Archive for the ‘teaching English’ Category

New Website

June 7, 2011

Hello all!

Many thanks for all your support over the last year as I travel, work and write. It’s come time, however, to change things up a little. As a result, I’ve launched a new website:

www.stevensirski.com

I am still trying to figure out how to post pictures, but I hope to have that done shortly. I’ve tried to clean things up a little for easier navigation. Please let me know if I’ve been successful or if something needs to be changed.

If you have any suggestions, please contact me at stevensirski [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d be more than happy to talk/chat/email with you.

As for this site, I will keep it active for now, but will stop updating it shortly.

Many thanks for your continued support,

Steve

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Happy Birthday, Blog!

April 4, 2011

Sunset on a Manitoba farm.

Well, it’s been one year since I started this blog. That’s right, April 4th, 2010 I made my first post right here, which I think 6 people viewed… over three days. Over the year I’ve managed to survive 17 countries or so, visiting around 60 cities and (trying) to learn Korean, Thai, Khmer, Polish and now… Russian. As a result of those travels, I’ve been fortunate to meet and talk with many people all over the world.

I’ve managed just over one post per week, or about 67 (including this one). Readership continues to grow at a breath-taking pace and is almost equal to global daily Google searches. If you like what you read, remember to share it with your friends and family (using the “Share” button below) or maybe even the people you don’t like, since there are probably more of them. You can even use this short email:

Heeeyyy dude! I remember us talking about teaching English abroad and found this website. This guy has taught English and travelled the world. Thought you might like it.

www.stevensirski.wordpress.com

See ya!
(YOUR NAME)

Don’t forget to personalize it with your name or else it’ll just look like spam.

Anyway, your favourite posts included Taipei? Fucking Eh!, the tale about my life on the farm in The Thanksgiving Day Chicken, and my Third Impressions of Poland. The Coffee and Coffee Shops in Asia post garnered quit a bit of attention from search engines, so too the second part of my report on Polish Vodka, and Winnipeg Music.

I appreciate you taking the time to read comment on The Thanksgiving Day Chicken, Winnipeg Music, and parts one and two of  Reminiscences of a Winnipeg Musician. My First Impressions of Poland, however, sparked many conversations while travelling through Poland. Thank you for the comments both online and in person.

Although I started the blog with the intention of making a documentary about my southeast Asian travels, I changed direction and focused more on writing, leaving the video and photos often unattended. All is not lost, however, as you can view a portion of my photos on Flickr and some videos on Vimeo. I’m slowly adding more.

There was a time I thought I could make a useful travel website, you know, somewhere you could look up what to do, what to see, etc., but there are other people who do it better than I ever could, among them Art of Backpacking, Road Junky, World Nomads and Frommer’s while the travel guides Lonely Planet (particularly the “shoestring budget” books) and Let’s Go remain your best offline sources. And if you need somewhere to stay, Hostel World is a good choice. As for airfare, I use tripadvisor.com and cheapoair.com. I don’t pretend to be a travel website, but I have travelled quite a bit.

In any event, my travels are (hopefully) far from over. There is still time for me to be of some service to you and your travel plans. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at stevensirski [at] gmail [dot] com, or you can look me up on Facebook, though I’m wary of adding people I don’t know. A good conversation is appropriate, but a night or two out drinking is a minimum before I can commit to a Facebook relationship.

Thanks for reading. I’ve enjoyed writing. 🙂

Steve

Coffee and Milk Featured in Teach Away, Inc. Telegram

February 4, 2011
Students' Reaction Shot

My Grade 6 Advanced English class participating in the Coffee and Milk shoot.

I’m proud and honoured to report that Coffee and Milk has been featured in Teach Away, Inc.’s January 2011 telegram. Teach Away is the company that brought me over to teach English in Korea.

Find the article here.

View the short film here or pictures from the shoot on Flickr.

I also have other posts about the film here.

Coffee and Milk Screening in Korea

November 17, 2010
Second Shot of the Day

Seung Jae, Steventeacher, and Murat on set for the filming of Coffee and Milk.

Practically one year to the day since it was shot, my first international short film Coffee and Milk, about a teacher and a student who get into a fight over spilled milk and coffee, will be screened at the 12th Independent Film Festival MADE IN BUSAN!

For those of you who don’t know Korean, here’s the direct link:

http://www.ifmib.org/bbs/view.php?id=gong1&no=193&category=

From my meager knowledge of Korean, the info under that link gives the general information about the movie, which can also be found here, in English.

If you’re not in Korea, you can always watch the movie on my Vimeo page or check it out being featured on the Art of Backpacking website.

Korea: A Reminiscence

August 15, 2010

안녕하세요!

I’ve been back in Winnipeg for just over a month now and many people have asked me “How was Korea?” So I’ve decided to put down some of my thoughts about the country and my time there.

My job in Korea was to teach English to Grade 3s to 6s. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Using resources from EPIK and Dave’s ESL, as well as some friends who begun teaching there before me, I quickly learned about lesson plans, lesson flow, and classroom management. The first few weeks were intimidating but, once I got into the hang of things, it became a whole lot easier. I will never forget the first time driving up to the school and three kids stopped, mouths gaping, pointing at me as I drove by. They were excited, which helped ease my own nerves.

In regard to Korean life, Koreans always seems to be in a hurry to do something. I don’t get it. I’m sure North Americans are guilty of the same thing, but, as an outsider, I noticed that everything done by Koreans needed to be done right away. If you were a foreigner, you were allowed some lenience. I really felt bad for my co-teacher because every time she received a phone call, she stopped everything to attend to the call, and then (sometimes) sprinted out of the classroom to take care of whatever business needed to be taken care of.

If there’s one thing you’ll soon notice when you go to Korea it’s that everything is Korean. LG and Samsung, Daewoo, KIA and Hyundai, and Angel-in-Us. It’s kinda creepy. Jim Rogers, a renowned New York investor, wrote in his book Adventure Capitalist, that Korea came across as “artificial”. He’s got a point. Korean companies dominate the landscape; not many foreign companies (especially not Japanese, i.e. Sony and Panasonic!) can be found here!

And how about those cab drivers? You really learn to appreciate life after you’ve made it home alive in a cab. If there was one reason to learn the Korean language, it was so you could tell the cab driver where to you lived, and to go slower!

The Korean language. I loved learning Hangul, if only because I could make an attempt to talk to every cute girl that walked by. Aside from that, Hangul looks like such a happy language. Look at a paragraph of Hangul and tell me that you do not see little faces, some happy, some unamused, some winking, some confused!

Cyclops:

Unamused:

Drunk winking:

Wearing cool glasses and smiling:

Surprised pirate:

Sly and cool:

Those are just some of the things I saw when I first looked the Korean writing system. Here’s a sample:

언제나 어디서나 날 따라다니는 이 스포트 라이트
어딜가나 쫓아오지 식당 길거리 까페 나이트
도대체 얼마나 나이 들어야 이놈의 인기는 식으러 들지 원
섹시한 내 눈은 고소영
아름다운 내 다린 좀 하지원
어쩌면 좋아 모두 나를 좋아하는 것 같애 oh no

-from “So Hot” by Wondergirls

Don’t you see the faces? Tell me you see the faces! (Okay, it’s a stretch, but the first time I saw it, I swear I saw faces!)

Some of my friends thought Korea was a third-world country. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Korea is probably more developed than most parts of North America! If you want your luxury shopping (Gucci, Prada, etc.) you’ve got it. Movies? All the English movies are shown in addition to some Korean movies subtitled in English. Music? Great rock and jazz music to be found in Seoul, while Busan seems to be overrun with foreigners and their music groups. Food? Take your pick, all western fast food joints and many European foods (such as pizza or kebabs) are available. Coffee? Yes, Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Angel-in-Us, and my personal favourite (because they gave me cake every time), Cherami (exit 6, Goejeong Station, Saha-gu, Busan). And don’t forget the largest sea-food market in Asia, Jagalchi in Busan. You’ve never tasted fresher raw fish. You walk down any number of isles offering a variety of fish and sea creatures, pick which ones you want, take a seat, slug some soju, then eat. My most expensive bill there was $50, and that was apparently for some “expensive” fish. I can only imagine what the same bill would be in Canada.

And how about that Kpop? Well, words will fail any attempt to describe Korean pop music. Let’s just say, they’ve got America beat at cranking out popstars. America only uses one pop star and makes him/her a star. Korea? They take 18 young men or women, put them on a stage, and make them sing and dance. Be sure to check out Super Junior’s “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry”, Wonder Girls’ “So Hot” (see the lyrics above), and my favourite, “Fire” by 2NE1.

I enjoyed my time in Korea. I’d like to return to Korea one day, possibly to teach, or maybe just to visit. Or maybe to shoot another movie? (See Coffee and Milk below.) The world is a large place and I would really like to see more of it.

PS – In regard to North-South relations, the only “bomb” I experienced was mixing soju with beer, which my kids called “pok tan ju”, translated to mean “the bomb”.

Coffee and Milk featured on travel website

August 3, 2010

My short film, Coffee and Milk, has been featured on the travel website Art of Backpacking. You can view it here:

http://www.artofbackpacking.com/film-feature-coffee-and-milk-teaching-in-south-korea/

Article on Teaching English in South Korea

August 3, 2010

I’ve written an article on teaching English in South Korea. My friend Mike has posted it to his travel website. You can find it here:

http://www.artofbackpacking.com/teaching-english-in-south-korea/

I have been putting together a couple of posts about Korea that I will post later.

48 cities. 16 countries.

July 20, 2010

London (England)

Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice (Italy)

Vienna (Austria)

Prague (Czech Rep)

Berlin (Germany)

Amsterdam, Utretch, Rotterdam (Holland)

Brussells (Belgium)

Toronto, Kingston, Montreal, Vancouver (Canada)

Cheong Un, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, Andong, Okpo, Daejeon, Jeonju, Kyongju, Boreyong, Seoul (South Korea)

Kuala Lampur, Cameron Highlands, Georgetown, Perhentian Islands (Malaysia)

Singapore (Singapore)

Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Kanchanabury (Thailand)

Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kaam Samnoor (Cambodia)

Saigon, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi (Vietnam)

Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang (Laos)

Taipei (Taiwan)

48 cities. 16 countries.

What a journey! I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Although I was able to unpack my luggage for an extended period in Korea, it always hung over my head that, especially by month 7, I was going to be leaving. And, wow, who knew how much crap you can accumulate over a year?! Oh my! In any event, I’ve lived out of a couple cases of luggage for the last 1.5 years. I backpacked through Europe for a month before heading back to Canada to apply for my South Korean work visa, then jetted off to SoKo to teach English for a year. Deciding to stay in Asia for summer vacation, I travelled through Malaysia and Singapore before returning to SoKo, only to be quarantined at my apartment during the swine flu epidemic. Once my contract finished, I headed to Bangkok and, deciding that I no longer wanted to work there, I flew down to Phuket to do some Muay Thai training. After three weeks of intense training, I rested my shins (and possibly a broken thumb) as I bussed to Phnom Penh via Bangkok. Volunteering in Cambodia for a month left me with a choice to go to Vietnam, which I took, and spent 2.5 weeks there before taking the cheap, but long, bus ride to Vientiane in Laos. Three cities in Laos and then it was back to Chiang Mai for a few days before heading back to Bangkok to arrange my flight back to Canada. Not wanting to go back, I decided to stop over in Taipei for a week and absolutely loved it, I even started looking for jobs! But, it was time to return to Canada. Vancouver-bound, I stayed for a week with some friends and then booked my ticket back to my home town, Winnipeg.

Fascinating, that’s all I can say. I did that? I seriously travelled all those places?

Yep, says my bank account.

Yep, say the numerous self-portraits.

Yep, say the friends who politely smile when I ask what they’ve been up to lately.

Now I sit in Winnipeg putting some things together and meeting my family and friends. But I’ll leave that to another post at a later date. For now, it’s time to sit back and remember the good times.

Taipei? Fuckin’ eh!

July 15, 2010

I’m glad that I decided to stop over in Taipei for a week before heading back to Canada. I never thought I would go to this small island so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that they manufactured half of the world (70% of LCD displays, laptops, and computer chips; about 30% of servers and dsl cameras; and don’t forget that the company HTC built the Google phone), but I didn’t know that they had some great coffee :), good music, and very nice people. Not only that, I was offered three jobs within the week that I stayed.

With GN’R’s Chinese Democracy running through my head (if only because of the title) I take to the streets of Taipei. My first impression is that the city is a mix of Korean Kpop and Family Marts mixed with western novelties such as Starbucks, 7-11s and good sanitary conditions all covered by a blanket of funny characters called Mandarin (like the fruit).

I find a place to eat: spaghetti with meat sauce, bacon, fried egg and tea with honey in it. Yes, it was THAT good.

Calorically satisfied, I venture out of the restaurant saying “Thank you” in English because everyone here (except one taxi driver) is able to communicate with me in near-perfect English. I go find a proper up of coffee made by a local joint and then go sit in a park. While in the park I see in the distance a few old men sitting on benches and I couldn’t help but think that they were thinking up the next thing they could manufacture and sell to the world.

I decide it is a good idea to get my teeth cleaned. Ow. Not a good idea. Though the dentist was cute, she drilled my teeth hard, and it hurt. What would be used to tighten bolts on a race car in Canada is what they used to scrape my teeth. What I found most amazing is that they let me walk out without paying so I could get money from the ATM. I wonder if they trust everyone like this? I return and pay the $800 NTD (~$24) for the abuse and say “Shey shey” (Thank you).

Looking for a coffee fix after having my teeth “cleaned,” I stumble across Monument Coffee. Here, you have a choice of how you want your coffee prepared. If you want it prepared the Chinese way (which gives it more caffeine than a solo espresso or Americano) it will cost $1 per minute to make, topping out at $5.85. But it was phenomenal. I’m no pro coffee taster, but this coffee ranks up there with one if the best. A stronger cup of coffee, marked by dark chocolate and maybe brown sugar flavours (really? Sure.) And since it was raining cats and dogs that day, I decided to order the hazelnut milk tea. Costing somewhere around $2.60 per preparation minute ($160 NTD = $5.20) this cold beverage was just as good as the coffee.

A few days later I want to check out some museums. Taipei has many great museums. I visit four: the Taipei Astronomical Museum, Fine Arts Museum, Contemporary Art Museum, and the National Museum Of History. All were worth the money, and it’s hard to pick my favourite. If pressed, I’d say the National Museum of History simply because it had a vast collection of paintings, sculpture, ancient artifacts, and a special exhibition on the three kingdoms of China.

Visiting museums often makes me wonder what the museums of the future will keep from our time? DVDs? Books? McDonald’s toys made in Taiwan? It fascinates me to think what future generations will marvel at and consider “museum worthy.” (Serker berker merker lerker “BOOK.” Ashen bashen goin sacken lieven “Read” blacken slacken macken “with eyes.” Gerble gobble jabber babble “English.” <Crowd> Ohhhh!)

And Taipei even has a tall tower, Taipei 101. It was the tallest tower in the world until Dubai finished their Burj Dubai in January 2010. English teachers in South Korea will appreciate me stopping in front of the entrance and exclaiming, much to the confusion of those around me, “Look at the tower! What a tall tower!”

Though the entry fee was quite steep, up I went, some 89 floors, in a very sleek and quiet elevator. After taking some pictures of myself looking out into the Taipeian night, I stopped by the crystal shop on the 88th floor. Looking over the sparkly coral ornaments in the glass enclosures as if I had the money to buy one, a nice looking lady came over and asked if I’d like to see any of them. After politely asking for the price in Canadian dollars, I couldn’t stifle my laugh when she told me the price ($6,000 for a necklace?). I told her that I’m not looking to buy, just look. And then she left me alone.

But what really got me was the description of the citrus crystal. After suggesting that the crystal should be placed on one’s desk, the little card read “Citrus crystal will attract the opposite sex.” Well no shit. Who wouldn’t be attracted to someone who has a $10,000 crystal sitting on their desk? Feeling kinda out of place, I decide that I’d spent enough time to have justified the over-priced entrance ticket and it was time to go.

After a week in the Taiwan capital, I didn’t want to leave. I felt like I could live in Taiwan, especially after researching jobs. But, to Canada I go. I haven’t seen my family or many of my friends for over a year and a half and the heart string are tugging at me.

Good-bye Asia! See you again… soon?

Coffee and Milk – Short Film

July 15, 2010

Coffee and Milk was the short film I made in Busan, South Korea with a Murat Copcu, a Kyungsung University PhD film student, and my Grade 6 advanced English class. I’ve uploaded the video to Vimeo, but WordPress won’t let me embed the video below. Click the link below to watch the movie.

Coffee and Milk from Steven Sirski on Vimeo.


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