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Arts and Crafts, or How I Avoided Losing My Mind And Actually Enjoyed Teaching Handicrafts

About a year ago, my supervising teacher leaned over to my desk and said nonchalantly, “For January, you will teach a Crafts class. You know, making stuff?  OK?”

Stunned, I nodded my assent and stared balefully at the pitiful array of art supplies my hagwon kept.  We had some origami paper squares, a dozen or so pairs of scissors, a couple of nearly spent glue sticks, and about 65 crayons. Not 65 packs of Crayolas, 65 individual, heavily used crayons.  I shook my head in dismay. I had very little experience with crafts and even less with teaching children to do them, let alone children who don’t speak very much English.  How was I going to manage all this chaos in my pitiful 8×15 classroom?

Walking the Cat

My next door neighbour is the landlord’s mother. Like most Korean ladies in their senior years she doesn’t like cats and I was told a few months ago not to let Soul out of my groundfloor window. Instead I take her for an hour each day to the mountainside next to my house. She is scared of strangers and so we go to the quiet grassy patch that is home to two buddhist style mound graves and overlooks the city. From there we can scramble up the wooded slope behind us. In earlier months it was a red world of dappled sunlight and raining leaves. These days even the big rocks have a carpet of thick white and brown which Soul sinks into as she gallops past my legs.

 For a little while it seemed as though we had these slopes to ourselves. I’d take up a flask of tea and my guitar and sing a very liberal interpretation of Folsom Prison Blues to the last of the dragonflies. This past month however, the slope has grown more popular.

Highlights of the 2014 Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

Every year, over a million people flock to the quiet town of Hwacheon to participate in the Sancheoneo Ice Festival.  The festival, which takes place annually, is in its 11th year and is consistently voted one of the best local festivals in Korea and was even named one of the "Seven Wonders of Winter" by Lonely Planet.

EVO2014 - Free Online Global Workshops for Language Teachers

For those who might be interested, there is an awesome (and free) ELT professional development event starting today - TESOL's Electronic Village Online. I've really enjoyed participating in the past and am always amazed by how truly global and collaborative EVO is. 

The Launch Webcast takes place at 11pmKST tonight and 18 online sessions will run from Jan. 13~Feb. 16. 

More info at

Together, Alone


New Year’s Eve is the time to celebrate, to gather up with friends and engage in some “rage” – that is, partying and drinking until you realize that you’ve lost all spacial perception.

Instead of staying in Daegu, I decided to spend the occasion in the lively coastal city of Busan. I had been there recently for a “12 pubs of Christmas” bar crawl, the second that I’d completed over this past holiday season, where I hopped from Haeundae to KSU to Seomyeon to…? On this night, some people I knew were taking the KTX train down to where the party was at, bent on raging all the way there. It sounded like a fun way to kick off the festivities, so I planned on joining in.

Defending the Tiger Mother

First let me start with what I am not defending, and that is the whole idea of tiger mothering.  Perhaps it breeds success, maybe it gives some children a leg-up in the world today, but this supposes that earning lots of money should be the number one goal of life.  I strongly disagree with this and like many who disagreed with Amy Chua's first book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", I believe success and happiness in life is possible without ruining the relationship between parents and their children, without placing undue stress, strain and pressure on them, without spoiling all their fun, and without emotionally scarring them for the rest of their lives.

Top 5 Northeast Asian Security Stories in 2013


I know these exercises in end-of-year top 5s or top 10s can be silly or fanciful. But there is some value to trying prioritization. Part of social science is determining causal weights – which causes are most important among many possibilities. And that is the logic implicitly behind these sorts of turn-of-the-year lists. It’s also fun to try after a long year.

LTW: Tokyo Tension, NK Threats, & Bonus Wage Ruling

1. National
1) Korea and Japan difficult over Mr. Abe and bullets  
The relationship between Korea and Japan is getting sour over two issues. The first one is the controversial Yasukuni Shrine visit by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, which has drawn criticism from the U.S. and China, as well as both South Korea and North Korea. Even more Japanese have negative views on Abe’s visit to Yasukuni that holds 14 of Japan’s Class-A war criminals. The other is over the borrowing of 10,000 bullets from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces by the South Korean Hanbit Unit in South Sudan when there was a big battle in Bor last week. The Japanese government is using the case to bolster its right of “collective self-defense” as the 10,000 bullets to Hanbit Unit was Japan’s first ammunition to another country since World War II.

10 Ways to Stay Warm During Winter in Korea

Let me just make one thing clear.  I am not a fan of Korean winters.  Sure, the snow can be beautiful and the holiday decorations do make me fuzzy inside but on any given day from December to March, you can find me anywhere but outside.  Coincidentally, many Koreans share my sentiments and as a result, there is an abundance of places throughout the country to enjoy the great indoors.

So, without further ado, here are the top ten ways to stay warm during winter in Korea...

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