Archive for March, 2012

morning exercise in the parking lot

March 31, 2012

Our new apartment is working out pretty well.  I find the location to be much better.  However, it is an older apartment complex and I guess the parking requirements were smaller when it was built.  As a result, cars are parked in the two rows of parking spaces, then two rows are made between the parking spaces.  These cars are left in neutral so they can be moved more easily.

My son was eager to go outside this morning, and I saw an actual parking space available, so we shuffled cars around until I could drive around to the empty space.  Then, we moved some cars back so the throughways were clear.


Now, I wrote that the parking spaces fill up then rows are made between the spaces, and I think that is the appropriate order, but often people choose to park in the row rather than a space because it allows them to depart more easily in the morning.  This sometimes goes on leaving actual parking spaces nearly unreachable and contributing to more cars to be pushed.

For me, this means that when I have my car safely parked I don’t like to use it again if I know I will return in the evening.  I know busses are better for the environment and that Earth Day is coming, but one big reason I take the bus often is to avoid parking woes.  Perhaps, instead of Earth Day, we need ‘Don’t get uptight about parking; leave your car where it is for the day’ Day (Dguap;lycwiiftdD).


Donating blood in Busan

March 27, 2012

I am simultaneously proud of having donated blood and embarrassed at having donated so seldom.

There were hassles in donating blood in Korea but today I saw the nurses had translated questionnaires for English speakers.  The translation seemed to be of a previous form and the question numbers didn’t match but the important questions could be matched.

for donating my blood, the nurses offered me a variety of gifts: I chose a 5,000 won (about $5.00 Can) gift certificate to be used for ‘culture-related purchases’ – bookstores.

The donation exhausted me.  Well, laying there and letting my blood pour out was fine, but I was a tired and weak teacher for the rest of the day.  As a university student, twenty-five years ago, I would donate blood and then train for competitive swimming in the afternoon .  Now, I took it easy and had a nap in the teacher’s lounge.

This evening, I took off the bandage and exposed my tender inner-elbow.  The yellow is from iodine and I found the sterile precautions were well-done: disposable needles and such were used and discarded safely.

If you want to give blood and can’t find a blood-bus, you could go to the donation centre in Hadan.  Photo from Hadan Subway Station.

Previous posts on blood donation: One, Two.

A slide this scary, it should be shown on hallowe’en!

March 19, 2012

At the recent Busan-Kyeongnam KOTESOL meeting, branch president Brad Serl gave a presentation on the new NEAT test.  Umm, I may have written ‘test’ twice.  I think the test is the “New English Aptitude Test” and it is intended to replace the current English test used in the University Entrance Exam.

There were two stated reasons for changing the test; one reasonable and achievable and the other…not so much.

The test -still three years away from actually being used – requires more English production from the takers and looks to be a better test to prepare for. If you do well on this test, you will likely also do well speaking English.  This is good and achievable part.

The second reason for changing the test is to reduce private education expenditures – money to cramming schools or hagwons for English.  In discussing this, we -(the people at the meeting consisted of  20+ people, including three Korean teachers of ESL, four to seven university instructors and ten or more middle and high school native English Speaker Teachers) did not think this goal would be achieved.  Cynically, the group consensus was that private spending for ESL would likely increase.

How much is spent on private education now?  The numbers on the presentation slide below are for private education for children in general so math, Korean language and other languages are included in the totals.

If you are a parent, you will want to be sitting down.  If you have a heart condition, go and get your medicine and put it where you can reach it quickly if need be.

If parents paid one million won a month (around $900 US or Canadian) for private education, their child would have an 11% likelihood of  qualifying for a Tier one university (Seoul National, KAIST, Yeonsei, maybe one or two others).  For even odds of attending a Tier one university, parents need to spend two million won a month…

Sorry, I needed to lie down and engage in some calming visualizations there for a moment.  Okay, the palpitations have eased.

As I see it, I can either educate my son to the level that he could attend a tier one university or I could save enough money to actually pay for him to attend one.  I am not sure that I could do both.


The main suggestions we came up with for teaching students so they can do well on the test were 1) Organize extensive reading programs and 2) teach writing (more).  A common complaint at the meeting was that students did not appear to understand how to write more than a sentence at a time in Korean or in English.  Teachers will need to work on organizing ideas then on paragraph and essay formation.

As Serl noted, these are good suggestions for teaching ESL regardless of what kind of test there is.  To paraphrase, “Teachers complain about ‘teaching to the test’.  This isn’t always a bad idea.  If the test is a good one, then teaching students how to do well on it improves both the test scores and absolute English proficiency.”

Spoonbills in Eulsookdo

March 1, 2012

The big flat building in the background is wildlife information centre describing the local wetlands on Eulsook Island.

The closer birds are a few varieties of ducks.  In the background are herons and spoonbills.  I had never seen spoonbills before and was thrilled to do so.  The birds are a little unclear and I tried to shoot a picture through a set of stabilized binoculars.  To my great surprise, it worked!

There are walking paths on the island and a flock of swans live along the southernmost edge – nearest the ocean.

The island also has a great deal to offer kids.  There are rental kiosks that offer bikes, motorized cars and more.  My little guy had a good visit as well.