Tag Archives: ulsan

Spring is here!

Spring is here in Ulsan, and so is our old roommate, Corrinn!

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Spring is here!

The weather has been pretty consistently in the 60s, occasionally dipping below into the 50s or reaching up into the 70s. It even got up to 76 a few weekends back. Trees are beginning to bloom. In a few weeks, cities all over Korea will start hosting their annual cherry blossom festivals. Sara and I are signed up to go!

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Flowers blooming

We were both stoked when Corrinn emailed us and said she wanted to come visit. She flew in on Wednesday, and is staying for a week. On Saturday, we decided to trek up to Gyeongju. Located 45 minutes north of Ulsan, Gyeongju was the capital of Korea until the 900s. Seolwi (Bella), one of Sara’s friends, was an excellent tour guide. We visited Yangdong, a traditional Korean village, and Bulguksa. Yangdong was fascinating. The village looks like one would image Korea looked like 500 years ago. Despite its antiquated look, it’s entirely populated by normal Koreans living normal lives. Sure, there’s a satellite dish here and a parked car there. Otherwise, it looks like medieval Korea. Constructed in 528 Bulkguksa is a temple that was the seat of Korean Buddhism. Of all of the temples we’ve visited here in Korea, I would say it is the most beautiful. After a day of touring, Seolwi took us to her mom’s Korean restaurant for some delicious authentic food.

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Me, Sara, Seolwi and Corrinn at Bulguksa

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Lots of details on the temple roof

Saturday morning I woke up feeling a little achy and tired. It only got worse that night, so yesterday I went to the doctor. He informed me that I have the flu. Booooo! He loaded me up with drugs and told me to take it easy the next couple days. I stayed home and rested while Sara and Corrinn went on an adventure to Busan.

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Beatiful woodwork everywhere

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Bulguksa Temple

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A Day in the Life of Davo

Winter is finally descending on Ulsan. Before we got here, we used to hear people complain about how cold Korea is. Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t believe them. I’ve lived in Chicago and Prague. We’ll have weeks where it doesn’t get above zero Fahrenheit. Ulsan is at the same latitude as my childhood home, Chattanooga. How cold could it really get?

What no one explained to me was that they don’t turn the heat on in a building until it’s below freezing outside.

So I’m sitting at my desk wearing long underwear, pants, a sweater and a decent jacket. I’ve got a bottle of hot water shoved under my sweater, and I’m freezing.

An empty classroom: The calm before the storm!

An empty classroom: The calm before the storm!

One upside to winter in Korea is our apartment floor. They have this invention called the “ondol” (온돌). Basically, the way they heat their houses is by pumping hot water through the floors, making it an excellent place to curl up on a cold day!

Teaching English in Korea is pretty much a dream job, especially at my school. I teach 22 classes a week. I see every kid from 7th grade once a week, and every kid from 8th grade every other week. This means I have to plan a total of 6 lessons a month. I’m also not supposed to assign any homework, nor do I create any tests or quizzes. Consequently, I don’t have to grade anything, either. My co-teachers are also responsible for helping with classroom management, so half the time I don’t even have to be the one punishing the kids.

So with my job, basically, I keep all of the fun, wonderful aspects about teaching, and can all of the annoying, frustrating parts.

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My classroom, where all the magic happens.

Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. But my school basically leaves me alone. I’m supposed to have a co-teacher in class with me, but for about 2/3rds of my classes, they don’t show up. I’m left to fend for myself. This has it’s pros and cons. On the one hand I have the freedom to do pretty much whatever I want in the classroom. On the other hand, I’ve notice a dramatic improvement in class participation and behavior when the co-teacher actually bothers to show up.

Nevertheless, the kids are on average (with definite outliers) well-behaved. I imagine what would happen in the States if there was a middle school teacher who didn’t speak English. The class would be absolutely nuts! They’d probably eat the teacher.

I also have a lot of downtime at my job. I teach 22 hours, which leaves me 18 hours to prepare the 1 1/2 lessons that I teach each week. How do I fill this time? Well, I will mention that I can name all 196 countries in the world from memory. On a more productive front, I’ve kept of some of my freelance relationships from back home.

Outside of work, life here is sweet. Honestly, this year feels like an extended, slightly more structured vacation. I have no responsibilities outside of work, giving me tons of time to pursue leisure activities and hobbies. I’ve started exercising a good amount. Sara and I are planning on running the Chicago Marathon when we get home next year, so I’ve started training for that.

I’ve actually really (for the first time ever) started to enjoy running. I finally broke through the 5-mile ceiling that had given me trouble in the past. Now I can go farther without much difficulty, and the miles keep adding up! It’s exciting. Although, the cold weather has added another level of challenge. Running in 37 degrees is no walk in the park.

We’ve also made a point to explore and experience Korea as much as possible during this year. We rotate weekends. Every other weekend we do something explore-Korea-ish. On the off weekends we stay at home and relax or socialize. We’ve been to Seoul and Busan a couple times, the lantern festival in Jinju, and hiked several mountains in the greater Ulsan area.

The view from Muryeong San behind our house.

The view from Muryeong San behind our house. (Taken a few weeks ago.)

Now that cold weather is setting in, our explorations might slow a bit. However, we’re looking forward to our winter break at the end of January. Philippines and Thailand here we come!

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Petro-what?

In all of my classes this week, I’ve introduced myself and told them a little about my family, my hobbies and Chicago. After telling them about Chicago, I ask them to write what they know about Ulsan. It’s helped me get to know things that Ulsan is famous for. Here’s an aggregated list of the most popular choices:

  1. Hyundai car factory
  2. Hyundai ship factory
  3. Whale museum
  4. Kim Tae Hee (actress)
  5. Tae Hwa river
  6. Ulsan Pear
  7. Onyang Beef
  8. Earthenware
  9. Bamboo forest
  10. 12 scenic sites

The complexity of their answers depended on the class’ level of proficiency in English. For example, my advanced classes would write, “Ulsan is famous Hyundai car factory.” My intermediate might write “Ulsan is Hyundai car,” or just “Hyundai car.” My beginner classes would write partially in English, partially in Korean, or simply draw it.

I’d done this drill about 15 times with my various classes, and pretty much knew what to expect. Then, yesterday morning, I had one of my lower-intermediate classes. We got to this part of the lesson, and while they were working, I walked around to monitor their answers and offer help as needed. I stopped at table towards the back of the class to look at their answers. It was a pretty typical list:

  • Car
  • Ship
  • Kim Tae Hee
  • Petroglyph
  • Pear
  • Beef

B’scuse me? This is my one of my lower-intermediate classes. Petroglyph? I was flabbergasted. I wonder how many kids her age in the States know what a petroglyph is.

As it turns out, Ulsan is known for the Bangudae petroglyphs. I don’t know much about them other than that, but I’m definitely adding them to the list of things I’d like to check out when Sara and I get a free weekend.

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Summer Camp

Remember going to camp when you were a kid? Boys weren’t allowed in the girls’ cabins, and vice versa. Everyone snuck out past curfew to meet up with their crushes or had to sneak them into their room without getting caught. Life feels about like that right now.

We’re at Ulsan’s new teacher orientation, and they don’t have couple housing. So Sara’s in a dorm room with a bunch of other women, and I’m in my dorm room with a bunch of guys. On the upside, we’ve made a lot of friends with all the other teachers, which is great! There’s some pretty cool folks here that we’ve enjoyed getting to know. While the majority are from USA and Canada, there are also a number of Brits, Aussies and South Africans. It makes for a fun mix. On the downside, having a summer camp girl friend has been pretty obnoxious. Oh well. We’ll be in our new home by the end of the week.

Which, by the way, we’re excited about! We’re going to be in 연암동 YeonAm Dong (literally, ‘soft rock neighborhood’), which is northeast of the city, right beside the airport. I’ve marked our schools on a Google Map. I will be teaching middle school, and Sara will teach elementary school.

Orientation so far has been primarily a crash course in Korean and an introduction to 울산 Ulsan. We’ve explored the three major expat hangout spots already. Last night we went out with some other new teachers and made friends with several other teacher who have been here for a while. We also had some delicious, late-night, street-food momos! Mmmmm. I could get used to that.

Today was our day off, so we tried to go see the new Batman movie, but it was sold out when we arrived. Instead, we spent our time exploring the grocery store and taking an inventory on the food situation. As it turns out, it looks like we’ll probably be able find a lot more of the food we’re used to cooking than we initially supposed. Some items were very expensive, like olive oil. We even found cheese, although the prices for it were listed in body parts rather than Korean Won.

We’re hoping to get our cell phones by Tuesday. We should also be in our new apartment by Friday. Classes start Monday. Woohoo!

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