Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Road to Gyeong-Ju

This past few days have been interesting and boring at once. Monday was the same as every other day, except that I learned body parts in Korean class. I already learned them once from Sung-ae, but I forgot them, and I also learned directions while I was at it. I've begun to notice that I'm starting to understand to korean language, which is interesting because I've only been here for 2 weeks. I'm betting it's just a hold over from the abilities I gained on my mission. Either way, I'm starting to get the hang of listening already and I'm grateful to the Lord for that one.

Anyway, tuesday was the start of our new training schedule and the new stresses in our lives. We only had a few days left in the Seoul portion of our training, so they were trying to make sure that we had gained something while well as trying to fight back the tide of people wanting to escape being couped up in the small building...But they put us with a teacher for two days to go over lesson plans, or rather, the creation of lesson plans. Logistically, this meant that the 200 of us were split into 4 groups and sent out to be trained. I must have drawn the short straw because our teacher sucked. No offense to her or whoever chose her, but she was really bad at teaching.

First, she didn't tell us anything except to say that the answers to our questions were in the book we were given at registration. Someone must not have told her that's not a good way to inspire confidence in students. Secondly, she took waaay too long to make her point. She tried to illustrate that teaching a foreign language is hard, so she decided to teach us chinese by making us mimic her words and their coorellating motions. Then she made us do the actions while she said the words, and I think we all got her point in 10 minutes, but she kept teaching us and going through activities for an hour. A whole frickin' hour. Then she showed us a video of the ideal classroom, which was just her and her American teaching assistant, the $2000 a month glorified english tape recorder. It was 20 minutes of her explaining english to kids and then the native speaker acted it out. WTF?! She kept playing videos, and on the second day, we just ignored them because they were longer than necessary and didn't have that clear of a point (I think those two things were linked).

Thirdly, she stuck way too much to the rules, so instead being easy and separating us into groups of 4 for our group lesson presentations, she said over and over again that they said groups of 3, which turned out to be a logistical nightmare, but somehow we pulled it off. And finally, she kept changing the requirements and what she wanted us to do every hour and a half. It was freakin' impossible to get anything concrete in a timely manner.

But we finally made it through tuesday and wednesday, which was not an easy feat, but we did it. At the end of the day, the best from each class, performed in the front of all the TaLK scholars. It was tapped, so eventually, it'll be on the TaLK website. If you'll watch, you'll see me volunteer for jumping jacks.

We all went out on Monday because it was Valerie's Birthday. I hadn't met the girl before then, but any excuse to leave and eat real food is acceptable. So, I had Sangkyapsal (black pork - Korean bacon) and coke for dinner. It only cost 8,000 won. Things are just cheap in this country. Anyway, it was fun, all the way up until some of my closest friends here got drunk and I spent most of the evening following them around and making sure the drunker one didn't fall and hurt himself. At least I got to hand out with Michelle and Cholong, two of the girls who know me as Beom Joon.

Last night we had a formal dinner as our last in Seoul. It was alot of good Korean barbeque, but it was supported by karaoke. It would have been fine, but everyone wanted to sing in Korean, so 45 minutes after we started, the room was half-full. We ended with "I'm a Believer" and took our leave, but it just meant that Andrew and I stayed up late packing. We left for Gyeong-ju this morning.

Today was spent almost entirely on the road as we transferred from the Hyundai learning center in Seoul to Dongkuk University in Gyeong-ju. We stopped twice to stretch our legs, and one of those times was for lunch, but we left at 9:30am and arrived here in Gyeong-ju at 3:30pm. I think it was the traffic that slowed us up, because the country isn't that big.

But this place is a glorified prison. The place is pretty old and ghetto, and because it is a Buddhist university (apparently it's one of four like that in Korea) that means we have to follow a strict set of rules, like being in by 10pm (doors are locked at midnight, which means the smokers are SOL 'till morning). We also get tortured with the food here; we eat horrible food. The cafeteria has metal trays, and the workers put the food on a tray for you, so you just want in a line, and if you step out....well you don't wanna know what happens. They turn off the hallway AC after midnight (our rooms are equipt with old school rotating fans), we have to use stairs to get anywhere (even from the 10th floor), our shower is just a handle coming out of the sink in the bathroom, and we have to handwash our clothes and hang dry them. Oh, and we can't go into the city during the weekdays (not that we would, it's simply old crap all over the place). The campus has security gates that close at night, so if you leave, don't plan on coming back if you're gonna be late. But don't be late, 'cause they will dock you points, and anyone with a -5 gets expelled from the program. It's -1 for every infringment, so basically everyone is upset. Sigh.

Two upsides to this new training center (if you can call it new) is that 1) there is a crane hangout just on the other side of campus (on the buddhist temple grounds) which is way cool to just go over and chill. 2) During dinner, I kept making prison jokes like "Just don't drop the soap." People couldn't stop laughing, which made dinner more enjoyable. Anytime I can increase my popularity with the ladies is a good thing.

As far as the Cellphone thing went, KTF tried to pull a bait and switch, so I didn't go for it. There were like 50 of us who realized what the company was up to and told them to shove it, so I'm not gonna get one of those for a while. They told us that we were going to get a 12,000 won a month plan that was a pay as you go kind of thing, but then they came back and said "Oh, sorry, that plan is not available anymore, but you can buy this 30,000 won a month plan with a 50 dollar deposit instead that gives you 160 minutes plus 100 texts, but you cannot make or recieve international calls." Also, the cool phone they showed us was not the phone everyone ended up with, instead they got a slide phone that came out in 2000. I say it and went "That is an old phone." Nathan Yoon and his uncle already went in and talked to a guy about in Seoul last night, and the guy said that 160 minutes and 100-200 text messages and international calling was pretty basic and would only cost 30,000 won (30 bucks) a month, which is cool, since you only have to pay for outgoing here in Korea. As long as I can recieve international calls, then right on. Apparently, I can get a phone for free or I can pay a little down payment and get a Cool freakin' phone, with video chat capabilities and stuff. Since I don't have any money now, I'll probably just see what they have to offer and get the free phone for now.

Well, happy trails people, I will have to post more later.

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