Sunday, December 13, 2015

Preconceived Notions

Taylor Fox and I... and a well timed photo bomb.

   Unfortunately sometimes you don't know how to or cannot tell people just what you think of them. At least for me, so many things go unsaid and having a blog is a good way to unsay the unsaid... say that which is not said... right? Something like that.

   Too often do we have preconceived notions about people and things. I am absolutely no different and I'd like to say that I am usually a fairly good judge of character. I am wrong from time to time but not so often. So you can see where I would develop preconceived notions about people frequently with little thought as to how the person really is or is not.

   I had not met Taylor Fox yet, not really, but we were in orientation together when I came to Korea. I must admit that preconceived notions were formed quite quickly in my mind about her. Here is a tall, very pretty, girl who is educated, and well liked (read popular). (Please keep in mind that I say all this about Taylor in a completely non pervy, non creepy, non romantic sort of way. I hate that I feel I have to explain that but a guy really can think a girl is pretty without wanting to be anything more than a friend.) It wasn't hard for me to imagine, and put a tag on, who she was as a person. Unfortunately that tag was negative, but well deserved by most women with said attributes. So my tag stuck until by some random chance we struck a small conversation.

   It is not uncommon for girls (seemingly) like Taylor to either pretend I do not exist entirely (which I am completely fine with honestly) or get the absurd notion that I am talking to them because I would like more than friendship. So striking up a conversation with Taylor was a bit like pulling a tooth I must admit. But not wanting to be impolite, I endured. To my surprise Taylor was quite different than what I thought. I don't really remember what we started talking about but I do remember her being really fun to talk to and she never made me feel awkward like other girls that I so mistakenly categorized her with.

   To be honest I really think Taylor would have been the last person I would have spoken to if she had not spoken to me. Which is sad to think about. Because not only is Taylor a really fun person, but she did something for me that she probably doesn't even realize she did. She restored something in me I had lost somewhere. Some of that cynicism I had about women with her attributes subsided when she simply treated me as a normal human being, something that some other girls like her seem to be incapable of. We don't hang out, we don't talk on a regular basis, but none of that really matters. She did a lot that I can't put into words. I can say with confidence that Taylor is a really good friend regardless of how often we talk.

   So my point is that Taylor surprised me very much. That surprise did a lot for me that I can never really put into words and I could never truly thank her for. All without her seemingly even noticing at all. Some people have a big, positive, impact on those around them without even trying and those kinds of people are ones to remember. Taylor will go off and continue to impact people's lives through the Peace Corps soon and I am in awe of how fitting that opportunity seems for her. If she can only impact people in the way she impacted me, then she is doing the world a favor.

   Thanks Taylor and I wish you luck in the Peace Corps. You are a deserving person for such an honorable opportunity. You are a role model and a friend no matter how many miles away.

  There are many other people I could and probably should write about. Perhaps some day I will. Taylor just seemed to be on my mind after this last TaLK trip. Speaking of which, I will write about said trip soon.

   Also, I am approaching 100 blog posts soon. It kind of feels nice. I am, as you may have been able to tell, not very good at keeping up with personal projects. I'm not good at keeping up with routines in general. I don't know why. One hundred blog posts really isn't that much considering how long ago I started this but to me it is a nice little mile stone. Thanks to all those who read and I hope you continue to read for hundreds more.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Snowy Yecheon

   Just a pointless video with me overly amazed about snow. Just thought I'd upload.

Monday, November 23, 2015




   I don't mean I am changing my clothes or changing my outlook on life, nothing profound like that. I have a very nasty habit of collecting my change. Or perhaps it is a good habit I don't know. If you have ever seen my computer desk it is always full of multiple layers of coins. Every month or so I get tired of it, throw it in this old cloth bag I got a long time ago, then continue to layer more change onto my desk. Eventually I end up with a lot of money saved up. In this case, 62,000won worth of change. Not a bad chunk of change if I might say so myself... ah... knee slapper.

   At about 2 in the morning I was lying in bed when suddenly I got the idea for this photo. So I stacked up all my change and arranged it in neat rows. Artistic inspiration sometimes comes at the most inconvenient of times and leads us down paths that are... odd I must admit.

Click on any image to enlarge it.
   First, I don't have a macro lens. For those learning photography perhaps I will cover what a macro lens is sometime in the future. But basically it allows you to focus really close to a subject. Usually insects or flowers. This is good for small things. Normal lenses, however, have to focus on things a bit further away from them. I first tried my 85mm to try and get at least a nice tight crop on the coins. It turns out that I had to be so far back to focus that it just ended up looking dull. It simply wasn't the photo I had in my head.

   But then I remembered there are these really awful, cheap lens converters on eBay all the time that basically allow you to mount your lens backwards and get a little bit closer to a macro look. I don't, and never want to, own one of those converters but I had an idea. I took off my 85mm and held it up to the body backwards and took the shot. What I got was kind of interesting. Not what I wanted of course, but I thought I would just play around anyways.

   Ultimately I had to rely on my phone for the image at the top of this post. Yes, thousands of dollars spent on camera gear and my phone was able to do what my gear couldn't. As I have said in the past, having expensive gear does not make you a photographer. A photographer can use any camera and be able to create something. The only issue is the image quality, it is a tiny sensor after all and can only shoot JPEG files. It was, however, just for fun and I kinda like it. What do you think?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Follow the Rabbit

Follow the rabbit.

   It seems like since coming to Korea I have come to understand Alice so much more than before. She followed the rabbit down the rabbit hole and ended up head over heels. As have I. Everyday I am reminded that I am a foreigner in a land I will never fully understand but always find fascinating.

   I have followed my white rabbit down a very peculiar hole just the same. Everywhere I turn there is something new and fascinating, even if only on the smallest scale, for me to wonder at and be confused about. I do not speak the language, and I will never fully understand the culture. But just like Alice, this will be an adventure to remember forever.

   I haven't been shooting much this past week as you may have seen. Rain is one thing, a week of torrential downpours are another. Couple that with cold temperatures and you have one photographer who does not wish to leave a warm dry building. Really, though, my camera body has developed a few cracks and has made a weather proofed camera not so weather proof. Whereas before I would have been fine taking my camera out in a light rain, I am a bit more afraid to take over $2,000 worth of gear out not trusting the weather proofing capabilities any longer.

   I would love to buy a new camera but there is nothing on the market that interests me more than the current Nikon D610 I have. Sure I could upgrade to one of the more top end Nikon's but none of them really appeal to me. The D610 is relatively cheap, small, and does everything I need it to. If I were to buy a new camera I would just be buying the same model. That seems like a waste, I think I'd rather wait until a Nikon D620 or whatever the upgrade to this will be.

Ok... camera geek tangent over.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Yecheon Music Video

Bob Westfall

   Here you see the one and only Bob Westfall. I have shown photos of him in the past on my blog. I met him here in Yecheon and he plays a sort of music style reminiscent of the past. I value that kind of nostalgic artist.

   On this particular day Bob dragged me around the city shooting clips for a music video. Unfortunately I am terrible at cinematography but I tried none the less. I caught this photo towards the end of the night. No clue how the video will turn out but if you are interested, click on his name above to go to his website.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pretentious Brain Plasticity

   Perhaps this image has no real substance to it, and in a general sense, no it doesn't. But I am kind of drawn to images like this. Images that you can't easily distinguish a shape from. I guess people would call it "fine art" but to add that label sounds a little pretentious at times. Plus, I don't really feel I am the best at this type of photography. I like it, without a doubt, and I am deeply moved by some fine art images. I am just not that great at it. That doesn't matter though as I feel that always practicing every aspect of an art makes you better in some way. Even if it doesn't necessarily make you better at, say, fine art, simply practicing should improve you in other ways. I think in doing this we are helping to keep our brain's plasticity.

Or perhaps I am full of shit.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lost CTRS Video

   Here is a video I barely found on my hard drive. I meant to upload this video as a final one when I left Japan but I think I was waiting to add something to the end. I do not know what though. As such, it is not quite finished but seeing as how that was a year ago now... I think it is safe to just release it as is. I miss Japan a lot. I really can't wait to visit again.

Traveler Comradery

   There is a difference between a traveler and a tourist. Sure, the traveler and the tourist may go to the same places, may even see the same things, but the traveler has a different mind set and different goals. It is not to say that one is any better than the other, they are just different.

   Travelers understand each other. We know how hard it is to be lonely, and we know how important it is to be alone. Those with a wanderlust do not think like other people and don't want the same things. When travelers get together, there is an understanding and comradery that goes deep. Everyone just gets it even though it is unspoken.

   Travelers may not always be with each other all the time, but when we come together the fun we have is second to none. I am happy to have met the little group of people that lust for adventure here in Yecheon.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Puking in the Andong River

   These statues in Andong always crack me up. They are supposed to look like two little kids amazed at the little stream that runs through the crossing. It is definitely something nice to see. On the other end there are tables you can sit at that have water falls coming out of them. Kind of hard to explain but really nice to see. Andong is a really interesting place and one of the first things I see when I go shopping are these two statues. They crack me up because they look more like they are puking in the river...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Yecheon in the Rain

I love the rain. I have probably said that a million times by now.

   One of my favorite things about a rainy day are the reflections. Particularly in well paved areas such as this one. This is Yecheon's main crossing and it looks great in the rain. I love the way headlights and street signs cause huge streaky reflections to pool up on the pavement like that.

   Rain is definitely difficult to shoot in. If it is raining too hard, it is just an absolute mess. Even if it is only slightly raining camera bags need to be protected, changing lenses is a chore, and there is a constant worry in the back of your mind about water seeping into your camera. However, if you can brave the elements, there are sure to be great shots to be had. I guarantee it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

My Bike Was "Stolen"

No Jesus Hell

   Here is another daily photo for my personal project.

   Did I mention Seoul is NOT Korea? I feel like this photo should add a bit of weight to this statement. Keep in mind that, generally speaking, Korea is not a predominately Christian country. However, I have seen this kind of scene many other times in Seoul yet not in the smaller towns.

   In fact in my little town of Yecheon there is actually 2 Christian churches here, but I have yet to see this sort of thing.

   So what is this? Well they are the tools of soothsayers, bible thumpers, angry men (or women) with an idea about life after death yet has never actually died themselves. This one was fortunately unmanned but it struck me as a very odd sight to see here in Asia. It doesn't stop there though, I have seen actual bible thumpers here too. Again, all in Seoul. They like to hang out near subway exits. So if that's your thing... you're welcome.

What I found most interesting about this scene was the little bit of Konglish sprinkled in for good measure. Ah good ol' Korea, you constantly make me smile.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Yecheon in the Setting Sun

   Here is my daily photo. Yecheon is really anything but beautiful, I don't think anyone would deny that. It is just not that type of town. It is small and special in other ways.

   One thing that strikes me though is the way the streets of this city face the setting sun. I don't know if this was planned but every time I walk home from school I am in awe at the light quality. For someone who is constantly looking for light, these types of streets are like candy.

   I wanted to post this photo for another reason too. I actually don't like it. I figured someone may be able to learn from the big mistake I made.

   If you notice, a lot of the photo is taken up by the foreground. That was done intentionally but I didn't realize that I have gotten THAT much of the foreground in the shot. What I should have done is angled the camera slightly higher so that the photo is more balanced. If I had just looked down at my camera I would have noticed my mistake right away and reshot. But as it is... I am lazy. So here ya go.

   Here is my color edit as well.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Come and Gone

   Did you know I bought a bike? Well I did a few weeks ago. It wasn't the most expensive bike, but it wasn't cheap either. A nice roadbike with a pretty unusual color scheme. It was black and mint green. I rode it everywhere in this town and I stuck out like a sore thumb. A foreigner riding a really bright bike. Not something you see every day in a little town such as Yecheon. In fact when people would see it outside a store or restaurant, they'd know I was inside because the bike is just such an odd color.

   If you are wondering why I am speaking in the past tense, well, that is because it is now gone. At least for the time being. It was stolen today right from the bike parking thingy at my school. As I walked outside to my bike like I have been doing every day, I noticed there were no bikes at all. I also saw one of my 3rd grade students and I asked her if she had seen it. Pretty much all of my students know my bike. In limited English she told me she thinks she saw a 6th grader take it.

   This makes sense. For one thing, I think an adult would consider how identifiable that bike is and probably know that so many people in town would recognize the bike as not being theirs. Personally if I were to steal a bike, it would be some common looking black or red bike. But a child probably wouldn't think that way. They'd just see a cool looking bike and want it. Also, crime isn't a common thing in Yecheon, so for someone to actually want to do something malicious would be pretty rare indeed.

   Oddly enough I am not really all that mad about it. I am a little disappointed that someone would do that to a teacher. I highly doubt that any student in that school didn't know that was my bike. Also, it is kind of my fault. I don't have a lock for it. I planned to buy one, but didn't rush on it because the safety of Yecheon and the fact that I am a teacher. I didn't think someone would actually mess with a teacher's things like that. Plus I know I did some pretty dumb stuff when I was a kid. If I find out tomorrow it was a kid at school who took it (and I have a feeling I will) I really couldn't find myself being mad about it. I would, however, have to feign that I am mad about it. A child must learn that these kinds of things are not okay. But deep down inside I'd be laughing because it would remind me of myself at that age.

   So anyways my bike has come and gone quick as that. I don't even really care too much about it. In fact I have a really strong feeling I will find it soon.

What does that have to do with this image? Nothing. But I figured I'd share my story anyways. Also, it is 11:58pm on 11/4/2015 right now so this still counts as one black and white photo for 11/4... heh.

   On Halloween I went to Itaewon in Seoul. I actually wasn't going to go but the night before I realized I may never get another chance to see Halloween in Korea. I mean, this little town was not going to do anything at all. It is not a Korean holiday. In fact some of my students didn't even know what Halloween was...

   So I did what I love to do best, people watch. Halloween is probably the best time to do just that for obvious reasons. I was pleasantly amazed at how many people were celebrating this Western tradition. Not just foreigners either, but tons of Koreans too.

   This is but one of many photos I got that night. Actually these guys were kind of jerks... but at least they let me take a photo!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Staying Creative

   I think it is any artist who finds themselves simply hating their work at some point or another. I am no different. As much as I love photography, a lot of times I think what I produce belongs more in the trash bin than out in the world for all to see. As a practitioner of any art form you tend to get to a point where you look at your work with this odd mindset of inadequacy. More often than not you are just simply being too hard on yourself. I don't know how many times I have said, "Gosh there is no way the client will like these photos," just to find out that they absolutely fell in love with the work I did.

   Sometimes it gets to the point where you just simply don't want to try any longer. An artist is much more in touch with their feelings, for better or worse, than most people. When they feel a certain way about what they are passionate about, sometimes it can be all consuming negatively or positively. This often leads to a painter abandoning their brushes for months or even years at a time and the same holds true for any art form. But to those who are not artistically inclined, the only way I can describe this to you is like locking yourself in a dark closet for months at a time. It is almost painful.

   For many artists the winter time is sometimes the worst for them. Winter can inherently bring about gloom for anyone. But again, artists are more in tune with their feelings and so it hits them hardest. 

   What I am trying to say here is that I often hit these barriers that no one but myself puts up. If you don't believe me, just take a look through this blog! One thing I have found to be helpful though is creating a personal project for yourself and holding yourself accountable for completing whatever you set about for yourself.

   So here is my personal project to keep the artistic blues at bay. I am going to try to post one new black and white photo per day on my blog. I don't guarantee they will be award winning works of art, but I really want to just get myself out there shooting again. I am putting this out there for all of my viewers for a few reasons. Of course the first is for your entertainment. I know some people really do enjoy my photos and to them I am immensely grateful. Another reason is for learning purposes. Perhaps someone will find these photos helpful if they are just starting fresh in photography. Finally I want to feel like someone other than myself is holding me accountable for releasing these photos. I can't guarantee anything, but I really do hope to release one black and white photo a day (shot at least within that week) for... well I don't know. Let's start with a month for now and see how it goes.

   So here is the first photo. I nabbed this photo in Seoul this weekend as I was walking through a market. I thought this particular scene was interesting because Seoul is just so... weird. How do I explain it?

   Here in tiny little Yecheon, this scene is all too common, an old lady sitting around selling vegetables and fruits on the street. Nothing really surprising here.

   Seoul, however, is such a big city and huge supermarkets are so common. Yet just as those are common, these little open shops are almost as common all throughout Seoul. I constantly ask myself how these small local shops keep in business. However they do it, I am glad they can.

   Seoul is not South Korea. Seoul is Seoul. It is kind of hard to explain and it is a topic that I hope to go into more detail about in a future post, but just understand that if you dream of coming to Korea but only come to Seoul, you have not seen Korea. Seoul neither defines Korea, nor is it completely removed from Korea. I think that is why this scene you are seeing right here struck me so much. This country is amazing in so many ways and these contrasts are part of what makes Korea so interesting and... dare I say... FUN?!

   What do you think? Does this photo make you think or feel anything?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Through the Cracks


   As a blogger it seems that more and more stuff seems to just fall through the cracks. That is to say that things I should be writing about, recording, or photographing for my blog just seem to, well, fall through the cracks and never make it onto this blog.

   It is for a number of reasons really. Sometimes it is because what I am doing isn't long enough to make a whole video out of. Other times it is because there are other people around me who probably wouldn't enjoy a camera following them around everywhere they go. More often than not though, what I do is just ordinary mundane stuff.

   Believe it or not, living abroad isn't all glitz and glam like the Travel Channel would like you to think. I am not complaining, far from it. I love living abroad and all the mundane things that go along with it. Though when all I do for the day is wake up, take a shower, eat lunch, go to school, come back, and do some laundry, I don't really feel like that translates well into a blog post. Don't get me wrong, the mundane stuff in blogs is what I read them for, but even I have a limit on how mundane I can stand to read or watch. I am sure the readers of this blog can relate.

   For that reason, things just seem to fall through the cracks. However, unlike those socks under your bed from freshman year, I have not forgotten about the things that I have captured along the way. So, here I will post some of the photos that have been gathering so much dust in the deepest darkest recesses of my hard drive and memories. Perhaps some of these things you have seen on my Facebook page with or without stories attached to them. Some of them I have not shared at all, and I'd like to do that... now.

Right now.

Right after this.

   Upon arriving in Yecheon one of the first things I noticed was a large pagoda atop a small mountain. At night it is lit up beautifully and it didn't take me long before I started asking how to get up there to see it. It also didn't take me very long to get invited to hike to it. A fellow teacher invited me and, although the hike to this part is fairly easy and quick, the rest of it is fairly difficult but well worth the view.

Excuse the weird white ghost at the bottom right.
   I quickly met the few foreigners who live in my town. I am glad I did because although I am pretty good about figuring stuff out, these two in particular Dai and Lauren, have saved me from many headaches for sure.

   Sports day is kind of one of those perks of being a teacher here in my opinion. For one, I didn't have any classes that day, and for two it was a lot of fun watching my students battle it out against each other in different events. It also gave me an opportunity to meet some parents and see other town's people acting goofy. Sports day is interesting because pretty much the whole town came and shops even had to close because a lot of those shops are run by my student's parents.

   It never ceases to amaze me the type of people you end up meeting while abroad. The stories you hear and the talents you see really are unique and for some reason they seem more prevalent while travelling. Not sure why that is. One of those talents is someone I met named Bob Westfall. He's an amazing singer of a genre that hits closer to home than what I expected to hear from a Canadian, let alone a Canadian living in Korea. Check him out here.

   I guess that is about it. I just wanted to share with you all the stuff that kind of fell through the cracks since I have been here. There is more, of course, but I think this gives you a little bit of an idea of what has transpired.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Heart of Stone and a Tiny Human

   I don't know whether I am a good person or a bad person. I feel like in this world, we don't really live by those black and white distinctions. I would say that I am a good person, but I have done bad things, said things I shouldn't have said, and made enemies out of friends. I don't think I am alone in that. Lately that question has popped into my head a lot and ones just like it. "Am I a good person," "am I a good teacher," and so on.

   I have been in a bit of a bad mood this week. Some reasons I feel are justified, and others I feel may be me not dealing with things in the correct way. I know, or at least have an idea, of when I am wrong and I can admit it. I feel like my teaching has suffered because of it a little too. In summary I have been questioning why I am here in Korea at all and feeling a little bad that I could answer it with words, but not with my heart. There has been a bitter feeling brewing and growing inside of me...

   Today was probably one of the worst days. Sure, everything went as planned, and I excelled at the task at hand, but I felt bitter and unfulfilled. Perhaps even unjustly so, but that didn't change my feelings in the slightest. Sometimes you feel a certain way for no real reason. 

   So after school I walk home, try to just relax, quickly come to the conclusion that will not work, and head out for a walk still in my work clothes complete with a tie... I didn't know where I was going or why I was walking, but I was.

   Here I am down on myself and acting like a big baby when not even a block from my apartment I hear crying. I look down the street to my left and I see a little girl running in my general direction. Usually I would have walked on, kids cry for a lot of reasons, but I stopped for some reason and looked around. None of the other adults seemed to stop or slow down for the little girl except one old lady who didn't seem familiar to the little girl either. 

   This little girl was about 6 feet from me and I looked her straight in her teary little black almond shaped eyes. Instantly the heart of stone I had been carrying within my chest cracked, broke, crumbled, and melted into a soft puddle of mush. I realized instantly that this little girl, no older than about 4, who was filthy from a hard day of playing without a care in the world, now had streaks down her face from salty tears that had washed away the dirt... because she was lost.

   Now, my town is tiny. To get truly lost in this town would be an amazing feat. However, for a human being who stood no taller than my waist, this town might as well be downtown Manhattan. To her one block was probably a mile and a three story building probably a skyscraper. Knowing this, I assumed her parents couldn't be more than a block away at most, and I motioned for her to come to me.

   I saw hesitation in her step and I knelt to her level so as to look less opposing. I am not a very tall person but in her eyes I am probably a giant. As I did so she came to me still sobbing. I asked, "Are you okay?" and instantly realized that was a mistake. Her eyes widened and her sobbing stopped momentarily out of surprise. Then she turned and booked it down a random alley. I wondered if she might have realized where her home was and, for fear of scaring her even more, I didn't run after her. I simply stood watching as she rounded another corner. I waited for another few seconds and just as I thought, she came running back around that same corner and stopped, looking at me and sobbing. Again I knelt down and beckoned to her the Korean way (Palm down like calling a dog. I hate doing it, but I wanted to be as familiar to her as possible.) and said, "괜찮아?"(gwaenchan-a meaning, "Okay?") in as best of an accent as I could. It was the only thing I knew to ask in Korean but this seemed to help put her at ease a little and again she came to me. This time I offered her my hand and she put her dirty little paw in mine and we walked out onto the street again.

   So now I have a little girl who is lost and can't speak a word of English, what am I to do? I took out my phone and called my Korean co-teacher for help. I seemed to have given the little girl a little comfort because she quieted down a bit and I had no fear of her running off again. Thankfully my co teacher answered quickly, and just as I am asking her to ask the little girl where her family might be, out pops a little boy about 2nd or 3rd grade age from a random side street. Instantly the little girl turns and runs to him sobbing even louder but clearly relieved to have found someone familiar and off she went without a second glance back at me. The little boy bowed to me and smiled, I waved and watched them both walk down the road to an elder who was waiting for them, the little girl's tearful sobbing still audible even at a distance.

   That's when I remembered in my mind and my heart why I am here. I am no white knight here to save every lost child and rescue kittens from trees... But ultimately I am here for the kids. I love kids. Kids know things that adults could never fathom, are dumb about things we take as common knowledge, fearful of things we find laughable, and brave in times when they should be running in fear. Kids are amazing little creatures, and I love them all. It took a tiny human being, who was really in need of a bath, to remind a fully grown adult what his purpose was. I want to help children in any way humanly possible and make a positive impact in their lives. I don't believe in fate or predetermined destiny, but if there is such a thing, mine is to help kids whenever they need it. Both in good times like trying to win an English speech contest, and in hard times when separated from their parents.

   In time I will inevitably lose my purpose again and in time this little girl will get lost at least once more in her life. For her, I wish I could guide her back home every time, because for me, she will always stick in my mind as a guide back to who I am and what I am supposed to be doing.

   All that, from just a tiny little human being.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Super Fun Amazing Mundane Korea (or not)

Follow me on my adventures in Korea. In this action packed episode I meet Mormons, pay my bills, almost get hit by a truck, become all too amazed about shopping cart technology and much much more! Or... not.

Just a normal day in the life.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

FYI: Food Prices

Uhhh FYI for anyone interested in what its like living in a different country. I like those types of vlogs even if I will never live in that specific country. I figure others might as well. Nothin' fancy, just me talking to my GoPro.

Friday, September 4, 2015

YouTube Update

Hello readers of my blog. I know some time back I mentioned I would be uploading videos again... Well I want to still. But here is a hint as to why I have not. They are forthcoming though!

The Thing About Soju...

Not my photo

  There is nothing beautiful about Soju. There just isn't.

   Soju is an alcoholic drink made from distilled rice and is basically Korea's Vodka. This stuff looks like water and tastes like crap. I can't explain it any other way, the taste is just completely terrible. Rubbing alcohol seems preferable to this stuff. It is popular, however, because it is incredibly cheap.

   Soju is also incredibly cunning. You drink your first shot, it tastes terrible, but then you get over it and think, "Huh... that isn't so bad. What a weak drink." When the bottle is finished, you and your drinking buddy look at each other and have a few seconds of clarity, then things start going down hill after that. Before you know it you are speaking Korean you didn't know you knew, in a hole in the wall bar you don't remember how you got to, with Koreans you didn't know you've ever met. Then the next morning you wake up in your room (if you're lucky) with a hang over like you have never experienced before.

   There is nothing beautiful about Soju... Or is there?

   For me, Soju is neither great tasting, nor much fun to deal with the next day. But the thing about Soju is that there is something special about it that has nothing to do with the taste or the amount of alcohol. Instead it has the power to bring friends together. My experiences with Soju have simply been experiences with friends. I have met a lot of awesome people, and had many awesome conversations over a bottle of Soju. Soju is powerful in so many ways, but the one thing it excels in is fostering memorable nights with unforgettable friends.

Anything that powerful is good in my book.

Soju is powerful.

Soju is beautiful.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Here I Go Again

   I am taking a small break from packing yet again. I feel like I have just been packing and unpacking for the past 5 years at this point. I have, however, only been in Korea for less than a month. It feels like a lot longer.

   It took me a little while to adjust to this move it is true. While I am not fully adjusted, I must admit that I am not nearly as down as I was in the beginning of this adventure.

Jae and Jane
   I didn't make many friends while in this orientation. That is to be expected though. As I have said, I am a bit of a recluse, and that is okay with me. I did meet some pretty cool people, and got close to some who did not reciprocate. I did meet some pretty nice students while here named Jun and Jae.

   Jun I met the first or second night we arrived in Busan. I had skipped dinner for some reason and was looking for something to eat. I went down to the convenience store here on campus and bought some ramen. As I am just sitting to eat my ramen, Jun is sitting eating ramen too and we just started talking. He turned out to be a pretty cool guy and really friendly.

   Through Jun I then met Jae who turned out to be just as friendly. I think it is a Korean thing to be honest. In any case these two together made for some pretty funny conversations and soon they even introduced me to people from my own program that I had never even spoken to before. It is kind of funny how that works out isn't it? Meet one person and you meet a bunch more.

   This little group was kind enough to invite me out on a couple of their drinking excursions and I must say it was a lot of fun.
Terribly lit photo I know...

Surprise birthday celebration
   Here I go again. I hate to leave Busan but I must. Tomorrow I will be swept on further down the river. I will miss Busan immensely. I liked what I saw of Busan a bit more than what I saw of Seoul. Perhaps later that will change, but for now Busan is my favorite big city.

   I will hate to leave the few friends I made. Hopefully the distance will only be a minor inconvenience. We shall see. 

   I don't have much more to say. Orientation was fun and long. Some of the people I met were really cool, some I wish I had gotten to know better, and some I spent more time on than I should have. Tomorrow is a new day though, and a new day is a new adventure. Where will I be? Certainly not where I was. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Teaching My Past Self

   In a few weeks time I will be a teacher... Me. An actual teacher. I will be teaching 3rd-6th graders English in South Korea. More specifically, in Yecheon Dongbu, Gyeongbuk province. I have never taught before. Not formally anyway.

   If you had asked me 2 months ago, "Do you think you could be a teacher?" My answer would have been a confident, "Of course!" Now my answer has become, "Uh... yep." I am confident in my abilities, but there are a few things weighing on my mind.

   First off is the responsibility. I have never been fully responsible for a child or their education before. That's not something to be taken lightly, at least I don't take it lightly anyways. I know I can do it, but I know that at some point I will fail in some way. I am, after all, only human. But will I be able to correct those failures, and how much will those failures or successes impact the children that trust their impressionable minds to my care.

   Which brings me to perhaps the biggest thing that has been on my mind with this topic. That is, how I was when I was in school.

   Does anyone remember "Gifted and Talented?" (GT) Does that even exist anymore? For those who don't know GT was this program that took in kids around 3rd or 4th grade who seemed to have a gift for learning. "Smart kids" I suppose. You had to take a test on various subjects like reading and so on. I was selected to take the test and one of the sections was creativity. Oddly enough I failed that part of the test. When I was smaller this actually had a huge impact on me. I questioned why I didn't have creativity. I figured I was just an unimaginative person and I stopped being interested in any kind of art projects. Now, however, I know where my creativity lies and it has never been any different, even at that age. But I had to figure it out myself through various art forms and it took me a long time to get over the stigma of that test telling me I was not creative enough. I cannot imagine a day without art for me now. If I had never questioned that test and experimented, I don't know what my life would be like today. A life without art is a life without expression. This single test could have decided the rest of my life. No, in fact it has, I strive every day to be more creative.

   Although I was a little older than my potential students, a lot of stuff was changing in my life around 5th grade to middle school and no I don't mean just the usual "changing into a man" stuff. I had a lot on my plate and on top of that, it wasn't until 5th grade that I had ever had a male teacher.

   So what? Big deal, your first male teacher.

   I was raised by my mother and had weekend visitations twice a month with my father. My father left my mother before I was born. She inevitably married when I was about a year old but he too was non-existent more often than not and not a great person when he was around. So the only two males in my life that were of a higher status than me had hurt my mother, and by association, hurt me. I hold no grudges against my father. Whatever he was when he was younger, he is a good man now. Though around 5th grade is the time I needed my father the most, and the time when I felt I had my father the least. I don't know whose fault it was, if it was anyone's at all, but that is how I felt.

   I now understand that I have a real aversion to male superiors. Even to this day I cannot stand the fact that a male is over me. I know how to deal with it, but I hate it. At work, I prefer to have female managers and bosses. When I have a male boss, I simply never go to him more than I have to and that is how I avoid staying out of trouble.

   So then in 5th grade I get thrown into a classroom where I must take and obey orders from a male. I didn't know why I fought so hard against him, but I do now. It was amazing, like night and day I went from GT kid to being in the principal's office every day. I had the weight of a lot of personal stuff on my shoulders, and they go and throw me into a situation which was only an accident waiting to happen. 5th grade was the start of all of my school issues. Until college, I had not done homework since the 5th grade, I broke school property, I yelled at my male teacher, got in plenty of fights, I even set stuff on fire which ultimately got me sent to a school for troubled kids. I fully blame administration for how that period of my schooling turned out. Any self respecting administrator should have seen what was happening right away. My mother was not the uncooperative, tuned out type either. In fact I feel like she was in the principal's office more than I was. They knew my situation. It doesn't take a genius to think, "Okay, this kid hasn't had stable male figures in his life, and hasn't ever had a male teacher until now and he is acting out now where he never has acted in the past. Maybe he needs a female teacher."

   I feel bad now for all I put my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Herrera, through. He didn't deserve half of it. He was around the age I am now and I think this was his first teaching opportunity. It wasn't his fault at all, but neither was it mine. In the end we did become really close on a real personal level. He didn't give up on trying to win me over and by the end of the year he succeeded in becoming one of my favorite teachers. It was, however, a little too late because I would go on to get kicked out of school a few years later as I mentioned previously.

   (I wish I could meet him now and tell him where I have turned up and where I am headed. I don't think he remembers me but if he does I know he'd be shocked.)

   Later, during high school, I merely got lucky. I met a girl who really knew how to keep me in check. I thought about most of my actions a little more mostly because I didn't want to fail her. For that, I thank her, I can only imagine the hardships she saved me from. Not everyone gets lucky like that and High School is really a huge determining factor in someone's life. I have no doubts in my mind that I am ultimately sitting here now writing this in Korea because of the help and support she showed me. Perhaps she did so indirectly, but she helped me get where I am and where I will be in the future.

   My point in all of this is that I know what conclusions teachers and administrators drew about me. They looked at my poor grades, my switched off personality, my introversion, and came to the conclusion that I was just another difficult kid. Little did they know that I was learning, I was studying, I was listening to every word they said. I just couldn't show it. I remember countless times a teacher asking if I was even paying attention and I'd have to reply, "No," because I was reading ahead of what they were teaching.

   So then, will my experiences as a kid in school prepare me for what I am about to face? Will I be able to see the potential in the children who won't speak? Or will I fail them as so many failed me before? It breaks my heart to no end to think that this is even a possibility. I know what it is like to be failed, to be let down by so many that had the opportunity to lift me up to another level. Of course the majority of the effort must come from within the individual, but a teachers job is to see the potential and squeeze it out drop by drop if they need to.

Can I do that?

Can I teach my 5th grade self?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Oryukdo Island

   I know I haven't updated my blog in a few days, but the amount of crazy that has been attached to that time is indescribable. I am, however, now in Busan and staying in the dorms of Busan University of Foreign Studies. This campus is really nice but getting from one building to another is a workout in itself. The campus itself lies in something like a valley and has steep grades all throughout. There are even some Rocky Balboa stairs that I have found to be good exercise after the sun goes down.

   Last Saturday the TaLK program (I really need to dedicate a post specifically to explaining the TaLK program soon.) took us on a little excursion to a tourist spot in Busan called Oryukdo Island. It is actually a chain of 6 islands, but depending on the day you can only see 5. This area is fun to explore and has a really nice view of the ocean and islands from various vantage points.
The whole area itself is a bit small and can be explored probably in about an hour if you're really just in a hurry. But if you want a nice workout with some beautiful nature at every turn then this is a good place. Actually, I have come to the realization that living in Korea means walking up hills everywhere you go so a workout is not far from your front door.

   That being said, Korea has really encouraged me to lose weight again. After my motorcycle accident I could barely walk, let alone run or exercise. After I healed though, I simply lost the will and all the progress I had been making prior kind of went out the window. Being in Korea has shown me how much of a mistake I made. It is embarrassing to be sweating as soon as you take a step out of your door. Its not fun seeing girls turn their heads for the guy beside you and seeing right through you. I... have come to a sudden and unexpected realization about something. I don't feel like I could ever see that realization become any more than a dream or wish with the way I look and feel now.

   Korea can do that to you. It is not a bad thing. Call it motivation if you will, but when you see so many fit and good looking people, even those twice your age, you start to look at yourself differently. It is good then, that we have places like Oryukdo to reflect... and burn some calories.