Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Year 2008

Well the last blog post left you hanging in Seoul at the GOA'L christmas party, right before I lost my camera. Luckily enough, Emily (Heather's twin sister) who lives in Seoul, got in touch with a guy who found my bag with everything in it and she posted it down for me. Thanks Emily!

This is one of the photos that was in my camera when it came back. Later that night in Seoul we went out to this Spanish themed bar and it had a drinking area where everyone sits on swings and the floor is covered in sand. Pretty cool. We lounged around there for a while drinking wine.

That's Emily on the left and Eric on the right.

Christmas and New Year came and went in a typically Korean fashion. Christmas is mainly celebrated as a marketing ploy, hence the pretty lights outside the department stores. New Year's has slightly more significance, but we still worked on the first of January. For christmas I didn't have my camera, but we ate a turkey dinner at Jordan and Michelle's house which was cosy and enjoyable.

The end of year CDI gathering was at the Grand Hotel this time. It was a pretty flashy event and quite better than last year's. Our company has grown a fair bit in a year and is still expanding. If you remember way back when I arrived down here, we were the first batch of teachers to work at the newly opened schools. At that time there were 4 Chungdahm schools here, but now there are 8 and they're still expanding. In this photo are the Korean staff from our branch in Saha-Gu (represent).

And here are the big shots, all the managerial staff from the various branches. Some of them are a little odd.

I never got around to eating any of that cake. Then again I'm not really a cake person. They also provided us with all the free beer we could drink plus some left over, so I got to walk out carrying a six-pack. Now that's what I call company perks.

Over the course of the night, there were various competitions between the branches. I participated in this one, the four-person drinking relay. The race was between all the branches, with four people in each, taking in turns to drink 500mL of beer in the fastest time. I'm not that good at drinking quickly, but we still won. Apparently there's a method for drinking super-quickly that's eluded me over the years.

Then they had a dancing competition where two teachers had to dance within a box. That's Logan and Nicole in the white box. We won this event too because Logan took off his shirt. We ended up winning the whole night overall actually.

Another competition was the arm-wrestling. Johnny Diamond went in this event for us but he came second. We say the other guy was cheating, of course.

This is Mr Kang, the CEO of our company giving a speech. I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying because he speaks in a complicated form of Korean. When he finished, the foreign teachers all clapped obligingly though. Logan told me he was saying "Hey everybody, I'm rich, so clap."

The food was good. I've found that expensive buffets are great in Korea, but they all tend to be uncannily similar. I theorize that there's an elite buffet school somewhere that pops out all the chefs for the expensive hotels.

While being quite common in Seoul, snow is a rarity in Busan and I've only seen it in light sprinkles twice this year. It still gets me excited though, because I spent a good 25 or so years of my life without seeing it fall from the sky. I was catching it in my mouth and eating it, until Heather told me it was polluted 'black' snow. Great.

Here's Jin and David from the Dongnae branch after we ate a seafood barbecue. It was still snowing lightly in this picture but it didn't really show up in the photo. On the right is my girlfriend hugging Emily. For some reason, she always ends up hugging that girl at some point in the night. She's a very huggy person in general.

Charlie's Angels? More like Mr Kang's Angels. This is Becky, Christine and Emily with Heather in the middle and they all work at CDI. It's always funny to watch Korean girls meet up and talk to each other, because they get excited easily and remind me of squeaky guinea pigs.

Heather's mother has a clothing shop in LotteMart that she opened a few months ago. Heather and I hung around there for a few hours one night and I was persuaded into trying on, and somehow purchasing this suit. I've never really worn suits, so I asked what the purpose of me buying it was. 'In case there is a wedding', was the answer. Hmmm.

Our company has recently expanded into a lower age group market for English tuition by opening up two new 'April English' schools in the city. These will cater for younger learners, with the program being more interactive and simplified. On the weekend they held an open day that I went along to. This branch is in Guseo-dong, near Pusan University.

The interior design is much brighter and more appealing for younger kids. I was quite impressed. I like the apple theme.

Library and seminar room with lots of CDI and Disney-related publications.

The parents lounge was especially nice, with some sort of modern pre-school feel to it.

Best of all, some of the classrooms have these blue screen 'ChromaKey' walls. An overhead camera records students giving presentations such as news reports here. Then the computer adds a selectable background and uploads the video. When the kids go home, their parents can watch their performance at home, with something like a news studio or the river Thames in the background.

This is Jajangmyeon, a Korean interpretation of Chinese food. The sauce is thick and mild and it usually has a seafood theme to it. We found a place near our apartment that turned out to be good value for money. You can get enough for three people as well as dumplings for around $11.

In the basement of the Lotte hotel near my apartment, we recently found a nice little bar. It's more expensive than most places, but isn't as crowded and has live jazz music on some nights. These guys were playing some sort of freestyle jazz and they were pretty good.

This is Aimee. I met her at the open day for the April English branch and she's from the US. After a while she told me that she randomly found my blog on the net one day while she was browsing and that gave her the idea to come and teach at CDI. And now here she is! It's good to know that the blog is informing others around the world, rather than just being a place for me to ferret away my photos. There's two more who have contacted me too, Liz and her boyfriend from Australia, who will also be coming over in February. Good stuff.

If you've been lurking around or just waltzed in and are looking for a change in your life, try coming to Korea. For most people it's an interesting experience and a nice break from life back home.

Get in touch. Seeya!


Unknown said...

I admit, I'm a lurker from the US. My husband and I are planning to move to Korea in 2009. (I'm an adoptee also and have recently been in contact with my birth father and brother.) When we were first considering the possibility, we ran across your blog and all the fantastic pictures and info. on your blog sold us! We actually link to your blog on our own (! You're famous! :-)

Lee Farrand said...

Wow, thanks. I'll check your blog out after this.

If anyone is ever looking for a referral to my employer (CDI), get in touch with me and it could make life a lot easier. There's also sometimes a referral bonus, which means extra money for both of us.

Keep reading!

Kevin O said...

Wow...things have been changing there a lot since I left Korea. I can remember back in the day comin down from Main Branch in Seoul to be HI at the first Branch in 8! and the April CDI's look cool too.

Nice blog...keep it up ^^

Lee Farrand said...