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.