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Nagua

I returned to Santo Domingo from Nagua this past Saturday after conducting 12 hours of workshops to about 20 teachers. My focus was Communicative Language Teaching (don’t worry, I won’t go into details here–click on the link if you’re interested.), a methodology meant to be yet another tool in a teacher’s instructional toolbox. About 15 teachers and teachers-in-training attended, and everyone thought the time was well spent, including me. I always seem to learn as much from teachers (and students) as they learn from me. It’s pretty much a two-way street.

Nagua is a small beach town on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic situated at the neck of the Samana Peninsula. It’s still untouched by tourism and the concomitant all-inclusive resorts that dominate the beautiful beaches here. The day is fast approaching when the sun-seekers and hotels will arrive, and the small town will be altered, for both good and ill.

Christmas lights and Santas and nativity scenes are up all over Santo Domingo, which is a far cry from other countries I’ve spent this time of year–Thailand, South Korea and Morocco. Korea has a sizeable Christian population, but in smallish Andong there just weren’t that many decorations or other signs of the holiday. Of course, in predominantly Buddhist Thailand and Muslim Morocco, Christmas is barely a blip on Santa’s radar screen, except in tourist areas, where the consumer aspect is emphasized over the religious. Anyway, Santo Domingo is aglow with the spirit of the season; all that’s lacking is a foot or so of snow.

Finally, I’ve learned the difference between merengue and bachata music. Bachata features a guitar, whereas merengue has no stringed instruments–only horns, drums, and accordians. I’m sure there are other more subtle differences, but the difference in instruments helps to distinguish the difference in musical styles. Now, if I can only discriminate the sounds of rumba, salsa, reggaeton, mambo, etc.

Back to Yankeeland

I received a phone call from Ani at the Yankee campus on Monday, and she told me that the campus was opening that day. Unfortunately, I had to conduct a workshop at UNIBE last night, so I couldn’t make the move until today. But, I’m nearly packed and ready to go; Demetrios, the Yankee driver, is coming by around 11 this morning to pick me up. Yeah, I’m excited! I have a lot of new ideas for teaching the players over the upcoming, long 5 1/2 month period, including incorporating multimedia instruction. It should be challenging, but fun.

February marks the month of carnival in the Dominican Republic. Many towns have carnival every Sunday during the month, featuring colorful masks, dancing and other activities. The masks remind me of the Andong Mask Dance festival in South Korea, so I hope I can get away to one of the nearby towns and take in the sights of this celebration. More later.

Back to Andong

Yes, my former boss at Andong Univ. in Korea offered to rehire me and I told him, yes, I’d like to come back. Lots of reasons for that–Andong is a nice, rural area of Korea (even though the population is 200,000, it is considered “out in the sticks”; the pay is decent even though the hours can get rather long; I still have some former colleagues working there; I know what I’m getting into; and many of the jobs offered in Korea require a ton of paperwork, stuff that is just too difficult to do from here. Some of the items they want include sealed transcripts from the U of M, notarized diplomas (which can only be done from the Korean embassy in Rabat), medical reports (I’d have to go to Rabat to try to find a doctor to do this), a criminal record check from Montana (can’t do it online), face-to-face interview, either in person or with a webcam, and other assorted procedures. These would be difficult enough to do in Korea and the U.S., but trying to do them all from Morocco by the deadlines that the various employers set makes the process almost impossible to complete on time. I assume that Andong won’t require a whole lot of me, especially things like an interview, diplomas, etc. We’ll see–I’m waiting to hear back from the administration since I emailed them a few days ago accepting their offer to rehire me.

Anyway, it looks like I have a job nailed down early enough so that I don’t have to go through the trauma of settling everything at the last minute like I did when I left Andong last August. That is, indeed, a big relief since it gives me time to pack, to ship boxes (if necessary) and to handle all the little details involved in moving half way across the world . . . again. This time, I plan to stay in Korea for 6 or 7 years, hopefully saving enough money to retire in Thailand, eventually. A lofty and seemingly very difficult goal, but one that I will really strive to achieve. (Sorry, U.S.A, but, for me, the Land of Smiles has much more going for it) 😉

Yes, I’m still planning to make a rather late posting about the rest of my trip to Laos last month, with photos. In the meantime, I have posted a few shots in the gallery and I’ve highlighted a link to those on the right hand side of this page. I really have too many photos in the gallery, and it looks like it’s getting hard to find the various sections; hence, the link to the most recent ones. Enjoy. More later.

Photo Rediscovered

Here’s one I forgot to post to the photo gallery. I’m particularly proud of it, though I think I got very lucky capturing the exact moment of impact. Master Kim, my former taekwando instructor in Andong, Korea, gave an open house in March of 2005, a few months after my tired, broken old body had given up the discipline of taekwando. However, he invited me to take photos of the event, in which his younger students gave demonstrations to their parents and friends. About half way through the event I told him that things seemed to be going pretty well. He responded that he was nervous. I asked why. He told me that he planned to break 9 marble slabs with his hand at the end of the program, but he had only broken three at a time before! Yikes. But, he did it, as you can see below. He blew this photo up, from the original I took, quite large, and has it hanging on the wall of his office. He tells me the other taekwando masters in Andong are jealous of it.

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Hemorrhage

Geez, it feels like I’m bleeding money lately. First, yesteday I got home from school about noon and my electricity was off. I figured it was the whole apartment building since the hallway lights didn’t seem to be working either. I waited about an hour, then I went to ask Brahim, the building concierge, if he had power. He did, and I also noticed that the hall lights were working, too. He came to my apartment to check the power box, as I had already done, and came to the conclusion that I needed an electrician. So, he called one and the guy came in short order. Apparently, some of the insulation in the wires behind the box had corroded. He had to pull the old box out and install a new one, but he had to chisel out quite a bit of the wall to get the job done. He finished up earlier this afternoon and the bill came to $160! Sheesh. Hopefully, I can get the landlady, who lives in the Netherlands, to pay this. I’ll check into it.

Then, I’ve been waiting for my Korean National Pension refund. And waiting. I finally emailed the admin guy at Andong National U., who said he was going to turn in my paperwork and take care of everything for me at the time that I left Korea. Either he didn’t get the paperwork in on time, which he seemed to indicate in his return email, or the Korean Pension Office messed up. The pension officer in Korea gave him the number of the International Affairs Division of the Social Security Administration in the U.S. for me to call, saying that they were the only ones who could help me. Of course I’ll phone them, but I don’t see how they’re going to be able to help me, and dealing with any government bureaucracy from overseas will probably be a nightmare. I have a dreadful feeling that I’ve been screwed out of approximately $4,000.

Of course, both these incidents come shortly after I bought my new bike, so perhaps that’s my money-loss trifecta for the year. The upshot is that I have to go on an Austerity Campaign to really limit the amount of money that I spend. More veggies, less meat; more freeware, less shareware/commercial software, etc. I really gotta tighten the purse strings. Uhhhmmm, just as soon as I visit the local patisserie. More later (Hopefully, not more of this type of crap.)

Goodbye, Korea

This is quite probably my last post from South Korea, at least for some time. Perhaps I’ll return in a few years. There’s nothing wrong with working here and I would recommend it to any new English teachers looking to get some experience, not to mention good pay.

So, it’s au revoir to the Land of the Morning Calm and on to the U.S., and then, hopefully, Morocco. I fly out of Seoul tomorrow at 6 p.m. I’ll probably leave Andong, my home for two years, around 10 a.m. I can’t help but shed a few tears, leaving this relatively quiet, peaceful city (quiet and peaceful for Korea, that is) and leaving behind some good friends at ANU. Good luck to all. More later.

It’s Official

Ok, finally I’ve made the decision to go to Morocco. There has been, for many reasons, a lot of indecision on my part whether or not to take the position, but after several sleepless nights, I’ve decided to go. So, the next few days are going to be extremely hectic, packing, doing paperwork, etc.

Here’s my agenda, more or less. I fly out of Incheon on Tuesday, the 16th of August and get into Seattle at noon, the same day. Then I fly from Seattle to Great Falls, leaving at 8pm, the 16th and arriving in Great Falls at 11:15 pm, Aug. 16th. Then, on the 17th, I have an appointment at the Great Falls Clinic to take my physical. I was very worried about whether or not lab results would be ready in time for my departure to Morocco, but I was told that lab results are usually ready the same day, so no problem there. From Aug. 24 through the 28th I must attend a 5-day briefing/orientation in Washington, D.C. and then it’s back to Great Falls and Missoula until I leave for Morocco, around Sept. 6th. Whew!! I hope I can get everything done that needs to be done between now and the 6th. Things like having my Dell laptop repaired (it hasn’t worked in 1 1/2 years), buying new clothes (especially underwear and socks), going to Missoula to visit and conduct some business, passing the physical (no problem, I hope), and other assorted stuff.

It’s been raining steadily all night long, so it’s cooled off a bit in Andong, though the humidity is still very high. I’m sweating profusely by the time I take the short walk to the bus stop to go to the university. Morocco has a Mediterranean climate, except for the southern area close to the Sahara. I don’t know what that means, but I hope the humidity isn’t 90%-100% like it has been here this summer. It’s been a tough decision on what to take with me, what to pack up in boxes and ship later, what to leave here, and what to throw away. Most of my old clothes are getting tossed and many of my books are being left for others to use. I think one of my colleagues is buying my bicycle, but no one wants the computer. I’ll leave it with another friend and hope that she can sell it to one of the new teachers. If not, no big deal. I’m sure it’ll find a home somewhere.

I’m also putting up photos in the gallery of my trip to Laos and Thailand this summer. Look for the Thailand/Laos 05 gallery. More later.

More Job News

I was on pins and needles all weekend, knowing that I would have to wait until tonight to call the SIT people in Vermont. 3 1/2 more hours of waiting to make that call. I’ve been surfing Morocco information websites all weekend and I’m really stoked about going. I hope everything falls into place.

Decent news, though–my boss called me out of class today and told me that they would love to have me come back to Andong for another year and could I let them know by tomorrow morning my decision about signing a contract. Andong Uni. and Univ. of Mont. have a sister university relationship, and, since I’m the only Montanan here, the Director of the Language Center is very happy to have me return. So, if the timing for Morocco isn’t propitious, I at least will still have a job. There’s nothing wrong with Andong for another year, despite my infrequent grumbling to some of my colleagues. I won’t have to pack things up, I already know the curriculum and the textbook we’ll be using, and, best of all, I won’t have to clean my apartment!!! (Just kidding) More later tonight, probably.

Job Tidings

At last I’ve heard from the SIT people about the English Language Fellowship position. I was expecting to go to Indonesia, if I was chosen at all. Well, I can kiss Indo goodbye. Why? They’ve given me a job in . . . wait for it . . .

Morocco!!!!

Yes, I’ve been invited to accept a position at a teacher training university in Meknes, Morocco. There, according to the SIT website, I will “help train prospective teachers at the CPR (Regional Pedagogical Center) in Meknes, and, assist local inspectors of English with in-service training during periods without classes at the CPR. Possible classes include: language learning theories, methods and approaches, intro to psycholinguistics, intro to socio-linguistics, teaching listening, reading, writing, and speaking, teaching vocabulary, classroom management, testing, research methodology and action research. The Fellow may also offer an extra-curricular culture club.” Whew. I think I’ll be able to keep busy! So, I won’t actually be teaching English, but I’ll be helping to train other people to do so. It’s a great step up, professionally, since there are many very fine openings around the world for teacher trainers, and having a year or two experience doing that certainly won’t hurt my chances in the future.

There is one potentially big problem, though. According to the SIT website, I have to attend a 3-day briefing in Washington, D.C. in August. I haven’t heard back from them about the dates of that briefing. I did find out that last year it was held Aug. 11-13. If that time frame is used this year, I’ll still be teaching in Andong (until the 12th.) My only hope is to convince my supervisor to let me out of my contract early. He can sometimes be very inflexible, so I have to keep my fingers crossed and my groveling skills sharpened! I’ll call SIT Monday night, Korean time, (that’s Monday morning, EST) and find out when the briefing actually will be held. Hopefully, it’s after Aug. 12th.

If I can’t get out of the contract early, I have two options, I suppose. One is to break my contract and flee Korea on a “midnight run.” Doing so would mean I would forfeit anywhere from $4000-$8000 in severance pay and pension refunds and my honor. I don’t want to do that. The other option is to stay here and find another job. I’ve been applying to various positions and one very possible opening is with an English academy in Seoul, which teaches elementary students after their regular class hours in public school. The job pays a potentially HUGE amount of money, upwards of over $4000 a month, in return for working a very tough schedule. For that price, though, I think I could tough it out for a while! Anyway, the company is having a job fair in Seoul on Aug. 6th, which I will attend. I’ve also asked my director to give me another one-year contract in Andong, should any of the new teachers back out. There are also a few other positions here that I’m pursuing, so I’m sure I’ll land somewhere.

So, this weekend I’ll try to get some packing done, but it’s difficult, not knowing exactly where I’ll be going. I suppose I’ll pack for Morocco, and if I end up staying in Korea, well, nothing lost. And, I have to start cleaning my apartment. Yikes, not enough time left. In the meantime, here are some tantalizing photos from Vang Vieng in Laos. More later.

Back in Andong

I returned on Sunday from my vacation and, as usual, it’s difficult getting back into the work routine. We’re teaching summer teen and pre-teen English camps for the next 3 weeks and then I’m finished at Andong U. Well, maybe. I talked to my director today and told him that if any of the newly-hired teachers backed out before arriving in Korea, I would definitely be interested in signing on for another year. In the past teachers have decided not to sign on for one reason or another, so the possibility of my returning is there, though unlikely. I’ve received a couple of responses to job applications, but, after checking the schools out more thoroughly, I’ve decided to turn them down–they don’t have very good reputations. I’m still waiting to hear from SIT about the Indonesian position, but the phone call and/or email never come and I can’t wait forever. At any rate, the next 3 weeks will be very busy for me and I doubt I’ll be able to get any of the vacation photos posted in the near future. More later.