Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last day of 2008

What a year it's been, friends... I started the year riding high on a wave of refinances and appraisals and GFE's and TIL's and LOX's, living in a condo in downtown Chicago. I had an awesome little orange car, a pool on my rooftop, a crazy Italian neighbor, a job I didn't much like... and now, I'm sitting in a 1-bedroom apartment in Janghowon, South Korea, thinking about games to play with 7 year olds and downloading flashcards of animals online. It's a crazy life, I tell ya.

I can't believe it's been almost a week since I last blogged. Sorry about the delay! Although, no one commented on the last actual post, so maybe none of you noticed. The holidays are always crazy busy anyway, so maybe I can get away with not being johnny-on-the-spot with the blogging this week. =)

Since that time, let's see. I hung out with Jill and we made no-bake oatmeal cookies. This is about the easiest cookie in history to make, and I highly recommend it! Just google no-bake oatmeal cookies and go to town. Careful with the sugar, though: ours were powerful sweet.

I watched Religulous, Bill Maher's new documentary. It's really good. He's only a little snarky. Well, no, he's only a little more snarky than he needs to be. I mean, some of the people he dishes it out to obviously can't handle it, and therefore probably don't deserve it. It's not really asking too much for Christians to be able to discuss their faith and the Bible... but sometimes, it is. Sad but true. I think he maybe crosses the line a few times, but for the most part I enjoyed it.

I got sick again. Not just your average run-of-the-mill cold this time, but Sick! With a capital "S." Body aches, fever, sinus headaches, all that fun junk. Apparently, when you get that kind of sick in Korea, you go to the hospital. So that's what I did yesterday! Boy howdy... So, you go to the hospital, which so far as I can tell here is roughly equivalent to our "clinic." You wait for a while -- I think my wait time was about 40 minutes. You read the names on the TV of all the people who are in front of you, just to amuse yourself. You comment that most of the people's last names are Choe or Kim. You go to the examination room. The doctor asks what your symptoms are (I presume, anyway) and you mime them, maybe producing a real cough or two. He takes your temperature. He makes you say "Ah..." and looks at your throat. He puts on his handy-dandy stethoscope and listens to you breathe. He says, "Injection" and smiles. You say, "Urh?" He stands up and motions to you to follow. You do. He leads you down the hall and points through a door and says "Injection Room." (Yes, they have a whole room where they do nothing but shots.) He leaves. The nurse leads you to a little table and motions pulling her pants down a little in the back. You realize you're about to get a shot in the butt in a Korean injection room thing. You panic. She grabs your shoulder and forcibly turns you around to face this little table, lifts up the back of your shirt a bit and starts rubbing some little cold pack around a spot just below your kidney. You panic a little harder. It gets numb. You hold your breath, waiting for the bite of the needle. She says, "OK" and throws the (miraculously already-empty) syringe in the trash. You button up, wipe your hands on your pants, pay the desk 3900 Won (~$3), get a prescription for something or other and go across the hall to the pharmacy. Crisis averted.

At the pharmacy, you get served a hot drink in a little glass bottle. Not sure what it was, but the word jujube springs to mind, for some reason. If anyone cares to shed a little light on this, feel free, but I'm feeling too lazy to google it right now. :) Sorry. Then you get a 3-day supply of cough medicine and 9 packets of 7 pills each. To be taken 3 times a day, with the cough medicine.

You go home, and attempt to figure out what these pills are. The internet fails you. You eat them anyway. You become woozy, light-headed, and strangely euphoric. A sense of peace settles over your muscles, your fever abates, your sinuses clear. Your life takes on meaning again. You eat, drink plenty of water, sleep. You wake up with the giddy realization that you get 3 doses of happy pills today. You watch college bowl games on the internet, cook eggs and sausage, eat pills. You watch college football on the internet. You eat leftover spaghetti, eat pills. You ... lose track of time. You realize it's 5:30 and you have to meet someone at 6. You notice that you smell, because you haven't showered all day. You also notice that since you haven't had to teach since last Wednesday, you desperately need to shave. You panic. You make it on time. You walk home at 7:30 and notice that it's friggin freezing outside. You get home, drink plenty of water, eat more leftover spaghetti, eat pills. You set an alarm to wake you at 2AM so you can watch the UH bowl game on the internet. You blog.

Please note, your experience may differ slightly from the one described above, but the main points should stay roughly the same.

So yeah -- it's almost 10pm here and I'm beat. These pills are just great. I'm going to catch a few hours sleep before waking up to watch my Coogs lay their vengeance upon the unsuspecting souls of the much-vilified Air Force Academy. I mean really, who could possibly root for the Air Force? What have they ever done for us, anyway?

And when I wake up to watch that game, it will already be 2009 here. Although the game I'll be watching live is taking place at 11AM central standard time on December 31st, 2008. I'll be watching from next year! Of course, I'll already know who wins, being in the future and all, but it'll still be fun to see how it all plays out. =Þ

And finally... my New Year's Resolution. I don't really believe in these things, it turns out, but it feels like the right thing to do. So, without further ado, I resolve to visit 5 new countries in 2009. =) I'm getting a headstart on that one, actually! Because as I had forgotten until right this second, at some point today in my medicine-induced haze I booked a flight to Thailand in January! So, in a few weeks I'll have one down and only four more to go. I further resolve to finish at least the first level of the Rosetta Stone courses I've gotten so far. These include Korean, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, and Arabic. I mean, I'm always saying (mostly to myself, but I do say it a lot) that I'm good at languages. Why screw around? I should just start trying to learn all these and see if that's really true or just something I tell myself to make me feel good. I'll keep you posted on my progress! So those are my resolutions -- see more of the world and learn to communicate better! Very noble, no? No bull!

Ha... get it? Noble? No bull? Yeah... I'm funny.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A man, a plan, and a bunch of trenchcoats sewn together

Since time immemorial, man has always wanted to fly like a bird, right? Or at least, you know, fall slower than usual. Check this guy out. He was trying to prove how well his "parachute-coat" worked. He ended up proving Newton was right. Allow me to present a guy jumping off the Eiffel Tower. If you're in a rush, just skip ahead to 1:15.

I mean, yeah. I lol'ed. It's probably mean or something, but jesus that's funny.

My bottom hurts

Because I fell on it, a lot, today. Like, a whole helluva lot. Like, a metric dozen times. =Þ

I went snowboarding today! It was a lot of fun... but here's some things I learned (both good and bad) about snowboarding:

  • It's really hard. It took me like 10 minutes to even be able to stand up on the damn thing.
  • Once you do stand up, you fall over again immediately. And it's not like graceful falling either... more like a tree being chopped down. One instant you're nice and vertical, and the next you're no longer connected, physically, mentally, or otherwise, to the ground.
  • Falling hurts. I weigh a lot more now (than I should, for one, but also) than I used to. I fall harder. That whole "the bigger they are..." thing, yeah... that's true.
  • I actually can snowboard. I mean, I did it. It took about 10 times down before I made it without falling, but it happened. It was a pretty boring run, I'm sure... but it was safe and was kind of exhilarating.
  • When you stop at the bottom, you can't keep doing the same thing you were doing to get yourself to stop. I mean, depending on your direction of travel... you either kinda stick your butt out and lift up your toes if you're facing forward or lean forward and lift up your heels if you're facing up the hill, right? Well, no matter which of those you're doing, after you come to a complete halt on a flat surface, that doesn't work as well. If you've ever seen a drunk chimpanzee fall over, you'll know what I'm talking about.
  • Don't forget you're still walking on ice, the whole time. The 2nd worst fall I took wasn't even in the course of boarding. I was walking, for christ's sake. It was right after I got off the lift and I was walking over to sit down and strap my board on. Well, I hit a slippery patch and went down, hard, on my left side. The other major drawback here was that I was holding the board in that hand. So I slammed my fingers between hard snowboard material, whatever the hell that is, and ice. I've got some really pretty bruises already on my middle and ring fingers...
  • Don't get cocky. After that safe, boring, mistake free trip down the hill... I thought I'd cut loose, kick it up a notch, raise the bar, or any other cliche you can think of. So I started really trying to do the S-curvy thing without slowing down too much. It worked. Briefly. Well, twice. I managed to complete one whole S shape before I got way outta control and started bouncing and flipping and spinning and peeing on myself. OK, I made that last one up, but it was a definite possibility... And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the worst fall of the day. That was the also the last fall of the day... because it around that time that a beer started to sound mouth-wateringly irresistibly good. So, I had a beer. Then I had another. Then I left. Then I came home and had another. Then I started yelling "Merry $*@#ing Christmas" out the window of my apartment. Then I started blogging.
One of the sentences in the last paragraph was false. Can you guess which one? Go on, read it again. I'll wait.

You're absolutely right... the S-curvy thing worked exactly once, not twice... =Þ

There's one other thing I wanted to mention today. I'm getting absolutely owned in my football bowl pick em' group. I might as well be named Toby. Apparently, being out of the country for the last month of the regular season and not actually watching any of the games since the beginning of November is a terrible way to go about picking the winners of all the bowl games. I actually did pretty well last year -- 2nd in the group, if I'm not mistaken. And I've rocked the last two years at March Madness brackets! Last year, not only did I win my group in an avalanche (it was too brutal of a whooping to be called merely a landslide), I finished in the top 13,000 on Now, I know what you're thinking, "Oooooh, top 13,000... Whoo-ee", right? But that's out of more than 2MILLION contestants. Which, if I'm not mistaken, puts me ahead of about 99.3% of those 2 MILLION people. Yes, I am capitalizing that word on purpose. Why do you ask?

I'm making a metric assload of spaghetti tomorrow... I finally went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of food... and one of the pleasant surprises was how cheap it is to have the deli grind up meat fresh for me. Cheap is a relative thing, here... but unexpectedly so, anyway. So I bought an onion, some garlic, some ground pork, some noodles and a jar of Classico spaghetti sauce, just like you get at the Mack's Big Star! Or, you know, Krogers. Um, yeah -- those of you who don't know me were probably getting a little excited to hear my homemade spaghetti sauce recipe. Well, I learned that from my Mom, and I'm not sharing it here... but I'll give you hint: substitute Prego for Classico and you're off to a good start. ;) Ah, I love ya, Mom... and I can't wait to try your spaghetti with the new secret ingredient!

OK -- I think it's time to watch a movie and go to bed. I just finished downloading "Run Fatboy Run" -- it's by the same guys who did "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz!" I love these guys... Simon Pegg is the shizznit. I can't wait any longer, so I'm not going to write anymore. I mean, tonight. Not like, ever. You were scared. It's OK to admit it. It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tis the Season...

To be jolly? You know what makes me jolly? Liquor. You know what else? Being done with teaching for a while. And planning a January jaunt to Thailand. And alliteration. You know what makes me un-jolly? A few things. Here they are, in no particular order:
  • Being one metric fuck of a long way from home on Christmas
  • Still having the traces of this Asian devil-sickness that I got 2+ weeks ago
  • The weather being colder than a welldigger's ass
  • Realizing that flights to Thailand are expensive as hell
  • Not talking to Shan
  • The ubiquitous brown (or maybe it's "Brown," with a capital?) sauce they put on things here. Not everything, and it's not truly ubiquitous, but it's been on several things I've eaten recently and I could certainly do without it.
  • Missing my family... and my dog. :(
Ok, enough doom and gloom. I'd hate to lead any of you to think that I'm even a little bit unhappy here, because I'm really not. I think I'm just moving out of the honeymoon phase and into the "This is reality, and I have to shop and do laundry and work everyday" phase, and I'm feeling a bit disillusioned. I'll get over it soon, I promise. Oh, and in case you were curious, 1 metric fuck is roughly equivalent to half the circumference of the earth. They like the metric system over here, so I've adapted it to my own personal use. See also: 1 metric assload, 1 metric crock of shit, etc...

So, to counter, here are jollifying things in my life, again in no particular order:
  • Going on a ski trip soon! I can't wait... even though the last time I went skiing I almost died. We can thank Mike Bridwell for that one -- trick skis, my ass. Those things are death rockets.
  • Facebook -- old friends just pourin out of the woodwork! I love hearing from people I haven't seen or spoken to since college, or hell! in some cases, high school.
  • This girl I'm tutoring. Her name is Min Kyeong, and she's just awesome. She's only in middle school, but her English is amazing! Like, better than some of the ESL students I had in college composition courses at UH. On the other hand, she did drop the "F" bomb on me while we were reading last night. I think my jaw hit the floor, and then I just laughed and laughed while she sat there blushing. Yep. I heard a 13-year-old Korean kid say "What the fuck?" Wha's up now?
  • Charlie Brown Christmas special. I showed this to several of my classes, and I love it. Notice I used the word "I" there. They didn't get it at all, really... but I had a grand ole time. And some of the lines in there, I remembered, but had no idea they were from this movie! Lucy's priceless on her Xmas wish list: "I just want what I have coming to me. I just want my fair share." Love it.
  • Couchsurfing. I mean, I realize accomodations in Thailand probably run like 6 seashells a night or something, but still, this thing is priceless! If you don't know what I'm talking about, go to and take a look around. Not only do you get to sleep for free in someone's house, but you usually get a local tour guide at the same time! It's just an awesome project... I stayed in Amsterdam for 8 days earlier this year, and didn't spend a dime on lodgings. Well, that's not entirely true. We did buy him some wine, bread and cheese, not to mention a scrumptious Chinese meal one night, but that was nothing in comparison to what we got. Just check it out. One caveat: you should probably be willing to return the favor and let people crash on your couch as well... it's only fair. :)
  • Seth Rogen. I love this man. Superbad, Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin... he's just a comedic genius. So let's all give a big hearty thank you to that tubby hairy Jew.
  • Chocolate chip cookies. You got a problem with that?
  • New friends... especially Bo Il (my co-teacher), Jill and Laura -- 2 girls in Icheon who are the bees' knees, funny and very helpful with classroom-y teach-y stuff.
  • Old friends... I know I already said this and all, but it's really nice to hear from everyone back home, and know that you're all pining away for me, neglecting your health and crying yourselves to sleep at night. Please know that your devotion isn't going unnoticed. :)
  • Losing weight. Yep, I'm feelin and lookin pretty good, if I do say so myself. And I do... Although this brings me to...
  • French fries. I had my first honest-to-god french fries since I've been in Korea tonight. And ya know, I wasn't that impressed. I think they needed salt. But anyway, there's something excessively and perversely comforting about eating french fries... I mean, they've even got my name in them. I don't know. I'm weird.
  • Da Bears! Still alive in the playoff hunt, believe it or not! Wish I could've seen that GB game, but even the ESPN gamecast had me doing little fisty-pumps at my desk and frightening the poor Korean women I work with. I'm not sure I could handle a full-on actual visual represenation of the game. I've evolved. I only need subtle verbal clues to picture the game in amazing 3D life-like mental projections on my inner ... um, wall? what do they show projections on? ... Screens. Yeah. I've evolved, alright. Bite me.
OK. That's my story and I'm stickin to it. I'll try to write a 5-paragraph essay on "What Christmas Means to Me" and have it up in a couple of days. =Þ

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Teacher training and more

On Thursday, I went to teacher training. It was just about as boring as it sounds, give or take a few minutes of sleep in the auditorium. It basically consisted of an hour drive with my co-teacher, who was dropping me off on his way to a meeting; a late breakfast; a presentation by this really hyper Canasian guy, which as Stuart and Chris can tell you is a Canadian Asian halfsy; lunch; another presentation, less hyper but more informative and without the Justin Timberlake song found in the first one; snacks; Korean games; closing ceremony; a 20-minute shuttle-bus, a 15-minute subway ride, dinner at a Sushi restaurant, a half-hour wait, an hour-long bus ride, a different 45-minute bus ride, and a 10-minute walk. Oh, and I couldn't find my phone the whole day either. So that's it, in a nutshell.

Anyone else picture that scene from Austin Powers anytime someone uses the phrase "in a nutshell?" No? Just me? OK, then...

So, most of the things I mentioned went exactly how you'd expect. There were some highlights. Specifically, the games. Korean kids play traditional Korean games... which look a lot like traditional American games played by kids and stoners. There were hacky-sack looking things. Well, no... they didn't look at all like hacks, but functioned much the same. They were actually little plastic cylinders with bells inside them, and covered in shiny pom-pom looking streamers. :) Yep, they're festive alright. Not as easy to play with as an actual real-live hacky sack, but still fun.

There were also lawn darts, more or less. 18-inch long rubber arrows that you try to throw into a jar that's set up 5 paces away, or so. Very difficult -- I played for 20 minutes, and got one (1) in. Then I quit, deciding to go out on top... like George Foreman.

We also jumped rope. Well, I'm not very good at jumping rope... specifically the whole getting into the rope-jumping area while the rope is spinning around. I remember doing this when I was younger, but everything moves much faster now than I remember, and I seem to be an awfully long way from the ground, and my feet just don't do what I tell them to do, or not immediately anyway.

Jacks. Except instead of jacks, they were little pebbles. You had to throw one up in the air and grab one off the ground, then catch the first one. You keep doing this until you have them all in your hand. If you drop it, you lose. Heady stuff, man, I'm tellin ya what.

Spinning a wooden top, with a little rope attached to a wooden stick. You get the top going, and then you swipe the rope along the ground to keep it spinning. There were a couple variations of this game: you can play just to see who can keep theirs going the longest, or you can try to make them fight. This is actually a lot harder than it sounds. They just aren't that big... have you ever tried to make two tops hit each other while spinning on the ground and hitting them with lengths of rope? It's like trying to get panda bears to have sex. We managed to get them together briefly a couple times, but then one of us would hit them the wrong way and we'd end up chasing them across the gym. Also like the pandas. Then it would take a minute or so to get them back together, but they'd just stand there looking each other instead of going at it. Is the panda joke old yet? So after a while of chasing these things around, I resorted to yelling encouragement at it: "Finish him!!! Don't just stand there! Do something! Take him out! Sweep the leg!" All to no avail... we never could complete a game like that. Not for lack of trying, and yelling, and panda jokes though, I swear.

Oh, and my phone had fallen out of my pocket in Bo Il's car, so that's all good too.

So I've finally joined the ranks of Facebook. And there was much rejoicing (yea...). I held out for as long as I could, but it turns out that everyone here uses it, and they all think I'm really anti-social for not using it. Not that I care what anyone thinks... but uh, yeah, I'm using it now. I ... don't hate it. :) There's my ringing endorsement. I need to get some kind of compensation for this wonderful free advertising I'm giving them here, right?!

OK -- I'm still kinda sick. Coughing, runny nose, itchy eyes... and I'm tired. So, although it's such a pleasure sharing myself with my adoring fans and devoted readers, I must bid you adieu for now. May the wind be always at your back and the sun shine ever upon your face.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I made pottery today...

And this is just one of the many fun and unexpected things you're about to read. So come, join me on a wondrous journey through the wilderness of adventure, over the river of knowledge to the heady heights of cultural awareness. Trust me. Do it.

Today, I didn't have to teach! Instead, I got to join all the other foreign teachers from the Icheon area at the first annual(?) Korean cultural experience. At the education office, I got to meet all of the other foreign teachers in the area, which is a mixed blessing, I'd have to say. I'll explain later. Next, we watched Korean tourism commercials. Yes, they have tourism commercials. So does Rhode Island. What's your point?

Anyway, the templestay looks totally awesome. Basically, you spend a weekend at a Buddhist temple, hanging out with the monks, meditating, walking, shaving your head, doing whatever else it is that Buddhist monks do. Maybe I'll acquire the power to kill a yak from 200 yards away... with MIND-BULLETS!!! That's telekinesis, Kyle.

OK, sorry, but it was cool-looking.

Anyway, after the commercials, we got into the real hands-on cultural experience. No, not Korean women, unfortunately, but almost as good. We got to go to a kimchi factory and make our own kimchi and mandu! Well, let's not get carried away here. We got to take the mandu (Korean dumplings) filling and roll it up into... well, dumplings. But we were encouraged to be creative. So yes, I did what you're all thinking and rolled one that looked like a joint. ... OK -- no, I didn't. I can't even roll a joint, what's wrong with ya'll for even suggesting that?! Jeez... I did however roll one that looked like a Walt's calzone -- the little french twist around the edges. I lost on the most creative score to a South African guy who rolled one "American-style," as he called it, which involved laying about 5 of the little dumpling dough circles down in a row and making a giant mandu-burrito. Well, that was my opinion, at least. I may not have even been in the running. Who knows?

Then, we moved on to the kimchi -- they already had the chili paste all ready for us, so we just had to take it and slather it all over a head of cabbage that had been pre-brined for our enjoyment. Then we slapped that shit in a plastic bag, they vacuum-sealed it for us and now it lives in my refrigerator. I think I'll call him Gilbert.

Next we moved to the trying on of the hanbok: traditional Korean costumes. I LOVE HANBOK. These things are friggin comfortable. And pink? Boy howdy, I tell ya I ain't never seen somethin so durn pink in all mah days. I was told by the ladies dressing us that I looked like a king. Apparently, Korean royalty are gay. Who knew? Um, yeah. Korea? Just kidding... come back! I still like you! I didn't mean gay... I meant, uh... secure in their sexuality? Yep, that's what I meant. That's the ticket. =)

Next we drove to the ceramics center! Now, those of you who know me, which is all of you, because I sincerely doubt this blog is that interesting or funny if you don't know me, will know that the whole arts-craftsy-makin-shit-with-my-hands thing and I don't really jive together. I'm sure, if you ask nicely, my mom can tell you some great stories about the craptacular art projects I used to turn in for school. Anyway, bottom line is, we watched a little video (in Korean) about pottery-making, got a translation (from a Korean), saw a demonstration by a (Korean) guy who's been doing this for 20 years, and got to work. Now let me stop here and point out the uselessness, nay, the counterproductiveness, of these demonstrations. Have you ever watched someone who's really a master of their craft work? I mean, watched a professional pianist rock out at the symphony? A glass-blower knock out a vase in like 3 minutes? A really dedicated stoner roll a joint? Man, I've really got joints on the brain today, and I don't know why. I don't think this country even has pot, so that's not it. Or, maybe that is it... huh. What was I saying?... =) Just kidding. Um, so yeah. Watching master craftsmen (craftswomen? craftspeople? wtf?) work can give you a really twisted idea of the level of difficulty involved in creating something out of rotating clay. I mean, this guy knocks out three different shaped vases in like 3 minutes... it was crazy! And we're all sitting there going, Wow! I can do that! It's easy! Right?!?

Stop. Just stop. It is not easy. I couldn't even get the effin clay in the right shape to put on the damn wheel. You have to pattycake out a little base. Easy, right? But, it has to be actually round. And a uniform thickness. Now, keep in mind that this is clay we're talking about here. How in God's name do you get a hunk of clay into any semblance of uniform thickness. I mean, I know it can be done. I seen it. But how? How, I say? Well, apparently, I wasn't getting it, because the hairy potter guy came over and looked at mine, shook his head, and reformed it for me. Doh. Although, to be fair, he then did that with a bunch of other people too. The next step is to roll out several long ~inch-thick worm-looking things. You are then supposed to lay these on top of the base in circles, building 4 or 5 levels of uniformly-thick clay rings. Well, I won't dwell on the details of this travesty, but potter-dude was back in a jiffy to hook me up and set things straight. Next we had to smoosh the clay flat, both inside and outside the newly-formed vessel. I actually did this part of the process, and it was the only step that I would successfully complete the rest of the way.

I know, it sounds sad, but in a funny way, haha, poor Sean, yada yada yada, right? Well, here's the thing. The next step was to throw it on the wheel and spin this bastard. I mean, really get after it and tear this clay a new one. I thought we'd get a chance to play with for a while, "bugger it up" as Mireille, the South African girl so adorably put it, and then have Mr. Potter fix it. I mean, that's how I'd been working so far, and it was goin pretty well for me up to this point. But alas! I didn't even get a chance to bugger it up -- all I got a chance to do (and this isn't just me, this is everyone) was sort of vaguely show him what shape I wanted my (My? Ha!) new ceramic monstrosity to be. So I moved my hands in a nice flowy curvy shape, like a vase, I'm thinking, and he smiles and says, "Yeah. Like pretty girl." And I thought, ya know, yes, that's actually exactly what I want. So, now I get to wait till February to receive my well-proportioned sexy vase. I literally can't wait. I'll post pictures when I get it. In February. Yes. I said February.

And that was the end of the day. I caught a bus back to Janghowon, ate dinner, came home and watched the season finale of Dexter. This is a great (GREAT!) show, if you haven't seen it. Craziness. And it just got picked up for 2 more seasons! Hellz yeah. ;) Tomorrow, I'm going to Yong-in for teacher training, and if that's half as fun as today I'll be a happy camper tomorrow evening. Wish me luck. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lots of good news!

Where to begin?

First, my family is awesome! I'm getting early Christmas presents in the form of cold hard cash from my sweet warm family -- thanks guys! Just hope that wire goes through...

Second, my computer is kicking ass -- Windows Vista is rockin my world at the moment. I know, you probably don't believe me, but I'm serious. Bet on it. =)

Third, the teaching is going really well. I'm starting to get to know some of the students' names, even! Yes, this is a big deal. Considering that I only have class with them twice a week, and they all have names like Yoon Kyeong and Seok Min and Cham Yeup, I think I'm doing pretty well, actually. And I've also apparently stumbled on games that they were doing with the last foreign teacher and really like, so we've had some excellent classes lately. We're doing "Hot Potato" with different catergories: 1st and 2nd do the alphabet or colors; 3rd and 4th doing animals, foods, classroom objects etc; 5th and 6th throwing tennis balls around and coming up with forms of transportation -- some of them better than me. I did all the standards, and my kids are coming up with helicopter! Raft! Donkey! I was like, hell yeah... go for it! I've also been doing more relay races and today I played a dice game with my 3rd graders. Well, it's a big soft die, and they had to spell a word correctly from a flashcard to get a chance to throw the die into a basket. If they made it, they got the number of points on the die -- worked out really well. Tomorrow, I'm doing bingo with my 4th graders! Can't wait!

Fourth, I had a really nice weekend! Friday night I went out with 3 other teachers from the global center. Owed all of them a dinner, it turns out. Bo Il, Mi Jin, and Mi Sun and I all went out for Tak Kalbi -- spicy chicken and rice cakes all sauteed together with veggies... so freakin good! Then we went to the noraebang for a little karaoke time. I was tryin to sing, but my throat was only semi-cooperating... from what I could hear of myself, it sounded like that dog on Snatch that swallowed its squeaky toy... but Mi Jin is an amazing singer -- this girl's got pipes, man... I was blown away! Then, we went and shot pool -- took a bit of searching, but we found the one pool table in the whole Janghowon metro area (sarcasm much?) that has pockets! Everyone here plays cushion billiards, either 3- or 4-ball. Basically, you have two red balls and two cue balls -- one white and one yellow. You have to hit both red balls with your cue ball on the same shot without hitting the other person's cue ball. We didn't play that, but it looked cool. I'll have to check it out sometime, I thought. Saturday, Hyeok Tae and I went to play 4-ball! And I rocked the shit! I beat him three games in a row (you get a point for doing it correctly, lose a point for "scratching" -- missing both red balls or hitting the other person's cue ball; play to 10) and we practiced some English. Then I went to Icheon to hang out with Jill and her new roommate, Latifah. Yes, that's her name. She's American, maybe mid-40's, black, great cook! We had spaghetti and home-made applesauce(!), but I'm told her chicken salad is the bomb. I'll let you know. We also watched a bunch of back episodes of Dexter, cause Jill hadn't seen season 2. And she helped me plan my English winter camp activities, which was great because I A) had to do it and B) didn't know how to do it and C) wasn't really interested in learning how to do it and D) wasn't going to do it. So that was a huge help! Sunday was quiet, relaxing, comforting. Just chillin at the house, doing some laundry, planning lessons, takin care of bidness. You know how it is...

Fifth, I got to talk to my grandpa today -- it's his birthday today! Yep, he turned the big diamond -- 75 years young! So we chatted for a bit, I thanked him for the Christmas gift; heard about the b-day dinner at Walt's (I'd rip both pinky toes off and shove them up my nose for some Walt's pizza right now, btw); talked golf for a little bit. It was really nice!

Sixth, I don't have to work on Wednesday or Thursday this week! Wednesday -- I'm going to Icheon for cultural orientation, which I think involves a ceramics class, something about Korean traditional clothes, and some kind of food. So yeah! Nothin better than pottery, giant hats, and rice! Preferably all at once. Although now that I think about it, Chicago does something like this too -- I think it's called Gay Pride Parade. Anywho, I'm not working, is the point. Thursday, I have to go to Yong-In for teacher training. I think, I mean, I've already kinda done the trial by fire thing, but what the hell? It can only help, right?

Seventh, as I mentioned, I got my planning done for winter camp. Picture this, if you will. And mind that you picture me doing these things, if it do ya fine. We're making paper mache globes; we're making no-bake oatmeal cookies; we have a camp song: "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing!" We have jump-roping rhymes and hand-clapping games, like 10yo girls. I mean, yes, in fact that is my target audience, thank you for asking... so it works. But still, this is me we're talking about. Should make for a fun time, non?

Eighth, I'm watching Real Madrid v. Barcelona right now. Nuff said.

I was shooting for an even 10, but I'm running out of good news items... so, without further ado, it's my honor and privilege to introduce to you, in deed and in name, they're just such a shame, two things that recently made me say "what the hell?!?!"

Ninth, the auto industry bailout guys. I mean, really, you thought this argument would work? "We don't have enough money to operate. In fact, we don't have any money at all. Please give us some before we all board our separate private jets to fly us back to our palatial homes and hordes of servants." Well, I mean, the logic isn't as bad as you'd think -- it worked for AIG, right guys? Retention payments, anyone? I know I'd sure like to get 3 TIMES my annual salary just so I don't quit. Hell, these executives must be the bee's knees, right? Right? *crickets chirping... tumbleweed rolling across the dusty road of the conversation* Oh, right, the executives that lost TENS of BILLIONS of DOLLARS are the ones getting paid to NOT leave. Cause God forbid they take their "expertise" and "ability" to the competition, huh? Jesus. So, in their defense, I guess the automotive CEO's thought the proper attitude for getting a bailout was a heady mixture of abject stupidity and Ri-god-damn-diculous arrogance. It worked once, eh? Why not give it a shot?

Tenth, the governor of my fair state was arrested for auctioning off Obama's vacant senate seat. Yep. Cash up front. "This thing is golden," he said, giggling like a drunk sophomore on prom night. "There's no way I'm giving this up for nothing." One of the Chicago papers ran a story offering different names for the scandal. My personal favorite was "G-Bay." Succinct. Accurate. Funny. Got a better one? I'd love to hear it.

And now, a song. *in a reedy falsetto, a la the kids on Family Guy* "So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye. The sun, has gone to bed and so must I..."

Or something. You know. Um, check ya later, Slater.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I had to euthanize the last post for the good of society

Sorry about that. I used a Firefox add-on (Scribefire, I think) to publish that, but then I started getting complaints that people couldn't see the post. So, at school today, I went to try and fix it, and then I couldn't get into my own blog. So after playing around with IE for awhile, I realized that Firefox program is probably throwin a wrench in the works. So, post deleted, all is right with the world.

But, I'd like to reiterate that the golf was really cool. If you didn't get to read it, I'll summarize. It was that bad-ass. Screen golf -- maybe you've seen it on Entourage -- involves whacking golf balls at a giant screen, on which has been projected a picture of a golf course. You're in this room with a screen, a fake grass golfy mat, and a motorized rubber tee that shoots golf balls up out of the floor. Also, a computer, a couch, a bag of golf clubs (and golf glove and shoes if you want them; for me, glove=yes please and shoes=no thank you), and that's it. So you load up the course on a computer, from a choice of about 30~ish, and you hit the ball off the tee (or, naturally, the grassy mat if it's an iron shot or a putt) and when it passes through the sensor array and hits the screen, well, you watch it go. It's the bomb-dizzle. Putting, as some of you already know, is damn-near impossible. The combination of a less than perfect sensor system (at least on the ground), and the distances being in meters rather than feet or yards, and well, probably user error, made for some rather interesting putts. It's like, if you've played Tiger Woods on the Wii (and especially if you've PUI -- played under the influence), when you swing your arms back for the putt and for some incomprehensible reason, the ball shoots forward at a completely random velocity. Of course, you can't accidentally hit the ball like in the video game, but the discrepancy between my intentions and my results was comparable, sometimes. Although, I guess that only makes it more realistic.

So, some quick updates. I have a laptop computer now. I installed a copy of XP on it; it worked great. Then I got greedy and went for Vista... Korean Vista. Tried to find the language pack all day yesterday and all day today (when not teaching, of course); failed. Now I'm jauntily running Korean Vista on this machine, hoping to God everytime it makes a noise and an illegible window pops up that I don't click the self-destruct button that may or may not be there. I'm trying to get an English update for Vista now. Wish me luck.

The teaching is going better already. I've learned how to explain things a little better, I guess. What I really mean is that I've gotten more efficient at getting the kids involved quickly in the game or song or whatever I'm trying to do with them. It involves a lot of repeating after me, big gestures, loud and excitable voices, modeling and demonstrating over and over again for games and songs. It's not so bad -- I just need a little practice at this, is all.

On an even more astonishing note, the kids really seem to like me. I get a lot of high-5's walking around the school. And I can't seem to walk anywhere without hearing "Teacher Sean! Hello! How are you?!?" Which is fun, except when I'm trying to eat lunch, and every kid wants to have the same conversation. Of course, I try to give them variable answers ("I'm hungry!" he said gently; or "I'm hungover! Leave me the #*$% alone!") Ha, kidding of course. But the funny thing is, even though I've been beginning each class with a warm-up and then going right into the whole "How are you?" / "I'm good" or "I'm hungry" or "I'm happy" conversation, practicing different responses ad infinitum... 99% of the kids will say "I'm fine" no matter what. It's like it was subconsciously implanted in their brains at birth. Or via some sort of creepy sci-fi intra-uterine mindmeld. Who knows?

In the last week, I've eaten my first Korean pizza and chicken-burger. Both were good, but the pizza was especially delicious. Three different people had recommended this pizza place to me, but I envisioned a couple of problems with calling them up for delivery. I mean, how would I order? What types of pizza do Koreans eat anyway? And, most importantly, where do I live? Not sure about any of those things, in all honesty. So, I just put it off, thinking I'd have one of my co-teachers call for me and get a delivery going. Well, I was walking around Sunday night and just happened upon this very same pizza joint. So I walked in and looked at a menu, pointed, and waited for them to cook it. I got the "New York Special" -- which, it turns out, had nothing whatsoever to do with New York. It was tasty, and had mostly normal ingredients. Ya know, peppers, mushrooms, onions, some sort of porky meat. But this brings me to my next point...

Lots of foods here, and especially foods that you wouldn't expect, have corn in them. Exhibit A: see above. Exhibit B: I had an omelet the other day that was filled with rice and... well, you tell me what else. Ex. C: We had pork cutlets for lunch at school on Monday; pork mixed with the magic ingredient, breaded and fried. I mean, I ain't complainin or nothin... I'm just sayin. The BBQ Chicken sandwich I had for dinner tonight was mercifully corn-free. Although they were out of fries, so they substituted sweet potato fries instead. This is a bit like substituting pancakes for mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, in my opinion... I mean, it still tastes good and all, but that's really not the point. It just ain't the same.

That's all, folks!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Gripe Session

So, here’s the issue I’m dealing with right now. I started my extra classes today, and besides the annoying but peripheral problem of my increasingly sore throat (I mean, really, working with kids is bad enough for your health, the germy little bastards. But these Korean kids might very well be infected with some crazy Asian germs I’m not immune to, right? I mean, who knows what kinda death and destruction they might unintentionally be hurling my way. So, um, remind me not to accept any blankets here, even if they feel really nice.), there are a few things I need to sort out. OK, so I’m teaching the core English classes with a teacher named Mi Jin. She’s new at this, it’s her first year, but she’s good at what she does. The curriculum seems to be a little weak, but she works with what she’s got and her lessons are solid. And she’s already got them planned out, so all I really have to do is correct pronunciations, demonstrate the games with her, sing and dance occasionally. You know, like a bachelorette party stripper. Well, for the 10 NEW classes I’ve been assigned, she’s not there. I’m in the room with the kids and their usual teachers. Here are the problems I see with this, in (roughly) ascending order.

1) I haven’t taught (anything really, but especially) ESL in over 5 years.

2) I haven’t taught children… ever.

3) There are no lesson plans, or objectives, or goals, or anything to give me an idea of what I should be trying to teach them.

4) I don’t speak Korean.

5) The other teachers in the room with me don’t speak English.

6) Basically, what this means is that I don’t know what I’m doing, but even if I did know, I have no way of communicating it to my students because I’m the only one in the fucking room who has any idea what I’m saying!

So that’s what we’re dealing with here. Any suggestions? Emily, I’m lookin at you, kid.

OK, on the brighter side, I had a good weekend. Friday night, I met Jill in Icheon. It was a pretty tame night: dinner at a little kim bap place, got some beer, went to a DVD bang (remember, bang = room). Basically, you pay a little bit of money, and you get a little room in which to watch a DVD. There’s a couch, and a projection screen that fills up one wall, and that’s about it. It’s pretty awesome, I gotta say. And then we left, because I had to catch a bus and the last one leaves at like 9:30 pm, which sucks. But, whatcha gonna do, right? Saturday, I went with Boil and a few other teachers to Seoul for Dan’s birthday party. Dan was the foreign teacher I replaced at the elementary school. He’s a cool guy… British, but still basically cool. He invited us to his apartment, where his wife had made this amazing spread of food. Nachos, pasta, baked chicken, fish, little appetizers, fruits, salad, and a whole lotta beer. So, safe to say, I like Dan. After we ate, we went out (minus his wife, who stayed home with their baby girl) to a bar in Itaewon. Remember from last week, Itaewon = foreigners. He took us to an Irish pub, I had a black & tan and a Kilkenny, and life was good. Again, the bus situation kinda forces you into making decisions early; so, around 9, we all decided to come back instead of partying out in Seoul. Probably a good decision, in the long run. So, I caught the bus back, slept a bit, and you’re basically caught up to where we started. Sunday was remarkable in its uneventful-ness. I read, I ate, I had (terrible) coffee. That was my day in a nutshell, and then we come to the (admittedly small-scale) meltdown of this morning. The woodong I ate for dinner tonight made my throat feel better, but it’s not yet 7pm and I’m already dreaming of… well, dreaming. I think I’ll read for a bit and then crash. I know, I’m a ROCKSTAR!!! You were thinking it already, so why not confirm it?

Before I go, I have a request. There are a couple good English bookstores in Seoul, and if I go back this weekend, I’ll need to pick up a few books to keep me company. Anybody have any recommendations? I need something not too heavy, but not boring either. No Grisham, no Dan Brown, and nothing too new, because I really hate reading books in hardback. So, yeah, any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated. I finished “The Bourne Supremacy” last night, so I'll probably pick up the third one in that series; and I’m almost finished with “Genghis: Birth of an Empire,” which despite the title is complete fiction. Really good, and a definite page-turner. I like historical fiction. It gives me the impression of learning stuff. I like learning stuff, but it’s so dry sometimes. This is the best of both worlds, because really, if I start throwing random factoids about Genghis Khan into conversation, who’s gonna challenge me? For example, did you know that his name should actually be pronounced more like “Ching-gis Han?” Is he joking? Dammit! Now I have to Wikipedia freaking Genghis Khan or I’ll never be able to sleep tonight! Next I’ll have to start digging into referencical fiction. With lots of (fictional) footnotes and notes from the (fictional) translators describing why they’re using specific words to capture the essence of the (fictional) original texts. Yeah. What’s up now? That’s how I roll.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Long time no write

Yes, I know I’ve kinda been slacking off on the writing. Steph! You’re supposed to be keeping me motivated – bad friend! Bad! Eh… who’m I kiddin? I forgive you… =)

The truth is that the newness is starting to wear off a bit, I guess. I mean – I have my apartment pretty much settled… well, that’s not entirely true. I don’t have any food, or anything to cook food in, should it magically appear in my fridge. Or anything to eat it with, should it magically appear precooked for whatever reason. I mean hey, the ways of wizards are strange and wonderful, right? Anyway, I’ve still been eating out for dinner every night – let’s see. I had tak kalbi (chicken, Korean rice cakes, veggies; then when most of the food is gone, they come by and throw some woodong noodles on the rest, for dessert-like) one night, which was especially delicious (mashi-so-yo… this is delicious!). Last night I had ja jang myun, which is like thin (rice? Maybe?) noodles with a black bean garlic sauce and onions. Also delicious. Those two were suggestions by the girls I work with, Mi Sun and Mi Jin. So they took me out and paid for dinner and everything – you’re fantastic, ladies! Thanks! Although, next time it’s my treat, so yeah… see ya next year! Ha… anyway. Tonight I had spicy chicken with bean sprouts and rice, but I didn’t catch the Korean name. Betcha can’t guess how good it was!

So, I started teaching (real classes, at the actual school) but I’ve had 4 classes all week and no more till Monday. They’re ok – it’s by far the easiest job I’ve ever had. Although, beginning next week I will start doing extra classes with each grade, bumping me up to 16 classes a week. And seein as how I’ve never actually put together a lesson plan before, or really tried to teach little kids to do anything at all, apart from play baseball, (Go Park Ridge Junior National Cubs! And yes, that is the last time you’ll ever hear me root for the Cubs) well, it should be interesting. If anyone out there has some advice for teaching beginner English classes to 6 and 7-yo’s, or how to start, um, yeah, hit me up. Thanks ya’ll.

So – here are some new things I’ve gotten in the last couple days.

1) My foreigner registration card! This was great! Arrived a whole week early! This allowed me to go and get
2) My bank account. Now, when I get paid, I’ll actually be able to get the money! And spend it! And
3) My cell phone – this phone is phenomenal. It’s got mp3, camera, video, TV and radio channels that I can watch for free, I mean, the list goes on. Oh! And I can make video calls with it – like, it costs a little more, but if I hit the video call button instead of the regular one, and if the person I’m calling has one of these kickass mobile devices also, then we can see each other while we talk. Talk about freaking genius. Korea shoots – it scores! 3 points! And the crowd goes apeshit! Hhhhaaaaahhh! Hhhhhaaaahhhhhh! Uh… yeah. And finally
4) A haircut; this was kind of an adventure, but it turned out really well. At least, I think it did.

One thing I’m starting to notice about Korea, and especially about the service industry, is that these people really know how to take care of you. I think that their lack of any kind of aversion to work is responsible. Like, when you go out to eat at a decent restaurant, they might dirty 15 or 20 little bowls on a table for 2. They just think that’s the kind of service you deserve, so you end up with a whole bunch of delicious little side dishes, most of which don’t get eaten because there’s just so much damn food on the table, and it’s no big deal. Or the massage place – it was the little things that made the experience so enjoyable – the little foot bath before the massage, even though they didn’t really rub my feet. It wasn’t necessary, except as a prelude, an entry into the experience. And the green tea while she washed my feet, and the juice afterwards. You don’t really get that kinda stuff in the states, and it’s a shame. The haircut was the same way – for literally, less than $6, I got a haircut, a shampoo with a hot towel over my face, a scalp massage, and then she starts styling my hair… which I think was a challenge for her since my hair has a much thicker texture than most of the Korean hair I’ve seen. But it was a necessary part of the haircut experience, for her, even if it wasn’t for me. I don’t know… I wonder if it has anything to do with the lack of tipping here. Like, back home, tipping is pretty ingrained behavior, but if you don’t do it right, or at least enough, then you pretty much guarantee yourself a bad experience if you ever want to go back. Because they remember. Oh yes… and they do mess with your food. Trust me. Cue the dark, foreboding music…

Anyway, the real focal point of service relationships here is not the financial aspect, but the personal. For Koreans, the relationship is everything; I even read that Korea is considered a relational culture, in that you can pretty much always tell where you stand with people by the way you are treated from day to day. They won’t say anything; there will just be a drop in service. It’s like restitution because from their viewpoint, if you’ve done something rude, or impolite, you’ve diminished the quality of the relationship; so they don’t feel obligated to strive for quality on their end. It’s a difficult system for a Westerner (where money talks) to understand, I think. All I know is, one day when I didn’t smile and say hello to the cafeteria workers, I got less food than everybody else. I didn’t say anything about then, but I was a little miffed, you might say. The next day I said hello and smiled, and managed to motion that it smelled great, and I got great heaping piles of food, plus one of them even brought a bowl of extra chicken to the table for me! So now, every day I am polite and friendly, and the service is great. At each new restaurant I try to do the same, because they’ll remember. I mean, hell, there’s like 3 white people in the whole town. So my walk from the bus stop to my apartment in the afternoon is becoming quite the parade. There’s me, the beauty queen, smiling and waving in windows the whole way because I don’t want to offend anyone by avoiding them or seeming unfriendly. It’s actually made for a much nicer walk, I gotta say.

And it carries over into retail, too. When Dave the Canadian was showing me around, he mentioned a little furniture store that he liked because the guy who runs it is really nice. So we swing by. Sure enough, when he told him I was looking for a desk, the guy starts showing me everything he has in stock, then moves on to catalogs of stuff he can order if I want it. Then we made sure to get his namecard – basically a business card – and he wrote the discount he would give me on the back. Apparently, this works for almost every business in Korea. When Jill buys her computer (from a place a friend recommended, thus ensuring that she gets a discount), she’s going to get me a namecard and the same discount. This referral business thing is really well developed over here, and I love it. I mean, we’re talking about ~100,000Won… which is like 20% off, just because of the referral. I guess I could just ask for the discount and see what happens… didn’t think about that before. I like the idea of the referral network better, I guess. It incorporates an element of personal responsibility into the business relationship that is (sorely) missing in our culture.

OK – like Forrest Gump, I’m pretty tired, so I think I’ll go home now. Actually, I am home, so I’m going to watch “The Office” episodes I downloaded and go to bed. Questions, comments, concerns? You know where to find me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

So two Americans ride a bus into Seoul...

And the first one says to the other, "Hey, didja see that giant effing city over there?!" And the other one looks and goes, "Hey. Yeah. How bout that?"

OK, there is no punchline to this terrible joke. Sorry. You'll get over it, though, right?

So Jill was kind enough to show me around Seoul on Saturday. She was going anyway -- she had a date with a "really cute" Korean guy. This is all she knows about him, apart from his name. Although she did tell me how cute he was over and over, so... yeah. Sad ending alert: she didn't end up meeting him. Poor Jill. =( OK. I'm over it.

So, we took the bus into Seoul, and then the subway farther into Seoul. First, though, we visited a place that may exist only in the best kind of dream. TechnoMart. Is. Awesome. It's like Marshall Fields on State St. in Chicago, except bigger, and filled with nothing but electronics. 10 stories. Of electronics. And a food court. Like I said, it's the stuff dreams are made of. It's basically the Iowa cornfield of electronics. They built it, and I went.

I am, however, poor at the moment. So, no fun gadgets for me. I did find a little notebook computer I wanted for like $400 though, and Jill has an ipod touch, which is freaking fantastic. It does everything the iphone does, except make phone calls. It does have wifi, and Korea has network access covering most of the country for free, so if you buy a little plugin microphone you've got a VOIP phone, ready to go. Bad ass, man. I'm gettin me one, soon. Like, when I'm not poor.

Next stop -- Insadong. This is a very touristy neighborhood of Seoul, but it's still sort of classy. There are lots of art galleries, museums, and the kind of people who like art galleries and museums. We browsed through a few galleries, looked at the souvenir shops, watched a guy doing seoye (giant calligraphy) and then we jetted. She's poor too. As we were walking, I heard a Korean drumline jamming out on the street. So, naturally I went to go investigate, and lo! and behold, we find this really kickass little man-made river running like, in the median of a huge street. And there's steps down to the waterside, and little stepping stone paths so you can cross the water, and willow-y trees planted down there. And where it runs under the streets, there are little lighted art shows and sugarplum fairies and visions of pumpkins and magic dust and they're both verbs and it rhymes and it's just awesome. Pictures of all these things are here.

So, moving on, we found the Youngpoong bookstore, which looks really funny if part of the name is blocked by another building, but has a pretty good selection of English books. I picked up a historical novel about Genghis Khan and 2 of the books in Ludlum's "Bourne" series, which are insanely different from the movies! I was a little shocked at how different, but they're definitely easy to read and quite enjoyable.

Next, we hopped on the subway and went to Hongdae, which is the area surrounding Hongik University. So, lots of college kids and foreigners and bars and restaurants. There was a woman selling cocktails from a street stall, in ziploc bags. For 3000Won. Or like, $2. Yep, vodka cranberry in a ziploc bag, that's how I roll. So, Jill really wanted to salsa dance, and there are apparently several salsa clubs in Hongdae, with the very small complication that only 1 of them actually exists, in the physical sense. The rest are theoretically there, and you can get directions to them from any well-meaning local, but when it comes to actually physically being, with a door and walls and a place to salsa, these clubs are sorely lacking. So yeah, we were on a hunt. Enter Thibault, a French guy who stopped us on the street to ask if we knew where these 2 salsa clubs he had heard about were. They also existed in a very abstract sense, in that people had heard of them and could point the way, but the concreteness of their being was shy of expectations. More cran-vodka-bag, more walking, more looking, more asking, more listening, more looking, more vodka-bag, rinse, repeat. I got pretty hammered by the time we actually did find the one salsa place in the neighborhood. And Jill hated it. Don't ask me why -- I'm hazy on the details; all I know is that the bartender had ordered pizza and gave me some of it with my beer. So I was in a happy place.

Next, they wanted to go to Itaewon, which is the neighborhood surrounding an American Army base, and as such caters to foreigners. So, there are a lot of, in fact I'd say "mostly" foreigners. So we stopped at a little van and bought some empanadas, spoke Spanish to the people selling them, and then hit Club Caliente. Which was full of big ole drunk Army guys. Whoo-ee! And it also charged a cover. That's bad. But with the cover you got a ticket for a free beer. That's good. It was OK... not really my scene, but still fun.

Finally, we walked across the street to the jimjilbang, which roughly translates as shower room or sauna. But for 10000Won, you get a shower, a bath in mineral spring water (pumped from 1000 feet underground), and a mat on the floor in a communal sleeping room. Which is a perfect finish for a drunken night. Except for the naked Korean dudes walking around the bath room, which was a little weird. But again, when in Rome, right? Being blitzed helped too, I think. So, yeah, separate shower facilities, but then you go to this giant room with mats and little pillows all over the (nicely heated) floor, and you sleep with everyone else. So, I'm sure you can imagine, lots of snoring Koreans all over the floor -- strange, but fun. And way better than paying for a hotel with an actual bed -- pshaw, that's so 1990's... or something. So, that was my weekend.

Next time, my first day teaching at the school, and my awesome new schedule. Here's a hint: it starts with 6 40-minute classes a week and ends with... well, a lot of free time, I guess. It rocks. OK, that's all for now. Thanks for reading. Class dismissed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Resume

I was lying in bed last night in my brand new apartment, and I was feeling a little lonely. Not sure why, but probably it's just a reaction to the foreign environment. Anyway, I was feeling kinda down, so I decided to start consciously thinking about something positive, instead of only semi-consciously waffling over vaguely perceived and ill conceived negativities. Yeah, that's what I thought. =)

So I came up with a mental list of some of the amazing things I've seen and done (or not seen or done, depending on who's reading) in my years of wandering the planet so far. Here's a partial reconstruction of my sheep counting:

I have been lost in Venice
I have climbed the highest mountain on the Isle of Skye (not that impressive, but fun)
I have tried (and failed) to catch a sheep with my bare hands
I have watched the sunrise from the steps of the Sacre Coeur in Paris
I have attended Latin mass at the Duomo in Florence
I have gotten a crick in my neck looking at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
I have walked the Champs Elysees
I have hopped over a barrier, climbed down a ways, and sat undisturbed by the crowds in the Grand Canyon
I have jumped out of a plane near the Gulf of Mexico south of Houston.
I have bought hash (legally) in Lisbon, smoked it (legally) in Salamanca, and cooked brownies with it (pseudo-legally) in a dormitory kitchen in Glasgow
I have smelled the rose garden at the top of the Boboli Gardens in Florence
I have bought "Philosophers' Stone" mushrooms from a corner store in Amsterdam -- they were next to the milk
I have relieved myself in the ancient Roman Forum.
I have hidden something inside a little cabinet in the Notre Dame de Paris
I have swum (or at least gotten my feet wet) in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans; Gulf of Mexico; Caribbean, Adriatic, Mediterranean Seas; and Loch Ness
I have drunk a Bahama Mama... in the Bahamas
I have played my trumpet (with a jazz ensemble) at the Presidential Palace in Nassau
I have seen both sunrise and sunset over the Painted Desert in Arizona
I have rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field in Chicago
I have galloped a horse down a country lane, in central Spain (mainly on the plain)
I have threatened a Mexican in Spanish to get back a friend's money after he was robbed in a Tijuana bar
I have crammed myself into a guard's booth outside Edinburgh Castle with 5 other people
I have walked around Eilean Donan Castle, ancestral home of Clan MacRae
I have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, and to the cupolas of the Duomo in Florence and St. Peter's in Rome
I have road-tripped to a football bowl game to root for my Houston Cougars
I have watched REAL flamenco dancing in the Gypsy Caves in Grenada
I have toured the Alhambra
I have vomited out the window of a moving train in Portugal, because I was too drunk to find the bathroom
I have played poker with NFL players
I have shaken hands with Sir Anthony Hopkins
I have jumped off a cliff into a river, not once but twice; the second time, since the river was only about 4 feet deep, I used a grappling hook and a tree limb to swing into it sideways, thus preventing death. Ta-da!
I have spent like 2 hours writing all these down, over the course of today, so now I'll quit.

Today, Sean is an introspective Korean, but not bragging, believe it or not. Well, maybe a little, but the list of things I'd like to see and do during the next ten years is just as long, or longer. Highlights would include running with the bulls in Pamplona, hiking up to Machu Picchu, and of course, marrying and starting a family! I'm not all selfish, ya know...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quick update from school

Fun things I've seen/done since my last post:

Eaten at Isaac -- the sandwich place. Holy god, was it good! "Hot Chicken VIP" is like $2 and it is chicken, cheese, fried egg, hot sauce and coleslaw (every sandwich comes with the slaw...?) and it is just super.

Taken a massage -- for like $50, a Chinese girl massaged me for an hour and a half... also, there was green tea, a heated table, kick-ass massage clothes (like, funny little brown gym shorts and a beige baseball-t with brown sleeves -- i mean, just classic), apple juice, a foot bath... really really nice. can't wait to do that again!

Walked around Suwon -- one of the largest cities in Korea, ~2 million people. I think I walked around the residential part of town, because it was just packed with giant apartment buildings. In Korea, instead of making one giant apartment building, companies make 10 or 15 or more that all look identical to each other, and put them in little arrangements. Boil told me that to buy one of these tiny apartments in Suwon can cost the equivalent of $3-400K; in Seoul, it can be twice that. But to rent one, apparently, you just deposit like $100K with the landlord, live there for a couple years, and then when you move out you get your deposit back. I tried to ask how the landlords make their money, but all I could gather was they invest the deposit to make enough money to pay their mortgage... seems like a strange system to me, because I'm used to paying actual rent. So, yeah... I'll look into this further.

Gotten drunker than a monkey -- Tuesday night I went out to dinner with Boil and the 4th-grade teacher, Mr. Han. I think his name is Sang Yeop. Sure... =) Anyway, we had "shop shop" or "shabu shabu," not sure which is the correct transliteration. We also had wine, and soju, and beer. Then we went to a bar and had more beer, with some little plates of bar food. Cuttle fish, I think... it has tentacles, and kinda looks/tastes like calamari, but not fried. Also, very very spicy, so it goes well with the beer. Then, 2 more teachers showed up so we proceeded to get drunk. With a capital DRUNK. When they left just before midnight, I in my drunken stupor found yet another bar on the way home, so naturally, I stopped in for a nightcap... at least, I think that's what happened. Bottom line is I woke up naked, having left the door to my room unlocked and all the lights and the TV on. Why was the TV on? Who knows...

Seen (accidental?) crossdressers -- not one but two guys wearing what I can only assume were Victoria's Secret "PINK" hoodies. One of them was also wearing grey "PINK" pants and carrying what looked like a purse. Maybe it was a European carryall, though.

Applied for my Foreigner Registration Card -- OK, this wasn't fun, but necessary. Anyway, it's done and that makes me happy. =)

OK -- off to class. Thanks for playing! Game over! Please insert 1 or more coins to continue.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In which Sean visits a Korean outlet mall

Just a quick update today. The foreign teacher who came to the Global center today, Jill, is from Chicago. We had a good time chatting about places we knew, which were actually relatively few because it turns out she’s not really from Chicago, but some little burgh south of Joliet. Oh well, ya can’t win em all, right? Anyway, she’s been in Korea over 2 years, so she filled me in on the things she’s found to do here. She’s going to Seoul this weekend to see the sights, maybe hit an English bookstore, and go salsa dancing with some of the other teachers at her school. She invited me to go with them… and I’m down. I mean, I haven’t tried to salsa in a long time, but hey! When in Rome, right? Uh… yeah. Plus, I really do want to get to Seoul as soon as possible. I drove through it on the way from the airport, and it’s freaking huge. More than 20 million people – the 2nd largest urban center in the world after Tokyo, in an area that’s roughly 1/5 the size of the New York City urban area. Sounds ridiculous to me, so I gotta see more of it. Other fun fact – apparently, “Jill” (or the Koreanization of it, however you say that) is a bad word here. It’s like a kiddie word that means “vagina.” So she has to tell everyone here her name is Jillian, even though it’s actually not, because at her first school they called her “Vagina-teacher” the whole time – awesome.

After school two of the teachers at the Global Center, Mi Sun and Mi Jin, took me to an outlet mall, which, comfortingly, looks exactly like an American one. The road we took to get there, on the other hand… well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So they drove me into Yeoju to go shopping for coats with them, which was nice – definitely needed a night that wasn’t spent in the hotel and eating alone in Janghowon. We left Janghowon by taking the highway, which seemed normal enough for a trip of roughly 20 kilometers. Then we turned onto a smallish country road and followed that for a bit. Then, as I’m asking what stores they have at this outlet place and the girls are telling me “OH! It’s great! Coach and Gucci and Armani and very nice very expensive places” and so on, we turn onto this one-lane barely-paved track that runs through some fields, with a ginormous ditch running along the road – no shoulder, just a scary huge dropoff on one side. And we drive, and drive, and I’m getting more and more nervous and asking if they’re sure this is the right way to the Gucci store, because, hell, it looks like this road hasn’t been used since the Korean War, give or take. But sure enough, a mile or 2 more and we come out on a huge interstate, and then there’s this radiant Christmassy light-strewn beacon of consumerism glowing in the distance. And the angels sang, and we were forced to eat Robin’s minstrels, and there was much rejoicing. We shopped for a while, but Mi Sun couldn’t find the coat she wanted, so we ate (I had bulgogi. It’s like Korean beef stew with rice – and it was, and this will come as a complete and utter shock to you all, I’m certain – fantastic!) and they dropped me off. It was… surreal, but nice. Like meeting Anna Scott.

Tomorrow, teaching, and then Wednesday I’m going with Boil to Suwon to get my Foreigner Registration Card and look at some ancient castle there. No classes on Wednesday! Whoo-ee! Also, with my Alien card I’ll be able to get a handphone, and a bank account, and I think some sort of probe with which I will test the physical makeup of the natives to see if they’re suitable for consumption… or annihilation. And a spaceship. And some sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their foreheads… I could go on, but really, why?

Then, Thursday after work it’s time to move into my apartment – NO MORE HOTEL!!! Can I get an Amen?!? =)

Today, Sean is a wide-eyed rural Korean window shopper among the fabulous and extravagant.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Boredom, Ambulation and Narration, Vol. 2

Well, I didn’t make it to Icheon today. The weather was kinda nasty this morning, cold and foggy and wet. Instead, I relaxed at the hotel until around lunchtime, then went for a walk after it started to warm up a bit. Had kim bap for lunch – excellent, as usual. Found a part of the town I hadn’t really noticed before, actually, and walked for a couple hours up and down, round and round, all over town. I like rhyming, with the right timing, and bike riding, but not fine dining. Too expensive, and cheap food makes you less pensive. =)

So, a brief recounting of my most recent explorations follows. I’ve been reading an e-book I downloaded, “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Sherlock Holmes guy. I’d never actually read it before, but I’m enjoying it thoroughly. I only mention it because I can feel some of his archaic prose trying to slip out through my fingers, so bear with me. I also downloaded “Call of the Wild,” by Jack London – great book. Read it, if you haven’t. If you have, then read it again, because I said so. Come back when you’re finished for discussion, and cookies, and bad Korean coffee. I’m funny. OK.

Last night after I wrote, I went for a walk and ended up eating at Dallas. Boy howdy! The “hamburger” sucked, by the way, but that’s not the important part. Apparently, my pronunciation of the word "hamburger" differs enough from the Korean that I wasn’t sure, after a couple of minutes, if I was even going to be able to try one. Fortunately, there was a Korean guy there named James (or at least, that’s his church name, which some but by no means all Koreans have) who helped me through the process. His English was very serviceable, and we ended up chatting while we ate. He’s from Janghowon, went to the school where I work, and is back in town visiting friends and family. He works for an international trading company, exporting something but I’m not sure what, primarily to Vietnam. We did talk world economics and politics for a while. He’s happy about Obama getting elected too, because the US mismanagement of its money has caused a lot of American companies to pull their investments out of Korea, creating a pretty severe stock market decline here in the past few months. I know, same shit, different pile, right?

Well, after dinner, he took me to meet his friend Ray, proprietor of Ray’s Western Bar. I got all excited, thinking Sweet! More Koreans who speak English, and they sell beer to boot! Hells yeah! Well, I guess my assumptions were standard in that they made asses out of everyone involved, because Ray of Western Bar fame speaks no English whatsoever. We did shake hands, and he did give me a beer, AND there was a little film crew working up there, so I got to wave at a Korean camera. If you ever see my face on the (Korean) big screen, now you’ll know why. I’m freaking famous, that’s why. But honestly, it’s a really nice bar, and if any of my gentle readers are ever fortunate enough to come here, I’ll take you to it.

My second fortuitous meeting was at dinner tonight. I went back to the original noodle shop, home of the infamous Vietnamese Noodle Massacre of 2008, to try something new. The food really is phenomenal, but again, not the point of this particular story. As I’m waiting for my dinner (woodong with fried fish – fantastic!), a real honest-to-goodness nother white guy walks in! First one I’ve seen in Janghowon! So he sits down and looks at me and says, “You must be new in town.” And I thought Yup, that’s how many white people there are here…, but anywho, we ended up talking and went for a walk after dinner. Dave is like 50, Canadian, has been living in Korea for 7 years, and is very helpful and informative. As we walked, he pointed out his favorite places for all kinds of necessities. So now I know where to get a haircut, clothes, furniture, fried chicken (it’s not Pelican, but Ne Ne), dry cleaning, pizza, and all kinds of other things that I can’t really remember right now. Presumably, I’ll know them when I see them again… it’s a pretty small place.

So my complement of friends in Korea now includes several teachers, a really cool Korean guy who only comes here every coupla months, and a 50-year-old Canadian dude. Must make more friends…

Oh! One last thing – there’s a river that runs a couple of blocks from my hotel, which I just found today. It’s pretty sweet; there’s a stair that runs down to the bank, and it looks like a good place for jogging (not that I jog, but maybe I’ll start) or a sunset walk with a member of the fairer sex (not that I know any of them). Across the river lies what I thought at first was a different part of town. But then I realized as I walked over towards it that it must be a separate little town. Then when Dave and I strolled across the bridge he told me it’s actually a whole other country! I was like, what the hell?!? Right in the middle of Korea! Apparently, there’s this small indigenous group of people called MiCheong (sp?) who don’t recognize the Korean government, and have their own little governing body, their own language, even their own little military! It’s so freaking weird!!! Completely blew my… OK, so… yeah. I made all that up. But I had you goin, right?!? Tee-hee!!! =Þ Wow, I’m really bored… goin a little stir-crazy, wouldn’t you say? Whatever, I don’t even care. I’ll learn to speak their language, and I’ll mate with their women, and in time our differences won’t seem so great.

It is a different province though, for real. I don’t know what it’s called. It’s like walking into Missouri from Illinois. Not that big a deal, I guess. Not that big a river, either. Till next time, then?

Today Sean is a Korean spinner of lies and half-truths. Just like the Chinese. Or… wait… never mind.

Boredom, Ambulation and Narration, Vol. 1

1 week down, 51 more to go… not that I’m thinking of it in those terms, of course, but it’s as fine as any a way to make sure I don’t take my time here for granted. You might wonder if I’m wasting an awful lot of time sitting in front of the computer typing. Well, I have 3 responses to this. 1) I type very fast. I’m actually kind of a typing prodigy. Just ask Mr. Dolce at good ole MHS. 2) Part of the reason for this trip was to get back to doing what makes me happy, and to sort of (at the risk of sounding terribly clichéd) find myself again. And writing makes me happy, so I hope reading this blog gives you as much enjoyment as writing it gives me. Oh, and 3) Yeah, kinda. Sue me. It’s very stressful out there! I mean, I can’t even read the signs here. Well, I can, but it takes a whole lot of time and effort and when I’ve done sounded out all the characters, usually twice because I’ve forgotten what the first part was by the time I get to the end, I have no idea what the words actually mean! So I absolutely need some relaxation time. This is better than just sitting here all slack-jawed and drooling on myself, letting the TV watch me, right?!?

This morning (Saturday), I went to the PC Café just to sort of catch up on some news, and to chat with Shan online. I thought, you know, internet café – normally, people checking their email and whatnot, right? Maybe doing some online shopping, reading world news, I don’t know, whatever the hell people do in these places. I walk in, and after the obligatory hello (“annyong haseyo”), and the also-obligatory conversation, comprised entirely of hand gestures and grunts, about what I’m supposed to do now that I’ve walked through the door, I get a little PC card and get shown into a room. And it’s weird. I mean, dozens of machines with huge monitors and all kinds of special keyboards and microphones and joysticks and headphones and god knows what all… and there are sounds of explosions echoing off the walls and cries of “Direct hit! Direct hit!” flying back and forth over my head. And there’s like 30 people in there, all young Korean guys (and 1 chick, but she’s definitely the exception that proves the rule) playing the same game. Perplexed, I walk toward the back of the room where I see a sign advertising the newest version, or expansion pack, or something, of freakin World of Warcraft. I mean, I knew this was a popular game (not with my friends, fortunately, because that would drive me insane) but this whole damn place was devoted to it… and this is a small town. I mean, 30 kids might well be the entire young adult population of Janghowon, for all I know. I doubt it, because it seems like I’ve seen more of them than that outside walking about, but never all in one place at the same time, so who knows?

I think that I’ll go to Icheon (pronounced ee-chun) tomorrow and take a look around. I walked around for about 45 minutes this morning, and I think I may have seen everything of interest here in Janghowon. I’m told Icheon’s not much better, but at least it’s a lot bigger. I can walk for longer than a half-hour and not see the same little Pelican Chicken restaurant (not chain – the same building) 3 times. And no, I know what you’re asking, but I did not try it. I will though, I promise, and I’ll let you know how it is. Other fun things I noticed today:

The driving range here is just awesome. I didn’t go in (but you can bet I most certainly will at some point) but just from the outside, the glory of this place radiates out, warming the whole surrounding block in its joyful glow. There’s a couple different levels to hit golf balls from, which I’ve always loved the idea of but never tried. Also, instead of a big open space like in the States, this “range” is a giant (like, tallest structure in the town, giant) net! It’s only maybe 150 meters long, but high enough that you could really whack a pitching wedge and not hit the top of it. At least, I think so. And I can really whack a pitching wedge too. And I really like saying “whack a pitching wedge.” Go on, say it out loud. It’s nice – fun combination of sounds! Did you do it? Did you smile?!? Yyyyyyeah, you smiled.

There are a lot of stores here devoted to marketing and distributing as their sole commodity available for purchase the wondrous consumer good known as… wait for it … clocks. Like, really, a lot of stores. What, you thought I was going to say opium or panties or something fun, right? Sorry to disappoint, but if I do find one of those (obviously better and more interesting) places, I’ll definitely let you know. On one street, I’d say every 4th or 5th place sells nothing but clocks. This, I do not profess to understand. Koreans in general are very punctual, so I’m told, but I don’t think that really justifies the sheer number of these places. I’ll let you know if I get a more satisfactory explanation.

A lot of the bars here are on the upper floors of what look like (to me, at least) office or apartment buildings. There’s a normal building, maybe some storefront space on the bottom, office-sized and -shaped windows all the way up and then a bar on the 5th floor. I think I might check out one of these (Goodbar, it’s called… maybe they have chocolate too! Ha!) tonight. It’s right next to the hotel, so it should be easy enough. I think the Korean word for beer is “hof.” Like the end of David Hasselhoff. Or at least, that’s how I remember it. Not sure what that says about me, but there ya go.

There are also a lot of churches here, and I think they’re Catholic. That’s weird to me.

Fun restaurants I want to try, in addition to all the little noodle shops and stands, include Dallas (Texas-themed hamburger shop – these are always fun in other countries), the aforementioned Pelican Chicken, Isaac (sandwich place – possibly Jewish, but somehow I doubt it. If you saw it, you’d understand), and Kim Sung Rae’s pizza, which actually looks pretty good. Will eat, will tell you more about these places as information becomes available. =Þ

Today, Sean is a Korean tourist.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I am Sean's angry Korean stomach

Actually, I’m writing this on Thursday night, the 13th, on the notebook computer that Boil, my co-teacher at school, was kind enough to let me borrow again today. And now, for your reading pleasure, I present an amusing anecdote from this evening…

I just got done eating dinner. Um, wow. Vietnamese noodles…. The waitress, in her infinite kindness and very finite English, tried to warn me when I ordered them. Well, to be precise, she said, “uh…” and then made some violent hand gestures that looked like bombs exploding around her mouth. I smiled and said, “OK.” That, my friends, is what we call in the biz Mistake Number 1. But at the time I’m thinking Hey! I’m a man! I can handle it. Let these little Korean women do their worst! And also, there’s the fact that several Koreans have warned me that the food I’m about to eat is spicy, and it’s never been out-of-my-league, Megan Fox hot… well, except that raw pepper from Mi Jin’s house, but come on, right!?! That’s a raw freaking pepper – this can’t be that bad. Yeah, hold that thought.

So she went back to the kitchen, which is actually in the same room but behind the water cooler. When she told the other ladies back there what I ordered, they all looked over at me and started laughing, so I just laughed right along and gave them the ole thumbs up. Mistake Numero Dos. Yet they obliged and rustled me up a bowl of “Parched Noodles Vietnamese Style,” or some such nonsense. It was steaming hot when she brought it, so I dug into my kimchi and soup and waited for this hot mess to cool down a bit. As I started to stir up the noodles with my handy-dandy chopsticks, even though I hadn’t yet smelled anything, the insides of my nostrils got all tingly. Should have been a clue, right? Uh, yeah. So, I take a bite. And now we’ve arrived at the infamous and potentially deadly Mistake Number D. I later learned that there were some chunks of aforementioned Satan-pepper in the sauce, but that didn’t matter in the slightest. Mixed into this demon-sauce are the devil-seeds and tiny little ground up Beelzebub-bits of what may well have been thousands of those peppers. Several plants worth, anyway, (quite possibly there’s a whole garden of these tended and nurtured by Lucifer himself in the deepest fires of hell, with Brutus and Judas and the practitioners of the legal profession keeping the bugs away) and I’d set my watch and warrant on that, say true and say thankya.

Long story short, after the searing godforsaken heat of the first bite wore off, I tried another one. I’d like to call this my real 4th mistake, but it actually tasted pretty good, once I got used to it. I ate the whole bowl, and it was pretty damn good the whole way, believe it or not. I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that (and I’m not certain about this, because I think I went a little cross-eyed at some point and possibly began hallucinating, but here ya go) I’m fairly sure I saw some snot drip off my chin and into the bowl. Like, quite a lot, actually. I mean, you’d think I’d know for sure, right? Well, you’re obviously assuming that I could feel any part of my face at this particular moment, and that, quite frankly, is a ridiculous assumption for you to make. Plus, it definitely could’ve been sweat. I realized as I walked back to my hotel (in 50 degree weather, mind you) that my heart was pounding like I’d just sprinted a half-mile or so and that I was literally pouring sweat. My hair was soaked (yes, the top of my head was sweating, for fuck’s sake) and I think my pupils were dilating and contracting in time with my heartbeat. I didn’t realize until I got back to the room and looked in the mirror that my lips were all purply and swollen. Ha… hmm, yeah. So anyway, I must have looked quite a sight when I bought some little fresh-baked, piping-hot custard puffs (5 bite-sized pastries for like 75 cents – did I mention I love this country?!?) from a street vendor for dessert and then picked up some coffee on the way home. FYI, most Koreans drink what they call “coffee,” but this drink is a travesty. I’ll explain about this abomination another time.

So that was my culinary adventure for the evening, and I gotta say, I highly recommend it. I haven’t been able to breathe this well in a long, long time. Now it’s back to studying Korean and watching the Korean Basketball League (Can ya say KBL?! Whoo-hoo!) with an African American-looking fellow named, or at least I think he’s named… aw hell, I don’t know. It’s in stupid Korean. More practice is needed, clearly.

Tonight, Sean’s tummy is an upset Korean tummy.

I am

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I can now write "Samsung" in Korean

*** I updated the picture link in the first post, but here it is again! Take a look!***

Well, jet lag is a bitch. For the 3rd day in a row I’ve woken up at exactly 5 am. What in god’s name is so freaking great about 5 am, I’d like to ask my body? What the hell, man? It’s dark, it’s cold, and the bakery/coffee shop I went to yesterday didn’t have coffee, or fresh pastries... On the plus side, my hotel room stocks “life juice” or something in my mini-fridge. So, yeah. Here’s to life.

Also on the plus side: I get to watch all kinds of EPL and Carling Cup soccer live. Right now I’ve got Tottenham v. Liverpool… yesterday morning it was Man U and some team (I couldn’t read Korean yesterday, you remember) that shouldn’t have kept the game as close as it was. Of course, Man U was playing without Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, so I guess that makes it tough to score goals. Then I got to follow that up with an NFL Network-style 30 minute replay of the Vikings against the Packers… that was a helluva game, I gotta say. So yeah, safe to say I’m ok with the sports programming here.

And you may have noticed, I mentioned in passing that I couldn’t read Korean yesterday… didja notice that?!? Huh? DID YOU?!? PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!! Ahem... anyway, I spent a couple of hours last night going through some Korean lessons I found on wikibooks yesterday, and this alphabet thing really is easy to learn. For a little background, the current Korean alphabet, called “Hangeul,” was created (I’m really just guessing at the time here – the following number will be completely arbitrary) 47 years ago and it was designed to be the most efficient and logical writing system in the world. Thumbs up, guys. The way you write or form the letters is supposed to mimic the shapes the mouth makes (both tongue and lips, depending on the letter) as you say the letter itself, not the sound. I just sat here for a couple of minutes trying to think of a good example, and completely dropped the ball. Well, anyway, if you’re interested, the site I used is on Wikibooks, located here. Enjoy!

So, yeah… big news! I can read (read {def.}: painstakingly and painfully sound out individual characters and then put them together with the acumen of a drunk, retarded 3-year-old chimpanzee) Korean! Hells yeah!

Dinner last night – first meal I’ve eaten alone here, actually – was… wait for it… amazing! Didn’t see that coming, did you? Boil took me to this noodle shop in Janghowon (and helped me order – thanks man!) where I got woodong (udon noodles) and a maki roll with tuna for like $4. With kimchi, of course! I love this country…

Today Sean is a self-satisfied and self-aggrandizing Korean.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

1st Day Teaching

I'm exhausted. I was led to believe that Korean kids are more mature than American kids of the same age. Today... well, I guess I learned that's true. Korean 6th-graders act like 8th-graders in the states. I mean, they're rude, obnoxious, energetic, crazy... well, I still had fun. My job is very easy, except for the students. Just do little presentations about (fictional) Icheon Airport, where the students depart on a flight to E Island (English Island) to learn English for travel words and things like foods and drinks, how to take taxis and get hotels and stuff. It's repetitive... I had written "but at least" after that, and then couldn't think of any redeeming qualities to follow that up. So, let's just leave it at that. It's repetitive.

Last night, I ate my first home-cookin here in Korea, and it was just as tasty as can be. The English teacher down at the elementary school, whose name I think is Miss Choi (sorry if you're reading this, but hey! come tell me your name sometime), *update* her name is not Miss Che -- it's Mi Jin Kim (sorry) cooked dinner for me and four other teachers. We had samgyeupsal -- some sort of pork wrapped in lettuce with rice and uncooked hot (really freaking hot! i mean, eyes-watering, sweating, choking hot) peppers. Fantastico!

I also just got my first lesson in Korean today from Boil. I learned how to say the Korean alphabet. Well, part of it. And I think "learned" might be an exaggeration -- he said it, and I repeated it, and then promptly forgot it. I think I might recognize about 5 characters, so only like 20~ to go... whoo-ee!

That's it for today, because these kids really wore me out. Tomorrow, the South African girl who brought her classes today will bring all the really bad kids, or so she tells me. So, um, wish me luck. Annyong-hi kaseyo!

Today, Sean is an exhausted Korean.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today, Sean is an overwhelmed Korean

Today is my second day here in lovely Janghowon, South Korea. Here are some things I like about it:
  • The food. It's freaking amazing. My co-teacher Boil took me out for galbi last night, and jesus tapdancing christ was it good. Beef shortribs, cooked right at our table over a little wood fire; about 15 side dishes... grilled pumpkin, mushrooms, onions, garlic cloves, several kinds of kimchi (fermented cabbage with vegetables and chili paste, it tastes a million times better than it sounds), pickled hot peppers, and some other things that we couldn't figure out the names for in English. You cook the steak, wrap it in lettuce with the toppings, and cram the whole shebang in your mouth all at once. It's fun, but messy. Well, I was messy. Boil was doing just fine. According to him, I need technique. Also according to him, I need to lose weight. So ... yeah. Oh -- I also tried soju, a delicious Korean rice liquor. Enjoyed, would try again...
  • The showers. Actually, that term is a little generous. Korean bathrooms don't have tubs, or shower curtains, or any way to actually separate the "shower" from the rest of the room. Get it? Restroom... ha. Yeah, anyway. So you just tile the whole damn thing, put a drain in the middle, and go to town. I can watch TV from my shower. What's up now?
  • The kids I'm teaching. Well, I'm not actually going to be teaching the kids at my school. Obviously... what were you thinking? So at my school, the I Whang elementary school, to be precise, they have started the Global Experiential Learning Center, which is really cool. 5th and 6th grade kids from all over the province come here to learn about things like traditional Korean arts (tea making, music), global etiquette, and English, which is where I come in. From what I've been told, I will be pretty much doing the same thing every day, which sounds both easy and boring. But, on the bright side, it's easy. On the other hand, it's boring. And it comes with a free frozen yogurt... which is also cursed. Apparently, I can make some extra money teaching classes after school to the kids that actually, you know, go here. So I'm about to be rolling in Won... hell yeah. That's money, by the way, not Korean for "children."
  • The people. They're awesome. Kind, generous, polite. And about a quarter of them (that would the quarter representing the women between 18 and 50) are hot. I had heard this, but it doesn't really hit home until you're seeing it... everywhere you look, all the time. It's good. And, what's the word, efficient. These people are efficient! I went to the hospital today to get x-rayed, do a drug test, and blood tests, oh, and get an eye exam and routine physical. This whole process, including paying, took about 30 minutes. Yeah. I was blown away. I mean, it was a dirty little shithole of a place, bugs everywhere, but whatcha gonna do, right...
  • Their humor. Well, actually no. They don't get my jokes, but you do, right? See previous bullet point to find out.

I think that's enough for now. I'm off in 5 minutes, back to my lovely hotel. Pictures will be posted at my picasa page... which I think is here *UPDATE* (which is now fixed!!!) aaand the winner is... me! That's the one. If I get better at blogging then I'll start posting them here. But for now, go there. Do it, and like it.

Dinner is served -- at least, I think. More later.