Sunday, October 23, 2005

Useful Links

If anyone has a link they think belongs here just post them in a comment and I*ll probably add them...

If you are looking for general Korean resources...
- Check out the exchange rates on any currency
Korean Won Tracker
- Choose your native currency as the base and pray for less Won to equal more of it - sell when you think the line is bottomed out!
Korea Customs Service
- Lots of good information on what you can bring into the country and what you might have to pay to do it. If you are posting a question be prepared to navigate a very non-intuitive site and wait a week for an answer
Dave*s ESL Cafe
- I really don*t think this one needs a description
Teaching Jobs in Thailand
- By virtue of reading this you have agreed not to seek any of the jobs listed on the linked site anytime the owner of this Blog is searching for a job there
Introduction to Korean
- The fun-nest and most effective way I have been able to learn Korean characters and their pronunciation

If scooters and mopeds just don't cut it...

Hyosung Motors
- Wicked cheap Korean motorbikes (Engines made by Suzuki)
Daelim Motors
- Hyosung*s competition (Engines made by Honda)
- Great site to find specifications, reviews and discussion groups on virtually every bike under the sun
Used Bike Checklist
- Don*t like getting ripped off? This is an extremely detailed list of what to look for so you don*t end up
with a lemon

If you like to make music...

Midi Sound (Translated)
- Big music store in Seoul with used equipment listings and discussion board (Korean Version)
OS X Audio
- Forums and product reviews for computer savvy musicians
- A wealth of information including articles, forums, a dictionary, user reviews, tutorials and more for the electronic musician
- An internet music store that will ship most items to Korea

If your electronics quit when they knew you couldn't speak the language...

Pentax International
- Service Centre Locator
Apple Asia
- Service Centre Locator

Saturday, October 22, 2005

GST Refund Cancelation Template

Here's a copy of the letter I sent to my tax center back home. Please feel free to distribute it as a template to any and all Canadains seeking non-residency status.


Tax Center of Surrey ----- Friday October 22, 2005
Attention: GST
9755 King George Hwy
Surrey, BC V3T 5E1

Comatosed (SIN: 666 666 666)
6 ** *** 6** (apart) 6***
D**** * ****
Gumi, Kyongbuk-Do 730-022
South Korea

To any of the nice Canadians there,

While I love getting GST refunds deposited into my account, I am requesting that you immediately cease giving me my-own money back. Again, please do not deposit any further GST refunds into my bank account.

As my current address indicates, I am no longer living in Canada. I left the country on July 21, 2005 and have no intention of returning any time soon. It is my dream, that after finding my way through this maze of government paperwork, I will be declared a non-resident of Canada and allowed to keep 24% more of my income.

Thank you for helping to make my dream come true.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Korean Hiking Experience

I*ve hiked a few mountains in a few countries over the past 24 years. When you mention hiking to most Canadians there are certainly some universal associations we make with the activity. Words that come to mind include rugged, natural, solitude and healthy. Switzerland modified and embellished on our Canadian hiking style, adding cows with oversized bells, gondola accents and beer gardens to the mix. Korea*s adaptation preserved the gondolas, instituted a BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) policy and substituted one tour busload of Koreans for every Swiss cow.

Rosie, a fellow Korean English teacher, her brother and I joint the **Crazy Mountain** hiking club on their tour bus at 0600, Sunday morning. That day I beat my earliest Korean wakeup by four and a half hours. The tour bus was sold out and I was the only Caucasian on it. By the way people were dressed you would have assumed we were headed for the base camp of Everest. I saw more Gore~Tex on that bus than I saw back home in West Coast Canada where Gore~Tex is a way of life.

Not only was everyone dressed to the hilt, they had full size backpacks on, carabineers attached on every free loop and more walking poles than Octopus would use, should an octopus ever acquire the capacity breath out of water, grasp poles and hike. And it should go without saying that everyone had brought their cell phone, Chicklet size mp3 player and digital camera... I*m pretty sure Korean scientists are working hard to find a way to integrate this last three items right into the skin. The only gear I shared in common with my new hiking comrades was the MP3 player (iPod ~ no Chicklet) and camera.

The journey by bus took around two hours, we made three stops along the way for bathroom breaks, food and coffee. I hadn*t eaten anything in the morning; besides the Gim~Bop I bought from 7~11 along the way, and an apple given to me on the bus. I made sure to fill up on some U~Dong soup, Gim~Bop and onion~ring chips at the first stop.

When we finally arrived at our mountain I was a little disappointed to be hiking on cement. Had I known this was going to be the case I would have worn sandals, not army boots.

However, before I knew it we were off the hard pack and climbing an alarmingly steep hillside. The fist hour consisted of nothing but switchbacks, stairs and occasionally resorting to all fours. I was astounded by how fit all of these middle aged Korean*s passing me were.

Finally, we reached the summit and after a little pushing and showing I was able to find a good spot to stand and relish the view. This was to be the first of four summits! Within minutes we were headed down only to go up again to the next summit.

The lead hiker/guide in the club was this amazingly fit Korean man, probably in his late twenties or early thirties, dressed in all black top of the line hiking gear including biking gloves. He looked like Crazy Mountain Club Special Forces, somebody they would send on a solo rescue mission during torrential downpour and against all odds. Whenever we hit a summit he would stand there, a brown plastic bottle of Hite Beer in one hand and a Korean cigarette in the other. I even spotted women who were old enough to be my grandma pulling beer bottles from their bags.

When lunch rolled around it was like trying to find a parking spot at the mall on the 24th of December. All the good spots were taken so we eventually just bush whacked into the forest and found a spot. Rosie unpacked a five~course meal for the three of us, which included hot soup, coffee and tea. While she text messaged friends I looked around at what everyone was eating and began to understand why they brought such large backpacks.

We proceeded to climb two more peaks and then the major decent started. By this time I had gone from talking, whistling, taking pictures and looking around to listening to my iPod, staring at my feet and contemplating how forgiving a flat stretch would be on my knees and thighs.

Once at the bottom many hikers stopped to soak their feet in the stream. Feet now revived we all went and spent some time at the close by temple and then headed for our bus… which they had decided to relocate over four kilometres away.

Along the way there were all sorts of groups of Korean*s laughing, picnicking and playing on the park grounds. One group in particular stood out from the rest. They were speaking louder, laughing harder and acting friendlier. A large keg of Korean wine, wine which I became acquainted with on the third peak, sat half empty on their picnic table.

One or two of them shouted a drunken hello as I passed and as quickly as I replied I was engulfed by the drunken mob. They pulled me to their table and handed me a large bowl of white, fermented Korean wine. Eager to show them I liked drinking too, I chugged the wine and ate the funky tasting, pickled, fermented, green leaf they offered me as a chaser. Alas, I would have happily stayed but I had a bus to catch and Rosie and her brother were waiting.

Overall this was one of my best days in Korea, right up there with the Yoga farting incident. (I haven*t gotten out of town much since my arrival) The weather, scenery and people were all magnificent. I earned my rest that night. More than anything, I*m looking forward to applying **Korean Hiking Style** to all future outdoor endeavours.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Today my Roommate Farted in Yoga Class

Wow, this Blog is rapidly deteriorating,,, from cheap breasts and lady~boys to farts. But seriously, today was undoubtedly one of the most hilarious days I have experienced since coming to Korea. I was laughing so hard my tears left a large wet spot on my Yoga matt.

My roommate and I have often had close calls in Yoga, many of the positions are such that you really have to hold back form letting one rip. Well today the inevitable happened, my roommate lost control for just a split second and let a thundering fart reverberate through the entire room. Everyone herd it,,, it was the kind of fart where it would just be foolish to pretend you hadn*t.

Three of us joined Yoga together about three weeks back, namely, my roommate, his Korean girlfriend and I. This story begins with us already in a fragile state. You see, this was now the second time my roommate had passed wind in the same class however, this time was much, much louder. So when I heard this rumbler, I collapsed into a heap on my matt and the other two followed my lead. We all tried our hardest to suppress our laughter but were powerless against the almighty, laugh~inspiring fart. Even our semi~serious female Yoga teacher couldn*t control herself. Her running commentary faltered along with her incredible balance as she tried, unsuccessfully, to maintain her composure. What followed was a vicious circle of laughter where we fed off of each other for the remaining twenty minutes of the class.

The other three woman didn*t seem to find the whole ordeal nearly as amusing as we did. All I could think about was what it would sound like should it happen again in the current position. Watching my friends and instructor twitching, struggling and even collapsing while trying to hold simple positions only made things funnier.

Perhaps the greatest part of all is that the three of us, and our instructor, sat with a cup of tea and reminisced in incredible detail about the events leading up to and following the fart. We did full~on re~enactments which made us laugh almost as hard as the original act. But of course, it was the classic taboo~laughter that made the situation so gut wrenching in the first place. Oddly, I think we all feel much closer to our instructor now,,, we all share this moment and the same childish sense of humour.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Cheap Breasts

It*s absolutely brilliant that Koreans like chicken breasts about as much as we like chicken feet, in fact, chicken breasts are simply a by-product of the foot, gizzard and liver extraction process here. I bought 14 of the most beautiful, fat free, plump chicken breasts for only 6,500 won: that*s 1.5 kilograms of all white chicken meat for seven bucks Canadian. I*ve had them before ~ and they*re tastier than the breasts back home!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Korean vs Canadian Spending

OK, if money, numbers, graphs, statistics and analysis don*t excite you ~ STOP READING NOW!

Spread Sheet Evolution
Categorical Spending
Total Spending
Spending Frequency
>>>KOR vs CAN Monthly Spending
>>>KOR vs CAN Total Monthly Spending
>>>KOR vs CAN Spending Frequency


Please believe me when I say I used to hate Social Science Research Methods, Statistics and math with a passion. The only part of those classes I looked forward to were the computer labs, where Jerry (one of the strangest guys I ever met) and my girlfriend at the time would spend the entire class cracking up at ourselves and with our strange but lovable female professor. Since this time I have become somewhat of a spreadsheet~statistical~analysis ~junky.


This post is going to take and in~depth look at the Cost of Living in Korea versus Canada. While sifting through Dave*s Esl Cafe for days on end, prior to making my decision to come and teach in Korea, one of the questions I came across most often was, **How much money can I save?** No doubt, this was one of the most important questions on my agenda too. At the time there were some good approximations however, I couldn*t find any comparisons based on concrete data. Well, I am now filling this void.


Prior to delving into the exciting world of cost and analysis it is necessary to clarify my life style and spending habits. Do consider that the Canaidian life style I describe is that of a student who had regular summer jobs, thousands in student loans and much~appreciated assistance from his parents. Money is definitely important to me... I*ll simply attribute this to my being a Taurus and Rooster... rather than suggest it had anything to do with my upbringing.

I wouldn*t go as far as to say I am thrifty, or cheep, but I hate wasting money. I*m the guy who will search at least four different electronic stores for a cheaper price on the same product. I*ve actually made Future Shop "Meet and Beat" Staples, "lower advertised price"... on this very optical mouse I*m using!

If I go out for dinner, which was rare because A: I love cooking and B: I think my food tastes much better than the generic dishes BP and Earls serve up, I rather order water with my meal. My old room mate and I could see our breath while writing essays because we would rather wear four sweaters than waste money on heating. I*d save the difference and put it into a pair dirt biking boots or Dj equipment. When I do spend, I pay for quality... I go for the Toshiba DVD player, Asiago Parmesan cheese and Japanese chefs knives.

Spread Sheet Evolution

Over the last three years I have my spreadsheet has never stopped evolving. It tracks my spending on a daily bases across about 15 categories. At the end of each day I simply tally up the bills for each category and punch in the totals. At the end of each month the category totals are saved for that month and the whole process starts over again. As of now, I have 3 years of raw data. Note, each year also contains all 12 original monthly tracking sheets. And tough one might think what a waste of life, the whole process only takes about five minutes a day. As a result, I have a pretty good knowledge about were my money goes.


As I have only been living in Korea for two moths I only had this data at my disposal. November 05 and May 05, were pulled from the Canadian data. These months were selected because they were closest to my average monthly spending. The Korean months, August and September will likely be un~proportionately high as these were **settling in** months that required numerous purchases and a four~day visa run to Japan. To make comparisons possible, all Canadian expenditures were converted into Korean funds at the then current exchange rate of w888.17 WON to $1 CAD – I generally just go with 1000 to 1 when out and about.


Categorical Spending

Groceries are generally much cheaper than in Canada, especially when bought from the numerous markets, which line the street to my school. The first month*s shopping was expensive, because the cupboards needed stocking. There really isn*t any food item I hesitate to buy here except beef, because I*d rather burn my money. One of may beautiful things about this country is the fact you can shop at a corner store and not walk out feeling like you were just robbed.

Restaurant spending has tripled, however, there is some interesting rational for this below.

Work costs were only high due to the visa run which included the costs of the train, taxies and visa itself. Fuel and bike costs, which accounted for a significant amount of my spending back home, are no more ~ I love no fuel, but I miss having a bike.

Junk ~ I buy much more of it now, everyday on my way to school, hot, deep~fried dough circles filled with brown sugar and cinnamon...mmmmm, candy and ice~cream. Ironically, I*m in better shape than ever, must be all the walking, yoga and hitting students.

Spending on cloths is high because when I arrived it was so hot I couldn*t ware a t~shirt for more than a day and I didn*t want to be doing laundry every three days. Then my brand~new, overpriced, $80, Winners, "G~Unit" jeans developed a bunch of holes in the ass for no apparent reason. So I decided to go on a shopping spree in Japan!

Home costs are higher because of my fancy new computer chair, kick ass chefs knives and some tools and hardware.

Phone service here is inexpensive and will only get cheaper now that I am using Skype and iChat! The spike in September*s bill is because Koreans also insist on charging those ridiculous connection fees for Internet and phone.

Total Spending

Though my spending has gone up in almost every category over the last two months here in Korea, I actually have spent 25% less than I did in my two Canadian months. Note that the Canadian months also include averaged tuition and monthly rent, two burdens I am now free of. Korean utilities are my responsibility and they cost around $70 month when split between my roommate and I. The previous costs, phone costs and my Japan trip have all been included in the monthly totals.

Spending Frequency

While it was obvious I was spending more money in areas I hadn*t back home, the graphs don't make clear if I am simply paying more for certain things or spending at a higher frequency. The latter is thankfully the case. I messed around in Excel until I learned the **count** function, which conveniently added up how many times I spent money in each category in one month. Restaurant spending is beautiful example. I spent three times more on restaurants here in July than I did in Canada in November, but I ate out eight times more often than I did back home. This means I went to restaurants the equivalent of every other day, sometimes twice a day, which wouldn*t have been accounted for in the frequencies.

I spent in all categories with far more frequency that I did back home and you don*t even need a graph so see this, just look at how bare my Canadian monthly spending sheets are. Transportation is another good example, I*ve taken over 40 cab rides here in the last two months, more than I*ve probably taken in my whole life in Canada!


To answerer the question of weather or not you will save money... it really depends what kind of a spender you are. What I can guarantee is that life is far cheaper here in Korea than it is in Canada and most other developed countries. Furthermore, things will only get cheaper as the initial **set~up** phase passes and I figure out where the cheapest lemons can be bought. While my spending has only dropped by 25% or so, my standard of living has increased six fold. I spend much more freely here than I did back home. I order beer with every meal now!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Latest Korean Toy Craze

2:15am, just arrived home from the bar... had a bad night. Smashed a bottle, punched some Styrofoam, picked up a large stick and swatted at random things on the walk home. The strange thing is, I*m not an aggressive person... but it felt good to release some anger tonight.

On happier note, I remixed the school bell for 12 hours last night using Reason and Recycle! It*s kind of a hybrid between happy rave and trance... I like it!

Below is a post I wrote up a few days ago but never got around to posting.

Trendy Toys in Korea

Unfortunately, the latest and greatest toy is making its way around my Hogwan. It all began a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in the staff room, when I heard a buzzing, electrifying sound from the hallway that scared the crap out of me. The noise can best be described as the sound a very large, ferocious flying insect would make when trapped up against a window or wall – or perhaps a large ferocious insect being electrocuted in a bug zapper. That*s it!!! I*ve finally pin pointed it! It sounds like an atomic powered bug zapper frying a dragonfly.

That*s what I think of every time I hear it... here*s a sound clip... you be the judge.

Sound Byte: Magnet Toss

Sound Byte: Kevin trying to tell me something... what exactly, I'm not sure

I think anyone besides an eight to fourteen year old Korean boy can agree that it*s certainly not a pleasant sound.

These headache instigators are generally spherical shaped, smooth, shiny and black, and come in sets of two. There are only a few games the kids have come up with to date – sadly lacking in any kind of originality. They just throw the magnets up in the air simultaneously and they attract each other, like good magnets do, and make the same hellish racket every time they collide.

The other, amazingly original trick is to place one magnet on one side of a inch thick object, such as a desk, and position the second magnet on the opposite side. Then the *magician* discreetly moves the magnet on the bottom side of the desk making it appear as though the other magnet is moving completely of its own accord... I mean please... come on.... Now I can relate to every time my parents chuckled at what I believed was the newest, never been done, fad.

Note the earrings

Whoever the guys are selling these; they must be raking it in. The trend spread faster than Paris Hilton in front of a camcorder. I*m going to find these moral-less marketers, profiteering at the expense of teacher*s already delicate sanity, and subject them to the same torture. I*m also going confiscate these toys starting tomorrow, that way I*ll have a set or two to play with back home.