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Saying Goodbye March 4, 2010

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
11 comments

Back on New Year’s Eve 2007, Katie and I stood in a friends kitchen a few minutes before the stroke of midnight. As the clock turned to 2008 I told Katie that we should go for it. We should uproot our lives, sell everything and live abroad for all of 2009. After Katie finished accusing me of being drunk and slurring nonsense, I managed to convince her that I was serious and agreed to revist the topic in the morning (read: afternoon). From that moment on, we started planning for this journey and made good on our goal to move our lives overseas.

Katie had actually been wanting to do this for years. Ever since we started living vicariously through the Mulloskey blog and discussing their adventures almost nightly over dinner. After months of internal debate, I started to give it serious thought and decided this was the best time in our lives to do this.

Back in December 2007 a few days before my fateful proclamation on NYE, I had gone for lunch and beers with a close friend. We both acknowledged that we were comfortable with the direction our lives were headed, but that we wanted more. We both wanted to see more of the world and were prepared to make major changes to make it happen. We had different motivations and knew that sacrifices would have to be made, but the calling to do some different and drastic was too strong. I will never forget that day, but mostly because it’s the same day that I bought a sick Tom Brady jersey at a boxing day sale.

From my perspective, I wanted to do this for a number of reasons. As I mentioned in the inaugural post on this blog almost of year ago to this day, I wanted to embark on this journey as a tribute to my brother who always wanted to travel the world in search of knowledge and enlightenment. I also wanted the ultimate bonding experience with my wife. If we can handle living and traveling in a foreign land, after everything we’ve overcome in our personal lives, our marriage would be stronger than ever. We were both young enough to still be bold, adventurous and in my case, somewhat reckless. But we were also old enough to appreciate how lucky we are to have this opportunity to travel together. To realize what a gift something as simple as the English language can be and the places it can take you. To experience and appreciate the freedom of not being tied down by a mortgage or lease payments, or children. To live frugally and not even have a cell phone. Holy $hit I miss my blackberry.

Saying goodbye to our kids and Korea has been easier than expected. Mostly because we’re now on vacation for the next 3 months and we’ll be visiting 15 different countries across Asia and Europe. But also because we were able to establish contact with some of the parents and will hopefully be able to maintain communication as our kids grow older. I’ve already exchanged emails with one of my favorite students’ mother and had a nice conversation with her father on the last day of class. He was grateful for the impact I’ve had on her life and would make best efforts to remain in touch through the years. I hope one day we can visit Korea again, or even better, they visit Canada and I can see what kind of person Jessica has become.

Here’s a picture taken from the first day of class…

…and one from our last day of class together.

Another aspect of Korea we will miss and have been meaning to write about since our arrival is something called “Matchy-matchy”. Korean couples love to buy matching outfits and wear them in public as a display of their devotion to one another. It’s not just matching shirts either. Just like everything else, when Koreans do something, they go balls out. We’re talking hats, socks, underwear, pants, jackets. You name the item and I’m pretty sure you can buy a “couple-set”.

Add matchy-matchy to the list of things I will miss about Korea. While we’re here, why don’t we take a quick look at some of the other things we’ll miss about Korea and looking forward to when we get home.

Things I will miss: No sales tax. No tipping. Drinking anywhere. No last call. Cheap baseball. Everything always being open. $5 haircuts in complete silence. $2 beers. Waking up at 8:40am and arriving at work by 9:20am. Airports and public transport in Asia. Being a minor celebrity and stared at in public. $25 dinners for two. Yelling at waiters and not being considered rude or ringing a bell to get their attention. Sour cream. Mart drinking. Having food on your table as soon as sit down in a restaurant. Not having a cell phone.

Things I’m looking forward to back home: Filet mignon on the BBQ. Hearing people call it a BBQ instead of a grill. The cottage. Cheap golf. Our bed. Family and friends. HNIC on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning. Not being stared at in public. Football all day Sunday instead of 7am on Monday. A dryer. Fresh towels from the dryer. Larger napkins. Urinals that flush when I’m done. Driving a car. Golfing. Playing hockey. My blackberry. Being back in the country with the most gold medals and best hockey players in the world.

Speaking of the Olympics, I’ve been thinking about these games and who would be on the hockey team since it was announced that Vancouver would be getting the games back in 2003. I made a pact with my friend Josh that we would attend the Gold Medal game no matter what, but with him in Europe and us in Asia, it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe we can push back the pact for the Gold Medal game to Sochi 2014. When weighing the pros and cons of coming to live in Asia, not going to Vancouver for the Olympics was a major con. In retrospect I don’t regret the decision whatsoever as we now have our own unique story of where we were when Crosby scored the golden goal.

Here is some video from inside Canada Hockey Place by a friend of mine who intentionally scheduled a stop over in Vancouver, en route to Montreal from Hong Kong in case Canada made the final. When everything fell into place he was also fortunate enough to have a client with an extra ticket for him. I hate him.

This first one is from the pre-game when Canada first comes on to the ice.

This one is from shortly after the first goal by Toews to make it 1-0 Canada.

It was also pretty cool being in a foreign country when the Olympics are being held, not to mention when they’re in your native land. Anytime we tell someone that we’re from Canada now, their immediate response is “Vancouver?” For anyone who paid close attention to the games, Korea actually fared quite nicely. They finished 7th in overall medals and 5th in gold medals awarded. They are a short track juggernaut, but they also garnered some attention on the world stage thanks to their new national hero – Kim, Yu-Na.

I haven’t been this into figure skating in my life, nor will I likely ever be again, but the entire country shut down for her short program and free skates and she didn’t disappoint. She makes more money from endorsements than any other Korean in history and that number is likely to increase from the rumored $8 million per year she was making prior to the Olympics. Her face is everywhere and rightfully so. She skated perfectly in both programs with the weight of a very proud country on her shoulders. You could tell that the moment that her record-setting performance was over, the sense of relief that overcame her. Not bad for a 19-year old.

Every hockey game that Canada played was by far my highlight of the Olympics. But Kim, Yu-Na and Joannie Rochette’s performances weren’t as far behind as you would think.

I’ll leave everyone with one final video that was taken just a couple weeks ago. I think it’s a fitting way to say goodbye to Korea and acknowledge how much fun we had here. This exhibit was set-up as a promotion for Korea’s bid for Seoul to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. We ran right into it on our way to dinner and Mullin and I didn’t think twice about stopping to give it a whirl.

The sound of the goalie almost being decapitated attracted quite a crowd. They told me not to shoot so hard or raise the puck. Mullin never got a chance to try as they immediately shut down the exhibit.

Thanks for the memories Korea. This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later.

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Merry Christmas December 26, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
10 comments

Well, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m sitting at a Starbucks in Seoul, Korea. If you had told me five years ago that this is where I’d be, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. It’s a balmy 10 degrees out and we’ve had two minor snowfalls in the past few weeks which amounted to zero accumulation on the ground. Any snow back in Eastern Canada/US?

Today also marks our 10- month anniversary here in Korea so I decided to sit back and reflect on where we are, where we’ve come from and where we’ll be going. I guess the ultimate compliment I can pay Korea is that this feels like home. Maybe it’s because I know there’s an end to our time here that has always been in sight. Maybe it’s a tribute to our ability to adapt to new surroundings, but I often forget that I’m on the other side of the world until I walk outside and everyone is Asian. Even then, I’m completely comfortable and capable of going about my day without any stress or frustration. It’s a nice feeling.

It also feels more like Christmas than expected. Christianity is the religion of choice for most Koreans so it’s hard not to notice all the Christmas holiday sales and décor on display. Especially the area we live in, which is as commercialized and superficial as it gets in Korea.

We actually had our last day of classes yesterday in which most of it was consumed by a Christmas talent show performed by all of our Kindergarten classes. Each class, with ages ranging from 4-7 years old were responsible for putting together a 5-minute performance with a Christmas theme. We’d been practicing with our respective classes for weeks so it was pretty entertaining to see the finished product from the 10 respective classes.

This is the video from Katie’s class (taken during practice the day before)

This is the video from my class (also taken during rehearsal)

My class starts off with a skit in which the infamous Jack is the teacher and is leading the class through the opening routine that we do each morning. The idea for this skit was borne out of Jack’s impression of me that he would do every Friday. I would walk into class where they’d all be seated and Jack would be sitting in my chair. I played along and went and sat in his chair. He proceeded to start the class and lead them through my opening monologue. It was hysterical. This kid couldn’t speak a word of English 10 months ago and now he was doing an impression of his teacher in front of the whole class. I wish I had taken video of it, as he became extremely shy in front of a larger audience and didn’t perform with the same charisma that we all came to expect. Not bad for a 5-year old though.

Speaking of 5-year olds, today marks the fifth birthday of my dear little Adela. She is the youngest and by far the cutest little girl in my class. We had her party on the 22nd as the school was closed on the 24th. Christmas now has new meaning for me and I’ll always remember that Jesus was born on the 25th and Adela on the 24th. Here are some pictures.

Way back in late-Spring, one of my students named Nathan brought a hat to wear on a field trip we were going on. He never actually wore it but I found it when I was putting books into his bag. I spent the next few months pleading with him occasionally to wear it again so we could take a picture of us wearing our hats together. After months of persistence, he finally wore it and I brought mine to school the next day for a photo opportunity.  He hasn’t taken it off since. We also both liked the John Lackey signing and agree that we need another big bat in the lineup, preferably Adrian Gonzalez or Miguel Cabrera.

We recently completed a social studies unit in which I taught them all about different sports from around the world. I brought in different jerseys from various sports and found videos of these sports to show them on our laptop. I’m pleased to report that hockey was by far their favourite to watch as they are still asking me to bring in my laptop again so they can watch some more. They especially like the hockey fights and I even did a live demonstration with Jack and Nathan to show how to jersey someone in a fight. Jack tries to fight me almost every day despite the fact that I’m still undefeated and I’ve stretched 3 or 4 of his shirts beyond repair. (Editor’s note: These kids are 5-years old).

I also combined my explanation of North American sports with Geography (which we studied a couple months before) and showed them on a map where all the cities for these sports teams were located. I then took it to another level and combined the unit we did on animals and taught them about team names and mascots. Throughout this entire process, I was careful to remain objective and never demonstrate an obvious bias towards a certain sport or team. I wanted to expose them to everything that I was capable of explaining to them and allow them to judge for themselves which team was worthy of their support.

So you can imagine my surprise when one day out of nowhere, this chant started out of nowhere and shook the entire school to its foundation. Fortunately I had my camera in hand by sheer coincidence.

It’s common at this time of year to look back at the year that was and acknowledge what you’re thankful for. The following are a series of pictures and videos from the past 10 months which we’ve wanted to share with everyone but haven’t had the chance until now.

We’re thankful for our favourite restaurant. We don’t even know what it’s called but we call it 2am because the first time we ate there was at 2am after a few beverages. Katie and I eat here on a weekly basis and the total bill comes to less than $25 total. This place probably deserves an entire post on its own, but here’s a sneak peak at a typical Korean galbi experience. Note how many side dishes are on the table. These are delivered within 10 seconds of sitting down, with your drinks and main order arriving a few minutes later.

We’re thankful for new friends – Darren Grimes, Kirsten Binstock, Brielle Morgan, Stephen Fulton, Nazli Prisk, Clay Condon, Cody Stone, Jared Teitel, Naomi Santiago, Eunjin and Hooyoung. When we started discussing moving to Korea I remember acknowledging to Katie that we would likely end up making new friendships that would last a lifetime. This statement could not have been more prophetic as we’re blessed with an incredible group of new friends from all corners of North America. Even though Darren insists that a BBQ is a sauce and that the actual device is referred to as a grill, we still love him dearly. This is a picture from my birthday where the only thing I asked everyone to do was wear one of my jerseys for the entire night, regardless of where we ended up. Everyone was happy to oblige and we even did a draft to decide who got to wear which jersey. It was awesome.

We’re thankful for old friends who have become even closer. Sean and Erin, commonly referred to as the Mulloskey’s. They were the couple that inspired us to move to Korea after following their experience via their blog. They decided to come back and we’ve spent the past 4 months together and will be waking up on Christmas morning in each other’s company. We are blessed to have them in our lives and I will cherish our time together abroad for the rest of my life.

We’re thankful for Norabang’s, commonly known as Karaoke Rooms. I’ll let these pictures and video do the talking.

This is our favourite Korean song. I think Darren kinda likes it too.

Mullin really enjoys the Norabang.

We’re thankful for wonderful family and friends back home that give us something to look forward to when this adventure ends. My only regret from this entire experience was missing the weddings of very close friends – Matt & Michelle, Laura & Matt, Mike & Heather, Mark & Vanessa, Dave & Suzanne, Szabolcs (this isn’t a typo) & Julia. Thanks to the power of the internet we haven’t felt that out of touch but we will be sure to make up for lost time upon our return.

I’m thankful for Katie’s incredible fashion sense. This is an inside joke for everyone on the Algate/Clapperton/Harnden side of the family. We brought this shirt to the other side of the world for one picture and this is it.

We’re thankful for the opportunity to see parts of the world that we never imagined possible. So far we’ve visited Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai in China, Taipei and various cities in Korea including the 3 coasts and North Korea. We leave for a 7-day trip to Japan tomorrow where we’ll be visiting Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto and spending New Year’s in Tokyo. And we just booked our flight to leave Korea in March and start our real traveling in Thailand. We’ll have two months to cover, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

I’m thankful for a select group of friends and family that are lugging my golf clubs across the globe to meet me in London in May 2010 so I can play St-Andrews. The clubs started their journey at my parents place in Montreal and departed for Toronto on Nov. 25th. They were then passed off to my in-laws (Ron & Brenda) who held on to them until my brother-in-law (Jamie) came for Christmas brunch on Dec. 20th. Jamie is currently in possession of the clubs and responsible for meeting up with Josh (my best man) who currently resides in London, England but is back in Toronto for the holidays until Jan. 4th. Josh will then lug them across the Atlantic and keep them at his place until we arrive in early May. It’s a thing of beauty, and the best part is that I organized this entire effort from the comfort of our couch in Seoul. I fully recognize that the entire process is completely irrational, but I haven’t played golf on an actual course since October 16th, 2008 so forgive me for wanting to play my next round with my own clubs at the birthplace of golf. It’s also Tiger’s favorite course and anything he does, I have to do likewise. Well, almost anything.

We’re thankful for Slingbox, and modern technology in general. Keeping in touch with loved ones and the rest of the world is so much easier than it was even 3-5 years ago. We can see and talk with anyone on Skype, or record and watch live TV with Slingbox whenever we want. It’s a nice luxury that has made this transition much easier.

I’m thankful for my wife and traveling companion, Katie. This picture was taken at one of the many media poles which you can read about on the Mulloskey blog here that are located in our neighbourhood. Once your eyes recover from the paleness of our faces which feels like staring at the sun, check out the onlookers in the background. This picture perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be a foreigner in Korea. Even though we’re doing the same things as any other average Korean, they can’t help but watch in amazement and either loath our existence, or chuckle as we attempt to integrate into Korean culture.

In lieu of sending everyone Christmas gifts (read: fancy chopsticks), we decided to sit this year out of both the giving and receiving side (at least with friends and family back home). Best rest assured that a donation has been made in all of your names to the JorKat Southeast Asia Travel Fund. This is a worthwhile cause that will allow us to spend a couple months lying on a beach in Thailand while you all slave away at your 9-to-5 jobs. A charitable receipt will not be issued.

Finally, Team Canada’s Olympic Hockey Team will be named on December 30th while we’re in Kyoto, so here’s my prediction for how the squad will look:

Forwards:

Nash – Crosby – Iginla

Perry – Getzlaf – Heatley

Lecavalier – Thornton – St.Louis

Doan – M. Richards – Sharp

Toews

***St.Louis and Heatley are interchangeable on their respective lines and Lecavalier is a natural centre but someone is going to have to move to wing as they have too much depth up the middle.

Notable omissions: B. Richards, Tavares, Stamkos, E. Staal, Marleau, Carter, Fisher and Gagne

Defense:

Niedermayer – Keith

Boyle – Pronger

Green – Phaneuf

Bouwmeester

***This is where the hardest decisions are going to come. Seabrook, Weber and Doughty are all worthy of being on this team, but it’s hard to take them over any of the seven listed above.

Goalies:

Brodeur – Luongo – Fleury

***Brodeur starts the first game and alternates with Luongo. Whichever goalie plays better in the round robin will emerge as the starter for the elimination round although I still think Brodeur has a slight edge based on past experience.

Happy Holidays. See you in 2010.

Happy Birthday August 25, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
5 comments

Monday, August 24th marked the 6-month anniversary of our arrival in Korea. Upon arriving at school that morning, we were greeted with an sombre anniversary present. One of the children at our school has been diagnosed with Swine Flu over the weekend. The young boy is in the classroom right next to mine and a number of our students had been sick over the past week. After spending most of the day washing our hands and hosing down the kids with Purell, the administration decided to close the school for the balance of the week. Therefore, we are now back on vacation. Happy Anniversary!!

With all due respect to those who have lost loved ones as a result of this virus, I’m pleased to announce that this strain of influenza has just cracked my Top 3 Favourite Flu’s List.

1. Swine Flu (H1N1)

2. Bird Flu (H5N1)

3. Regular Flu? (I don’t know any other ones and I’m too lazy to look it up.)

As a result of this unexpected gift turn of events, we decided to head for the beach and leave early tomorrow morning. Before departing though, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge a very special young man’s 1st Birthday.

Nathan Richard Algate aka Nate Dawg was born into this world on August 26th, 2008 and has quickly become one of my biggest fans.

I can’t help but be amazed by Nathan’s eye for raw comedic talent. That wasn’t even my best material either. Just wait until he learns how to read about his Uncle Jordan and his adventures flipping golf carts and shooting crotch fireworks. His other Uncles don’t stand a chance.

Happy Birthday Nate Dawg, from Auntie Katie and Uncle Jordan. Your laugh is almost as big as your head.

Editor’s Note: The Beijing Post is in Post-Production and will be unveiled upon our return from the Beach. Stay tuned.

This Day in History August 18, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
7 comments
Today marks a very special day in history.
On this day in the year 1227, Mongol conquerer Genghis Khan died in China.

Robert Redford was also born on this day in 1937.
genghis-khanRobert-Redford
But most importantly, it’s the day that I asked Katie for her hand in marriage in Central Park, New York (2006) and married her the following year in Muskoka (2007).
jorkat818
How about another list?
Here are my Top 10 favourite things about being married to Katie.
10 ) She makes me food.
9 ) She enjoys watching most sports (with the exception of football which I’m
working on with Tom Brady‘s help)
8 ) She likes almost all the same TV shows as me (with the exception of PTI which she doesn’t like, and the Bachelor(ette) which she likes a little too much)
7 ) She laughs at my jokes. Sometimes.
6 ) She loves me even if I haven’t showered in a while.
5 ) She manages my obsessive compulsive disorder. I suppose it’s better than being a complete slob but I like having things organized almost to a fault and sometimes have a habit of moving her stuff around too. Even though 99% of the time, I’m moving it to the right spot.
4 ) She lets me watch her in the shower. She doesn’t always know about this one, but it makes me very happy.
3 ) She’s a Leafs fan.
2 ) She’s a beautiful, kind and compassionate woman who’s going to make an
excellent mother to our children.
1 ) She doesn’t get upset when her husband buys her fake flowers on their anniversary by accident. Mostly because he walked for over an hour in scorching heat to find this particular type of flower but didn’t inspect them close enough when he finally found them.
Katie, I couldn’t be happier with the decision we made as individuals to spend our lives together, and the decision we made as a couple to move to Asia and travel the world. We couldn’t have picked a better time in our lives to do this and I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have you by my side.
Happy Anniversay Katie. I love you more than anything. I hope the next two years are just as exciting and eventful as the first two years have been. ‘Cause after that, I’m really going to let myself go…

Speech Day July 10, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
8 comments

Back in May our school held a speech contest for all afternoon elementary and middle school students. Each student was to prepare a one-page speech on  a topic of their choice. Depending on the class’s skill level, the students would then present their speeches in front of the entire school and either read or have it memorized. Most of the subjects were fairly obvious and mundane – soccer, my family, the usual boring stuff. But there was one student who stood out from the from the crowd and undertook the task of covering a topic so fascinating and complex, that it would shake the foundation of school right to its inner core. A topic so awe-inspiring and enlightening that it would be talked about for seconds, if not minutes after being read.

IMG_6565

When I first announced to my afternoon class that we would be having such a contest, it was met with mixed reviews. Some of the stronger English speakers were somewhat enthused whereas the others displayed anxiousness or downright displeasure. Despite my attempts to dismiss the task as no big deal, the kids weren’t buying it. One girl in particular became downright angry and stated matter of factly that she had no intention of doing the speech and would not come to school that day.

IMG_6563After spending a few minutes doing damage control, I got all the students on board except for the hostile female. We’ll call her Julia because that’s her name.

During our break, Julia was almost in tears and extremely upset over the whole speech contest. After several minutes of negotiations, I was able to cut a deal that satisfied both parties. She agreed to prepare the speech but would not have to memorize it and would have the option of reading her speech in front of the school. After signing off on the agreement, we discussed some ideas for topics, but Julia had already made up her mind and wanted to keep her topic a secret. I agreed and was just thankful that she didn’t want to kill me anymore.

May 24th, 2009 is a day that will go down in the annals of history as the day the world’s next great speechwriter was discovered. This young lady composed a series of elegant prose that was destined to be considered among the great speeches of all time. When I read the first draft, my immediate thought was, there’s Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, there’s Lou Gehrig’s “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech and then there’s this:

 I would like to tell you about my English teacher named Jordan. Jordan is funny and smart. The funny part is that he makes studying fun. When we play hangman he makes it fun and helps us learn new words. The smart part is that if we don’t know the answer he says a lot of things that help us understand. He also knows Spanish and French too. He is so kind to us that if we are hard at work and need help, he will tell us how to do it. If its a hard test he will say “it’s OK, you can do it” or “you can get a great score”. He says lots of nice things to us. I love you teacher. Oh, and one more thing, he makes us laugh when we do some of our work. He makes class fun and helps us understand English much better. I’m really happy to have Jordan as my English teacher.

Every word of this opus is completely authentic. I might even use it as a reference letter when I apply for my next job. The only aspect of the speech that she neglected to cover was how handsome I am, but aside from that I think she covered her bases. Unfortunately, Julia was too nervous to get up in front of the whole school and read her masterpiece. So for now, the only ones lucky enough to be exposed to this magnificent tribute are my loyal readers, and every teacher on staff that I forced to read it.

Sleeping June 29, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
8 comments

IMG00144

This picture has nothing to do with Korea.

However, it’s still one of my favourite pictures which I’ve been looking for an excuse to post on this blog since its creation. Fortunately, it couldn’t be more perfect or more relevant to the content of this post.

The picture was taken about two years ago shortly after we moved into our new condo in Montreal. Katie almost always went to bed before I did and greeted me upon arrival sound asleep with her body contorted in various awkward positions. This one was too good to ignore so I snapped a picture with my blackberry and its made me laugh ever since.

Another byproduct of her earlier bedtime was that she was often well into her sleep cycle and had a tendency to talk in her sleep. She usually wouldn’t say more than a word of two but sometimes it would be something amusing which I would try to remember to make fun of her for the next morning. Sometimes her banter could be traced back to some current event or issue at hand, but usually it was just rambling or random words.

Well these sleep patterns haven’t changed much at all. I go to bed even later than before as I don’t have to get up until 8:45am and she’s almost always in bed asleep before I arrive. But for some reason, she’s taken this whole sleep talking thing to unprecedented levels.

Random words have been replaced with full blown sentences. Mumbling while tossing and turning have become body actions incorporated into her statements. It’s amazing. Sometimes I actually think she’s talking to me until I respond and the room remains completely silent. Other times I would almost be asleep myself when she would utter something amusing and I would do my best to remember what she said the next day, but would often forget. Now, no matter how tired I am or what time it is, I laugh out loud and get up out of bed to write it down. Some of these are too good to forget.

I’m trying to limit my blog posts to 1200 words so I’ll provide you all with only three of my favourites.

1)  “Why do you keep writing it?!” – This was said in a fairly angry tone which sort of scared me. I wasn’t writing in bed so I knew she wasn’t talking to me.

2) “Put your toys away, NOW!” – This was said in an even angrier tone. I didn’t have any toys in bed with me that night, so I knew she wasn’t yelling talking to me.

3) “Very good everyone, your speeches were amazing.” – This one was the best because she said it as she rolled over and managed to clap her hands a few times. It was classic. It was also nice to here her praise her kids in her sleep as opposed to getting mad at them.

The great part of this whole thing is that if I ever want to know about something that’s bothering her and I don’t feel like asking her about it, all I have to do is pull an all-nighter, pull up a chair and wait for the show to begin. It’s also become clear that she’s such a good teacher because she’s basically doing it 24/7. If she isn’t in class during the day with her children, she’s at home praising me for not spilling on my shirt while eating, or disciplining me for leaving the toilet seat up. Then once she goes to sleep, she’s back in her sub-conscious classroom prepping for tomorrow’s lesson. She’s a true professional.

Speaking of sleeping, a few of the teachers who preceded us at our school shared a little game with us which was a big hit with their kids. The game is called Sleepy Lion and it’s one of the greatest gifts ever given to me. The premise of the game is simple. The children have to lie on the carpet in dead silence and not move for as long as possible. If you’re caught moving you have to go back to the table and sit in your chair in complete silence. Next to hockey and golf, it’s the greatest game known to mankind.

 Now, if I had my way, I would probably play Sleepy Lion a couple hours a day, but this is one of those games that isn’t exactly encouraged by the administration, so you have to pick your spots. I try to avoid playing it unless I have 5 minutes to kill at the end of class, or I’m hung-over on Friday and want to join in on the game myself.

The best part of the game is that the kids absolutely love it. You could inject them with caffeine and get them to run laps around the classroom, but as soon as you say Sleepy Lion they can lapse into a coma on command. Two girls in my class are on a whole other level compared to the other students. Jessica and Sally are the Federer and Nadal of Sleepy Lion. I would put them up against any other kids in the school and it wouldn’t even be close. Jessica is one of the most hyper and energetic children in my class. She laughs at everything, and I mean everything, but the second that she hits the carpet she goes to a special place. No matter what I do to make her laugh or flinch, she just stares back blankly at me as if I’m not even there. It’s incredible.

Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic?

Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic?

 Here’s some video of my class in action (maybe “action” isn’t the right word). As you’ll see, the boys (Bob Jack & Nathan) never fare as well. The third girl in my class, Adela sometimes contends with Jessica and Sally, but it almost always comes down to Federer vs Nadal. I guess Adela would be considered Djokovic or Murray and if you don’t know what I’m talking about – shame on you. As you can see, I’ve given this a great deal of thought and may even start a ranking system similar to the ATP so that I can seed them for future competition. Enjoy.

Now if only I could train my wife to be as quiet as my class while she’s sleeping.

Dr. Fish June 22, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
4 comments

Have you ever been in line at the coffee shop and looked down at your feet in disgust because of how dirty they were?

If yes, then how disappointed were you when you realized that there wasn’t any kind of podiatric services offered at that coffee shop?

Have you ever been late for a pedicure and/or foot massage and couldn’t stop for coffee on the way?

What if I told you that there was a place in Seoul where you could order a cafe latte, and then have all the dirt and dead skin removed from your feet for a nominal charge?

Interested?

Now, how would you react if I told you that the method of removing this dirt/dead skin involved dipping your feet into a shallow tank of water with hundreds of small fish? And that these fish would make your feet cleaner and smoother then they have ever been by eating the dead skin right off your feet. Still interested?

This isn’t a joke. It’s called Dr. Fish and it has easily cracked the top 5 for most bizarre, yet oddly satisfying things we’ve encountered here thus far.

We had heard about it from a variety of sources but didn’t have the courage to go until our friends Meghan and Daryl (the couple that was staying with us a couple weeks ago) decided to visit one last time before heading back to Canada.  They insisted that we join them. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed and will definitely be going back.

When you first walk into the place, you wouldn’t even know that it was anything but a coffee shop. In fact, most of the young patrons were there only for the coffee and to socialize with friends. After ordering a slightly overpriced latte by Korean standards (approx. $5), we paid the additional 2,000 KRW (approx. $2) for Dr. Fish’s services. I still don’t know where the name comes from, or if an actual Dr. Fish exists, but we were informed by one of our Korean colleagues that the fish aren’t actually Doctors. Thanks.

After enjoying our respective beverages for a few minutes we were summoned to a slightly elevated area overlooking the entire coffee shop, right next to the large main window outside. This is where the nerves kick in a little once you take your first peak inside the tanks. The fish are smaller than we expected, but there were lots of them. And they looked hungry.

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If you’re feet are overly sensitive and easily tickled, then this activity probably isn’t for you. Once you get over the initial sensation and get past that fact that hundreds of small fish are gnawing at your legs, it can actually become somewhat relaxing. I couldn’t even look down at first and just kept telling myself that I was being tickled, after a few minutes I was fine and started taking more pictures and recording some video. Enjoy.

I was on the phone with my Uncle this morning and he asked me if I’d come across any million dollar ideas that I could bring back to Canada. Dr. Fish didn’t immediately come to mind but now that I think about it, maybe I should put together a business plan and get in touch with Tim Horton’s/Second Cup/Starbucks, if only just to see their reaction once they read my proposal. They’ll probably throw me out of their office, but my feet were cleaner and smoother than they ever have or ever will be again. That is until we head back again after accumulating enough dirt and dead skin to feed the medical professionals at Dr. Fish.

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Mart Drinking June 14, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
7 comments

One of the great things about living in Montreal is the convenience of being able to buy beer at the local depanneur (or convenience store for those of you outside of La Belle Province). Korea offers this same luxury and takes it a step further by offering quality wines and even hard liquor. These establishments are commonly referred to as “Marts” which I suspect is derived from the name of one of the more common chains “Family Mart”.

These marts offer an impressive array of imported alcohol at reasonable prices (bottle of Heineken costs 2,800 KRW which equates to approx $2.50 CAD). They also have a full selection of domestic beer and liquor which are even cheaper. You can purchase a 1.5L bottle of any of the local brands (OB, Hite & Cass) for 2,000 KRW, which is less than $2.00 CAD.  If beer isn’t your thing and you’re looking to take it up a notch, you can take your chances with the Korean’s beverage of choice, Soju. They drink this stuff with almost everything and at all times of the day (ie. at breakfast after a long night of drinking and no sleep). I wasn’t a huge fan at first, but lets just say that it’s an acquired taste. It’s about 20% booze and costs around 3,000 KRW. It’s also great for drinking games and waking up the next morning with no recollection of the previous night.

So yeah, the booze is cheap and it’s easily accessible. We thought we had it good when we were living in Montreal and had a depanneur on the corner of our street, but here in Seoul we can fall out of our front door and spit on the small convenience store located less than 10 feet from the entrance to our building. The irony of this convenient location is that we rarely purchase alcohol from there as we rarely drink at home. With the outdoor temperature having been comfortable since early April, we’ve become avid “Mart Drinkers”.

Most of the larger marts set-up tables and chairs outside for their patrons to enjoy their selections without having to walk all the way home to sit down. Despite being allowed to drink anywhere in public, it’s not that common and is usually only exercised by foreigners who can’t fathom how this is legal and think it’s too good to be true. There’s nothing quite like dropping less than 2 bucks for a beer and immediately cracking it open as you stroll outside on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Or a Tuesday. Wednesday and Monday’s are good too. So are Friday’s. However, as I mentioned, this is rarely practiced by Korean’s as they prefer to consume their alcohol in a more formal or relaxed environment, such as a restaurant, a bar, or sitting on plastic chairs outside a mart.

Aside from the obvious financial benefits and convenience of the mart, it also offers the prospect of something unusual occuring as you sit and watch the world pass you by. This is the ultimate people watching activity, especially if you live in such a concentrated area as we do where there’s a steady flow a foot traffic, and not many cars. Some nights are tamer than others, but when you’re a foreigner in this place, you tend to attract more attention and can often find yourself involved in entertaining or awkward conversations.

A few weeks ago, Katie and I decided to go and have a beer outside the mart near our place, which is called the Mini-Stop. It was a quiet Saturday evening and we had no big plans in mind, just wanted to take it easy and do some people watching. Shortly after sitting down at our table, the two guys sitting at the table next to us started to stare and eventually mustered up the courage to start speaking with us. They asked our ages (a common practice here to see who is the oldest and therefore the most respected), they asked about our relationship status and were impressed when we told them we’re married (another positive status symbol) and told us we were a handsome couple. We exchanged the rest of the usual pleasantries and found out that these guys are actually in a rock band. One is the manager and the other one who looks like the Korean version of Slash from Guns and Roses, is obviously the guitarist. We chat for a few more minutes before they excuse themselves to head to their next gig and invite us to come by if we feel so inclined.

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As their walking away, our friend and colleague Naomi passes them and overhears them saying how much fun foreigners can be. She then sees us and comes to sit down with her dinner in hand. Naomi is a Puerto Rican buddhist who was born and raised in New York City. She has been living in Korea for the past three years and has studied hard to learn the language and culture. She’s extremely entertaining and a valuable resource when trying to eavesdrop on a Korean conversation or simply read a sign that we can’t understand. She also isn’t shy about trying new and exotic foods. On this evening she had with her a very popular Korean delicassy – cow intestines. Even though I already had a few beers in me and was feeling a bit adventurous, I wasn’t going near that shit (no pun intended). Katie on the other hand…well, here’s the picture.

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Apprently, it tastes just like sausage, but I won’t be confirming or refuting this claim anytime soon.

After watching my wife eat cow intestines, we sat back and listened to Naomi entertain us with her vast array of stories and experiences. One beer led to another and soon I decided to free up some space on the table by arranging our beer cans in a less space consuming arrangement.

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What initially started out as us going for a beer at the Mini-Stop on a quiet Saturday night, turned into a quest to build the tallest beer can tower in Mart Drinking history. I can’t remember what the final tally was, but I’m pretty sure it was broken just a few weeks later when we must have set the record for most foreigners mart drinking in one location. Our friends, Meghan and Daryl (who were the couple teaching at our school and living at our place before we arrived) were back for a week in Seoul after traveling for three months.   They made arrangements with many of the friends they had made throughout their stay here, and instrusted them to meet them at the Mini-Stop where we had already assembled the better part of our current teaching staff. The result, 23+ foreigners crammed into an area designed for 2 tables and 6-8 chairs, all enjoying cheap beer, good company and endless stares from the hundreds of Koreans passing by. It was a night I won’t soon forget, mostly because I took this video to mark the occasion. 

It’s Official. June 13, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
4 comments

The results are in.

After two tumultuous weeks of campaigning, speaking with constituents, hearing opinions and suggestions from across the globe – we finally had a winner.

Or so I thought.

Once the voting was completed I approached Bob to discuss his name change to ensure that he was comfortable with the selection prior to informing his parents. He immediately warmed to the new name, but was also quite smitten with another alternative. Sean.

I was both devastated and intrigued. Even though Sean was never even a candidate, I immediately had a connection with the name as it is the same first name as my good friend Sean who along with his lovely wife Erin (whom we regularly refer to as the Mulloskey’s on this blog) inspired us to go on this adventure in the first place. They spent close to two years in Seoul and were the first ones who informed us of the possibility of naming children, so this would be a fitting tribute.

It had all come down to this. Sean vs Jack.

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My biggest concern was that if we went with “Sean”, how would this affect the legitimacy of this blog? We had just completed an impressive campaign and received an astounding 44 votes, with 18 of them in favour of Jack. Not to mention the fact that I spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out how to insert the stupid voting buttons into the post. I wasn’t about to have this all go to waste because some kid decided to suggest his own new name. Who does he think he is?

After taking a few minutes to compose myself and giving the children something else to colour, I turned my attention back to Bob and the issue in question.

Jordan: So what do you want your new name to be?

Bob: Jack…Sean…Sean…Jack.

Jordan: You can only pick one name. Which one do you like better?

Bob: Sean…Jack.

At this point I wrote both names on the board and asked him which one he preferred?

Bob: May I please go to the bathroom?

Jordan: Fine.

Even the rest of the class was torn. I asked the four remaining students which name they preferred for Bob. The results?

Jack – 2

Sean – 2

At this point, I had no where else to turn. I wrote the parents a letter informing them that I had selected two names and that I was leaving it up to them to decide. I didn’t get that much sleep that night but when I arrived back in class in the morning I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bob’s name was no longer on the board. It had been replaced with his new name.

Jack.

It’s been almost two weeks since we instituted the new name and it hasn’t been easy. I must have still called him Bob at least 10 times in those first couple of days and was often corrected by the other students. This past week I was much more comfortable but did have a few instances where I referred to him as “B0..Jack” or “Bjack” which the other children think is hysterical.

The most important thing is that he has really taken to the name and immediately corrects anyone who refers to him by his old name. I think I’ll always remember him as “Bob” but Jack is growing on me pretty quickly. In honour of this historic occasion, I’ve included below a video from my archive of some footage of Bob back in the day (about 2 months ago). Stay tuned for the end of the video when he lands a perfect cartwheel through a minefield of debris on the carpet. He’s the best.

Big News. May 27, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Seoul.
10 comments

One of the things I was looking forward to most about moving to Korea, was being given the opportunity to give Korean children an English name. So you can imagine my disappointment when I was informed shortly after arriving that all my children already had an English name, and that my services would not be required. As I had written in a previous post, I had so many different ideas for names that I was hoping to implement and now they were all going to waste, or so I thought.

Yesterday I was approached by the Director of my school  and informed that one of my students, the infamous Bob, (yes that Bob) wants to change his name. His reason being that he thinks that Bob sounds too close to the word “bap” which is “rice” in Korean. Keep in mind that Koreans pronounce the letter “A” more like an “O”, so rice is really pronounced like “Bop”. Therefore his rationale is somewhat sound. I immediately volunteered my services to find him a new name and was awarded the position.

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Despite my initial excitement at being entrusted with this task, I am now somewhat overwhelmed with the responsibility that has been bestowed on me. Before coming to Korea, I had so many ideas pent up inside that I now I can’t decide which direction to go in. The other thing is, in my mind he’s the perfect Bob. It seemed like an unusual name for a 4-5 year old at first but now I’m having trouble envisioning him under any other name.

I need your help.

After anguishing over this all day, I’ve narrowed it down to four options. I’ve set up a voting system for our readers to cast their vote, and need as many votes as possible before making my final decision on Friday morning. His parents will obviously have the ability to veto the winning name, but I’m pretty sure I can convince them to go with any of these finalists.

Here are the finalists in alphabetical order along with some more video of Bob breaking it down. He’s the best. You can see the first video I posted of him, right here.

His fate is in your hands.