Trip to Oz

So I went to Oz yesterday.  It was pretty awesome.  For those of you who don’t know Oz is the name of LG’s 3G phone network so most of their phone shops are labeled Oz.

The guy at the store was super helpful, even if he didn’t speak much English and my Korean is coming along slowly.  I looked at a few unmarked phones and asked the ever useful Korean phrase Eolmayeyo how much?   And he looked up the prices.

I found a pretty nice Samsung phone, pretty basic model with a camera and Mp3 player…though it needs a micro-SD card.  They also through in a nice hard plastic carrying case which turned out to be a plus as i accidentally dropped it in the cross walk today on the way to dinner.

There was a fair amount of pointing  to numbers and them writing things out for me on a calculator, then they even were nice enough to call up their friend who spoke english with a bit of a south African accent and she made sure I understood everything i had agreed to ( i did actually either explicitly or implicitly in the case of if i go over my minutes I pay more than the base rate)

As an aside my green card says LG on it because one of my bosses offices is in an LG building.  So the guys at the LG store thought I worked for LG and were incredulous at me buying a Samsung phone.   I’m sure somewhere in America there is a corporate rivalry like this.  But I’ve never experienced anything like that.

They asked me twice and then called someone who was fluent in English and while she was asking me other things about the price she asked me if I was sure I wanted to buy a Samsung.

All in all I think i ended up with a pretty nice model.  I’ve got a few of my friends numbers in the phone.  What really strikes me is how much easier the cell phone makes life.  Last night I went to see Avatar with several people from all over Seoul.  We only had two forms of communication, the cell phone and facebook messages.  And it all went off without a hitch.

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Gaming in Korea

Sorry about the lack of updates recently I’ve been sick for about a week.

Before I came here I’d heard how PC gaming was big in Korea. I’d read a lot of magazine articles that compared it to the Japanese console market. The comparision is, terrible.

The Japanese game market, arcades excluded, functions in very similar ways to the American game market. Basically it’s all based on getting people to buy your game and single and multiplayer games are both big bussiness.

The Korean game market has no single player games. Playing Starcraft’s campaign in a PC bang (read bong–an arcade for PC games pictured above) is considered rude. One of the reasons behind the lack of single player games is they pirate everything that isn’t nailed down here. In general spending money up front on games is becoming rarer and rarer. The free to play model is such big bussiness here it’s all setup on the heroin dealer system the first hit’s free. But I think that really limits the kinds of games that they can make to stuff with really good quick appeal.

At this point i should point out that there is a console scene here and piracy is still an issue there although less so. One of my students had a flash drive in her DS though. I’m not really seriously morally bothered by piracy. I’ve chosen not to do it for years now but plenty of my friends do but seeing what happens when Piracy is unrestrained makes me dislike it a lot more.

The games they do play here other than stuff from Blizzard and NC soft mostly aren’t all that well known in the West. Warcraft, Starcraft, Lineage, Diablo, Aion you’ve probably all heard of those but then you get to a bunch of free to play stuff like KartRider, Sudden Attack, Dungeon Fighter Online a lot of clones of better games. Also Maplestory and Fifa Online are huge here. At least with my students…almost all of them are into either one or both of them.

Other than Blizzard there really isn’t a Western publisher with any kind of substantial presence here in the PC space. I have seen Xbox 360s with American games in Emart and Homeplus but i’ve yet to see anyone buying that stuff.

Oddly enough the PC bangs advertise how great their computers are…and then Koreans go in them and play Starcraft and Kartrider both of which I’ll bet you could run on one of the more advanced cellphones here if you really wanted to.

Oh great a top of the line Nvidia card to play Starcraft locked at 640x 480.

The saving grace for me is that steam works here and they’ll let you bring an external storage device into the PC bang and play whatever. I just got a 500 gig hard disk which powers through the USB to take with me on a gaming bender.

Soup and sandwiches reconsidered

I’ve always liked soup quite a bit.

But right now I’m eating soup probably more meals than I’m not eating soup.

One of the first things I learned about food from the grocery store in South Korea is that Ramen here is way better than the ramen cups we got back in America.  They were okay but even the regular like package of six ramens for like 3,000 won are really pretty good.  I’ve been getting one from E-Mart that is bright red and spicy enough to light your mouth on fire.

But it doesn’t end  there, soups have become one of my favorite things to order out on a budget.  I got sick of gim bap pretty quickly.  There’s just something about it that doesn’t really make me feel like a good meal.  But then I was introduced to some of the soups that the gim bap place near my building has.

Kimchi chigae I’ve talked a little bit about but it’s a fantastic soup provided you have a nice supply of water ready to go with your soup.  It’s also the best cure for sinus congestion I’ve ever seen as it just clears me up better than most nasal mists.  It’s seemingly always served in a small black bowl, like seen above ,and it’s usually still boiling when it’s served .

Another thing I’ve found that I’m really enjoying is Mondu ramen (phonetically anyways)   It’s a dumpling soup with ramen and it’s served in a semi-spicy watery broth.

Shabu-shabu was probably the healthiest thing I’ve had since I’ve arrived.  They put a pot of broth on to heat up at your table on a fire and then they provide you with a tray of vegetables ranging from lettuce, to sprouts to pumpkin to mix into your soup with some very small cuts of lean beef.   It’s really an all you can manage vegetable bonanza and the broth is quite delicious.

The other thing I’ve had quite a bit is stuff from Paris Baguette.  It’s a Korean chain of bakeries that has just got a few branches back stateside.  They make the best sandwiches I’ve had in a long time.  Their use of a croissant like bread reinforces my long standing position that it is the bread not the meat which makes a good sandwich great.  I especially like the cranberry walnut chicken sandwich and their ham sandwich isn’t half bad itself.

All in all Korea has yet to let me down with a really bad meal.

Teaching–First thoughts

I’m kind of surprised how much I like working with younger kids.

My Seedbed (the lowest level English speakers we have @ Chung Dahm)  are really fantastic.  They really have  so much energy and can  find such joy in the little things.

When I hand back an A+ the reactions range from a beaming smile to a sort of seated dance of joy.  At some point the smart ones start to expect success and it becomes routine for them but at the earliest level it’s really enjoyable.

Also at the entry level they’re still learning phonics so you can see really impressive growth week to week as they’re learning how to make some of the more complicated sounds.  (I only have Seedbed 2 level courses so they know the major sounds)  The upshot of this is that progress is really evident in their speaking because sounds like Sh and Ch go from an indescribable mess  to a pretty clear version of what SH and Ch sound like.

Another thing I like about teaching the younger kids is our classes only go for a short time.   Students see a foreign teacher for 40-45 minutes  and then a bilingual korean teacher for 40-45 minutes.  Higher level language courses are known to get up to 90 minutes for just say speaking or writing–so that’s really welcome as the mind can only absorb what the butt can endure.

Learning Korean step 1 the alphabet

I thought learning the Korean alphabet would be hard, like learning Japanese  was pretty tough.  But another foreign teacher, Meredith from the school in Anyang, told me that she had learned it in a day.

I was expecting learning to sound out the words would take me a lot longer than that so I decided to dive right in to Korean.

I learned about half the alphabet my first night, then the second night I got tied up in my novel, then the 3rd day I had a kid absent from a 1 person class so I spent 90 minutes or so just studying the letters i didn’t know and all of a sudden I could read 99% of the signs.

Not that I understand hardly anything.  If it’s not a word that came straight from English like Cider becomes saidor (sa-ee-dor) then I don’t really know what i’m reading usually but it’s a start.  The hard part will be building up that vocabulary I think.

I also finally got the words yes, no,   and 1,2,3   of something memorized.