Archive for the 'transportation' Category


My bike, at the top of one of the nearby “hills” at sunset:


One of the major advantages of having my “scootercycle” (as I call it, as it’s 100cc) is that I can drive around the island to get my photos pretty easily.  I have a tendency to just wander around on the little one-lane roads that form a spiderweb between the rice paddies and meander up the mountains.  I like the freedom of being able to stop at a crossroads and think “Hm… I wonder what’s up over on the other side of that hill…” and then actually go and find out.  My sense of personal freedom is very important to me, and I think I would have gone a little crazy by this point if I didn’t have my bike, and the ability to just “go” that it provides and represents.  I have lived in cities, and I have lived in the countryside, and I prefer the countryside, but what I did not initially take into account in my choice of Jindo as my location here in Korea was transportation.  When I have lived in rural areas in the past, I have always had my own car.  Here, the beauty in the surrounding countryside that I saw from the windows of buses was tempting me, but I couldn’t explore.  Thankfully, someone informed me that for $400, I could own one of the little motorcycles/scooters that all the farmers ride here.  It’s a bit of a POS, but it has taken quite a beating from me and it still runs quite well, considering.  The important thing, though, is that it’s mine, and it allows me to see what’s over the next hill, around the next turn, or at the end of the road.  If only it were so easy to do that with your life, eh?

The Human Popsicle

Oh my god. That was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life, I think.

I drove my motorcycle to school in this:


(that’s actually yesterday’s snow, but today was the same, possibly even harder) 

My WWII German parka got its trial-by-fire, and by the time I got to school, the formerly gray parka was completely white in front. Snow was plastered to my entire front, and I had to wipe off the front of my facemask every 5 seconds. I wish I had a photo, I must have looked hilarious.

In my defense, it wasn’t snowing until about 5 minutes into my 20 minute drive, so I had no idea.  I would not normally drive a bike in conditions like that.

Even wearing two pair of dense wool socks as gloves while I was driving, my fingertips still hurt, after 10 minutes in a heated room.

Here’s a video of the snow.  It’s choppy, but you’ll get a basic idea:


Today was a school holiday, so I decided to drive the scootercycle to Mokpo.  The drive to Mokpo was fine. Driving around the city was a bit challenging, as I had no clue where I was going, but the drive there was fine. As predicted, it took about 45 minutes to get there, a full half-hour less than the bus. Most of the drive was at 80-90kph, which is generally about as fast as I’m comfortable with on the twisty roads here in Korea. I have a crate on the bike now though, and when it has weight in it, it really helps with turning and wind gusts, so I may just keep my bag of dog food in there permanently from now on, since I am always forgetting my tupperware containers of the food anyway. I think I’m just too light to really make the bike behave well. I get blown around a *lot*.

I went to E-Mart (Korea’s answer to Target, or a “HyperMarche” in France) and bought another rug (I have 5 now. Korea doesn’t do anything other than like, doormat-sized rugs, so I have them all over the house), more dog food and treats (half the price they are here in Jindo. Ironic considering this is “the dog island”), a shirt and skirt, an anti-bacterial cutting board, and some more nice wooden chopsticks (Korea uses metal ones, which conduct heat). I was going to go to HomePlus to buy a second one of the skirt I got there last week that I like, but I couldn’t figure out how to get there, so after half an hour of driving around aimlessly, I went back to E-Mart and got a burger from the McDonalds there, before heading home.

Got home, and found that my co-teacher emailed me asking for a document and photo I have given them 4 separate times (Korea is chronically disorganized). The document was a format my computer (and, for that matter, pretty much any western computer) can’t read, and she wanted a new photo taken as well. She says she wants this tomorrow, and yet she sent the email at 6pm, after the photo studio had closed. Korea is notorious for informing people of things and asking for things at the absolute last minute, and it is one of the things that I find truly frustrating. They seem to have major problems with thinking about the future at all, and it really, really shows.

Okay, no more griping. Time for dinner.

Here, have a photo:


3 minutes from my house...

3 minutes from my house...

Some recent videos…

So, I figured I’d post some of the video clips I made this weekend.  Enjoy.


This is the village I live in.  That video shows the main (only?) road.


That’s part of one of the ways I can get home from work.


This was video taken on a sidestreet in Jindo Eup, the county seat and main/biggest town on the island.


Some footage while driving near my house.  This starts off about 3 minutes from my house, and is of a road I drive all the time.


These videos were taken by putting my camera around my neck/shoulder and resting it on my camera bag, behind me, as I drove, hence why it looks “backwards”.


This has probably been my most trying week here.  My most trying day was returning to Jindo from Seoul, having left Marc at the airport earlier that morning, but this week has just been, well, shitty.

My students, usually very happy to see me and excitable, have been taking out their frustration at having to come back to school on me by being virtually unresponsive in class.  Believe me, getting kids to talk is FAR more difficult than getting them to quiet down.  On Tuesday, I had a brain fart and thought I was teaching a different workshop than I was, and ended up arriving halfway through my teaching period, and then spent the next 1.5 hours getting not-so-subtle glares.  They were understandable (I had left them sitting there for an hour and a half), but made me feel like a crappy person.  Yesterday I had even more trouble with unmotivated students, and then during lunch, my co-teacher and co-workers were both talking about my scooter, and saying that I needed a license (I don’t, not really), even though they had never even seen so much as a picture.  It irritated me, and really raised my hackles.  My co-teacher actually at one point said “If I call the police and ask if you need a license, they will say yes.” I really wanted to say “Go ahead. If you take it away, I can’t come to teach at your school.” Instead, I just sat there angrily eating my rice.  I got up from the lunch table before everyone else, and I’m sure they were chittering away about it after I left.

The hardest thing about bad weeks like this is that I have a minimal support system.  I live a 15 minute drive from anyone else who speaks English, and even then, while I like the other foreigners here, I am not all that close to any of them.  Lisa, perhaps, but even then, I still remain relatively guarded.  If life isn’t going so well, the best I can generally do is blog about it.  So, here I am.

Hopefully this weekend will improve things.


So, when I left Gunnae this morning it was merely cloudy. About 5 minutes into my 15 minute scooter drive to Goseong, it started pouring down rain. I now get to teach while drenched (mental note: leave a shirt here in case this happens in the future), and was just introduced to the new principal and vice principal while soaked. >.< Not the best first impression of a foreign teacher.

I really need to buy a raincoat. Really, really do.


The rumor was true.  My Supervisor from Hell™ is indeed being transferred to Naju, and so I am getting a new one on Monday.  I’ve already met the guy, and he’s awesome.  His English isn’t great, but it’s better than SfH’s, and he’s very friendly, has been to the states, and loves both Boston and the Sox.  So, this bodes well.  Maybe my luck is changing, eh?

First week of the new semester went well.  Korean kids spend much of their vacations in various other forms of school, so there isn’t as much of a post-summer rowdiness issue as I have experienced in teaching in the US.  But, there’s still some, so I took this week relatively easy for them.  Next week though, it’s back into the abyss.

I’m really, really enjoying my new scooter.  Makes getting around the island quite easy and pleasant.  It also makes it easier for me to get around to take photos like these:

Field of Sunflowers

Field of Sunflowers




I can theoretically drive it all the way to Mokpo, but I’m not quite that brave yet.  Maybe after another week or two, once I’m more comfortable with the highways.

Apparently, come October, I may be essentially the only foreigner on the island. They can’t find replacements.  The irritating Torontonian (or whatever they call themselves) left in August, and he taught at the high school. Lisa, who teaches at the “English Town”, leaves to go home to Nova Scotia in October.  There’s a guy who works at the local hagwon, and while I see him more these days, it’s still not really regular. That leaves me, that guy, and E. However, E is married to a Korean, and we (the other foreigners) don’t see her that often, and we’ll see even less of her when her baby is born in September.

According to the recruiter that works to find jobs for this area, nobody wants to work in rural areas, and they’re having a really difficult time finding anyone to come work here. Hopefully they’ll find someone soon, or I’ll have to recruit someone myself!

School Stuff

Wednesday I head up to 해남 (Haenam) to take my driving classes.  It’s offered in English once a week there, and while I was annoyed at first at having to take the class, it would be nice to actually understand what the various Korean traffic signs mean, and understand what the rules are in terms of bikes.

My lesson this morning crashed and burned in the first 5 minutes.  They were even more rowdy than I had anticipated.  I ended up making a tally of how many people did which activities over the holidays, and then asked them questions based on their answers (like “Where did you swim?”, “What TV show did you watch?”, etc).  After that, I asked them to give me suggestions of some topics they would like me to cover in class this semester.  Korean students have essentially no control over their schooling, and I wanted to put a little power in their hands, for once.  They seemed baffled that I was asking *them* what they wanted to learn, but eventually they figured it out.  So, now I have some ideas of what units I should touch on first.  I ended with about 10 minutes to spare, and so we played hangman with the category being sports that were in the Olympics.  They enjoyed that, and it gave them a positive note to end on.

Tomorrow I go to 섴교, my least favourite school.  My co-teacher there corrects me in front of the class (and 95% of the time he’s wrong), and often will try to change my lesson as I’m teaching it.  I have talked with him about this before, but he’s an older teacher, and most older teachers tend to view younger teachers as below them, and thus have no problem with overstepping that classroom boundary.  It’s irritating, but there’s little I can do about it.

*Edit:  Oops, I was wrong, I’m going to 지산, the school I work at that doesn’t have indoor plumbing.  Nice kids, horrendous facilities.

I wish I could say this was unusual…

My supervisor is INSANE

So, my school just moved me to a house that is 20 minutes drive from anywhere, including the bus terminal that I have to get to to go to several of my schools. One of the conditions of me letting them move me so far away was that they help me get a scooter, as without one, I am SOL and unable to teach. Naturally, I have to get a license for my scooter/motorcycle. The driving school is at 1pm on Tuesday, and is 3 hours. Unfortunately, on Tuesday afternoons I have a 1 hour teacher’s workshop that I teach, though it’s quite informal and borderline optional. The teachers said they would be okay with moving it, but the supervisor refused to let me move it. Instead, she wants me to take the driving class that is on Wednesday at 1pm, and since the driving hagwon is an hour away, and I would get back from the classes at 5pm, approximately the time that the paperwork is due at the police station, SHE HAS CALLED THE POLICE STATION AND ASKED THEM TO STAY OPEN LATER. This woman is insane. My co-teacher kept telling her on the phone “no, she cannot take the class that day – the paperwork is due that day” but she kept saying that she’d call and get the police station to stay open an extra hour. Yeah, enjoy that pipe dream while it lasts, lady. 

Anyway, just thought you’d enjoy an example of Korean insanity. 

*Edit: The story gets even better! They’re letting me take that day as a “sick day”, to go take the classes. They won’t move a 1 hour teacher’s workshop, but they’ll let me use a sick day to get out of a full day’s work. What the hell?

July 2020

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