Welcome! How to Use This Blog...

Step 1: Teaching in Korea FAQ
Step 2: Read The Top Posts of 2006
Step 3: How to Find a Job Teaching in Korea

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Happy Halloween--Contest Entry Time!

Happy Halloween everyone! With that said, I thought I'd take the time to explain about a contest being held by the tattooed Battlestar Galactica pilot. This contest will enter me in to win a copy of Halo 3 Legendary Edition for the XBOX 360!

You guys might know Leo for his participation at VCON 32 and his dying love for Red Lobster's "endless shrimp" deal. Regardless, if you're interested in copy of Halo 3, all you have to do is enter his contest with a dedicated post. The contest ends tonight, so let's hope my previous contest luck will pull through again this time around.

On a side note, Leo was nice enough to send me a couple tshirts. His condition was that I was to wear these and post up the pictures. Well, don't worry Leo, that post is coming soon (it's been just over 2 months)! ;)

Sunday, 28 October 2007

The World's Smallest and Most Expensive Tent

So during our final days at work and after cleaning up our stuff in our officetel (pictures of our officetel are coming up), we made some last minute trips to Homever. During this time, we spotted some very interesting things during our escalator ride down. This is another installment of the "World's blah blah" series--you may remember the following posts:

The World's Most Expensive Maple Syrup
The World's Worst Goldfish Bowl
The World's Most Heavily Defended Border
The World's Most Expensive Mango

Well today, we're going to check out the world's smallest and most expensive tent. I have no idea what these are for, but they were selling inside of Homever and we would pass by them on the escalator. The moment I saw them it reminded me a Derek Zoolander moment: "What is this? A center for ants? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read... if they can't even fit inside the building?"

Maybe these are cute little homes for dogs in Korea or a quiet place for young children to study...


These were all over 100,000w and some were up to 200,000w! For a little tent!


I've had some people email me asking about pictures of our officetel...well, your wish is going to come true. Here is our officetel packed up and ready to go. Around the corner on the left is where the kitchen was located, behind me was the entrance, and behind me to the left was our bathroom:

Friday, 26 October 2007

New York Fries in Korea!

Who loves New York Fries? Or let me rephrase that...who doesn't love New York Fries? Anyways, during our time in Korea we never thought we would encounter a New York Fries location--that is until we stumbled across one at Gangnam Station (Line 2, Green Line).

Sometimes you see something you're used to, but then you get this weird feeling that something is not right. That was the feeling at this "New York Fries" location as you'll soon see. We stopped by this little joint underground for a quick bite before departing home with our friends JP and Tae. Let's take a look at what JP and Tae ordered!

Now this is what I'm talking about for those who love poutine as much as I do. Fries topped with cheese curds then smothered in hot gravy to melt the cheese. It sure had been a while since I had this. The best poutine though is at the Costco locations back home--an instant heart attack baby!


Here are the remnants of JP's order, "The Works" which had sour cream, bacon bits, chives, and cheddar cheese--with gravy of course!


Now back to my point about this place not being a genuine New York Fries franchise. Well, for starters the signage and menu was pretty welfare looking. It was like someone just scanned a logo and went crazy with a color laser printer and stickers!


But it was the "WIN THIS DRAW" poster that got us wondering. For those in the Lower Mainland you'll understand what I'm talking about because it makes reference to the Vancouver Giants hockey team. Also at the bottom it says "at participating New York Fries in the greater Vancouver area"...haha...what the?!


Now, I don't know about you but we grew up watching Beverly Hills, 90210 on TV (didn't everybody?). So when Devante saw this tshirt she was pretty excited and picked it up (after I managed to get a couple bucks off baby). It has the BH 90210 logo on the front...and on the back it says "WESTSIDE FOREVER"--awesome!


New feature from Blogger: Those leaving comments with a Google Account can now be notified if there has been a reply to your comment on a post.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Samgyeopsal Revisited: The Greasy Memories

I came across something interesting tonight--no, it wasn't the Free Hugs in Korea campaign gone terribly wrong or that pig-in-a-tuxedo ice cream bar I've eaten on many occasions. After checking some blog stats (I know you check yours like an addict too) I noticed a bunch of visitors were coming from the UK newspaper, The Guardian, through their online version The Guardian Unlimited.

Their blog section on food called Word of Mouth was talking about the release of Gill Partington's Axis of Evil Cookbook. Graham Holliday turns out to enjoy Korean food and lists his top 5 spicy Korean dishes. Number four on his list is samgyeopsal, and its marriage with soju--this is where he linked to my video (taken by HC) post on the idol of every Korean child, Soju Man!

This made me think of my memories of samgyeopsal so with that in mind, let's bring on a food post! This was one of the local samgyeopsal restaurants located minutes away from our officetel in Mokdong. The best part was the owner spoke perfect English which was a surprise! This restaurant was part of a chain of samgyeopsal restaurants located around the city:


Of course, once you've ordered you are bombarded with side dishes and everything is placed on the grill for you:


Looking back, I have honestly never consumed so much pork in my life! Samgyeopsal is so fatty--but yet so delicious! Here we have some sausage and mushrooms added into the mix too. Before...


...after!


My lettuce wrapped sausage with some samjang (which I have not had in a long time):


Some of my Korean friends like their samgyeopsal cooked medium, but personally I like mine grilled to a crisp. I am pretty sure the overconsumption of samgyeopsal leads to uncontrollable flatulence, but don't ask me to verify that for you...muahahha


Umm...right...anyways, most galbi and samgyeopsal places have the hot coals brought to your table for cooking. This place had copper grills hooked up to gas. The taste definitely is much better cooked with coals though. Speaking of that, have you ever wondered about the life of the "hot coals" guy who brings the heat to your table? Check out my candid videos of this flamer (no pun intended) hard at work!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Volunteering at the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival

As you may recall, I did some volunteer photography at the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival earlier in the summer. Well, the larger task at hand on my second day of volunteering was taking the team photos. Although it would appear to be a big responsibility, it was actually pretty easy since I took the photos with local up and coming amateur photographer, Felix Chen.

This is how it worked...as the teams were ushered down to the docks, prior to lining up we would have them setup for a team photo. Some teams were more enthusiastic than others (in other words they had personalities and a sense of humor! hehe), but I can understand that dragon boat racing is taken very seriously by some, so a select few had their "game face" mentality.

The neat thing about dragon boat is that it appeals to everyone. Young people, old people, new born, pets, etc...anyone can paddle. Not only that, teams can be formed by corporations, community clubs, small businesses, friends, restaurants, etc... you name it and there's a padding club. Let's take a look at some, shall we?

This was a Starbucks team from Washington State. When I discovered this, I immediately said something alone the lines of "excuse me, but can I have a tall-double-shot-decaf-non-fat-extra-hot-first-steam-caramel latte to go with extra caramel sauce..." to them and oh boy, you should've seen the faces cringe at me. Whoops! They were a happy bunch though:


Here we have a team full of ladies in hot pink...


...and a team in fluorescent green. Yep, every team sure did have their own style. Now check out the usher posing with the team in the middle. He was a very nice man but he enjoyed getting into the team photos just a bit too much. Some teams asked for him to stay out of their photos. They would come up to me and say "who is that guy? We don't want him in the photo!" (which makes sense since he is not part of the team). Of course, I had to be the messenger and break the news to the poor guy...


You get to see lots of interesting sights at dragon boat races...like this guy with a parrot on his shoulder (he got irate when he saw me taking his photo in public--I hope he doesn't read this post!):


This guy was on the local Volkswagen dealership team--now that's what you call team spirit (I actually used to work with him at the Hotel Grand Pacific from years back--it's Tony from housekeeping!)...


After the pictures were taken, the images were taken off our memory cards and printed by the fine folks at Minolta. They gave us each a free Minolta ball cap. Time to plug them! So, for all you people out there, please purchase dependable and reliable Minolta products for your personal and office needs. I love Minolta!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Eating at Garden City Hot Pot in Richmond

When you're in Richmond, BC, also known as the Hong Kong of Canada (or
Hongcouver) as some may see it, you end up eating a variety of cuisine. When you're not experiencing the chaos of a plane flying into a condo, you're eating. On this occasion we went out for hot pot at Garden City Hot Pot (it's on Garden City Road of course).

As some of you may already know, hot pot is where you cook raw ingredients in boiling broth of your choice. The concept is similar to shabu shabu that we experienced in Korea. Some say hot pot is healthy but when you consider how salty and addictive the sauces are (you dip eat bite in a soya sauce mixture and
other MSG-laden sauces) I would think the opposite!

Normally when we go out for hot pot we go to all you can eat places for the best deal. Too bad this wasn't the case at Garden City Hot Pot! My sister likes this place so we went here with her and her best friend. We ended up ordering too much and literally paid the price for it! The food was identical to other all you can eat places but this time around we paid for each plate ordered! Oh well, all in all we had a good time but next time I am going to an AYCE (all you can eat) hot pot instead!

As you can see, each setting includes a ladle made out of wire so you can cook your food in the hote broth. Also supplied are wooden chopsticks to handle raw ingredients and for stirring in the communal soup--except I get so hungry that I keep on forgetting to switch my chopsticks back! Err...just don't make a big deal and nobody will ever know!


The boiling broth with a divider down the middle; sometimes there are two different kinds. You can see the thinly sliced meat, ready for cooking!


You can't have hot pot without ordering mass amounts of greens...as you can see here:


...and here...


I mentioned about the healthy part of hot pot, but that can be changed by overdosing on this sauce, a mixture of soya sauce and some other paste I can't remember...it contains way too much sodium--yet it's so darn tasty! With this in mind, most hot pot places serve complimentary teas and herbal drinks. At Garden City Hot Pot you have all you can drink chrysanthemum tea at your disposal to combat this salty sauce. Another option is to drink...WATER!


The cool thing about hot pot? Most items take minutes to cook so you can just dig in like we are doing below. The bad thing? I am too impatient to wait for my food to cook!


"Thanks, special tasty sauce for making each morsel so delicious..."


One last picture, just for you guys...only in a Chinese restaurant will you see a glass taped to the counter to prevent theft! Don't forget the few toothpicks placed in the glass so people don't grab a handful for later...


These pictures were taken with by the iPhone...not bad, don't you agree?

Friday, 19 October 2007

Plane Crashes Into My Old Home in Richmond!

Hey everyone...some crazy news! As you may have heard, a plane crashed into an apartment tower in Richmond, BC! The crazy thing is that this apartment complex is the same tower where my sister used to live! We were banking at the time and then I ran home and got my SLR (this happened a block away from where I currently reside. Check out the following pictures taken with my 70-300mm IS (non DO)! One person has been reported dead, the pilot. Right now, there are a bunch of reporters reporting live on CTV, CBC, and other news outlets!

We ran into one of our old neighbors outside of the building. She said she felt the building shake, then got a call from a neighbor that a plane had crashed into the building! So of course she evacuated the scene pretty quickly! Good thing we don't live there anymore, as I'm curious about the structural integrity of the tower after this impact!

The scene from Tsim Chai Noodles across the street from the Richmond Public Market:


The view from inside RPM; imagine eating your meal and seeing a plane crash above you!


This is outside RPM near the park downstairs:


More from the side of the RPM:


Zoom shot of the gaping hole; by the time we got there, we saw an old Asian lady INSIDE the apartment! She was waving and screaming to the people below!


Here are the firefighters scoping out the scene. The plane is actually INSIDE the apartment...so far in, you can't even see it!


Check out the ambulances at the front of the entrance of the Rosario Gardens apartments, on Saba Road:


More can be seen at John's blog as he saw this while he was shopping and coverage from Ed Lau!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Forget Trainspotting--Welcome to Cakespotting!

For some reason, I think I might have posted about this before. Then again, I might be dreaming. Anyways, when you're wandering the streets of Seoul you see lots of interesting things to say the least. People are always so busy and everyone is doing their "thang" wherever they go. One thing that I noticed was the number of cakes that people would be carrying all over the place.

Of course there are birthdays everyday and special occasions that require cakes. The interesting thing is that these cake boxes have built in handles on the top, so you see lots of people wandering the streets--with cakes! I'd like to call this my day of cakespotting! Let's take a look, shall we?

You will see cakes underground in the subway stations...


...near Gwanghwamun outside Cafe imA and their delicious waffles...


...near City Hall (what a good boyfriend this chap is!)...


...in Gangnam...these ladies move fast so you gotta be ready to take the shot...


...most cakes are sponsored by the one, the only, Paris baguette...


...after carrying your cake all day, the moment you've all been waiting for finally arrives. Why not snap up some pictures inside a Starbucks with your cellphone?

Most bakeries supply you with candles and these pull-string-popping-streamer thingies that can really freak people out--I love them. Also, coffee shops will give you plates and cutlery to eat your cake. So this guy has his cake and he gets to eat it too.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

How to Find a Job Teaching English in Korea

I've received lots of emails lately about where I worked in Korea, and also what area we lived in. Along with that, people have been emailing about how to find a job teaching English in Korea. Well, right now I'm going to give you a brief guide on what I would do if I were to start my job search today.

Before you even attempt to pound the online job classifieds for teaching English in Korea, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Can I adjust to a different culture, people, and customs?
Do I enjoy working with children? Am I a flexible person?
Are you interested in Korean culture? What do you know about Korea?

These are some key questions you need to sort out before you even look for a job. Many people arrive in Korea and follow the stages of "culture shock" and eventually start being negative towards Korea. The key here, the big secret is that you need to learn to accept Korea for what it is, and not make comparisons to your country back home. Sure, there are times when you need to vent, but if you can maintain a positive attitude that is open and flexible, you will enjoy your trip to Korea that much more.

Okay, with that being said, I'm going to list the steps I would take if I was to look for a job right now! I told you this would be brief, so if anyone has some more pointers and tips they would like to add, feel free to leave a comment!

1. Research the job market - visit the Korea job listings on Dave's ESL Cafe. Examine the job postings and make yourself a spreadsheet detailing the location, salary, and hours of jobs you are interested in. Do some research on Korea's geography. Where do you want to live? In the heart of the country (Seoul!) or down south near the ocean (Busan!)? I would try to find 10 job offers, then try to slowly eliminate the ones you don't want as you find out more about each school or location. Typically, jobs farther away from Seoul pay more. However, it's up to you to decide about where you want to live and teach.

2. Once you've limited your choices down to 5 schools or so, apply to all of them. You should have a polished resume and cover letter, along with a nice digital photo of yourself. Don't ask me why, but most companies want to see pictures of their teachers before hiring them. Ensure that your photo doesn't have any visible food showing in your teeth.

3. Dave's ESL Cafe: Korea Job Forums - This is where you will do more research on finding out about your school and the area you would possible live in. First things first, register for the forums (this will take a couple days) so you can message other members. I shall give you a warning about the Korea forums on Dave's ESL Cafe...this is an arena where many people voice their frustrations with living and teaching in Korea.

There can be an air of negativity that can ruin your image of Korea--IGNORE it and move along. I can't stress this enough...don't get jaded by the few complainers out there. Take everything you read with a grain of salt. There are rotten apples in every bunch, so the big whiners out there should just hop on a plane and fly home! Nobody is forcing them to teach or live in Korea!

Here you should be using the SEARCH function to find out more about the area and even about the name of your particular school.

4. Hopefully you will get a job offer, and when you do, hit up the forums on Dave's to find out more. Use the SEARCH function once again and if you find nothing, start a new thread asking for more information about your school (this is where the registration comes in handy). Better yet, take advantage of Google and start digging for more info about the area and school. Find Korea blogs with teachers living in the area and politely email them to find out more.

5. Negotiate with your employer - your salary can be negotiable depending on your education and teaching experience. Talk about salary, accommodation, and anything else on your mind. I mentioned we were able to get a queen size bed instead of a double and we also got flights out of Victoria instead of Vancouver. Will they pick you up at the airport? Will you work overtime (don't do it, unless you want more money!)? There's no harm in asking!

Also, ask for teacher references of teachers currently at the school. Ask for an email address and email the teachers to find out more info. This is a vital step and can come in handy.

6. Research, research, research - continue to find out more information about the area and school. Use Google Earth to try and locate where you will be living. Some of my readers have done this to ensure that the location they will be is relatively close to a Costco (you know who you are). So doing your homework will pay off.

Here are some good resources on teaching in Korea...read through them to learn more:
- My own teaching English in Korea FAQ
- A few of my readers have mentioned that this ESL Job Finder has come in handy for finding other jobs overseas, other than Korea
- Teaching English in Korea - Foreign Affairs Canada: this is a great read for everyone, even if you're not Canadian. Lots of information here.
- Outside in Korea has a couple good articles on 44 tips on getting a job and the skinny on teaching in Korea.

What? This sounds like too much work? Well, if that's the case maybe teaching in Korea might not be for you. However, there are FREE recruiters out there that will do the work for you! One such company is Flying Cows Consulting based in the UK. Check them out for finding your perfect job in Korea.

I will probably post a follow up to this (if I remember) about preparing yourself for Korea--if you've recently landed a job, check out my post about things to pack for Korea if you haven't already!

Update, Jan.5/2008: New E-2 Visa Rules

Sunday, 14 October 2007

How to Unlock Your 8GB Apple iPhone

Hey folks, don't worry, I am still alive and well in case you're wondering. The slow updates have been for a reason--it's because I've been enjoying my current retired life at the moment. Let's see...what have I been up to these past few days?

Thursday: drove down to Seattle to eat once again at Chipotle and to do some Fall shopping (aka the 8GB Apple iPhone, or the "Jesus Phone" as referred to by some).


Friday: ...hmm...what did I do? Looked all day at my locked iPhone with firmware version 1.1.1; Scoured the net for guides to unlock--but the complex guides made it difficult to risk tampering with the phone and bricking it. I saw this screen all day:


Saturday: Dot Com Pho once again with local bloggers. I received my copy of 7 Strategies for Trading Forex that I won from John Chow! Felt inspired by a recent detailed guide for newbies on how to unlock your iPhone with firmware version 1.1.1!

Sunday: As I'm trickling into the wee hours of the morning following this unlocking guide step by step, I am amazed at what these iPhone hackers can do. The steps are somewhat complicated but require intense concentration. Sweating on my brow occurs. Finally, seeing this image on the phone brought tears of joy in the early hours of the morning. Freedom baby!


Long story short, if you have a new 8GB iPhone it will most likely come with version 1.1.1 firmware. The "jailbreak" and "unlock" for this is out, but the instructions are extremely complex. I went with this guide that downgraded my firmware to the old version, 1.0.2 which enabled me to then "jailbreak" (bypass the AT&T activation to use the iPhone) and "unlock" (use the phone with any GSM carrier) the phone.

A few tips:
- rename "secpack" inside the zipped archive, then extract it afterwards to upload to your phone via iBrickr. I had some hanging issues when I got to step 13 to run "ieraser" but after I did some scouring of the net I found a solution.
- I unlocked using iUnlock instead of AnySIM
- these unlock tutorials by mokujin21 will help out
- If you don't understand what the heck this post is about, you have every right to call me crazy--I don't even know what I'm talking about!

What makes this phone so amazing? Well, I would have to say one of its strong points is the built in Safari web browser that renders web pages exactly the same way as they would look on your computer. You can view web pages in landscape or portrait mode, with the ability to zoom in and out and all that jazz. Check out my blog on the iPhone in landscape...


...and portrait mode:


We have booked some tickets to do some traveling! We will be heading to New York (holy smokes are hotels expensive during this time of the year), London (I'm going to visit the Queen), and then Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah (again!). So in the meantime, I will continue to update this blog with my Korea stories and other miscellaneous tidbits I can throw into the mix.

If you haven't already, you should strongly consider subscribing to my full feed RSS
(What is RSS? Explained here)--this way my blog updates will come to you instead of the other way around. Give it a try!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Recycling at the Supermarket in Korea

Living next to a shopping mart, which in our case was Homever (formerly Carrefour, RIP), had its pros and cons. You're probably thinking that I'm crazy, but seriously let's take a look at what can be good and bad about living 100 meters away from a retail/grocery store.

Pros:
- No need to take transportation to buy groceries
- It's extremely close
- Hot deals are just minutes away
- You can buy small chunks of groceries at a time, instead of filling up a cart
- It's extremely close
- You can con the parking attendant guy to let you slip by with a shopping cart since you're next door (shopping carts are not allowed to leave the premises)
- ...And one more reason, it's extremely close (this helps when it's absolutely freezing in the wintertime)

Cons:
- Buying groceries can get out of hand (do not go when you're hungry)
- The grocery part of Homever was three floors underground, resulting in long escalator rides (the stairs became our new friend)
- That Homever song got extremely irritating after a while
- Never shop during peak hours...or get ready to have your heels bashed by a shopping cart! ;) The method of "how to walk through crowds in Seoul" has no impact here--you're out of luck
- It's extremely close
- Did I mention Homever was extremely close? Wait a minute...these are negatives! Doh!

Joking aside, Korea does have some pretty efficient and well integrated recycling programs. Check out their recycling initiatives if you haven't already. It was weird coming back home and not separating all my garbage and plastic drinking cups, along with lids and straws. Most supermarkets recycle their cardboard boxes by letting people put them back together again to carry their groceries home.

Usually there is a boxing station where it all takes place. The boxes, scissors, and plastic tape is all included. Check out this boxing station at Homever:


There you have it...you can put back together that ramen box to carry home your individual packs of ramen:


Quick tip for people who live next door to Homever and shop there...register for one of these free points memberships and receive cash back! Here is my 5000w gift certificate I got after spending who know how much at Homever. It took me a few weeks to realize that I had the option to redeem my points. Remember to bring your ARC for this!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

How to Get Free Tissues in Korea

Part of teaching English in Korea, aside from experiencing their unique culture is the ability to save some money while you're abroad. Lots of people have different ways and ideas as to how to save money. What works for you might not work for others. Sure, saving money is great, but please remember you also need to live a little. Spend some money on a toy, or eat a good meal. We were able to have the best of both worlds by creating a monthly budget and trying to stay within it every month.

Well, if you are really trying to pinch the pennies (actually, I should say Won), you can start off by scouring the neighborhood for free furniture. Want some extra food or "service" from your local restaurant? Visit them often, be polite, and try to speak Korea (it worked for me!). Want to get free food on your flight home? Terrorize the kids sitting in front of you (works like a charm).

Want free tissues in Korea? Keep an eye out for boxes that local restaurants will drop off at your hagwon. I guess the rationale is that every time you grab a tissue you will scan the menu and the pictures of the food. Sure, tissue is cheap but if you really want to save then you'll have to do what it takes to spare yourself some change. Here are some pictures to show you what I'm talking about:


These were given to me as a "gift" from one of the counselors at my work. I didn't really need them as we had lots of tissue at home. However, I did soon realize that these things end up making great prizes for the kids! The expressions on some of my students when I tried to pull this stunt on them was priceless!

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