(Seulgi drives Jaehong and I to dinner. Her car only has one passenger seat, so Jaehong has to ride in the hatch. The hatch locks automatically and has to be opened from the outside.)
Jaehong (once we're parked and Seulgi and I have exited the car): "mumble, mumble, mumble." (knocks on window.)
Me: "Oh, sorry. I don't know Korean."
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
(Seulgi drives Jaehong and I to dinner. Her car only has one passenger seat, so Jaehong has to ride in the hatch. The hatch locks automatically and has to be opened from the outside.)
Monday, December 27, 2010
Technically, it's winter break, but don't think that'll stop the schools from making the teachers work. Most of us get to experience the joy of Winter Camps. These are informal lessons for smaller groups of students during the break. I haver two camps throughout the course of the next few weeks.
This week, I have the Winter Camp at my school, Cheongok. I work from 9 to 12:20 and then I get to go home. It's actually a spectacular break, and I'll get paid like a regular work week. I'm teaching alone and I get to make my own lessons. Kind of like Seodang, except I have the kids for longer. The attendees of my classes are a group of 15 third-graders. Of course I picked the adorable ones, even if they don't quite understand a word I'm saying. Unfortunately, I have the same small class all day, which means I have to think of activities/lessons/games that will fill up the whole timeframe. This is much harder than anticipated. When things run a little short in a 40-minute class, no problem- throw on a video or play some music. When you have 20 minutes of extra time because your activities didn't last as long as anticipated, well, panic mode.
Today was Day 1 and I managed to make it work, but it was a little difficult. I really want this week to be about a fun learning experience. I have free reign, so I want to incorporate games as much as possible, but I'm not actually great at adapting simple games for specific learning purposes. For example, I decided to make the camp Harry Potter-themed because kids love magic and I can show clips to fill like 25 minutes a day. Score. But, for whatever reason, my mind keeps blanking on other fun activities to do during the class. It doesn't help that I have almost zero materials. Last week, I mapped out a ton of games that I could play, but looking at them closer now that the camp is here, none of them seem like they'll really work. Thankfully, Ulsan is a giant community of teachers, so tomorrow I'm meeting LaBecca to do a little brainstorming. All I have to do is get through tomorrow. It can't be that hard, right?
Sidenote: A third-grade girl braided my hair today. Too cute.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
I took a bit of a break from blogging due to the holiday, which coincided with my scant time off. I'll try to briefly catch up.
Tuesday - Wednesday
Tuesday was my last day of work. The teachers left early to go to Pohang, on the coast of Korea. It was really lovely.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
This weekend was pretty fantastic. Change of pace and then some.
-- FRIDAY --
Dinner with Vince. So much delicious food. This one foreigner walked in while we were there and no one else was even in the restaurant. We did the obligatory "Hey, foreigners!" head nod. I've actually seen this guy around a couple times. I might slight attempts to engage him, but he's been non-responsive. I mentioned this to Vince. Still, we decide to invite him over to our table. He's clearly alone and if he lives in Hogye, we should meet him. Vince and I delayed the invite for a while, discussing how being rejected hurts, always. But then we decided we're real awesome, so how could we possibly get rejected? We exude awesome. It's an obvious fact. So Vince goes over and does the nice guy thing. Only to, in fact, get rejected. That guy was clearly a douche. We parsed his personality for the next several minutes and could find no other conclusion.
Afterward, I went home and read. I haven't hung out with a book in ages. AGES. I was so happy. My apartment was all warm and cozy and comfortable. I fell into a sober sleep by 10:30 PM. Loved it.
-- SATURDAY --
The things about getting to bed early on Friday is that it's impossible to sleep in on Saturday. Also, I had plans for Saturday that I was excited about. I woke up, showered and ventured to Daegu via train to see Sweet Mama Momo Bear.
|Reasonably obsessed with taking shots from the train.|
Lately I've been indulging in low-key events, to fantastic result. Last Tuesday I went to dinner at LaBecc's witha few choice people. We had Mexican. Wonderful, wonderful Mexican. I never realized how much I loved Mexican food until it became a rare commodity.
I went to LaBecca's a little early to hang out and help prepare. Little did I know that my help would mean working a novelty cheese grater.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
|Nevermind the glare.|
In general, Koreans wear Western-style clothing in their daily lives. The Hanbok is only worn on very special occasions or holidays. Around Chuseok (추석), Korean Thanksgiving, and some other big holiday, the name of which I can't remember, women can be seen wearing their Hanbok around the town. Not so much true of the men. Who knows why.
I'd buy one, but they're expensive. Plus, I don't fit into Asian sizes.
Pictures of K-Products that didn't quite "get" it.
|I'd like to drink more potions|
|I have no idea.|
|I know where to find WWIII's answer to 'Wind Talkers'|
|The stores like to pair unrelated products in their 2-for-1 deals|
|The best one I ever saw? Tampons and Frozen Shrimp.|
Kids are messy. Give them separate shoes to wear once they're indoors? Restrict their materials in class? Irrelevant. They will make a mess of anything. Take the Cheongok Dream Center, for example. It currently has glue sticks, paper, dirt, milk stains, ink stains, dried gum, eraser shavings, and scuff marks everywhere. Literally everywhere. Walls, floors, teacher boards, even the printer is subject to the merciless grime of youth. Lucky for me, I'm no germaphobe. I have no idea what to do about this mess. Four months in, I still don't know what to do when the trash bin is full. And I've asked. When I submit a query, people just take care of things for me instead of giving me an answer. Less work for me, sure, but I feel like an incompetent child. So when it comes to the state of cleanliness of my room, I got nothing.
|Take that, ingrates!|
As far as I can tell, the students rotate cleaning responsibilities. They're actually pretty miserable, never want to do it, and insist they're done before any cleaning has been accomplished. My favorite part? When they do sweep anything up, they walk over to me and ask me what to do with the trash in the pan. Every time. What do they think I want them to do with it? Not too many options, kids.
I take some small measure of joy in watching them clean. Especially the kids who act up on a routine basis. Still, most of their time is devoted to complaining instead of cleaning, so I get irritated. Do the work and go. And leave the SMART board alone. Then you can go. Simple solution.
My parents would probably roll their eyes at this sentiment. They used to pay me for similar kinds of work, and I remember a tantrum or two. I'm sure there's a lot I complain about that's basically just like having a family. Basically, I never need to have children, I already have 630.
I could probably devote the rest of my blog solely to Devil. Total Teacher's Pet. Hands down. And she likes it. Kinda reminds me of me. She's adorable. A fourth-grader who's smarter than most sixth-graders (at least in English), a bit of a tomboy, loves Justin Bieber, and pretty snarky for age 11.
[Class assignment: Paper Snowflakes]
Stephani: "Teacher, mine ugly! So ugly!"
(puts snowflake on desk in front of Devil)
Me: "No, it's beautiful!"
Stephani: "Teachah! No! Look!"
Devil (completely deadpan, with a shake of her head): "Yepuda."
"Yepuda" is Korean for "beautiful." Cracked me up.
In addition to her wit, she's also spectacular at making cognitive connections and then expressing them in outstanding English.
[Re: My Water Intake]
Devil: "Teacher, you drink 2 liters of water every day?"
Me: "Yes. It's good for me."
Devil: "Good for you. And your skin is better."
I can't even hold her observation of my poor complexion against her. I'm too impressed.
I've commissioned her to write a letter for my friends and family, which I'm totally going to post here. She's really excited about it. It's extra work and she feels honored. This is why I adore her.
Did I mention she loves Harry Potter?
Monday, December 13, 2010
The featured entree is bulgogi bimbimbap. Bulgogi means beef. Usually. It also has: bean sprouts, zucchini, carrots, onion, dried seaweed, cabbage, red pepper paste, a fried egg, spinach, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Some varieties can be pretty spicy, but not Scott Reedy-spicy. Just a little kick, which you could technically amp up by using more pepper paste. Anyway, not only is this dish visually stunning, it throws in an element of fun since you get to mash the crap out of it.
|An all-around delight|
"Seoul" is the anglicanized spelling of Korea's capitol, which foreigners pronounce "soul."
In Hangeul (Korean language) it's 서울. The closest phonetic pronunciation I can give via blog is "saw-ool." The "aw" is a little more rounded like a short "o." It's a two-syllable word, but, like anyone, they kinda mash the syllables together when speaking at a normal pace. "Soul" isn't that bad an approximation, considering.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I totally got shushed on the bus to Busan. Some ajumma pushed her face in front of Nadia and I, grabbed my hand to get my attention, and gave a hearty shush. Now, I may be a little hot-headed, as some would say, but I think it was the breach of the personal bubble that really ticked me off. Do not touch me, lady. Never touch me. Her overzealous hushing came at around one in the afternoon. No one was trying to sleep, in fact, many other people were talking. Now, I'm fully aware that my vocal intonations tend to carry, but I felt especially singled out in this instance.
Let me take a moment. Sometimes, being a foreigner in Korea can be a little too tangible. They stare, they giggle condescendingly, they shoo you out of stores because you probably can't fit in their wares, they elbow past you when vying for a position on the bus or in the taxi line, I've even been cut in line at supermarkets or cafes. They'll take pictures or videos of you when you're at dinner, grossly proposition you if you seem to be enjoying yourself, or yeah, shush you, regardless of surrounding/circumstance. Most of these things are minor inconveniences and by no means represent my typical experience with Korean people. In fact, the only time I think about istances when any of the above have happened are during moments of reoccurrence. Like now.
Okay, so the woman overstepped her bounds by touching me and shushing me (the second attempt at shushing since Nadia and I got on the bus). Either Fate or coincidence endowed me with more sass than any one person should ever be shouldered with, so when this lady bent over and decided to lock eyes for an extended period of time, I reacted. Strongly. I sent her the world's most incredulous glare, paired with a bark of laughter. Subterfuge was never my game.
Was this my best moment? Sure wasn't. But I tend to get a bit miffed when someone attempts to stop me from doing the same thing everyone around me is doing. She didn't just want me to speak quietly, she wanted me to stop speaking. That, my friends, will not fly.
-- FRIDAY --
After the supersonic experience that was my trip to the K-Salon (only 1,000x greater in its inability to satisfy), the night turned itself around.Met up with Shane and some other in Samsan, had a giant triple beer and a classy Erlenmeyer flask (kinda) of mango soju. I attempted to order food with this, but was shot down for some completely indiscernible reason.I even had a Korean cohort there and he couldn't explain why the food was a no-go. It's cool, the crap beer shall be my dinner. Healthy Decisions 101, lead, as always by Prof Reedy. Needless to say, I got tipsy fast. It's okay becausewe rounded out the night by going to a Nore Bang. For some reason, my friends always encourage me to take the mic. My hesitance comes only from knowing that once my hand grips the cool,smooth base of the mic, it will be staunchly resistant to ever letting go. Luckily, I was indulged and only had to relinquish the mic once or twice. Rose and Jack have nothing on me and Mic.
-- SATURDAY --
I was sadly bereft of my camera on Saturday. It;s cool, though, it's not like I went to the Busan Aquarium, which boasts the nation's longest underwater tunnel or anything. It wasn't amazing and there were no photographic moments with dazzling marine life, so it's totally fine. Nadia and I didn't have an incredible time where we waxed philosophical about the sociology behind communities of fish. We didn't derive any unrestrained joy in the zen of the jellyfish tank or find ourselves solicited for impromptu photograph sessions with adorable Korean children. Afterward, we absolutely did not have a run-in with Busan friend, Chad, who pointed us to a delightful Mexican restaurant, which was followed by a meetup with Stephanie and her well-spoken boyfriend, Brandon. No jello shots in orange peels, car bombs in the newly-opened Irish pub, certainly no fun or excitement worth documenting. Of course not.
-- SUNDAY --
Like most Sundays, this one was reserved for some recuperating and reviewing of the days preceding. Look at this, a weekend roundup before Monday? Crazy. Don't worry about my lack of photos. I'll be going back to Busan again, definitely the aquarium. Especially when I decide to shell out the price of taking a dive in the shark tank, which, oh yes, you totally can do. Yeah, it's gonna happen.
When I was in high school, I accidentally dyed my hair black. It was supposed to be dark brown, but box browns you do at home always come out darker than they look. Fact. I rocked that color for over a year, but eventually got fed up with the upkeep. Here's the thing about dyed-clack hair- you either have to shave your head or strip the color to be rid of it. By "strip the color," i mean bleach. It's very damaging. Somehow, I found a home-bleaching kit and did it myself. Terrible idea. I went around with a strange array of colors in my hair for about a year before my natural grew out enough that i chopped the excess. Apparently, I don't learn. Also apparently, I gave myself salon-quality results. I'll explain.
This year, I once again darkened my hair. Since my previous experience, I'd been sticking to semi-permanent colors or highlights, but that can be difficult to find in Korea. So I went a darker brown than my natural. Then, I couldn't find the same dye when my roots started growing in, so I had to approximate. Long story short, the color came out black. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.
The color itself looked fine, but it's just too dark for what I want. I definitely didn't want to go that dark for the rest of my life, so I figured it was better to rectify the situation sooner than later. On Friday, I ask my coteacher Jenny about sakond and bleaching and whatnot. She tells me to go to the salon in HomePlus, which is cool because I can totally find that one. She wrote (what I thought was) what I wanted in Korean on a piece of paper, in case the stylist had no English. Decent start, right? Sigh.
I go to the salon and the guy there speaks some English, which is cool. I show him the paper and try to verbally confirm what I want. I thought he understood. He gives me a stack of English rags to read and offers me a cup of coffee to drink while he's working. I take water instead and indulge in the magazines. About halfway into the process, I shake from my crap mag reverie to check out what they're doing. Foils? That seems unusual. Wait. What is all that excess hair doing outside the foils? Oh my god. are they doing highlights? You've got to be kidding me.
At this point, I call the guy out and try to see what's going on. He had apparently decided that complete bleaching would be too damaging, so he was just going to do highlights. I tell him that I understand the damage it will incur, but I want NO black. He protest for a bit, but I insist. So he has to wash out my hair and then bleach all over. Except some of the hair has totally been vleaching for like 30 minutes already. Crap. Whatever. He bleaches all over, washes out and starts to dry. He hadn't calculated for my roots, which had grown out some, so they don;t remotely match... well, let's be honest, nothing about my hair matched. As he's drying it, he gives me a shit-eating smirk and shrugs. Um. okay. Then he asks me if I want my hair wavy or straight.
Um. Excuse me? This job is NOT over. I should also mention that I had brought a picture of what Iwanted my color to be. Point to the picture, point to my head,l thumbs up. He had fully nodded when this went down, before any coloring had occurred. So why the hell was he under the impression that I wanted a mess of blonde, orange, copper, rust on my head? I told him I wanted a new color. He got a little huffy, but brought over their color chart. I pointed to a reddish brown that was pretty close to the picture I'd brought for referential purposes. The guy freaked out a little. He kept telling me it was darker than the bleached hackjob. Yeah, that's the point my friend. He had convinced himself that his work was done. I kept pushing. "Brown, yes, black no." Mistranslations suck. He agreed to do one more coloring, but picked his own damn color. Another hour later, and I finally have a brownish version of a terrible mess, but he had once again neglected my roots, so they're all bleachy yellow. Fantastic. I'd been in the goddamn salon for four hours. I was so over it, that I just gave up. I'll take it like this, fine. So now I have bleached- rust roots, a brownish/reddish tint to most of my hair with some darker streaks that seem unchanged from before the whole damn process and a couple super-light streaks that seemed to have missed the brown dye. One of the eight colors I currently have is actually really nice, but it's hardly predominant.
The damage? Four hours, 230,000 won, a radioactive scalp, and I'll probably have to dye over it just so I look more normal. But, it's not black anymore. And, really, that was the main objective, right?
I honestly can't believe that someone who ran that salon would let a patron walk out with the disaster that is my current hair color. Sigh. I keep thinking it had to be the language barrier that led to the unsatisfactory result. Mehhhhh. Pictures are probably imminent.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
[Scene: I'm wearing another flower in my hair. The student who called me crazy for doing so last week is wearing an over-sized, plush barrette in her hair.]
Sallome: "Teachah, crazy!"
Me: "Wait, why is this crazy, but yours isn't?"
[Sallome pulls barrette out of her hair. Thinks about it, then clips it back in.]
Sallome: Okay. My crazy, too. Both crazy."
Me: "I can live with that."
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
This part of the cast listing has been long-in-coming. I'd say I'm sorry, but I've already filled my quota for lying today. This list is the hardest to contemplate. There are many people in Hogye and the people mentioned below are by no means an exhaustive compilation of the whole town. Even just the foreigners in town. I've decided only to list only the people I see the most. Keep in mind, this list is subject to change. They're mostly dudes. Hence the title.
Prereqs: Awesome, Funny, Attractive, Snarky (to a degree)
Shown administering the lethal "dong-chim" to an unwitting statue.
I have no idea how to spell that.
(It's something the students do to unfortunate teachers)
((Never happened to me))
My kids just taught me how to spell it in Korean: 똥침
|I stole this picture from Facebook|
Aliases: With a name like "Sinan?"
|This one, too|
Monday, December 6, 2010
My fifth- graders broke out into spontaneous Christmas carol as a direct result of my room's decor. "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" were in the rotation. Slightly butchered, sure, but they're English is better than my Korean, so who's complaining? Plus. They broke out into song!! Lifelong goal, finally accomplished.
How are you? I hope this letter finds you and the Mrs. well. Reindeer and elves, too.
So, it's that time of year again. I know you're tired of everyone petitioning you year after year, especially since you probably already know what everyone wants and who deserves to get it. Still, it's a time-honored formality. My list is pretty small this year, barring the usual bids for peace on earth, goodwill for all humans, and, of course, Love. When we get right down to the materialistic nitty gritty, here's what I'd like:
- Bert's Bees Chapstick (with peppermint oil)
- European Drinking Chocolate (the ones I got last year were lost in my transpacific flight before I even got to try any. Sob story, I know, but I was really distraught. Still am.)
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Sunday, December 5, 2010
My Seodang lessons have become completely shoot-from-the-hip. I've run through what was left of their "textbooks" and now have to improvise lessons. No, I have no idea what I should be teaching them. So what do they get? Christmas. Why? There are so many carols, movies, activities, games, etc I can make them do that they lessons practically write themselves. Last Thursday was every student's Big Exam day, so I cut them (myself) a lot of slack for Seodang. I turned it into some serious karaoke. I made them learn Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You." Class B already knew of and liked the song, so that was easy. Class A was unfamiliar, but appreciated my own zeal for the song. They did their part in at least appearing amused.
|There it is|
I'm getting wildly off-topic here. Christmas. It's in my English room and it's all over Ulsan. I love Christmas tree lights and decorations. I miss riding slowly through neighborhoods (especially the rich ones), checking out all the decked houses. But at least I get this:
|It's a storm of FIRE!|