Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tom in the Sun

The sun was out last Tuesday, as opposed to these last soggy days, and Tom seemed to enjoy the rays.
 I put a bell on him when he goes out front so that people passing by don't think he is a trash-cat. But as soon as he is back inside he manages to take it off.
Today the sun was peaking behind a mighty cloud and thought it nice to take photos, meanwhile Tom poked around the area.




I don't know about you folks, but it feels like this June has been the soggiest I have ever had in Korea. But I don't mind it! Of course my feet get soaked and parts of my clothes too, but again I would rather be soaked in the rain then frozen in the snow.


Looks like things are going to get sunnier again, which means it will be hot and muggy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Signing in to work by digital fingerprinting. Good or Bad?

The end of the semester is drawing near and like a narrow tunnel many tasks are piling on. There are final tests to be made and scores of report cards to fill out. In the midst of this we were pulled away from our desks to register our fingers.

The school installed a new system of checking in it's employers. Before, we would just sign our names in a little book, and be on our way. We didn't do much to check out, except change our shoes and give a friendly wave goodbye.

Without any notice we were made to register our fingerprints and start using this system. When I was pulled away from my desk to register and was told, "We are registering our fingers." I didn't blink nor think twice about this. As we walked down the stairs and I saw a man standing next to a gadget on the wall that looked like something out of a spy movie, I got excited instead of worried. I watched as my colleagues went first, registering two fingers (of their choice) and seeing the little blue light blink in and out. Finally, it was my turn and I watched as it scanned in my fingers and took a black and white image of this physical identification.

All felt good and I went back to work. A little later, as I went to get my payslip from our Coordinator, I learned that this new signing in-thing isn't favored by everyone. Soon enough I heard chatter about how this is invasive to our rights and concern over whether this would be grounds to fire us at the end of our term.

I understand the concern towards the officials using our time stamping as a way to discuss whether they should renew our contract or not, but what I didn't understand was the displeasure in this being sprung on us the last minute and that there was no information given. I have gotten use to the Korean work environment where if something changes or new comes along you can't expect a month's advance of preparation or notice. Another thing I don't understand is how this could end up being invasive to our rights. They are just using our fingerprints to make us sign in and out. Are they going to be sent to authorities? If so then I understand the need for clarification.

In the end I don't see this as a bad thing, except if they use our time stamps to penalize us at the end of our contract and don't give us notice. But it states in the contract to be on time and not leave early (unless permitted). Also, I feel we can work out a system where if we are dramatically late on occasion it can be documented by the right people, so that at the end of the year can be explained for clarification.

However, I find myself in a small boat of people who are okay with this new system. A large majority of the foreign staff are upset. Yet I understand their point-of-view, and I think they are okay with the concept just want more information before signing up.

Generally, is digital fingerprinting a good way to keep track of your time schedule? Is it especially dangerous for the Korean workplace, where little time differences here and there can be made into big ordeals?

Do you have one of these things in your workplace? And how would you describe it's influence.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beyond the Superficial: The New Korea Files

What do people think about when they think about Korea? Especially if they have never been to Korea, but have become interested in the food or culture. How can you take these folks beyond the typical things like bulgolgi and K-pop, and into the world that most of us expats know about?

The group, The New Korea Files, headed by Charles Montgomery of KTLIT,  is doing such an endeavor. We are trying to collect pieces of writing, artwork, poetry and other media and put it into a book, which will bring the same delights and discoveries that we have made to the person outside Korea.

Today, a few of us from the group met up in Itaewon at the Wolfound to discuss our goals and ideas about the project. It was a great meet-up that enabled us to really figure out our direction and where to go next.

Also, it involved some good eats where I enjoyed the Greek salad.

We still need submissions, though folks. And so I am asking you to take a look at the website and get a feel for this project. We particularly need people to write about certain topics such as, K-pop, noreabangs, night life, etc.

My involvement includes the artwork to be presented and illustrated throughout the book, but we are willing to bring in other talents into this project. Think about it and I hope to see your submissions!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Who is this guy?

Ever since I moved in to my new place here in Nowon, I have on occasion heard a sound outside my door. It's a "Unnnnnnnnnnnnnnn" drowning sound with a lot of reverberation. It sounds like a fire alarm toned down a little bit. I thought that is what it was, the building ahjusshi testing our fire alarms every week. But what was strange was hearing this sound occur at other buildings throughout my area.

Today, as I was heading to the elevator I heard the sound very close by. The next thing I knew a man opened the hallway door while saying, "Ahnyeonghaseyo" and then went down my hallway. The sound was coming out of him!

He was going floor to floor making this sound as he went. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why. I don't even think JH knows. My suspicion is that he is Buddhist and he is chanting for some reason. Perhaps, to bless everyone?

But it must be considered a normal thing if he has been doing it every week and in every building in this area.

Does anyone out there know what this is about? Otherwise, I will just pass this off as another "strange-Korean thing."

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Rain Pours

I am okay with rainy weather. I would rather be soaked to the bone in a downpour than freezing my butt off in sleety-icy rain.

But the rain brings one to notice that it is definitely summer and the months are trucking along. Already my first semester at job #4, in Korea, is nearly over. I have learned so much about myself and what it is like to really be a teacher. Also, I am really proud of my accomplishments at the job.

In life, things seem to putter along quite nicely as well. Although, JH and I still find ourselves at odds with how to spend our weekend time together. There are also a lot of personal developments between us but I don't want to share it yet.

A week vacation is on the horizon, followed by three weeks of camp and then two more weeks of vacation. I am looking forward to a slow down in work life.

Anyways, I hope others out there are enjoying the soothing rain (although at times bothersome) and looking forward to their vacations as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June Fieldtrip: Bugs and Lizards Oh My!

If you have ever wondered whether Seoul children get out there and play in the dirt or pick at bugs, well look no further. For our school took the first grade to a grand bug adventure up near Namyangju. The kids hopped off the bus all sleepy eyed and were walked into a forested area where they dropped off their bags.


Where to?
Of course, on every field trip I never really know where we are going or what we will do. Our first activity was making silk-cocoon crafts.



They were given the materials, samples to look at and then told to do it. It took a bit of figuring out as you had to cut the cocoons in a certain way to make them look like bugs.

After craft time we were put into a small room where butterflies and other winged bugs were on display. The kids had a fun time looking at them and saying, "Wow!"


Our next stop was a walk through a greenhouse where there were many butterflies and moths flying about. What was very amusing was watching the boys freak out over these tiny harmless insects. I had to reassure them that nothing was going to happen.



 Don't touch!


Nearby some flowers...

Next stop was the really fun part of the trip as students entered a building where worms, lizards, bugs, mammals, snakes and other sorts of creatures lived.

First off was a table set with live crawling silk worms. I teased the kids by saying, "Yum! Delicious!"

What I loved most about this part of the trip was that the students came up to me and grabbed my arm saying, "Teacher come look!" I felt like all the months of getting to know them finally paid off as they were enthusiastic to share their discoveries with me.

The park guide allowed the students to see a lizard and give a quick touch.


Then a few students got to have the lizard put on their shirt for a photo opportunity.



The rest of the adventures, before lunch, included going into another tiny room and looking at entombed beetles and bugs of all sorts and then having a lesson on silk worms.



Here they got to experience what it was like to make silk, and I tried it out too.
Lunch came and went with the children playing in spraying water and greeting some of the farm animals.

After lunch we headed out to the riverside, where the students got to play with river eels (I think that is what they were) and get their class photo taken.






I don't think there will be a field trip next month, as we are having tests ...etc. Anyways, I found this trip to be especially fun as I think the kids got a lot of time to explore and well be kids.

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