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Last Build Date: Fri, 25 May 2012 07:57:35 +0000

 



The time has come.

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 14:10:00 +0000

You may have noticed that I used to blog a lot more than I do nowadays. My posts were once much heavier on the writing, with a few photos thrown in here and there to show what I was talking about. However, I’m sure you’ve noticed that as time has gone by, I’ve gotten more into photography and less into writing. Nowadays, my blog posts tend to consist of a sentence or two followed by a bunch of photographs. Additionally, the blog used to be the place where I posted links and discussed them, or announced personal updates to my friends – but nowadays I do those things on facebook. The daily blah has long since become redundant; it’s time to close it down.

My photographs will still be posted online regularly on flickr, and janekeeler.com (and on facebook for my friends), and I’ll still be part of the blogging and photography team at desolationtravel.com.


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More Springtime Shots

Sat, 16 Apr 2011 07:47:00 +0000

This weekend was the big Korean bullfighting festival in Cheongdo (bull-vs-bull, not matador), as well as prime flower-viewing season in Gyeong-ju... but I just couldn't bring myself to face the crowds at either location. Instead I took a pleasant walk around my neighborhood, photographing the spring flowers. I also discovered another photogenic and yet less pleasant side-effect of spring: a pregnant feral cat who has made my rooftop her home.

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Jane-Teacher and Travel Cat Go!

Mon, 11 Apr 2011 13:43:00 +0000

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The above picture was drawn by Melissa, one of my students, and I've posted it in honor of the fact that the first part of up next trip has finally come together! In August, Charlie and I will travel to Kiev, Ukraine. I finalized apartment arrangements a few weeks ago, and today I finally got confirmation from the airlines that she is approved to fly with me :-)

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(The cat in this absurd animation can be seen here, drawn by Emma, another of my students.)
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Spring has sprung!

Sat, 09 Apr 2011 13:28:00 +0000

Today was the first Saturday in a while with good weather here in Daegu. I'd really been looking forward to getting outside and taking some photographs, and I was thrilled to wake up and discover warm, dry, sunny weather.

Of course, first things first: Charlie had her second vet appointment today. She is still terrified when we go, but I think she was calmer this time than last time, and she was so good. Didn't bite or scratch or even growl. My former feral wildcat has come a long way!

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After dropping Charlie off at home (and rewarding her with some tuna), I set off for one of my favorite parts of Daegu, the stretch of parks along the Geumho river between the Ayanggyo subway station and Mangudang Park, to take some springtime flower pictures. Here are a few of my favorites, although the full set of 56 photos is worth checking out. It can be seen by clicking here. Enjoy!


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Radioactive Rumor Mill - UPDATED

Wed, 06 Apr 2011 13:50:00 +0000

UPDATE: It started raining Wednesday night and rained all day Thursday, and it's raining as I type... Schools closed around the country today, out of fear that the students might get irradiated walking to school. (My school stayed open, and none of my students were absent...) It's still nothing but irrational panic. Here are some more articles on the topic.

Japan's neighbors alarmed over risk of radiation threat

Radiation fear closes schools in South Korea

Schools Close in South Korea Amid Fears of Radioactive Rain

Radioactive rain fear overblown


ORIGINAL POST: Quite a few of my students were all flustered today, worried about the radioactive rain that's supposed to fall tomorrow. The cashier at my local convenience store warned me of something that sounded a lot like 내일 비가 방사능 (tomorrow rain radioactive). I smiled and nodded and told her that I knew, wishing I could tell her that it would be a good preparation for my upcoming vacation to Chernobyl, but my Korean skills aren't so skill-like.

Now, it *is* supposed to rain both tomorrow and Friday, but I don't for a minute believe in this nonsense about radioactive rain from Fukushima, although plenty of Koreans are taking it seriously. Here are some articles...

Citizens concerned over 'radioactive rain' Thursday

Radioactive materials unlikely to reach Korea this week

No possibility of radioactive rain: officials
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Why do you smile in photos?

Thu, 31 Mar 2011 14:07:00 +0000

Seriously, why *do* you smile in photos? If somebody asked you that, what would you say? Well, you'd say it's just what you do when someone points a camera at you. People ask me why Koreans are so fond of making the v/peace sign in photos... the thing is, it's just what they do. It's as natural a thing in photos here as smiling in photos is in the USA.

The other day, one of my students whipped out her cellphone near the end of class and asked if she could take my picture. I obligingly smiled and waited for her to snap the picture. She hesitated, then sighed exasperatedly and said, "Teacher! Do this!" And she made the v/peace sign. I asked her why. Her answer? "Because it's a photo!"

Anyway, here are some photographs I shot during the speech contest we held at the school a few weeks ago. I was trying to get candid shots, but take a guess at what happened just about every time I pointed a camera at someone:

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Keeping up with the Kims, part 2

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 15:22:00 +0000

For those of you who might remember my post about keeping up with the Kims from back in November (concerning my views that the South Korean economy is following the same path as that of the US economy leading up to 2008), you might be interested in this update on that theme from over at The Marmot's Hole.
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Spring is coming!!

Sat, 26 Mar 2011 09:23:00 +0000

Spring is finally beginning to roll into Daegu, with flowers beginning to blossom. There are nowhere near as many as there will be in about a month, but I was quite excited to be able to go for a stroll in the sunshine and shoot some flower photos. Enjoy!

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Do you want to live and work in South Korea?

Fri, 25 Mar 2011 14:09:00 +0000

The school in Daegu, South Korea (where I am currently working) is looking to hire two English teachers to start at the end of July 2011 (when my cousin and I leave at the end of our contracts).

The school offers roundtrip airfare, a free apartment (all to yourself, not shared), a salary of two million Korean won per month, and a two million won bonus upon completion of your contract. Workdays are Monday-Friday, 2pm-10pm. You teach roughly 6 classes a day, ranging in length from 25 to 40 to 50 minutes, and students range from first through ninth grade. (Most of my students are in the 5th-7th grade age.)

A potential teacher must be a native English speaker from one of the following countries: US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand. You must have a Bachelor's degree from a four year university (any subject), and be able to pass a FBI (or your country's equivalent) background check, as well as a drug test and an AIDS test. Teaching experience and international experience are preferred, but not required.

Interested? Please email me at jane.keeler@yahoo.com!
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Busan: Aquarium and Haedong Yonggungsa

Tue, 15 Mar 2011 14:57:00 +0000

I’ve been quite fond of Busan ever since my first trip there way back in 2001. Previously, I’d always had a good time on my trips to Busan. I went to Busan this past Sunday… and unfortunately, I didn’t have that great of a time. Let’s just say my trip was frazzling. Nonetheless, despite a stressful day of oversized crowds, obscured photographs, and motion sickness, I did get some decent shots.My first stop was the Busan Aquarium at Haeundae Beach. I’d been to the aquarium twice before (read about my 2007 trip here), and thoroughly enjoyed myself both times. Of course, one of those trips was on a weekday, and the other was on a Saturday. As many Korean schools (both public and private) hold classes on Saturday, Sunday is the day for families to do things together. This should have occurred to me before I set off for such a family oriented destination as the aquarium. Ooops. The place was packed with parents and small children, all pushing and shoving and jostling to get closer to the various tanks and exhibits. Meanwhile, I was frustrating myself by trying to figure out the best ISO and other settings for shooting fast moving fish in the extreme low-light of the aquarium… and of course I was inevitably bumped from behind or cut off in front almost every time I depressed the shutter. I swear I got better pictures in there four years and two cameras ago, which is incredibly frustrating. I left after about half an hour.I’d heard several people talk about the Haedong Yonggung temple – located on the rocky coastline not far from Haeundae Beach – describing it as beautiful, stunning, picturesque. When I’d left Daegu on Sunday morning, I’d thought I might go to Haedong Yonggungsa in the afternoon if I had enough time. After leaving the aquarium feeling thoroughly stressed, I figured what I needed was a peaceful afternoon at a Buddhist temple.Getting from Haeundae to Haedong Yonggungsa was a little complicated, as it involved two different buses. While the bus systems in Korean cities are generally efficient, they’re definitely a challenge to those of us with limited knowledge of Korean. Still, I successfully made it to Haedong Yonggungsa. Unfortunately, so did at least a thousand other people.I don’t know if Sundays are generally popular days for visiting Haedong Yonggungsa, or if March 13th was a special day for Buddhism in general or Haedong Yonggungsa in particular… but ohmygod. At one point, there was literally a human traffic jam:In addition to being overrun with people, the temple was in the midst of either putting up or taking down lanterns. The entire temple was overstrung with ropes upon which lanterns had either recently hung or would soon be hanging. As such, many potentially great angles for photos were blocked by ropes and the poles from which the ropes were strung. I got some decent photographs, but nothing like what I was hoping for. And the crowds! Ugh. See what I mean about poles and ropes?The final nail in the day’s coffin came as I left Haedong Yonggungsa. The second of the two buses that I’d taken out there had been full, but it was nothing compared to the bus I left in. It was crammed beyond capacity, filled with so many people that I literally could not move. It was hot. And there was no ventilation. And five minutes into the ride brought us into stop-and-go traffic. As you might expect, I began to feel motion sick. I actually had to force my way off the bus a stop too soon just to keep from puking all over my fellow passengers. I’m sure that at the time they thought I was an incredibly rude foreigner, but they really should thank me for my efforts. Sigh.I like Busan, really, I do… but the overwhelming crowds of Sunday just made me feel so relieved to get back to my quiet corner of the outskirts of Daegu – and reinforced my de[...]



A brief note on Japan

Mon, 14 Mar 2011 06:55:00 +0000

For those who have asked: neither the earthquake, nor the subsequent tidal wave, nor the radiation leaking from Fukushima have affected Korea. I was at work when the earthquake struck off Japan's coast at 2:45pm local time on Friday, and - like the rest of Korea - felt nothing. I didn't learn about the quake and tsunami until about 6 hours after the fact. At this point, the situation at the nuclear facilities in Fukushima is something that the entire region is following closely. However, given the prevailing wind patterns, even were Fukushima to become the next Chernobyl, chances of Korea playin Belarus to Japan's Ukraine are fairly low. I will, of course, update if anything changes.
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Size does matter.

Wed, 09 Mar 2011 16:06:00 +0000

I listened to this podcast from the Diane Rehm show today, and it left me feeling completely fed up… specifically the commentary from this Eric Hanushek fellow. Despite his impressive credentials, Hanushek doesn’t seem to have ever taught at anything less than the university level, which makes me wonder how he can possibly be qualified to say so unequivocally that in elementary/middle/high school, class size doesn’t matter as long as you have a good teacher in the classroom. Give the podcast a listen, then come back here to read the rest of my post.I have been teaching since 2005 (except for 2009). As regular readers of this blog know, I teach English to speakers of other languages, and I have taught in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and South Korea (where I am currently located). I teach at private, extracurricular English language schools. At my current and previous schools, my maximum class size has been 15. I’ve had classes as small as one-on-one, although my average class size is 10. I have taught students of all ages – from first graders through retirees – and I can say without a doubt that the issues a teacher faces while teaching grade school students are vastly different than those faced by those teaching university and adult classes.At all ages and levels, the smaller the class size the greater the success of my students, but the impact of class size upon student performance is much greater among grade school classes. As much as parents want to believe that their children are little well-behaved angels who sit quietly in class focused on the teacher and the tasks at hand, in reality, even the most well-behaved, studious kids would rather chat with their friends than study if given the chance. (Seriously, think back to when you were in school - how did you act? I was a hyper-motivated straight-A student, but nonetheless, my favorite part of going to school was talking to my friends.) That doesn’t even take into account the kids who misbehave, or the kids who, for one reason or another, simply have trouble paying attention.And of course, in addition to controlling the behavior of students in the classroom, we teachers are here to actually impart knowledge to our students. In teaching a language, student participation during class time is vital to their improvement. The larger the class, the fewer opportunities each student has to participate, and the fewer opportunities I have to assess each student’s performance. The smaller the class, the better able I am to assess each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and the better able I am to plan lessons which play to their strengths while dealing with those weaknesses. Even in a class of 14-15 students, it is most certainly possible for a weak student to hide behind the skills of his or her classmates until test day arrives. If one of my students needs help with something, I’d rather know it before I give a test. I don’t want my students to fail; I want them to learn.Making sure all of my students are on the same page (literally and figuratively) is much more difficult with fifteen students than with ten. I cannot even imagine how it must be to work with classes of twenty or thirty. I understand that the United States has (rather belatedly) realized that perhaps operating at such a huge deficit is a bad idea. I understand that states are struggling to balance their budgets. And I understand that things have to be cut. Cutting teachers and increasing class size in order to save money is not the answer, no matter what people such as Eric Hanushek may say. And no matter how good a teacher is, he or she will be a better teacher if his or her classes are smaller.On a related note, I started teaching a brand new class of first graders on March 2nd. They are incredibly [...]



Re-examining the pig's head

Mon, 07 Mar 2011 14:29:00 +0000

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I discovered a pig's head in the foothills, just downhill from some secluded tombs. Here it is, in case you'd forgotten:

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I told my students about this. They told me that on holidays (such as the recent lunar new year), families will go to the tombs of their ancestors and to bow and make an offering of food, alcohol and money. Often a pig's head is included, with money stuffed into its mouth and ears. (Apparently, if the pig seems to be smiling, it is very lucky. From this angle, it looks to me like it's smiling.) My students suggested that perhaps when the pig's head began to go bad, it was removed from the tomb area and thrown away at the bottom of the hill.

I've tried to find information on this online, and haven't been too lucky, other than learning that the ceremony in question is called 고사 (gosa). I have found several English language blog posts of people who have witnessed the bowing-to-a-pig's-head ceremony at a variety of occasions for luck. Photos were taken. Here are the links:

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Yulhacheon Redux

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 10:38:00 +0000

I'm currently reading Paul Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, a 2008 travelogue in which he reprises his 1975 The Great Railway Bazaar. He somewhat ironically comments on the 'danger' of revisiting the destinations of previous travels, and of falling into the trap of comparing how things were to how things are... which of course Theroux then spends much of Ghost Train doing. I had thought of this a little last Tuesday as I explored Yulha 2, continually remembering how it used to be a field, but as I'd never actually explored said field, it wasn't exactly revisiting.I thought of Theroux a lot today, as I walked north along the Yulhacheon, a stream which runs south out of the mountains into the Yulha area, taking nearly the exact route that I took back in August 2006. Not only was it a different season (meaning vastly different vegetation), but the completely rural area of 2006, while still rural, is now in the early stages of development (land cleared and flattened). I wasn't able to go up into the mountains in the same spot as last time, as there were do not enter signs and active construction equipment. However, I did make it into the foothills, and discovered a different set of tombs than the ones I found back in 2006.Do not enter - construction zone!The YulhacheonA path up into the foothillsHillside tombsA hillside view of the nascent constructionDaegu in the distance (you can even see Daegu Tower) with more tombs in the foreground. Taken at 200mm zoom.Possible evidence of the Korean 삵 (salk)? At first I thought it was scat, but on closer examination it seems to be a hairball!I also found this... not the sort of thing one usually finds in Korea.[...]



Yulha 2: it used to be a field...

Tue, 01 Mar 2011 12:23:00 +0000

Today was Independence Movement Day, and as such, a national holiday here in Korea. I didn't expect to do anything at all today, as the weather forecast predicted rain all day long. I woke up late to the surprising discovery that while it was dreary and overcast, it wasn't actually raining. I figured I should make use of my day off and at the very least take a walk. I decided to check out Yulha 2, the brand new neighborhood located just to south of my neighborhood. The last time I was here, during 2006-2007, the area which today makes up Yulha 2 was just a field. Granted, everything on our earth was once a field or untamed wilderness or somesuch, but it's always a shock to witness the kind of development that three years can bring. Keep in mind, everything in these pictures sprang up since September 2007. Compared to my delightfully retro neighborhood, Yulha 2 is frighteningly modern!This apartment complex (still under construction) will house atheletes during the 2011 IAAF World Championships, to be held in August-September 2011.The Yulha 2 development extends all the way to the Geumho River (which runs east/west across northern Daegu)Yulha 2 as seen from the Geumho River To see the complete set of photographs from Yulha 2, CLICK HERE.[...]



'stansick

Wed, 23 Feb 2011 03:07:00 +0000

I've been missing Kyrgyzstan of late... So I made this video. Makes me wonder why I ever left. Enjoy! (The song is by Tata Ulan, and the pairing of pictures and song probably will make more sense to people who speak Russian and know a bit about Kyrgyzstan. I tried to match lyrics to pictures wherever possible.)

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Lotsa linkage

Sun, 20 Feb 2011 11:13:00 +0000

I have never had an abortion. I have, however, used Planned Parenthood services numerous times over the years, because despite what many people believe, PP is much more than an abortion provider: birth control, cervical exams, STD/HIV testing... At times when I had no job or health insurance, PP was the only place I could go that A) would take a person w/ no insurance and B) was affordable.The U.S. House of Representatives has just voted to bar Planned Parenthood health centers from all federal funding for birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing, and other lifesaving care. CLICK HERE to find out more and to learn how you can help. ****Something that everyone should read. Incredibly depressing, yet at the same time, inspirational. And highly informative. The shit that goes on against women in our modern world is just unconscionable. Read and learn, and find out how you can help. (And a big thanks to my Aunt Mary for sending this to me!)****We've put up a lot of stuff over at Desolation Travel of late. On the blog, Derek wrote about his time in the Crimea, and Joe wrote about the madness of Turkmenbashi. Additionally, we've started uploading some of our own YouTube creations. Enjoy!Meanwhile, if you're interested in seeing the photos from the Crimea and Turkmenistan, just click on the photographs below :-)Crimea: Sevastopol, Khersones, Bakhchisaray, and Balaklava, UkraineTurkmenistan****And lastly, here's Charlie, being cute :-) title="YouTube video player" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/LqK5UHc3jwY" frameborder="0" width="480">[...]



Record snowfall!

Mon, 14 Feb 2011 16:16:00 +0000

I remember, early on in this trip, telling my cousin what he could expect out of the weather here in Daegu. "We might get a few snow flurries, but the snow never sticks here in the city." Hah. You might remember that back in December we had some crazy un-Daegu-like snowfall, and well, I awoke this morning to an even heftier blanket of the white stuff covering just about everything. Take a look:

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The view from my apartment, 1:45pm on 2/14/11

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On my walk to work

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Somebody obviously gave up on biking, and left this chained to a tree.

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Neighborhood park, where my cousin sometimes plays basketball

Meanwhile, in the northeastern province of Gangwon-do, they had a really absurd amount of snow (they're calling it a 'snow bomb') - check it:

'Snow-bomb' hits South Korea and Korea chaos after heaviest snowfall
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"I like Justin Timberlake the most."

Sun, 13 Feb 2011 13:55:00 +0000

Hah. If you know me at all, you know that I despise Justin Timberlake and all of his ilk. Nonetheless, my silly voice is now immortalized for all time in a professional recording saying, "I like Justin Timberlake the most. I have all of his cds." There is actually a rational explanation for this. On Friday morning, Gwen, Samson, and I met up with some dude named Nick (who works at another Daegu area Oedae) and went to 팀스튜디오 (Team Studio), an audio recording studio located out in the far end of East Daegu. The purpose? To record a brand-new placement listening test for all the Daegu area Oedaes. It was actually rather fun, absurd phrases about Justin Timberlake aside, and the fellow running the studio made the following photo collage for us:

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Putin: The Japanime Rabbit Zek? (UPDATED!!)

Mon, 07 Feb 2011 16:02:00 +0000

While I was lounging about my apartment being ridiculously lazy for my lunar new year vacation, my cousin George took the ferry to Japan and had a merry old time. He also discovered (and photographed) this:

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Now, can anyone explain this madness to me???
(P.S. zek (зек) means prisoner, in case you were wondering.)

UPDATE: Hahahaha - I found it!! Not that it really explains anything, although it does reinforce my belief that Japan is weird. Wikipedia explains here. Or you can watch the madness below. Enjoy!

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Book review times two!

Sun, 06 Feb 2011 09:56:00 +0000

But, as I've reviewed books about traveling to remote and desolate places, it should be obvious that the review is not below, but over on the Desolation Travel blog. Just click here or on either of the pictures below - and enjoy!

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A Seolnal Walk

Fri, 04 Feb 2011 02:04:00 +0000

I'd be willing to bet that most Americans have at least heard the phrase Chinese New Year... although I'd also be willing to bet that most of them have no clue as to what it entails. Additionally, I'd bet that most don't know that China isn't the only Asian country to celebrate a Lunar New Year. The Korean Lunar New Year celebration is a three day holiday called 설날 (pronounced seolnal, with the 'n' being almost silent) and it is a huge, family-based holiday [wikipedia]. Businesses shut down and families load into cars, buses, and trains to travel to their parents' or grandparents' homes for the holiday. For those foreigners in Korea lacking in a Korean ancestral homestead to which to return, it's a rather uneventful time.After January, when I was teaching extra 'intensive' classes, and working very long, sleepy days, I was quite thrilled to discover that the three-day Seolnal holiday fell on a wed-thur-fri, giving me a pleasant five-day weekend as a reward for making it through January unscathed. I had envisioned spending the entire five-days curled up on the couch, nestled between Charlie and Gwen's dog, Songi (I'm pet-sitting, while Gwen and her family do Korean family things), alternating between good books, bad tv, and wonderful naps. And then the most bizarre thing happened: it warmed up! While the US is completely snowed in, and my friends in the former Soviet Union are suffering through a typical winter, South Korea has stumbled upon some warm weather. The highs have been in the 50+ range (Farenheit; that's 10+ for you Celsius folks), and are expected to stay that way through Monday at the least.I figured I should take advantage of the unseasonable weather, so yesterday I took a wonderful, long walk (wearing a sweater, no coat) along a rural stretch of the road connecting East Daegu and the neighboring community of Gyeongsan. The full set of 65 photographs from my walk can be seen by CLICKING HERE. Some of my favorites are below.The red line is where I walked, from the top of it to the bottom and back.Again, the complete set of photos can be seen HERE.[...]



The Black Gate Opens

Tue, 01 Feb 2011 01:52:00 +0000

Ben Scott emulates a hobbit sneaking into Mordor by legally entering Tajikistan. No, seriously, there is a connection. Just click here or on the picture below to find out!

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A new post from Desolation Travel!

Sat, 29 Jan 2011 13:26:00 +0000

I know it's been a while - we've all been pretty busy recently - but we finally have a new post and a new set of photos up over at Desolation Travel! CLICK HERE or on the photograph below to read the new post by Nicola Simpson.

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Education in Korea, from the PBS News Hour

Wed, 26 Jan 2011 13:44:00 +0000

[I currently work at one of the 'cram schools' of the sort mentioned in this broadcast - although here in Daegu at least it's usually translated as 'academy.' The Korean word is 학원, which is pronounced hogwan.]

While I think that a large majority of parents in the US do not care nearly enough about their children's education, I also think the system here in Korea is insane. I shouldn't complain, as it's paying my salary, but these poor kids! My last class of the day is a middle school class, which ends at 10pm. When I was in middle school, my bed time was 9:30pm! Once they leave me, these kids still have to go home and do their public school and academy homework (and most kids go to more than one academy). Studying is important, but so is having a childhood!

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