Archive | June, 2012
June 19, 2012

Rock Traveler Recruiting

When I was looking for a job overseas, one of the first places I looked on a regular basis for job postings was a website called Dave’s ESL Cafe. The homepage features photos from exotic locations around the world and immediately conjures up images of an interesting and adventurous life abroad. From the office in my apartment back home or on my laptop at Stauf’s Coffee, I would imagine a life of teaching and traveling abroad.

I was 42 and had never ventured outside North America. The only other country I had ever visited was Canada, for a memorable, yet mildly adventurous “Stag & Doe” party in Guelph, Ontario. It was hardly the stuff of my inspirational travel-show heroes like Rick Steves, Anthony Bourdain, Samantha Brown, and Justine Shapiro.

Having ruled out Vietnam based on the fact that good friend Pt D. had already taught English there 10 years ago and I wanted to “create my own roadshow” (TRT – Dec. 31, 2011), I first began to target jobs in South America. Pat was planning a trip to Colombia and I had just finished watching a great show on the wine industry in Chile and Peru. While the appeal of these countries was alluring, the pay and quality of the conditions amounted to more of a volunteer position than an actual career choice. South America remains high on my list of future travel destinations (I will make it to Brazil, Joey G., I promise) I began to look elsewhere for serious job opportunities. From a strictly cultural and curiosity standpoint, Japan had always held place high on my list of favorite potential destinations.

Not long after I began to pursue teaching opportunities in Japan, I realized that it would be difficult to obtain one if I was not currently residing there. Japan is also one of the most expensive places in the world to live overall, with Tokyo at the top of the list of the most expensive cities in the world. Struggling to narrow down my search also brought up the classic argument against keeping your plans and dreams to yourself or sharing your ideas with others. Keeping quiet can help you cultivate the idea and keep the energy close and strong. Sharing can dissipate the energy and open it to criticism, undermining the whole process of creation and change. However, I was confident in my purpose and was simply lacking a direction and focus. One of the many benefits of my time working for Apple was the exposure to energetic, creative, and diverse talents that were always supportive. Once I began to share my intentions with a few select coworkers, the universe began to conspire to assist me. Someone mentioned that Mike R. on the Back-of-House team had actually lived in South Korea and taught English there for a year and a half. The rest is history…

The maze of paperwork, bureaucracy, and endless applications fortunately all ended happily with an amazing job with airfare provided and a great semi-furnished apartment in Daejeon. Having learned so much about the process from Mike and on my own through trial and (a lot of) error, I was eager to share what I learned with others who were curious about the ESL market and the overseas employment process. One of the first people to get excited about the idea was my dear cousin, Charlie G., who had previously pursued the idea with little success. When he heard about my intentions, I could see a spark go off in his mind, and the fire had been lit all over again. This goes down as another check in the column for sharing your ideas and plans with others, in that, you can also become the inspiration for change in others.

I was also introduced to a young animator living in New York, named Natalia, who was curious about opportunities to teach abroad. Her mother owns Bloomsbury Lofts back home in Columbus, and was referred to me by good friend Terri M. Natalia and I immediately began a 6-month friendship via Skype and email as I led both her and Charlie through the maze of apostles, notaries, and long distance interviews. Fortunately, both stories have a happy ending, with the arrival of both Natalia and Charlie to Korea to begin jobs teaching here -on the exact same day!

(Click on each image below to view full size) 

 

Natalie got a terrific job with Yonsei in Wonju, about 90 minutes east of Seoul. Charlie is working for a new hagwon called The Honors outside Seoul in Bucheon. Once both got settled in a bit, I was able to make a trip to visit them and complete the cycle. I am thrilled for both as they begin their respective adventures here in a country that I have grown quite fond of in my 9 months here. I am planning on staying a while and excited to have 2 friends from home now living in country.

Congratulations to both Natalia and Charlie…Welcome to Korea! 

June 8, 2012

The Juice Traveler

One of the few things I left behind that I was sad to see go back home was my juicer. It was a big, solid workhorse that was an inexpensive purchase and always efficiently delivered a fresh batch of juice from whatever fresh goodies I could throw at it. Fortunately, old friend Pat D. has taken custody and has kept up the habit that I always liked, but was never quite fanatical about.

I always enjoyed the fresh raw juice and felt that each time I loaded up the crispers in my fridge with raw fruit and vegetables, this would be the time I would break through and become, like title of the classic juicing novel by Harvey & Marilyn Diamond suggests, “Fit For Life”.  I would do really well for a few days and eventually lose steam on the idea each time, just as the remaining fruit and vegetables began to rot. I was quickly becoming what the Japanese and Zenhabits.net founder Leo Babauta call a “three-day monk”.

Determined to change just about everything in my life while I am here, I began to research proper juicing and the idea of a 5-7 day juice fast. My idea was to complete a full system detox and jumpstart some healthier habits while living abroad. While looking for recipes and the do’s and don’ts of juicing, I stumbled upon a terrific website called Prolific Living. Hosted by Farnoosh Brock, this blog is dedicated to developing positive lifestyle habits, including planning and executing an extended juice fast.

The essential gist of her advice was to plan well in advance, eat reasonably leading up to the fast instead of loading up, and preparing exactly how you would break your fast. With my brand new T-Fal Juicer from the LG Home Store ready to go, I loaded up on apples, carrots, ginger, cucumbers, radishes, celery, kiwi, tomatoes, and a few lemons to aid in digestion. Fruits and vegetables are not cheap here in Korea, but seem to be of a higher quality overall. The apples are not covered in wax and the veggies, like carrots, are sold in true raw form, covered in a thin layer of dirt that is easily cleaned off, to preserve them and save on processing time and costs.

The other most common piece of advice I found out there (DoctorYourself.com is another great resource) was to alternate between fruit and vegetable juice. Apple juice with carrot and ginger is a simple blend of both and perhaps my favorite recipe. However, due to the higher sugar content of raw fruit juice, adding more pure vegetable juice has really been more truly cleansing and added a tasty variety to my diet with more nutrients overall. Spinach, celery, cabbage, korean cucumbers (dadaji), and HUGE korean radishes (daikon), have all been easily cut down to size and have made for a healthy variety of color and flavor. I also experimented with kiwi, but it proved to be impractical from a preparation time to actual juice yield standpoint. I will leave the kiwi juicing to Alice and Soon at Coffee Nori…especially when mixed with frozen strawberries for an awesome quick smoothie.

(Click on each image below to view full size)

What all this amounted to was a complete change in my health, attitude, and disjointed relationship with food. Once I got past the first 2 days of cravings, hunger pangs, and Pavlovian mouth-watering as I passed my favorite restaurants, I began to really enjoy all the positive benefits of the juice and the fasting experience overall. My appetite began to dissipate as I eagerly prepared my next batch of fresh juice each morning. I still have not cut out caffeine from my diet as is often recommended, but have greatly reduced my dependence on it as I began to see my energy levels skyrocket. I was sleeping less each night and more soundly in fact, the stubborn pounds (or kilograms in this case) began to melt away – 12 pounds (5.5 kg) and counting- and my mind and senses came back to life.

My only real issue on my 7-day fast was regularity. A simple addition of water-soluble Green Fiber (psyllium husk fiber) found in Seoul set me straight. Other than that, my head has never been more clear. My concentration has been terrific, making my job easier and increasing my present moment awareness. My mood has been recharged and highly positive as negative thoughts and self-doubt have disappeared – I have truly never felt better! As my senses were also brought back to life, it seemed that I could smell a Korean BBQ from 3 blocks away, but having my juice prepared in advance and ready at both work and at home, helped me avoid the few moments of temptation I experienced during the week. Again, preparation was the key.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes from the Prolific Living website to help get you started. The beauty is that there is no real limit on how much you can or should consume and experimenting with different combinations is part of the fun! I would also suggest a nice B-complex multi-vitamin with niacin to aid in the release of toxins.

 

Perfect Morning Essential: 4-6 Carrots, 4 stalks of Celery, 1 Lemon , 1 Macintosh or Yellow Apple

Serious Detox: 1/2 sour green Apple, 1 Lime or Lemon, 1 large Beet, 3-4 leaves Beet tops, 3-4 Carrots, 3-4 Celery stalks, small piece of Ginger

Sweet Filling Delight: 3 cups fresh baby Spinach, 1 Lime, 1 large Tomato, 2-3 Carrotsand 1/2 Carrot top bunch, 1/2 bunch Parsley, 1 stalk Celery

Quick Cleansing Drink: 2-3 Carrots, 4 Cucumbers, small piece of fresh Ginger, 1 Lemon, 1 whole Beet

 

To break the fast, I started with some raw almonds and peanuts, and later a bowl of high-fiber cereal. The next day I had some hew dup bap, fresh sashimi on a bed of lettuce and rice with a light sesame dressing. Breaking the fast was actually easier than I thought, and because I felt so great, I did not pig out on my old habits of pizza and Whoppers, as I feared I might. If you are planning a change in habits, diet, or an experiment with a juice fast, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Your body is craving this raw, pure fuel, and you will be amazed at the performance you will achieve as a result.

I have slowly eased into a healthier solid food, diet, and have essentially replaced 1-2 meals a day with fresh juice. Keeping healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruits on hand has helped eliminate a backslide into old habits. I am also planning another 5-7 day fast to remove those last few stubborn pounds and further detoxify, but suffice it to say that I have broken the “3-day monk” cycle for good. Adding healthy cardio-based exercise like hiking and biking, along with regular yoga, has made all the difference.

Give it a try some time and you will be surprised. Here’s to your health and happy juicing!!

The Juice Traveler

 

 

 

June 4, 2012

Chess Day at JLS

May 5th was officially Children’s Day here in Korea, so in honor of that national holiday, my hagwon decided to forego our normal class schedule in favor of “Chess Day 2012″ at Jeongsang Language School. Regular classwork was replaced by fun team-building activities, snack food, and a visit to the Chess Day Market, set up in the Media Center over two days. Students were given a bankroll of special Chess Day coins of different values and were allowed to visit the market and purchase whatever they liked. Along with pizza, BBQ chicken, Capri Sun drinks, and the rice cake street food favorite, hot Tteokbokki (떡볶이).

My job was “selling” baseballs and soccer balls, as well as yo-yos, magic tricks, “Yu-Gi-Oh!” Cards, piggy banks, and all things Angry Birds. The kids came through the market class by class throughout the day and and the whole event was a huge success thanks to the hard work of the staff, particularly Adele and Dong-Hee. The Chess Day Market featured a huge variety of items for sale; including school supplies, prizes, stickers, and other goodies covered with various bunnies, kitties, and all manner of disgruntled animals of the avian variety.

(Please click on each image below to view full size)

I was also the de facto DJ for the 2-day event as my trusty iPod came in quite handy to lend fun tunes to the whole affair. In addition to lots of Bee Gees, Bob Marley, and Michael Jackson, the highlight of the event was school director, Sunny Kim, dancing to the Sir Mix-a-Lot classic, “Baby Got Back”! Completely unaware of the content of the song lyrics or the inappropriate juxtaposition of the the song to the event and our young students, it was a moment in my DJ career that, “I cannot lie,”  I will not soon forget.

Thanks again to the management staff and faculty of JLS for a terrific Chess Day 2012.

 

June 3, 2012

Weekend in Busan

As I approached 8 months in Korea in May, it was time to begin looking for a possible university position for the fall. South Korea’s 3 big institutions are known as “SKY”, for Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei.  Using the ever-popular Dave’s ESL Café website, I have already managed to apply for a teaching position at Seoul National. I also plan to visit the Yonsei campus soon to see Natalia, who has just secured an ELS position there for the next year.

One of the other options is to move to a town like Busan (pronounced ‘Pusan’), a major Asian port city in southeastern Korea. Busan is the second largest city in South Korea and is home to quite a few colleges and universities, like Busan National, to which I have also applied. To get an idea of what life might be like along the water, I took the KTX to Busan and checked into Blue Backpackers, a Hostel I found recommended on the web.

Despite the similar dense population of the area, I found Busan to be a much different atmosphere than the capital city of Seoul. The climate and feel were very different right at the moment I stepped out of the train station. With the annual cherry blossoms in bloom, I found the city to be the perfect blend of new and old. I immediately liked it better than both Seoul and my hometown of Daejeon.

Hungry for something fresh and different, I sought out the local specialty, dwaeji gukbap (돼지국밥), literally ‘pork soup rice’. This simple yet hearty dish was adapted from recipes in many regions and gained popularity during the Korean War, as Busan became the largest refugee destination on the peninsula.

 (Click on each image below to view full size)

Always on the lookout for new English-language books, I found a terrific used book store/coffee shop, Fully Booked, in a great part of town near the Kyungsung/Pukyung subway stop. The owner, an expat from Chicago, has been in Korea for over 11 years and offered a few fresh tips on university teaching in Busan. After a visit to the P.N.U. campus, I was not sold on the school, but I would definitely like to teach and live in Busan. It has a much more relaxed and open feel … In short, I hope to visit Busan again this summer and would love to live there if the opportunity arises. The city displays a completely different side to a fascinating and diverse country that has me under its charms.