A Travellerspoint blog

Visiting Places

a student takes me on a trip to egypt

Friday classes consist of writing, writing, and more writing. Usually done in a rush to not only fill in about 10 pages of difficult grammar/analogies, but to also write an essay with time to spare so I can check it so they can rewrite it for the next Friday class.

Easy, right?

It's actually quite a pain in the neck, because you just know the kids aren't learning anything by going this quickly. It's pretty ridiculous.

I have one RA class (lower level) that I have MWF. Friday we do a writing class. This class and I have a love/hate relationship. When I let them get away with anything they love me and I hate them. Then of course the reverse is true. Not to say that I actually hate these children. They're actually pretty great, and one of my smarter classes, but they definitely get out of control, and I feel like a monster trying to get them back in line.

So anyway. Try to imagine, if you can, the madness that is a Friday writing class, with an out of control class that speaks virtually no English. They've already gone through a massive amount of grammar with their Korean teacher...after having already had a full day of REAL school (in comparative terms, my school is a "fake" school). The kids are basically dead.
I'm just trying to set the scene for you here.

Last Friday we had to write about visiting places, hence the title. The book is actually kind of stupid...while I understand that we're trying to teach structure, the book offers no room for creativity whatsoever. So you have to "imagine" that "John" is "taking a trip" to "somewhere" (London). An actual excerpt:
"Where is he going? What is he going to see at the art gallery?"
"Where is John going on Sunday? What can he see at the zoo?"
So when I tell the kids to "imagine" then give them the paper to write their creative stories, I have questions prompting them in this way that confuse the heck out of them. Normally I just tell them to run with it, and grade the same essay over and over again, which gets monotonous, but hey they're learning, right?

So most of the students turned in essays about John's trip to London. I have one student, Sung Hwan, who is about the clearest definition of "rapscallion" or "scalawag" that I have ever encountered. He kind of has that "aw shucks" attitude if he does something wrong, and he'll say something boy-like and give this wicked mischievous grin. Despite all of this, or probably because of it, this kid rules.

This is what Sung Hwan wrote (in a fill-in-the-blank fashion):

John is going to Egypt.
It is a exciting and dangerous.

On Saturday morning, He is going to Spinx and take picture. In the afthroon [afternoon] he is fight mumny in Pyramid In the evening he is find treasure and Pharaoh.

On Sunday, he is in the Guinnes Book and He is rich

On Sunday evening, John is stay all day

I knew somethin was a-brewin in that 11-year-old head of his because he kept asking me how to spell this and that. Most creative essay ever. Well...in my class.

And honestly, it wasn't TOO bad grammatically, comparatively speaking. Just imagine someone gave you a piece of paper and said, "Here. Write an essay in Arabic." It would be hard, that's all I'm saying.

Posted by lrbergen 08:09 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Once the dust settles....

choking on my own rage AND yellow dust.

Sorry for all of you mass e-mail recipients and/or myspace/livejournal friends. I have to put it here too so others can see it, even though you're all probably the only ones to look at it.

I was not aware of this until recently: Korea is often affected by dust storms, yellow dust storms carrying sand all the way from China's Gobi Desert, picking up all kinds of fun chemicals and pollutants on the way.

Saturday, we had the worst dust storm in four years, making everything a hazy shade of yellow.

This sounds promising (taken from Chosun Ilbo):
"As the sky turned a jaundiced hue and visibility plunged to 1.5 km from a normal average of 10 km (6.2 miles), South Korea issued a health advisory on Saturday due to the storm described as the worst since 2002.

The dust, which originates in the Gobi Desert region of China, picks up heavy metals and carcinogens such as dioxin as it passes over Chinese industrial regions, before hitting the Korean peninsula and Japan, meteorologists say."

D'ya hear that people? CARCINOGENS! What on earth....?!

Also, this:

"On Saturday, the meteorological office said people should stay indoors or wear masks if they ventured outdoors after doctors warned prolonged exposure could cause health problems such as eye and respiratory diseases."

read more here: Doh!
I am SO glad that Scott and I made that our day to do some sightseeing in Seoul, a day devoted entirely to walking around outdoors. That's right folks. What they advised against, we did. Then I went out that night. In Seoul. Doh! indeed. That could be why I haven't been able to stop coughing for oh, about 3 days now. It apparently kills 365 people per year (mostly elderly folks) and makes 1.8 million people sick.

Clearly, I am not very smart.
But to be fair, I just thought it was the normal pollution that usually plagues Seoul and its surrounding area (in which I live). When we couldn't see the surrounding mountains, we commented on it...when we couldn't see the Han River on the bus, we were worried, but not so much. When I read this...well I'm pretty freaked out. Who knew Korea was so bad for my health?

We have a warning that we will be receiving much of the same over the whole season. And as I have heard, those facemasks that everyone wears do NOT help in the least. The heavy metals and carcinogens in the air will get through. So I guess the plan now is to stay inside as much as possible and check the news more often about this. I didn't know about it until Wayne, our head teacher, sent me a text that night.

Here are some pictures.

This is a picture of mine taken from my apartment window. Usually you can see a mountain a bit further off.

An image found on Chosun Ilbo, a Korean newspaper.

A view taken from BBC online. See all the dust swirling? Disgusting.

Yuck. I think I'm going to go lay down. Or is it lie down? Either way...

Posted by lrbergen 08:02 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

Spaghetti-Os in Korea

i hate korean appliances. all of them.

One of the best things I brought from home was Spaghetti-os. If you were ever a child or college student, or one of those in an adult's body, you will appreciate this seeing as how they don't have them in Korea.

However, finding a can opener to open the considerably bigger can, with no pull tab, proved to be more difficult than I had thought.

And so I tried to open it.
I managed to cut a small line. I don't know how, but I did. After that, the can opener was useless.

So I broke out the butter knife, ginsu knife, scissors, and even wine bottle opener. Here's a hint: the butter knife works the best.
I eventually pried open a hole where I was able to scoop/dump out the spaghetti-os into the saucepan. After about 20 minutes of battle.

And here's what that looked like, in case anyone is interested:


And all of my weapons:

I tell you what though. They were the best spaghetti-os I've ever had.

Posted by lrbergen 07:27 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

The K-Punk Scene

who'da thunk? Oi!

After our classy and overpriced bottle of wine, we went to Hongdae for a punk show at a club called "Skunk Hell." Intimidating, yes?

First. Let me say I have never been to a punk show before. In America, in Spain, nowhere. I am not a punk rocker, nor do I claim to be. (And my family is very happy about this, even though I have tattoos, nose piercing, etc...I don't have a mohawk and except for one time in high school when I had blue streaks in my hair, I have never had a radically strange hair color...also, except for going from natural blonde to almost black...) However, the nightlife in Korea is usually full of danceclubs or bars, playing either techno, American rock, or pop. So the punk scene is something I was anxious to see.

So first, we had to find it. It was hidden away in what looked like a residential district. The show started around 7pm, and finished around 10-11 pm because they often receive noise complaints. The outside made it look like an unassuming little bar, except for the sign that said "Skunk Hell."

However, here is what I saw when I first walked in:

Graffiti everywhere. Punk rockers everywhere.

Then, like with any live band, my ears were assaulted by loud angry music. I have just begun to enjoy punk music, thanks to my friend Isaac, who gave me some CDs by The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Violent Femmes, etc. Then when I was in Japan, I bought two J-Punk CDs by 50 Kaiten and Ken Yokoyama. So I guess you could say I got a late start...people usually listen to this kind of music early on and then maybe outgrow it, or evolve, or whatever else.

The club was small, hot, and loud. It was BYOB, so we brought in cans of Hite beer, which was on sale for less than $2 for a big can at the 7-11 across the street. It's a good thing as well that there was no smoking in there, or else it would have been much harder to handle.

Some more pictures:

The ceiling and walls were covered in these paper fliers.

The first band and all the thrashers in the front.

The first band outside. The singer (with his tongue out) had a studded eyepatch. And he drank continuously onstage. Good times!

This man was from the second band. Nothing says punk like an accordion! Or a little flute, which he broke out later in the show. And apparently he looks like the guy from "Goldfinger," which I've never seen, so I take Isaac's word on this.

The singer from the second band, in the heat of the moment. While I was "thrashing" to the third band, this man actually stagedove onto my head. No worries, I just incurred a minor bruise/bump that has already gone away less than a week later.

The third and final band, hailing from Japan. Typically, Koreans hate the Japanese, so it was nice to see that these guys got so much approval. They were actually the most..."on" I guess in that they played very well.

It was quite a night, with going to Manhattan and seeing a side of Korea I never expected to see. I had a pretty great time, and Isaac and Scott really seemed to enjoy themselves. I may go back eventually, but not for awhile I think. It was pretty intense!

Posted by lrbergen 22:25 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Our Day in Manhattan

manhattan?! i meant to say yeouido...

Last weekend, my friends Isaac, Natalie, Scott and myself went into Seoul to Yeouido, the "Manhattan of Seoul." Why it is called that, I have no idea. We went to the 63 Building, called that because of its 63 floors, 3 of which are underground.

It took us about an hour and a half altogether to get there. See, we had to take the bus to Gwanghwamun, and since we had to wait about 20 minutes for a bus, we got on the first one that came along and had to stand. It was hot and cramped and stuffy and generally uncomfortable.

View from Gwanghwamun, at the Sejong Performing Arts Center.

So then we got off the bus and got onto the subway, which of course, being in Seoul, was filled to the rafters. Er...whatever. Then after 6 stops, we had to walk about 15 minutes to the actual building.

The Empire State Building of Seoul.

Look how carefree we are! We think we're getting in!

So when we arrived and the woman politely told us the observation deck was closed until July and could we please come back then...well I think it goes without saying that we were disappointed. Scott offered her money, his backpack, among other things, but to no avail. So he dragged us to the elevator, claiming that we were going to go as high as possible.

So we eventually got to floor 59, a very expensive and high-class restaurant/bar. Of course we had not dressed for the occasion, mostly because a) we're American English teachers and 2) we were headed to a punk show that night. The maitre d' was very kind in letting us sneak a peek out the window. We just happened to catch a glance at the wine menu and the cheapest was 50,000 won a bottle (about $50).

After a lot of arm-twisting and begging and pleading, I finally got everyone to agree to just do it, to shell out the money that we might have spent going to the observation deck anyway, and stay. So I won and we did.

It was kind of a smoggy day, the pollution content/density must have been pretty high. I guess though during the summer you can't see anything because it's so hazy. Also, not many of the pictures came out very well because we got there kind of late, and there was a pretty bad glare from the restaurant.
So without further ado, some pictures:

We were on the other side of the Han. This is the view of Seoul from ground level.

Here's one of the roads far, far below. Also, the Han River.

The actual restaurant, Walking on the Cloud (remember, no 'S'!)

"I think I see my dad..."

Me, Natalie, Scott, Isaac. We agreed that since we were pretty much never going back, we could have the waiter take our picture.

Seoul at night. Kind of. It's the best I could do.


Stay tuned for the next blog, about my experience as a Korean punk rocker. Hooray.

Posted by lrbergen 17:49 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)


wow...THAT was creative.

I had been thinking about doing a food blog for some time as I seem to have accumulated more pictures of food than a person needs. And let me tell you why:

My theory is that food can make women so happy that they near tears. That they can discuss, in detail, their favorite dish for possibly 20 minutes (that's my record time, but I'm sure more can talk for longer). I love food plain and simple, and I know my friend Rebecca here does too. There is an Indian restaurant in Seoul that literally, everytime I go, makes me sick. Not because the food is questionable in its healthiness or free-from-salmonella...ness...but because I just can't stop eating. Maybe there's something wrong with me on that account, and maybe it's because I have no will power, but I will eat until I make myself sick because it is so delicious. While Rebecca and I eat our meals and marvel over how delicious they are, we talk about meals past that have made us this happy.

While James sits eating quietly. It could be that he's just a quiet guy (which ...he is) but I suspect if we had another one of our guy friends along (except Paul, who can talk at length about any subject ... :) ) we would elicit the same reaction. When Walid took me to eat Middle Eastern food (tabouli, hummus), he was more than amused at how happy I was. I think that guys, in general, don't care about food as much as women do. This is a theory and so far I have not been proven wrong.
So this is the food blog and now I am going to post my various food pictures.

First, from the good old USA. When I went home, one of my favorite things (aside from seeing my friends and family, of course) was EATING. All the food I can't have here. Such as:

This was the first meal I had in America. Let me tell you, I almost died because I ate so much and it isn't possible to be as happy as I was. There is no cheese in Korea...just the processed Kraft singles.

My side dish. There is no maple syrup here either...just some weird rice syrup, but I stocked up before I came back.

This is the homemade lasagna, homemade sausage and all, by my favorite Siciliano, Kirk. Again. Near tears it was so good.

Master chef.
(*Note: I think I have a new theory with my women-love-food-too-much...I am near tears remembering and missing this food.)

Taquitos at La Esperanza. Again, impossible to find Mexican food here. They have it, but there are weird Korean sauces in there. This was my final meal. I pine.

Now the food from Japan
I was not really taken with the food there. Maybe because food was kind of an afterthought...in my haste of seeing everything, it was eat out of necessity. Nevertheless, I had some pretty good stuff.

A bakery in Gion. Pick up a tray and some tongs and fill up. I should have taken a picture of what I ate...it was some delicious cream..thing. The pastries in Korea are not impressive. Which is a good thing.

When I went to Okochi Sanso, the old actor's home, afterward, I received this bowl of green tea along with a little sweet cake. It was nice for sipping in the mountains of Arashiyama.

A buckwheat noodle concoction, with tofu in the upper left corner, and huge balls of rice below it. It was good, but not spectacular. Again with the green tea.

Cassie and I wandered into this restaurant thinking they had real food, which they didn't, so we were forced (lots of arm-twisting) to eat this tasty green tea and vanilla ice cream and wafers and ...beans? and rice balls? thing. Good.

I did frequent a McDonald's, but only because I was so hungry I was going to pass out, I swear. This was Japan's modification, the fried shrimp burger. Didn't get to try it, but...hmm. Korea has a kimchi burger.

At a restaurant Cassie, Giordan and I went to, their walls were wallpapered with paper photos of the dishes they offered. I was so hungry.

Do you see? Do you see how happy this food makes me? It's sad, really.

Now, Korean food.
I don't have pictures of my absolute favorite dishes. Only some of them.

Bulgogi, one of Korea's most famous dishes. Marinated beef served in a soup with mushrooms, clear noodles, and onions...with rice. Then side dishes: odeng (fish paste..in solid form), spinach, and kimchi.

Kalbi, or Korean barbecue. A variety of marinated meats to choose from, all grilled by you, and cut with scissors.

Sushi. I love it. This was especially delicious. Also frightening.

Kalbi, only with squid. Here's soju, and Cass beer too, along with the sidedishes.

On Korean Independence Day, I invited most of the gang to my apartment to use up some of the ingredients I had bought at home to make breakfast. We had breakfast burritos, hash browns, and pancakes. SO TASTY.

Scott pouring Valentina sauce, the best hot sauce known to man.

Mi Hee trying to navigate her way around a flour tortilla.

That's all the food I have for now. Next time I'm taking a picture of the Indian food!

Posted by lrbergen 17:31 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

Melting Pot

pot o' culture shock!

One thing that I love about living in Korea is meeting so many different kinds of people. I meet people from different countries everytime I go out, and I work with an assortment of Canadians and Americans. I dated a Korean guy for a few weeks and then as you know, dated Walid from Libya for maybe 2 months or so. And yes, I wrote that correctly, it is in the past tense.

Even people from Canada or America can offer up new perspectives and points of view you never would have thought of. You're forced into contact with people that maybe in a "normal" (by that I mean, at home or at school, or whatever) setting you would never get to know. I have always enjoyed my coworkers (most of the time) because you probably normally wouldn't happen to be friends with these people, but sometimes people can shock you. Generally I have liked most of the people I have come across and appreciated their view on things. However, there have been some exceptions.

For example. Dating a Libyan Muslim is quite an experience. Going into it, I didn't want a boyfriend at all, but he insisted so I swayed my vote and decided it was ok. That was a big change for me, and a sacrifice I believe. It's interesting though how different we are. He is a very devout Muslim and calls his mother every day. I am no religion and very rarely call home. He doesn't eat meat because it is not prepared in the Muslim fashion. This is all fine and good with me. These minor differences are great and refreshing. But then he started saying things like, only Muslims go to paradise. It's true because it's in the Koran. Women have a place and that place is in the home. Married women cannot travel alone, and most importantly, men and women are not equal.

If you know me at all, you know that this does not fly right with me. I, who was a political science major from an all-girl Catholic college that stresses feminism. We had many a discussion, maybe argument, about these points. I flat out told him that I didn't agree and if he was ok with my perspective and respected my thoughts, then I would do likewise. In so many words because there's also the language barrier to worry about. But it ended in a smoldering blaze sometime this week after he just stopped calling me. My friend Scott is friends with him and called and found out from Walid that he will not be calling me to tell me this because our thinking is different.

So long story short, I got dumped (more or less) because I think that men and women are equal. And that maybe there is no Allah, maybe the Koran is imperfect because it was written by imperfect man, and maybe if there is a paradise, why can't everyone go. Because I forced him to see another perspective. Why are people so averse to change? I don't mean people as in other than me, because I know I am too. But change happens to be a really great thing.

Also, what is with this macho caveman thinking? If this was the 1950s, or even 60s, I can see it. But hello? 2006? Libyan society is incredibly restricted because of Qaddafi (sp) and I know that Islam in general isn't too keen on women's rights. And apparently people like Walid are not ok with letting people having opinions different than their own.

I guess I didn't expect this in Korea...and by this I would even go so far as to say just dating a Muslim Libyan in general. He's gorgeous, but it's difficult to be with someone who thinks that you should rely on him and only him for everything. Who has to know your whereabouts at all times. I guess it has done me some good also because now I know that people like him really do exist. And there's some background for my next encounter.

Sorry this was a little long-winded! I'm just confused and a little hurt right now and trying to put things into perspective without being bitter or angry. I was going to write about this sweet little girl on the subway but that can wait. And as to not be disappointed there are no pictures, here is one of my classes and I:


L-R: Suzy, Jin-Ho, Andrew, Sue, Jim, Me, Jenny Kim

Posted by lrbergen 04:00 Archived in South Korea Tagged women Comments (1)


you can see my friends and my apartment!

So folks, it's no longer a secret. Well..actually, I just bought a digital camera. And cleaned my apartment. REALLY cleaned it. Not just chucked my clothes in the closet because company was coming over. HA!

Had a nice week in South Bend last week. Ate lots of tasty food which, no offense, was a big highlight. I love you family and friends, but I took pictures of the food too. I'll admit it.

So while my body recovers from the hell that is jetlag, I have some fun pics for you all! Hoorah. Friends, apartment, assorted goodies scattered throughout Korea. Always have my eye out for Engrish. Friday night we went out with Jay, our former office assistant, along with Ye Sung, James, Scott and his friend Mi Hee, Paul and his gf Kyung Hi and friend Dave, and Isuck,...er..Isaac. We ate roasted squid, drank soju and sang karaoke. Good times had by all:

Paul and Kyung Hi.

L-R: Dave, Ye Sung, James, Jay, Me

All of the people mentioned above with Scott, Mi Hee, Kyung Hi and Paul.

Jay tries his hand at giving Paul the thrashing of his life. I can't remember how it ended, but we were out with Paul the next night and not Jay. Hmm.

We then went to Norae Bong (karaoke) to test our ear drums' strength. Aiyeeshee.

Mi Hee telling me a secret...Jay being Jay.

Me, Jay, Ye Sung. For those of you who know what Jay is "throwing down," quietly snicker and move on. If you don't, it's not important and you wouldn't want to know anyway.

Saturday night we went to Hongdae, a neighborhood of Seoul, for the ATC party. ATC was most of the teachers' recruiters. For about 15,000 won, we got a "free" t-shirt, 2 beers, and french fries, carrot sticks, and other assort hors d'ouevres. LAME. But it gave us something to poke fun at. Along the way, I found some sweet Engrish. One of them is very offensive, but it just goes to show the Korean mentality I think.

James trying to sell my $2 pizza in a cup! Now with more corn...

Foreigner party on the bus. There were 9 of us. Laughing pretty much the whole time. Needless to say, Koreans hate us.

I'm so confused...

there are obscenities ahead. Grandma, please scroll down past this!

This is less funny than jaw-dropping. Just on the street for everyone to see. Like I said, many Koreans dislike the Japanese.

Hongdae. This is the slow part of the night. Trust me.

Rebecca and Mike "keep it real" at the ATC party. HA!

We ended pretty early that night, around 1. Considering it's usually 5 am, it's way early.
And today while waiting for Walid to get back from skiing, I hardcore cleaned my apartment. It hasn't been this clean since I moved in. I SCRUBBED things. The closet's still a mess, but what are you going to do? Everyone? NOTHING! HA! So here's some pictures for you.

My bed and closets. On the West end.

Windows looking out onto the highway. East end.

My "kitchen". I don't cook very often. Heh.

Bathroom. Notice the glass box that's supposed to be my shower? Nice, eh?

Ok you wanted 'em you got 'em. Enjoy.

Posted by lrbergen 02:25 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

Lunar New Year

from the oppressed to the oppressor...

So...I did it! Thursday was our last day of our crappy intensive session and we were taken out for Mexican food and karaoke, and informed that we were given a bonus for the session! Woopee!

But that's not the reason I'm writing. Friday-Monday was Lunar New Year vacation! Woopee again! So Friday morning I headed for Incheon pretty early and got to Osaka around 3:30, took the OCAT bus to Namba and waited around to meet my friend from SMC, Cassie and her boyfriend Giordan. They took me to Umeda to Hep Five department store to look around and shop while we waited for her Japanese friends. We got to ride the 20-minute long ferris wheel on top of the store that went mind-numbingly slow.


Then we went to one of the little side streets, a shopping street with restaurants, karaoke bars, and game rooms. I tried my hand at the claw machines, but about 1200 yen ($12) later, nothing so I quit. I was so close, I tell you!

We met Cassie's friends Yukari, Yuko, and Yuki (trust me, even more confusing than it looks) and went to a cool little restaurant for drinks and dinner. This restaurant was full of nooks and crannies and you sit on the floor but the space under the table is sunken so you have somewhere to put your legs.

We paid about 400 yen a person to reserve the table and we had a 2 hour time limit to drink as much as we could for 1500 yen a person, plus we got some little assorted appetizers such as takoyaki (balls of squid) and raw tuna. Delicious. Cassie's friends were really fun and funny and we drank and ate and laughed. We moved on to another bar after that because it was Yuko's boyfriend, Yoshi's birthday. Along the way, we passed strange and interesting sights.

Yukari and I really deep down feel sorry for this octopus, which will become takoyaki one day.

And I met some friends of my own. The drinking Japanese raccoon brought us together.

And a dragon invites passersby to come sing karaoke.

More to drink, more to eat, more craziness.
Cassie, Yuki, me, Yuko and Yukari at the second restaurant.

We called it a night around midnight because we needed to catch the subway. Also everyone was pretty tired.

Saturday Cassie decided to call off work and come with me to Kyoto. We first headed to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Temple. Uh...it was nice. I wasn't really all that taken with it, but it was cool to see.

While we were there, it snowed a little bit. It was pretty warm in Osaka but colder in Kyoto. We then shopped for a minute and then got on a bus, crowded, nay packed with people to go to Gion.
I had wanted to go to Gion because of reading "Memoirs of a Geisha." Gion was historically the geisha district, but has dropped off quite a bit. Now it is very rare to see any geisha unless you shell out a few hundred dollars. I guess I was expecting rows of old teahouses, but Gion is actually very modern and full of shops.


Cassie and I eventually found a street full of old teahouses, but unfortunately we didn't see any geisha.

Cassie and I at one end of the street.

We were hungry so we wandered into a restaurant, thinking they actually had food. It was a teahouse, however, and so we split a dessert of green tea and vanilla ice cream, wafers, and a lot of other stuff we mostly didn't know what it was.
But our waitress was really sweet and spoke English. I told her she was very pretty and she said so was I. Awww.

We then headed back to Osaka where Giordan had dinner waiting for us. I taught Cassie how to play kongi (Korean jacks) and we just mostly hung around and went to bed early. I watched several episodes of "Desperate Housewives" because Cassie had a bunch of tapes and I couldn't sleep. So I got my fix of American TV for the weekend.

To be continued in the next...

Posted by lrbergen 17:57 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Lunar New Year part deux

more from the land of the rising sun

Sunday morning I headed back to Kyoto, to a different district called Arashiyama, known mostly for its scenic qualities and temples. It's full of tourists, mostly Japanese, and my guidebook said it becomes quite full during cherry blossom season and fall when the leaves change. I mostly just wanted to see a bamboo forest, so I took a suggested walking tour that my guidebook recommended. Thank God for guidebooks.


A waterway near the train station.

Statues near the side of the road.

Bamboo forest! This was way more beautiful than the picture suggests. It was much cooler in it and the air was crisp and clean, a very nice break from the smog and pollution of the big cities in Japan and Korea.


A Shinto cemetery near Tenryu-ji, a temple.

More bamboo. You're actually being spared, I left out a lot of these pics as I have about 10 of just bamboo.

A house on the path.

Another cemetery.

I came upon Okochi Sanso, the house of an old Japanese silent-film actor. He built this house here because of its serene surroundings and kept beautiful gardens. It was 1000 yen ($10) to get in, but was well worth it for the views of Kyoto and the green tea and cake I received afterwards.

In the garden

The actor who lived here.

His actual living quarters.


The mountains behind the house.

And a view of Kyoto from the shrine he built. Again, you're being spared because I have about 5 of these.

After I left there, I continued on with mostly nothing much to see. It was very peaceful, with very few people and nature and temples surrounding me. Corny it sounds, but...it's true I guess.

A pottery store in the middle of nowhere.

A sign for yet another temple.

I doubled back and ate a lunch of...I don't know what the Japanese is, but it was buckwheat noodles with seaweed in broth with a side of tofu. It was so-so, not really my cup of tea. Although I did get tea with it so...I don't know. I spent about 6 hours in Arashiyama, walking and taking pictures. I finally headed back around 5 pm because it was getting late and dark and cold.
The train station.

I got back to Osaka around 6 and went back to Cassie and Giordan's apartment. It was decided that I would go look around Shinsaibashi and Amerika-mura (America village), which are both known mostly for shopping and people in outrageous fashion, and then we would meet for dinner.
One of the side streets.

A lantern/robot. I thought it was clever at least.

And a mural in Amerika-mura.

A fashion victim on the subway.

We ate at some restaurant and I ate some stuff which I have no idea what it was called but it did the trick. Again, we went to bed pretty early after I packed and then woke up early and headed to Shinsaibashi for some last-minute shopping and SUSHI! I don't know if you all know, but I have a love affair with sushi. Unfortunately, Cassie doesn't like it so Giordan and I went while she was at work.

The restaurant had the conveyor belt where you take what looks good and pay by the plate. So for about $10, I got full on delicious authentic Japanese sushi.
Then Giordan took me to the bus station and I went to the airport, my plane was on time, and in no time I was back in Korea. My friend Scott informed me that one of our teachers decided to just leave without telling anyone. But now we have a new teacher so everything's all good.

Sorry I wasn't more thorough, but...that was basically it! I got to see Gion and a bamboo forest, which was pretty much about all I wanted to see.
And now a final thought:
Japan was really great. The people were incredibly polite, the streets were very clean and the subway was quiet (no eating, drinking, or talking on the phone!) Everything was automated (ticket machines in the subway and train stations) and they drive on the left side of the road. People ride bikes EVERYWHERE...there are rows upon rows of bikes lining the street. However, everything was VERY expensive and my friend Cassie doesn't really get the same benefits as we do living in a cheap country. So, while Japan was a nice place to visit, I wouldn't want to live there. I think maybe Korea is the opposite: it's a nice place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit.

Posted by lrbergen 23:23 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

So some more

An addendum to my favorite kids.

I have a pic of Ron! And also some other kids from that class.


This pic is Ron, Billy and Peter (twins), and Luke. Look at those faces. SOOOO precious. I want to steal Ron. Wednesday is our last day in class together with these kids. I'll be somewhat sad but I won't have to wake up at 6 am anymore. S-Aweet!


Dennis and Shoen. Dennis the "red pen tea" boy. He looks kinda angry, but trust me. This kid has waaaaay too much energy and happiness at 8am. He has also become one of my favorites. Shoen is cool too, but a little quiet. And can you blame him? Craziness everywhere!


Jenny, Hanna, Joanne. I feel sorry for these girls. The boys are too crazy and while they can appreciate a good poopoo or penis joke, I think they're mostly like "what the..." most of the time.

And I completely forgot to mention Robert in the last one. Robert was my student last session in my favorite class and I completely forgot how COOL he is. His coolness is subtle. He still freaks out to me and gives me hi-fives in the hallway. We saw him walking home one time and were heckling him. "Robert...can we come over for dinner? Will your mom make us dinner? Please Robert! No? Ok, can you lend me obek won? ($.50)" He is really smart and just overall a really chilled-out, laid back kind of kid. But still really cool. I don't know where it came from, but one day he just started singing "Shut up, just shut up shut up" which was a popular song in the states. So, impressed, anytime I wanted a kid to be quiet, I would just say..."Robert" and point to him. He always piped in. And the kids always called him "Robot." But he took it in stride because he's so cool!
Robert is behind Daniel.

Ok that's all for now.

Posted by lrbergen 17:48 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)


I don't even know...

So how can you possibly get something funny out of the word "Pentagon?"


Of course.

Boo, that's all I have for today.
Plus my kids are obsessed with soju. Lushes-in-training!

Posted by lrbergen 17:55 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Han, dul, set!


I don't particularly enjoy grading essays or quizzes, but because of the language barrier, I can get some pretty great stuff.

We read a story about the origin of sandwiches, the rich Earl of Sandwich and all of that. So on the test, the last question was "Was the Earl of Sandwich rich or poor?" which seems very easy to you and me, but most of the kids looked at it and turned it in unanswered. The best answer I got: "sandwhich is eat a poor people." Meaning, I think, that poor people eat sandwiches? But still the visual of sandwiches eating poor people is quite funny.

And another:

My one class, the one with Jennifer (see favorite students) is convinced that I am in love with Scott, a fellow co-teacher, and that he is in love with me. I don't even remember where this all started, but every day that I come into class now, "Lyndsey loves Scott" and "Scott and Lyndsey are getting married!" is all over the board. "Miss Gacon!" is being yelled from every corner of the room (Scott's last name). Jennifer and another girl, Selin, went so far as to forge love letters to Scott in my name, bring in the wedding march CD, and make confetti to throw at Scott and I. The mix was made more complicated when I admitted to having a boyfriend and admitted that Scott has a girlfriend.
On Wednesday's reading test about Mars, Selin wrote a question number 6:
6. Does Lyndsey love Walid or Scott?
She love Walid and Scott both.
She love two mans.

And so, my sordid affair with two "mans" continues.

There's plenty more where that came from.

Posted by lrbergen 19:05 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)


You couldn't make this stuff up.

Yesterday one of our teachers, Chantale, informed us on the busride home that one of her students, a boy, always has his hands down his pants in every minute of every class. Hmm. A little disgusting I would say. But kids are kids and you can't really blame him, can you?

So then I told another teacher about it and he told me the following story:
Another different teacher was grading essays and one of HER students wrote about some operation that his friend was having and how he was scared because he was going to have it too. He didn't know the English name for it, but wrote it in Korean. Upon asking the Korean teachers what this mystery operation was, she encountered quizzical looks. So our counselor, Hye Won, took it upon herself to look it up on the internet. Apparently, both of the little boys were having circumcisions.

I kid you not.

So the first little boy in question was not "byung tae," he was merely inspecting to make sure everything was ok down there. Wouldn't you?!

Posted by lrbergen 03:09 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

And Another Real Quick-like


So as a teacher, I understand that we are not to choose favorites. It is horrendously unfair to the kids and can actually leave you in a bit of trouble with the parents if you show your favor in class and the other kids catch wind of it.

So now I'll announce my 5 top kids, since I know for a fact none of my students nor their parents will ever see this. HaHA!

- Tomas. Tomas was one of the coolest kids I've ever met. He was almost always quiet in class and pretty much never did his homework. So needless to say, he was not exactly prize student material. What made him so great was the fact that he couldn't help but grow on you as his excuses became more and more far-fetched. His knowledge of English cuss and slang words was quite impressive as well. One essay I received from him included the words: "f**k it!", "d**n this farmer"
and "son of a b****h! wake up!" Obscenities, I know, but I can't help it. I would tell the kids to take out whatever book we were going to work in next and he would utter "shet!" And no homework? "Oh teacher is so beautiful and so kind. And I broke my arm and hospital and ...no homework." Like everyday. He is unfortunately a 6th grader and has moved on to the middle school so I won't probably be seeing him ever again. I have my memories though.

- Daniel. Daniel came late into my class after transferring from James' class. I was warned that Daniel was a little..."off." Daniel quickly became one of my favorites in the class that was by far my favorite. It was a lower-level class, which I love because I can act a crazy fool and the kids just eat it UP. First of all, Daniel has miniature bags under his eyes, constantly, making him look like a harried ajassi (read: Korean for middle-aged man) who spent too much time drinking soju the night before rather than sleeping. My fondest memories of Daniel are the constant dance-parties he had with himself. He would constantly stand up at inopportune times and dance around like a little penguin. He completed all of his work, but sat at his desk playing with his pencils and whispering in Korean to himself. One day I came in to start class and tried to move the podium, which was much heavier than usual, which I was suprised to find that the reason was that he shoved himself into a ball in the bottom and was hiding out. He is still at Avalon (my school) so I get to see him a lot, but unfortunately not in class everyday.
(Daniel is on the left in the yellow jersey)

- Jennifer. Jennifer is one of my new students in an upper-level class. I remember hearing about her from James and Scott, who shared a class with her last session. Now she's mine. She along with the other 4 girls in the class, are convinced that Scott and I are getting married. Everyday: "When are you and Scott getting married!" I made her a CD of Christmas songs because she loves the ones I played in class and everyday for a week told me how perfect it was. So then she brought me a gift of a box of rice cakes (dok). Not really my bag, but still the gesture was incredibly sweet. But this isn't the only reason I love her. Everyday she has something new and clever and subtly hilarious to say. And she even burned me! One day I was asking them a question and they're thinking so I start giving them hints and reading the sentence in the book so they'll finish and give me the right answer. Or whatever I just said. So Jennifer pipes in:
"Ohhh! Teacher! You can read?!" She is precious and precocious and I love her to death.
(Jennifer is on the very right)

- Ron. Ron is a new student to Avalon and I have him in my "Blossom" class every MWF. He is the youngest student in our school, a mere 2nd grader. And he is seriously about the cutest kid I have ever seen. And everyday he just babbles on in English and asks me questions all the time and is just so sweet I want to take him home with me. Pretty much the first kid that has made me want kids. James has him in his RI class (our lowest level) and agrees that he's a cool little kid. I expect more cuteness to come as our session drags on. No pics yet.

- David, Jun Hyung, Martin, Jack, Sammy, Steve. Not just one kid, I know, but as a group they made quite a comedy troupe. They are typical little boys who throw paper airplanes and shoot rubber bands at each other. They started off the semester pretty uncontrollable and drove me crazy. They just never shut up, which usually I don't mind, but it was all in Korean. Everyday they would mimic me, which I minded only for my lack of experience, but with one talking-to by the counselor of our school, Hye Won and they complete turned around. For awhile they were afraid to talk I think, but then they started up again, only including me in their little jokes, which I think may have been my problem the whole time. One day we're learning "nobody, everybody" and David starts cracking up. Not wanting to miss out on the joke I ask him why he's laughing so much. Apparently, "body" sounds like the word in Korean for pants, "bajee." So "no pants." It amazes me what these kids find funny. They called each other perverts all the time and taught me some Korean swear words. And Sammy, one day, was flipped off by a girl in class which I missed because I was reading along with the story we were reading. So Sammy yells "UHHH! Teacher!!! She f**ked me!" Needless to say I cracked up for about 5 minutes. And to this day, it is my favorite language barrier story. I still see all of these kids although I do not have any of them in class. And they're still cool as hell.

So there you have them, take them or leave them. I prefer to take them.

Posted by lrbergen 01:38 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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