Friday, 14 November 2008

The End of an Era

It is my last night in Korea. Well, it is my last night in Korea relative to the experience of living here, which leads me to think about the definition of home; first, though, let's talk about the day.
I spent the first part of it with my friend/violin teacher socializing and identifying key flaws in my self-perception, which I freely acknowledge but may fail to deal with. Then I went to work to see people and, having nothing better to do, settled in to make some vocabulary lists and advance my intensive course proposal from the winter. Dork-tastic. Voluntary labor on my last free day in Korea. I stuck around so I could see my students and forbade the one heading towards an eating disorder from getting skinny; I even forced her to acknowledge and consume a miniature peanut butter cup. After work we all went out drinking. It was pretty entertaining. The most reserved of the staff pulled up his shirt to reveal a mighty tattoo of a dragonfly on his torso, I was egged into directly challenging my replacement, and I harangued one of the more adorable members of the Korean staff (who, incidentally, said I sound really educated).
The replacement apparently indicated that he was considering, with his English literature degree, among other things, getting a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Granted, this can't be serious because he is, beyond a doubt, too stupid to achieve any greatness in any field (unless Jackassery is a discipline that has developed since I left college). I was more than pleased to start throwing out words and phrases because I spent my vacation with a philosopher and am confident I could crush said replacement with my mind even without the added help of being able to abuse philosophy jargon to highlight his ignorance. The opportunity never arose. The coworkers began inviting me to speak, prodding me to start fucking with my replacement, and I explained that "the flower must bloom; I cannot force the bud to open," and raised a toast of soju, infamy of liquid infamies, to "horticulture". I hope that my ability to bring laughter made up for my failure to crush my coworker with my mind in an overt and public way.
It's late. I will pursue the idea of 'home' another time.
Dear America,
I'm coming home. Or returning to some close approximation.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

In the Tank in Singapore

I'm wearing blue today and tracking the elections from my friend's office in Singapore.

Singapore feels much more multicultural and integrated than anywhere else I've been.

In quieter moments I find myself staring down a path of worries about my future -a job, a place to live, what to do with the cat, reconnecting with people.

Things to look forward to: Thanksgiving, baking, vegetating with friends and loved ones, being near my books, sweaters, cooking, fighting zombies, & snow.

If you have a final request for items from Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea or the Narita Airport in Japan please send me a note so I can acquire them. There are 5 airports and 1.5 weeks between me and home.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

I Got Skillz

As long as we're on the Wonder Girls I'd like to recommend this one as well because it's another example of how whoever is managing their image has recognized the value of weaving humor into the more traditional selling of sex that comes with girl groups. Tell Me is the group's first hit single and I heard it near constantly soon after arriving in Korea (in cabs, in the grocery store &c.).

Friday, 24 October 2008

Nerd Status Confirmed

So I just watched the following video:

After a few minutes of pondering the more expected topics of Korean pop, the attractiveness of the artist, and the hittability thereof I started wondering: Why don't they ever interrupt Ph.D. defenses? Seriously? I know this just makes me an even larger dork but why is it that when the hip, pseudo-iconoclastic pop star interrupts/disrupts something it's always goddamned ballet or other classical style? Can't just one artist challenge the dominant paradigm of academic success with sexy wordplay, a Greek chorus and a flaming chandelier?

I blame Flashdance and everything after...

Save the Last Dance

Take the Lead

Stick It (if you didn't know, this is the gymnastics version of Bring It On)

Now, turn it around:

I think what truly confirms my nerd status is the fact that I've blogged it. I should add that this is all rather meaningless now as Outkast's "Big Boi" Patton is teaming up with the Atlanta Ballet. It's time to shatter some different preconceived notions.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Stupid Won

The exchange rate is so bad that I cried at the bank yesterday. I'm hemorrhaging hundreds of dollars because the Won is so worthless.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Thanks, McCain!

Also, for the record, I'm incapable of working up any sympathy for someone making $250,000 a year. I tried. I even tried imagining really absurd tax rates and still just couldn't squeeze out a single tear. I guess I'm just heartless.

Monday, 20 October 2008

New Look

Today I was "pretty". Any student under the age of 10 who noticed my new look today said I looked pretty. Interestingly, some of my older students made the observation that I looked older because of the contrast between my actual age and the age associated with one who wears pink bows. The most mortifying part of this was that we got a new part-timer and his first introduction to me was me in a color antithetical to my being. It reminds me of the time I rented a car and the rental agency picked out a bright yellow Ford Mustang.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

K-Pop, Part Hana

My expectation is that this will be the first of at least two posts about K-pop (Korean pop music). The video linked below is one that I watched numerous times last winter at the gym. The song was hugely popular although Jewelry has not been as successful as the Wonder Girls (you'll learn about them soon enough). Note the hand motion of moving the two index fingers towards each other in the synchronized dance. A few months ago I witnessed a child mocking one of my former students by dancing around him in a circle, using his middle finger in the same fashion and yelling "I do fuck you."

I have lived a life largely removed from all but the most prevalent of popular songs here but, recently, I am drawn in. My favorite quote about age is an entire paragraph in Snow Crash wherein Stephens discusses the fact that until the age of 25 a man still thinks he can be truly badass. Something about pop music reminds me that I am no longer young. As much as I enjoy the empty but entertaining lyrics I can't help but watch these videos and think, "Ah, yes, here comes the urban one. Oh, and there's the innocent one and the girl with 'spunk' and the classy one." You can play along at home!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Every Day In Every Way...

I have only a few addictions. One of them is acquiring books. I have a terrible habit of buying three books for every one book that I read. Knowing that I could not afford to build up a library here I have generally resisted the temptation to buy books and instead opted to expand my awareness of "classics". Our library at school hosts a large collection of Penguin Classics. Unlike other books at the library these ones are not for use by the students. We only have a few students capable of fully digesting Jane Austen and the only reason the copy of War and Peace is tattered is because the kids pull it off the shelf and marvel that something so big might actually be read by someone or brandish it as a weapon.
The last two novels I've read are by Henry James (The American and The Portrait of a Lady). I don't think I'll read any more James because the pattern thus far is that an American goes to Europe and gets screwed over by love. One has to wonder about his personal experience given that he was an American who moved to England and became a citizen. The editors of Penguin Classics like to point out that James met Flaubert and Eliot, as though this lends value. At any rate, James' character descriptions and so forth are good but reading The Portrait of a Lady, or at least finishing it, was only mildly rewarding.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Too Much Stuff

I've been posting boxes of stuff back to the states. I don't want to drag around multiple suitcases and bags in Singapore so I'm attempting to send all but what I'll need in my last few weeks back. Somehow, I've doubled the amount of stuff (crap) I possess. Now, when I walk into the post office one of the women slides an overseas package form across the counter before I even reach her.

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Star of the Show

Yours truly, giver of Study Hall, alien hell-beast, stuff of nightmares, has been featured in homework again:

Monday, 6 October 2008

Your Skill in Tae Kwan Do has Increased by Yellow

There are those who believe I am incapable of being diplomatic. It is not that I am incapable of it, but rather that each of us is supplied with finite amounts of diplomacy and by the time I got to Tae Kwan Do I had already used up all my Diplomacy Points not tearing a new orifice in a coworker. So, when I was under the impression that I had failed the test because our club leader left it a mystery, as though it was an episode of American Idol, I may have indicated that the person giving the test was perhaps a "fat bastard". Threats to call said test-giver and report my opinion of his weight relative to cultural expectations were made. Quite possibly, I even pantomimed phoning up the evaluator and shouting while alternately demanding his phone number. These things might have happened but what matters is that I have a yellow TKD belt with my name on it in Korean and something small, yet tangible, has been achieved.

Saturday, 4 October 2008


Dealing with government job applications is like playing MYST. MYST without a reasonable underlying assumption of logic.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Palin Debate Flowchart

I love flow charts!

Thanks to Sunkist for the flowchart.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Hammer Fist

Sunday, 28 September 2008

One Step Closer to Being a Superhero

I took my belt test. I will not find out if I passed until next week. The guy who did the judging was a bit pudgy and I vowed to call him fat if he failed me. Once the test was over he gave us the grandmother lecture about piercings and an absence of politeness during the test (insufficient ceremony, really). The important thing:

I broke a board in half with my "hammer fist". *flex*

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Children are Vectors of Disease

I had a moment of clarity this week. It was during class. A student sneezed directly in my face as I was leaning down to check his work and I knew instantly that I was going to catch that little bastard's cold and so it has become. On the bright side, the cold will pass but the emotional scars I'm inflicting on him could last a lifetime.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Liancourt? Takeshima? No, Bitch, I Love Dokdo.

Just as I was departing for Hawaii there was an outbreak of panic as the most serious foreign policy problem facing the Korean peninsula came to a head: the perceived status of the Liancourt Islands to the United States of America was changed to "contested". Oh the drama! I'm always tempted to mock countries when they fight about useless rocks but now that I have a fairly firm grounding in international law I understand why it matters. On the other hand, I don't think that those are the reasons that any generic citizen from any country gets worked up about such issues[1]. Actually, it's fairly instructive that Wikipedia refers to them as Liancourt Rocks.

A coworker informed us that he recently saw a (facetious) list of ways to make friends in Korea and among the suggestions was to call the Dokdo Islands "Takeshima" and to call kimchi "kimuchi". Both are references to the long-standing bitterness that Korea holds for Japan because of that whole colonization thing[2]. Takeshima is the name for the islands given by Japan and "kimuchi" is the Japanese pronunciation because all but a single consonant sound is followed by a vowel sound in Japanese, in contrast to Korean.

Another coworker, who I appreciate more every week, found these socks referencing the recent flurry of patriotism and got me a pair. The are my very first foreign policy socks.

[1]And when such things come up I always hear Eddie Izzard in Dressed to Kill doing an impression of Britain insisting it needs to keep the Falkland Islands.
It doesn't come up til the last 30 seconds but it's worth the wait:

[2]I'm the first to admit that many of Japan's actions in Korea as an occupying nation were horrendous. I still have not brought myself to read The Rape of Nanjing, even though I purchased it, because I know it will give me nightmares. On the other hand, we occasionally see our first graders, formless, innocent humans, writing about destroying Japan. It has to stop somewhere and raising children to despise a country, wherein virtually no one capable of being involved in Japan's occupation of the mainland of Asia is still alive, seems absurd.

Midnight Madness

Why is it that I don't consider pursuing my desire to learn to juggle until the third glass of wine?

Also: Might I suggest you try putting peanut butter directly on top of vanilla ice cream? Do it.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Love & Hate

I love Dorothy Parker. I hate the people running the workshop where I'll be presenting. I love that I decadently hired an ajuma to clean my apartment. I hate that I still don't know what I'm doing 6 weeks from now.


There's little in taking or giving,
There's little in water or wine;
This living, this living, this living
Was never a project of mine.
Oh, hard is the struggle, and sparse is
The gain of the one at the top,
For art is a form of catharsis,
And love is a permanent flop,
And work is the province of cattle,
And rest's for a clam in a shell,
So I'm thinking of throwing the battle-
Would you kindly direct me to hell?

Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

I Love Foreign Policy Blog

UPDATE! If you want to know the current status of the destruction of the world via super-collider, Go Here.

I'm not prone to advertising for others but I'm re-kindling my love for Foreign Policy's blog.

Highlights include:
Linking to a set of diagrams on making a left turn in Beijing.

The new super-collider in Switzerland.

Putin's dethronement as the sexiest politician in Russia.

They're filming me teach tomorrow for the workshop. I am not pleased.

Arrr! Thanks Be to Steve

Drug-Runnin' English Teachers

I have now been in Korea over 10 months. Last week was the first time I ever heard low-flying jets rumbling over my neighborhood. This morning I heard them again. I decided it was time to finally register with the embassy. I realize that if the DPRK really starts something then the odds are that I'll be, at most, a grease stain but, on the off chance of an evacuation, I registered. While registering I was having some difficulties with the State Dept. site and ended up calling the State Dept. I was transferred to a very pleasant employee and after I realized my mistake I apologized to her for wasting her time and she asked me what I was doing in Korea. I said that, like everyone else, I was teaching English. She then told me that I was the first English teacher she had spoken to through her job that had not been arrested here. Numerous English teachers end up getting arrested for drug-related crimes. Some actually get involved in running drugs, others just get in trouble for receiving drugs in the mail. They're in the process of setting up a prison just for foreigners here, likely related specifically to that sort of activity.

Saturday, 6 September 2008


I'm not even drunk and I'm considering buying Eye of the Tiger on iTunes thanks to the video below. I strongly suggest the hockey video but the one beneath is the reason that Eye of the Tiger will haunt my dreams.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Say What You Will About the Tenets of National Socialism...

It's two am on Saturday and I have just finished putting together the first draft of my Power Point presentation for the workshop. Let's review the timeline on that:
*March: Inform director & other boss lady, in presence of immediate superiors, that I would like to give a presentation.
*June/July: Contact HR, head campus, and bosses again stating that I would like to present at the workshop.
*Mid-August: Present ideas to head campus and, again, state that I would like to be a presenter.
*Wednesday (2 wks later): Receive confirmation that I will be presenting, with no additional details, at 9pm.
*Thursday: Receive list of requirements, including a bio deadline of noon Fri. (the following day) and a presentation draft outline by Mon., late in the evening.
*Friday (today): Spend morning writing stupid 3rd person bio and re-org. materials into vaguely workable outline for approval by superiors. Work on PPT* from 10pm - 2am minus one hour for consultation with GWU Career Svcs. re: resume/jobs.

When I initially proposed presenting at the workshop it was because the presentations I had witnessed were horrible. I felt I had wasted money I hadn't even spent. Imagine being on an overseas flight where the only movies are by the cast of MTV's Jackass or undergraduate film/poetry students; that's what it was like, except at the end of it I was still in Korea. So then, in my naive youth, I wanted to make things better, to be a shining beacon, to contribute to the greater hagwon community.

After months of stagnation and frustration I stopped thinking about the needs of my colleagues and started thinking of the presentation as resume fodder. I blindly pursued the opportunity while thinking of bullet points and action words.

Now, I have reached some sort of nihilistic stage. I feel that I have passed through the veil of cynicism into some meta-cynical realm wherein I work hard and try to do everything just right simply to prove that it is a pointless endeavor. My very being is dedicated to showing by example that it doesn't matter what you do. I'm going to get a ferret, a German accent, and somebody's toe.

*I totally just saw an invisible bug walk away from the mouse. Perhaps it's bedtime...

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

What I Want

I've come to the sudden determination that I want the following sometime soon after my return to America:
Preferably in DC: An all weekend Monty-Python-fest starting on a Friday afternoon. As much of the full DVD series of the show as possible must be shown in consecutive order, non-stop. The whole weekend. There should be a party at some point and MP should be on in the background the whole time. There would be baking at some point. I have no oven.

In other news: You cannot make nachos on the stove top. I realize that, from a purely theoretical perspective, this wasn't going to work even before I started. But in the name of nachos I forged onwards. There is now a protective layer of "pizza cheese" permanently separating one of my pans from the dangers of air.

It makes perfect sense that NYT columnist* William Kristol was the Chief of Staff for Dan Quayle (amusing commentary by WaPo's Richard Cohen).

*What is up with NYT's choice of editorialist/columnists? Even Maureen Dowd, who I used to find a tolerable read, sounds more an more like a harpy looking for a verbal meal of any political figure she comes upon. Krugman is the only one I have sincere intellectual respect for and that's largely influenced by his work in Economics. Brooks and Friedman are both complete prats whose knowledge and understanding of world events are mortifying and limited.

Friday, 29 August 2008


Sometimes I like to play around with my kids by chanting "doom" when they don't have their homework when I come to check it. They don't know what it means but they laugh because I'm chanting. With the old kids I just tell them they're fired. Or give them Study Hall. It's good to keep them guessing ;).

Anyways, it's all coming back to haunt me as I have been scheduled to teach 3 classes a week with the students I have who dislike me openly. By openly I mean they stare like cattle on qualuudes (how on earth do you spell that?) while I attempt to engage them. It's quite possible that I'm not dumbing down my language enough but, given historical data, it's more likely that I have been cast into a role as a hated teacher. I was down to teaching them just once a week but someone has forgotten the Lessons of History and I'm back to 3 to everyone's dismay. On the other hand: The Arsonist is quitting. Rather than shanking the co-worker he has chosen to take his ball and go home. Today I tossed him into the hallway for styling his hair during class after failing to bring homework. Good times. The homework was for each of them to write three sincere, helpful suggestions for making class with me more enjoyable.

I'll be teaching Economics this semester, which is a frightening and bizarre prospect. I don't exactly understand why we're offering this. Troubling, tho', is that I probably have the most experience with Economics in an academic environment...what will they do when I leave? I've been thinking about all the self-aggrandizement and pathetic ego being paraded by some of the coworkers and what I'd really like to ask them is: If you're so awesome why do you talk about it all the time, shouldn't it speak for itself? Second to that, "if you're so awesome, why am I the person who is asked to teach the most challenging students and courses?" Just a thought. Bitches.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Teaching at an English Academy is Nothing Like Oz

I report, with a slight twinge of regret, that The Arsonist did not shank my coworker today. It's not that I want anyone to die (at least not any more than usual), it's just that I find the idea of some sort of prison riot at work mildly amusing.

It's the end of the semester and a lot of things will be moving around. I probably won't be teaching any of the students that I started with 10 months ago, which makes me really sad. I've gotten to watch a subset of our students really grow in every sense because children develop so quickly and soon they'll be whisked up to the 7th floor. I'm sure I'll get other interesting students in their stead but the occasions where I'm able to see measurable progress with my students are some of the most rewarding.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Hide the Pencil Sharpeners

There had been relative calm since The Arsonist was accused of terrible graffiti and reduced to tears during his protestations of innocence. On Friday I caught him cheating on a quiz and gave him study hall. Again, he protested his innocence; there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for the answers being written on the desk. I told the administrators that I wanted him to clean all the desks as his punishment but that fell through and I was obliged to assign a meaningless apology letter, which, as usual, contained poorly worded justifications and half-truths instead of anything approaching remorse. Today, though, The Arsonist's disciplinary battles with the entire teaching staff were taken to a new level and I'm confident he's going to shiv one of the other teachers. Frankly, my walk home was more cautious than usual because I have no trouble believing that this kid skins stray cats in his free time.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

The Olympic Spirit

At this very moment Korea is playing against Cuba for the gold medal in baseball. Three members of the Doosan Bears are apparently on the Korea team. Interestingly, professional players from SK can be on their Olympic team while professional players in America cannot play on the American team. There are several chicken shacks (including "Mexican chicken", the place with the stallion logo*) right next to where I pick up my dry cleaning. As I walked by I saw two flat screen teevees facing the sidewalk with a dozen plastic tables set up in front. About 30 people from the neighborhood, mostly middle aged men, were sitting watching the game, drinking beer, and eating fried chicken. It was neat. What I love about the Olympics is the way it does bring people together and gives us something to share worldwide that we rarely have. Even my coworkers, who are almost wholly ignorant of current affairs, are aware of what is going on. South Korea has done very well and I've been pleased for them. On the trip back from Andong we stopped to get dinner and watched a South Korean woman set another world record in weight lifting and win the gold. There's something warm and fuzzy about sharing a success with dozens of strangers. Naturally, the gold in women's taekwondo went to a Korean. :D

Sadly, the thrill of the Olympics has been dulled by Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate. I wasn't rooting for any of the others but I get a sinking feeling of dread when I think of Biden on the campaign trail. I like Biden: I think he's smart and that he has expressed some very good ideas and political views. However, the man's foot is always hovering near his mouth, waiting for a chance to slip in and obscure Biden's finer qualities.

*For reasons that remain a mystery. Do stallions like fried chicken or Mexican food?

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Back Despite a Total Absence of Demand!

Video! But first, let me give you the down lo':
1) I met with people from our head campus with a four page single spaced presentation proposal for presenting at the workshop next month.
2) I was observed and it was stressful and one of my kids asked me about sharks during class despite the total absence of sharks in the curriculum.
3) I've been putting in mad hours at work.
4) My greatest short-term hope is that I will see the egos, nay the very souls, of several coworkers crushed by the outcomes of the observations.
5) There is a ninja mosquito feeding on me in my apartment.
6) I'm taking a taekwondo test next month to qualify for a yellow belt.
7) I can haz job?

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Camping in Korea

This past weekend I went camping in Andong. Andong is several hours outside of Seoul in beautiful Korean countryside. There are mountains and rice fields and a river. Because of the excess of rain we ended up sleeping on the floor of a school in the mountains with a beautiful view of mountains and clouds in the distance. We rode inflatable boats dragged around a lake and went rafting. It was really wonderful and almost makes me sad to be leaving soon. It takes me so long to get settled some place; here I am finally getting settled and also getting ready to leave.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Watch Out!

Pikachu and I will see you in Hell!!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

A Little Taste of Politics

NPR just did a report on Sean Tevis. He's running for election in Kansas and was able to fund his campaign and gain notoriety outside of Kansas because of his web comic. The internet is magic! I think he needs to expand his main website and clarify a lot more about the policies he would pursue but I find that his approach to fund-raising and its success is pretty interesting.

In other news: there are cicadas here. Walking by one buzzing on a tree is like having a jet land by your ear.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Newsflash: Famous Male Writers Like Porn!

Thank God for Oxford! If it weren't for their diligent academics, working endlessly to bring us enlightenment, we might never have learned that Franz Kafka had a collection of porn. I know what you're thinking. Kafka? The saintly Kafka? A man who likes porn? I know!

Even today, the pornography would be "on the top shelf", Dr Hawes said, noting that his American publisher did not want him to publish it at first. "These are not naughty postcards from the beach. They are undoubtedly porn, pure and simple. Some of it is quite dark, with animals committing fellatio and girl-on-girl action... It's quite unpleasant[1]."

"Academics have pretended it did not exist," Dr Hawes said. “The Kafka industry doesn’t want to know such things about its idol."

A round of applause for Dr. Hawes who has revealed unto us mortals that which the "Kafka industry" would hide from us! A hero of Truth!

[1]That right there tells me we know just how Dr. Hawes likes his tea. Given the British tendency towards understatement we must assume that his porn collection is dated, back-boarded, bagged, and massive.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Waxing Pre-Nostalgic

Perhaps because I'm 75% done with my time in Korea and I finally got a break from the place I'm finding ways to appreciate my current home. Another great thing about Korea: my neighborhood. I'm sure this is not limited to my neighborhood but with my limited experience living in other Korean neighborhoods I'll limit my comments. Dry cleaning here is great. I just had two dress shirts, slacks, and a dress delivered to my door from the dry-cleaners for $12. The great part about the delivery is that it's walking distance. I wouldn't even mind going to pick it up but, whenever they can, the closest place will attempt to make a delivery. In the mornings when they are delivering (and quite possibly making pick-ups) a guy will walk around the buildings singing out the words for 'dry cleaning' in Korean. It's soothing because he sounds like a monk and sort of chants it out - a devotee of the Temple of Presentability.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Good Things About Korea (in pill form)

Often I tend to bitch about the negative aspects of living in Korea: the absence of the use of lines, the shoving, the slapping of children and so on. Today I am here to tell you that there are good things too! Like birth control! At the second pharmacy I tried I was able to walk in, show the label of my bc from America and get an almost identical chemical compound from the pharmacist. First, I was able to do this without a prescription![1] Second, a six month supply cost me $34 and change! I should add that I think that my continuance of bc is absolute evidence that I am secretly an optimist because the only thing I'm at risk of right now is immaculate conception (Hi, mom!).

PS, at work yesterday I got to shout, "Charlie, don't clothesline other students, please!" Charlie is one of our students who really needs special attention that I think other teachers aren't giving him so I've been cultivating a relationship (that sounds bad, I know, but there's not another word) with him to encourage him to speak and behave better.

[1]This is both good and bad. It is certainly good for me here because I am terrified of the idea of getting an OB/GYN checkup here. So it's good because access is important for all people. The ease of access to bc is bad to the extent that the prescription requirement does encourage women like myself to go to the doctor every year. Sadly, in America, annual exams are monstrously expensive at a regular doctor. A checkup with my physician in DC would cost, without insurance, hundreds of dollars for a basic checkup, interview, and STD testing. That is ridiculous. These preventative checkups should not be prohibitively costly yet they are and it is contributing to unnecessary illness, death and pregnancy among many, I'm sure.


I just realized that I forgot to bring the Spamalot Collector's Edition SPAM home with me. It's sitting in a drawer in the bathroom of the hotel room we were in...Lying in wait for someone in need of pork-based salvation to discover it; like an edible Gideon's Bible.

I Was Rarely Asked to Babysit

Every so often Penny Arcade gets at the essence of a problem I have experienced; this comic is one of them. When dealing with children I am often torn between expediency and honesty. I think it gets at the heart of why I am a nerd. I do not, by nature, deal with singularities. Any given issue appears to me like the intersection of thousands of threads to be teased out and followed. Dammit, there might be wolfmen; we don't know. I think this is why many people find conversations with me annoying. Not only do I perceive things as tangled masses, I'm passionate about it. I want to comb through it and I will jump on the couch to emphasize my point.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

My Polynesian Adventure[1]

I had a pleasant trip to Hawai'i. Seeing my parents was very good and takes some of the edge off the guilt of my new plan to not immediately return to America when I finish my contract.

In Hawai'i the prohibitions on smoking are very serious. Smoking in public is quite limited and at the Polynesian Culture Center[2] smokers were relegated to the parking lot and only the deepest, darkest corners of the campus. It seemed, in general, that there is far more regulation in Hawai'i than in the continental US. Because of the importance of the beaches for tourism and the more delicate environs of the islands there are a lot of regulations about cleanliness and environmental protection. I couldn't imagine such a level of government imposition being tolerated in many other parts of the US. I am wondering if the fact that Hawai'i is so far removed from the mainland has a significant affect on how residents react to government regulation and levels of tolerance. After all, in the continental US you can just go to a neighboring state (possibly even country!) if you don't like certain laws (sales tax rates, liquor laws, pesky regulations on what constitutes sex with a minor etc.). I think that, much like New Zealand, Hawai'i's distance is beneficial on a social level[3] because of the protection that distance affords the natural beauty and because most residents and businesses can't reasonably threaten to move next door and hold the state hostage to their demands on regulations and taxation.
My father and I went to one of the botanical gardens on the island. Naming this has to be the highlight of someone's botanical career:

[1]Alternately: America, F*ck Yeah!
[2]Run by Mormons!
[3]Less so if you are an escaped criminal. A female convict released under the protection of her lawyer made a run for it and scaled a fence to relative freedom. She was caught within two days because, really, where was she going to go?
[4]These are just musings, I know the issues are far more complex than this and that I would need far more than seven days of mooching around Waikiki to make any firm conclusions.

"So, Are You Saying That We're All Just, Like, Really Excellent Sheep?"

I do have some critical thoughts on William Deresiewicz's article on The Disadvantages of Elite Education. Thanks to, I believe, Meg for pointing it out to me. The start of the article is a little irksome as it's, from my perspective, condescending and elitist*; however he does touch on some very interesting ideas, including the importance of solitude, at the end of the piece.

*Some elements of which I have been guilty.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

I'm So White

Yes, I have a Facebook account. No, I'm not proud.

Last day in Hawai'i. I'm not ready to go back to Seoul and be a grownup again. Good thing I'll be unemployed for the foreseeable future once this contract ends. I guess.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

I Could Go To the Dark Side

I'm watching the CBS Evening News for the first time in over a year. They did a special on the McCain Campaign. Because of my first internship I actually know several of the high muckety-mucks in the campaign (Rick Davis and Carla Eudy) featured in the news story. I find this extremely disturbing. If I didn't live in Korea, if I didn't know in my heart of hearts that McCain is not the better candidate, I could actually leverage my intern experience to get a job. Weird.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Spam, Spam, Spam, Aloha, and Spam

Have successfully met the parents in Hawai'i! I also got my hair cut. Not a lot but after a video consultation regarding style with Sunkist I took her advice. :) The Waikiki beach is pretty neat. Oh, and, shock, awe, swoon, I bought some clothes to wear that are summery and NOT black. I must admit it was difficult. Not only NOT black but with patterns that are not pinstripes. Largely because tasteful patterns are simply not done here.

It dawned on me that the main reason I have never been overly keen on beach-oriented holidays is that the beach experiences of my formative years were in Galveston and Port Aransus, Texas and New England. While NE is a wonderful place to live it is not because one loves their craggy, weed-choked beaches edged with dark waters that are brooding and foreboding at night. The only good thing I can say about Texas beaches is that I know someone who knows someone who found a whole garbage bag of marijuana leaves washed up there (likely tossed by runners) in the 70's.

You may or may not be aware that, as much as Korea loves SPAM, Hawaii is one of the largest markets for SPAM and SPAM-related products. A trip through a small grocery store in the tourist district revealed such choices as: SPAM, SPAM and Cheese, SPAM and Bacon, Oven Roasted Turkey SPAM, Hot and Spicy SPAM, and the item picture below (all canned).

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Ovaries are the Drummer of the Female Body

Ovaries are a source of treachery and damnation.[1]

Also: Lady Speed Stick (which sounds like a porno and/or sex toy[2]) has the following warning: "Ask a doctor before use if you have kidney disease". I don't use anti-perspirant, just deodorant. I find the idea that something I smoosh into my pits could affect organs at the other end of my trunk disturbing.

[1]Neither "treachery" nor "damnation" should be interpreted to mean "pregnancy".
[2]Thanks A.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Flashback: Japan

I realize I didn't say a lot about my trip to Japan on my birthday weekend. It was nice but too brief and I don't feel that any particular experience created an anchor point for a post. Nonetheless, I should update this somewhat regularly so here are some pictures from the trip.

Monday, 21 July 2008

The Rainy Season

Fresh Meat

In short order we have had three new teachers arrive, two in just the past week. The latest shipment from America stopped by tonight during the final minutes of work. I was struggling with using MS Word in Korean and trying to figure out buggered formatting whilst keeping my herd of study hall kids corralled in the lab.

There is a moment in many movies wherein two diametrically opposed people are introduced to the same scene and the viewer knows that hijinx or bloodshed will ensue. I, in my monochrome fashion, leaned out from the lab to catch a glimpse of the new teacher. She has bleach-blond hair. A large, sincere cross necklace. An Alpha-Phi t-shirt. Short shorts. And Ugg boots. We have a name for this kind of person where I come from.*

I know this doesn't bode well but I was unable to stop myself from rolling my eyes at the recruiter who brought us this juicy, fresh-out-of-college morsel for the hagwon meat grinder. It will be fine. It is of little consequence how much of her physical appearance advertises vapidity, she is probably a lovely girl and it will be good to have another full time employee.

Given that I mistook the other new teacher for a pedophile last week (and he's an absolutely lovely individual) I am fully aware that I should not rely on first impressions.

*It's 'eski-ho'

Monday, 14 July 2008

You Might Be An Overeducated Honky If...

Normal Women: Drink 'til they can't remember the name of the person in bed with them.

I: Drink 'til I can't name all the Justices on the Supreme Court.

My So-Called Life

I'm listening to this week's Wait...Wait... Don't Tell me podcast. One of the stories mentioned was about a young woman who found a baby bat in her bra and all I could think was: Why doesn't cool stuff ever happen to me?

Friday, 11 July 2008

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


Phrases I have not learned in Korean but would find useful:

This music is fucking godawful.

You are in my way.

You are still in my way.

Get off your cell phone.

Hitting your child will not solve the problem of bleeding/crying/low intelligence/your many failures as a parent. (I have seen children hit for all of these things)

They don't blink, quit having a staring contest with them.

If I could kill you with my mind, I would.

That person is incompetent.

I am doing her job for her.

There are no roaches.

May I throw this watermelon from the roof?

Your child appears to be rampaging like a small demon through the subway/store/street/school, perhaps you should do something.

Not everyone gets to be an English-speaking astronaut.

Bad Planning

There are a lot of gaps and failings in our curriculum. I still maintain that we are a fairly good hagwon, however, there are still issues. Our TOEFL for 6th graders is lacking and despite my efforts I could not find anything worthwhile to supplement for today. We listened to some NPR stuff and then, at the students' request, looked at CNN. We found an article on selecting a dog for Obama should he win the election.
We voted. The class voted for the Bichon Frise, much to my dismay.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Until Things Are Brighter

Today one of my students asked me why I always wear black and informed me that black is hot in the summer. It was cute.

Yesterday I lost five minutes of class time discussing the phrase 'from the heart'. At one point I, with sound effects, pretended to rip something out of my chest and offer it to the students. That went over well.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Hustle Doo!

This is my game face.

I went my first Korean baseball game today. Our team is the Doosan Bears*. One of the coworkers is a very serious fan. I find such things amusing since who your team is is so arbitrary but that doesn't mean it isn't fun.

The Bears' home stadium is at what is, as far as I can tell, simply called the Sports Complex. It's next door to the Olympic Stadium and park area. The stadium is nice, the bathrooms are nice**, the amenities are sufficient, and it is right next to a subway station. The photo of the refreshments lady captures a few elements that remind one that this is Korea. First, she's wearing an 'ajima' visor; second she is selling something that appears to be trying to crawl out of the snack box.

It has been about two decades since I went to a baseball game in America. At that time my interest in such things was limited to the question of whether I would get stuff and since I didn't catch a home run ball or score any other goodies I was not impressed. The biggest difference between what I recall of being at an American game and a Korean game is the waiting.

In America, if there is a time out or some other delay between pitches or innings there is not a great deal of excitement. Sometimes the mascot will be around or they'll play some annoying song meant to 'pump' you up or whatever but mostly you wait. It's boring. In Korea they sing. They have little chants of all kinds and, for reasons well beyond my understanding, play snippets of the Inspector Gadget song. I know that I would have to go to another game in America to truly make the comparison. At any rate, it was a good time and I socialized extensively this weekend.

*You can tell I'm a terrible sports fan because I didn't mention that "we" lost to Samsung.
**They have their own superhero, Toilet Man

Friday, 27 June 2008

Seoul Children's Park (Not for the Faint of Heart)

Today I rode with the morning teachers to the Seoul Children's Park. Have you ever seen a depressed meerkat? Rather than spend a great deal of time at the zoo or enjoying the park, most of the trip was spent taking pictures of the children appearing to enjoy the park - or at least coming into contact with the park.

The first thing we did upon arrival is go through a long rotation of taking photos of classes and individual students at the fountain just inside the entrance. Eventually we got to the zoo but went nowhere near the camels, even though they looked marginally interesting (particularly in comparison to the groups of old men scattered around doing nothing). We passed two miserable, unwashed wallabies that were clinging to what little shade there was in their pen. Then we passed a seemingly empty exhibit[1] followed by one containing a meerkat flopped on a pile of sand, forlornly staring at his audience while his one and only friend tried to dig its way to China.

There was what looked like a bumper car arena that was actually full of dogs, most of whom were too hot to move. Some were confined into a tiny space between two fences. Few were puppy-like. Most were spread out trying to stay cool and their caretaker showed marginal interest in her wards.

There were three pigs, five to seven goats, and one sheep all in a pen the size of a living room with no shade. The monkeys[2] were also fairly inactive and the lone elephant was tucked into the painted concrete structure. It looked like it was leaning its forehead against the wall...the way you might if you had given up on life.

I think that the state of the animals at the park's zoo generally speaks to the way animals are treated here. The dogs here are usually the purse-sized kind and they are more like Barbie dolls than living things. You'll see them with dyed fur or wearing full ensembles, even in the summer, which is cruel. Even some of the children were telling others not to pet the dogs at the zoo because they were "dirty". There seem to be no regulations on the sale of animals: bunnies are sold on the side of the road and I have seen piles of chicken cages balanced on top of aquariums full of puppies and small boxes full of hamsters.

[1]Possible suicide.

[2]Look closely at the top of the woeful monkey picture. Is that the Monkey Escape Hotline?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

New Tour!

I made a new tour of my digs. I felt like I should given I've been here and settled in.

It's hard to say exactly what about Korean culture allows this to be the case but I love that I can take my clothes to the dry cleaner (only a block away, she also made the curtains) and give only my apartment number and know that I will get my dry cleaning. There's such honesty and simplicity in the transaction. No receipt, nothing. I also have two small, independent grocery stores within walking distance and a mountain. Ignoring the absence of friends, family and veggie burgers it's pretty great. Sadly, I have to start thinking about what I'll do when I go back to America. What will I do? Will I find a job? Where will I live? Will I have to teach English forever because noone will hire me for anything more exciting than temping at a law firm? It's scary and is weighing on me a bit more these days.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Fan Death

'Fan death' describes the belief of many Koreans that if you leave a fan on overnight you are at risk of dying. I had heard rumours of this belief before but largely ignored them because Korea is a nation very focused on education and all cultures believed in some ridiculous ideas at some point in their histories. This week I discovered that fan death has not yet faded in the collective minds of the Korean populace.

According to my coworker (American) there are several theories on fan death. One is that the fan chops air molecules up and they become unusable and thus you might suffocate should you sleep in the same room as an operating fan. Another is that the fan creates some sort of vortex into which your soul or essence is sucked, if left unattended. There is a third school of thought, almost equally silly, that says fans actually induce hypothermia. According to wikipedia there are many beliefs surrounding fan death. Apparently my (Korean) coordinator, who is about 24 and has a college degree[1] in the sciences, believes in fan death. When we were discussing the topic in vaguely disdainful tones she informed us that several people had passed away from 'fan death' and it was in the newspaper. We were none of us moved.

[1]Granted, she got her degree from a small, religious college in America. I'm generally suspicious of the science program of any college or university whose foremost focus is faith-based.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Journal Topics

Every month the students have to write a journal entry for school. We provide the topic. The topics generally suck. I was asked to write some up, though, and I realized it's actually pretty difficult to come up with a topic that's relevant, hasn't been done before, and that the kids might be interested in writing about.

I submitted six possible topics. These two are my favourites:

Imagine that one day you wake up and instead of being you, you are a giant bug! What would happen if you turned into an enormous insect? What would you do? What would your family do? Would you still try to learn English or would you do something totally different? What would you eat? How would you find food?

Pirates and ninjas have been enemies since the beginning of time. Why do you think pirates and ninjas are enemies? Which do you think is better, pirates or ninjas? Why? If a pirate and a ninja get in a fight, who would win?

I'll be very amused if either of these make the final cut. The others were more mundane.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Lemme Break It Down For You (Updated!)

Addendum: I've tidied this up. A certain Luda' connoisseur called me out on my sloppy selection of poor lyric transcription. I've also added her thoughts on the nature of fruit.

[Cee-Lo] Uh huh
So precisely one person exhibited amusement at my last breakdown of the metaphors, similes and literary references of Rhianna's Shut Up and Drive. Despite this I'm doing it again. As before, my observations and translations in italics. I wish blogspot had cuts like livejournal. This is Sugar, an ensemble piece featuring some *cough* artists I don't know and Ludacris and Li'l Kim. I reviewed several different sites containing lyrics and found none fully to my liking but you can find this one here.

[T-Dubl] Yeah
[Cee-Lo] Aw man I got a sweet tooth, can you dig it Would anyone die if a '?' were employed? 'Can' is an asking word at the beginning of a sentence, even my Korean students know this!
[T-Dubl] After this one you gon need a root canal then
How about an apostrophe where an 'e' is lacking?
[Cee-Lo] I love sugar all of it
[T-Dubl] This one for all the clean, decent women
It's not, really.
[Cee-Lo] Lay it on me girl
[T-Dubl] Pay Close Attention
My students do this. There seems to be a theory amongst those who lack grammar skills that, so long as punctuation and capitalization is present, the distribution of them is not particularly important.

[Hook: Cee-Lo]
She put that sugar on my tongue
Hmmm...Sugar you say? Why what exactly could you be referring to?
Shes gonna
Gimme gimme some
She put it right there on my tongue (Skeet Skeet)
Ambush Paddington!
Right there on my tongue (She turns me on, like no other)

[Trick Daddy]
And gimme some of your butter pecan
Your woman bits remind me of a popular ice cream flavor.
Put it right there on tip of my tongue, hold it
Right jeeeah
Cuz baby, if I bite you
I bet you like it
I am incapable of fully executing a statement in the potential form.
French Vanilla's a hell of a flavor for me
White girls also welcome.
With strawberries, two cherries and whipped cream
But they require toppings.
The best things are the wet dreams
And uh, the rest is just a flick without a sex scene
Or lee, I speak the truth
'Or lee' is probably a mutation of 'ordinarily'.
Cuz the blacker the berry
The sweeter the juice
While 'vanilla' women are acceptable, the more nubian the better.
Cuz, Florida oranges and Georgia peaches
When they nice and ripe, they the best for eatin'
Women are like fruit. My Luda expert says that oranges and peaches here refer to breasts. The good news is that this clearly indicates that, unlike R. Kelly, the singer approves of consuming sexually mature women.
Southern boys we crave for old slice of pie after they main course
So if you game for it
Sex: It's not what's for dinner.
I came for it
I got a thing for ya
That I can't ignore

[Hook: Cee-Lo]
She put that sugar on my tongue
Shes gonna
Gimme gimme some
She put it right there on my tongue (Skeet Skeet)
Right there on my tongue (She turns me on, like no other)

[Lil' Kim]
Hey nigga that ???? something soft and sweet (ta!)
What is with that '????' ? One can only assume that the question marks absent at required locations earlier in the transcript needed to go somewhere.
Lookin at me like I'm something to eat (ta!)
I got pimps givin me the money
Just to taste my jar of honey
I am a 'ho'.
Cotton candy sweet as gold
Come and lick my Tootsie Roll
Li'l Kim's clitoris resembles a popular, chocolate flavoured treat.
My sugar baby once you wet it
Give high blood pressure like a diabetic
This line has upset me for literally YEARS! While those with Type II diabetes undoubtedly have trouble with high blood pressure it is high blood SUGAR that causes the most immediate and relevant problems!!! Surely, at least one member of the booty-ass-ho community is familiar enough with diabetes to catch this mistake! Regardless of related blood pressure issues Li'l Kim has missed a prime opportunity to directly tap into the 'sugar' metaphor.
How about having Lil Kim with your coke
In the actual song it is not 'coke' but 'coffee', which makes far more sense and is actually quite clever.
I just can't keep these boys OFF ME!
Pink diamonds, dudes love to frost me
Note the play on words. Diamonds are often referred to as 'ice' and related to other cooling elements like frost. Here, Li'l Kim captures the overlap between the acquisition of diamonds and the saccharine theme of the song with the verb 'frost'.
Running behind me like I'm Mr. Softie (ah!)
My Luda expert reminds us that 'Mr. Softie' is a reference to an ice cream truck. This is good because the image in my head related to those soft ice cream dispensers and that would probably be really uncomfortable.
He said I drive 'em crazy
That's sweet tooth for you baby
Just gonna look at 'cha lady
Lil' Kim's like candy baby!
Where is the fucking comma? Or did they mean that Li'l Kim is like a candy baby? I doubt it.

[Hook: Cee-Lo]
She put that sugar on my tongue
Shes gonna
Gimme gimme some
She put it right there on my tongue (Skeet Skeet)
Right there on my tongue (She turns me on, like no other)

She put that sugar on my tongue, tongue
Yippie Yippie, Yum Yum
Goodie goodie gum drop
Put me in a tongue lock
Did it 'til my body went numb, numb
Laid her on her back, back
Turned her round, gave her bottom a smack, smack
She's a woman from the block with the best of weed
What does weed have to do with this? Is a woman's sugary goodness somehow related to her possession of pot? These are questions that did not plague the person transcribing the lyrics. It's the 'best of weaves'.
But I won't stop 'til I'm pullin out tracks, tracks
For those of you not 'in the know', "tracks" are some reference to the installation of weaves therefore Luda is making the promise of totally wrecking your 'do in a presumably painful way during his love-making session. Awesome!
It was lust at first sight
And she couldn't help sayin that she wanted to get with me
And my size was just right[1]
This is a subtle way of informing you that Ludacris has a monstrous schlong because, of course, only one size is just right: Huge.
Cuz she wanted a man with a little sec-ur-ity
Said I been around the world twice
And my name ring bells from Atlanta to Sic-i-ly
We must thank Luda for not trying to make something rhyme with 'Japan' as whenever someone wants to appear to have worldwide appeal they aim for the 'I'm big in Japan' reference.
Said she wanted it all night
So put the bubbles in the tub and Ludacris and me

[Hook: Cee-Lo]
She put that sugar on my tongue
Shes gonna
Gimme gimme some
She put it right there on my tongue (Skeet Skeet)
Right there on my tongue (She turns me on, like no other)

Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeeeah Yeeeah Yeah
Yeah Yeah
Ah the Greek Chorus of the rap world. Why Li'l John was not asked to contribute his vast talents we may never know.

[Trick Daddy]
Sweetie you look so incredible
So delicious and so damn edible
All I need is some honey or syrup
With a lil' butter to rub down all your curves
Trick Daddy is all out of Astroglide.
And no need for the lemonade
Just a twist of lime and some grape Kool-Aid
Gawd, seriously? Grape Kool-Aid? I don't even recall this line from the song but if it truly does reference staple beverages of childhood I'm ashamed on behalf of Trick Daddy. Granted, it's a nice change from mentions of Henessy or overpriced champagne
Can I call you Caramel?
Sure, for what you're paying you can call her whatever you like.
Cuz I'm bout to go coo-coo to taste your Coco Puffs
Is it just me or does Trick Daddy have some unresolved issues regarding his childhood?
One bowl ought to fill me up
Multiple orgasms are out of the question, missy.
But that milk gotta be cold enough
So supper time that'll hold me up
I might choke myself if I don't slow it up, but
I can't even imagine the sexual mechanics that would be required for a man to choke on a woman but now I imagine you will spend a few minutes pondering it.
Honey, you look like a honeydew melon
Or strawberry with the whipped cream filling
Of the top part of the peach cobbler
But uh, the fruit platter ought to do me better
Here the author clearly references the Songs of Solomon, which likened much of the female sex to various delicious fruits. Given the modern American population's limited familiarity with roes and pomegranates the artist has elected to mention more mundane fruits.

[Hook] - 2X

[1] Other scholars believe my interpretation to be incorrect. The argument goes that when a woman says a man's bits are "just right" they are, in fact, small. As we are so far unable to acquire photographic evidence, with appropriate scale included, this point will stand. This genre of music most certainly lends itself to bragging and exaggeration.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Belated Birthday

It took me a while to figure out why I've slacked on posting birthday stuff but I finally realized that Korea is killing me slowly. Truly, I never considered breaking my contract and going home early until now. The yellow dust from the Gobi and the pollution[1] are causing intense sinus headaches[2] and possibly inducing a second sinus infection that is preventing me from running and making the days more painful. Not cool and I hate taking meds but it has gotten to that point.

[1]That picture at the top is an ad from the subway. That is most definitely a commentary on the air quality of Seoul.
[2]I suppose it could be a brain tumor or something. I hope not.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Mata Ato De!

With so much going on I don't have a good birthday post put together. If you forgot that the greatest English teacher known to mankind (me!) was born on June 5th, that's OK. I don't need anything. Please feel free to donate to an awesome charity. I did open the things I received and, lo!, it did pleaseth me. Thanks:) I'll have lots to post when I return from Kyoto.

PS, Andy now wants to be known as Batman and Seung Kyo, who recently wrote about his "favorite can of weather", wants to be Superman.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Shark Boy

One of my students wanted to change his English name. He was Daniel. I habitually and accidentally called him Danny. He told the other teacher he wanted a new name and they began running through options. Daniel was not convinced that "Rupert" is popular and after a variety of facetious suggestions by the instructor agreed to "Shark Boy". This became the topic of discussion in the teacher's room and we decided he should spell it "shrkboi". I got to spend the class calling on Shark Boy. It was kinda fun.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Boot to the Head

My legs are swimming in pain after 4 hours of taekwondo. I'm also going to be severely bruised because I had to do blocking exercises with Maren, the East German swim team of taekwondo. She's been doing it like 10 years and has the diamond hard bone and teutonic structure of a true German. I would under no circumstances f*ck with her.

Friday, 30 May 2008


We have a slight problem with graffiti at the school. Students write on the walls and on the desks both in class and out. It's very frustrating for many reasons - one student wrote POLY = Hell on the wall, which is saddening. I keep forgetting to take a picture but in one classroom someone drew a circle, an arrow to the circle, and "booger?" In two classes I have seen students erasing doodles during class and I have informed them that if I catch anyone writing on the desks they will get not one study hall (detention) but study hall for an eternity. Then, because comprehension and vocabulary are so important, I say, "who can tell me what 'eternity' means?" There's always at least one student who knows the synonym 'forever' and I compliment them on their excellent vocabulary and remind them that they will get to experience eternity if I catch them writing on the desks.

Things I have done recently:
*Attended a meeting for volunteers for an organization that helps Korean victims of sex trafficking (the Dasi Hamkke Center)
*Attended a Taekwondo for foreigners club
*Tried norebang (Korean karaoke)
*Failed norebang
*Edited a piece for the Dasi Hamkke Center
*Discovered that vodka watermelons are a complete fabrication, a myth of the internet that cannot actually be made (I had a damned melon with a gaping wound full of vodka in my fridge for 36 hours to no effect)
*Drunkenly practiced my Korean with the front desk ladies at a party and discovered they think I'm mean because I scowl a lot - I look angry when I plan lessons I guess
*Developed a crush
*Acquired a vast array of Hello Kitty magnets from male coworkers who are now ahead of me in collecting (I don't purchase beer or cigarettes with as much regularity)

Monday, 26 May 2008

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

I Am Awesome (or Just Scary)

A few notes:

1) Bizarrely fashion-obsessed aspiring coworker was reading a student's paper wherein the student said that fashion in Seoul is 10 years ahead of the rest of the world. Coworker read this aloud disdainfully and snorted. Then I pointed out that if the adage that fashion cycles every 20 years is correct then the student could be right.

2) I am bestest teacher evar. Or I'm supremely frightening. I've had a few chances to see coworkers handling their classes and I have come to the conclusion that mine are, on average, the best behaved. Also, when I tell other classes what to do they listen. I can cause a hushed silence just by walking into the GTK classroom and handing out Significant Looks (and I don't even teach those kids!). I don't think I'm supremely frightening because my students ask me questions and will interact with me outside of the classroom but I'm leaving that as a possibility.

3) I have tipped off an obsession with Hello Kitty magnets from the 7-11. You get one for every $4 you spend so now I've bought wine, whiskey, and other things I won't consume in an effort to collect more national magnets. Three other coworkers are in on it now. It's dangerously addictive.

A Great Escape

I look forward to leaving Asia and no longer being mocked for my ethnicity. Tonight while I was out running two high-school aged Korean boys jogged behind me for an extended period of time laughing and making comments to each other. This would never happen to a foreign male and would certainly not happen were I Korean. I find it irritating and senseless. I ignored them until they finally broke away. They called "goodbye" and I replied, "I love you too!" as I do whenever I see clear evidence that I am the subject of discussion.

A few weeks ago while I was waiting for the interminably long light to change to cross to work a girl on the opposite side of the street began imitating me while I stretched. After several minutes of this I stopped stretching and began doing the chicken dance. These little moments shouldn't matter but they are tiresome. I don't like being the object of ridicule solely because I am white as it would never occur to me to mock them for being Asian.

I realized the depth of my need to get away from Asia this morning while pondering my late summer trip to Hawaii. I was not dreaming of beautiful flora and fauna. I did not imagine myself on a wonderful sandy beach. I do not long to lose myself in tropical breezes. The solace I found in thinking about Hawaii was this: I might be able to find my preferred brand of feminine hygiene product. I'm goin' to Hawaii and I'm not settling for HomePlus brand tampons!!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The Noble Moose

"Weird" Al Yankovic's Canadian Idiot

O Canada, with on screen lyrics!

Mange mes brief! O Canada en francais!

PS, please forgive the illogical or senseless bits of the video. I'm blaming illness and wine for all failures to amuse.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008


Last week one of our vocabulary words was 'ambiguous' in TOEFL 1. I used the following example, inspired by Mitch Hedburg:

Moi:"Hyun-il, have you ever ridden a bicycle or killed a man?"
H-i:"..................Yes, but I -"
Moi:"Nonono. It's a yes or no question."
H-i: [pained expression] "Yes."

For the next class we discussed the passive voice and I explained the idea of distancing language and we returned to the topic of Hyun-il's dark side.

Active: Hyun-il killed a man with chopsticks. [I got sidetracked explaining that it is unclear if he killed a man *using* chopsticks as the murder weapon or if the man had chopsticks at the time of his demise.]

Passive: Hyun-il was the person who killed the man holding the chopsticks.

My passive examples weren't that great but I was having a lot of fun. I should stop teasing Hyun-il (he's a good kid and is easy going, which is why I tend to make him the subject). He was also the subject of an entire paragraph in a quiz yesterday wherein I continued the saga of his attempts to get a date with a girl in his physics class. In previous quizzes he has had to cancel dates because I gave him study hall or whatever so I cut him some slack in this quiz and they got to study together and it turns out she can explain both Einstein's Theory of Relativity and String Theory.

Vector of Disease

I went to a clinic all by my lonesome to get drugs for what I, with my vast medical expertise, have diagnosed as a sinus infection. Getting treatment in Korea is very different from America.

No wait: There's clinics everywhere and you don't have to have an appointment, you just walk in.
Cheap: It was $11 to answer a few questions, be exposed to further infectious agents, and get a prescription. The prescription came to $31.
Easy drug access: Seriously, the doc and I discussed phlegm color and pain and almost instantly I had a 'scrip' for antibiotics and several other unidentified pills.

Easy drug access: Do I really need 5 pills for sinus pain, coughing and phlegm?
Unsanitary: The doc used a metal tongue depressor to check my throat and tossed it right back into the cup of them on his desk.
Language barrier: This is a pretty serious risk. Granted, I can drag someone from the office with me to act as translator but I already had one mortifying experience with that and let's just say I never want to discuss specifics of lady parts in front of a coworker (again).

I'm looking forward to feeling all kinds of better soon and not sounding like a smoker.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Laptop Endangerment Exercise

I compiled the finest moments of my various sickly attempts at celebrating birthdays. I'll post cultural event pictures etc. when my energy isn't being sapped by disease. Right now I'm in a mood to wander some moors in a ridiculous dress and cry out the names of lost lovers NyQuil products. And chase sheep. Or at least throw dirty tissues and empty Advil containers at them.

Friday, 9 May 2008

May Babies!

I know a lot of people with birthdays in May!

I tried to make a video but both attempts were subpar. I caught a bug that makes me sound and feel like I smoked a pack of cigarettes right before bed.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Mountain View

This is what I spent Children's Day making.

Weekend Neatness

I love wysteria.

There was a reenactment of the wedding of King Sejeong (inventor of everything). A member of our party stopped him for photos and then a plague of us descended on these poor reenactors.

This tree and thousands of lanterns are all on the grounds of the Jogyesa Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Seoul.

I made a lantern at one of the HiSeoul festival events. It's incomplete because we got there late but I'm pleased with it.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Shittin' Rainbows

Some things that have made me smile (or smirk) lately:

Read a Book
This raises a lot of questions about whether or not certain racial stereotypes are being reinforced with negative consequences. I think that it could go either way but, for me, it's less about race and far more about the hilarity of combining obscenities with good advice.

Flight of the Conchords
A New Zealand folk parody band. Yea, I know, I usually hate music related comedy but these guys are pretty entertaining. Plus...they're Kiwi. It's all good, though, since it's one of those things white people like.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Spam, Egg, Spam & Spam

24 tickets to Crazy Tasty Town (tm) for less than a dollar per ticket!

One of my students wrote (in Korean) on a shelf at school that I am crazy and stupid and have low IQ. I have a good idea of which class it was but I'm not sure which student (high likelihood that it's our arsonist). The more sensitive part of me is hurt for abstract hypersensitive reasons and part of me wants to put the smackdown on whoever wrote it (largely because I work so hard and I really hate graffiti in the school) but most of me knew that this was coming because I remember being an obnoxious teen and I just hope the turdlets grow out of it. I took a note on the graffiti and the students asked who wrote it and I told them I didn't know but that it was a bit repetitive, that the hallmark of good writing is variety and whoever wrote it should work on expanding their vocabulary.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sunday Update

Last night I watched Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby with my coworker/friend. It is highly likely that it was an illegal Korean copy (they sell them everywhere on the streets). What struck me is that I don't understand why they would subtitle this movie in Korean. The majority of the humor is local to America. Maybe the slapstick and physical humor is enough. Towards the end when one character is behaving like Tawny Kitaen (Whitesnake music video sex symbol) they transliterate it in roman characters as "Tony Cage". A small but, I would argue, significant difference. Also, they simply transliterate "oh my God" into Korean characters rather than using (or perhaps having) a local equivalent. This country may have an obscenity shortage; I hope that our FTA with Korea will rectify this situation, reducing NTBs on vital commodities like cuss words.