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Wednesday, June 28, 2006


So I just found out today that Korea has its own version of the ONION. It's run/written by foreigners, not Koreans. And it's probably only online. It's called the YANGPA. Yangpa is 'onion' in Korean. I perused it tonight and it's pretty funny...but it's probably much funnier because I live here and can relate to the things more. Anyway, here's a link to it for your own reading pleasure...or for a taste of some international ONION, anyway. My personal faves that are up right now: The panty-liner spokesmodel one (you should seriously see the commercial that guy is in right now) and the Korean gaydar one. But the picture and caption of the giant soju bottle was pretty funny, as well.

I almost flew out of a bus windshield tonight. I got on the bus and there were no seats so I was standing up. I had just gotten on so I was putting my bus card back in my wallet...therefore, I was not holding on to anything at the moment to stabilize myself. The bus driver then decided to slam on the brakes. I flew towards the front of the bus (well, I was standing near the front of the bus in the first place) and would probably have kept going if Will hadn't been standing in the way. He managed to stop my forward trajectory. I owe him my life. Seriously, standing on Korean buses is a dangerous adventure. They drive like friggin' maniacs.

I'm reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time right now. So far I'm getting most of it, but there are definitely a few things that I just cannot get my mind to comprehend. I blame it on Hawking not describing things good enough. Not my feeble-mindedness. While reading, I frequently get blown away by 1) how smart some people are, and 2) how huge the universe is. Also, seriously, how weird is the whole space-time continuum? And isn't continuum a cool looking word? It reminds me of vacuum. You know, with the double us and all. Haha...double us...ws...ok, enough. I also keep thinking that i'm reading a book published in 1988...how much of this stuff has changed in the last 18 years? A lot, I'm sure. And how about quantum mechanics? Weird. Reading stuff like this makes me realize how dumb I am.

Burn Baby, Burn!!!
Old Glory

I just read that the senate rejected an amendment to ban US flag desecration. By one vote. Whew, close one. You know, I would be really peeved if an amendment were to be passed banning flag burning, etc. I mean, I'm all about the 1st Amendment and everything, but even that's not really why I'm against an amendment banning flag "desecration." I basically think, "Who gives a shit?" Really...if someone sets Old Glory ablaze, what's the big deal? I'd rather have someone burn the flag than blow up a building. But maybe that's just me. Really, burning the Star-Spangled Banner would not bother me in the least. If I saw someone burning the Stars and Stripes I would just think, "Huh...I guess they aren't a big fan of the US." The exact same reaction I'd have if I heard someone yeling, "I hate the US! The US does crappy things!" And when our government makes that illegal, then you know we're heading for trouble. I mean, really...flag burning hurts no one. Unless you burn it while it's tied to someone else, or something. Then again, we all know I'm not exactly the epitome of a Patriotic American. That said, I really can't wait to get back home to the US because although there are a lot of things about the US I don't particularly like, I really do like living there. I'll just probably never buy and fly Old Glory. Then again, I seriously doubt I'd ever burn it, either.

So there's this big ol' mud festival in SoKo in Boryeong called (coincidentally) the Boryeong Mud Festival. This area claims to have great mud with all kinds of health benefits. So the festival is supposed to be a marketing type thing for this mud (you can buy all kinds of beauty and health products, I guess), but really it's just a big ol' mud party. According to the website,

"There are many events such as mud wrestling, mud king contest, mud fireworks fantasy and mud sliding. There will also be a photo competition in which past members have come in first place. This is a high profile event. There is a gorgeous beach there as well, which will come in handy as you won’t have any chance but to get dirty. You will be put into a prison until you get some mud on your body."

Anyway, I'm going there with Elissa, her mom, and Meghan (another UW girl teaching here) on July 16-17th. Should be a fun time.

There's also this big concert in Seoul on July 28-30 called Pentaport Rock Festival. It reminded me of you, Liz, because I thought you liked some of the bands that will be there. But maybe I'm wrong. Bands I've heard of that will be there: The Strokes, Snow Patrol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Black Eyed Peas, Franz Ferdinand, and Jason Mraz. I had to laugh because Jason Mraz got delegated to the lesser stage with the Korean bands. Haha. I might go on the first day, but I'm not sure. Tickets are a bit pricey and I'm not a big fan of any of them (I just don't know them well). But I'm still planning my possibly Japan trip so that may influence whether or not I go.

I have to go soon to meet up with the Pyeongtaek gang and have dinner (home-made burgers...mmm). Hey, at least this post wasn't shrouded in negativity. It's getting really hot and humid here now. July is monsoon season. Apparently August and September are the hot months. It's pretty hot now, I'd say. I think it was around 90 degrees with high humidity today. I wish my room had air conditioning. I wish my apt had air conditioning.

Monday, June 26, 2006

If Looks Could Kill
My entire school would be dead right now

Warning: This post is just me complaining and being pissed off. Sorry. I can't even come close to fully explaining why I'm so angry and what is going on, but here is my small attempt.

I had a horrible day today. I seriously almost had a mental breakdown. I think I kind of freaked out my co-teacher. I was SOOO incredibly frustrated that I couldn't keep it bottled up any more. Amongst many other things (summer camp, summer vacation issues, random other things), I was told last week that today some students from the University of Missouri would be visiting our school (I guess they're visiting Korea b/c they're in an agriculture program and are studying rice paddies or something?). They apparently wanted to talk to the 6th graders. I teach 6th graders on Monday. Anyway, this morning I ask my co-teacher,
"So, are the people from the U of Missouri coming today?"
"During 4th hour."
So I am assuming that I won't be teaching my 4th hour class b/c they'll be talking with the visitors. Anyway, in the middle of our 3rd hour class our vice principal calls and wants my co-teacher to come down to the office. So she leaves, leaving me in charge of the class. Which is never a good idea because 1) they don't understand 95% of what I say, and 2) Because of this and the fact that I don't physically punish them, they don't listen to me at all so it's always chaos. Added to this, they were supposed to play this game for the last 15 minutes. Now, this game is way too complicated to explain to the kids when my co-teacher explains it in Korean (they still don't get it). So here I am having to explain it all in English. Blank stares. Shit. So I have to randomly figure out what to do until the class ends since I can't get them to play the game. Class ends.

Ok, so now it's 4th hour and I'm thinking that we'll go to talk to the Missouri people. Still no co-teacher. I have no idea where to go. Some students start coming in and ask if there's class here or somewhere else. I tell them I have no idea. They leave, but come back 5 minutes later because they don't know where to go. Ok, so I guess I DO have to teach 4th hour and apparently I'm doing it alone since I have no idea where my co-teacher is. I have no idea if the Missouri people are here, if the class I'm teaching should be wherever they (Missouri people) are, etc. So I teach the class, again having to just sit and talk with the kids for 20 minutes because of the game impediment. Thankfully, this class wasn't too bad and actually listened to me for the most part and wasn't too chaotic. I think they could tell I was in a very bad mood. Early on in the class when they were being loud, I yelled at them super loud, "SHUT YOUR MOUTHS! BE QUIET! NO TALKING!" I thought I'd cover all my bases there. The 'shut your mouths' one surprised them because it sounds like 'shut up' and many of them know that's not very nice.

So anyway, finally that class ended and I'm supposed to go to lunch but still no co-teacher. I still don't know what's happening. I am seething with frustration and anger at this point. I finally go down to lunch on my own. Lunch was HORRID today (like it's ever good). Seafood soup, fish, 2 nasty fermented veggie sides, and rice that was really gross and mushy today. So I literally ate only rice and my thing of milk. My teacher came late and sat somewhere else. I went back up to my classroom.

My co-teacher comes in a little later and says to me,
"How was no class?" Wtf?
"Uhh...I HAD class. I taught last hour. Did the people from the university come or what?" "Yes."
"Oh...well, who did they talk with?"
"The 6th graders."
"Um, I taught the 6-4 class last hour. I didn't play the game though because they don't understand me." I'm seriously looking pissed off at this point. She says,
"Oh, I forgot to call the 6-4 teacher to cancel the class. Sorry."

It was all I could do not to burst out screaming or rip my hair out. Why did no one let me know that they had arrived? Didn't they think that maybe I would like to speak with them or them to me? Plus, making me teach those classes alone which is just ridiculous at this age level. They have nowhere near the English level to make anything worthwhile. I HATE not knowing what is going on and I NEVER know what is going on here. This was just one shining example of that and it just cracked me. I could probably have killed someone with facial expression today. Then she starts asking me about summer camp and I did explode. It's in over a month and a half and they need a plan now...They say to me, "Oh, we need a plan for the camp and what materials you'll need." I ask, "When?" They respond, "Today or tomorrow." WTF??? Yeah, I'm gonna just whip up 2 weeks worth of lesson plans today. Ok. If you want them to be pieces of crap. And the thing is, no one cares about the plan. They can be pieces of crap. They can be (and are expected to be) changed by the time the camp comes. But if this is so, why make me do it this early? I don't want to waste my time making a quick crappy plan that I'm not going to do just because they need some paper work. I just said to my co-teacher, "I don't know. I don't care." And probably other stuff and then proceeded to make exasperated noises while ripping my hands through my hair. At this point, my co-t just said to me, "Don't worry about it. Do you want to go home?" At first I thought she meant back to my apartment and I was like, "No, no, no, it's fine." But later I realized that I think she meant back home to the US. YES. I DO. She also asked me later, "Do you regret?" I'm like, "Regret what? I'm just REALLY frustrated." Then she left me alone for a while and made me sit down for our whole 5th hour class.

I had to teach a teacher class that afternoon and I was still pissed. I couldn't get myself to fake being happy if my life depended on it. I think I kind of freaked all those teachers out as well. Then I had to go to a staff meeting (all in Korean...why they make me go to these things I have no idea). It finished at 4:30 so I could go right home. But my co-teacher says to me as we're leaving the room, "The 6th grade teachers are eating [insert not-so-good Korean food here] upstairs now. Let's go up." I couldn't hold back my "I would rather die than do that right now" facial expression. She says, "You no want to?"
"No. I'm going home." Then I left.

I am surprised I didn't kill someone today. Now I need to harrass them about my summer vacation time since I want to take it at a different time than they want to have me take it. They want me to teach a week long camp at some random elementary school in Pyeongtaek that doesn't have a native English teacher (in addition to 2 weeks of camp at my school). I'd rather shoot myself in the head than do that, so I am going to complain my head off about it and hope I get out of it. I am so beyond not caring if I'm difficult or whiney or demanding right now. I let them screw me around for 9.5 months, I'm going to try and put an end to it the 2.5 months I have left. I am so apathetic about everything right now. I seriously don't care at all about teaching the students. I show up at school every day and my goal each day is not to go insane. Ugh. I am beyond fed up with "teaching" here.

I want to go home.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'm Leaving On a Jet Plane
And I will not be back again...

I just purchased my airline ticket home. Woo-hoo!!! Strike the drums and blow the trumpets! I'm flying United home--Seoul to Denver to Minneapolis. I leave Seoul on September 1st at 1:50pm and I arrive in Minneapolis on Sept 1st at 6:07pm. Wow, only a 4 hour flight. ;) So someone better be able to pick me up at the airport that Friday night! The ticket was $1,211.59, which I don't have to pay for. I hope my school can get their heads out of their asses long enough to properly reimburse me. I wanted to fly United, so I was glad that it also happened to be the cheapest. Korean Air was friggin' expensive. And it friggin' sucks.

I was thinking about buying a ticket through Korean Air (which were $1,800), having my school reimburse me that much, then cancel the Korean Air reservation (only a $20 fee or so), then buying the United ticket. That way I would net about $600. But 1) Even though I dislike my school, ripping them off $600 is not a nice thing to do...I mean, it's a school. And 2) More importantly, I'd live in fear of being caught/found out by my school. How horrid would I feel then?? So I'm still honest.

Creepy McCreeperson
Why are whiteys invading my apartment complex??

Ok, the white family that moved in to the same apartment building as me is officially creepy. I've still only met one of the boys, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, right? So I first met him a couple weeks ago on the elevator. His name is Seth. He is 13. He seemed really weird to me, but I couldn't really say because I only spoke with him for a few minutes. And he had an accent that I thought sounded Texan. That never bodes well.

So, as I was coming home today I ran into him on the elevator again. He was going down (with a soccer ball) and I was going up, so I was hoping there wouldn't be conversation. There wasn't on the elevator. A few minutes after getting in my apartment, there's a knock on my door (I had told him last time where I live--bad move, I know...but he asked and I didn't want to be all, "You're weird and I'm not telling."). Great. He asks if he can come in. I agree (yeah, I know, what's wrong with me?). So we talked for a while. He is weird, no question. As is his whole family, I'm sure.

He is from Texas. He's here with his older brother who is 15 who beats the crap out of him, apparently. His dad teaches English in an English academy (many kids take extra Engish classes after school). According to the kid, his dad spends over half his money on bills each month. This is clearly a lie, unless he gets paid shit, which I'm sure he doesn't. They don't even have Internet, so there's one less bill they have than I. His dad must tell them that because he either spends it himself drinking or something, or he just doesn't want to have to give his kids anything. The kid then proceeded to tell me how he tries to steal money from his dad. At this point I begin keeping an eye on my stuff. He then keeps mentioning how he only has 100 won left. Yeah, that's like 10 cents. You're not gonna be able to do much with that.

He kept talking about video games and this video game place he goes to. He then tells me he wants to show it to me. I tell him I'm not into playing computer games. He says it doesn't matter, he only wants to show it to me. Like I care where it is if I don't play the games, you moron.

I asked what he thought about Korea so far, and he said that it's much better than America, because apparently--get this--there's going to be a huge war in the US soon but no one knows about it yet. So I'm just giving you all the head's up on that. Be prepared for a massive war, OK? Then he proceeded to bitch about taxes and how high they are in the US. He clearly has no idea what taxes are, because I then said to him, "That's a nice thing about Korea. You don't have to pay taxes on your income." To which he responded, "My dad has to pay all kinds of taxes each month...water, gas, electricity..." Ok, those are called bills, idiot. I shouldn't be too hard on him because he's only 13, but he's weird. And I don't like him.

He also told me how he can speak Korean really well (he's been here a month and when I met him previously he said he 'didn't know a lick of Korean'). He then tried reading this thing on my ceiling and was like, "I am having problems with reading it though." At which point I had to tell him that what he was looking at wasn't Korean, it was Chinese. If he doesn't know the difference between Korean and Chinese writing, yeah, I'd say he has problems reading.

I asked what he does for school, and he doesn't go to school. His dad tells him to read from some book everyday as a sort of home-schooling. I'm sure that's cutting it.

I kept thinking the whole time, "How can I get this kid out of here?" Finally I just told him he had to go. I feel like him and his family are going to break in and steal my shit. Not liking them. Do not want to run into any of them EVER again. I hope none of the Koreans in the same complex as me think I know them or am friends with them. I also hope they don't find this and read it and murder me in my sleep.

What a Pisser
Koreans don't know squat about decent bathrooms

So, I went into the bathroom at school today and saw that one stall on the end had a toilet in it, and not a squatter. What the hell? I swear to God I looked in all the stalls before and they were all squatters. I mean, it's a nice discovery and all, but it would have been a nicer discovery if it had been made...oh, let's say 9.5 months ago. Now I'm wondering if it's newly installed or if I'm stupid. Oh, the unsolved mysteries of the universe....

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Demonstrate This, You SOB!
I hate the English education program here. In case you didn't know.

Erin: Hey! No, you're not a bad friend, you just live half a world away from me at the moment. You can email me (emily.christopherson@gmail.com) or you can call my parents and have them give me your phone and address info. I trust you remember the phone number!

Dad: I saw some pics (Father's Day or close to it) and in them you were wearing your taeguki shirt (Korean flag shirt). I noticed that on the back is some Korean writing. You may be interested in knowing what it says. It says, "Dae Han Min Guk" (pr. Day Hahn Mean Gook). Which pretty much means The Republic of Korea and is the title of my last blog entry. I'm currently hearing it chanted all the time because of the World Cup mania. Korea is very patriotic. Speaking of Father's Day, "Happy Belated Father's Day!" If it makes you feel better, I also forgot about Mother's Day. I'm a bad child, apparently.

So, my demo was interesting. I thought it went ok, although I definitely would not have chosen the activity that we did (my co-teacher planned everything). The people who came to see it from other schools seemed to really like it. However, after it was over the vice-principal was pretty much yelling at my co-teacher. At the time I didn't know what about because it was all in Korean. Then the principal gave a long speech about it to all the people who came. Again, I had no idea what he said. But I later learned from my co-teacher that the vice-principal hated it and the principal pretty much said that he considered it a failure. Ouch.

I don't really care because I'm leaving and don't care at this point what they think of me. Also, I don't think they had a problem with me and my teaching. My vp thought that the Korean teacher didn't talk enough and when she did she was too quiet. And both the vp and the p (I think) were just pissed that it wasn't a completely choreographed presentation. That's pretty much what these demo classes are. I hate them and find them absolutely pointless. You take like a month to plan one lesson and make all these materials and practice the class beforehand, etc. It in no way represents what an actual class could ever possibly be like. But Koreans are all about appearances. Don't you love all the blanket statements I'm making about the entire Korean population? Anyway, we didn't completely choreograph the whole class, so it was a bit more 'real'...even thought there were obviously things that took more planning than you could normally do. But like I said, the other people thought it was good and I think contradicted what the vp and p said was bad about it.

I got a lot of compliments about my 'performance.' Like last time, I got a lot of, "You are like an actress! Wow!" I also got some, "You have a beautiful voice!" Thanks. They also said I was beautiful, which I pretty much have determined they say to everyone who's not Korean. I also got a few, "If you have friends who want to teach let us know! We need a native English teacher!" Yeah, so I'm glad that's over. I'm not going to even get into the whole room debacle (what a friggin' hassle, I'll tell you that).

So way back in the beginning of May I wanted to transfer a bunch of money from my Korean bank account to my UW Credit Union account. In order to do that, I needed my school to give me pay stubs from all the months I've worked (they don't just give them to me...even though I asked when I first got here). In order to transfer money you need proof that you earned it legally and paid taxes and all that jazz. So in early May the exchange rate was really good, like almost 920 won per $1. Anyway, it took them until a few weeks ago to finally get them to me. By that time the exchange rate had risen to about 940 won per $1. Still not bad, but sucks it wasn't still 920. The next 2 weeks were super hectic due to the demo class, so I was never able to get to the bank to do it (banks are only open M-F 9-4:30...all times I have to be at work, so I have to leave school to go to the bank or post office). Throughout those 2 weeks I'd check the exchange rate every day, and everyday it got worse. Then I started to wonder if I should wait it out and see if it falls again, or if I should do it ASAP before it gets way worse. I consulted my friend who knows about stuff like that and she told me I should do it ASAP because she thought it'd get worse because the Chinese are revaluing their money or some shit like that. I don't know, I don't get it. So anyway, I went in and did it yesterday (it took 9000 years to do) and ended up getting an exchange rate of a bit under 970. Boo. But when I first came it was 1,000 and the previous year it was 1200, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. It was very nerve-wracking deciding if I should transfer or wait...it was like I was 'playing' the stock market. I looked today and the exchange rate was below 960. Dammit. If it keeps going down I'll be pissed. Then again, I'll have to transer all my money on a few months, so I hope it's good then. That was a long paragraph on something that was potentially really boring.

I have received more glowing commendations on Ewan McGregor's documentary called "Long Way Round." So everyone should all go out and rent it. Now. I mean it.

All classrooms at school have signs that say what room it is. It says it in Korean and English. For instance, the sign outside my room says, "Yeongeo Shil (but in Korean writing)" and also "English Classroom" Anyway, I noticed a funny sign the other day. There are 2 signs outside the Nurses office. One says, "Health Center" and the other says, "Sexual Problem Counseling Center." For some reason I think there has to be a better translation than that.

Most of the people at my school now know that I don't really like Korean food and that I'm not that happy. Which I have to say is a relief, because it takes a lot of energy to put up a happy front. So now I pretty much act how I feel and it's much easier. I'm definitely getting into the "I don't care what they think of me" mode. And I enjoy it.

Still not sure what I'm doing for my summer break. I want to have it at a certain date, but I don't know if they'll let me because I may have to teach an English camp for a week at a school that doesn't have their own native English teacher. Which I will absolutely HATE. I'm going to try my hardest not to. I'm gonna whip out my contract and see if I can confuse them into thinking I'm not allowed to. Anyway, I might go to Japan with one of my friends here (Jaclyn). But that is extremely tentative. She's going to India after she finishes her contract so she has to check her finances first to see if she can afford it. Japan is very expensive, so that doesn't bode well. I am petrified of traveling alone. So with my luck, I will end up staying in Korea my whole break. Shoot me now.

The last Korea World Cup game was vs. France and it started at 4am here on a Sunday (or Monday morning, actually). Of course, everyone was watching it. I was awakened at not much past 4 when France scored a goal. I was awakened again later on when Korea scored a goal. Since I was never awakened again (aside from by my alarm clock) I assumed it ended a tie. Which it did. 1-1. Speaking of 1-1 ties and World Cup, how hilarious was the last USA match vs. Italy? I didn't watch it, but I did read about it. Our one goal came from Italy kicking it into their own net. Man, that's great. It reminds me of elementary school when one kid gets all excited about having the and proceeds run to the wrong side and scores a goal for the wrong team. Also, the only goal we've got so far in this tournament wasn't even by us. Do we suck or something? I do have to give us credit for not allowing Italy to score the second half even though we were one man short. So I read. Oh, this picture is of downtown Seoul during a game. I guess there's more than 300,000 people there. Also, there's a World Cup stadium in Suwon (Korea hosted it in 2002). I guess the stadium fills up completely on game day to watch a game that's only on tv.

I saw X-Men 3 on Sunday. It wasn't bad. At least it was all spoken in English so I didn't have issues like I did when I went to The DaVinci Code.

What a dumb entry. I'm sorry.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dae Han Min Guk!
(clap clap clap clap clap)

So, Korea is in full World Cup swing. The last week my students have been coming up to me and saying nothing but, "World Cup!" I'm never quite sure how to respond to that..."Yes...it's coming up..." The Korea v. Togo game is on as I write. It's actually very annoying because my TV is in a different room than my computer. I don't care enough about soccer to just sit in my bedroom and watch the soccer game, so I have the TV on while I'm in my "study" on the computer. Anyway, anytime the announcer gets all excited I feel the need to jump and run to the TV in case a goal is being made. It never is. And they get excited way too often. I did happen to be in the room when they scored a goal not too long ago. It's really great because I can hear collective roars and cheers from hoards of people around me...in surrounding aptments, etc. Since everyone has their balcony doors open, you can hear everyone yell (and there's probably about a thousand people living in my complex). Hey! They just scored another goal! Good on ya, Korea! So, when they score a goal I like ot mute my TV and hear all the cheers live. It's nice. They keep showing a live shot of Seoul where literally thousands of people are gathered on the streets watching the game. Apparently there's some gathering place in Pyeongtaek (kind of near me, I think) but I'm not sure where.

Last night as I was going to bed I kept hearing random cheers. I assumed it was people watching the Japan v. Australia game, but I wasn't sure who they were cheering for-I know they hate Japan, but do they have Asian Unity? So I switched on my TV and lo and behold they were cheering for Australia. :) Damn Japs! I guess they Aussie coach used to coach Korea or something and he said something about wanting to beat the Japanese "for Korea"...so they love him. Then at school the next day all the kids were yelling, "Japan soccer lose!!!" All gleefully.

Korean love soccer. Every Korean kids says their favorite sport is soccer. If not soccer, then 'pigu.' Which is Dodgeball, I believe. The name of the Korean soccer team is The Red Devils, I think. Korea co-hosted the last World Cup and made it pretty far. All the shirts from that year say (in English) "Be the Reds!!" I really want to buy one. The shirts for this year say, "Reds Again!" Not as cool or old school looking. And why it's always in English is beyond me.

The US lost v. the Czech Republic last night, 0-3. Whatever.

I'm having a really crappy couple of weeks because I have a demo class on Friday. My school is freaking out about it and all this extra (and many times pointless work) is being created. I hate it. I can't wait until this week is over. I hope I don't fling myself over a balcony before the week is out. I would explain more, but it's late and I don't want to piss myself off. Maybe later. So that's that.

Ooh, Korea just won. Cheers abound. I will have happy students tomorrow, not sad, sulky ones. How is this for crappy--ok, the game just finished and it's midnight. Pretty much all the students are staying up to watch it. Tomorrow morning for the first 2 classes all the students have a school-wide math test. So not only did they not study, but they'll be tired as shit. What administrator planned that one?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Who's a Fan of the Amputated Hand?
The Korean Educational System!

Brighton found the clock in my classroom very funny because the brand was RAGE. “What time is it, kids?” “It’s RAGE time!!”

Here’s a new picture of my classroom with the “new” bulletin board. It was changed at the start of this semester by my new co-teacher. She put everything up and then told me to write a story to go with it. So I had to try and write a story that was simple to understand and was in the correct order of the pictures and made sense. It was not that easy, and the story is very dumb. It’s actually not really a story, but the mice all saying something. Also, the mice on the end are supposed to be carrying strawberries (according to my co-teacher), but she never made the strawberries. So what they’re saying on the end currently makes no sense. Here is what they’re saying:

1: He’s not saying anything because he’s playing an instrument.
2: “Hey! Who turned off the lights? I can’t see anything!”

3: “Yay! It’s Spring! I love Spring!”
4: “Look up there, Grandpa! It’s Brother Mouse. He is very happy.”

5: “Wow! He jumps very high! I like Spring, too.”

6: “Look at the pretty flowers! You are wearing a flower hat. It is very funny.”

7: “Thank you. It’s my purple flower hat. Purple is my favorite color.”

8: “Help me! These strawberries are very heavy!”

9: “I like strawberries. They are delicious! I will help you.”

10: “Wait for me! I want a strawberry! Wah! Wah!” [she’s crying]

Should I be a children’s book writer, or what? Also, there’s a picture of me at my (newish) desk with my (newish) computer. You can see a portion of the (newish) gigantic printer on the left.

Students are allowed to do things in Korean schools that would never happen in US schools. I’m worried that I’ll become so accustomed to these things that I’ll start teaching in the US and let things happen and end up getting sued or fired. For instance, There are ceiling fans in our room. They were covered over the winter, but now that it’s getting hot they were uncovered. My co-teacher took them apart and washed them. Between a few of the classes she enlisted some of the boys to put the fans back together. See pictures. These fans get turned on by a set of switches that are grouped together with the light switches that are located right next to the door. I kept imagining a student running in and hitting the switches…then having 4 boys’ hands get amputated by fan blades. It was all a very sketchy situation. Oh, and here’s a picture of my class while I’m teaching. You can see my co-teacher (Mrs. Yi, not Ms. Kwan who wanted to live with me). It’s a 6th grade class. You can’t tell in this picture, but I’m wearing pants that don’t match my shirt. But being as I’m in Korea, I figured it didn’t matter. Because it doesn’t. In Korea. I don’t think I could get them to understand the term “matching.”

Here are 4 of my students. They are 5th graders posing for Brighton. 99% of all pictures taken of Koreans (if it’s a posed picture) involve them doing the peace sign with their fingers. But I don’t think it means peace for them. I don’t know what it does mean, however. They also say “kimchi” before a picture instead of “cheese.” Here’s a picture of Brighton becoming Koreanized.

When Brighton was here, we went out with my Pyeongtaek friends one night. First we had dinner (samgyeobsal). It’s pork. Grilled with veggies that you then wrap in lettuce leaves. It’s a Korean food I don’t mind, but sometimes it can get really fatty which grosses me out. ‘Sam’ in Korean means 3…so the ‘sam’ in samgyeobsal symbolizes the 3-layers of the pork—meat, fat, and…more fat? Honestly, sometimes it’s 2/3 fat. And you eat it, not cut it off. Meat here is very fatty.

Then we went to what we call the “Swing Café.” You go there and order juice, tea, or coffee. The seats are all swingy benches. And it’s decorated all frilly and girly. Only boys have no issue coming here. In the US, guys would not be caught dead in here, especially middle school boys. Here: totally acceptable. That’s one thing I like about Korea—guys can look, act, and dress in ways that to Americans would prompt ridicule about their sexuality. Officially, there are no gay Koreans (really, that’s the stance of Korea). When foreigners come here they may think, “Wow, there are lots of gay men in Korea.” Really, neither is the case. I’m sure the percentage of gay men is proportional to other countries’ gay men. There’s just a lot less taboo on what constitutes acceptable behavior for guys. Guy friends walk around holding hands here. My boy students are always hugging and hanging on each other. It’s very cute. Anyway, then we went to a bar called “Do & Be” and had chocolate shakes and a potato platter. Here I am, striking a Korean pose.

The night before Brighton left we went to a noraebang together. You can’t come to Korea and not go to a noraebang. So, those of you who know Brighton know that she is not the most musically inclined. We found it hysterical that in every picture of her singing she looks like she’s either very sad, terrified, or being tortured. See following picture montage. Apparently singing is not the most enjoyable activity for her. :D

I’ve determined that I had/have whooping cough which then caused me to strain/crack my ribs which for whatever reason didn’t show up in my x-ray. Because I definitely made whooping noises while attempting to breath while coughing spasmodically. I don’t cough often anymore, but when I do, it’s bad. And when it happens I feel like I have asthma…sometimes I’m not even coughing but I’m incapable of sucking air into my lungs and I think, “What if I asphyxiate and die right now?” But then I’m ok. But hey, I’m no doctor, so what do I know?

A nice picture of the church near my apartment (taken by Brighton). It really gives a nice feeling of what the glowing red crosses look like. Imagine looking out and seeing like 5 of them at one time. Lots of chuches here. Lots of glowing red crosses here. Ironically, I think they look slightly satanic.

Here's a video of us at the Swing Cafe:

Here's a video of dancing soju bottles in the streets of Suwon:

Saturday, June 03, 2006

For Whom the Bell Tolls
In Gyeongju, apparently it tolls for me

So, for the first time in about a month I’m visitor-less. It’s kind of odd. Brighton flew home last Tuesday. My out-to-eat experiences have lessoned considerably this week. : ) The weekend before Brighton left we went to Gyeongju. I’ve been to Gyeongju before and posted pics and stuff about it already, so I won’t go into any (or much) history of the area.

We boarded the train from Pyeongtaek to Gyeongju at 6:30 on Friday night. We had first class seats as they were the only two left when we got around to buying them. But they weren’t that much more expensive, so no big deal. I personally couldn’t find any big differences between first class and “normal” class. The seats may have been a bit more plush. Anyway, it was a 3.5 hour train ride. The dining car was in front of us. There was a sign on the door that I found funny. Here is a picture, at left. I also enjoyed how the train workers would bow to the passengers upon entering and exiting a car. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of bowing. I had a kid bow to me so deep the other day he was practically doubled over. It was great.

So we got into Gyeongju around 10 or so. We had no hotel reservations, but we’d heard that there were a bunch of new “love hotels” near the bus station. Korea has a lot of “love hotels.” They’re hotels that people go to for…love…purposes. You can get them for the night, or if you’re in a hurry, an hour. I’d never stayed in one before, but I have heard that generally they are pretty nice…not gross and seedy in a dirty sort of way. Quite often they’re better/cleaner than other hotels. And they’re usually much cheaper. And they provide…materials…for…love. Anyway, we walked towards the bus station (about a 20 minute walk or so). We ended up going into a new one (still had streamers up outside it). It was called The Ritz, so you know it was quality, right? The lady showed us a room (you can request looking at numerous rooms). We thought it was fine. We paid her in cash right in the room, which was a little weird. It was 40,000 won (a bit more than $40). It was very clean, had a big tv, a dvd/vcr combo, and a computer with internet access. And multi-colored lighting, which was fun. My favorite was the lady’s parting words to us: “Have fun.” Haha.

Saturday was rainy all day. Which sucked, but what can you do? We first took a bus to Bulguksa Temple, a little outside of the city. It wasn’t as nice as last time because it was raining. But it’s one of the biggest temples in SoKo, originally built in the 500s. I took some pictures of the Buddhas in some of the temples. You weren’t supposed to, but Koreans were so I figured I could subversively take some. I hope that doesn’t hinder my chances at achieving Nirvana when I die. I personally liked the big statue of a warrior guy playing a ukulele. With a demon crouched between his legs.

From here we went to Seokuram Grotto, which I did not go to last time I was in Gyeongju. This is a hermitage that houses one of the world’s finest shrines of Buddha, dating back to the 700s. Both Seokguram and Bulguksa are on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list. On a clear day you can supposedly see the East Sea (Sea of Japan), but it was rainy and foggy as all hell when we went, so no East Sea observing for us. You also couldn’t take pictures of this Buddha…and it was monitored much more closely, so I don’t have a picture. But here’s a few I found on the Internet, so I’ll post them. You can see how misty it was this day from the picture of the outside of the Grotto. How awesome is the word ‘grotto’? Seriously. For those interested, this is apparently a man-made grotto (cave). I don’t know who watched American Idol, but you know that song that eventual winner Taylor sang—In The Ghetto? While here I couldn’t get it out of my head, but I replaced the words so I was singing, “In the Grotto.” Because I’m a dork.

Then we went back to downtown Gyeongju. We ended up going to a movie—the DaVinci Code. Let me tell you, that’s not the best movie to go to in a foreign country. Usually it’s no problem going to English movies in Korea because they only subtitle in Korean. However, an entire subplot of this movie was spoken in French/Italian/Latin…and instead of English subtitles there was only Korean subtitles (go figure). Since I don’t speak any of those languages, it was interesting. I was just glad I had read the book (albeit a while ago) so I wasn’t totally lost. But it was either that or Mission Impossible: 3, so I think we made the best choice. After the movie we ate at Pizza Hut and had sweet potato/cheese crust pizza (Koreans love their sweet potato). Then we went back to The Ritz for another night (fees raised to $60 on Saturday nights, bummer). Oh, I had to take a picture of this clothing store. Koreans also love poop. This store name literally translated into “Dog Poop.” As you can see by the picture, there’s not some figurative meaning I don’t know about being a foreigner.

The next day we first went to Tumuli Park, where they have a bunch of tombs dating from the Silla period. Today was a much nicer day, but early on it was still a bit cloudy. I have a bunch of pictures of this park because I love how the tombs look. They’re so pretty to me.

Then we saw Cheomseongdae Observatory, which is Asia’s earliest known existing observatory and is one of the oldest scientific installations on Earth. Apparently. It was built in the 600s. It’s really not tall…at all…so I find it curious that it was an observatory. From Wikipedia:
“Cheomseongdae was constructed under the reign of Queen Seondeok (632-647) near the capital of the kingdom…The tower is built out of 362 pieces of cut granite which some claim represent the 362 days of the lunar year. Some surveys of the site have indicated that there are 366 blocks. It has 27 circular layers of stones (some associate it with the fact that Queen Seondeok was considered to be the 27th ruler of Silla) surmounted by a square structure. 12 of the layers are below the window level and 12 are above. There are 12 large base stones set in a square, with three stones on each side. These sets of 12 may symbolize the months of the year.”
So here are some pictures of it. Also, here’s a picture of a sign nearby. Koreans love their cartoon people, and this king and queen are saying, “Danger!” [Wi Heom] I don’t know why they’re saying danger. One would think it’s maybe because the tower looks like it may collapse, but then again there was a whole plaque detailing how the observatory was deemed structurally safe. So who knows? Not I.

Then we walked to Anapji Pond. Not exciting. The old kings and queens used to relax there, I guess. We then headed to Gyeongju National Museum. Which wasn’t that great, but I wanted to go there because it is the home of a bell named after me. Ok, so it’s not named after me, but it has the same name…or close to it. Here is the legend of the bell, from Wikipedia, again:
“The Bell of King Seongdeok is the largest extant bell in Korea and one of the largest in the world. The full Korean name means ‘Sacred Bell of King Seongdeok the Great.’
It is commonly known as the Emille Bell in English. Emille, pronounced ‘em-ee-leh,’ is an ancient Silla term for "mommy." According to legend, when the bell was first cast it would not ring. So it was melted down again and the priest of the temple for which the bell was being made was told in a dream that if a baby was cast into the metal the bell would ring. When the bell was recast and struck, it produced the sound of ‘em-ee-leh’, like the cries of the sacrificed baby.

It measures 3.33 meters high, 2.27 meters in diameter, and 11 to 25 centimeters in wall thickness. The notes could be heard 40 miles away on a clear day. The bell weighs about 25 tons. It is now stored in the National Museum of Gyeongju.”

We then went to the Tomb of King Taejong Muyeol because we had time to spare. But it was pretty much deserted, so we got to walk on the tombs and get pictures, which was nice. Then we went to the bus terminal to go home. We couldn’t get train tickets because they were already sold out when we bought tickets. I was relieved we were able to get bus tickets…we bought them Sunday morning and there were only 5 seats left when we bought them (you can only buy them that day). If I hadn’t got tickets I would have freaked out since I had to be back to school that Monday and I would have had no idea how to get home. But it worked out, so no worries (although the bus went to Osan, not Pyeongtaek, so we had to take a subway back to Pyeongtaek from Osan).

Anyway, that was that weekend. I have lots more to write, but I’m out of gas at the moment, so it’ll have to wait.