Saturday, 29 December 2007

On Behalf of Western Civilization, I'm Sorry

I made it! The great thing about coming from a life in Korea: No jetlag!

Found a place for the night and got a cab into the city for less than 1000 baht. I don't know how much that is in dollars or won but I do know that it's less than the private cab companies tried to charge just to get me to the backpacker neighborhood.

Sadly, it seems to be made up of a significant population of Westerners celebrating the absence of open container laws. I've come up with a name for people who travel around the world just to drink and smoke so that they can go back home and talk about all the ridiculous stuff they did because they were drunk and ran out of smokes: International Dilletantes. I've seen them all over Asia now (Japan, Korea, Thailand, Australia, & New Zealand) and it just makes me sad. How can you learn or appreciate anything if you spend the entire time in a chemical haze of one sort or another?

On the positive side I had little trouble getting here and even had a surprise stopover in Taiwan (I did not notice it on the e-ticket). Their airport in Taipei is not exciting. I keep considering buying duty free cigarettes and attempting to use the cigarettes to garner favors and "make friends". When I go to North Korea I know for sure that I will do this. Other positive: veggie spring rolls from street vendors at one in the morning. Pad Thai morning, noon, and night. Oh, and no open conatiner laws! Woohoo! Just kidding on that last part, nothing curbs ones desire for alcohol like observing the obnoxious and embarassing behavior of people who have already had too much and are sharing their brilliance with the public.

While waiting in the very long line to immigration I began pondering cows. Specifically, cows in leather form. I have this leather bracelet thing with a silver rose on it that I made and I decided it's badass because it's black leather. Then I started thinking about how leather is badass but cows aren't at all.
Badass: leather, eating cow, wearing cow
Not Badass: cows, killing cows, tipping cows

Does the tanning process somehow imbue cows with badassery? Can we do this to other animals? Can it be applied in any state other than post-mortem? Get back to me on that, k?

Friday, 28 December 2007

Going To Thailand

Going to Thailand for a week. Might have internet. Might not.



Vacation officially begins NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

In Old Country, Candidate Carries Sword

I want to vote in the Ukraine! Scroll down and see what Yulia is up to in her campaign.

Things I Know

How, you may ask, do I know that I'm not living in a musical? Because when all of the audio equipment within my grasp at work fails and a student suggests I sing the song I am thinking of for their listening exercise I do not burst into siren-like song. The children do not join in after the first chorus. I am wearing the same pants I wore Monday and the lighting is shit. This is how I know.

When I learn my first phrases in Korean I am unable to commit them to memory by singing a little ditty that eventually turns into a three-part routine, including some co-worker who unwittingly stumbled in on my lesson only to find herself pulled, by lyrical forces beyond her control, into our song. Clever lines about remembering to pronounce final esses and d's do not pop into my head. The children cannot conjugate in rhyming couplets. This is how I know.

I have no perceived enemy with whom I will fall in love with in the next act. When colleagues leave the room I do not sing to myself about how poor, lonely, aspirational, or in love I am while looking into my reflection, at human activity below, or upon adorable children/adults/pets/anthropomorphized educational materials engaging in whatever behavior most highlights how isolated I am from all that I, the protagonist, so richly deserve. This is how I know.

When I say something curious or pithy those in my vicinity do not pause and repeat my statement to a beat. When I am unable to communicate with the Koreans in my neighborhood we do not commune on some higher plane through song. Adoring children do not follow me wherever I go. Likewise bluebirds, young men taken with my charm, and sparkling halos of light. This is how I know.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Weighing in on the Election

Ron Paul is an ass. His knowledge of history is only passing and his understanding of International Affairs is almost entirely absent. He is principled only to the degree that he will declare principles he thinks others should follow and not in living according to them himself.


Another friend might visit me here. *squee!*

I sucked today. Every class but one was review and it was just monotonous and craptacular. The one class that wasn't review suffered sequential technical problems which left me swearing under my breath. Also, they were 13 year olds. Nothing heaps irritation on problems like teenagers. Hopefully this doesn't wholly wreck my magic at work but I was just off. I did not, as they say, bring my A game. A co-worker was kind enough to tell me no one had said anything bad about my work yet so that's good.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Happy holidays!

No matter how intellectually you approach the absence of gifts at Christmastime, not having something to open, after more than two decades of doing so, blows. I played pop culture Trivial Pursuit with coworkers and some other associates. It was interesting. There is little else to report from here except that I'm looking forward to my winter break.

I hope all is well with you (my adoring fans). Heh.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Happy Holidays

I have not escaped Christmas music by being here. It is marginally less annoying than in the states because on occasion I am blessed by the carol being in Korean, which does not get stuck in my head and can be far more easily ignored because unless it says "yes", "no", "what did you do last weekend?", or "foreigner" I won't recognize the words. This may be an example of blissful ignorance.

Whilst poking around in a nearby store I got to listen to the song about Santa the Stalker (aka Santa Claus is Coming to Town). The highlight of this was that despite being a long-established song, with lyrics that have gone unchanged for dozens of shopping seasons, the song as sung by Koreans contained the kinds of grammatical errors I correct for a living. Example, when singing about Santa: He know [sic] when you are sleeping, he know [sic] when you're awake. There was another song where the lyric starts out with first person plural (we) and ends in first person singular.

Sometime this week my kids will sing Jingle Bell Rock and perform a very short play written by my coworker (A Gift for a Snowman*). It should be interesting. Possibly adorable. The sum total of my contribution to this was having the kids run through their lines at the end of my classes and naming the snow fox (which, in the spirit of simplicity and rather dumb naming schemes for young'uns is "Snowball"**).

*Spoiler: sunglasses.
**Although, thanks to Clerks, this does bring up secondary, more mature mental images.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Can I Put This on My Resume?


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Friday, 21 December 2007

My friend Meg alerted me to a product that I swear would be a fitting gift for nearly half the people on my Christmas list because everything should taste like bacon.

We had our Christmas dinner at Outback tonight! It was good. It was nice to have something to do on a Friday night (even if it was work-related). I enjoyed a free meal that wasn't Korean (not a dig, just sayin' that I don't always feel like rice 'n' kimchi for dinner). I feel like I so earned this weekend after taking home work two nights in a row, agreeing to take on an intensive course for the next month, and just generally busting my hump.

Tomorrow I need to accomplish some more Christmas shopping and prepare for the holiday party chez co-worker. The host has a fixation with classiness that is fascinating. My opinion is that a defining feature of classiness is that it appears effortless so watching someone put for a great deal of effort to achieve it is...captivating. I am not so enamored of the materialism that accompanies it but it is best to just let that flow on and not worry about it.

Yesterday I received a lovely letter from my grandmother and a fabulous box of deliciousness from my parents!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Work Work

While waiting for this video to load I worked on grading more homework. A student who filled out a compare/contrast Pilgrim Life*/Life Now sheet and under Life Now she put "We like Kimchi" and under Pilgrim Life, "They didn't like Kimchi".

I also volunteered to teach an intensive month-long novel course as well. I'm fairly certain I get paid more. I hope so. I'm afraid to double check.

*Yes, the Amero-centric social studies text book strikes again! They have been learning about the incredibly relevant world of arbitrarily selected Native Americans and the Pilgrims. Sigh.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Games You Can Play: Seoul Edition

You're White: Let's Talk!
Hello! Nothing More
Where Do I Live?
Stupid Foreigner
Your Korean? It sucks.

In other news: I am imposing my musical will upon two different classes! Muahahahaha! I'm living in my own private delusion of being considered the "cool" teacher by having the students listen to a mix I made for their Listening course. I realize that won't be the case but until next week, when they have had a chance to listen to the songs, I'm cool.

The next project I am considering: having the students correct the English on lolcat macros. Tell me that wouldn't be pretty fun.

I was saddened today to realize that my teaching has almost no effect on student output or understanding. My most retarded (in the dictionary sense) class has been steadily improving on their vocabulary test scores in the past few weeks, since I began adjusting the homework to increase the amount they practice their vocabulary. I thought, perhaps, I was actually being a good teacher but a brief chat with one of the students today indicates that they were just lazy as hell and they are now bothering to study under threat of death by their mothers. Little bastards.

Saturday, 15 December 2007


I'm going to be offline for 24 hours straight. This will run from approximately 10:15M EST Saturday to 10:15 am Sunday. I am participating in an experiment and not using electricity in my apartment for a whole day. If there is an emergency please call my land line as, of course, being in the loop is far more important than completing the experiment.

See you in a day.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Greetings, I Am From Foreign.

I had my first informal Korean lesson today! It was tiring as learning new languages can be. There is something about attempting to process so many things at once. Learning the written language actually requires a few skills, especially when learning in context (as in just from translation and the basics of how to function as opposed to the luxury of learning mechanics and not having to use the language to operate efficiently in your environment). A Korean coworker from the upstairs part of our offices is interested in practicing his English. The best part is that he has studied Japanese!

The Japanese is extraordinarily helpful for two reasons. First, there are a set of sounds more common to Japanese than to English that are far easier for me to express (and which, by default, I tend to write down in Japanese) when transliterating the same sounds in Korean. Second, the Korean written language used to use Chinese characters. In Asia Chinese was something like Latin was in Europe before writing and speaking in the vernacular came (with the Renaissance, right?) to be popular. So I have several ways to confirm origins and sounds with my new teacher and that is incredibly helpful.

Language is, in its own way, a sort of historical encryption. The subtleties of the origin and frequency of certain words can help you put together a picture of the progression of the regions where the language is spoken or used. Much like you could trace colonialism by following English, French, Dutch, or Spanish from their originating points in Europe (though, clearly, I do not mean to imply that those are the absolute origins of the languages). Learning another language allows you to see how thoughts are formed and ordered as well. My students have a number of prevalent habits and patterns in their work and it is clear, once you become familiar with the culture and native Korean linguistic habits, how those come about. It is a big puzzle and it is very exciting to put together.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Travel Question

I can't get a flight to Bangkok right now (I'm on a waiting list) for my winter break. There are available flights to Vietnam. Should I just go for Vietnam and do Thailand another time or play the odds on Thailand? And if I go to Vietnam should I start in Hanoi or Ho Chi Min?

My Addiction. Let Me Show You It.

This is me enjoying my first delicious, sugar-free cup of instant coffee in the comfort of my own home. Thank you Team Pirate:)

Lone ninja: arrangements will be made to also enjoy your coffee.

Go Team Pirate!

So...I recorded myself opening the latest box but it got mushy and then I recorded another discussion but got all teary and gave up. I'm a bit down these days about not having local friends and having about 95% less contact with friends and family so it just wasn't coming out right. Anyways, I'm still amassing a special boxing box and the opening video will be in there.

The box was filled with lovely things but what truly made me happy was the towel. It took forever to place it...I wanted to be able to see it from every part of the apartment but that is impossible so it is where I spend most of my time, making me smile.

I'm very glad the week is almost over! Work has been OK but my energy is just not where and when and how I want it to be. On the way home today I was trying to explain this Jim Breuer stand-up routine where he explains the way to confuse a stoner. You just have to ask one question: What were we just talking about? I've searched desperately for a clip and failed to find it. It sums up what some of my classes are like.

In other news: One of the "special reading" classes has a Time for Kids article on squirrels and I'm campaigning to have the instructor do something involving squirrel fishing but I mostly get odd looks. I have some very fond squirrel-related memories. Most especially from last year's Vericon attempt to catch a squirrel the old-fashioned, Hannah-Barbarra way of propping up a box with bait in it and pulling a string once the quarry had gone inside. Never was success met with such surprised paralysis. I don't think we ever thought seriously about what to do if it worked and the squirrel got away. It was huge. Like, two feet long. Massive. With eyes like lasers.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Monday, 10 December 2007

Your Politics

This NPR report is evidence that America is screwed on at least two levels. A woman states that she is thinking of voting for "Hucklebee" [sic]. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino also admitted to not know anything about either the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Bay of Pigs incident on an NPR quiz show. I think I might have to quit the PDZD because all I'm doing now is desperately searching for brains in the news. Am I an ivory tower zombie?


Sunday, 9 December 2007

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Itaewon Adventure

I finally made it to the infamous area called Itaewon. I rather liked it and spent a long time walking around and even navigating back streets through an area with traditional looking houses! It was a wonderful neighborhood just for having some actual geography of hills and alleyways and architectural variation, all of which are totally lacking in my area.

After a great deal of walking around I decided to end the night by checking out an Irish pub there called the Wolfhound. I stood around and sipped a gin and tonic, awkwardly looking around while holding too much stuff. I was not in Itaewon or the bar to par-tay. I was there to be a dork and learn. This means I had my camera, an art project, and materials for taking notes along with me rather than, say, a wad of cash and a slutty top.

Eventually the oldest guy in the bar (an Australian 5 year resident of Seoul who is only four years older than I) sat next to me and chatted me up. It was very interesting and I got a lot of elbow nudges. I felt as though I was in the "Does your wife go?" sketch from Monty Python. The gentleman was very polite and we had an interesting talk on a variety of subjects. I think perhaps the moment he knew the cause was truly lost was when he said, in response to my comment of having lived in Sydney briefly, "I guess you're immune to my charms then, eh?" *nudge* I then said I preferred New Zealand, which is probably the equivalent of saying "I've had sex with your mother" to an Australian.

I should also add that he was the oldest guy in a bar where the average age was probably 12. I saw some honky man-child by shots for two Korean girls with the air of someone who was wealthy and worldly. It was a very strange experience and not my scene at all. Bars are only fun on occasion and with good friends.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Educational Experience

I just had a really fascinating interaction with some Korean Christians. Yesterday a nice young woman and a friend stopped by my apartment and asked if I wanted to take a survey today when they could bring English versions. I agreed and it occurred to me that this was very likely a religious survey but I wanted to be engaging and I agreed. I don't know if I was running very late or if they came early but as I was brushing my teeth, half-dressed, the young lady arrived with her brother.

Apparently it is a Korean tradition to bring something whenever you are a guest in someone's house and so they brought me clementines, which is very generous. I hate it when I feel an obligation to someone and the best way to meet it seems to be to convert, though. They were very polite and I practiced spelling her brother's name because it is very simple in Korean script.

We all knelt on the floor (traditional seating style, women sit on their legs/knees, men get to sit "indian style"*). I took a five question survey which asked me, among other things, to identify which quote I would like to learn more about. There was a quote from the Bible that I didn't recognize so I listed that, which set off an hour long lesson about their interpretation of the Bible. The Bible she carried with her was specifically an instructional, conversion-oriented version so it was not a complete Bible containing all the texts of all the books. Instead, there was a Korean column of text and an English one with just the key chapters that provided the logic and emphasis that they want to express in spreading the word.

It really was fascinating. They talked about Passover and related the original passing over to the modern practice of taking communion. As most of you know the Passover celebrated in Judaism is derived from the plagues of Egypt in Exodus wherein those that sacrificed a lamb to God and painted its blood on their house were spared the plague of having their firstborn killed. This Church of God emphasizes that Christ is the lamb of God and you eat of his flesh and drink of his blood in a parallel act of being passed over for retribution when you die or when we are in End Times. They only give you communion when you are baptised into the church and then once every year in the first month, on the second week of the solar or lunar calendar. I am guessing lunar (and therefore it comports with the Jewish Passover, right?) but there was a slight language barrier.

One of the ways that the Church of God here seems more in tune with Asian cultures is the conceptualization of a heavenly family. They explain that there is a parallel system of sorts in heaven with a father/mother/sibling dynamic and Jerusalem is the home (heaven). I immediately was reminded of Confucianism and its focus on the importance family and wonder if the two are connected.

I was invited to be baptised. I hate turning sincere people down but I tried to be polite and explain that I was baptised in my Baptist grandmother's church already but this sprouted a whole new explanation of how many people are baptised. To sum up she very politely and in mixed English/Korean explained that most churches hand out baptisms like free candy and that you must be able to accept the Holy Spirit consciously, which is actually how the Baptists approach baptism as well. I didn't feel it would be fair to mention that I had, in fact, also been baptised at another protestant church and thusly had covered my bases. My first baptism was without my consent as I was an infant, the second I undertook in an effort to please my grandmother.

*My friend Alisha and I were invited into a Buddhist temple in Japan and I sat indian style and was told I sat like a man.

Purpose in Life

I have a new mission in life. I have just heard that at least one person in Nova Scotia keeps kelp-eating sheep. It was in a story about a tasering incident in Canada and the NPR reporter mentioned it casually. How can one just toss out the fact that there are kelp-eating sheep as though talking about what you had for lunch?! So, now, among my many other goals, I intend to see these kelp-eating sheep.

I woke up early today and started cleaning the apartment. Yesterday two Korean women, one of whom spoke English, stopped by my apartment. I love the flash of surprise that crosses the natives' faces when a foreigner answers the door:). She asked if she could come back tomorrow with an English version of a survey and I, having no real reason to decline, agreed. In case she comes, or looks, inside the apartment I decided I ought to tidy up at least a few of the piles of junk building up and sweep.

After doing my civic duty and possibly being encouraged to join a church I'll be going to the area called Itaewon. Itaewon is known for being a foreigner district that does not at all represent "real Korea". I fear that I'll see a lot of honkies displaying the kinds of behaviors that I find embarrassing and immature because I've already seen it in other popular areas. I'm sure I will also see endless parades of unattractive white men with good looking Korean girlfriends and spend some time lamenting the unfairness of romantic life. I'll bring a positive attitude and my camera. I'm looking forward to seeing a new part of the city.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


I would love to know why I was launched out of bed by the sound of Fur Elise being played over the loudspeaker in my apartment. Sadly, one of the elements that my apartment here shares with my dorm in Japan is that there is a PA system in the various units. Every so often the Ajushi (I believe that is an approximation of the title of the Man with the Giant Tongs who monitors the apartments is called) will broadcast announcements that I can't understand into my apartment. I needed to get up at a reasonable hour anyway but, like the lighted, smoking beer pitcher, this is one of those events that I fail to understand. He didn't even follow up with "good morning!" or anything. I wonder if he just likes to mess with tenants.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Time Flies!

I can't believe it's been a week since I posted!
Work has been a bit more harried because we are in transition between teachers and schedules. Saturday I spent most of the day out, first at a wedding and then socializing with coworkers and former coworkers til the wee hours. It was most educational! Sunday I was inspired to and obsessed with learning to make origami roses and it was so peaceful and zen-like once I actually learned the process I lost track of time. Really, I understand why the art of paper folding blossomed in Japan. It can produce an amazing sense of calm.

I was a very lucky girl yesterday!

I have footage of a discussion of the particulars of the weddings and culture but I am going to work on a better write-up as I want to select my words carefully so as to avoid leaving the impression that I am judging. I realized that I referred to something as "weird" and what I feared was that the fact that I fully recognize that it is from a single, Western perspective and do not mean it is either bad or good, is not apparent. More to come once I get myself in order.