From Jamie's Philippines Pics

We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.

We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.

Thanks for checking us out!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

South Korea Study Trip - Day 9 & 10

Today ended up being a very busy day.  We had to pack everything so we could check out of our hotel.  Most of the students were ready to board the bus promptly at 10:00 am.  Those who have been late to the bus the last couple of days have had to sing a song on the bus.  Michelle stops them after they board and they have sit in the front and sing.  We have had wonderful renditions of Old MacDonald, Happy Birthday, Arirang (Korean folk song), as well as some other favorites.  One boy in particular sang a great cover of Bruno Mars "Grenade."  

The two B-boys, who were brothers and actually from a group called the Gaby Nest, joined us for most of the day and met us at the hotel. While we went through the Aquarium at the COEX Mall, they were warming up for our own private show.  The aquarium was a very good one.  I personally always enjoy the penguins, otters, and seals.  

We went to an open outside area of the Mall where the B-boys had set up the equipment.  The performed a couple of songs for us before dividing the students into two different groups, A and B.  Each B-boy took a group and taught them a couple of very simple dance moves.  Then the two groups "battled."  Group A ended up being declared the winner, but both a member of each group was presented a T-shirt of the Gaby Nest by the B-boys later in the day.

After the dancing, we ate lunch at Outback Steakhouse (delicious as always).  The students were then given about 30 minutes of shopping time at the mall before we moved on to the Seoul Tower.  Seoul Tower is just that, a tower that overlooks the city.  Inside the tower was also a rather peculiar but very interesting Teddy Bear Museum.  You'll need to see the pictures to understand it, but they took each Korean time period and set up teddy bears depicting certain eras. After the teddy bear museum, we took the elevator to the observation deck of the tower.  What I thought was neat about it was the each window pane all around the tower observation deck had world cities and the distance from that point to the tower written on it.  I took pictures of a few.  

After the Seoul Tower, we went to the Seoul Animation Center.  This was a huge disappointment.  What I thought would be interesting and very interactive ended up being just 3 rooms that had drawings in them.  I'm sure the rest of the animation center is great, but we didn't a chance to see it.  We opted to leave there early and head to Insa Street for more shopping.  

We spend 1.5 hours on Insa Dong Street finalizing our shopping before heading straight to the airport.  Michelle checked us all in and waved goodbye to us before we went through passport control.  I know she had a good trip with us, but I'm also very sure she was glad it was over.  She usually takes adult groups, so this was a big change for her.  

11 hours to Doha and 1 hour to Dammam and we finally arrived at school at 11:20 am. 

Outstanding Trip Overall.  It was nice to see some of the students mature as the trip progressed.  I have no doubt they'll take away some memories that will last a lifetime.  

We'll be getting together a presentation to present in front of the middle school, but it probably won't be until after spring break.  That'll give the students enough time to get their pictures together and for us to practice the dance, bowing, and Korean phrases.  

Make sure your kids are completing their journals and their A to Z book.  They will have until just before Spring Break to turn those in.  They can always ask their teachers for some guidance or stop by my room or Ms. Casside's for some help.  

I'll get the Day 9 and 10 pictures into the 2nd photo album soon.

South Korea Study Trip - Day 8

Well, I said that every day might be the students' favorite, but today probably wasn't.  Not that it was bad, but after the "fun" day yesterday, today was probably a small let down for the kids.  

We started our day at the Korean Folk Village.  In 1979, the government built a folk village an hour outside Seoul to help people experience traditional culture of Korea.  They have literally built the homes and other buildings as they would have looked in the late 1800's.  We were able to see a few performances (traditional dancing, a tight rope walker, and a traditional wedding ceremony). The wedding ceremony was interesting because they "re-enact" they wedding ceremony throughout the week, but people can actually have their wedding ceremony there paid for by the government on the weekends.  We walked around as our guide explained some of the buildings and other things that she thought the students might want to know and be interested in.

After lunch at a "hot pot," we went to the LG Science center.  This was a huge let down for me, because they had all of the rooms set up for students to have a hands on experience with various technological displays, but the guide (not Michelle) only allowed them to do certain ones and only certain kids were able to do some of them.  While it was a nice visit, it would've been so much more if we had more time to explore and do everything there.  

We ate a nice Korean BBQ place for dinner and were back in the hotel earlier than normal.  The kids need some time to pack their belongings and rest up.  We have a busy day tomorrow.  A late entry into the itinerary is that 2 of the B-boys will be joining us tomorrow for the day capped off by them teaching the students some of the break dancing moves. We told the kids, and needless to say, the are excited.

South Korea Study Trip - Day 7

Great day for the students.  We were able to sleep in until 8:00 this morning because of the long day yesterday and the fact ice skating didn't open until 10:00 am.  We were there at 10:00 and after some struggling with their skates, the students hit the ice.  Some literally hit the ice, but they all did a pretty good job.  Most tried to make it around a couple of times at least, but some had some prior experience and stayed longer.  Those who left went to an arcade and had some fun playing some games.  Lunch was at Pizza Hut.

Lotte is a national brand for many products in Korea.  They have built a theme park in Seoul where the students had 5.5 hours to ride the rides, play the games, and hang out.  Most of the students rode a majority of the rides and had a great time. I was able to tour the Korean Folk Museum where the highlight was a 1/8 miniature model of how village and Gyeongbokgung Palace would have looked during the height of the dynasty.  Geeky for most, but I certainly enjoyed it.  

After dinner at a Korean fast food restaurant, we had the opportunity to go and see the B-boys.  The B-boys are a break dancing group who have won world championships.  They have a performance where they have paired with a ballerina, so the mixture of break dancing and ballet is quite interesting.  The kids were ecstatic and were able to go on stage and have their pictures taken with some of the members of the group.

Will probably one of the kids' best days, but it seems as though I have been saying that every day.

South Korea Study Trip - Day 6

Probably one of the kids best days and for one reason...

This was the 1st morning that all of the boys woke up on time and were ready to go.  Part of that was that yesterday I drug one room of boys in the hallway and had them do some morning exercises because they refused to wake up after numerous doorbell rings and telephone calls.  Needless to say, there were all up this morning.  

We left the hotel at 7:30 in order to get to the Siheung Middle School on time for our day with Korean students.  They met us at the gate and had name tags with our names on them.  We then proceeded to their auditorium where the opening ceremonies were held.  Everything was well planned out and there had to be English and Korean translations for each speaker.  

They presented our school with a gift of framed ancient Korean masks and Mathurine had purchased an Arabic teapot for their principal.  Their principal and assistant principal had a few welcoming words and I spoke on behalf of our school.  Luckily, I had some translation experience.   The students then exchanged gifts and prepared for their performances.  

Two Korean students performed on bamboo flutes, two more performed a couple of classical songs on the violin and piano, 6 girls performed a modern pop dance, and the finale was an AMAZING Korean drum performance by 7 students.  The principal said it was the "pride of their school" and they won competitions for it.

Our students then performed their dance of Party Rock Anthem which was a huge hit with the Korean students.  They clapped and went on stage with our students.  

The students had a chance to mingle with one another and the Korean girls instantly took a liking to one of our students.  He had a crowd of girls around him the rest of the day and they would even follow him into rooms and press their faces up to the windows to get a look at him.  Hilarious on all levels seeing them do this and mostly his reaction to it.  

The students then went for an English lesson.  It was a video teleconference with a native English speaker in New Zealand.  The school sets these up so the Korean students can have a lesson with a native English speaker.  It was interesting they way it all worked out, and of course, our students were the star pupils and participated appropriately and actively.

Next, the students had P.E. class where they played kickball.  The rules were a bit different, but our students caught on and actually beat the Korean school students by a score of 12 - 6 after 2 innings.  They do not have a gym, so the kids had to play outside in freezing cold weather.  They were dressed for it mostly and certainly warmed up by playing.  

Lunch came next and the students went with their Korean partners to their homerooms for a Korean meal.  Mathurine and I ate with the teachers and administrators.

The kids were treated like celebrities the whole time.  Most of these Korean students had never seen too many foreigners before, so we were all quite the novelty to them.  They loved the kids hair and faces, wanted them to write their names, and followed them around like paparazzi.  Unfortunately for our students, we had to leave, but they left with huge smiles and appreciation of the Korean students. 

Next, we went to a place for to learn about traditional style Korean clothing, which some of the students were able to try on and traditional forms of bowing, which all of the students practiced several times.  We'll be showing these bows at the assembly we'll have for the middle school when we return.  Next, the students were treated to participating in a tea ceremony, where some of the students served the other students with the proper way to fix and serve tea, Korean style.  While this was mostly boring for the student, some did like it, and they were able to gain some experience with some traditional cultural aspects of Korea.

We then went to a large shopping mall where the students were able to buy souvenirs or something for themselves.  We split up into 3 groups and they went from floor to floor shopping.  Some of the kids are so sweet because they want to buy something for every one of their family members (cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, etc) and not just their mom and dad.  

Dinner was at another buffet style restaurant where all of the students found something they could eat.  We caught up on journaling in our rooms before lock down at 10:30.  Tomorrow, we'll get to go ice skating and LOTTE Theme Park.  Fun day!!!

As usual, check out the pictures... I did what I could at the school.

South Korea Study Trip - Day 5

What a day!

We had to get out by 8:00 am.  Stupid me forgot my passport, so Michelle and I had to quickly take a taxi back to the hotel and then meet the rest of the group at the other tour bus that would take us to the DMZ.  That is 2 of the most important items that I have made bonehead moves on, so I'm batting 1000 right now.  

Only 3 tour companies are allowed to go to the DMZ, so we had to join up with a group of Japanese tourists on another bus.  They had their Japanese speaking guide, and we had our English speaking one.  On the way there, she explained a little bit about the history of the DMZ and its current state as well as the numerous rules we had to follow once we arrived:

No pointing, no standing unless told, no taking pictures unless told, keep your hands out of your pockets, walk in lines by twos, 

We were able to step foot into North Korea for about 5 minutes, take a quick picture, then be on our way.  It was very very fast and we only saw 1 North Korean soldier.  The lady kept saying,"we don't know what is going to happen.  we just listen to the military."  

Right before going into the main building and the lady hurrying us along barking directions, some of the kids seemed a little "freaked out," but they made it OK.  I remember going to the DMZ 21 years ago when I was their age and having the same feeling.  I didn't know at the time why it was such a serious situation, but I do remember not to mess up.  

I cannot possibly type (or well rather will not do it) all that was told to us while we were there.  My personal highlights include seeing the 3 defended military gates and stepping into the 1950's style little building, seeing the line that separates North and South Korea, getting our picture taken in North Korea, learning some of the stories about the place, seeing Propaganda village (from afar of course), and learning that the little rice village that is still near the DMZ has a population of only 500 but has an average income of over $80,000 US tax free.  Another interesting part was seeing the 2 flags.  SK flag has a tall flag pole but pretty standard. NK's flag is 18 by 30 METERS AND WEIGHS 600 pounds.  It towers over the SK flag by 50 meters and is supposedly the tallest flag pole in the world.

Check out the following link for more detailed information...  

After exiting the DMZ gift shop and area, we stopped at a nearby park where SK still come and face the North in hopes one day seeing their ancestors again.  Large stone sculptures always face north symbolizing this. We then went down the road to a Korean restaurant with our Japanese busmates, but we had a lunch of salad and sandwiches we had brought with us.

An hour later, our official DMZ tour was over as we transferred to our original bus which took us to the National Assembly. We were originally supposed to meet a Korean senator, but that plan probably fell through when we switched guides.  Instead, we still got a quick tour of the massive building learning a little bit about its structure, history, and little about the government of SK.  We exited and walked around the building before being picked up by our bus.  It was still early, so Michelle decided to take us to the 2002 World Cup Stadium.  In 2002, SK and Japan co-hosted the World Cup (Brazil won but SK came in 4th).  After touring the small museum at the stadium concerning the games, we saw the field where to our surprise the South Korea national team was practicing (what luck!).  They have a game tomorrow night against Qatar.  We were told not to take pictures, but I had already taken some and I forgot how to delete them :)

The kids were so excited, and it was cool to see a real practice.  They only let us stay for about 10 minutes, but it was well worth the stop.  

Dinner was at a seafood buffet where most kids had sushi, but there was a ton of other types of food.  

After arriving at the hotel, we immediately got down to business practicing our dance routine for our performance tomorrow at the Alliance Middle School.  We are being hosted by them tomorrow.  We aren't sure what to expect, but I'm sure the kids will have a great time.  After a rough start to practice, I believe the kids are ready after about 2 hours of straight practicing.  We'll see tomorrow.

Tons of great pictures today.  Not a lot of the DMZ because like I said, you weren't allowed to take that many. You can view them at the same link.  

South Korea Study Trip - Day 4

Another great day overall! We woke up at 7:00 am (well, most of us, but more on that to come later) and had a nice breakfast before checking out of the hotel.  After a quick stop at Waterpia to pick up a lost wallet, we headed back to Mt. Seoraksun park to ride the cable car to the top.  A few of the students bought some new gloves, and we quickly got on to the cable car and rode it to near the top of the mountain. 

The view from the top was spectacular.  You could clearly see the city on the eastern coast and more mountains to the west.  Perhaps the best part of the day was when we hiked just a hundred meters up the hill…

The kids stopped along side the hill and just played in the snow.  It was refreshing to see them just laughing, smiling, rolling around in the snow, snowball fighting, and having a blast.  Brought back some great memories for me, and it was a delight to see the joy on their faces.  I was able to get some pretty good pictures of this despite forgetting to turn on automatic focus (grrrr…)

After stopping for a snack and hot cocoa, we rode the cable car back down the mountain and exited the park.  We went back to Waterpia for lunch at a Korean fast food restaurant of burgers and cheese sticks.

A 2.5 hour ride back toward Seoul brought us to our destination for our rail bike ride.  I wasn’t sure what to expect and neither did the kids, but you’ll just have to see the pictures for a better idea.  They have converted an old rail line into a 4 seater rail bike ride.  It takes about 25 minutes one way, where you stop for a quick break, then 25 minutes the other way.  Mathurine and I were the only 2 in our 4 seater, so the ride there was tougher (plus I’m out of shape so that doesn’t help).  On the way back, we had a student ride with us which greatly helped.  The other bikes had 3 or 4 each too.  It was a nice stop.  It was a bit cold because of the wind, but a clear day nonetheless.

Our next stop was not a scheduled one, but our guide and driver decided that since there was not much traffic, we’d have time for it.  It was metal track sledding just off the side of the road and near the river.  The kids had a blast (and so did the adults).  There are some great pictures taken by 2 of the students. We were also to briefly walk through a greenhouse that was nestled to the side of a riverside park. 

An hour later, we were at dinner having smoked duck which was similar to the Korean BBQ from a couple of nights ago.  The duck was very good and several students said that it was their first time having duck.  We checked back in to the Art Nouveau City III Hotel, but with different rooms and different roommates.  The kids had some down time, but they did catch up on their journaling. 

Tomorrow, we’ll go to the DMZ and to the National Assembly.  The students are dressing up for these trips tomorrow, so they should look nice.  Personally, I’m excited about the DMZ trip tomorrow.  Few people have had this opportunity, and I can say that I have had it twice.  This time, however, I’ll be able to see some different things than last time. 

Enjoy the pictures!  660 so far just from me.  I know the kids take a ton and Mathurine also has quite a bit.  

South Korea Study Trip - Day 3

I'm sure today will be one the days the students look back on and remember the most.  After a late start (some kids decided to sleep in), we headed out for a 3 hour bus ride to Mt. Seoraksan.  Most of the students were able to catch up on some sleep, which is good considering a couple of them had long nights (not to worry).

At the first sight of snow on the mountains, the kids went wild and stayed excited for the rest of the day.  A couple of the students said they had never seen or touched snow before, so it was a great experience for them. 

Lunch was just outside the park at a nice little restaurant where we had fried fish, rice, and veggies.  Great place for us to jump start our day. 

We arrived at Mt. Seoraksan and the wind chill bore down on us.  We originally were scheduled to ride a cable car to the top of the mountain and do some hiking, but the wind was blowing too hard, they were not running the cable cars up the mountain.  After posing for a photo op, the kids immediately began their snow fight.  I had to show them how it was really done, but once again... I tire way too easily now and it was 15 against 1.  

We had still planned on hiking a little today, but decided to completely switch plans.  We walked up to see a Buddha statue and then informed the students that they would have the rest of the day at Waterpia, an indoor water park that was very near to our hotel for the night, the Hanwha Resort

Waterpia had a wave pool, a few kids sections, an outdoor/indoor lazy river, and a rather large indoor water slide that I bet the kids rode 10 times each.  I even rode it 3 times it was that much fun.  I am pretty sure they all enjoyed themselves and they were able to snack and eat some ice cream too.

After Waterpia, we immediately went straight to the hotel where Michelle checked us into our rooms and had pizza waiting for us.  After a pizza dinner, we broke up into boys and girls for some journaling time and time for them to collaborate on their A to Z book.  If have attached the assignment sheet for the A to Z book.  It was Mrs. Barnhouse's idea and Mathurine and I put the details together.  I am pretty happy about it and think it will be a great way for the students to reflect on their trip and have a wonderful self made souvenir.  

We'll try the cable car again tomorrow and then we have a rail bike ride along an old railroad line that connect North and South Korea.

I have updated the photos, so please go to the following link for pictures from today...

South Korea Study Trip - Day 2

March 10, 2012 – Day 2

Long and busy day today, but one where I think the kids really enjoyed.  They were ready to go by 9:00 am, and we wound our way through the traffic to the Gyeongbokgung Palace.  The Korea has a republic government today, but before Japanese occupation in the early 1900’s, they had a monarchy.  The  Gyeongbokgung Palace is what remains of the previous kings’ royal grounds.  Similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Korean government has spent some time, resources, and money trying to restore it to its original form.

At 10:00, we were able to see the “changing of the guard.”  I have posted a ton of pictures of this, and the students will have some videos too.  The traditional ceremony is unlike any other changing of the guard I’ve seen, and quite impressive.

We then followed Michelle through the palace grounds seeing the important buildings and hearing the symbolism of many of the statues and pictures. I think the kids learned quite a bit here despite the fact that some of the tuned out from time to time.

After a quick stop at the Korean Folk Museum, where we were able to learn a little bit about the Korean alphabet and the students saw their name written in Korean on this high tech touch screen, we exited the  Gyeongbokgung Palace and saw the outside of the Blue House.  The Blue House is the residence of the Korean president, called Blue House due to its blue roof, which is a traditional style roof color for Koreans.

We then made our way to Insa street, an old historic street that was once an avenue for government offices but has since transformed into a major shopping area for Korean goods. We will actually go back there for some shopping, but we stopped here today for lunch at a restaurant where we had fresh mackerel fish and Korean side dishes.  We stopped by for dessert at a stand where the workers make powdered sugar into 16,000 strands wrapped around some crushed nuts.  The kids were impressed and it made for a tasty snack.

An hour’s journey south brought us to the Samsung TaeKwonDo Studio where we all participated in a 2 hour lesson.  After several stretches, kicks, punches, and lunges later, the students were able to try and break a board with their hands.  They were all successful and signed their board in commemoration.  A cool souvenir!  I determined I am too old to begin Tae Kwon Do.

The ride back to Seoul was a 1.5 hours and we made our way to a Korean BBQ restaurant where the kids watched their meal being cooked on an open grill right on the table.  Most of the kids enjoyed the meat and the Korean way of eating BBQ. We stopped by and bought some cake (sweet potato cake and some other sort of strawberry cake) to take back to the rooms for dessert.

Great day overall.  I believe the kids got more out of the Palace than they think after discussing some of the things with them, but the highlight of the day for them was definitely the Tae Kwon Do.

Tomorrow, we head for the mountains for some hiking and probably see some snow.

Hope all is well back home.   

South Korea Study Trip - Day 1

March 8 - 9, 2012 –Day 1

We left the parking lot of ISG promptly at 6:30pm after goodbye hugs and kisses from parents.  Dammam airport was crowded, but we were able to all go through the GCC line.  Mathurine was very organized with all of the letters and passports and we had no issues whatsoever. The flight to Doha was only 40 minutes and the kids were wound up the whole time.  They had quite a bit of nervous energy.  They layover in Doha was not bad at all, and we boarded the next plane to Seoul with no problems despite Doha having some odd boarding procedures. 

The flight to Seoul took about 7 hours and 45 minutes.  Several kids slept and I was even able to catch a few winks even though I rarely sleep on airplanes.  At the airport, we easily went through customs and baggage claim and exchanged some money. On Unfortunately, I didn’t bring cash because I always rely on ATMs and my card has just expired.  I guess I’ll be washing dishes and singing songs on the street.  Incheon International Airport is entirely built on reclaimed land (like Hong Kong), so after arriving and meeting our tour guide Michelle, we boarded the bus and were off to Seoul. 

It took about an hour to get to our restaurant due to traffic.  We ate at a place called Ashley’s which had a buffet food with Korean dishes and a few American dishes the kids discovered. Dessert was at a Baskin Robbins, so the kids had a little taste of “home.”

After a long day, we arrived at our hotel, the Artnouveau City III and checked in.  A few of the students called home on Skype.  Most students slept through the night, but a few had a hard time sleeping.  Yours truly crashed about 11:00 pm woke at 6:45 am.  Because of a wonderful little one at home, sleeping through the night is a rare event for me. 

Tomorrow, we’ll have a packed day our touring some sites in Seoul.  

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