Archive for the ‘Life in Korea’ Category

Seoul Horse Racing.

March 15, 2010

Well, I went to the horse races. It was pretty fun!

We arrived there and made our way to the foreigners lounge, a somewhat quiet and smoke free lounge mostly filled with foreign born Koreans or Japanese men. Later on there were a few western stragglers, probably too hungover from the night before to make it there any earlier.

Coming out of the subway the crowd diversity narrows into a steady stream of 40 – 50 year old Korean ajjoshis (married men – assumed). As you make your way into the pavilion you first see a small track where you can check out the horses from above as they walk around or stand in their paddock. I skipped that part and made my way inside. When we figured out that the foreigners lounge was down at the far end of the grand stands, we set off to find it. The place seemed endless and everywhere you looked were old men and a few women set up with their weekend guide book to see who would be the favorites to win. Everyone was checking and rechecking numbers and stats to figure out which horse was going to be their payday.

I have to admit I got pretty into it. Once we figured out how to read the guide book we started making bets. There are a few options with the bets, you can pick who will place (in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd), who will get first, who will come in 1st and 2nd (in any order, and also in the correct order) it goes on from there. My favorite bets were who would come in 1st – 3rd, it just seemed most logical to win. Most of the guys, however, would place bets on the quinella, where you have to determine which horse will come in 1st and 2nd. My bet choice had the best odds for winning, worst for payout. I placed my bets, they can range from 10 cents up to 100 dollars. I chose to bet 2 dollars on one, and 5 dollars on another. In the end I lost $1 and made the rest of the money back. After that I was hooked, once I cashed in my ticket and placed my second round of bets I had a smile on my face that was hard to erase. By the end of the day I watched about 6 races and I was up 7 dollars, then down 2 dollars, then up 4 dollars then back down and finally lost 1 dollar. Pretty good entertainment for the price. I really like the fact that you can bet small amounts of money, you still feel bummed when you lose 50 cents, however.

Oh I should probably mention that this is the only place near Seoul where Koreans can gamble. The other was near my former town of Taebaek. Which explains the vast amount of people in attendance.  As well, the seats outside are quite a sight, everyone smoking frantically, ash flying in the wind, silence, then at the home stretch, curse words and very few cheers.

This is my short video of what it’s like.


The fine art of doing nothing.

February 11, 2010

How do you stay busy at a time when there is really nothing to do.

I’d prefer to be working on something, but I can not. My new semester of classes starts on March 1st and as of right now I don’t even know what grade I will be teaching. Therefore, I can’t prepare any lesson plans. I have heard that it might be grade four, but we are getting new textbooks this year so I can’t even attempt to start preparing. I am happy that my school is not like most other schools in that they allow me to work at home during the winter break, and I’m not stuck at my desk doing nothing. I am now because technically school is in session. Today is the last day before spring break, and the last day at school before I leave for my trip back home.

In this office setting with five teachers and myself, I have to appear to be working, at least in my mind. Other teachers have no problems watching movies on a laptop in front of their principle or taking naps everyday. Hell, I ‘d like that too. It’s just not in my character though, sure maybe if I was isolated in my own office I would take part in such activities, but I would keep an ear out just in case.  Now to someone who might think this sounds like slacking, try sitting at your desk for 40 days 8 hours a day with nothing to do. All the planning for school can be done while school is in session, and for me it should be done while school is in session. What you expect to happen and what happens during school are two different things. You have to be able to adapt to learning curves and what is popular and what is not. If you waste your time preparing for the whole year and the activities are duds, what is the point? I need some pressure in order to perform properly anyway, otherwise it’s too hard to focus.

Throughout my 8 hour day I usually alternate websites. The most common are Korean news papers or Blogs about Korea. I figure if I’m not working I might as well educate myself on something relevant. As well I feel that the other teachers, who are pretty much doing the same thing I am, will at least see it’s a worth while activity. I bolster these readings with an occasional break to tumblr, facebook, gmail,  and hotmail. I’ve heard people say, how can you be bored, you have the internet. Well sure, if I could watch you-tube and download movies and watch those, I wouldn’t be bored at all.

Despite the fact that I don’t like sitting here and doing nothing. I will try not to complain about it, in that way. I do know that I am being paid and being paid to do nothing. This is definitely not a situation to complain about, as I know many other people do.   No one likes to “desk warm” but if they want us to, than we shall.

I only wrote this for something to do.

Leading a life in Korea.

February 4, 2010

I am living in South Korea. I have been for one and a half years. The first year was spent in a small town named Taebaek  (태백) in the Gangwon Province.  It was a great experience to live there and I’m glad that I did it before making my transition to Seoul. Despite the fact that most people want to live in Seoul, there is always a little jealousy and disdain for the people that do live there. At least for myself, being on the outside.

Living outside of the sprawling mass of apartments, restaurants and hofs that seem make up the majority of Seoul, I can’t help but think, I’m glad I don’t live here. I then take pride in announcing to others that “I’m from Taebaek, in Gangwon-do.” The usual response would be, “Where?” After this question a quick response should suffice, “Oh this small town of 50 000 people.” As no one really cares where you live, since most people haven’t had the chance to leave the big city in search of what the rest of Korea might be like. Of course, I’m generalizing. But, if you live in the countryside you want to believe you made the right choice, to land randomly in some province you didn’t know existed before coming to Korea. In the end, I do believe I made the right choice, despite the fact that other people might have been having more fun, meeting more interesting people, meeting girls and guys in the same age bracket, I still had adventures. Perhaps even more than I have had living in Seoul so far.