It only seems like a few days ago when I got back from France, but now I'm back from Thailand and Cambodia.
One of the main reasons I thought teaching abroad sounded like an enticing idea was VACATION TIME. You know, enlightening the young minds of the world, passing on knowledge, helping the youth of the world grow into respectable, well rounded, English speaking young adults, taking in the richness of a new culture, and then of course, VACATION TIME.
If you were unaware of my teaching situation for the nearly 6 months that I've been here it has been 8 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday. During which, I teach 17 (45 min) classes a week to classes of 30 to 35 high school aged students. However, during the summer for two weeks my teaching hours were 9 AM to 12 PM, where I usually only had to teach for half of that time to classes of 2 to 6 high school students. It was basically heaven in comparison, if there is really any comparison at all. I mean, heaven and hell are both places you spend your eternal afterlife but the comparisons seem to stop there. And that's not to say that teaching for around 13 hours a week is hell either, it's that the summer classes were just THAT GOOD! I was in such a good mood I even carried all of our luggage when it started raining.
Small classes are wonderful. I can almost remember the students names. The students actually listen, speak, and sometimes even learn. We can play, have fun, and joke around when the classes are small, but when the class size is between 30 and 35 it's hard to do anything. Even the best laid out lesson plans can crumble in presence of 30 Korean students, 60 busy hands, 300 grubby little fingers, and from what I've heard they must be hiding more mouths somewhere because I can count no less than 1000 voices in those rooms sometimes. That is when they are speaking Korean, of course, when English is being spoken I need only to look in a mirror to see where the noise is coming from. But that was all forgotten for the summer. Two weeks with good students, good lessons, great hours, and more free time than I knew what to do with.
After those two glorious weeks were over the real summer vacation began; 2 weeks off. I chose to visit two countries in Southeast Asia on my two weeks of freedom, Thailand and Cambodia. I would have preferred to do the whole tour of Southeast Asia; Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore, but the two week constraint made me focus my efforts. So I chose one of the wonders of the world "Angkor Wat" in Cambodia, and the world renowned beautiful beaches of Thailand. Check out the excitement on my face on the plane ride over there...do not disturb me while I'm sleeping.
I am here to tell you that Thailand and Cambodia are great too. If you get the chance, GO! If not, well then I have roughly 500 pictures that you can look at and live vicariously through here.
We flew out of Seoul and into Bangkok where I just barely missed Carmen Sandiego. We strategically (accidentally) planned our visit to coincide with the "Mo Chit Weekend Market" in Bangkok, the largest outdoor market in Asia (so we were told). It was huge though. As Rachel put it, "It has everything you'd ever want, ever!", and it was extremely cheap. But all I wanted was the t-shirt that said "How's your day go?" for my Italian friend Karl but those Thia's don't sell a shirt larger than a boys medium. So I'm looking good in it now, and Karl has to do without, it's bitter sweet. The night in Bangkok was even odder than I can go into here on this blog, and they don't let you take pictures, but there really are some places on this planet where rules just don't seem to apply. It's like the Thunderdome, only anything can go in and out, 2 men, 3 women, it doesn't matter. The next morning it was a 5 hour bus ride to the Cambodian border.
Angkor Wat is one of the wonders of the world, what more do I need to say? It's really interesting. Whenever ancient civilizations create huge buildings and tombs and then fall off the face of the earth without explanation they leave behind ruins for travelers like myself to climb all over, and tell their friends about how cultured they are for visiting ancient ruins. It makes you feel like a little kid when you're in places like that. Everything you look at is interesting, and you want to check it out, and climb on it. We also had our own personal "Tuk Tuk" driver for our 2 days there, who drove us anywhere we wanted to go, and then waited for however long to take us back. It's like getting a taxi in New York City but your his only client until you leave and he comes up to you right after you cross the George Washington Bridge, oh yea, and he only costs 25 bucks.
We ended up flying out of Siem Reap airport the day after visiting Angkor Wat because the only road that leads to and from the border is the worst road on the face of the earth. On the way there 3 hours of bouncing up and down, ducking my head, hitting my head, biting my tongue, and sharing the road with farm animals was the kind of experience your happy to have done once, but don't ever want to do again.
So it was back to Thailand, but this time to the beach. And I don't just mean "to the beach" I mean actually to where they shot the movie "The Beach", a film about finding a legendary island paradise (heaven on earth type of place).
Yeah, I did that. I also played with monkey's, rode elephants, climbed dangerously unsafe rock faces in sandals, went kayaking, ate exotic foods, drank enough fruit smoothies to kill a lesser man, and got a little tan. And in case you were wondering two weeks is just enough time to get sunburned, have the sunburn fade into a dark tan, and then peel so you lose your tan by the time you return home. Wear sunscreen.
Then I finished off the trip with another movie island visit, "James Bond Island". The 1974 film "The Man with the Golden Gun" was shot on what is now know as "James Bond Island".
So Now I'm back home, or well, back in Seoul at least. The weather here has been surprisingly nice since returning, which is really sweet considering my friends told me we left Korea before the worst week of weather all year. Alright, I need to get back in the swing of things here but there will be more posts about Korea to come, I shouldn't be visiting anymore countries for a little while now :/
P.S. - Mr. Jong, probably my best Korean teacher friend here, who can barely speak English dropped this gem of a word on me in conversation today:
floccinaucinihilipilification: "the act or habit of estimating or describing something as worthless, or making something to be worthless by deprecation".
With 29 letters, it is the longest non-technical word in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.
We can't have a coherent conversation about the color of billiards balls, but he knows this word. I try to teach him things like "Hello my name is Mr. Jong", but I guess he feels floccinaucinihilipilification for my teaching.