Saturday, June 27, 2009

You take the bad, you take the good...

And today was really good. As I may (or may not) have mentioned, I'm not giving up that easy. We went out for lunch today, caught the new Terminator at the theater, and then had a couple drinks at the bar before coming back from Icheon. It was... nice. Maybe persistence will pay off? Remains to be seen, I think, but there were good signs today. Either that, or she's just heartless and is toying with my emotions. But I didn't get that vibe today.

Terminator was pretty good, actually. Perhaps because I had literally zero expectations going in, but it was entertaining. Not at all terrible. I was pleasantly surprised. Lunch was amazing though -- she took me to 초이 수제비 -- Cho-i Soojebi. We had 비빔밥(bi-bim-bap) , 졸면(jol-myun), and 수제비(soojebi) -- mixed rice (with egg, vegetables and hot sauce), spicy cold noodles with bean sprouts, and dumpling soup (which tastes almost exactly like the chicken and dumplings at Pioneer's Cabin near Carterville, minus the chicken). And it was a whole lot of food. And it cost about 7 dollars. Maybe less. And no, not each -- total. I love this country.

The movie was good. We held hands, even (dare I say) cuddled a bit. Fun times. Then we went to WaBar for drinks and tried to talk in Korean. I can say some things, I promise. But with my extremely limited vocabulary the conversation pretty quickly devolves into a lot of one-word sentences (on my part) followed by what? or why? (from her) followed by my old standby, I don't know. Less than spirited conversation, to put it mildly. There was a really cute baby hanging out at the bar though, which always amuses me. I mean, he wasn't just chilling alone trying to pick up older women or anything. He was there with some girls already. But seriously -- who brings a baby to a bar?!

Other observations: the bugs (mosquitoes, especially) are getting bad. And they have no trouble getting into my apartment, even with the doors and windows shut, it seems. It's hot in the summer. Not Houston hot, or even Marion hot, but it's uncomfortable nonetheless. The new cheap awesome pizza place is killing me, but no worse than I expected. It's just... right... there. Sucks. Mud Festival is coming up -- I'll do a post about that soon, but I'm definitely going. Still don't have a firm plan for summer vacation. That's starting to freak me out a bit. Federer's rolling through Wimbledon, no surprise there. The Cardinals' offense blows, slightly bigger surprise. But their pitching has been fantastic, even bigger surprise. Brett Favre is un-retiring, so, um... negative infinity surprise on that one. My electricity bill is gonna suck -- I keep forgetting to turn the A/C off when I leave the house. Oopsie.

And actually, that's all I've got to say about that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What a Terrible Day

It started out good -- didn't have to work today. Got a call at 9:30 last night from my coteacher letting me know I didn't have to come in. Texted the girl, let her know I had the day off too, asked her to meet me for lunch. She said yes. Good start to a good day, right?

Well, lunch was good. Then we bought ice creams and went to the park. And talked. And it came out that even though we have fun together... her family wouldn't approve, and we live in a small town and work in a small school, and i'm white. (the horror!) and she likes me as a friend, but doesn't think we can date.

And this was on the one month-iversary of our first date. Just a shitty day, all around. I haven't given up yet. But damn, did that suck. I've never been discriminated against because I was white before. To any minorities reading this, I'm sorry. Discrimination is a bitch, affirmative action or no. Anyway, I did what any good minority-type person would do. I shanked a bitch, smoked some crack, did some advanced mathematics and then went to prison, where I refused to eat beef and pork and then called home and talked to 19 different people before I found someone in my family because they were all out mowing lawns when I called. Actually, haha... no. I did what any Korean would do and drank some soju and then got online and enjoyed my ultra-fast broadband connection. But still, have some sympathy, yeah?

I'm not giving up, though. Presents. Sweet-talking. And if that don't work, well then blackmail's never let me down before.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Weekend Update (like SNL, but not funny. Oh, wait, it's just like that)

Friday night -- traditional Russian dancing in Icheon. No, I wasn't the one dancing, as much as I hate to ruin the mental image for ya. But we went to watch a performance troupe at the Arts Hall in Icheon. It was cool... lots of hopping around, and costume changes, and girls shrieking. Yeah, that's right. Shrieking... like, during the singing and dancing. It's weird.

Afterwards we went to WABar for beers. Met up with Tom and Travis and headed over to meet a big group of foreign teachers at "Sports Bar." Actually, the name is something else, something I don't recall. But they call it sports bar because they have darts and you can play Wii sports there. Which, sadly, I didn't do. Boo. Also, instead of normal pitchers for the beer, it comes in these like meter-long tubes with smaller ice-filled tubes inside them. And you get your own tap and everything. Good stuff.

I did play a Korean drinking game too, which was kinda awesome. It's called Titanic. You put an empty shot glass into a mostly full mug of beer. It floats... then you take turns pouring tiny amounts of soju into the glass. Whoever makes it sink has to chug it. I did fine... you know. I'm all good when it comes to drinking games. Practice makes perfect, all that... haha. But Mi Sun -- yeesh. She was driving and so she enlisted me as her drinking surrogate. I think she was screwing me over on purpose! Anyway, I got pretty toasty, but I also got a ride home. You know, 6 of one, right?

Saturday. Rain, rain, all day. But still warm, and sticky, and just gross. Today was sunny and hot and nice, but I didn't really have anything exciting to do.

Tomorrow we have an open class. This means that the principals and some parents and others get to come watch our 4th grade class. Now, my coteacher Mrs. Yun is also a music teacher, so she's combining her discliplines and we're doing a music class, but in English. So, that should be fun. I get to wear a tie, and play the recorder. Yee-haw! On the plus side, though, we don't have any groups coming to the Global Center this week! So, apart from Monday, and Tues/Fri after school classes, I got nothing to do! Awesome... gives me time to study Korean, and maybe practice English with the girls at work. I'm also trying to talk Mi Sun into playing tennis with me sometime. She's got these weird double-jointed elbows that allow her to twist her forearms around like 50% more than a normal person. I think she might be good at tennis, although her athletic skills are uh... less than developed overall. And she's kinda lazy. Actually, I don't have high hopes for this at all, apart from good exercise and the inevitable humor factor. Which is totally worth it.

Speaking of tennis -- Wimbledon starts tomorrow! Hell yes. And the Cardinals are back to their winning ways, leading the division, half a game ahead of Milwaukee! And uh... yeah. That's it. That's my life.

Oh, one more thing. Turns out China's kind of a pain in the ass for American citizens. Visas are expensive, and you can't just go to the consulate to get them. You have to use a Chinese gov't-approved travel agent. You also have to prove that you have transportation out of the country and hotels already booked. It just doesn't sound like it's well-suited to my current situation. I have no idea where I might want to go, or when exactly I'd be leaving. I was just planning on hitting Beijing for a while and then hopping a train south. And coming back eventually, to take the boat back to Korea. Anyway, I'm now entertaining other options. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Squash

I had an awesome workout today. I was feeling kinda tired after class, so I drank some coffee before leaving the office. And yeah, it was crappy Korean insta-coffee, but it must have had some kind of magic pixie dust in there because I felt great at the gym. It was one of those days where each set left me feeling like I had more energy, not less. So I lifted for over an hour and then went downstairs to hit the squash court. My squash-buddy (whose name I can't recall, oopsie! she works in the office at my school though) wasn't there today, so I just started hitting by myself. Now, I wish that I could've had a facility like this for tennis back in the day, but I guess squash is a much easier sport to play by yourself. Since, you know, you're in a room and all... the ball pretty much always comes back to you no matter what you do.

Well, a squash ball doesn't actually bounce very well. It's hollow, soft rubber. And no, not like a bouncy-ball rubber... squishy... dare I say, even squashy? Ha... But anywho, you really have to whale on this thing to get it to come back all the way to where you're standing. Or hit it really high, I guess, but that ain't nearly as much fun. Naturally, when you do haul off on it, it comes back pretty damn quickly. I'd say, without a partner, it works out to like a shot every two seconds or so. Maybe once every three -- I wasn't actually counting. Although I will, now that I've thought about it. But yeah, that gets tiring quick, yo. I was trying to work on my backhand, which is definitely my weaker side. And it's even harder with the squash ball than in tennis, because the low-bouncing ball means you're always having to lunge and bend your knees and hit from about mid-shin level. It's quite a workout. I ended up hitting for almost an hour, until my forearms basically threw down their goggles, took their ball and went home.

And no -- squash players don't wear goggles, but I really think they should.

That's it for me tonight. I'm chillin like a villain at home, and I'll probably be going to bed soon.

Weeds is back! I watched the first episode of season 5 and it reminded me how much I loved the earlier ones, so I'm working through season 1 again now. I'm also checking out True Blood... mostly because Anna Paquin gets nakie. We'll see if it's any good. You know, the show. I'm sure that other thing is just peachy.

I really didn't have anything to say about vegetables, gourds or otherwise. Sorry for the misleading title.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baseball!!! Cheeseburgers!!! Yay, America!

Yep -- went to the ballpark on Sunday. It was awesome! The home team won, which is always fun. Final score was (I believe) LG Twins 5, SK Wyverns 3. Something like that, anyway. There were a couple homeruns, the crowd going wild, all that. Here are some fun things that are pretty different from ballgames in the states:

  • Cheerleaders. Oh my, yes... good ones too.
  • Every batter for the home team has a personalized song or cheer when they come up to the plate. All the fans sing along. There's also like an MC (with a stage and everything right behind us) who hops around and yells and leads all the songs. My favorite -- this Venezuelan player whose song was the Macarena... hey, Petagine!
  • Beer is cheap -- a tall boy (or Korean equivalent) costs 3000 won -- less than $2.50 a pop. Win.
  • Dried squid is awesome with beer, it turns out.
  • You can buy KFC and Burger King inside the stadium. I didn't, but the couple we met there brought some chicken in with them, so I did eat fried chicken. Oh yeah -- I saw people carrying in whole pizzas too. Strange food for a ballgame, in my humble opinion, but I like it.
I got some pictures, and so did Mi Sun... I'll be posting them later this week, so look for a link soon.

In school, the class sandwich project was a big hit! All the kids had a ham sandwich (well, half of one, actually) and some chips. I let them all taste the yellow mustard -- I think only a couple of them had ever had it before. It was about half and half, love and hate. Some of them loved it and so I showed them that they could put it on the potato chips also. Used to be one of my favorite snacks, ruffles with mustard. Yum. The other half got this awful kitty-killing look on their face and sputtered around saying something about how godawful it was and wondering what the hell they were thinking. I mean, I guess. It was in Korean, after all. People rarely sputter in their second language, it turns out.

Then I made a couple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which was entirely new for them. I cut them into quarters and let them have at it. Most of them liked it... poor Flounder really hated the jelly, and a couple of them absolutely weren't into the peanut butter... but I was proud that they all wanted to try it. I was just picturing getting American 5th graders to eat the school lunches that we get every day -- now that would be some funny shit. Oh, and the best -- Mi Jin, one of the teachers at the Global Center, made herself a ham, cheese, pickle, mustard and grape jelly sandwich. And ate it. All. I tried it... it was exactly as delicious as it sounds... mot-upseoyo.

And friday night I made cheeseburgers for Mi Sun and Mi Jin. They turned out absolutely amazing. I mean, burgers are easy, I know, but I was (inordinately) proud of myself nonetheless. I finely chopped some onions and mixed them with garlic, salt, pepper, and just a bit of American spicy barbecue sauce I'd gotten from the Army base into the meat and threw them on the skillet. I also fried potatoes (cut the long way, so they resembled french fries) and tossed some salt on there and served them with a ketchup/tabasco mix I threw together. On the burgers -- cheese of course, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mustard and ketchup (and mayo, for Mi Sun. I tried to talk her out of it, to no avail). They were fan-flippin-tastic. Oh, and I bought some Budweiser from the corner store to complete the American-ness of the meal. I rocked the shit, I must say.

You wanna hear something evil? Of course you do! A new pizza place opened up in town not too long ago. Carry-out only, which blows. But a large pepperoni pizza is only 5oooWon. Which is like, less than $4. And lest you think this is some hot cardboardy garbage-circle pizza, a la Little Caesars... I mean, damn... these things are good. 100% real mozzarella, the best pepperoni I've had in Korea, and this kinda thin, firm yet chewy almost New York style crust... wowzers. And the hot chicken pizza... spicy barbecuey goodness, in a box. So anyway, that's evil. And it's about 100 feet from the bus stop, on my way home, to boot. Bastards. So, long story short, I've been kicking it up a notch at the gym to account for what will soon be a ludicrous level of pizza consumption. I'm now lifting for an hour a day and then playing squash (yeah, I didn't really know what it was either -- here ya go) with this girl who works in the school office after. I'm pretty much hoping to break even, what with the afore-mentioned pizza fiasco.

And now I'm going to study some Korean. I'm still sexy ya'll!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Toe-yo-il pah-may

I was walking to the gym today after work when all of a sudden, out jumped a leprechaun!

Actually, no. What really happened was that my toe started to hurt. Kinda badly, in fact. It only happens at one point in my stride, when my left foot is pushing off so the toes are kinda bent backward a bit. It's the big toe. It makes it really uncomfortable to walk. At first it was kinda sporadic, so I tried walking it off, but that only made it worse. So, resolved to the situation, I turned around and came home. Well, first I went to the grocery store, because...

Tomorrow we're making sandwiches in my after-school class! Whoo-ee. We're finishing up a little unit I created on Green Eggs and Ham, and of course one of the themes of the book is trying a new food. So I'm bringing in some western-style sandwichy stuff they probably haven't tried before. Like, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese with yellow mustard, normal stuff like that. I'm interested to see how they like it. When I asked them what sorts of foods they would need to make a sandwich, I got some really ... uh, thought-provoking answers: butter, cucumber, cabbage, eggs... I think there were a couple other pretty good ones too. But the point is, I'm not sure my idea and their idea of a sandwich are at all the same, so it might be pretty funny tomorrow. I'm also planning to have them read the story to me, which may also be entertaining. Fun day tomorrow, fun day.

After school, I'm hosting our multi-cultural dinner group, round 4! I'm making cheeseburgers (no grill of course, but they'll have to settle for the skillet) with homemade french fries. Actually, I ain't deep-frying them, so maybe "home fries" is a better word for them. But I've got tomatoes, onion, pickles, lettuce, mustard and ketchup... everything, in fact, but the buns. Which are apparently nigh-impossible to find here. I know I've seen them in restaurants, but I sure don't know where I might find some for purchase. Anyway, I'm excited about tomorrow! Lots of food-related things going on, which you all probably know I'm a sucker for.

Baseball game on Sunday -- LG Twins vs. ... well, somebody. I'm not sure it really matters who, actually. Mi Jin roots for LG, plus they're close -- just a few subway stops from the nearest bus station in Seoul. And the games are cheap here! I'm used to going to Wrigley with my cousin and seeing 80-90 bucks a seat... hell, even the bleachers are like $40 these days. Well, we're not entirely close, but we're on the 1st base side, in foul territory somewhere in the outfield. And we paid the equivalent of about $6.50 per ticket. That, is awesome. So, a little summer-time baseball, beer, and according to Emily, dried squid and roasted potatoes with sugar. Mm-mm-mmm, the taste of summer, right there. Haha...

I got something like 12 hours of sleep last night. It was so bizarre, but around 7pm I just got really overwhelmingly sleepy all of a sudden, and crashed out. I woke up at like 10:30, moved my laptop off the bed, turned out the light and went right back to sleep. Maybe 2am or so, I woke up again, and this time I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep... you know, already having gotten a full night's rest and all. So, I fired up the internet, ate some ice cream, and within 20 minutes I was done again. Crashed once again, only to wake up feeling absolutely fantastic at 7am. Which was early enough for me to do some dishes and start cleaning the place up a bit for the afore-mentioned dinner shenanigans I'm hosting tomorrow. Such a strange night, but today I felt great, so... whatever works, huh?

Also, another girl today told me that I look like Homer Simpson. I gotta say in my own defense, I don't see it. I mean, sure I'm a little chubby, but come on; Homer Simpson fat? I don't think so. Plus, I've got hair. I mean, seriously. Maybe it's my (relatively) large round eyes and my five o'clock shadow? I dunno. She did apologize later and told me that I had a very nice face (yes, in those exact words), but I can't say that made up for the hurt feelings from the Homer comment.

Korean kids are strange about that, by the way. Almost everyday, I have at least one student tell me I'm "handsome." And about half the time, it's a boy. I'm not sure where that comes from, but I'll take it, ya know? Don't look a compliment-horse in the mouth, all that...

Oh, in case you were wondering... the title of this post is the name of a K-Pop song that is real popular right now. It might not be the name, actually, but it is the only line that I know: To-yo-il pa-mae... which means, Sa-tur-day night. But you see what I did there, with the "toe" bit, cause of my ... ok. You get it. I gotta go now. For reasons unrelated to the diminishing quality of my blogging. I promise. Peace.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Quiet week, great weekend!

So very very sorry about the lack of regular posting. It may get better. Or it may not. Like the Cardinals "offense." No one can say for sure.

The early part of the week was real quiet... nothing doing on Sunday. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday...

Actually, that's kind of a lie. Thursday I went out for drinks with Mi Sun, which was really fun. We went to a place called I Love Hoolala -- it's got cheap bear and expensive but tasty chicken. On our way from car to bar, we actually met another foreign teacher who had been to our center sometime in March, this Aussie guy named John. He was out shooting pool with a Korean teacher at his school, so they joined us for a couple of pitchers.

Yesterday I had a fan-freaking-tastic day at work, believe it or not! We had a new school after three days of the worst-behaved kids I've had the pleasure of meeting. I actually threatened one group of kids who wouldn't shut up. Not physically, mind you. I just told them if they wouldn't listen and participate that they'd have to sit there and copy the dialogues instead of roleplaying them and having fun with the metal detector, the airplane food and the taxi. Anyway, Friday's group was much better! Quiet, friendly, pretty solid English skills for the most part. And the best thing -- we've got more classes from this same school coming all next week. Should make for a much more enjoyable work week than the last one. And, my extra classes on Friday went really well. I've been struggling to find something that interests my fifth-graders enough to actually get them to try and learn something new. Well, I think Dr. Seuss is it. We've been doing "Green Eggs and Ham" for the last two classes. We've learned about rhyming words (which is sort of a foreign concept in Korean, I gather), and also interrogative vs. declarative sentences: "Do you like... ?" vs. "I like..." and "No, I don't like..." This is actually a big step forward for this group. Happy times. I think next week I'm going to have them read the story, and then on Friday... well, not sure yet. Maybe I'll bring in some foods and we'll move from I like to I want or I have. I dunno, but the outlook is good, let's leave it at that.

Last night, Mi Sun and I went out again -- this time for kalbi, then beer for dessert, then a walk down by the river which wasn't as pleasant as I'd expected due to the bugs (boo), and then ice cream for 2nd dessert. Good night. Super bonus best part: She invited me to join her, her sister and sister's family at Everland today! So, yeah -- Korean amusement park day! Whoo-ee! =) I'm not really sure what all they have there, but I'll definitely report back on the wonder that is Everland. I know it's like roller coasters and stuff, and apparently they do fireworks after dark, so it sounds like it should be pretty cool. More to come on that, for sure.

Also -- great day in sports yesterday. Cardinals won, which it seems is becoming increasingly rare. The Lakers won also, which I don't really care about. I just don't much like Orlando. For no reason, actually. It's like how I feel about Portuguese people. Then, there were two absolutely amazing matches at the French Open. Robin Soderling, the man who "did the impossible" (in his own words) by beating Rafa Nadal, is into the final after beating Gonzo in 5 sets. Then, Federer battled through 3.5 hours of mediocre tennis interspersed with brilliance (i.e. the 4th set, a couple games in the 5th) to finally beat Del Potro and get into the finals. This is his best chance to not only tie Pete Sampras for most Grand Slams ever, but to also complete his Career Slam -- winning all four majors, something Sampras never did. Regardless of whether or not he got off easy by missing Nadal this year, if he wins tomorrow I think he has to be called, officially, the greatest ever. And he deserves it. Good for him.

OK -- time to hop in the shower and get ready for the magic and mystery and fairy dust and insanely long lines of Korean Disneyworld. Hope ya'll have a great weekend! Peace.