Friday, January 30, 2009

Fast forward to present

I'm sitting at my apartment, watching the Australian Open and drinking beer. I just finished up doing my laundry from the trip, which was absolutely necessary because my clothes (and therefore my bag) smelled like an elephant spitting on a sweaty chimpnazee, mixed with alcohol and curry and just a dash of the beach (i.e. sunscreen, mosquito spray, sand and salt). So I'm sitting here typing with my beer, and I just happen to be watching the 2nd semifinal, which looks like a hyperactive Spanish guy with a mean face and a hyperactive forehand playing his own mirror image. Nadal v. Verdasco. They're both Spaniards, both fit as hell, smart, left-handed, and just the right amount of crazy, and it's amazing. I'm a little sad that it's like 4:50am in the states right now, and my mom is missing it. This is the best match I've seen in a long time; both guys are swinging for the fences, going for it like it's their last day on Earth. Scottie -- I know you don't really like watching tennis, but this is awesome.

These guys are flinging their bodies all over the court, wrenching forehands crosscourt, running as though they're being chased by a werewolf on crack, hitting crazy topspin lobs, throwing the occasional drop shot to keep the other guy honest. It's just beautiful tennis, and as much as I like Federer, I think he's gonna have a helluva time with whichever guy wins this match. They both want it so much, it's incredible.

At deuce, up 5-4 in the 2nd after losing the 1st, Nadal just hit this crazy curving forehand that must have bent at least 6 feet back into the court, at a dead sprint, and it landed well inside the sideline to set up break point. He ends up taking the 2nd set. Now it's 1 set apiece and both these guys are playing amazing... I feel for Federer, because whoever wins this match is going to be on an amazing high when they play next, while he pretty much just took care of business against Roddick. As much as I really don't like Nadal... just call it the problem of seeing a young punk who's freakishly athletic taking over a sport that I'm actually pretty good at because I'm smart and consistent and I try hard (much like Federer, and Agassi before him, and Courier and McEnroe and Connors before him)... none of those guys were amazing athletes. I mean, sure, they all became athletes because they wanted to win, but they started out with a dream and conviction and smarts and determination, and that was enough. That's what I want to see; that's whom I want to see succeed; not some freak who's ripped to shreds and has some superhuman hand-eye coordination and ability to pit spins on the ball noone's ever seen before. Call me old-fashioned, but I like watching smart, less-athletic players beat Nadal. I also like watching up-and-coming Spaniards who modeled their game after his beat him at his own game. :) Because it proves that hard work still counts for something in this world, and that freakish athletic talent will only take you so far. I know that I'm oversimplifying here, and that Nadal works really hard at what he does, but this is just my gut feeling here... so bear with me. I also know Verdasco just hit a forehand winner at 157 km/hr... which is damn near a 100 mph. Which is damn near crazy.

Allow me to opine on the challenge system for a moment. Verdasco just a lost a point in which he had the clear advantage because he stopped playing to challenge a call that he felt was wrong. Now, if he'd just kept playing, he *probably* would've won the point. But he stopped play to challenge a call, which turned out to be right. Nadal's shot, called in, did indeed catch the back of the line. Because Verdasco stopped play instead of putting away the point, he lost that point and subsequently, the game. Now Nadal's up a break in the 3rd, which is not a good place to play from for Verdasco. And then... the reason I love this kid. He comes up with amazing shots one after another to break back immediately at love, and put himself right back into the 3rd set. Let's do this thing! It's gonna be a long night here in the East. ;)

Thailand: Ziplining and other adventures

This was the first time I'd ever done the ziplining thing. Fortunately, just before I left I was rewatching season 5 of The Office, where Toby reveals that he went ziplining his 3rd day in Costa Rica, broke his neck, and has spent the last 5 weeks in a god-forsaken hospital. "I never even saw the beach."

Actually, it's very safe; much safer, I'd guess, than the elephant riding and hiking I was to experience the next day. Also, much much safer than the riding standing up on the tailgate of a truck for an hour down the freeway... but we'll get to that. You're clipped on at all times. Either to the cable itself, or other cables around each tree that holds a platform. I mean, that doesn't stop you from freaking out a lil bit the first time you look down off the platform into open jungle and resolve to actually step off the platform into nothingness... but honestly, you'd be surprised how quickly it gets to feel ok, even normal. By the 3rd or 4th one, I was getting a running start, launching myself with wild abandon out over the trees and rivers beneath, trying my damndest to turn upside down and ride inverted down the cable like our guide. Whose name, by the way, is Leo Jr. As in, Leonard Dicaprio Jr. He was kinda cute, I guess... but still. The other guy was called "No-name," maybe because he wasn't fortunate enough to have a family member in the biz. Who knows? So Leo Jr. had a habit of flipping his body upside down and riding completely vertically down the zipline, legs in the air and screaming like a banshee, until the last possible moment whereupon he'd flip expertly over in the air and land gently on the platform, his body hovering over the edge for a moment until he'd shout "Oh my Buddha!" and then step effortlessly out and he'd balance teetering, on the edge until we all gasped or laughed, and then he'd start yelling at us for taking too long.

So this continued on for a coupla hours, more or less unhindered. I was with this Thai fella who owns a guesthouse; he was checking it out to see whether his house will start booking the tour for his guests. Also, a French guy named Eddie who was cool as shit; a British girl, Laura; and an Israeli couple whose names I can't remember. I do know, however, that they were on their honeymoon, and that I'd run into them again later on. That, my friends, is a story for another time. The pictures can be found here. =) Enjoy. See you tomorrow; same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Thailand: Humble Beginnings

So I've decided I'm going to try to document this trip in installments; that way, we hope, nothing gets left out and I can try to relive the adventures in relatively full and embiggening splendour. So I start, as is my wont, at the beginning.

It was a cold day, dark and windy, a light snow beginning to dust Janghowon. I had already decided not to pack my coat, since I wanted to travel light, with just a small backpack. I was seriously considering scrapping the whole idea, just so that I'd be able to bring my coat along for the 1st stage of my journey: a bus to Icheon and a 2nd bus to the airport. It was that cold. After my final day of English camp, which went really well, by the way, I had lunch with Mi Sun and Bo Il. Mi Sun was kind enough to help me out for the 2nd week of English camp while Bo Il was on vacation, but he showed up anyway to help wrap things up and send me off in style. After lunch, Mi Sun took me to the ATM so I could stock up on cash (which turned to be a lifesaver, but I'll explain later). Then she dropped me off near my house, and I was walking home I saw Dave, the Canadian who teaches at the high school here. He offered to pick me up after work and drive me to Icheon since he was going that way anyway. So that was one problem solved.

By the way, I was going to the airport on Friday night, even though my flight wasn't till Saturday morning. This is because, in Korea, the buses quit running at around 8 or 9 and don't begin again until the morning, around 7. My flight was at 8am, it's a 3-hour trip, and obviously I needed to be there ~2 hours early, it being an international flight and all. So all of these factors combined, I felt it would be smartest to just go to the airport on Friday night and sleep there -- another reason I wanted to have just the one bag. I figured I could use it as a pillow and not be robbed, you see.

So, Dave wanted to take his dog for a walk around Icheon, which gave me a chance to do some shoe shopping. Because, you know, I'm a chick. No, actually, it's because I knew I was gonna be hiking through the jungle and crossing rivers and shit, and I wanted to get some shoes that could handle that. I didn't find what I was looking for -- you know the trekking sandals that lots of backpackers wear, often with socks? ha -- but I did manage to find some aqua shoes that seemed pretty sturdy, so I picked those up, had dinner and got on the bus. The first stage of the journey was unremarkable. The airport sleeping thing worked out pretty well; as well as can be expected anyway. I got a decent night's sleep once I found this little lounge that was vacant and had nice padded seats. I just pushed 3 together, took off my shoes and crashed out. I think I woke up around 5am, had some breakfast at the ole airport Burger King, and went to my gate.

Flight was fine. I got to Hong Kong airport, where I realized the first (of what may be many, or only one, who knows) major shortcoming of this airport. You know how most airports have those screens that tell you flight status, departure gates and times... like, everywhere? Well, not Hong Kong. It took me a good 20 minutes to find one after wandering up and down the whole freaking concourse, repeatedly. I finally had to leave, and head out towards the food court and everything, just to find my connecting flight. But no biggie, I had lots of time and I was pretty close. Again, flight was fine. This one had the entertainment on demand thing, so I got to watch a big chunk of the 6th season of Family Guy, which rocked. And I gotta say, Cathay Pacific has some amazing food and service. They still do the whole free booze thing, even in economy. And the flight attendants are awesome. And gorgeous, but that's besides the point. Anyway... ;)

I finally arrived in Bangkok, but so many people told me what a cesspool it is and how I shouldn't waste my time there that I had decided to head straight up to Chiang Mai that night and not even bother with it. So after another brief wait, I hopped on another plane, this one a Thai Air flight, and got my ass to Chiang Mai. Um, they served this weird like, chicken pastry. It was good. Just weird. Sorry I didn't take a picture, because it looked really interesting.

Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, I promptly (way over-)paid for a cab and went to my awesome guesthouse. I think I've already detailed the problems I soon encountered, but if not, here they are again. I had booked online to do the "Flight of the Gibbon" ziplining thing the next day, along with a homestay in a village and then rock climbing the 2nd day. What I discovered when I arrived, however, was that the company I booked with would only accept cash. Now, I had an idea that my Korean ATM card wouldn't work worth a damn here, and sho' nuff, nothing. I had Korean cash, but it was like 10pm on a Saturday night, so there was no real chance of me getting more Thai money before Monday morning... boo. Luckily, the woman who ran the guesthouse called the ziplining place, cancelled my order, replaced it with just the one-day ziplining, rather than the 2-day thing, and saved me like, almost a hundred bucks. Then she hooked me up with a one-day trek on Monday that involved the Elephant riding, rafting, hiking, Akha village stop, and everything. Altogether I paid 2600Baht, or around $75-80... instead of the $175 I would have paid... she rocked! Thanks Nine! :)

Then I went to bed, exhausted! More coming soon; in part 2, we'll learn about ziplining and the glory of the Green Tulip Guesthouse! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Update from Thailand!

This is my 3rd day here. I love it... it's insanely cheap to stay and eat and everything. The countryside is amazing... green and lush and warm. So, today is Tuesday, and I'm having a relaxing day. On Sunday, I went ziplining through the jungle. There'll be pictures soon, I promise! Yesterday, I went on a little 1 day do-everything trek. We rode in a songthaew, I think... I'm not sure about the spelling on that one. Clearly. Well, anyway, there were 10 of us in the back... like a pickup truck bed with a frame covering it and benches down either side. So, yeah. It was a little tight. So Gaz (this kick-ass Aussie) and I opened the tailgate and rode standing up on the back. I've got pictures of that too... I know you're all dying to see them! =) Then we visited this orchid farm and butterfly little... thing. I don't know. The night ended up with me getting really drunk with an Aussie couple, 3 British chicks and a Spanish Muay Thai boxer. I think I got back to the hotel around 4am, so keep that in mind as you read. Thanks. =)

The orchid farm sucked. I mean, it was pretty and all, I just didn't care. Then we drove to an Akha hill tribe village and took a look around. It was a little strange -- walking into this little house and there's a sick child laying in bed while our guide told us about the tribe's homes and whatnot... I wasn't really into that, but whatever. Part of the voyage, I guess, right? Next, it was off to see the wizard. No -- wait, off to ride the elephants. Usually, there are 2 people per elephant and they ride on a little seat fixed to the elephant's back. I say usually, because by some happy coincidence an English girl and I got to hop on the elephants head and ride the whole way straddling the damn thing. This was awesome! But, there are some pitfalls here... I mean, an elephant's shoulders are huge, and they move a lot when they walk, so you have to find this sort of rolling gait with your body. Not unlike riding a horse, just slower and more movement. And our elephant was a hungry hungry hippo -- she stopped to eat a lot, so I got a first hand view of an elephant tearing leaves off of trees with her trunk. Also, elephants are really filthy. Every time I patted her on the head dust clouds just flew off of her. So, very soon I was completely filthy as well. That was quite alright though, because our next stop was a 30 minute hike through the jungle, and over a river, and back again, and over again, and back again... I think about 8 times total. Mostly on rocks, but once (on the way there, and again on the way back) on a fallen tree trunk about 10 feet in the air, with nothing to hold onto or anything. I'm pretty sure this sort of thing would be frowned upon in America. I guess the elephants as well, not to mention the riding standing up and hanging off the back of a truck. All of these things, I suppose, are fairly common here. =)

The waterfall was nice... I'm sure it would have been better in the wet season, but it was still pretty impressive. We had a good swim in the pool up there by the waterfall, then shared some Thai cigars that one of the guys had bought from the hill tribe. Tasty... I think wrapped in some sort of leaf. Then we had lunch... pad thai (which was also wrapped in some sort of leaf) and fresh papaya that our guide jacked from a tree as we were bouncing along on the elephants. Then we rafted down the river for about an hour... first through some rapids (that would also benefit greatly from the rainy season, I'm guessing, because they weren't very rapid) on a white water-type inflata-boat. Then we traded those in for bamboo "rafts." I use the quotes because these things, by their very nature, float about 6-12 inches below the water. Not all the time, but after 6 people jumped on it, then yeah... so you're basically floating along, sitting on this long raft, with water up over your waist... this was not how they pictured it in the brochure. If I can find another copy of it, I'll do a little compare and contrasty time for you. It's really pretty funny.

That was it... we rode back to Chiang Mai and then I showered up and went out to meet the Aussie couple and the Brits for drinks before we went to the boxing match. On my way to meet them, I saw a Thai who owns a guesthouse here, who was also on the ziplining tour. He was eating dinner with his sister and this Icelandic woman who's been staying at their guesthouse since October. So they invited me to join them, and I sat and had a spicy, cold "glass noodle" salad with chicken and vegetables -- yum. =) Then I met up with the crew, along with an Irish guy, a Dubliner. I have no idea what his name was... because it turns out that Dubliners don't speak English, really. I have no problem with South Africans, Kiwis, Aussies, Brits, even the Icelandic woman's English was perfectly understandable. But not this guy. So that was fun. =)

And it turns out I'm out of time for the internet today, and I'm tired of writing anyway. So, stay tuned. I'll be back!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One of the worst things about teaching in Korea...

Is the other foreign teachers. Or at least, so I've been told by the Canadian guy who's lived here for several years now. I've done a fairly good job of avoiding most web forums and any place where I might be subjected to the bitching and moaning that inevitably happens when people are living in a foreign land and having any sort of trouble, be it personal, professional, emotional or otherwise.

Today, I was looking at something online... I'm not even sure how I got onto this line of searching, honestly. Anyway, I ended up checking out a few of the other blogs written by westerners here in Korea. And wow. They really do bitch a lot. It's ridiculous. One guy posts like 3 or 4 times a day, picking up news articles that are even remotely critical of any Western presence here in Korea. I mean, sure, there are probably xenophobes here just like any other society. Although I'd venture a guess (based on my very limited experience) that they are less numerous and less vocal than their American counterparts. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about this, mostly because I'm sure he has a very good reason for writing what he does... but also because I don't want to dwell on an unpleasant aspect of my life here. I mean, is my life here perfect? Of course not! But is it absolutely satisfactory? Hell yeah it is... I dunno. Some people aren't content unless they're pissed about something.

And the thing is, there are (probably a lot of) Koreans who don't enjoy the presence of so many Westerners in their country. I'm sure that lots of them, especially the ones who live near American army bases and have to deal with GI's out drinking and chatting up their girlfriends and daughters... well, not to denigrate our brave servicemen, but I hung out with a bunch of them at a bar in Seoul a few weeks ago and let's just say, I can imagine there are some feelings of resentment. But the vast majority of Koreans that I've met have been exceptionally kind, generous and helpful. At least, to the extent that they can be with the language barrier... you know. And also... I mean, hello! It's an entirely different culture; different worldview; different mores. I think the close proximity to American/Western culture in a number of areas (technology, education, bureaucracy) gives us a false sense of security in our knowledge about how Koreans view us and their world, when in reality it's extremely unfair of us to make any kind of judgment at all about the way in which they comport themselves, be it in daily life, the politics, or the media. It's ridiculous for us to bitch about their culture and say they're being unfair or confrontational to Westerners, or even merely xenophobic; it's ridiculous for us to make any kind of judgment at all based on our preconceptions of how people should behave in any specific arena. That's my two cents. I said I wouldn't get into it; I just couldn't help myself. Thanks for bearing with me.

I'm leaving late tomorrow night for Thailand. I'm packing light, which means no laptop for the next couple weeks. If I get access to internet while I'm away, I'll try to drop an update or two when I can; hopefully when I get back I'll have lots of pictures to share. Just a forewarning that new posts might be hard to come by till the end of January.

You know, normally I'm a stickler for grammar. Not so much to the point of correcting people, or even using correct grammar; I just notice it constantly. The curse of being an English major, a teacher, or just a big dork, I'm not sure which. But "hopefully" is one of the words that is most consistently misused in our language, and it's the one that bothers me the least. I know I used it incorrectly up there, and I just don't care. For what it's worth: hopefully is an adverb, meaning to do something with hope. Like, for example, I walked hopefully toward the beautiful Thai girl at the end of the bar. It's interesting that of the 3 sources of definitions provided on, 2 of them think that my usage up there in the previous paragraph is just fine; the 3rd offers a brief commentary on why it is still unacceptable to many critics, even though its usage in this way is extremely popular and widespread. I love shit like that. English is nuts... and this is the language I've been charged with teaching... riiiight.

Well, I need to hit the hay. Long two weeks of travel and adventure starting tomorrow, and I need to be well rested. So hopefully, you'll be hearing from me soon. Until then, a good night to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, January 12, 2009

5 days till I leave for Thailand!

I know it's been a while, so thank you, constant Readers, for sticking with me through the dry patches and coming back for more.

I've done 6 days of English camp now, and it's going really well. We did 3 layers of paper mache, finishing the last one today. Now I'm giving them a couple more days to dry and then it's on to painting! Also, tomorrow is no-bake cookie day, so that's pretty exciting. For me, at least. I told the kids today, and they didn't really seem all that into it, for some reason. Ah well, they have to do it. And I think once they get their grubby little hands on some chocolatey oatmealy goodness, they'll be a little happier about it. They'd better be.

We also did some hand-clapping games today. The girls really enjoyed it; the boys not so much. Pretty much as I expected... but the boys really got into the paper airplane game, so I gotta spread the joy a bit, right? I'm also looking forward to the webcam conversation we're going to have with Jill's neice. She's already done this a few times for Jill's camp, so she's more or less a pro at this point. I'm just going to have my kids ask her some questions (just basic get to know you kinda stuff) that we've been practicing during camp. And uh, yeah... we'll see how it goes!

I got pretty toasted yesterday. I was just sitting at my house with nothin to do... looking outside at the frigid barren landscape that is a small town in winter, and I decided to make a run for the convenience store down the street to pick up some beer and soju. Soju, in case you've forgotten, is a sweet Korean liquor that is sold in little glass bottles that probably totals 6-7 shots. I'm not sure what the alcohol percentage is, but I'd guess it's like 40 proof. Just a complete shot in the dark, there, but you get the idea. It's not like, vodka strong or anything, but still has that liquor-y taste. I went out to dinner with my co-workers from the Global Center last week, and they introduced me to the wonder that is, as Emily calls it, so-juice. Basically, you take a shot of soju, poor it in a glass, and add beer. It doesn't really sound that good, even now, but you have to keep in mind that "beer" in Korea is generally really lite, highly-carbonated, and has a weird kind of citrus freshness to it... so that adding soju makes this kind of gestalt alcoholic beverage which is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Like, I dunno, the GoBots. So anyway, I drank one bottle of soju and one 1.6 liter bottle of beer. Now, keep in mind that I haven't been drinking much for the past month or so... but within about 2 hours, I was pretty silly. I had a really nice conversation with Dr. Monroe -- the associate dean of the Honors College in Houston -- finished drinking around 6~, and then apparently decided to make some rice for dinner. I got as far as putting it into the rice cooker and hitting go. Then, evidently, I passed out. I woke up around midnight, thoroughly confused as to what time it was, and saw the rice cooker blinking at me from the kitchen. This perplexed me even further. I went to see why this little blinking red light had intruded on my sleep, and to my surprise, found hot steamy rice all ready to be enjoyed. I thanked my drunk self for having the foresight to prepare this delicious meal, heated up a bag of curry and vegetables, and had a wonderful late dinner. Then I drank a boatload of water (I just cracked myself up with that one -- how do you measure a boatload of water and live to report the total?) and went back to sleepy-land, where I spent the next 7 hours as happy as a clam.

I felt great this morning. Midnight curry and rice makes a great hangover prevention, I've decided.

Another perplexing thing that's going on right now: What the hell is up with the NFL playoffs? The Eagles and Cardinals? Really...? The Mannings got beat like a redheaded stepchild. A rookie quarterback playing in the AFC Championship game. After watching Tennessee, Miami, and Indy get rolled in the first two rounds, I bet the Patriots are really pissed they didn't even get a chance to play. Sorry Adam. And getting beat by the Chargers, again? Sorry Rick. Of course, who am I to talk, right? The Bears had a shot, and played themselves right out of a playoff spot, so... this season has just been weird. And college football too. There was a great article on ESPN claiming that Utah is the undisputed national champion. I can't argue. They were the only undefeated team in the country. They beat Alabama. Florida beat Alabama and they got to play in the BCS title game... Utah beat them and they got to go home and watch Florida get crowned the champions -- it makes absolutely no sense... I hope Obama signs some sort of executive order abolishing this nonsense. Would a playoff really be that hard to set up? I mean, every other college sport has one; every other division of college football has one.

Here's my idea. Let's axe about 5 bowls that nobody cares about anyway... um, International Bowl anyone? Does Toronto really care about having an American college football game played there? Yeah, I didn't think so. Let's force the Big Televen and the Pac 10 to hold a championship game to put everyone on an equal footing. The 6 major conference champs get automatic bids; the highest ranked "non-BCS" school gets an automatic bid; there is one at large chosen with the condition that any unbeaten team (if not the highest-ranked non-BCS team) is guaranteed a spot. If there are none, then the highest ranked school who didn't win their conference gets in. The 1st round pits these four teams against each other at the 4 major bowls: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, and Rose. This allows the bowls to (largely) maintain their conference affiliations, if they so chose. Then we have a plus-3 system; the winners move on to play each other in a national semifinal the next week and those winners get a shot at the national title. The plus-3 games would rotate bowl sites much like the BCS title game does now. Or, they could choose warm-weather cities to host these games like they choose Super Bowl sites.

Now, I realize that there are objections. 1) Players, fans and alumni wouldn't travel to all 3 bowl games; or would find it difficult to travel. Um, March Madness? Trust me, they'll make it. 2)This would drag the season out even longer than it is, stretching into the spring semester and affecting the student-athletes grades and whatnot. Now, if you tell me that (most of) these athletes are doing this for the opportunity to better themselves through higher education and not for a shot at millions of dollars in the NFL, I'll laugh in your face. Besides, basketball runs for 5 months and nobody bitches about that. 3) Also, I realize that trying to axe some of the less-successful earlier bowl games and move everything up a week or so would be almost impossible. Especially for say, the Rose Bowl which probably wouldn't give up its New Years Day game for anything on the planet. This one I haven't figured out yet. Any suggestions or concerns would be welcome.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My apartment is dirty and other conundrums...

Sometimes I feel like Spike in Notting Hill. Just complete despair about the cluttered state of my apartment, the dishes, and laundry, etc... When Hugh Grant or someone helpfully points out that "There never will be any clean clothes, unless you actually clean them," I just give a sheepish grin and think "Vicious circle..."

I mean, I have at least one excuse. The property manager guy stopped by a few days ago and pointed at the washing machine, said "Aniyo" and crossed his arms, which in Korean means "No." As in, I'm not supposed to use it. I'm not sure why. Clearly there's some sort of problem with it, but I have no idea what it might be. Problems with the water? Detergent shortage? Terrorism? I'm at a loss... and of course I'm incapable of asking him for how long, so I'm off washing clothes... indefinitely. I've got a couple more weeks worth of clothes, I guess. Well, not clean clothes, but clothes that don't smell too bad yet, at the very least. =)

I did paper mache for the first time today. Well, that's sort of a lie. I did it for the first time this weekend with Jill, in preparation for camp this week. We're making paper mache globes out of balloons and ... you know, paper mache. Newspaper strips and flour glue. Next week, after a few layers of flour-gummy paper have been applied, we'll paint them. Yes, this is Sean. What do you mean, what have I done with him?

When Jill and I practiced, it was really very easy. Each layer took about 15 minutes to apply, and then we used a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. So, naturally, I completely underestimated the time involved in getting 10 kids to finish the same amount of work. Also, I totally neglected to take into account the natural propensity for kids to take a blown-up balloon and uh, play with it. So during class today, I have them help me mix the flour into warm water to make glue. This goes fairly well. I then have them cut up newspapers into strips, which also goes fairly well. I'm feeling pretty cocky at this point. After all, how hard is it to control 7 and 8 year olds, anyway, right? Then I hand out balloons, and this is where the proverbial shit hits the fan. I've got kids blowing them up half-way, then letting go to watch them fly all over the room and hit other kids in the eye. Potentially. I've got kids dunking the balloons into the flour muck, for some inexplicable reason. I've got kids running into the hallway to play soccer with their balloons. I've even got two enterprising young souls that managed to find brooms to play hallway hockey! I mean, I was sorta impressed with their sudden motivation to clean. Till I found out the real purpose. Anyway...

I eventually got them all to sit down, balloons in hand, newspapers down to prevent too much mess. And before I can even begin to demonstrate the proper way to go about this project, which involves careful straining of excess water out of the paper to promote ... hell, I don't even know, but that's the way the internet told me to do it... before I can do that, I've got kids who are already about half-finished covering their balloons in soaking, dripping-flour-glue-all-over-the-floor newspaper. Chaos ensued. Finally I laid the smack down, started busting heads and screaming like a banshee. I instituted a reign of terror on that classroom that those poor kids had never dreamed of. There was an inquisition, burnings at the stake, I even beheaded a monarch and instituted a bastardized form of meritocracy in one misguided attempt at regaining control. But no, anarchy and mob rule was the order of the day, and I was merely an observer. I was Norway.

Long story short, the first step ended up turning out pretty well. I can't wait for phase 2! Whoo-ee! Tomorrow we're making paper airplanes. I've decided, as long as the inmates are running the asylum, they might as well build themselves a military presence. You know, to ward off invasion and inspire delusions of grandeur that will eventually lead to a misguided attempt to conquer Russia over land, probably just before winter.

Another fun fact: apparently, if you're a foreigner living in Korea on an E2 Visa, which is the teaching visa upon which my employment is based, there are some restrictions on leaving the country. Well, that's not entirely accurate; it's not that you can't leave. They've got no problem with that. It's just that if you decide to venture abroad, you need to purchase a "re-entry visa" prior to leaving. You can (Yes, you can) get back in without it. You just can't work anymore. Your E2 is immediately cancelled. Good thing I found out today and not say... a few weeks from now when I tried to re-enter the country, right? Whew! Crisis averted, I guess. However, this re-entry visa (I got the multiple re-entry, in case I feel like travelling again this year) costs like 50,000 Won, which if I remember correctly is about the same price as the E2 visa cost in the first place. Quite a racket they've got here, I tells ya. But that's still preferable to losing my job entirely, so... yeah. There's that.

There's that. And that, as they say, is there. ... they do say that, ya know.