Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in Korea

Our first Christmas in Korea is proving to be interesting.  We are the only ones who are still at the school...all of the students and the other teachers have left for their vacations.  It's a little weird...almost like the Shining...but hopefully I won't turn into Jack Nicholson!
Tomorrow we are leaving to go to Thailand for our vacation. Bangkok for four days and Phuket for will be amazing!!  Lots of picts and hopefully some interesting stories as well.

Yesterday I went for a little hike on the trail that is by our school.  I've done this many times in the past when the weather was warm but this is my first experience winter hiking.  It was pretty amazing...the weather was cold and clear which was awesome.
The biggest challenge was climbing and descending the trail on ice and snow.  But I managed to make the the entire three mile treck without falling on my ass once...woohoo!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Winter in Daegu

Officially, Winter doesn't start until December we had a good sized snowfall in Daegu.  It really was quite beautiful.

Here are a few shots from the school...

After the students were dismissed, they went crazy running around in the front courtyard, making snowmen and having a giant snow ball fight.  Needless to say, they took out some of their math frustrations on Mr. Cross!  All in good fun, right??

It's been 30 years (maybe more) since I've spent an entire winter in the cold...this is gonna hurt!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jeju Island - Part 1 SFW

Nancy and I had a long Thanksgiving weekend so we decided to take a trip to Jeju Island.  Jeju is a volcanic island of the southeast coast of the Korean reminded us of the Big Island in Hawaii.   It is a big tourist destination in the summer...not so much in November.  Despite some chilly weather, we had a really great time.  We hired a taxi driver to take us from the airport to our hotel on the opposite coast and also to take us on a tour of the island the next day.  The driver's name was Mr. Kim and he was awesome.  He spoke fractured but mostly understandable English and was not hesitant about taking us to the destinations that he thought we needed to see.  That would include a Tea Museum, the woman's diving museum (I think they were all lesbians) and various other interesting and semi-interesting locals.  In addition, he had some incredible music playing during the trip (on CD of course) that added to the many people can say they have traveled through Korea listening to Skeeter Davis sing "End of the World"?  Not many I would say...

Jeju has many natural attractions including 3 UNESCO World Natural Heritage Attractions.  We visited all 3 and they were pretty incredible.

Mt. Hallasan National Park - the highest mountain in South Korea.  We had a short visit and trekked up a little bit.  Next time I'm summiting!

Manjanggul Cave - the longest lava cave in the world  The open area we traveled was 1 km long!!

Seongsan Peak - a dormant volcano crater off the eastern coast of Jeju.  Gorgeous views from the top.

She did NOT move from this spot!

Near our hotel on the southern coast is an amazing natural coastline called Daepo Coast Jusangjeollidae (did I spell that right?).  It is a lava coast with natural geometric shapes...rectangular and hexagonal prism formations!  WTF!!

Even if you are not a math geek it's hard to not be impressed!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Race in Korea

Nancy is the one on the left
Those of you who know us know that Nancy and I are runners...well kind of.  We used to be pretty decent and won our share of age group awards and did a number of marathons (I did 8 and the wife did 18 because she is an overachiever).  We pretty much suck as runners now but despite that, we still do the occasional race just for the humiliation factor.  That was how we decided to do our first race in Korea a 10 K in Gyeongju.  It was part of the  Gyeongju International Marathon and it was a pretty awesome event.  There were probably a couple of thousand runners in all of the events including some Kenyan marathoners who were absolutely astounding.

The weather was perfect, the course was great, awesome Asics shirts and we both ran pretty well...I finished in 40:30* and Nancy ran 1:07.  Not too bad.  But there's a couple of "other" things about the weekend that are really more entertaining than our race...

The street in Gyenjongju with the Love Hotels.
In many of the cities we've traveled to in Korea (including Daegu) there are a hotels that are known as "Love Hotels".  They can be rented for an hour or a few hours and are used for...well I think we all know what they are used for.  But these are not sleazy, Motel 6-like establishments.  They are very nice with clean rooms, wi-fi, flat screen TV's...and thoughtful "gift bags" that are provided when checking in.  So we ended up staying in one of these "Love Hotels" for the race.  It was awesome.  Not only do you get the "gift bag" complete with toothbrushes, shampoo, massage oils and condoms, but you also get CNN and soft core porn...what else could you possibly want?
Artwork on the outside of our L.H.
 In Gyeongju, there were a large number of Love Hotels near the bus station (go figure) and I would say that if you are ever in a place where you have a L.H. option, you should absolutely go for it!

Who doesn't love Mr. Pizza???

Don't even think about asking for a second bowl!

It's can be pretty challenging for us to find food that we can eat (and that we like) in Korea so when we saw a Mr. Pizza in Gyeongju, that was our ticket for dinner,  We have eaten at Mr. Pizza's in Daegu and in Busan so we know that the pizza is good and they have a pretty decent salad bar.  So we went there and ordered a cheese pizza and two salad bars and figured we were set.  There was a bowl and two small plates on our table so I took the bowl and Nancy took one of the plates and we got our salads.  Right after we sat down and started eating our waitress rushed over with a horrified look on her face.  Pretty soon another waitress sprinted to our table and both of them were frantically trying to tell us (in Korean with a word or two of barely understandable English) that it was completely unacceptable to use a bowl AND a plate for our salads.  We were expected to share one bowl and eat our salads in tandem.  This was reinforced when they brought us the waters we glass, two straws.  And they insisted that we pay for the meal right then.  Those crazy Americans...wanting TWO bowls...

Despite the Mr. Pizza incident, it was a fantastic weekend.  We have another 10K in Daegu on November 4.  Probably won't be quite as interesting as this one...but you never know!

* Ryan Adjusted Time.  Actual time may be 40-50% slower than R.A.T.

Monday, October 8, 2012

DC in Beijing - Final Thoughts

So it's a bit of a tossup when it comes to our feelings about the trip to China.  I will never forget the visit to the Wall...there's no way to describe the awesomeness of that experience.  We thoroughly enjoyed going to Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and the Chinese Acrobats Show.  All of those were amazing and I am so glad that we experienced them.

On the other hand...the crowds, the smog, the aggressiveness of many of the people was off-putting to say the least.  And no Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Blogger?  That is crazy shit was like being on the Brevard Public Schools network.  That's a joke, OK??  Just in case I have to go back...God forbid...

I can't picture us returning to Beijing.  There are other parts of China that would be great to see...Shanghai, Guilin, and other Sanya Bay...but most likely not a return to BJ...

Did you get the Jerry Springer reference in the title?  I only hope to be as insightful and articulate as the great JS...probably won't happen...ever...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

DC in Beijing Part 3

There are a lot of interesting and historic places to visit in Beijing...if you can get to them.  We happened to visit during National Holiday Week in China (Oct 1 was the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic) and it seemed as if the entire country was in the city...OK slight exaggeration but it was crazy crowded everywhere we went.  We did manage to go to the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Silk Market, and the Chinese Acrobatics Show.  Here are some pictures to prove that I'm not lying...

Iconic picture of Mao outside of the Forbidden City
Forbidden City - we spent a couple of hours there and it is pretty amazing.  The buildings are among the oldest wooden structures in existence   They have names line The Palace of Heavenly Purity, The Hall of Mental Tranquility...just like the names of buildings in the States.  It is a gigantic complex of courtyards, palace buildings and other structures.  We were able to visit the museum that housed the vases and pottery from the Ming Dynasty and earlier Chinese Dynasties. Hard to believe that they were producing such high quality art pieces more than 200 years before the founding of America.
Moat surrounding the Forbidden City
Posing in front of the Moat

A beautiful park outside the Forbidden City - I didn't catch the name...sorry

So cool...

Tiananmen Square - right across the street from the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square.  It is a huge public square where the famous student protests in 1989 occurred   Nothing so exciting when we visited but it was a great experience to see the square and remember the events that happened there.
Crowds of people everywhere

Monument to the People's Heros

Gorgeous flowers in the square

Nancy Cross in the Square Yo!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Doublecross on the Great Wall

 The Great Wall at Mutianyu is one of the best preserved areas of the Great Wall and is relatively close to Beijing.  We took a tour there and these are just a few of the pictures from the 2 hours that we spent on the wall.  Utterly indescribable really should go!

This is me making my way up to one of the towers.  These are the questions you ask yourself as you endlessly climb up.  How on earth did they construct this thing?  And how in the hell do they run a marathon on it???

Once you get to the top this is the view from the tower.  Awesome!!

I'm Nancy Cross from Cocoa, FL... 
As typical "ugly Americans" we had to eat at the Subway at the Great Wall!!

Doublecross in Beijing

Wangfujing Street - near our hotel in Beijing (Wikipedia)

One of the great advantages to teaching in Korea is the opportunity to travel to some incredible of the world that I never thought I would be able to see.  The first week in October in Korea is Chuseok or "The Autumn Festival", a Harvest festival celebration for the Korean people.  We have the week off so it is a perfect chance to take our initial trip outside the country and we decided that China would be our first destination.  We arrived in Beijing on Sunday, September 30 for a five-day mini vacation.       Like a sinusoidal function, the trip had it's ups and downs...ha, ha, ha...a little math humor for you.  There are some amazing iconic sites that we experienced while we were there and at the same time there were gigantic frustrations that were also a big part of the trip.  Let's talk about those first...

We arrived at the airport and after clearing customs we took a shuttle to our hotel...except it didn't go to our hotel, it arrived at a large train station in the central part of the city.  No problem, we'll just grab a cab from there to the hotel.  In fact, a cab grabbed us.  As soon as we got off of the shuttle a very nice gentleman helped us with our suitcases and immediately escorted us to his vehicle.  Not a good move on our part.  He was friendly and very helpful and took us on a 5 minute ride to the Novotel Hotel...and proceeded to charge us $200 US!!  How do you say WTF in Mandarin?  We told him there was no way we were paying that...we didn't even have that much cash.  After a lot of back and forth on the price I think we ended up paying around $50 for the ride...pretty horrible way to start our trip.  Some regrouping was definitely in order.  To accomplish that we decided that the next day we would visit the Great Wall.  That's the subject of the next post...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Another Top 5 List

As promised, here's the Top 5 Things I do NOT miss about the US.

1.  I-95 - Almost every day for the past 7 years I would have to drive this nightmare of a road.  Sometimes just to Viera and back (35 miles or so) and sometimes to Palm Bay  and back (50+ miles) when I was a Tech Integrator working in the south area.  It was NO FUN...constant construction, tourists, idiots texting and driving...SUCKED!.  Here is Daegu, I have a 2 minute commute...walk out our dorm room and into the classroom building.  If I forget something...who cares?  It's a TWO MINUTE WALK...sweet!

2. Political Advertisements - I am pretty caught up in politics...especially in this election year. I read political blogs, and keep up with the election news every day.  But it is so incredibly wonderful to not have to see the constant barrage of political ads on TV.  They are hypocritical, self serving, truth avoiding pieces of crap that add nothing to the issues debate that should be front and center in this election.  And with the SCOTUS decision on Citizen's United, the spending on these by outside groups is sickening.  But here there's no hint of any of that...and it is AWESOME!

3.  PGP's, CCSS, IPPAS, ELL, etc. - We are really fortunate to be working in a private school with a Headmaster and Principal who's educational philosophy can be summed up this way; "We hire great teachers and let them teach".  There is ZERO (0) micromanaging in our classrooms.  We do not have to write the lesson objective on the board every day, no word walls, no lesson plan templates...we can focus on our subjects and really teach.  It is so refreshing.  There is a curriculum that we follow, and in AP courses we have to follow the College Board guidelines but that's about it.  It's a wonderful thing.

4. Student Attitude - The students here are far from perfect.  They act very immature sometimes and their work in not always great fact sometimes what they turn in looks disturbingly like what a lot of my students at Cocoa High used to do.  Pretty horrible.  But the one big difference between the students in Korea and the students back in the US is the attitude.  If you ask students to do something...or to stop doing something, they will do it.  No questions asked, no "Why are you picking on me?"...none of that stuff.  And they know how to do fractions...

5. Cubicle Madness - I was the Secondary Math Resource Teacher for Brevard County last year.  It was not a great experience for me.  I really liked and respected all the people I worked with at ESF but the job itself was not really a good fit.  I never really felt like I did anything that made a difference for the students and teachers in Brevard.  The job was more about meetings, curriculum  questions (what if a student took Liberal Arts Math, Informal Geometry, Applied Math 2 and Analysis of Functions...does he/she have the correct math credits for Bright Futures...WTF?), State mandates (if a student gets a 17 on the ACT what College Readiness course does he/she take?).  It was not much fun.  Teaching math here is Daegu is a LOT of work, but unbelievably rewarding.  This feels like a good fit!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Top 5 List

Top 5 Things I Miss About the US

1.  Family and Friends - I miss everyone a lot more than I thought.  It's hard to believe but even though Jean-Paul and I were never really close, and there were many things about him living with us that made me crazy, I really do miss him...and Carla too.  Not to mention Chris and Tammy, Donna and Will, Christy and Loran, Kat, Alberto and Beevee, Cindy, Pam, Tam, Rebecca and Karen...the great people we worked with at MIHS and ESF...I can keep going here. What about my sisters in STL...Jennifer, and Shelly and their boyfriends/husbands...and Alec Ates...he is awesome!!
It's great to be able to Skype and to see what's happening on FB but not the same as being with the people you love.  We have made some driends with the teachers who are here at DIS but it's not quite the same...Love all of you guys...Sappy, I know.

2.  Our Favorite Restaurants - El Tucan, Cedar's Cafe, Chili's (I would kill for one of their Black Bean Burgers), Buca de Beppo, California Pizza Kitchen...we are absolutely dying to have one of those amazing meals.

3.  Bright House Cable- OK I'm a TV addict I admit it and Korean television is pretty awful.  Weird game shows, horrible K Pop Karaoke, endless commercials and soap operas that make the novellas on Univision look like Masterpiece Theatre.  I was able to download a program called Graboid on my Mac that allows me to download movies and TV shows so Nancy and I were able to watch Breaking Bad, Louie, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo...thank God!  No CNN or MSNBC so that is a bummer.

4.  My House - We are living in a really small dorm room here at the school.  Advantages - it's at the school.  Walk 2 minutes and you're in your classroom.  The cafeteria is right here at it's right down the street from an awesome park with incredible running and hiking trail...and best of all, NO RENT!.  Disadvantages - it's 2 minutes away from your classroom, there are students who are everywhere, it's very sparsly furnished.  I think about how incredible our house is since we remodeled and it makes the dorm living tough...but once again, NO RENT!!

5.  The English Language - I really thought that more people would speak at least a little bit of English here...but that's not the case.  We really struggle to communicate (we carry around a little laminated card that explains in Korean that we do not eat meat) and all of the signs on the businesses are in Korean script which bears no resemblance to our alphabet.  You are walking down the street and passing shops with absolutely no idea of what they are selling or what is going on inside.  Many times there is a bit of English thrown in so you can get the gist...for example a small restaurant that sells beer, and coffe...or last night we saw an Italian Restaurant that specialized in speghetty.  I don't mean to sound like the typical Ugly American...almost without exception the people here are very very nice and make a real effort to speak a little bit of our language.  And the little bit that they know is FAR more than the 3 - 4 Korean words that I have mastered...

Next time...Top 5 Things I Don't Miss About the US

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Let's Talk About the Food

When people first heard that we were going to Korea, the comment we heard most frequently was, "Oh you two should have no problems eating.  The Asian peoples hardly eat ANY meat".  Well that may be true in SOME countries, but certainly not in Korea.  They probably consume more meat (pork and chicken mostly) than almost any country in the Far East.  And they seem to enjoy fish in virtually every dish...needless to say it's very weird to taste shrimp flavored Cheetos.

Nancy and I are struggling to find food that we like (or can eat) when we are out.  And even if you think you are purchasing something like a delicious homemade candy, looks can be deceiving.  Example - we were out in the local street a couple of blocks from school and we saw some candy-like items for sale that we thought were bon-bons.  The lady who sold them to us them assured  us that they had no meat (you never know here) so Nancy bought a package.  We opened the it up and she took a bite...surprise...tofu coated dried peas!  Yummy!!

The do have pretty decent pizza here.  There's a place not too far from DIS called Pizza School (?) and one Sunday evening all of the teachers and staff had pizzas delivered to the school.  The pizza was really good even though the cheese pizza had CORN AND POTATOES!  Seriously, potatoes on a pizza is very strange...but better than shrimp Cheetos or dried pea candy.

Where is a Veggie Burger when you need one?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thoughts after Three Weeks

It's been just over three weeks that we've been in Daegu.  School has started and we've pretty much become accustomed to life at DIS.  Nancy and I both have had emotional highs and lows since our arrival but we've settled into a groove/routine.  Here some random observations on our experiences so far...

School has been awesome.  The kids are (for the most part) great.  They are respectful - particularly the girls - and they are very good in math.   It's pretty cool to teach kids who work hard, understand and appreciate the math and have zero attitude.  My AP Calculus class is really amazing.  The students are so smart, motivated, personable...pretty much every positive attribute you can think of.  And they have no trace of's very,very cool.

In Daegu there is not much English spoken when you are out and about.  It's not a very diverse city especially for a city of 2.5 million people.  Maybe we all expect to hear "American" spoken everywhere but that's not the case here.  We manage to communicate but there have been some interesting occurrences.  For example, do NOT separate a bunch of bananas at the grocery store.  We were at the store and decided we didn't really need to buy 22 bananas (the smallest bunch we could find) and I broke off a group of 6...BIG MISTAKE.  We brought them to the checkout and you would have thought that we had committed a major crime.  Needless to say we were NOT allowed to buy any bananas!

The Korean people are very fashion conscious and apparently absolutely LOVE coffee...or coffee shops.  They are literally everywhere.  Think we have a lot of Starbucks in the States?  Think again.  The sheer number of coffee shops in Korea is staggering. As for fashion..we're walking around the grocery store in our typical Florida outfit - shorts, t-shirt, flip flops the Korean women look like they are going out to a club.  Black dress, high heels, perfect hair and makeup...not that I'm complaining but it's a little disconcerting. The men (especially the young men) are very metrosexual...almost androgynistic.  it's not unusual to see them looking like Justin Bieber with a man purse...except Asian.  Is that racist?

There's a typhoon coming (am I still in Florida?) so that's all.  More to come and I will try to post more often.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homeless in Paradise - Part 2

So what do you do when you are stuck in the most beautiful place in the world?  Here's the basic itinerary of our 8 days:

Day 1 - arriving in the evening after a long day of travel we ate and slept...woohoo!

Day 2 - hung out at the Hilton Resort.  This place is pretty amazing. They have trams and boats that transport people to the various parts of the resort.  We stayed there 8 days and spent a lot of time exploring the grounds but there were still areas of the resort that we really didn't see. Here's some picts.