Day 1610

March 21, 2016

Hello 2016! We're well into the year and already well-acquainted but let's get to it.

At the end of 2015 I found myself "between opportunities" (read: unemployed). With my contract up at the end of October and a new semester not beginning until March, I anticipated having some funemployment time. I embraced this off time during which I taught part-time classes at a local university.

The year began with Songi. She's a cute, little,  6-month-old siamese. Her hobbies include screaming for attention, eating fresh flowers, and standing on humans.

After working at Samho Middle School for three years, I was really looking forward to seeing my students graduate in February. March 2013 marked the first new school year at Samho for both me and this group of students. I taught them from their first year of middle school until their final third. It was amazing to be able to see them grow in that time, and to see them graduate. It was also really nice to catch up with old coworkers.

My fourth round of graduate school classes brought me to 60% completion!

It was also around this time that I got offered a job! More on that later. To celebrate the end of grad school classes and the start of a new job, we went to the most growed-up place there is: Lotte World. Lotte World is an indoor/outdoor amusement park which also houses a movie theatre, sports complex, and Korea's largest skating rink.

A Big Bang concert brought us back to Seoul the following weekend. With rumours spreading about the group's impending hiatus, ticketing was no joke. Tickets sold out within minutes and trying to find a second-hand ticket with less than a x3 markup was a task and a half. But we did it!

Warmer weather got us outside to Suncheon. Our first stop was at a film set that is styled as 1960s-1980s Korea (순천 드라마 촬영장). You can put on olden-days school uniforms and peruse olden-days neighbourhoods. The hillside housing is reminiscent of houses still existing on the older side of Mokpo. The "downtown" area  has more of the Korean 80s vibe where you can definitely sense the Western influence through Hollywood movies and Elvis Presley. Obviously not having lived in Korea during those decades, it was really cool to walk around and see what life may have been like.

Our second stop in Suncheon was at a place I visited during my first week in Korea for orientation: Naganuepseong Folk Village (낙안읍성민속마을). We walked around the village, tried and failed at this stick-and-hoop game (굴렁쇠; gool-lung-shwey), and took home some "Korean taffy" (엿; yeot).

Another spring day brought us first to the top of Yudal mountain, then down to the former Japanese Consulate. Being the original Mokpo, visits to this side of town make me aware of the deep yet relatively recent history of Korea. As mentioned earlier, the 1960s film set in Suncheon very much resembles some neighbourhoods in old Mokpo. Although new areas are being built up in/around Mokpo, older areas don't seem to receive as much attention. Old Mokpo is a place where you seem to be able to catch glimpses of each decade as you pass by tin-roofed houses next to an apartment complex.

Shortly after Mokpo's designation as an official port, this building was constructed as the Japanese Consulate in 1900. After liberation, it served as Mokpo's city hall and municipal library until becoming a cultural heritage site in the 1990s. It is now used as the main hall of the Mokpo Modern History Museum (목포 근대역사관 1관) where you can see how the city's land, economy, and culture developed over time. The museum is a very non-Korean, renaissance building with chandeliers and marble fireplaces in every room. Behind the building, you can walk through small air-raid tunnels which were built during the Pacific War.

Lastly, my new job! Those who have worked in Korea for a while tend to migrate towards university jobs. The nature of the work is quite different, more independent, and generally better. After doing the same kind of teaching for so long in public schools, I'm really enjoying the challenge of changing things up. On and upwards!

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