Thursday, June 30, 2011

Moment of K-Pop

A couple of my girls came up to me before class. They were playing with errant alphabet flashcards. They spelled "beast" out on my desk. They chattered and gesticulated wildly at the word.

Girls: "Teachah, beast! Beast! July 30th"
Me: "Okay...?"
Girls: (gasp excitedly, rush to their friends and tell them what I said)
Other Girls: "No! Jinja? Really, Teachah??!"
Me: "Uh oh."

I had no idea what just happened. It seemed as if I agreed to something. Never good. Later, it was revealed to me that "Beast" (or "B2ST") is a popular k-boy band that all the young girls are losing their shit over. I may have inadvertently agreed to go to their concert with some of the girls. I hope that's not the case. There will be some disappointed children.

Anyway, the girls are digging B2ST so hard right now and they referred me to the following video. Enjoy?


Communicable Reeds

It's official: I'm catching.

The other day some kid said "Teachah, you bad!" at me. When I pulled a pouting sad.face, another student smacked the first one upside the head.

Later, another student decided to be a repeat offender. Same kid as last time said "Teachah, you dirty!" The boy in front of him turned around and said "You dirty and short!"

Not only are kids sticking up for me, they're also using my own comebacks! Couldn't be prouder.


Frightening Fact

It has recently come to my attention that neither I nor my esteemed co-teacher have any control in the classroom. We've had inklings of this notion in the past; realizing they wouldn't listen when we'd direct, having to wait on the students for class instead of the other way around. We're an empty threat.

Let's face facts. If a mob of thirty screaming children refuse to submit to my will, there's not a damn thing I can do about it. If they're running amok, breaking things (how many windows must Cheongok Cho lose??!), shouting,  and not even acknowledging my presence, I've got nothing. Sure, after things have settled down, I can rant and holler, but this is all predicated on the assumption that the rabble will clear. A tenuous grasp on authority, at best.

See, we teachers all rely on the inability of our students to see through this ruse. The moment they detect the lie, the jig is up. Now, the problem is, I think the Dream Center students are starting to suspect something. Their tantrums are lasting longer, they're banding together to voice dissent towards the lessons, and better still, they're not even showing up. Okay, they show up, but later and later. If half the class comes in 10 minutes late, what can we do? We start the lessons late. We scold and punish, but as Jeong-In says, "They don't listen. They don't respect us."

Solutions? All we can really do is call and alert their homeroom teachers of the collective insurrection. You know, our cohort in dubious authority. Yeah, things are going real well at school.


Dangerous Insights

Corrupt: Susceptible to Bribery

The particular incident I'm about to relay occurred last year during Seodang. On rare occasions, I'd let the kids pick a treat out of a red bucket if they'd done something amazing in class. This bucket was stocked with whatever I could find. Frequently, I kept it full of some of the stranger things people sent me in care packages. Around Halloween, I had a stock of bouncy balls/erasers (?) that looked like eyeballs. The kids loved them. They worked fairly hard to get a matched set of eyes. But I could be a stickler and it wasn't easy to earn the treat. One day, Alexis gave me an offer I couldn't refuse.

Alexis: "Teachah, look!" (brandishes a small chocolate, decorated to look like a soccer ball.)
Me: "Ahh, very nice."
Alexis: "Teachah, eyes?"
Me: (raises eyebrow)
Alexis: "One choco, one eyes?" (offers a chocolate)
Me: "Hmm, all right."
(Alexis exits, then returns a few minutes later.)
Alexis: "Teachah, more eyes?"
Me: "What? No."
Alexis: (shows three more chocolate soccer balls.) "Three eyes?"
Me: "I guess that's fair."

She must not have spread the word that I was a dirty teacher because no one else ever figured this trick out. Crafty girl.


Dangerous Insights

Susceptible to Flattery

There's a strange truth you learn while teaching. Kids love to go to the board. Love it. With no promises of reward, they all scramble to write on the board. They yell, they jump out of their seats, the groan if they're not chosen. Maybe they're trying to show off. Maybe they're trying to impress. Maybe they just want to get out of their seats for a second. It's probably that one. Any way you want to look at it, the students love going to the board. What with the extra three minutes it takes to call on someone, have them come up and write, then have the other students check their work- you better believe I call students up all the time. Sometimes, with so many raised hands, it's difficult to choose which little monster gets the honors. And then sometimes, they make it easy for me.

Me: "Okay, who wants to write the answer on the board?"
Students: "Me! Me! Oh, teachah, me!! MEEEE!!"
Smart Student: "Teachah, I love you!"
Me: (shrugs) "Yeah, all right. You." (points to Smart Student)

Like you wouldn't do the exact same thing.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dangerous Insights Into the Mind of a Teacher

Here's a segment I'd like to start where I make some casual inferences about my own character through incidences that occur while teaching. The Rising to the Occasion post is a decent precursor to what I hope will be an insightful series. Okay, no more ado.

Abusing my Power for Personal Gain.

For example:

Me: "Stephani, do you love me?"
Stephani: "What? Oh, yes!"
Me: "Will you fill with water?" (brandishes giant 2L bottle.)
Stephani: "Okay, teacher!"
Me: (after she exits) "Hehehe."



I forgot to mention how the foreign teachers, as a collective unit, got shushed while discussing the day's responsibilities on Saturday. Twice.

I'm detecting a theme for this waderjahre of mine.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

All Play and (Some) Work

You might want to sit down for this one. Are you sitting yet? Well, you should be. Who surfs the Internet while standing? Okay, good.

Believe it or not, I volunteered to work on a Saturday (today). And doubly believe it or not, I enjoyed it. The $100 for the day barely factored into it.

Today, an English- speaking contest was held at Dongcheong English Center. Things started off with a bang. Several of them, actually. A group of drumming performers welcomed the contestants during the opening ceremony. Yeah, a hired, professional act for an opening ceremony preceding an elementary school speaking contest. Korea loves a good show.

Anyway, I was part of a judging panel that scored the speaking skills of a sect of fourth graders. A few other foreign teachers were there; we were all split up and judging different sections of kids. I judged half of the fourth-grade group with two Korean teachers. I even had to ask interview questions after each speech. There were about 28 kids in my section, including one of my darling Cheongok girls. She did well, but not well enough. We were directed to select the top five, who would move onto the next round, which was a discussion group. My fellow judges and I were in total agreement for four of the finalists. There was a little disagreement about the fifth, but in the end, my top five were the ones who passed.

The second part of the day, the finalists from each group came together with the other finalists in their grade (ten finalists per grade). This time, there were four Korean teachers and two foreign teachers in the room. There were still only three judges- two Korean and one foreigner. The extra Korean teachers were present to keep any rabble-rousers in check and the extra foreigner was assigned to the position of MC. Guess who got to be the MC in my section? That's right, me. The secondary part of the contest was in a free-forum discussion format. My job was to introduce topics of discussion, make sure every finalist got a chance to speak, and to keep the ball rolling as needed. Turns out? Not needed.

Initially, I was worried about the discussion forum. Kids can be so shy when it comes to speaking. I was afraid the time would drag by and I would struggle to keep these kids motivated. Not true. I had neglected to consider that these were finalists in a regional competition, which means they were high-level students. In short, things got heated.

The topics for discussion were (1) Favorite book, (2) Family trips, and (3) Ulsan, Buk-Gu. You can't imagine the horror that occurred. I should note, as a disclaimer, that the students were composed, raised their hands, and only spoke when called upon. But ohmygod intelligent kids can be catty. In the first discussion, things somehow turned into a conversation about visiting Hawai'i. One girl said that she thinks everyone should want to go to Hawai'i. A boy responded by saying it was too hot in Hawai'i and it's surrounded by the ocean, so all you can eat is seafood, therefore he would not want to go. It exploded from there. Some kids flat out said "I disagree with your opinion," or "I have a question for him/her (pointing a finger)," and proceeded to argue about why the other person was wrong. I had to cut them off and move on. The second topic disintegrated into an argument about whether or not you should paint an Oenggi pot if you don't like it's color. At first, some kids said one should just paint the Oenggi pot, but they would later recant and claim that Oenggi's natural brown color is part of its tradition and painting over it would be vulgar. There was a long back-and-forth there, which I again had to cut short. The third topic opened up a conversation about statement authenticity. Tina, of Cheongok fame, claimed that some part of Ulsan was the most beautiful. Another girl wanted to know what her favorite part of that park was. Tina stumbled, then could only reply that she had never been there herself, but heard it was beautiful. The other girl wanted to know where she'd heard such information. Tina was eventually reduced to stammering. I felt awful and tried to move the discussion away from Tina. The same girl questioned another boy's statements (this girl would make an excellent investigative journalist) and the boy responded that he didn't even care because all he wanted to do was make movies. Seeing the opening, I decided to turn the discussion over to favorite movies. This group of kids could not content themselves to hear an opinion that contrasted with their own. They would nitpick and deconstruct every statement. I think they didn't realize it was a discussion, not a debate. Still, it was an organic session between a group of fourth-graders with impressive English skills. All I had to do was introduce the topic, point at opinionated children, and cut them off after an allotted amount of time. I was amazed. In the end, I had to end the conversation with "I think you will never agree," as a couple kids couldn't stop arguing over the amount of violence in Conan. They were not finished hashing it out, but we were out of time.

All in all, the day went quickly. The kids I felt did the best in my respective sections were the ones that ended up winning. It was a good time, the day went by quickly, and the Korean teachers I worked with actually commented on how well I did interviewing and MC-ing. She said my interview questions were so pointed that it was obvious I was carefully listening to each speech. Then she told me that as an MC, I gave everyone a chance to talk and managed the time well. Assa!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rising to the Occasion

This is a Potent Quotable of sorts, except I don't like being the subject of Potent Quotables. It's not lke this blog is all about me...

During class, I had this lovely little tête-à-tête with a student:

Student: "Dirty, dirty, dirty. Teachah, you dirty!"
Me: "You're dirty!"
Student: "No, you dirty!"
Me: "You're dirty and short!"
Other Students: (laughter)

If I haven't said it enough, I'm clearly an adult. Though, this exchange did seem to give me some cred with the boys. They thought I was (A) hilarious, but also (B) able to play on their level. It was all said in jest and the subject of my feigned wrath also enjoyed my retort. I, in turn, felt quite proud of myself.

Conclusion: I have the mental maturity of a 6th-grade boy. Score?

P.S. Yes, Kacie, I did look up those accent codes just to impress you. Did it work?


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Literary Sidebar

I got an account on GoodReads! It's like Facebook, but with real books! You can make friends and comment, and stuff, but the backbone is about cataloguing the books you've read, rating them, writing reviews, recommending books to your friends-- a personal online library of sorts. If that's the kind of thing you're into, make an account and befriend me! I love books. I may start logging onto this site more than Facebook. It's that exciting. For me.

Grandma, I'm looking at you for this one. You love books!

If anyone would like to find me on GoodReads, I'm listed under the name "Reedz0r. (it's important to type a zero, not a capital "o".)" If you can't find me, let me know.


The Little Things

Today, a little thing has made me happy.
Today, a little thing has made me angry.

I am happy because I got to see (made) a bunch of 6th grade boys do this dance:

I am angry because I was informed by my co that I now have to stay at school until 5 PM every day. Not to beat a dead horse, but (usually) after 1 PM, I have absolutely nothing to do until it's time to leave. They just arbitrarily tacked on a half hour of nothing. Too whimsical, Korea. Too whimsical.

The latter happened later, thus souring my joy from the former. One more month of this regular-school caprice. Just one. Come on, Summer Camp.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Everyone's a Little Bit...

Fun story: this weekend, I caught a little discrimination. A couple friends and I went to see a movie in Haeundae. The theater is in a large shopping mall call Enter-6 (formerly Sfunz). My group was divided because we wanted to see different movies. The movies started at different times, which left my group with some time to kill while we waited for the other movie to finish up. (Super 8 and The Green Lantern, respectively.) Clearly, window shopping was in order.

Earlier, I'd seen a dress I wanted to price check, so I went to investigate. There were two dresses I was considering. The first was bunched onto a hanger with about five other dresses, so I freed it to see what it looked like as a standalone. In my other hand, I held a similar dress with a couple design differences. While comparing the two, the woman running the shop walked over and grabbed the hanger-less dress from my hand. Without looking at me or saying a word, she strapped it back onto the crowded hanger. 

At this point, I thought maybe I'd done something wrong. Maybe I shouldn't have pulled it off the hanger, maybe she thought I was trying to steal it. I dunno. But then, she pulls the other dress out of my hand and hangs it back up. Bewildered, I give it a moment, and pull out the dress again. It was only 15,000 won, I was seriously considering buying it. Once again, the lady pulls the dress out of my hand and hangs it up. No words, not so much as glancing in my direction.

I was caught up in some stunned silence at first. Also, I'm not sure I really understood what had just happened. Anger set in and I thundered off. My friends told me I should just get out my money and wave it at her, but now it was a matter of pride. And underneath that, a whole subset of shame. For some reason, that lady denying me service made me feel bad about myself.

I'm reluctant to call this an episode of racism. I mean, it wasn't a big deal, just an uncomfortable slight. Still, it was a kind of discrimination. Did not feel good.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Potent Quotables

(Former co- Jenny lent me bus fare the day before.)
Me: "Oh, Jenny! This is for you." (hands Jeny 1,000 won.)

Jenny: "Oh?"
Me: "For yesterday."
Jenny: "Ah, yes. Where is interest?"


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tina FTW

In more uplifting news, Tina, who has some pretty amazing English skills, leveled up in the contest. Her mother was so happy to see her daughter move onto the next round that she bought the other kids at Cheongok and their hard-working supervisors a whole lotta chicken.

Yay, bright sides!


Break Another Little Bit of My Heart Now, Darlin'

Speaking contests are abound in Northern Ulsan. What does that mean for me? I get to edit, rehearse, and record all the speeches of the hopeful. It's... something else. The good part is that only the best students even attempt at these things, so the English levels are pretty high. The spee4ches are mostly about families, hobbies, hopes and dreams. Real positive stuff.  Tina, from my one-week winter camp at the Dream Center, has been submitting a ton of essays for review. One of them kind of broke my heart.

My Dream

I'm going to tell you about my dream.
First, I want to be a dentist. I want to fix people's teeth.
Second, I want to diet my fat. I want to be thiner.
Third, I want to have a husband and children.
Before, I'm going to diet. Then, I'm going to pretty.
Then, I'm going to mother's friend's daughter.*
Then other people going to envy me.
And I want to go to seoul university. seoul university is very good university.
In abroad university school, I want to go harbard university.
I hope everyone can come true your dreams.
Thank you for listening.

Tina is a fourth-grader. She's no more than ten years old and already thinking about diets. I could go on about Korea's intense beauty standards, but it mostly strikes me that she's ten and thinking about these things. Standards aside, it shocks me that someone so young even understands the concept of body image. I  saw Tina and a younger girl rubbing their bellies and saying "diet," today. It's beyond heartbreaking. I can't even elaborate further. Too depressing.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hogye Hoedown

I'm normally hesitant in double-posting things here and on Facebook. Yesterday, however, deserves the double shot. The foreign citizens of Hogye had a little rooftop BBQ. It was a potluck event, so we were all encouraged to bring our own dishes. Thank God.

Let me backtrack. A couple months ago, my mother sent me a package of Penn State-shaped pasta. It was a rather large package and not resealable. This means that said package sat around in my apartment these past few months not being used. I'm not going to make that much pasta for myself, even if it saves. And really, since it's Penn State pasta, it deserved a special debut. The rooftop BBQ finally gave me an event worthy of Penn State fare. The pasta even came with it's own seasoning packet to make a special dressing. The recipe called for red wine vinegar and olive oil. Since I didn't have any of that, I substituted with rice wine vinegar and soybean oil. Add in some tomato, green pepper, sauteed onion, and a bit of monterey jack-- you're in business. Here's what it looked like.

We are Penn State!

It tasted delightful. And the pot came home empty, so it was a relative hit.

Now let's move onto the story of the tarp. Hogye Mike came up with the idea of erecting a tarp for some sweet, sweet shade action.

It was a very windy day,
but they gave it a good college try.

They had rope, and even duct tape!

Still, if you need an anchor at the top,
it might be time to consider abandoning the ship.

Speaking of nautical terms,
standing under the tarp as it undulated in the wind,
felt a lot like rolling in the ocean tides.

The most successful function of the tarp was
to provide a backdrop for shadow puppets.

How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

Ultimately, the tarp was an ill-fated gesture.
Glad I didn't break a sweat during the effort.
Am I right, guys?

The tarp didn't last the day. But after a few responsible drinks, no one really cared. There was food and fun times to be had! Chicken legs, pork, beef, brats, they all joined the party. So did some vodka'd watermelon, cheap beer, and cookies! Light gambling was available for those feeling lucky. I think there was even cake. And many salads. The boys even whipped out some acoustic lovin'. I was there for it all, but I feel jealous just going over it. I can't imagine how the rest of you must feel. In all seriousness, it was a good time with some Hogye vets and newbies. Lazy Summer fun.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Potent Quotables

Me: "What does your father do?"
Student: "He does sleeping."


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Animeted: 2.0

I got yet another portrait drawn of me. This time, it was done during a co-taught class. The artist was Sally, a former Seodangkind. These things make me happier than the kids know.

Classic Reedy.face


Dawn of the Dead

That which had dies has again risen. Ladies and Gentlemen, say hello to the Zombie phone!

By way of due diligence and some highly scientific processes, I managed to bring the laundry-machined phone back into working condition. I don't want to confuse you with a lengthy and in-depth analysis of my mind-blowing techniques,

suffice to say that the phone that was dead now works again. I'm a genius. I have made two successful phone calls and one text message. While the message and call alerts on my phone sound a bit washed out, the actual calls are as clear as they ever were. Good thing, too, because I really would not have replaced this thing.

The hard part is whether to call my resurrected phone "Zombie," "Jesus," or "Zombie-Jesus." I could even go "Lazarus" with this thing. Decisions.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Washing Machine

(Foreward: Each chapter of this year's sixth-grade text books has a little story section. The first four or five stories revolved around a washing machine. The story was neither linear nor compelling. In fact, it may have been the bane of many a foreign teacher's lecturing experience.)

No one knows the real story behind the washing machine. I have recovered a fragment of a previously unreleased chapter of The Washing Machine. This newly-discovered segment sheds a more sinister light on the story we've been so casually peddling to our impressionable students. Here's what I have found.

(click on image to make larger)

I have reason to believe that this new chapter has some element of historical truth. My research suggests that a band of rogue washing machines may have allied themselves with a gang of toilets and a few other water-utilizing appliances to steal energy from unwary mobile phones. I have found dozens of reports through Facebook and various reliable social networks of cell phones being viciously assaulted by upstart machinery. Although there are a few cases of cell phone resuscitation, most do not survive the attack. I am sad to report that this reporter herself has suffered such a loss. 

Where is the energy going? What is the possible endgame? Have we been fools to trust our toilets and washing machines thusfar? What other appliances could be hiding darker motives? Stay tuned for further information.


Good News and Bad News

The good news is, I got yet another student art portrait done today (photo pending). Also, some kids wanted to high five me today. That was cute.

Bad news: My cell phone was acting atrociously the other day, so I decided to wash its mouth out with soap. In the washing machine. Not my best idea ever.

I have no plans to replace the cell phone. With the amount of time I have left in Korea, compared to the amount I actually used my phone, I figured it wouldn't be cost effective to get a new phone. Maybe the current will revive after it dries out. I doubt it, but there's a chance. Otherwise, I'll have a slight phone deficit. I predict a few logistical problems in the future, but only a few.


Uncivil Attention

There's that term, "civil inattention," that describes the way people (especially in big cities) tend to casually ignore each other. You don't greet people you don't know, you let them go about their day. Nobody ever even thinks about it, it's just a natural respect of personal privacy. It's also kind of a Western thing. Not so big in Korea, is what I'm saying.

Now, I'm not saying that Korean people are all intrusive, but sometimes, being so used to personal bubbles, a foreigner can feel a little uncomfortable. It's not always a rational reaction. But on occasional, a little freaking out is called for. Picture it: Saturday afternoon, beautiful sunny weather and a nice beach. A couple foreigners are strewn across some blankets, limbs stretched out to catch the sun. One of the foreigners, Chad, is on his belly, chatting with some of his friends. All of a sudden, an older Korean man comes up, grabs Chad's feet, and plants them further apart in the sand. Then he crawls on Chad's back and starts to give him a massage.



Chad took it like a champ. He calmly asked us to help him out. Which we did. After the photo shoot.


Monday, June 6, 2011

If I Forgot to Mention...

Little Asian kids are super.cute. Especially the ones that have afterschool in the Dream Center. They keep bringing things to show me. Last week, they brought a snail. Sadly, I have no pictures of happy.snail times. But I do have pictures of the painfully cute kids!



Three-Day Whirlwind

So much happened this weekend. No idea where to begin or what to elaborate. Instead, I'll just mash it all together it one huge lump. Ready? Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd GO!


Pinishee. And breathe. So many people, so many things. Here are a couple pictures from the Sand Festival!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Last Week, in Busan

While making delicious steak chili,
Chad got some chili pepper in the eye.
This was the remedy supplied by our valuable Google search.

We agreed that this might not be the most effective method
of administration, but would provide for a hilarious photo.
*Note: apparently an effective remedy.

"My name's Chad. Look at my great apartment.
Myaw myaw myaw."
-- Direct quote.

"Did you see my great balcony? Myaw myaw myaw."

"Let's party!"

Close, but no cigar.

^The reason living in Korea is great.
Puppies and adorable children.

A cappella on the beach. Count it.


Animeted: How to Get an Anime Portrait

  1. Get a teaching job in Asia.
  2. Have at least one unsupervised class.
  3. Give this class some throwaway assignments and plenty of time.
  4. Provide paper.
  5. Find doodles of yourself drawn by students. If they like you, they might have even done a flattering job.
  6. Et voila!
by: Yeomin
a fairly accurate representation of my hair, to say the least.
Is this the main reason I came to Korea? Maybe.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


As you may have noticed, I stopped reporting on my weekend activities a while back. That's mostly due to the fact that my weekends calmed to a slow lull. Great for the mind, terrible for the blog.

Two weekends ago, I went to Daegu to hang out with the Sweet Mama MoMoBear, Party.Headband, and Little Mike. We even saw Beard Mike! Very exciting. We didn't do too much-- every time I go to Daegu, the rain slops down. We did see the new Pirates movie in 3D (the movie was good, the 3D was astounding), had some drinks, saw part of a set for some live band, and brought everything to a close with the DVD Bang. Oh yeah, also had an amazing burger at Traveler's. Outstanding.

This past weekend was even better. Went to Busan. Key Players: Chad, Colie, Anna, Merea, Julian, randoms. Activities included: watching Dollhouse, making steak chili, milky eye bath remedies (Chad got some chili pepper to the eye), nerding out about Wheel of Time (a series of fantasy books) for no less than two hours, touring, house party, DIY nore bang, drinking, CONNECTION (a simple drinking game),  Haeundae beach time, watching Chad's a Capella group Dynamic Wave practice (ON THE BEACH), making another round of chili, hookah, and many other good times endeavors.

This upcoming weekend: Daegu kids (MoBear, Little Mike), in Busan (Chad, Colie), with a side of Gwangju (Ron.Ron!) and a generous portion of Hamyeon (Sinan!)!! Needless to say, I'm very excited for my future.


Trials & Tribulations

I woke up this morning to a scratchy, painful throat. Then I decided to double down with some swollen eyelid. Today's lessons? Not looking good. While I still hoped for a last-minute deskwarming day, I (more realistically) took solace in the fact that I have a backup teacher. When one of us is feeling low, the other takes care of the hard-hitting stuff. Problem: Jeong-In had a crazy stomachache today. Neither of us were running on all cylinders. What happens when both teachers are under the weather? Short answer: we deal.

There's not much that can be done when we're both sick. We pulled the ol' Grin & Bear It. The two of us were snappier than usual, but I swear those kids were louder than usual, too. However, we pulled through. And look at that, it's almost Thursday already. My, how the time flies.