way to this Big Buddha, which better have been amazing looking after the whole cab fiasco. It most certainly was worth the trip. A giant statue of a Buddha was atop a stair case. We took some pictures and walked around for awhile. We then took a Tuk Tuk back to Lamai beach to the spot we were the other day.

We did some more relaxing and just chilled out on the beach for most of the day. The weather was amazing. It was hot and sunny. The water was so refreshing and we were starting to get sad about having to leave.
After the beach we walked the Lamai strip. We had some street eats for a late lunch/dinner or lunner as I call it. Latanya had some more Pad Thai and I some more curry. We stopped by a Tattoo shop, I wanted to get a battleship done on my chest. I thought it would be a great way to send us off....Just kidding. No, actually Latanya wanted to get a tiny star on her right foot, just between the strap of her sandal and the big vein that runs through the top of the foot. She got quoted a price and we made the appointment for later in the evening.
We then went back to the hotel to do some late afternoon/early evening swimming at the pool. We had fun just swimming around. After saying goodbye to the pool we freshened up a little and headed to the tattoo appointment.
The guy was really nice and friendly. He was also very patient with Latanya. Not to say she did not handle it like a champ...well...actually she handled it ok; With the exception of her screaming after the needle barely touched her as well as every time after that. It was really entertaining for me to watch. The tattoo artist used all sterile equipment for those worried moms out there. It took a whole 15 minutes, when it should have taken 5. After it was all said and done Latanya loves it. I think it looks good as well. It really is small. It's smaller than a square inch.
After the tat we headed back towards the road and stopped by the local Family Mart to get our last two beers in Ko Samui. We had to call it an early night. We needed to wake up at 3:30am to catch our flight. Ko Samui was great to us. We will definitely be back, but our vacation was not over yet, we still had a full day in Bangkok.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Thailand Vacation (Day 5)


After an interesting night at the full moon party, Latanya and I still woke up around our usual time, 8:00am. We got our usual breakfast and were pleased with our little routine. Today we wanted to ride an elephant. It's not everyday that you can wake up and decide to ride an elephant and actually be able to do it, right? Well since we were in Thailand, and they just so happened to have elephants, we decided to take one for a spin.
We arranged an elephant ride through our hotel. They booked a reservation for us at a local animal part. There were a few parks on the island that had elephants so we chose the best one in our mind for what we wanted. Some packages included other sightseeing but we just wanted to do a half hour with an elephant and no other exotic bird shows or unique monkey shows as they put it.
After we were fed and ready for the day we hopped on a Tuk Tuk as usual and it took us straight to the park. When we arrived on site we could see about a half dozen elephants just walking around with people on top. We started to get excited at this point. I mean, once again it's not everyday you can do this. The truck dropped us off and we were directed where to go. We handed a man our receipt and we then walked up some stairs to a rather large hut on tall posts. It was the elephant seating station. Soon enough an elephant came walking up to the hut with two other foreigners on it and a trainer sitting on the elephants neck/head. The foreigners got off and we got on. Strapped to the elephant was a chair and a small rope that held us in. The trainer was very nice and spoke a little English. We took a photo before we departed and then away we went, atop a giant elephant. WOW!!! We road the elephant for a half hour. It was a lot of fun. The elephant even left a little present for us along the path. Out elephant was old but strong. It was a little bumpy at parts, but so much fun. We were actually riding an elephant in Thailand. Sweet!!!
Once we got to the end of our elephant journey the trainer let us off. We then wanted to hike up the mountain side to find the nearby waterfall. It was only about a twenty minute hike or so, not too bad. Latanya was definitely getting a workout. Once we got to the falls it was amazing. The water was so refreshing and crystal clear. We hung out there for a little while and then made our way back to our Tuk Tuk. Before we left the animal park I saw a baby elephant I wanted to take home with me. Unfortunately I was unable to pack him in my backpack so we had to leave elephantless.
Once we got back to the hotel we decided to go to Chaweng once more and took another Tuk Tuk to the beach this time. We both really wanted to get another massage. The previous day I got an oil massage, which was an all over body massage. Today on the other hand I got a back, shoulder and neck massage. I can tell you that I have had knots in my lower back for as long as six years. I have never been able to get them out. I mean we are talking huge knots, the size of Montana huge. The Thai lady I had went to town on me. She worked my lower back like no one has done before. I swear I was bruised for the whole week after. But it was all worth it. She made my back feel so much looser. She got out about 80% of the knots, which is pretty good in my book, especially for a six year build up.
After the massage and just relaxing we hit up the strip of Chaweng for some food. We stumbled upon this Thai place and Latanya and I had the best Lemon Grass Soup in the world. Latanya had been searching for this soup all vacation. Not only searching for it, but looking for the best, and we found it. I too found something equally wonderful. I discovered Phanaeng Curry. I asked our waiter to make it extra extra spicy. He smiled and said sure. When they brought out our dishes he also brought extra peppers and spices to add to make it even hotter. I was in heaven. It was so good. The service was amazing. The food was great. And of course it was so cheap. We were loving Thailand for sure.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel for some late night swimming and then off to the room to relax. The next day was our last full day in Ko Samui, we wanted to make it count. We had one more touristy thing to accomplish on the island before we left.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thailand Vacation (Day 4)



So the previous day we had bought two tickets to a full moon party that was taking place tonight. The full moon party was on another island and we needed to get the transportation over to it. The party was not until later in the night so we wanted to do a little sightseeing before we took off to do it up, as well as get some needed beach time.
When we woke up we did the norm and got some breakfast and got ready to start our day. We took a taxi to a place about 15 minutes down the road towards and past Lamai beach. Actually it was at the very south end of the beach. Our hotel is on the north end just to let you know. Our destination was where they ,what they called the grandmother and grandfather rocks. These rocks were not just any ordinary rocks, they were shaped a little differently. To be Frank, they were shaped like male and female private parts. Apparently it was a big tourist destination, pun not intended. We walked up to the rock face and were stunned to see the male member looking out to the ocean. It was definitely interesting to see. We took a couple of pics and made our way back to Lamai beach on foot.
We wanted to check out the south end of the beach so walking to it was a good idea. We ended up stumbling upon a really nice spot. We found an area with some beach chairs and umbrellas and got a couple of beers and just hung out for most of the day. We swam around and lived the good life some more. We did not want to do too much today because we were going to be out late tonight. After awhile we headed up the beach to grab some lunch. In Thailand, they are obsessed with Bob Marley probably due to their relaxed island atmosphere. We stumbled upon a restaurant that claimed to have the best Jerk chicken on Ko Samui island. We decided to try it out I was craving a jerk burger and Latanya wanted to try the jerk chicken. My burger hit the spot her chicken was ok but it was really dry, saucy, and lacked spice. After that we went back to our hotel pool and swam some more. Then we headed up to our room to get ready for the full moon party.
A Tuk Tuk came to pick us up at around 8:00pm and they took us to the dock were our speed boat was. That's right speed boat. The place we bought our ticket from was for a speed boat to the other island. We got on the boat and raced our way over to the other island. The boat was ridiculously sweet except for the fact we all got soaked from the bumpy ride.

Once we arrived we noticed that everyone was out in full party force. We entered the gates of the party and made our way through the streets of a small beach town. We grabbed a quick bite to eat before we headed to the actual party on the beach. We ate some really good Pad Thai. Pad Thai is a mix of noodles, chicken or choice of meat, a hint of curry and coconut, some green onion, and some spice to go along with everything else, all stir fried. It was so good. We made sure to fill up.
We then headed toward the beach. We could hear the party from far away. When we arrived on the beach the party was already going strong. Imagine a couple of giant raves on the beach. Loud dance music was coming out enormous speakers. People were dancing and drinking. There were these two guys standing on two tall platforms, about 20 yards apart. They were swinging a giant rope that was lite on fire. It was a giant jump rope, where many people would attempt to jump it. Keep in mind on fire and alcohol. It was entertaining for sure.
We headed over to get a drink and they sold many of these buckets of drinks. A bucket would come with all the booze and mixers still in their packaged bottles. We chose the vodka, red bull, and ginger ale bucket. They mixed it all for us and we were in business. We did not do too much dancing. Latanya was not feeling up to par after the bumpy boat ride. We did have lots of fun watching all the drunk people dance and make fools of themselves. We walked the beach a few times. We had a few more drinks and then just found a spot to chill out and relax. They had this carpet area on the beach with little coffee tables. We had our drinks there and enjoyed the loud music and full moon of course.
We ended up heading out at about 1:00am and made our way to the speed boat. It was a mad house trying to get back. The line was long and many people were pushing. It was a great party night even though we did not get too crazy. We wanted to make sure to not lose any of our day tomorrow. I mean you need your energy to ride an elephant right?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thailand Vacation (Day 3)




We woke up very rested and excited for another vacation day on Ko Samui. We got up at around 8:00am or so. We made sure to hit up the breakfast buffet downstairs. It was the same spread and still delicious. Once we were fully awake and showered we decided to go see another part of the island. We hopped on a Tuk Tuk and made our way to Chaweng, the largest beach in Ko Samui. It also happens to be the most crowded.
When we were first recommended to come to Ko Samui for our vacation, our friends told us that Chaweng was more crowded with a lot more backpackers and party people. So we obviously wanted a more quiet and relaxed vacation so we chose to stay at Lamai instead.
After we got off the Tuk Tuk we realized that Chaweng was bigger than we thought. Actually Chaweng was not only a beach but an area of the island that went inland further than expected. We had gotten off too early on the Tuk Tuk. The driver was going to make his way to the beach but me, thinking we were in the right place when we were not was a huge mistake. So using my best internal compass we headed in the direction of the beach. It was really hot at this point and we were walking around a giant lake that was in between us and the beach. After about 45 minutes of great navigating on my part, we arrived to the beach part of Chaweng.
We grabbed a couple beach chairs in front of a resort and sat under an umbrella. We were so hot from all the walking that we needed the shade desperately. The part of Chaweng beach we were on the water was really shallow. In Lamai you can go as deep as you want gradually and have no trouble with rocks. At Chaweng there were some rocks about 10 yards out from the sand. In between the rocks and sand we were able just to go knee deep or so. It was nice because there were no waves at all and you could just lie down on your stomach and glide yourself through the water with your hands in the sand. It was really relaxing.
We did notice right away that the beach was really crowded. I mean it was not like a southern California beach in the summer time, but there were still a lot of people, especially compared to Lamai.
We had a few beers and some barbecued corn. It's so nice when people that sell the food and drinks come to you and you don't have to leave your beach chair. After awhile Latanya went to get a beach massage. They have these gazebos set up right on or near the beach. In the gazebos they have about 4 to 5 Thai women who give massages. It was about 9 dollars for an hour oil massage. Which is ridiculously cheap. In fact Latanya got one from then on almost everyday. After her massage she was really relaxed and felt great. We decided to head back to our hotel and check out their pool.
This time on the Tuk Tuk we got off right in front of our hotel. We headed straight to the pool and dove in. It felt so refreshing. The pool was a quasi infinity pool. The water spilled over the side on one end, however in between the pool and the view of the ocean were bushes. Other than the blocked view the pool was quite wonderful. After some cooling off we decided to have a drink at our hotel bar, which was located near the pool. So it was not a far walk at all. We each had a drink and then ordered a coconut to share. Latanya was raving about coconuts prior to this trip and I just had to try one. It was so good, the coconut meat inside was my favorite part. It was also Latanya's favorite part too, so you can imagine us fighting over the last bite. After our coconut was done we head up to the room to call it another night. It was just another day of relaxing. Day 4 was going to be our day for a little sightseeing and late night party, for it was to be a full moon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thailand Vacation (Day 2)


When we first arrived at Ko Samui airport, we were delighted to see such a quaint and relaxed atmosphere. The airport was merely a few over sized huts, all exposed to the nature of the island. There were no walls to be seen and a nice welcoming breeze. We had finally arrived at our island paradise. We made our way through the small airport and needed not to get our checked luggage, because we had carried everything on the plane. We were greeted by a driver from our hotel, and he swept us away to our new home for the next 5 days.
The roads were windy and narrow. We noticed right away that many people road small scooters. In fact the scooters ruled the island roads. After about a half hour ride or so, we arrived at our hotel. From the outside it looked grand and elegant. On the inside it was still grand and quaint. The hotel was very nice. It was built within the last few years and had a nice welcoming staff. At this point it was about 8:00am. We were worried at first because we were there so early in the day. We did not know if we would be able to check in, or maybe we would have to wait until the afternoon. We were delighted to find out that we would be able to go directly to our room. The staff also informed us that they were serving complimentary breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We went up to our room and got settled a little bit. We decided to hit up the breakfast buffet. It was really nice. It had all the essentials, toast, eggs, potatoes, rice, cereal, fruit and so forth. After breakfast we went back up stairs and grabbed our swimsuits. We decided to hit the beach right away.
Our hotel was directly on the beach. Lamai is the second largest beach in Ko Samui. It's second to Chaweng. Even though our hotel was right on the water, there were many rocks in this area. So we decided to walk down the beach a little further and find a nicer area to swim. It was only about a 10 minute walk when we found the start of the rest of the beach. Lamai's nice part of the beach is about a mile and half long or so. We set our towels down and jumped straight into the water. As my dad would say, it was just like bath water. It felt so refreshing yet not cold in the least. The waves were practically non existent. The water was so clear, that we could see our feet even at shoulder deep. There were no rocks to be stepped on. The sand felt great running through our toes. We had arrived, we were officially on vacation. We must say that the beach experience was much different than the great old Pacific in. We were actually able to wade in the water as opposed to being swept away by the waves. So, after an hour or two we headed back to the hotel to take a long awaited nap.
After a quick shower and our nap it was the afternoon. We wanted to take a trip into Lamai, this time to see the shops and vendors. Outside of our hotel was the main road. We were able to catch a Tuk Tuk, which is the island's version of public transportation. It's a little pick up truck with a shell on the bed opened in the back. There are two benches to sit on and away you go. It was only about a 7 minute drive, so not too far.
We got out and were able to walk the strip, which ran parallel with the beach. They had many shops selling all sorts of knock off clothes, purses, watches, sunglasses and plenty other merchandise. I swear if Latanya and I did not think Ed Hardy was so tacky we would have bought it up. But of course we have a little thing called taste, well Latanya anyways, I just try.
After walking the shops for awhile we were starting to get hungry. We found a restaurant that smelled delicious and stopped in. I ordered a red curry dish and Latanya a green curry dish. We also had rice and a beer to wash it down. The beer we had was Singha. Singha beer is actually really good. It complements the spicy food wonderfully. Our food arrived and we were both very pleased. Latanya's green curry was a little better than mine. After our wonderful dinner we got the check and it was a whole eight dollars. Eight dollars for two entrees, two sides of rice and two beers at a nice sit down restaurant. Wow! We were happy to be in.
We then decided to walk the shops some more and then head back to the hotel. We wanted to walk back to the hotel on foot. Instead of walking on the main road at night we instead walked the beach all the way back. It was only a 20 minute walk, so not too bad. We also got to walk off our dinner. Still pretty tired we hit the bed and watched a little T.V. We knew that day 3 of our vacation was to be even better than day 2.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thailand Vacation (Day 1)


We are back from our vacation. In order to
tell all about our wonderful time away I must break our trip into separate parts, so I don't overwhelm you all with a really long story. We will break it up into different days, starting with Day 1 of course.
Last Monday morning Latanya and I woke up at around 7:30am. It was not too hard waking up because we normally get up for school at around 8:00am anyways. We got up and got ready. We made the necessary last minute packing arrangements such as toiletries and things of that nature. We headed over to the Family Mart to get some breakfast and headed towards our bus stop. We got to the bus stop at around 8:30am and waited until 8:50am for the bus. The bus stop was in the district next to ours, Pyeongnae. It was about a 15 minute walk or so to it. Latanya began to realize how heavy her backpack really was. In fact the night before when I had fallen asleep she had snuck some heavier items into my bag without my knowing. Pretty sneaky huh? Well to my surprise the next morning when I discovered them. Needless to say as any good husband would do, I told here that this was quite clever and held here extra things for her anyways. How nice, right?
The bus we were waiting for was an airport shuttle bus with very few stops in between. It was a better alternative to the subway, which may have taken a lot longer. This way we would make it to the airport with in two hours. Mind you, we live to the east of Seoul and the airport is 45 minutes west of Seoul. Driving through an area of 10 million people is bound to take a little while. We were ecstatic about the convenience of the bus station to our house. It was much easier than any other root and way cheaper than a cab. The bus finally arrived and we made our way to catch our plane.
We arrived at Incheon International Airport at about 11:00am. Our flight was at 1:00pm, so we were right on time for our two hour cushion before hand. The Seoul airport is very clean and really nice. It was actually recently named the world's best airport for the second time. It's relatively new with ease of access to all it's amenities. We went through the necessary security and all and eventually caught our first flight to Beijing, China.
When we arrived in Beijing it was around 2:00pm, local time. Beijing's airport was also relatively new, at least since the Olympics. We arrived and had to go through more security and immigration. Part of the security took an infrared scan of your body to see if you had a fever which could lead to swine flu. We later discovered that Bangkok's airport had the same as well as Seoul on our return. Our layover in Beijing was for about 5 hours or so. We had a lot of time to do nothing. We played some Uno, and Latanya was schooling me. She had a perfect game and everything. I tend to own her in Korea so I was willing to let her redeem herself even for a little bit. We had some Chinese beer which was just as bad as Korea's. Before we knew it, it was time to hop on our next flight.
We took off around 7:00pm and landed in Bangkok, Thailand just before midnight, local time. We had yet another layover, this time for 6 hours. It was a domestic flight and we had to wait in limbo for the domestic part of the airport to open at 5:00am. We looked for different places to sit. But because we were between the international gates and domestic, there was not a common sitting area. We looked through all the shops but we were starting to get really tired and bored. We finally stumbled upon the promise land of chairs. There was a glowing light that shinned onto a secret area where employees would sleep. We laid down to catch a few z's while we waited. I fell fast asleep, Latanya on the other hand had trouble. Actually as soon as she did dose off I accidentally woke her up, I had a waken in a panic because I thought my hat was stolen. Oops. My hat was under the bench of chairs directly under my head. Sorry Latanya was definitely in order. After another hour of sleep, for me anyways, we headed down to the domestic terminal. We got on our flight and left at 6:00am. We arrived in Ko Samui, Thailand at 7:00am almost 24 hours from when we woke up the previous day.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wii Room


So yesterday Latanya and I met up with Ben and Lydia, to go play some Wii. We had planned to get a bite to eat before our Wii action. We all hoped on a bus to Seoul. After arriving at Jamsil, a place in the southeast part of the city, we rode the subway a few stops to our destination. The directions we were given were not exact. Often times in Korea there will be no address or street name. Directions are usually a collection of clues leading one to nearby landmarks. After getting off the subway we were told we would see two giant cones, and to take a left at those cones. We were puzzled to say the least. First off any given subway station in Seoul typically has many exits which lead you to the surface, all of them being a large distance from one another. So we needed to make a guess as to which exit we wanted to take. We had ten to choose from. We hoped that we would see the giant horns from any exit. Once to the surface out of exit two we could not see anything that resembled horns. When someone says giant you think you would be able to see them from far away. The area we were looking for was supposedly lively with a large crowd of university students. We made a logical guess as to where to walk towards. After about five minutes of walking and looking for two massive horns, we started to think about our clue. Horns, hmmm, what could this mean? Could they actually be horns from and animal? Or maybe they were large horns that came together to make an archway. We saw a McDonald's and I had suggested that the golden arches could be the answer to our riddle, but then tossed that idea. The best part about the clue is there was no suggestion as to which way to walk. So no exit number and no direction. We continued to walk and the streets began to get more crowded. We new we were getting closer to the area. Looking ahead in the distance there they were, two giant horns. To me they looked like two really big metallic cones. One cone stood about 15 feet tall the other one was about 7 feet tall. They were shinny and big. There actual size definitely lived up to the description. So we made our left and headed down the strip. There were many bars and nightclubs lining the street. The people out and about were all in their 20s. Once we found the Wii room we decided to get a quick bite to eat first. We had some good spicy chicken mixed with rice. After a few beers we headed to a convenience store to pick up some beer for the Wii extravaganza. We went into the place and we were shown to an extremely small room with a tiny T.V. We said that it would not hold four fully grown Westerner sized adults. They said all the larger rooms were full and we would have to wait 2 hours for one. We decided to make the reservation and go kill sometime somewhere else. We wound up in a pool hall. We played six games and the couple pool tournament was all tied up 3 USA 3 England. We decided to break the tie with the Wii. We headed back to the Wii room and discovered it was closed. We were shocked. At this point it was 12am and their sign clearly said they are opened to 3am. It was so weird. We did not want it to ruin our night so we went to a club near by. We danced for quite sometime. Later we were over the dancing and hit up a bar and continued to enjoy the evening. After a little while we grabbed a cab and headed for home. So to make a long story short (too late) we did not experience the Wii room yet, though we have seen it. The night was still a success and we had a great time with Ben and Lydia. We are off to Thailand on Monday, so we may or may not be out of contact with the rest of the world for a week. When we return we will make sure to let you all know how our vacation was. Bye for now.

Dan

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Last Day of School

Today was the last day of summer camp, for Latanya anyways. I have two more weeks of camp when we return from vacation. Latanya is very excited to be finally done with school. It's going to be so nice to take a little break. For the final day of my summer camp we watched a movie, Shrek. So needless to say it was an easy day. The weekend is here and we are ready to due it up. On the schedule this weekend is going to a Wii room tonight with my coworkers Ben and Lydia. Saturday we will be taking it easy and Sunday we will be probably going into the city.
Since leaving our beloved baby with Courtney, aka our Wii console, we have been missing it quite a lot. So we were told about a place were you can rent out a room, kind of like a Noraebong and just play some Wii. We are so excited. We heard they have the essentials, Wii sports and Mario Kart. What else do you actually need? We will make sure to let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thank You

We just wanted to say a quick thank you for all who follow our blog. We love reading comments so please don't hesitate to write us a quick note. We do read them all. We are happy to let everyone back home know about our adventures. We also are glad to see some new faces to our followers list. It's great to know that people are getting something out of our posts. The count down to our vacation in Thailand is down to 3 and a half days. Whoa!!! Beaches here we come!!!

Dan N Tan

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Faculty Trip

So a couple of weeks ago my school had a faculty trip for 2 days and 1 night. On a Friday afternoon we all piled on to a chartered bus and made our way to Gangwa-do, which is an island off the West coast of Korea. As soon as the trip began, we were all given snack packs, just like mom used to make. It was full with all sorts of munchies and what not; chips, crackers, cookies, peanuts, and of course dry squid. Then we were all given a beer and were ready to party.
The bus ride took a few hours. We stopped at a museum of Gangwa-do. It was nice but seemed a little bias in it's historical references. The museum only seemed to mention a small victory over the French and a battle with the United States. Clearly they forgot to mention it being taken over, time and time again by the Chinese, Mongols and the Japanese. Oh, well I guess they did not want to bring up old stuff, right.
After some more driving and a ferry ride to the island we found ourselves at a restaurant for dinner. We had sushimi and more booze of course. I ate Sea Squirt. I have no idea what it actually is, maybe sea urchin like, it tasted horrible. It tasted literally like I was eating sea water in a chewy form, certainly not pleasant.
At this point in the night everyone was feeling good, especially my principal. Normally the principal will tell me that I am handsome, but that night he used the word gorgeous, all while his hand was placed on my knee. It was really funny.
After dinner we all got back on the bus. For some that was a more difficult task than one would think. My co-worker Ben had to fling one of the teachers, Mr. Han over his shoulder and onto the bus. It was like he was caring a sack of potatoes. We ended up babysitting Mr. Han for a good portion of the night. I told Mr. Han that I spoke German, so he decided to speak to me in mix of Korean, German and English, also known as Kordeutish. I could not understand a word he was saying.
Once on the bus we turned off all the lights and put on the strobe light and lasers. Then the Noraebong (Karaoke) started. That's right on the bus. The bus had a microphone hooked up and a cable that ran the length of the bus, and there was a huge flat screen at the front with the lyrics. Let's just say, party time. There was this Korean song called Champion. The music was, mind you this is no joke, was the theme song to Beverly Hills Cop. Do do do dododododo do do do dodododo do do do do. Wow!!!! I could not stop laughing, as well as singing.
We finally arrived at our lodgings. There was a BBQ area all set up. We continued the celebrations and ate some more and drank some more. Everyone was still having a grand ole time. People slowly started to retire to bed. Ben and I were still going though. We ended up in the principals room and watched a few of them play Go Stop. Go Stop is a Korean card game. We were watching for at least a half hour. I swear there is absolutely no logic to the game. My head was hurting trying to figure it out. After some Uno we all went to bed.
The next morning we woke up at 6:30am. We went for breakfast. We had a spicy crab soup. It was very good. After our meal we trekked up a giant hill to see a local Buddhist temple. It was really awesome. We looked around for awhile and then headed back down the hill. We all got back on the bus and headed for home.
It was a great trip. It was nice to bound with my co-workers. I like being able to see everyone outside of the workplace. Everyone was relaxed and just enjoyed themselves.
I posted all my pics up on facebook if you have not seen them yet.

Dan

Vacation


Our plan to go to Beijing, China has been pushed back to October due to extreme humidity. We decided to change it up and go to Thailand even though it will be humid there we can at least go to the beach and or pool. The week we chose to go on vacay so did everyone in Korea and the flights out of Korea were extremely expensive. After weeks of searching for a good fare we stumbled upon one on orbitz.com. Dan n Tan will be spending 6 days and 5 nights on Ko Samui and 1 day in Bangok we leave on 8/3 . I wanted to stay in a hotel because I want to spend my vacation time relaxing while on the other hand Dan wanted to stay in a bug motel also known as a beach bungalow (i'm sure beach bungalows are nice but it's not for me). We made a compromise if I booked a hotel then I would have to pack all of my clothes into a backpack....lol. I booked the hotel and i'm trying to fit everything I own into the backpack unsucessfully though. We are really looking forward to the time off, we'll take lots of pics, and update the blog.

Tan

Monday, July 27, 2009

You know you are in Korea when....



You know you are in Korea when you're hiking a mountain and a 75 year old grandmother is passing you.

You know you are in Korea when you eat Kimchi with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and again for a snack.

You know you are in Korea when you are walking on the sidewalk with no one else around for a 10 meter radius and another 75 year grandmother crosschecks you with her purse, even though there is plenty of room to pass one another.

You know you are in Korea when the only good beer is imported.

You know you are in Korea when it's a Saturday or Sunday and construction on the floor above you starts promptly at 6am and does not end until 10pm.

You know you are in Korea when you go bowling and feel under dressed, they equip themselves with all the gear ever invented for bowling and then some, all decked out with terminator wrist guards.

You know you are in Korea when your co-teacher asks for a ridiculous amount of lesson plans, let's say 40 due in two days; oh, and with all your worksheets and activities printed out.

You know you are in Korea when you walk around the local E-Mart and you feel like an exhibit at the wild animal park with all the little children giddy and pointing.

You know you are in Korea when you say to a Korean, ya sure I like to play baseball, and they respond, oh really what's your career bating average?

You know you are in Korea when middle aged men walk down the street holding hands, yet the mass majority of the country is homophobic.

You know you are in Korea when you pour Soju into your beer.

You know you are in Korea when go to the gym to sign up and the manager tells you while laughing that you are a fat ass.

You know you are in Korea when octopus or squid is served at lunch every other day.

You know you are in Korea when you can have a nice cold beer outside the local 7/11.

You know you are in Korea when they pay you too much for such a laid back job.

You know you are in Korea when you are having the time of your life all while saving for the future and seeing the world.

You know you are in Korea when you have a great foreigner community where everyone gets along and hangs out together.

You know you are in Korea when you can walk the streets at night and feel completely safe.

You know you are in Korea when you actually start loving to eat dried squid; it's just like jerky.

You know you are in Korea when your students always seem to make you laugh, even if you may be having a rough day.

You know you are in Korea when everything is within walking distance, or a quick subway ride away.

You know you are in Korea when you walk down the street and random people like to practice their English with you.

You know you are in Korea when you can't get enough of the K-Pop music, that I thought I would not be able to listen to.

You know you are in Korea when you can have a great night with friends and hit up a Naraebong (Karaoke room) and sing your hearts out.

You know you are in Korea when they give you a little doorbell on your table at a restaurant and the server comes right over when you ring it.

You know you are in Korea when the owner of a new restaurant will pay for your whole meal, drinks and all.

You know you are in Korea when you appreciate every second with your wife and enjoy each wonderful new experience that comes our way. Korea has been good to us, is good to us and I can see that it will continue to be good to us, as we live the dream of being abroad in such a wonderful country like Korea.