Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ceramics... thrilling

I promised to update ya'll on the recent cultural seminar I had to attend. It turns out there's not much to tell. If you read my prior blog you'll know basically what went down. Actually, this one was a bit less useful, as it was only a few hours long and we didn't get to make kimchi. We did, however, get to watch videos about Korean culture and make (more) ceramic pottery.

The really cool part of this (and yes, the only cool part) was that apparently, the practice of the first time paid off! Because not only did I pound flat into a base, roll out into evenly-shaped sides, and smooth down into something resembling clay able to be spun properly on a wheel, but when I took it to the guy doing the spinning, he said "oh, very nice!" And I giggled like a schoolgirl. Actually, I didn't, but I thought about it. Whatever. So, I'm guessing that in another couple of months I'll have another little vessel to bring home and show off to the grandkids. The first one, in case you've forgotten, turned out really well, and is currently home to a bamboo plant that I got from Jill.

Shifting gears for a bit, let me just throw this out there. Go Cards! 2nd best record in the majors... El Hombre, Thudwick, and Franklin (6 saves in as many chances) all kickin ass... hell yes! And the Bullies -- playing a freaking epic series against Boston right now in the NBA playoffs... sure the C's are without their best player (and leader, and best defender) but still, the baby Bulls are growin up before our eyes. I like it. Also, congrats to the Blackhawks, winning a playoff series for the first time in more than a decade.

And that's all I've got to say about that. Just a little light reading for ya'll today... but come back real soon, ya hear?

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm a Seoul Man!

On Saturday, I had to work for a couple hours in the morning. I'm not sure why exactly, but we had a group of about 60 3rd-graders come to the Global Center, just to check it out. Now, normally we have the 5th and 6th graders read through different dialogues in small groups, but clearly that wouldn't work, since (most of, anyway) the younger kids couldn't read. So, basically, I just kind of explained the airport thing, my co-teacher Mrs. Yun translated, and we let them play with the metal detector. We had them doing some (very) basic dialogues, helping them to read and talk and stuff, but yeah. It was actually pretty fun, I gotta say.

In the afternoon, I met up with Laura in Icheon and after a quick bite of lunch, we went to Seoul to hang out with a couple other foreign teachers. The plan was to go with this guy Francois to a South African cultural thingamajig, but our bus was running late with the traffic and he was coming from somewhere else in Seoul... By the time we all met up, we decided to bail on the cultural thing and just walk around for a bit. Laura wanted to do some shopping, so we went to Myeongdong, which is a pretty rockin little neighborhood. She did end up buying some shoes, eventually, but the real highlights were elsewhere. First, we watched these two Koreans making ... aw hell, I don't know the name. They take strands of something white, and roll them and twist them out, breaking and doubling them over each time. The whole time they kept up this running count (2, 4, 8, 16, 32...) and in between they had this really hilarious little dialogue that did. It was punctuated several times by "Englishy, oh my god!" and was a really fun performance. Well, after they got up to 16,384, they cut the strands into small sections and put spoonfuls of almonds, walnuts, and peanuts in there. We decided after all that work, we'd buy a little tray of them. I wasn't really expecting much in the way of flavor, cause they looked pretty plain and bland. Imagine my surprise when I took a bite and found I had just purchased a homemade Korean Butterfinger. I mean, no effin joke, this thing, despite having neither peanuts nor chocolate, tasted identical (even had the same texture) to a Butterfinger bar. Score one for impulsive buys and kick-ass marketing, I guess.

Second highlight was the western buffet we ate at. I say "buffet," although it was actually billed as a salad bar. But this salad bar had all kinds of stuff on it, including pasta, pizza, tandoori chicken, curried vegetables... plus greek, caesar, chicken, pasta, sweet potato and probably a few other kinds of salads I can't remember right now. It was flippin expensive, but damn was it good.

Then Travis bailed to head home and Laura and I went over to Hongdae to party it up. First we hit the vodka-in-a-bag lady for some tequila sunrises (and vodka cran, a few minutes later, for me) and then walked around for a bit. We walked into a jazz bar, at least according to the name. Even though it was like 11:00 on a Saturday night by this time, there was no one in there, but we had a drink because it was a really nice little place. Now, the reason we went to Seoul in the first place was for "Kimchibilly" night at this little club. Yeah, that's right: Korean rockabilly. And it was great! Actually, when we first got there it was this Korean heavy metal group playing, but they finished up a few minutes later and we settled in for some, well, rockabilly. I danced my white little ass off through 3 different bands, while Laura drooled over the Korean guys in leather with Elvis-hair playing upright bass. Yes, all 3 of the guys playing upright bass were dressed in leather and had cool slicked-back hair. So, you know, fun for her. I was feeling a little left out until the 3rd band busted out this totally smoking hot little Korean punk girl singing lead. So, good times were had by all.

After the gig Laura took me to this really chill lounge, where you have to take your shoes off before you enter and it's like walking through this giant cave, except everything's painted white. There's no seats; you sit on cushions on the floor with pieces of tree stumps for tables, and everything is real secluded with drapes and whatnot, and you end up tucked away under a curving white rocky-looking ceiling that's only 4 feet high and you have to crawl around and it's just weird. Also, the path has a little trench running along beside it that looked like it ought to have water in it but didn't; there were a couple of bridges and stuff too... not sure if that was just for the night or if they had some kind of problem with it or what. I mean, you can't really have a lot of drunk people climbing around and using bridges (with no rails) if you've got running water, I guess. I mean, maybe in Korea you can... who knows?

Finally, around 4am, jimjilbang, sleep, wake up, steam room, ice room, mineral baths, shower, and back to Janghowon. Relaxation.

It was a nice send-off for Laura, who's leaving next week to go back to her family and boyfriend and her nice little town in the English countryside. Actually, I don't have the foggiest idea where her town is (I mean, it is in England, just don't know where) but I like the thought of it being a quiet little hamlet nestled among some rolling hills. Perhaps with a meadow, and a little brook running alongside it. Although I guess the odds of her town existing in the 13th century are pretty minimal. Anyway, bye Laura! We'll miss you!

Coming up next time: return of the "Icheon Cultural Experience," featuring "Ceramics: Round 2! This time it's personal!"

Friday, April 24, 2009

My eyebrow hurts

Yeah. You read that right. It's really bizarre, and I have absolutely no idea what's going on. It's not like, a sharp pain, but the skin there is just overly sensitive, all of a sudden. It's just the left one, I mean... I dunno, and like, even touching my eyebrow hair kinda hurts. Anyone ever have this sudden stinging eyebrow pain? Got any suggestions? Should I pluck it or shave it? Rub some kind of salve or balm on it? Not that I have those things here in my apartment, ye ken... Well, as always, your thoughts are welcome.

In high school, I accidentally hit my girlfriend in the face with a can of "A Taste of Thai" coconut milk, and it made this fairly large and impressive bleeding gash right smack in the middle of her eyebrow. I felt terrible, but it turned out ok in the end. The coconut milk ended up being a birthday present, many times over, and went on to have lots and lots of wonderful adventures. These were chronicled in pictures (of him playing tennis, going to church, having a picnic, driving a car, you get the idea) and tales of lost love, bitterness, desperation and redemption. Yes, the story was written, and illustrated, and bound. It even had Cliff's Notes. Also, I believe the coconut milk acquired (or possibly produced on his own through some kind of substantive-ideation power like in Michael Crichton's "Sphere") a set of instructions for getting the most enjoyment out of him... note that the instructions specifically requested that you not consume him in any way. I often wonder what ever happened to that violent yet lovable little guy. I think he was gifted to an out of town friend and went west to seek his fortune.

No, I am absolutely not making any of this up. I had some interesting friends in high school, yo. Every single statement in that last paragraph is factually accurate, set my watch and warrant on it.

Well, maybe the eyebrow tingling is the coconut milk's way of telling me through his as-yet-undetected tele-psycho-kinesis, that he misses me too. And he's thinking about me. And that, even though we've parted ways and each had our trials and tribulations, our successes and failures, our loves and losses, that we've never really lost each other. True friendship, he says, transcends borders, mountains, and oceans. It bridges time. It takes the best parts of each of you and holds them connected in the ether, recognizing no limits or physical laws of distance or separation. You know, like the internet.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And the winner is...

Not me. Boo...

Just got home not too long ago from the tennis tournament -- I played doubles with Mr. Bae, who is really freaking good. We got 2nd place! =) And before you get too excited for me, let me assure you that we got 2nd place in spite of my contribution, not because of it. We ended up playing 4 sets against different doubles teams... and that's about twice the number of sets I've played in the last... let's say, 7 years combined. So yeah... I'm pretty beat. The serve quit on me at some point in the 3rd match, and with the foot blisters, the thumb blister, and general out-of-shapeness, I was fairly useless in the championship. I did have fun though.

After the awards ceremony (I got a wristband, 2 pairs of sport socks, and some tape to go on the grip of my [non-existent] racket), most of us went out for sam gyeop sal... and this restaurant was really good too.... So we ate, and had soju and beer of course, for a couple of hours. And now I'm home, and I'm tired.

But congrats to the Ihwang school team! 2nd Place! Yea! =)

It was cold today, too. And windy. If I had a tub, I'd soak in it. Oh well... life is full of small disappointments. Right then... I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A whole lotta nothin...

Well, not much to report, actually. I feel like I always open up this page thinking that and then type a freakin novel, but really this time.

Let's see -- Jill's gone. She hopped a plane to Bali this morning. I haven't heard of any horrific fiery (or watery) plane crashes, so I'm assuming she made it alright. She gave me a bunch of stuff before she left. Here's a list. I like lists.

I got 4kgs of rice, minus 2 cups which we ate at her house this weekend. Also, some tea, glasses, coffee mugs, bowls, a mixing bowl, an awesome bamboo cutting board, a little pot (ha... not that kind), some black pepper, vanilla, flour, spaghetti, 2 bamboo plants, dish soap, hand soap, laundry soap, and some chewing gum. I feel like I'm missing some things, even... safe to say she's awesome.

Also, we went to Seolbeong park on Saturday afternoon to hang out with Laura, who's also leaving in a couple of weeks. Laura doesn't drink, unless a) it's a special occasion and b) she's outdoors. So she suggested we get some soju and go sit in the park and drink. So, we did! And it was good... beautiful day, good booze. We even had a group of Korean kids come up and hang out with us for a while. The conversation was a little slow, but they were trying with the English, and we were using our very limited Korean, so it was fun. Oh, and Laura gave me her wireless router! That's good. The router setup page is in Korean. That's bad.

It's been raining for most of the last two days here. Well, to be specific, it started raining about 3 minutes after I left the house (sans umbrella) on Monday, and then continued this weird sort of persistent drizzle all day and night and most of the morning. Since then it's just been kinda grey and cloudy. I'm not sure what's the status of the tennis tournament tomorrow, what with the playing on clay and all and it probably being more of a muddy quagmire than a tennis court right now, but I guess I'll bring my tennis apparel just in case. For the record, my tennis apparel includes some 8-year-old adidas casual shoes I bought in Spain, a Seabrook Middle School tennis t-shirt I got from Shan with the sleeves cut off, and some green pants where the pant legs zip off into shorts. And I'm mostly using those because they have pockets. Yeah, I'm prepared, alright.

Light week this week at the Global Center. I had regular school classes yesterday, only my after-school classes today (I mean, you know, nothing until after 2pm), normal days tomorrow and Thursday, and then nothing on Friday. No school, no Global Center, no after school classes. Mi Sun mentioned that we might not have to come in at all on Friday, which would rock.

Randomness: Every time I go to type the words "Global Center," I always type a capital B first, for some reason, then have to delete it and very deliberately hit the G key. This has happened to me before, where I get a mental block about typing some word and almost always screw it up. If I remember correctly, it happened when I was writing my thesis. On some word that was fairly crucial and I used a lot. I'll try to think about what that was... hm. A pain in the ass, is what it was. Anyway. I also took this typing test online today, and found out that I can type 76 words per minute with 95% accuracy. I didn't have to type "Global Center" at all, so that helped.

Mom -- I hope your foot's doing ok! Actually, it's like almost 9am there, so I think I'm going to call you right now. Hi!

Emily -- Thanks for the postcard sweetie! That's awesome, and I'm glad you had such a good time in Austin. I promise, one day, I will send you a postcard from somewhere. Believe me? ;)

Shan -- Keep your head up, honey! Only a few more weeks and then you'll be relaxin in the Caymans, not worrying about statistics!

Jill -- Hope you had a safe trip, yo. Email me when you get a chance, yeah? Have fun in Indonesia!

Adam -- What's up, ho? Hope things are good with Felicia, the family, school, everything... Let's chat this weekend.

And as it turns out, I did forget at least one thing in the mad haul from Jill's -- Persimmon ice wine! Or, as it reads on the internet, eiswein! Haven't opened her up yet, but I'm excited. I did a search for this online, as you may have guessed. There's not a lot of persimmon ice wine to be found, apparently. Seems as though it's a local delicacy... so I'll probably try to save it for a special occasion and let ya'll know how it goes.

Ha... I knew it. "Not much to report," my ass... but I think I'm done now. You stay classy, planet Earth.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Linguisticalism... and the NBA playoffs

So, Mi Sun and I were talking today about the ridiculousness of spoken, idiomatic, actually-used English phrases. Why, she demands, do we have 25 different phrases for "I agree"!? Or "Let's leave"? I mean, really, what is the point of that?

Why should she have to learn to recognize bounce, roll, head, jet, hit it, bail, skedaddle, get, scoot, run, skip, and the list goes on? And even worse... damn straight, right on, for sure, fuckin' a, totally, you bet, for real, i know, that's what i'm sayin, preach on brotha, absolutely, giddy up, book it, i gotcha, no doubt, i hear that, i feel you, yeah yeah, uh-huh, got that right... I could go on, but you get the picture. Ya feel me?

I suggested that part of the reason for this proliferation of American slang might be due to our culture's value on individuality. Sure, we're saying the same thing that everyone else says most of the time, but if we can find a new way to say it, something that's not "played out" or stale, then we score those all-important "originality" or "uniqueness" points. And so, large numbers of phrases all carrying roughly the same meaning find their way into mainstream usage. Naturally, this helps keep our language fresh and flexible (or destroys its time-honored heritage, depending on whom you talk to) but it also makes it a nightmare for anyone studying English to have any hope of going out to a random bar in America and actually being able to follow the conversations taking place around them. Another factor might be our cultural xenophobia, our tendency to exclude anyone different: rapidly changing diction/idioms are a way to determine who's "in" our crowd, and who's an outsider. Related to this, of course, is that we also have a ready means of declaring our inclusion and position in a social group... i.e. we can talk the talk. And yeah, I realize how ridiculous it is that we require being seen as both "unique, beautiful snowflakes" and as part of the blizzard, but hey! the American heart wants what it wants, am I right? Damn skippy.

I compare this to the Korean language that I hear most of the day at work, and anytime I go out. Agreement takes one of 2 forms: Neh/Deh/Yea (yes -- all the same word, really, just with slight differences in pronunciation), and keu-re-o (that's right/is that right?) Also, when Koreans ask for confirmation of what was just said, again, you hear 2 questions: Chincha? (really?) and keu-re-o? (is that right?) They just don't seem to have the proliferation of slang/informal uses that we do, and it makes conversations a whole helluva lot easier to follow. I mean, come on... one more list of English nonsense, then I'm done: for real? no shit? seriously? no way! straight up? is that right? you don't say! come again? really?

Ok, that's enough of that bs. I have a really strange week coming up.

  1. Jill's leaving. =( Going to Bali for a few weeks to visit her dad, then heading back to the states. She's like, my best friend here, so that sucks. But Jill, if you're reading this, I know you'll be happier once you get out of here, so I wish you well! =) Thanks for the dinnerware and soap.
  2. I have 1 day of school classes, 2 days of Global Center classes, 2 days of after-school classes, and 1 day of special class. And they all fall on different days. So yeah, I do have to work six days next week. Boo. But, it's only 3 full days of work and 3 days of ~2 hours, plus I do get paid overtime for the Saturday hours and the after-school program, so Yea! =)
  3. I get to play in that tennis tourney next Wednesday! It's after school, so uh, no missing class. But... whoo-ee! Wish me luck -- I'll probably need it.
I guess that's it, as far as weirdness goes.

Also, my Cards beat the Cubbies yesterday at Wrigley, spoiling the Cubs' home opener. That feels good, I gotta say. On the other hand, the Blues lost their first playoff game and the Bullies somehow lost to the Toronto freaking Raptors, at home, on the last day of the season. Combine that with the Cav's somehow failing to set the all-time home wins record (while losing to the 6ers) and now, all of a sudden, we're playing the Celtics in the 1st round instead of the struggling Magic. Boo. Although KG is hurt, I don't think that'll help much in the grand scheme of things. They've still got the Truth and Ray-Ray, not to mention Rondo, Powe, Big Baby, and that solid bench. I'm not feeling nearly as good about this. Seriously, Bulls, you lost at home to Toronto. You deserve what you get from here on out. Go Cards! Blow Cubs blow!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sporting News

I played tennis yesterday! I think that's probably the first time in say... a year? Maybe not quite; I know Erik and I played some in Chicago last summer, but anyway, a long time. I'm actually pretty sore today, which is weird because tennis isn't really a sport that requires using a whole lot of muscle. I guess I was actually hitting the ball pretty well after I got warmed up a bit. I played with the 6th grade teacher, who's not bad. At first we just hit the ball around for a while, so I could get the feel for it again. The major issues are twain: I don't have my racket here, so that makes it rough. I haven't hit with any other since I bought that one, sometime in the 90's, I think. Each racket has its own feel that you have to find... sweet spot, tension, length, weight, handle thickness, everything. Which all affects how hard you can swing, how much spin you can put on the ball, how the ball flies coming off the strings. But anyway... the 2nd issue is the court. They play on clay here! Which is cool, don't get me wrong. I love watching the pros slide around Roland Garros at the French Open. But damn is it tough to play on. It's basically just heavy, manicured dirt... which makes it um, dirty to play on (obvious enough for ya? ha...). But more importantly, it requires completely different footwork. Which I've never learned.

When you play on hardcourts, which is probably 99.5% of the time in the US (I've seen a clay court, but I don't remember where), it's really easy to stop and start, push off, change directions, all that stuff. The courts have a bit of texture that give you a lot of grip... so it's a pretty simple matter to get around the court. On clay, however, the key component of good footwork is the slide. Instead of running through the shot, hitting it, and then stopping and getting back into position, you take away that last step before impact and turn it into a slide. You use that momentum (instead of the step) to hit the shot, and then finish the slide before pushing off to go the other direction. Well, that's the theory anyway, but it's not an easy thing to pull off, especially when you're so used to taking that final step before the swing. And thinking about where you want to hit the shot. And where your opponent is, and where he's going, and what direction the wind is blowing, and everything else. So yeah... we'll see how it goes.

The first set I think I double-faulted probably 15 times... maybe more. Serve just wasn't working, and I lost 6-2. Although I did have one game with 3 aces... I just kept alternating between ace and double fault, which doesn't add up to success. The second set I won 6-4, and I was finally finding my groove a bit, on the second serve at least. I was really just trying to "spin it in," as they say, but even that's rough when you keep hitting the ball with everything but the middle of the racket. I did manage to catch one clean on the top of the frame -- hit it directly up in the air, probably a good 40 feet, and it landed about 8 inches from my right foot. Uh, yeah. Fault.

The reason this all matters is that I apparently volunteered to help represent our school in a tennis tournament in Icheon next Wednesday. I get to leave school early and go to some high school to play against other elementary school teachers. When they initially asked me if I wanted to play, it sounded like a friendly little match between the teachers at our school. So sure! Count me in. Only yesterday did I found out that it's sort of a big deal. Hm... well, wish me luck! I've got time to get a few more practice sessions in, I think, but I'm a little worried about the thumb blister that both developed and ripped open on the same shot last night. So now I've got a pretty substantial piece of thumb-skin missing... but whatcha gonna do? I've had worse, that's for sure. It was funny at lunch today -- my forearm muscles were so tender I could barely hold the chopsticks to eat. I kept dropping food everywhere. Well, not everywhere -- I mean, not on the floor or other people or anything. Just mostly back onto the tray/other food. But yeah, it was still fairly amusing. Just picture the first primates trying to use tools, and you'll have an idea of how well lunch went.

And that's my story for the day. My extra classes were... meh. So-so. Could've been worse. I finally got the textbooks that I ordered. The ones for the younger kids are fine, but I severely overestimated my "advanced" class's level of advanced-ness. So now I've gotta backtrack and fill in a bunch of gaps just to get them to the point where we can actually use the books. Oopsie. On the plus side, at least I have an idea what they need to be learning, so I have some direction for my classes from now on.

I need to fold laundry and I'm not in the mood. I think it's gonna stay hanging up on the "terrace" for another day. Why do it now when there's always tomorrow, right? Also, my ethernet cord is broken -- not the cord, but the little latch that keeps it in the computer. I've got it rigged up now with the lanyard I use for my thumb drives, but it keeps slipping out. My friend Laura is leaving in a couple weeks to go back home, and I think she's gonna give me her wireless router, so hopefully I can just plug that in and not have to worry about it anymore. And finally -- what a great week for my sports teams! Cardinals off to a 6-2 start, Pujols knocking the cover off the ball, Carpenter and Lohse pitching lights out! Blues went on a tear the last 2 months to move into the 6th seed in the playoffs! And the Bulls, coincidentally, went on a tear the last month or so behind Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose to move into (for now at least) the 6th seed in the playoffs! One more win, hope Boston and/or Cleveland TCOB against the 6ers and we've got a shot at an injury-ridden Orlando team and maybe making it out of the first round! Whoo-ee! Oh, and the Cubs suck. =)

OK -- that ended up being a much longer entry than I had originally planned, so I'm cutting it off here. Hasta luego!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday failure

I mean, not like the Romans' failure or anything... we're not talking that grand a scale, but still. I was going to get up and go to church this morning. It would've been my first church visit here, and I was actually looking forward to it. I went to bed pretty early. Good start. I woke up around 8:15, so we were still on target. I heated up the water for coffee and turned on the streaming program so I could catch the first half or so of the Bulls game. Laid back down and waited for the kettle to shut off.

Next thing I know, I wake up and there's 5 minutes left to go in the game. The Bulls are neck-and-neck with a team they should be beating, and my water's cold again. =( Of course, this isn't the worst part: I didn't make it anywhere near a church this morning... boo. So... I mean, sorry Mom! I'll try to go next weekend (even though it probably won't be as cool ) so I can at least tell you what it's like at a Korean Presbyterian Church... which apparently does exist and is relatively close to here.

On a more positive note, the Cardinals and Bulls both won today, so that makes me happy.

On a more negative note, now I need to put my ear to the grindstone and knock out 16 weeks worth of lesson plans today. Should've worked on this yesterday, but it was really nice outside so instead I went for a walk, had a cheeseburger, got my hair cut and went to the gym. But uh, not in that order. I know, I know, that's not really like a full day of activities, but I've become totally engrossed in the Douglas Adams books again. I read them all in high school, but haven't picked them up since. Well, I also finished Hitchhiker, read the whole 2nd one ("Restaurant at the End of the Universe") and am halfway through "Life, the Universe, and Everything." So at least I'm not being totally mindless and useless... or maybe I am. I dunno... who can say, really?

I also found a decent website for studying Korean, so I've been doing a bit more practicing on that as well. I learned the simple past tense yesterday... so that's cool. Now I can say things like "I went to the gym, then I ate a cheeseburger, and it was delicious." Haha... slowly but surely, ya'll, that's the way this is gonna work. Check this site out if you're interested. It's fun, I promise.

Other than apologizing for dropping the ball today, I don't really have much to say. Same ole, same ole, I guess... I mean, as much as you can call living in Korea "the same..." It really is starting to feel that way though, at least a little bit. Things don't seem so strange to me anymore, in general. The strangest thing recently was today: not going to church with my Mom on Easter. It's the holidays that really carry a sense of tradition and comfort, ya know? The rest of the time, I guess, work's work, food's food, sleep's sleep. Not being with my family on Thansgiving and Christmas was definitely harder than today, though. I dunno, either I'm settling in a bit more (which is true, by the way) or Easter doesn't have as strong a family feeling for me as the winter holidays (which is also true, by the way). Wow. That last sentence shouldn't have been an either/or proposition at all, huh? I just lol'ed. Not sure why it started that way in my head, but whatever. The human mind works in mysterious ways sometimes.

OK, enough stalling, time to get down to brass tacks here. So (because I have no desire to start doing lesson plans), I just looked up the etymology of that phrase, realizing that I had just about zero idea what it actually meant. And wikipedia, though interesting, isn't entirely helpful. It did lead me on to this discussion of Cockney rhyming slang, however, which is pretty entertaining. Ok, can you tell that I'm really just stalling now? It's getting out of hand. I gotta wrap this up, and get to work. Until next time then.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What a Good Friday! (um... yeah. get it?)

Did I have a great day today, or what?! YES!!! Yes I did... You wanna hear about it? Alright!

First of all, I woke up early so's I could plan my lessons for the extra classes this afternoon. Well, the getting up early part was nice -- I had a chance to cook breakfast, take a nice long shower, shave, all that good stuff. Aaaaand, read randomness on the internet. So I didn't get anything really "planned," per se, and I almost missed the bus to school. Now I know what you're thinking: this is not the start of a great day. And in general, you're probably right. But this story is the penguin that shivers, the thirsty camel, the Asian kid who can't do math. You know, the exception that proves the rule, or something.

So I made the bus, even though I had to jog to the bus station this morning. That kinda sucked, but when you see the bus pulling up and you're still 100 yards or so away but then you see 20 people lining up to get on and you know you can make it on time... yeah, that's a good feeling.

I got to school and (this is always the case on Tue-Fri, but still...) I had about an hour of free time before I have to actually do anything. This is usually when I catch up on my sports scores, blogs I like, grab a cup of coffee, and relax before I just jump right into the day. Now, today of course, I'd already done all that, so I actually got some work done. Flashcards arranged, bingo cards printed, worksheets copied, a battle plan drawn up. I decided to go with the basic premise I laid out earlier, regarding reward and punishment. And let me tell you somethin. I'm a goddamn genius.

***Side note: I took an online IQ test the other day... it seemed fairly genuine... took about an hour and had the same types of questions I remember from when I took an actual one for a high school Psych class... and uh, it went well. I scored higher than I ever had before, in fact. If you wanna know the score you'll have to ask. I'd hate to sound like I'm bragging. HA! Anyone who knows me knows that's not true, but still. I ain't putting it up on here. Side note over. We know return you to your regularly scheduled blogging***

So yeah... I put the fear of god into these little kids. We've got this free-standing AirCon unit in the classroom... wait. Sorry. Did I just say AirCon? Ha... been in Korea too long. A/C unit, is what I meant. Anyway, I did the whole writing their names on the board thing, gave them each two stars, and told them that for every activity they participated in and actually tried, I'd give them another one. For every time they pissed me off (although not in those specific words) I'd take one away. If they got down to zero, they were getting stuck in the corner behind the A/C, and I'd tell their homeroom teacher what had happened, and we'd make up extra homework together for them. Worked like a freakin charm. This one 2nd-grader, Tommy, got up and started wandering around aimlessly (which he does fairly often, usually) about 10 minutes into class. As soon as I erased one of his stars though, his ass was back in that chair like it was magnetized. Awesome. Turns out, he was the only one in my first class who didn't earn a sticker today, which puts him behind the 8ball in the running for the end-of-month prize. (I still don't know exactly what these prizes will be yet. Any suggestions? Nothin too expensive -- I've gotta do something like this all year, but yeah, thanks.)

Anyway, bottom line is, both classes went great today. Kids were engaged, we were having fun, and it was just a really nice afternoon. My advanced class -- 8 kids, 8 stars. No screwing around. Good stuff.

I also got a contract from the school today regarding the extra classes. It turns out, these bad boys are gonna net me an extra $400 a month, which totally comes in handy.

Then, after work I hit up the gym, had a good workout, and popped by the kimbap place on my way home and picked up some chamchi kimbap -- like a tuna salad maki roll with rice and carrot and some other things all mixed in there together. Now, clearly, I'm home blogging. I think I'm gonna read the rest of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and get some sleep.

One more recommendation request, and then I'm done, I promise! I finished "The Wire" and now I need some new TV to watch. I'm not usually into like, network dramas... but comedies, HBO/Showtime type stuff (though I've seen most of that already), anything off-the-wall or relatively obscure, feel free to shoot it my way. Thanks! Happy Anniversary-of-Jesus'-Crucifixion!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Movin up in the world...

I've been added to the Korean Blog List. Thanks, guys. If you're anxious to read more about this magical place, go check it out sometime. They've asked me to link back to their page, since they're now linking to mine, so it's over there ==> on the right side somewhere. It's mostly just other foreign teachers living here and writing about life, as far as I can tell. Some of their lives are much more interesting than mine though. If you're here trying to live vicariously through someone else, you could probably do better than me... I'm just sayin.

I think there's also a section for foreign language exchanges, if anyone would like to start learning Korean. You know, from a hot Korean girl. Or guy, I guess. Whichever... I ain't here to judge.

It's another beautiful day here -- sunny, probably around 70 degrees! Perfect for some outdoor shopping in downtown Icheon... so I gotta go get ready. Mi Sun will be here any minute now. Peace out, homies.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spontaneous Holiday?

I just found out today that we don't have class tomorrow! I'm not sure why, but I think it's a state-wide holiday, and not national. Gyeonggi-Do something or other Honor and Celebration for Make Glory the Beautiful... wait, what was I talking about?

So, I'm going to try to make the most of the day and go shopping in Icheon. I'm not really sure what there is to buy there, but Mi Sun suggested it, and I guess she's going to show me around, since, well, she works with me and thus has tomorrow off too. 2 things I'm definitely looking for: maple syrup and oatmeal. I really like eating breakfast, it turns out -- not least because I have to leave my apartment around 8am and I don't get lunch till after 12. 5 hours of getting ready and dealing with ankle-biters is hungry work, ya'll. Believe that.

I don't really think I'll be able to buy much else, like, American-y. I've heard that for decently priced meat and cheeses and normal stuff like Dinty Moore Beef Stew and Hormel Chili that you have to go to a) the Army Base or b) Costco. That Canadian guy Dave has a car and offered to take me to Costco some weekend but I just haven't taken him up on it yet. Although, I'd really like to buy some steaks. I mean, this is costco, so I'll probably end up with 12 pounds of steaks, but that's why I have a ginormous freezer, right? And no, I don't think I'll buy either beef stew or canned chili, in case you were wondering.

So my extra classes didn't go so well today. I was kind of disappointed, bein as how I just got back from job training and all, but hey! things never go the way you expect them to. I realized that I need some sort of coherent reward/punishment system. I'm thinking each day I'll start with their names on the side of the board and 2 stars next to each one. Participating in an activity and being good will earn you a mark. Talking when I'm talking, being disruptive, or not participating will get them taken away. If you get to zero, then there'll be some sort of consequence, based on your behavior. A time out or what have you... I don't have the details all worked out yet, but I feel like I'm losing them. Part of the problem is that my class doesn't matter -- there's no grade, no reason to try unless they just like English. Which some of them do, and they're awesome. But the ones that don't make it very difficult to spend any amount of quality time with the ones that do. Anyway, I need to find a way to make them accountable for their perfomance and behavior in my class. I think I'll talk to my coteacher and see if we can set up some kind of reporting system that will go back to their homeroom teachers, so they'll know if their kids are being little hellians. I gotta ask about that... so we'll see. Oh, and obviously, the reward part of the system: each student who finishes class with 5 stars (out of a possible 6 or 7: 2 to start plus ~4 activities) gets a sticker for the day. And the 2 with the most stickers at the end of the month get a little prize. Candy or maybe some American treat, or a pencil case. They like pencil cases here.

What do you think? Got any suggestions for me? I'm all ears on this one.

I kicked my own ass at the gym yesterday. I think it was taking several days off for that teacher training that did me in. My arms don't wanna work today. Good stuff.

Oh! Get this! I (finally) successfully ordered pizza. In Korean. For delivery. To my house. I'm the man with the master plan... no school tomorrow and potato pizza coming my way. What a great night! And on that note, I need to put on some pants.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Please don't cry...

One of my "advanced" students yesterday was kind of a brat. I said "was," but the truth is that she IS kind of a brat. She's difficult to deal with, speaks very little English, and has a real penchant for the dramatic. One little thing sets her off, and then she shuts down, becomes impossible to deal with. She cries, pouts, and becomes unresponsive to everything.

Yesterday during class, I was trying to play this game... it involved passing an eraser. My "hot potato," actually. We were practicing "what's your name?" and "how are you?" When it was her turn to take it, she refused. Ignored the person next to her. Defiance written all over her. I tapped the eraser on her shoulder to get her attention, and oopsie! dry erase marker junk leaves a spot on her shoulder. I could see the emotions on her face: first disbelief, then anger, then the beginnings of a plot as she started to plan how she could get her revenge against me for getting her sweatshirt dirty. I didn't mean to mess up her shirt, I was just trying to get her involved in the classroom activity. Anyway, I'd seen this before, and I didn't really want to get started down this road.

Then it hit me -- what does this girl need to happen in order to feel better? Well, like I said, she's a bit vindictive. I pointed at her shoulder and then apologized, miming that I didn't know that would happen. She couldn't care less. Then I took the marker and tapped it on my own shoulder, rubbing it into my shirt for good measure. Again I made that "Sorry, who knew?" face at her, and she giggled. I went over and tried to brush off the spot on her shirt -- it wasn't gonna work. Then I looked at her and did the same to mine, shrugged, and smiled at her. She laughed. She played the game. Problem solved, I guess.

Kids are somethin else, I tell ya. Anyway, I feel a bit better knowing that I figured out how to deal with this girl. I'm fairly certain she'll present more problems (unlike Flounder), but at least now I have a starting point for dealing with her shit when it happens during class. I really believe that no one learns more than a teacher. Whether it involves how to handle unruly 10-year-olds or directing towards some form of utility the disparate thoughts of a PhD-level economics class, no one has to deal with more different personalities and opinions and figure out how to use them for the good of a group quicker than a teacher. It's amazing what you learn at this job, both about the students' mentalities and your own.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bedtime Stories, B-Boys, Bulgogi

OK, picking up from last time...

Wednesday morning's presentation went really well! Our little "How Many Cows?" thing went off without a hitch. I thought there were a couple in our group that were better, but apparently I'm no good at judging teaching talent. I'll never be a major league educator scout, is what I'm saying... because my demo lesson was one of 3 chosen to be presented on Thursday morning to the whole conference! I was actually pretty proud of myself... =) The details of the thing aren't that mind-blowing or anything, but we did successfully create a lesson for 8 year-olds that had an attention-getting hook:

Teacher: Raise your hand! (demonstrating)... Now, raise your other hand! (demonstrating again)... Now, put them down! Now, raise your hands! Hello everyone! (cause they're hands are up already, so now we're waving hello! Plus, it ties into that whole using the -s for more than one of something. Good stuff, right?)

Then we made a poster with cows on it to present the material. "How many cows?" / "1 cow." / "How many cows?" / "2 cow." / "Close, but listen again. How many cowzzzzz?" / "2 cowzzzzzzz." haha...

Then we played a counting game where different groups of people had to pretend to be different zoo animals and we practiced counting them. Then we wrapped it up with this little gem: "Hold up 1 thumb. (demonstrating, of course)... Now hold up 2 thumbs. Did you enjoy the lesson?" Get it, cause they've got their thumbs up already... nothin like a captive audience.

Unfortunately, there was some kind of insanity that happened in Sarah's room Wednesday night. Not sure, exactly, but I guess her roommate kinda snapped, flipped out, broke down, whatever you wanna call it. I'm told she was like, literally walking into walls, muttering nonsense and shaking like a fiend. Then she told Sarah that she ate a whole bottle of xanax. So Sarah had to find the coordinators and get her in an ambulance and so she asked if she could cancel the presentation Thursday morning. It would have been kinda fun to do it for everyone, but it was nice just to be selected. No worries.

Wednesday night, after dinner (jajang bap -- chinese black bean sauce over rice!) we had what was listed on the schedule as a "B Boy Performance" from 7 - 9. So we thought, cool... sounds like fun. Let's hit that up. Turned out, however, that the word "performance" was a little misleading, and "demonstration" would have been more accurate. That's right ya'll... for the first time ever, I got to breakdance. I actually did pick up a few steps pretty quickly. I'm not sure what I looked like doing them, although I'd venture a guess that "cool" and "smooth" and "badass" are not words used to describe me. I did have fun though. I can now sidestep, backstep, 8-step, and 6-step... well, you know, in theory. I mean, I know how to do them, let's just leave it at that. I also learned that it's freakin hard... I was sweating like a sonofabitch after like 20 minutes of this shit... craziness, man...

After that, a few of the boys and I headed back to the bar. It was N Korea v. S Korea in soccer, and no way we were passing up a chance to catch that one on the big screen at a bar. With real live Koreans to cheer with. We ended up winning 1-0 on a late goal that I didn't see coming... it looked like a nil-nil tie for sure, but damn did that place raise up. I ended up chatting and drinking with these 2 Korean guys for a while before we headed back to the noraebang. No cop threats, no angry owner this time... just some good clean karaoke fun. And bonus: when I got back to the place (learning center, they call it... doesn't really work for me), I went downstairs to find 2 guys just sitting there in the little lounge, with 2 giant unopened bottles of beer on the table. I said hey, and they asked if I wanted them, seeing as how their boy just left them there and they didn't want any more. So I said, hellz yeah. At this point like 3 more of the guys I had been out with walked in, so we picked up round 3 right there and rolled with it. Went to bed soon after and got up ready to rock out on my presentation. Then got the call at breakfast that it was off. So, I just hope that girl's alright. It sounded serious.

The other new thing I tried this week for the first time (other than break dancing, natch) was this weird hybrid sport they play here. It's called choh-gu (or something like that) and it's like a mix between volley tennis and soccer. I don't know if anybody else even knows what the hell volleytennis is, but we used to play it in junior high. Well, long story short, choh-gu is played on a court about the size of a volleyball court. The net is about as high as a tennis net. You play with a soccer ball. No hands, arms, you know, just like soccer. Other than that, the rules are the same as volleytennis. It bounces once; person A can hit it up in the air, or over the net. It bounces again, person B can hit it up in the air, or over the net; It bounces again, person A or a new person has to hit it over the net. Rinse, repeat. I've seen Koreans playing it before but this was my first time... and it's harder than it looks. But these Koreans will set it, up by the net. Just like in volleyball. Then... well, you kinda have to see it, but they do this taekwondo crazy spinning flying kicks to spike the damn ball. Also just like volleyball, but way freakin cooler. I didn't really try to get into all that noise, since half the point for us was trying not to hurt ourselves, but I'll keep practicing, you know... in case there's some horrible genetic disease here and I have to end up representing Korea at the Asia Games in volleysoccertennis ball.

And, finally -- went back to work today. Had 2 pretty good lessons, after school trying to put into practice the things I learned at orientation. I know, that whole sentence had the potential for sarcasm, I'm noticing. But that's totally not the case -- I really did learn shit, and then use it.

After work, Mi Sun and Mi Jin and I went shopping for the 2nd course of our dinner extravaganza. This time it was Mi Sun's turn, and she opted for the one thing she knows how to cook, apparently: bulgogi! Pronounced bool-go-ghee (rhymes with key, ya see?). It's thinly sliced Korean beef, cooked with a certain type of mushroom, and onion and bulgogi sauce, simmered and served with rice, or you can wrap it in lettuce leaves, which are naturally the two main ways to eat most meats here. Anyway, it was freakin good... we had kimchi with it (of course), and then after we had eaten quite a bit of bulgogi on lettuce, added the rest of the rice to the pan and mixed it all together, giving us this nice saucy rice-y beefy desert. Koreans aren't big on desert foods (sweet ones, I mean) but if you let them throw rice or noodles onto a skillet of meat you've got yourself a solid end to a Korean meal. Plus we bought some traditional Korean drink to go with it -- Makeorri, I think, is the name. It's different... I'm not even sure how to go about explaining the different tastes involved with this thing. A little sweet, a little tangy, a little starchy, I wanna say... and it makes you feel kinda warm and fuzzy. Strange, but not bad. I'll give it a C+. Now, Mi Sun's cooking, on the other hand... she gets an A! Cause A is for Awesome. Next time it's Mi Jin's turn, and I'm excited already!

And that's where the other shoe drops. Off my foot. And then the bed. And then, in an ideal world, it jumps up, runs over and hits the light switch so I don't have to move before I can crash. That's telekinesis, Kyle...