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.