Vignette: rainy day


Today, one of my middle school students looked out the classroom window and announced to no one in particular (or anyone who would listen): “Raining cats, cats, cats, cats and dogs, dogs, dogs dogs.” A giant flash of light played across the window, adding an exclamation point to his words.

Pretty much sums up today.

Alright, I’ll fess. There’s a little artistic license taken with the above description (there may or may not have been a conveniently timed flash of lightning) but it preserves the best part. I think he was just excited that he could finally use an idiom he’d learned. Yay, for being able to apply knowledge! Of course, then he added extra cats and dogs to the phrase since the normal amount didn’t seem enough.

 How to students in Korea compare to students back home?

It’s one of those questions you hear a lot if you are an English teacher here.

I have no experience as a teacher back home so I’d have to draw from my memories of being a student. I’ve also never been an elementary/middle school student in Korea. I only have my job to look to for insight. Understandably, this creates a rather uneven perspective on my part.

Sure, I can impart common, accepted knowledge like the fact that Koreans spend a substantial amount of money on education. Or how about the bit that, while educators may not focus much on teaching critical thinking skills, students excel at rote learning and memorization. Students are also, reportedly, much more respectful towards their teachers than students back home. 

But that’s just what I’ve heard. I can’t really give any comparisons based off my own experiences.

What I can do, however, is provide snippets of my daily life and encounters with my students. We’ll see what sorts of things are revealed through that.

Of course, this means I have to start taking note of those moments again.

On a side note: I am constantly amazed by the things my elementary and middle schoolers are expected to handle or have already achieved. Here, it’s normal for them to spend 8 hours in school followed by several hours at any number of hagwons, then stay up late to complete their homework.

Week 22: Wando



I know it doesn’t show well in the pictures but it was raining the whole time we were there. It might not have been a monsoon downpour but it still did the job (of soaking everything).

I went on a day trip to a beach in Wando, with Emily and her church group. The so-called “rainy season” here has been much drier than I anticipated. I was expecting monsoon storms but all I got were a few thunder storms and then nothing but moisture hanging in the air. Of course, the rain decided to make an appearance again a few days ago. This is all a long way of saying that the weather didn’t agree with our plans. Still, we headed to the beach, undaunted by the fact it was pouring. On the upside, Continue reading

Week 20 & 21: Gwanmae-do


Busan’s beaches might have felt too dirty for swimming but the following weekend made up for it. There’s a Korean guy in Gwangju who’s been running his own trips for a few years now. Everyone knows him as Pedro and he often does day trips and other short excursions. Most of the time he only takes small groups and he chooses places that are off of the beaten path and away from the tourist traps. He seems pretty well-known among the foreign crowd here and I’d heard nothing but good things about his trips. Words like ‘beach’,  ‘small group’, ‘quiet and relaxing’ drew to me join the latest one to Gwanmae-do. Continue reading

Week 19: Busan (part 2)



We decided to get away from the hordes of people…or at least, try to. Thankfully, our decision to hike along a coastal park trail was the right choice. Hiking in the heat of summer isn’t very popular, for a reason. Thankfully, a sea breeze helped us along.


There were other crazies out but it wasn’t overpopulated. Some families had even set up camp on the rocky shores, swimming and feasting on grilled meat and kimbab. Old men perched out on the furthest rocks, fishing. Other’s harvested mussels. We even passed a bunker belonging to the female divers. Continue reading

Week 19: Busan (part 1)


I walked home today in a daze…the kind that comes after a long but satisfying weekend.

Ok. Sit tight people. A lot has happened in the last two weeks and each week goes by so fast I barely have time to finish processing one weekend before the next is upon me. I’ll try doing this is a few parts because excessive monologuing requires things like chapters to break it up, as well as pictures.

The briefest summary is that I went to Busan the first weekend of August and this past weekend I went to Gwanmae-do which is one of many small islands along the southwest side of Korea and near Jindo.

As much as I’d like to start with the most recent experience for me…..I have strong feelings about chronology. It would feel all wrong to go out-of-order. It messes with context–despite the fact that these two weekends had nothing to do with each other.

First, BUSAN (부산): Continue reading