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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Look Closer

Everyday, when I go to the Cheongok Dream Center, I have to pass by a wall of student artwork.


I normally breeze by, taking in the colors, but rarely seeing the individual works. The other day, while deskwarming, I decided to peruse the board on a more serious level. I cam to these visually captivating projects:


Oooh, silhouettes against gradient colors. Look at the ones with building windows cut out. And trees, and stars, so peaceful and beautiful. Very nice. I could stare at this for– wait. Is that? Well, yes it is.

New best friend?


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Photo Moment

None of what I'm about to post has anything to do with an actual photo moment. I was bored during class, so the kids got Reedy's camera treatment. They hate when I take pictures.

Casillas, a former Seodangkind. This kid...
he used to be one of the worst kids in seodang,
but suddenly he's an endearing imp of a scholar.

Girl in glasses: Jenna, Seodangkind
Other girl: gives me hugs, then pokes my belly. Great.
Boy: Super.smart. I kind of have a teacher-crush on him.

Gametime Huddle

You can't hear the screams.

Typical reaction when I take a picture.
Test Time aka When I Love My Students Most

Exam Excerpt. My work here is done.


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Winner: Best Pencil Case in the Cheongok Dream Center

I would've cropped this to feature just the student and pencil case,
but look at the girl sitting behind her. Natural vogue.

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Another Sure Sign of Love

Yesterday, I received yet another care package from my mother. This one was for Easter. And giant.

My requests for this box:

  • Deodorant
  • Daily multivitamins

This happened:

That's a two liter water bottle, for scale.
I won't attempt to list the inventory. There's too much. Instead, a picture.

Boom, the Universe.

That Easter basket was loaded with candy. Candy I expressly asked my mother not to send. I couldn't be happier that she never listens to me. Much of the candy went into the pot for student prizes, but I kept a couple regular-size KitKats and a lollipop or two. Also, this weird, strawberry squeezable marshmallow. 

How could I resist?
My mother retains her title as Supreme Queen of Care Packages. I could probably live on what was in that package for the next four months. The best things only come in small packages if you have my mom stuff stuff it with an impossible volume of goods. Seriously. The only bad part about my Momsey's MegaBoxes*? Having to lug them home. (Worth it.)

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*See what I did there, Korea friends? Ha.

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Potent Quotables


The above photo is currently my Facebook profile picture. A couple girls saw me browsing said website during the break between classes. One girl's quote is in relation to this picture.

Girl: "Teachah, who?"
Me: "Me. Little."
Girl: "No!"
Me: "Yes."
Girl: "No."
Me: "Why?"
Girl: "She cute."
Me: " ... I'm not cute?"
Girl: "She cute. You pretty."
Me: "Right."

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FYI

Devil already emailed me. Awesome. She sent me a link to her blog. It's really just a couple pictures of her hamster. Still.

Also, I saw former seodangkind, Alexis, at the bus stop today. I scratched out my email for her, too, but her English is very low, so I doubt she'll muster up the courage.

Sidenote- Alexis is a little, fourth-grade girl running around, hopping the intercity bus by herself. I know, in theory, that it's not so different from kids riding a school bus, but something inside me responded with "That can't be a good idea."  It was just... there were two buses and they had similar numbers (432 and 422) and I knew she was a little confused. She went to go on one bus, but the driver pulled away right as she got close and then she was flustered and embarrassed and even though the driver stopped for her, she didn't want to go on that bus anymore and her face was all flushed and she decided to get on the second one, but I wondered if she even knew which bus she got on and if it would take her where she needed to be... All in all, a tiny crisis.

Her stop was before mine. I felt minor.league relief seeing her safely to her stop.

Oh, hi, unlikely maternal voice. Where the hell did you come from?

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Who's the Creepiest Creep in the World?

Answer: Me
Alluding to:


Having booked my flight home, I've already started to think about my winding-down process. Who will I miss? Who should I keep in contact with? Do these people have any lasting contact information for me?

I'm not talking about my foreigner friends, but students. Despite my best efforts, there are a handful of students that actually like me. I think it would be important for them and me to stay in contact. However I may feel about leaving, I will miss some of my wily students. They can be cute. Don't tell them I told you.

It'll be easy to give an email address to the sixth-graders, I see them every day. But what about my former seodang students? They're the one I know the best and the ones I'll remember. I'd like them to have my email if they ever want to say hi. Most of those students, I never see. How can I ever give them an address? I could have several slips of paper with my address on them, passing them off if I ever chance upon one of the seodangkind. That's not creepy, is it?

It totally is. And I did it already anyway. There's an essay contest in progress as I type and who has entered the contest but little 김 채령 (Kim Chae Ryeong), or as you know her, Devil. Most of all, I would love for her to be able to contact me if she wants. Not that I need to explain. It felt awkward as all get-out, but I scribbled down my number on a scrap piece of paper, and told her to email me whenever she wanted to. Turns out, on the back of that scrap of paper was a clip-art picture of a slice of cherry pie. Way to go, Reeds.

I don't know if the kids will actually want or use this information, but why not keep a line to Korea open? It'll remain a pretty big part of my life, which I'll never want to forget.

God, I hope no one's parents ever see me pass them my info.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Retraction

According to Laura Hughes, hers is not the voice from the children's listening exam. This could be a dirty lie on her part, for motivations unknown. The truth will out, Laura Hughes. The truth will out.


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Monday, April 25, 2011

Things They Make the Kids Do

Yesterday, after regularly scheduled classes, some students had to take a listening exam in the Cheongok Dream Center. Jenny (my former co for 4th Grade) was their proctor. Since she needed to use my computer and soundsystem, I was ousted from my seat. I decided to sit in the back of the room, amongst the third graders. Jenny, as a joke, came by and gave me a copy of the exam and a pencil. "If you want." Haha.

I took the exam. Funny thing, it was actually a little difficult. There were extended dialogues and trickster calculations needed to divine the correct answer. The audio would say "It's ten to ten. What time is it?" Listing 10:10, 9:50, and other arbitrary options. The things is, the audio was done by native speakers (Laura Hughes of Plays with Elephants fame, unless I miss my guess) and when a native speaker says "ten to ten," the "to" part can be hard to catch. Plus, you're asking third- graders? They've just started learning English this year. I would be shocked if they knew that much about telling time in English. So many problems seemed utterly beyond the scope of third graders. When I was taking it, if I zoned out for half a second, I had no idea what the answer was. It seemed absurd.

When the poor third- graders were done, Jenny and I talked about the difficulty of the test. We were agreed in our shock. Then Jenny told me the most ridiculous part. The MOE (Metropolitan Office of Education) sent her the same listening test for all the students. Meaning grades 3– 6. There are vastly different competence levels in one grade alone, forget the levels between the grades themselves. I was flabbergasted. In what world does that make sense? Jenny agreed with me, but said there's nothing we can do. Of course.

After the third-graders left, some students from the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades came to take the test. A sixth-grader asked me if the test was hard. I work solely with sixth-graders now and while some of them have a decent grasp of the language, others can't even read the alphabet. What could I say? "Maybe a little hard." Some of them might not even pass it.

To put it into scope: Devil (5th Grade), my beloved and above-average learner, said that she didn't do so well. "I had to 'eenie, meenie, miney, mo, catch a tiger by the toe' for some answers." And they want third-graders to take the same test? I don't think I even got a 100%. Beyond shocked.

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Biting the Bullet

I'm notorious for my inability to make decisions. My indecisiveness is usually bred of apathy, but sometimes I want to wait on some minute detail. This can be said of my decision on when to book my flight home. We already know I'm not renewing my contract and I know the contract ends on August 25th. It should be a simple decision.

There are factors to consider. Always. I've heard of some people having to work on their very last day, but then they also had to be out of their apartment on the same day- a terrible mess. Then there's summer camp to consider. The camp I want to work at (Dongcheon, same as summer camp) hasn't cemented their camp days yet. My regular school term ends sometime in July, then there's the camp to consider, around which I have to schedule my vacation, then I can finally figure out when to book my flight.

Wait. Vacation? I get an eight-day vacation in summer, wouldn't it be great if the camp was earlier and I could schedule my vacation at the end of my contract and, in so doing, leave early? That would be something. Too bad about this camp business, mucking up my ability to choose my vacation. Hold on...

I was looking at this the wrong way. If I want to go home early, which I do, why should the summer camp dictate my vacation? They are my vacation days, I'll schedule them when I please. So, I made the command decision to take my vacation at the end, summer camp be damned. If the camp falls into my schedule, I'll work there, if it doesn't, I'll keep my desk warm at Cheongok.

Jeong-In let me know when my vacation would be and, as luck would have it, a friend posted a site on his Facebook page that has the cheapest airfare I've seen in months. My vacation starts on the 16th? Flight booked.

Okay, I have another serious character flaw. Once I make a decision, I act on it immediately. If I've made a decision, then it's important enough to execute promptly. I booked my flight. Before my coteacher confirmed my vacation days. She told me she was wrong. I have to work until the 17th. Shit.

Naturally, I started pacing around the Dream Center in a frenzy. Okay, I'll just call the airline and see if they can change my date of departure. No big deal. Sure, I'll have to pay a fee, rendering my money-savings moot, but it'll be fine, right? Oh god. Can I even make important calls like that with my dinky Korean pre-pay? Crap. crapcrapcrapcrapcrap. I should've waited. Waited at least an hour. But I saw the flight and wanted to nab the cheaper seat. Ugh, this was going to be an ordeal.

Now, I'm no mathematician, but somewhere something clicked. Let's take a look.

Source


Okay, I have eight days off. Including the 25th, that does take me to the 18th. Wait a minute. I don't work weekends. Korean teachers have to work some Saturdays, but I, as written in my contract, do not work any weekend. So, the weekend can't count toward any of my vacation days. Is that right? That's right. It wouldn't make sense. My vacation should stretch to the 16th. My flight should be perfect.


Yeah, I checked the math about a dozen times, just to be sure. Then I went to Jeong-In to see if this was correct. It didn't make sense to her at first, but I reiterated my point that I don't work weekends. A flurry of Korean conversation burst forth in the teachers' room as Jeong-In consulted my former co-teacher, Hee Won. Then, of course, everyone else chimed in. After a minute or two, Jeong-In turned to me and said "Yes, that is right." I confirmed, once more, that the 15th would be my last day of work. She concurred.

In summation, I booked my flight home for August 16th. $1,400 from CheapoAir. I printed the confirmation and it's currently hanging on my fridge. Not that I'm excited or anything.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Update: Breakout

No mention was ever made of my skipping out early on Wednesday. That was a freebie.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Low Carb Brat-Dog

This is going to be the story of another thing I ate. Yay!

Since my arrival to this strange republic, I have, unfortunately, regained some of the weight I worked so hard to lose last year. A diet low in carbohydrates helped me lose the weight the first time around, so I'm trying to achieve similar results with similar methods. Because cooking in Korea isn't hard enough.

I stopped in HomePlus after my trip to the bank and nearly cried when I stumbled upon some Johnsonville Brats. They were egregiously expenive, but dash the expense! I needed them. Tasty and only 2 carbs of damage. Are you kidding me?

This food post has fewer pictures due to a sad lack of battery life. You'll get the idea.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Smoked Brat
  • 1 Slice of cheese
  • 1-2  Slice(s) of onion
  • 1/4 Green Pepper
  • 1 Egg
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Crushed Red Pepper
Process:
  1. Slice green pepper and onion into strips. Brown in frying pan with a pat of butter. Once they're slightly carmelized, remove and set aside.
  2. Lightly beat egg in a cup, then pour into frying pan. Make a round omelette. Sprinkle on salt and crushed red pepper (regular pepper works if you got it. I don't.) Let it firm a bit, flip, and cook through. Once completely cooked, slide it onto a plate.
  3. On one edge of the omelette, layer cheese, green peppers, and onions, as seen below.
  4. Cut little slits into the brat, then pan-fry on medium heat. When cooked to desired degree, place brat on top of onion/green pepper/cheese. (Also shown below).
  5. Grab the edge of the omelette below the filling and roll it all up.
  6. Eat immediately.

       

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Carb Count: 5


Inspiration: The hardest part of a diet is sticking to it. Keeping it interesting is key. Carbohydrates are a big love of mine, so a low carb diet is especially trying. There are many foods I enjoy that involve incidental carbs. A favorite dinner of mine is Italian sausage with green peppers, onions, and some shredded mozzarella. Oh yeah, it's usually all tucked into an Italian roll. Bummer. This dish could become low carb by removing the bread, but then it loses its cohesion. My solution: use an egg wrap. All the joy of the sausage sandwich, none of the carbs. Sweet deal.

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Hilarious Misdeeds of the Reedz0rsaurus



Punchline: I snuck out of work early today.


Story: I was told that the GenEd teachers would go on a special outing today. We were going to leave the school at 2:30 to do some special event and then go to dinner. No one told me that the special event was going to be hiking. I wore a nice pair of slacks, a blouse, a vest, and a pair of ballet flats. Not exactly hike-worthy. Everyone else was clad in sweats and sneakers. Naturally. I had to decline attending the outing. I don't mind too much. Though everyone is really nice and sometimes they'll throw a little English my way, these teacher meet-ups are almost exclusively in Korean. Awesome.

At 2:30, it occurred to me that the only people (person) who ever speak to me in that school would be leaving. Hmm. No one would notice if I left early. Plus, no one had told me I couldn't leave early just because I wasn't going on the teachers' trip. If I got caught slipping out of work early, I could always feign ignorance. It's an easy feat when you don't speak the language.

It took me about three minutes to decide to try. I wasn't responsible for any further work, so it wasn't like I was shirking any heavy duties. If I'd worn the right clothes, I would definitely be leaving early. I shouldn't be penalized for costume misconduct. I stayed in the Dream Center until 2:40. Then I made my move.

Since I'm me and this is my life, I walked out to find all the teachers in their cars, lined up behind the stop light right in front of my school. Well, shit. One of them rolled down their window, "Hey, Reedy." Busted. "You look very pretty today." Oh. Thank you.

Got away with it. Yahtzee!

Motivation: From the above story, I may not come off as a very sympathetic character. I never do stuff like this, I don't care about sitting around and doing nothing in my office for hours. What do you think I do at home? Remember that three minute moment between realizing everyone was leaving and deciding to try to cut and run? Here's what I was thinking about: I have not transferred any of my money back home. I have nine million won just hanging out in my account, waiting to be stored in my American M&T account. There's an alleged way to remit my funds online, but of the handful of times I've tried, it's worked... never. There's only one branch in my area that will execute such a transaction, which isn't a big deal; that branch is maybe a fifteen minute walk. The problem lies in banks. Here, just like back home, banks have wholly inconvenient hours. Who knows when they open, but they close at 4:30. I don't get off work until 4:40, never make it home before 5:15. They might be open Saturdays, but I'll be damned if I can find that information anywhere. Long story short (kinda), there was a unique opportunity to finally make my transaction. So, I took it. I left early, hopped on a bus, jaunted to my apartment, grabbed the necessary documentation, then got to the correct NH branch at 3:30. By 4:00 PM, I'd accomplished a long-awaited goal. It turned out to be a lot fewer USD than I liked, but what can one do? It might not be the noblest of reasons, but I feel zero remorse.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Potent Quotables

Just received from Jeong-In via inter-office messenger:


"Reedy, I have question for you.
'There're 4 seasons a year.' or 'There're 4 season a year.'
Which one is corect?
One teacher said he thought It's impossible that goes 's' after 'season.'"

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(Somewhat) Potent Quotables



(Jeong-In walks into the empty room.)
Jeong-In: "No one showed up?"
Me: "No. I was surprised."
(Jeong-In calls the class's homeroom teacher.)
Jeong-In: "Oh. No class. See you later."

See, the authority figures don't always tell the Korean teachers important information, either. The boat we're in? Same.same.

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Casual Consciousness

Meditation Time: 10 minutes. Whoops.
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I was riding the bus this morning, adrift in thought, when it occurred to me, "There is a giant Hello Kitty on top of that building."

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Ad Absurdum

I checked prices for flights back to the States. Nothing below $1,800 at the moment, most are nearer $2,000. Fantastic. I get a compensation of $1,300, I think, upon completion of my contract. Still. A hefty price.

To Do List:

  • Figure out when I can leave (contract ends on August 25th, but I have vacation days. If i'm lucky, the timing of my summer camp/vacation could line up for an early departure. Fingers crossed.)
  • Book a ridiculous flight
  • Breathe (?)
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Progress, in Brief

Meditation Time: 12 Minutes

The above meditation time is from yesterday. I like to meditate right before bed time, so there will be a one-day delay in reporting the duration of my sessions. It's hard to get back in the groove for a full half hour. I'm concentrating on diaphragm breathing now, things can progress from there.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Brunch Time: Loaded Omelette

My friend Janet has this awesome, fun, food blog (Kitchen and Screaming) that makes me salivate and at the same time makes me hyper.jealous about cooking. I love to cook and bake, but have succumbed to many obstacles. (1) I don't have an oven. This hampers a lot of my ambitious designs. (2) I'm only me. By that, I mean that I'd only be cooking for one. That's not that fun when you dream of complex dishes. And (3) I lack proper tools and ingredients. My year of living at home was fabulous for my baking/cooking heart. My parents are loaded with tools, ingredients, and recipe books. I baked many cakes from scratch, lent assistance in cooking dinners, not to mention taking requests. (Rice pudding sans raisins for Popsey.) My parents must have a love/hate complex with the frequency of my baked goods. I can never decide between cooking and baking. I love them both. They are zen experiences for me. Don't even get me started on Food Network/Travel Channel programming. Some of my best moments from the Unemployed Year came from watching these channels with my dad. We're just crazy enough to try making the things we saw. Too cute.

Moving on, I want to add cooking back into my life. Baking will be difficult with the lack of oven, but the stovetop affords me some outlet for culinary creativity. So, with all due respect to Jan0rz, here's my most elaborate, self-made brunch in ages.

Loaded Omelette

Ingredients:

  • 1- Egg
  • 1- Slice of "Cheddar" cheese
  • 1- Slice of Ham
  • 1- slice of white onion
  • 1/4- small green pepper
  • 3 or 4- cherry tomatoes

Process:

- Chop the veggies. If you don't have a cutting board, use a Thanksgiving-themed plate! Make sure to finely chop onion and green pepper. Dice up the tomatoes however you wish.



- Saute onions and green pepper in oil. I use soybean oil because that's what I have. Light oil is light oil, if you ask me. Make sure to use enough oil to coat the bottom of the frying pan.

- Break an egg into a cup and beat lightly with a fork, until it's all one eggy mix.

- Once the onions have started to sweat and the green peppers have softened, spread them out in the pan, and pour the egg on top.



- Once the egg has become mostly firm, flip that sucker over. Then, pile tomato, ham, and cheese onto one half of the round. Add salt and pepper as desired.


- Fold the empty half over and press gently with spatula. Wait until the cheese has started to melt, then remove and eat.


- If you're smart, you'll cook it on a slightly lower heat setting than I did, thus avoiding excessive browning. Then it's time for OM.NOMS.

I like cooking the onion and green pepper into the egg because it gives me a chance to cook them a little before assembly and also avoids a giant, lumpy mess in the fold-over. My preference for a fold-over omelette stems from the fact that it kind of looks like a taco. FOR BREAKFAST! It's a mad, mad,mad,mad world.

 I realize that I am not breaking new ground with the fold-over omelette, but gimme a break. This is practically gourmet considering my usual heat&eat style of in-home dining. 

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30- Day Challenge: Meditation

Since I have become so bored with myself, I have decided to issue a series of challenges spanning thirty days. Why thirty? Well, why not? It's a nice, round number, long enough time for a sufficient challenge, but not so long that the telling of it will become dull. Plus, I read somewhere that it takes about 21-28 days to make and/or break a habit, so a full thirty days will see if I've adopted something or expelled something for good. Assuming I have further challenges. Also assuming I'll attempt to make or break habits. Who can tell for certain?

My first 30-Day Challenge will be to meditate every day during the cycle. The parameters being that I should strive for at least thirty (repetition is fun) minutes of solid meditation every session and report my success or failure on my blog. Don't worry, I won't make big, long posts about every attempt to meditate, I'll just insert my progress as a byline under the post title, then continue with the topic of my choosing.

Why meditating? Look, I won't wax metaphysical about the benefits of meditation. There are enough websites for that. Suffice to say, there was once a time when I meditated on a regular basis. I liked the way it made me feel, emotionally, mentally, physically. I was less stressed out, less concerned about the constraints of time, yadda yadda yadda. It did things for me that felt amazing. Despite the appreciable effects, I let my meditating schedule fall by the wayside long ago. Now it's time to try and resurrect the ritual. My idealized version of myself meditates daily- time to catch up.

Duration: April 18th- May 17th
Readyyyyyyyyyyy, GO!

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Preparing for Tomorrow Morning

Tomorrow is yet another Monday. Sigh.face. Mondays aren't too bad for me. Thefirst segment of the day is a planning period, so I'm eased ever so slowly into the week. It's a solid transition. Still, it's a Monday and who likes those?

In part to bolster my spirits, and in part to celebrate my eight-month anniversary with Korea, I plan to blast the following song as I prepare to leave my apartment tomorrow morning:



Nerding out is my favorite. It's a quality song. Tomorrow, I will also kick off a 30-day challenge for myself. 30 Days of Meditating. I'll elaborate in the next post. Until we get to that, please enjoy the musical stylings of one John Williams. This may also be a great way to send myself to sleep tonight...

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Media, Interrupted

I have this one friend, Mandy, who has a scary accurate grasp on the age of  small children. Whenever we watch  movies or TV shows that feature young children, she can attest to whether or not the real child is the same age as their character. For instance, you might see Knocked Up and when Katherine Heigl's just-born baby is handed to her, dear Man0rz might shout "That baby is three months old!" This may or may not happen every time we see a baby on-screen. We may or may not adore her for her insights.

There are always inaccuracies in film, and there are people who know better about every inaccuracy and wish to publicly share their knowledge. I'm no stranger to this. Give me something based on Greco-Roman mythology and I will tear it to shreds. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief never stood a chance.

Another anticlimactic moment for
the members of that 90s group.
Now I find myself with  a new area of "expertise" that colors my consumption of film and television. Hello, Korea. Not that Korea or Korean culture is oft-featured, but I'll find my moments. Take, for instance, Arrested Devlopment.

Later in the first season of this show, a Korean character is introduced. Annyeong is the adopted sonof Lucille and George Bluth. The family confuses his greeting (annyeong = hello in Korean) for his name. Hijinks ensue as they call him by what they think is his name and he repeats their greeting back to them. 

Here's the thing. Knowing what little I do about Korean, "annyeong" is not the common way to say"hello." Almost everyone uses "annyeonghaseyo" every time. And they would definitely use it when addressing their elders. An elder could say annyeong to their subordinates, but they usually don't, either. "Annyeong" is very informal, reserved only for those beneath you in the hierarchy or with very close friends. That kid would not have said "annyeong" to the Bluths. No matter what he might have thought of them. He would be shaming himself to be so rude to his elders, which definitely does not ally with Korean mores of respect and saving-face. Wouldn't happen.

Also, his accent does not reflect that of a native Korean-speaker. I live in Korea, okay? I should know.

So friends, look forward to that never being an issue when I get back.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

In Honor of: The Service Bell

The Service Bell is one of the genius little things about Korea that I will miss when I'm gone. A simple, but brilliant little device that changed the face of dining out.

You know how when you go to a restaurant, the waiter keeps poking his head into your meal, asking how it is? Mildly annoying, right? If you are, in fact, not enjoying your meal, his perky nosiness only makes matters worse. Everyone knows that this is part of their job, so they're just being diligent employees, but does anyone like it? Doubt it.

In Korea, they have eliminated the need for overconcerned wait staff with the Service Bell. Not every restaurant in Korea has this little bell, but the majority do, and I, personally, love it. It's this little bump that sticks out of the corner of every table. When first encountering the Service Bell, one may feel a mixture of curiosity and confusion. It looks like a button, should I push it? What could it possibly be for? What will happen if I do push it?  Simultaneously, you may be wondering why the wait staff has been neglecting your table. Is it because I'm a foreigner? Do they not like me and this is their less-than-subtle way of showing it? I just want dinner! Then, if you're like me, you go back to wondering about the button. Of course you push it.

Suddenly, your waiter comes zipping (or slowly ambling) over, ready to take your order. Once you get your food, they leave you alone. That's right, you get to eat in peace. The waiter won't come back until you press the button. Sometimes, that won't even bring them over. In such cases, you should resort to the Chogiyo Method, where you call your waiter over with a short shout of "chogiyo!" This is, however, rare and pressing the service bell is usually sufficient.

File under: Things That Should be Implemented in America.

Sidebar- Did I mention that you don't tip waiters in Korea? Or anyone? Taxi drivers, bartenders, hair stylists, tattoo artists, so on, et cetera. No tipping. Of any kind. In fact, it's seen as mildly insulting if you do tip. It's as if you're saying they don't make enough on their own. Chalk one up to "saving face." Sure will miss that aspect of Korea.

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Classroom Artwork

Here's the Spring drawing I did for the classroom.

My original intention was to draw a shining sun and some flowers.
I have no idea how this happened instead.

I drew (painted?) this during my daily deskwarm. The picture was taken immediately after completion. Kids being kids, they have since run their hands all over it, altering the initial appearance. I get so upset when they muck it up. I know they're going to, but every time I draw something, I'm convinced that this time, they'll understand that I drew it for them. (Did I, really?) Even if they tell me how much they like it, they still gotta get their hands all up in my artistic business. 

In the famous words of my father, "Get over it."

----

See previous mural art:

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Reliving the Glory Days

When I was a sophomore in college, I worked at some bagel/sandwich/coffee/catering shop called Irving's. The job was so-so, but the food was incredible. Best bagels I've ever had.

The point is, ever since I worked at that place, I've been able to make a mean sandwich. It's not just about appropriating their "recipes" for my own consumption (which I do), but also about being creative with available materials. In Korea, I haven't always been able to find the ingredients I'm looking for, but occasionally I find a gem or two. And then it becomes sandwich gold.



Check this sucker out. The other day I was jonesing for a grilled cheese sandwich and manged to assemble this guy. 

Ingredients:
  • Butter (kinda)
  • Cheese (it's labeled as "cheddar,"but looks more like white american.)
  • Nacho cheese sauce (the gem)
  • Sliced ham
  • Baguette (Paris Baguette FTW)
Process:
  1. Slice up the baguette.
  2. Lightly butter the two halves of bread and toast in a frying pan. Remove bread.
  3. Brown a couple slices of ham.
  4. Spread a smattering of nacho cheese sauce on either piece of bread.
  5. Layer "cheddar" cheese and ham onto one piece bread, as many layers as desired.
  6. Place the other half of the baguette on top, then move to the frying pan.
  7. Take a lid that is smaller than the frying pan, and place it on top of the sandwich. Press down as the outside of the bread toasts and the cheese melts.
  8. When the sandwich is all crispy and melty, remove from the pan and consume.
Probably not the healthiest thing to eat, but it's cheap, easy, and delicious. I may never have this sandwich again (just because you find an ingredient somewhere once, doesn't mean you'll find it there next time), but this one-time deal was a sheer delight.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Worst Judge Ever

I just finished my judging duties. Some kids had a writing/speaking competition. They had 20 minutes to write an essay, then they had to present it to the panel of judges.

Let it be known that I am not great at evaluations. I am neither impartial nor impervious to cuteness. I started out just by looking at the students present. If I recognized them- instant bonus (you know only the adorable nerd kids are doing the English competition, none of the unlikeable riffraff). This was particularly noticeable when Devil came into the room and I immediately thought "Definite 100%." And she's not the only one.

The adorable factor became an issue when a student would struggle, but they were so embarrassed and nervous that I had to give them extra points. You have no idea the power a shy child holds over me. Poor thing, of course I'll tack on five extra points! They should probably dismiss my scores as flukes for the final judging. Especially on the essay for the kid who could barely speak, but said that he wants to grow up to be Superman so that he can save the people of Japan and Africa. Are you kidding me? I almost wept.

Incidentally, I did not give Devil a 100. She got a 98 because her pronunciation was a little shaky. Still the top score for her grade level, but who's counting?

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Oh! Did You Hear?"

The above is a rhetorical question. The answer is always "no." There is one teacher responsible for telling me whatever I need to know (relative). If she hasn't told me, then I haven't heard.

Today's news: I get to judge a student contest at 2 PM.

I assume it's an English-related contest, but I shouldn't get ahead of myself. Oh, Korea.

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A Matter of Perspective

I made the command decision this morning to forgo drying my hair in favor of making it to school on time.




I've never been late, so I have no basis of comparison, but the looks I got for wet hair were disapproving, to say the least. They sure aren't afraid to pontificate the ways you could look better. I should've sacrificed punctuality for style. Whatever was I thinking?

At least it's Friday. At least it's Friday.

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The Daily Deskwarm

Today, this posts finds me in the middle of that block of time wherein i have no more classes to teach, nor do I have any work to do at all, but I still can't leave. This happens every day from roughly 1- 4.40 PM, depending on the day. I've not even hit 2 PM yet and I'm out of my skull.

I try to fill this void with countless things. Facebook and various other websites help, but they don't always do the trick. Frequently, I'll read to pass the time, or nap. Spider Solitaire is a friend. Catch up with TV shows and movies online. Of course, then you have to deal with loading times and/or that pesky Megavideo viewing cap.

Thanks to Adam "Puppy" Losi (personal nickname), I've been filling this time watching DVDs of Arrested Development. You might remember he sent me the entire series a couple months back. Joy! I only started watching them a couple days ago, but I cook through those discs quickly and I'm already at season three. Oy.

Yesterday, I spent a solid hour of time creating some minor artwork on the weird, black glassboard (for neon paint/chalk markers). It's something else. The kids love to run their fingers all over it. I'm okay with that. Cue the poignant eyebrow-raise. I'll put a picture up later.

My blog used to comprise a lot of void-time, but astonishingly, I don't have that much to say, of late. Things are going well with my classes and my new co, no one has unabashedly offended me; everything's mild. Not even in a way I can complain about. Also, nothing entertaining and worth a retelling has happened. Things are running smoothly. Sure, I want to go back to the States, but time seems to be speeding along. I wouldn't say I'm straight up "happy," but "unruffled" seems accurate. In an pleasant way.

Sadly, this lack of fodder destroys my ability to bring you news in a snide manner. I apologize. Maybe something will come up soon. In the meantime, I do have some more Arrested Development to watch, so if you'll excuse me...

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Welcome to the Doldrums

Clearly, I'm bored with my blog. The usual things have been happening, but I don't feel like reporting. Monotony.Central.

I don't really want to dive into retooling my blog because I can't find a focus. If I add all the things I want , it would be a mess. And that's entirely too telling.

Meh, maybe I should buy my own domain so I can have tabs and segments and crap. Maaaaaaybe.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Best News A Teacher Can Get

Like any good teacher, I'm not a fan of actually teaching. On Friday, my co-teacher gave me the sweetest, most delectable news.

Jeong-In: "Students have picnic, so we don't teach Monday."


I was going to hit the snooze button a second time this morning and come into school a little late, but I figured I could sleep at my desk all day, so what's the point?

A day of desk-warming? I'm in.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Cat's Outta The Bag... And the Apartment Because I'm Allergic

Okay, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. The identity of my future roommate in the city of New Yahk is none other than... Sarah Ashbridge! Invested parties probably knew. Whatever. I am beyond pumped. For those of you unfamiliar with Sarah, she and I are joined together in the sacred bonds of Facebook matrimony. That's right, Mom and Dad, I'm moving in with my wife. We have been married for some three years now, it's about time. We're even discussing puppy options. Next. Level.*

Sadly, Sarah will have to forfeit her current roommate, Max, a particularly wily cat who sets off my allergies and who I'd rather punch than pet (We have a tumultuous history).

Now, there are few pictures of the two of us where we both look good, so instead, I will introduce my wife through a picture wherein we both marginally okay, but not too good.

Added Bonus: That dude in the background!

This should be a very exciting chapter in my life. It's amazing to have things to look forward to. Now, all I have to do is worry about polishing up the ol' resume and finding myself a job in the NYC. How hard can that be?

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* Parents, concerned family members, please calm down. Despite appearances, I promise I'm not a lesbian... Yet.


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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sometimes, Living in Korea Sucks

Last weekend, I was walking around the open market in Hogye, chatting with Canada Matt, when we saw this doozy:

Credit: Matt Pierce


Not at all ambiguous. Naturally, I freaked out. I wanted a picture of it, but couldn't actually bring myself to document this horror. So, Matt did it for me. 

I've heard it's technically illegal for dog to be eaten in Korea. Something about wanting to impress other countries during the Japan/Korea Olympics. Few Korean people I've spoken to will cop to having eaten dog. Those that do insist it was long ago and they no longer indulge in such a food. Still, there's a restaurant in Hogye that serves dog soup. Part of me wants to try it, just to see. I know some foreigners who've had it and say it's so-so. We'll see if I ever get around to it.

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Poaching Allowed

Today, I decided to poach an egg for the very first time. After looking up some cursory instructions online, I dived right in. I'll let the captioned photos tell the story.

Step One: Get egg.

Step Two: Fill a pot with water and let 'er rip

Step Three: Salt the slug water

Step Four: Create a whirling vortex 

Step Five: Drop in the egg and then neglect it

Step Six: Attempt to remove the egg too soon

Step Seven: A touch runny, but still delicious poached egg

Not as difficult as Amy Adams may have led you to believe in the film, Julie & Julia.

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Onward, Through the Fog!

My emotional cycle is on a hard upswing. These arcs are my favorite. I've been planning some very important things for my future, namely living conditions. My goal after this wanderjahre is to relocate to New York City and find an appropriate job there. I haven't narrowed my career goals down yet, but I absolutely want it to be in a dynamic, creative field. Where better to look than NYC? My ESL stint will leave me with some money, but not much, so startup might be a little shaky. This means I'll need a roommate if I really plan on moving to the big city. Well, this puts me in a bind, right?

In all likelihood, I'll probably end up living with my parents again, finding some part-time job in PA and stalling until an unexpected impetus pushes me into action. Well, thankfully, that impetus has arrived before I even started worrying about it.

Now, I don't want to ruin the surprise (for friends back home), but I'm in serious talks with a potential roommate. It's beyond exciting and I couldn't be happier. We both need roommates, we both want to be in New York, it's perfect. That person is able to wait for my current contract to run its course, then we can move in together! I'm so jazzed up right now. Just planning the move-in electrifies me. If you already know who it is, then I guess I'm being unnecessarily coy, but I like a surprise.

Anyway, I haven't told my parents yet and it's a potentially risky move, but I have high hopes for success in finding decent work once I'm in the city. If I can't find a job in six months, then I might have to consider moving back in with my parents, but I'm Irish and a Rabbit in the year of the Rabbit, everything should be coming up Reedz0r.

If you don't know who my future roommate is, hazard a guess. It could be fun.

I'm utterly buoyant. And I have something big to look forward to! //Excited giggles.

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The Burning Book

Ripped from: Some Flickr Page

Here's one of those unrelated-to-Korea posts I felt like doing. Since I am such an enthusiastic reader, I figured I could share my opinions of the things I've read. Whether you like it or not. So here's my review of some book I read. In Korea!

Photo from Amazon.com

Title: The Magicians


Author: Lev Grossman


One-Sentence Summary: A whiny, teenaged boy fails to find contentment in either the real world, the magical world, or the beloved fantasy world in which his favorite book series is set.


Total Burn (How much I liked it on a scale of 0-5, zero being not at all): 2


How I Really Feel (A more in-depth criticism): This book earns a two on the scale only because I managed to finish it. I had high hopes for what was touted as the "adult Harry Potter." It lacks any of the enchantment or wit of the latter. The language seemed like someone trying to prove literary prowess, while the plot (what little there was) dragged. The book blows though the main character's (I don't remember his name and I'm loathe to look it up), tenure in magic school wherein nothing happens. Well, I suppose there's one almost tense moment where the author attempted to introduce the antagonist, but said antagonist achieves very little in his introductory scene, then isn't heard of again until the end of this unnecessarily weighty tome. The characters and their relationships are far from compelling, the fantastical elements are none too magical, and the trudging plot had me putting my Kindle* down several times out of sheer boredom. Never has it taken me so long to complete a fantasy novel. Not impressed.


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* My Kindle is named Byron, if you were wondering. A literary and family-honoring name.




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The Divas Reunite

Yay! My at-work Interwebz are again functioning! It's an exciting time to be me.

First bit of news:

J.Lo came! And by 'J.Lo,' I clearly mean Kacie Stewart (you know, the one who sends me almost as many boxes as my mom). She's of my closest circle of college friends (Trifecta & Co.) We didn't do much. On Sunday, we seriously laid around all day, simultaneously StumpleUpon-ing. Be jealous. We watched some movies, including Lady Vengeance. It was only appropriate, seeing as it's a Korean film and we are in Korea. See what we did there? Surprisingly, we don't have any ridiculous photos together. Since we've denied you this viewing pleasure, I'll do a brief flashback of three of my personal dual portraits.

We're bears.

"You better hold on tight, Spidermonkey."

What we normally look like.
Photos by Katie Dvorak, Tara Kreider, and Aurora Diaz, respectively.

Don't be jealous of our boogie. Anyway, she came and went. It felt like she was barely here. Maybe I'll try to visit her while she's on business in China. 

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Friday, April 1, 2011

I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet

I don't know how I feel about these new dynamic views that Blogger has. I won't disable them, in case you, my beloved readers, want to check them out. I don't know how to access them as a viewer, but if you figure it out, go nuts.

Also, I added a widget for the Oxford English Dictionary. It's the definitive reference for all your Englishin' needs. It may have come to my attention that I use words that not everyone understands. Sadly, it does not open any terms you search in a new tab or window, so you'll have to navigate away from my page, but only for an instant. You can come right back.

Sidebar- some words in my lexicon may be difficult to understand because I made them up. I do that.

Before I completely derail my train of thought, I meant for this post to be about some retooling efforts toward my blog. There's this idea I've been toying around with that plays with the meaning of "wanderlust." This blog started as a way to communicate my life in Korea with friends and family back home. My intention was to keep a line of connection open, telling anecdotes about my year away, so people back home could still experience my life. Of course it's an exercise in narcissism. Aren't all blogs?

Maybe I've bored myself with my reports. Day in, day out, all I do is talk about my schedule. That's a bit dull. There are so many things in which I am interested, but I neglect. Here's the thing: if I deviate from the original path of the blog, will it lose its sense of purpose? No one wants to follow a stream of scattered posts. Blogs should have themes and should stick to them. This is a travel blog (kinda), I can't start adding a whole bunch of crap unrelated to my time in Korea. Can I?

Short answer: I sure can. Lately, I've been considering the parameters of the definition of wanderlust. "Wanderlust," not "Korea," is the overarching theme of my blog, after all. Okay, Step One: define "wanderlust."

wanderlust
n. a strong desire to travel: 
a man consumed by wanderlust

According to the OED, anyway. Really. Check it. Korea itself aligns with the theme, but a rectangle is not always a square. If you know what I mean. 

What I thusly propose to do is to internalize the idea of wanderlust. I hope to keep traveling the world for the rest of my life, but I think it's equally important to travel inwardly. What landscape so wild as the labyrinth of my mind? And all that business. I want to start by exploring all the things I like (reading, drawing, taking pictures, cooking, writing, crafts, home improvement, etc) and cut into it with the kinds of things I think about (dinosaurs). Of course, I'll still write about what I'm doing in Korea, but a life is so much more than its setting. 

I'm nervous about changing everything about so drastically, but the blog was bound to change. If you absolutely hate it, I'll go back to the way it was, but I could use a little self-exploration. As always, anything I post will be saturated with my personal brand of wit and self-righteousness, so maybe that'll keep you hooked. I'll try to figure out a good way to segment and order the posts, but I make no promises.

With no further ado, welcome The Wanderlust Darling: Within and Without.*

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*Limited Time Only? We'll see.

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