Monday, February 7, 2011

This one's for Polly

I recently went on a trip to Thailand (I promise, I will update about that in a bit). I wanted to get this video up soon though, because I took it especially for Polly. video

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Teacher: Find me a man

While walking home from school today I saw some of my students. I waved to them from across the street, which was their invitation to run, three abreast, in front of two cars, to come and meet me. The girl in the middle is always entertaining, usually greeting me with, "Oh lady, my lady!" Today it was, "Teacher! I am fine thank you, and you?" "But I didn't ask how..." "Teacher! I love you!" "Thanks sweetie." "Teacher, I am alone." "No, you have your two friends." "Teacher, find me a man!" "Oh, I don't think..." "Teacher! I am solo, no boyfriend. I must have boyfriend, but how? Where I find?" "Well, I am not really an expert in finding a boyfriend, but I think that find one shouldn't be your prio..." "Teacher, he must be smart, and so handsome, and tall. Very, very tall. And strong. Not ugly!" "Well, I think that you still have a lot of time to find someone special." "BUT HOW???" "Um, study hard and do fun activities and maybe you will meet someone?" "Ok teacher, you know many people. You find me boyfriend." "I'm not doing your work for you." "Sigh, always alone." Then her two friends dragged her away, jabbering in Korean.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some odd Korean Bookstore finds

 

A children's book about the sea king needing a rabbit liver to combat illness.

 

In case Korean decides to become a rabbi? It was written in English and Korean.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Vignettes

Scene: 5th grade English classroom
Actors: 4 average level students and 1 teacher

Teacher: I went to Jeju-do this weekend.
Students: Ooooh! Teacher! Fun!
Teacher: It was, I went hiking, and ate good food.
Student A: Teacher? It is you? Uh, uh, mo? (The student grabs the teacher's arm and mimics walking down the aisle while humming the wedding march)
Teacher: Bwahahaha, NO! Not a honeymoon! Just a fun trip.


Scene: 5th grade English Classroom
Actors: 6 average level students and 1 teacher

Teacher: If I have to talk to you about talking, I will give you a yellow card. After 2 yellow cards you get 1 red car then you must leave the class.
Student A: Like soccer?
Teacher: Yes, exactly.
Student A: Can I be like England and yell at you after?
Teacher: No, sorry.
Student A: Sigh....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Food Fun

Every so often I come across something in Korea I just can't stomach. Pondeggee is one such item (stewed silk worms), and pickled eggs seem to be another. I didn't know I didn't like pickled eggs until a couple of days ago. It is entirely possible that I am just angry at them for surprising me the way they did.

Envision the scene: Tired, hungry, just returned from the grocery store. The thoughts of omlettes filled my head. The pan is heated, the bread is toasting, the cheese is sliced and ready to go. Out of the fridge come two eggs. They feel a little strange in my hands, though I can't put my finger on why. Instantly I worry they've gone off. Then I go to crack one. The shell feels strange under the pressure, softer almost. Also strange is the lack of white, or yolk, trying to get out. I peel the top of the shell off and realize that the egg has been hard boiled and smells of vinegar. Stupid preserved egg! I have 10 more of them sitting in my fridge. I hate them.

That is the story of why I hate pickeled eggs. Now I am off to the store to get some fresh ones.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Taking a walk

Being an elementary school teacher can take its toll. The kids can be noisy and disruptive little hell balls spawned in the bowels of Hormonia. I am mostly referring to the 6th graders here. Today, during my break, I fantasized about tearing out my own eyeballs and shoving them into my ears so I needn't see nor hear the 6th graders ever again. I spent my entire morning choking back the words, "JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP!" I tried to keep a smile on my face while doing this, which I think resulted in a small hemorrhage in my brain.

I really do like my job, but like with any job, some days just suck. I think it actually started this morning when I discovered my internet had conked out. Suck. Then I got to school and was accosted by 6th graders wanting to do anything but be quiet for 30 seconds. Suck. Then, when I thought I could have 10 minutes of peace after eating lunch, before beginning work on my lesson plans, I was jumped upon by yet another 6th grader. I respect this kid, he is horrible at English and actively trying to improve the situation by practicing with me some days after lunch. But let me at least leave the cafeteria first kid. He came in, a frenzied look in his eyes, "Teacher, English now!" "Just give me a min.." "Ok, now!" "5 minutes." I had to take my after lunch pill, and get some water. The look on his face changed to near panic, and I realized he didn't quite understand. Luckily my co was on hand to explain to him that I would be more than willing to give up the precious remainder of my lunch to tutor him, just after I took my pill.

Tutoring complete, it was time to work on my lesson plans. I hate doing these, they are tedious. Tedious and easy. The fact that they are easy makes them even harder to do, because I know they take about 10 minutes and I put them off. This being the case, I only got one done. Then it was time to prepare my lesson for the upcoming teacher's class and pop two aspirin. The teacher's class went well, but I just didn't feel like talking. I wanted some alone time. I also want a pony.

Finally, class was over and it was time to leave school. As I was trying to sneak out, two different teachers noticed me and offered me a ride. In the hight of summer or the dead of winter I would take it in a heart beat. Today though, the weather didn't suck. I wanted to take a walk. I told them I needed the exercise and sauntered off, earbuds firmly planted. Once outside I was stopped again and offered another ride. "No thanks, I really need to walk."

The real reason I wanted to walk was to see my kids. The same ones who made me believe self mutilation would be the solution to all my problems. When I walk home from school I usually run into my students, either on their way to hagwon, piano lessons, home to dinner, or off to see a friend. They always get a big grin on their face and rush over to see me. It is a pretty nice ego booster. I usually get home happy, because my kids were happy to see me outside of school and don't hold my homicidal eye twitches against me. Unsuck!

Ooh, plus, when I got home, my internet was back. Assah!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Learning to swear

Me to some of the advanced kids who came to talk to my co about something, "Do you want korean candy?" The boys laugh, "Teacher, this word and sign," as he does a slightly rude hand gesture, "it is Korean swear. It means 'fuck you' It is similar to candy name" "Oh, thanks!" "Of course teacher, ummm, don't be mad, I didn't say it to you, just teach you, ok?" "Hahaha, yeah, I know." This is the same boy who taught me that the word gossip sounds similar to the korean slang for cock. He's a gold mine!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting back into the swing of things

I've been back in Korea for about 3 weeks now. It was surprising how easy it was to get back into my daily routine. Wake up, grumble, start defrosting fruit, do yoga, shower, make smoothie, teach kids. The kids seem a bit easier too. Perhaps it is because I have known them for over a year now, and they know my angry face, or maybe I have become more patient. Whatever the reason, everyone seems to have a groove now.

My social life has been a bit hectic as well. Every weekend, and many week nights have been packed with friends. I have been trying to keep myself busy, so as not to think of a recent(ish) break up, and I usually succeed in falling dead asleep at the end of the day. Next week I head to Vietnam for a few days. A nice little beach holiday with some girlfriends, and then back to the hectic. It is actually kind of nice.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Forget All Your Wishful Thinking and Do Something Practical with Your Life

My friend Caitlin reminded me of a fortune cookie I got when we were in college together. It was our tradition to meet for lunch every day, eat as much starch as possible, and end the meal with the ever present fortune cookies. One afternoon, mine read, "Forget all your wishful thinking and do something practical with your life." I was horrified. How could a fortune cookie be so cruel? Caitlin, always the true friend, jumped into action, tore the already small paper into tiny bits, and threw it away. I have tried to spend the rest of my life defying that fortune.

Just over a year ago I packed up all my possessions, left some of them in the kind care of friends and parents, and took the rest with me to Korea. I am not entirely sure it was a practical thing to do, to leave all my friends and family and move to a new continent. My reasoning seemed right, I needed a job, they have a job, this is a good decision. But really, if I had tried, I could have found a job at home. That would have been the practical thing to do. Instead, I wished to be elsewhere. I had dreams of adventure and new places.

I am starting my second year in Korea now, and plan to be even less practical. I will continue to learn a language I will have little use for in the States. I will find a way to visit more countries without saving very much money (because I just want to spend my money on travel anyway) and maybe I will sky dive.

Fun with Google Translate

I was sent this message through the school's instant messaging service:
백두산 천지기운을 받으시고 2학기 신나게 출발 합시다^^

Here is what it translates into, per google:
Mt cosmic energy will not leave the area or two semesters fun ^^

Needless to say, that cleared everything right up. Praise be to Mt.CE!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Coming Home

In a few hours I will be boarding a bus to Incheon Airport. From there I will fly to Osaka and then on to San Francisco. I am nervous and excited about the prospect of going home. Nervous mostly because it is only 7:42pm and my bus doesn't leave until 1am. Will I make it to the bus on time? What if I fall asleep? Did I pack everything? Will there be enough room on the bus when I get there? I really, really hope I don't fall asleep. And that I packed everything.

I am excited to see my friends and family again. It has been over a year since I have seen some of them. I will be spending about 10 days travelling around the US and the rest of the time with my parents. I can't wait to eat some non Korean food. I can't wait for some Mom cooking. I can't wait for some fun with my friends. It has been a hard week and I need the diversion.

Getting there is going to be tough. The bus ride to the airport takes about 5.5 hours. From there I have at least 3 hours at the airport, assuming the flight is on time. Then a 6 hour layover in Osaka. I wish I had either more time, or less, in Osaka. I am not really a patient person and the waiting will be tough. It stresses me out.

There will be things I miss about Korea while I am gone. I will miss my Korean friends, the foods I like, and the places I go. I will miss the constant buzz of the cicadas, and my morning and evening drums and bells from the temple next door. But, I will be back soon, so hopefully they will still be here when I return. The heat and humidity is welcome to stay away upon my return.

I guess I should have something to eat and hop in the shower. I still have about 4 hours before I want to leave for the bus, and I have to recheck my luggage as well.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Untitled Korea Experiment

It's been almost a year since I came to Korea. I've noticed a lot of differences in the culture, some funny, some weird, many disgusting, and some just urine in the pants inducingly scary (Inducingly is an adverb now. I am mad with power.)

Before I came to Korea my mom and I went shopping for some new, teacher appropriate clothing. Modest hemlines and what I thought were modest tops were bought. Then I got here. The teachers often look like they are heading to a club after teaching from the bottom down. From the top up they might be one of those weird polygamist wives that were all the rage a few years back. Collars up to their chins. I think I get a little leeway because I am a foreigner, but I know they don't like that my clavicle shows. I usually just button up my cardigan, but then I have to make the decision, pull down the cardi a bit in the front so it covers my tatoos in the back, or risk showing my tattoos so that my luscious lady lumps are protected by about 6 inches of fabric. I generally choose to cover the tattoos, they are slightly more scandalous.

Koreans seem to blindly believe an awful lot. Maybe I am not getting the full picture due to my inability to speak fluent Korean, but it seems that if the general Korean is told something by a person or article of authority they just don't question it. Two examples: Fan Death and Judaism. Judaism first. I was talking to some of the teachers at my school, and the topic of my religion came up. Suddenly, one of the teachers said, "All Jewish are powerful and have lots of money. They buy buildings and use them for more power." Ummmm, citation needed. I asked what she meant, and where she had gotten her information. She said she read an article about it, but that was all the information she had. I asked if she believed it. "Yes, of course. I read it." This meant we got to have a long discussion about stereotypes and how they are not often true, and can hurt people's feelings. I explained that Jews are just like anyone else, with some being rich and powerful, some being very poor, and many just being normal, everyday people. Fun times. Now for fan death. Every Korean I have met, Every. Single. One. believes that they can die if they fall asleep with the fan running. They must always open a window whenever they are running a fan or the aircon, especially at night. There are a few theories as to why this happens. Split atoms, air molecules being cut up and disappearing, or just run of the mill hypothermia. They believe in this because it is reported on the news. Doctors state it as a cause of death. From what I have read, it is usually when the doctors just don't want to look for the real cause of death or don't want to state it. Fans can kill people!

There are different personal hygiene norms here. I have repeatedly seen people leave restrooms without washing their hands. Covering one's mouth while sneezing or coughing is not necessary, but in the winter many people wear masks... that are usually not pulled down over their mouth. Oh, and I have been spit on. Well, my shoe has. People here spit everywhere. The sad part is that I am starting to get used to the sound and sight of it.

Koreans are often fascinated by the idea of westerners wearing shoes in the house. They think our floors must be filthy all the time. I need to find a nice way of saying that our ground is a little cleaner (as far as ground can be) and so we are not constantly tracking in phlegm, sodden hooker flyers, and (what I pray to god is) dog shit.

Food. As long as you like Korean food, you will never go hungry. Koreans must feed everyone around them. Today I was actually force fed some watermelon. I love watermelon, I can eat a ton, but I was taken by surprise when some was shoved into my mouth. When I first got here, I was a bit uncomfortable with the attention I received just for eating. Did I eat enough, I must still be hungry, here, have some more, no, it is good for health. It seems all Korean food is good for health. It is a wonder anyone ever gets sick in this country.

Speaking of the sick and injured, I see about 20 people in casts every day. I can't figure out if they actually broke something, or if it precautionary. My kids are constantly in slings or crutches. I ask what happened and I usually get, "Oh teacher, I ran too fast." Today I asked a boy what happened and he told me he was running too fast and ran into a wall. I really hope that's the truth.

Ok, that's it for now. I am really going to try and be better about this thing from here on out. Plus, I have a whole new year to write a bunch of meaningless drivel. Wheeeee!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Make my day

Today, after a particularly trying morning with the 5th graders, in which I had to punish two kids and have my co-teacher yell, in Korean, at a third, I was feeling pretty craptastic. Oh, and when I asked a student what he did over the weekend he said, "Killed." "Ummmm, what?" "I killed ants. And other things." My Monday was not going the way I wanted, my game had fallen flat, and I was tired. Then I went to lunch and was ignored and talked about for the first 10 minutes or so. After lunch, I just wanted to sit quietly and bash my head against the wall. Then one of my students came to visit and gave me this:
Dear. Jeniffer
HELLO! I'm Min-Jeong
Before I met you I don't like English, but now I like English very much. I can use grammar well, and I can read in Korea to English. Thank you very much.

In summer, Pohang has flame festival. It is very beautiful and colorful. You had better see it.

Good bye.

Sincerely, Min-Jeong

Awwwww!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Republic of Korea Democracy in Action

Mid week days off are always a mixed bag. It is nice not to go to work, but the whole day always feels a little bit like Sunday, with work looming over your head. That being said, it was a fun day filled with looking at fish at the market, finding paprika, and eating too much. Why did I have a day off you ask? For the Republic of Korea's election day. Yep, here in Korea they get a day off so that they can not vote. I think I read somewhere that voter turn out is less than 50%. I can kinda see why. After being blasted for weeks by trucks driving by blaring casio keyboard sounding music, I kind of hated all the candidates.

For the last few weeks the campaigns have been growing. It started with a banner here, a billboard there. Then the trucks. The trucks drive around the city blasting music and slogans. The one that came around my neighbourhood the most played the Miami Vice theme song. I am not sure what that candidate was trying to convey. Maybe, if he won, we would all be protected from Cuban drug lords. Or we will all be forced to have 5 o'clock shadow and loafers with no socks. It is hard to tell.

Closer to the election I started seeing people dressed in coordinated windbreakers bowing and waving at street corners. As the weeks went along in that way they always do, their numbers grew, as did the intricacies of their bows. The bows turned into full fledged dancing, although it was rare to see a dancer smile. On street corners all over Korea one could see somber faced, brightly colored campaign monkeys. A week away from the election and the dancers were often joined by the candidate himself. Or, in one case, one one wearing a comically large foam rubber caricature head of the candidate. I tried to get a picture, but my phone decided to be a jerk and not let me do it.

Walking around my neighborhood became an exercise in campaigner doing. I am not usually one to promote racial profiling, but I wish these people had looked at my face and realized I was not a citizen of their country. I was constantly being handed cards with the smiling face of the prospective leader beaming back at me. That's fine, I can use them as book marks. It was when I was actually chased down the street and practically tackled, all in an effort to give me a card, that I became a bit annoyed.

All the candidates here are assigned a number and color (I think they are assigned the color anyway. Each candidate had his own.) They have posters and banners everywhere, deadpan cheerleaders, and gimmicky foam rubber heads. The whole thing feels a bit like an over eager school election. Still, it was a sight to behold.

The elections are over now, so I finally have some peace. I kind of miss the music now though.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Igo

A child just ran into my classroom, "Igo," handed me a cap to a black dry erase marker, "bye," and was gone. I think we are betrothed now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Great moments in teaching...

For those of you who don't have facebook and don't get to see my fairly frequent updates about what is going on at school.

Interesting observations of the day: Ch1 of the grade 6 CD-Rom has a rather racist picture of a black kid. Secondly the new 5th grade English teacher thinks I am her bitch and just dropped 4 classes of grading on my desk to be ready by Tuesday.

"Teacher! You are just like Ariel!" Ooh, let's see where this goes. "Soon Prince Eric will fall in love with someone else! Not you! You have no voice." "Oh."

"Chyennipur, why you not eating the sausage." "It's moving of its own accord." "I am sorry, what?" "It isn't to my style."

"I have 4 children, how many do you have?" "Ummm, none." "Oh! But you are married! Why no children?" "I'm not married." "WHAT?!?!?!" I didn't even get to my puppy kicking and baby punching habit.

New volunteers from the university meet me at lunch, "Oh! You are eating Korean food!" "Yes I am." "But no westerners like it!" "Some do." "But it is too spicy for you!" "No, it's ok, I used to eat hot peppers out of the jar as a kid." "And you can use chopsticks!!!!" "I am made of magic." "Ooooh."

"Teacher, I have a question?" "Ok." Who is Simon?" "Huh?" "Simon says touch your toes, who is Simon?" "Oh! It is just a name we use because 'says' starts with an S and we like alliteration." "What is alliteration?" "One of my favorite things ever." "Ok, I like it too."

"Good morning Chyennipur! Today you look like the girl with the dog." Quizzical look on my face. "The one who killed that lady." Horrified look on my face. "She took the lady's shoes." "Oh! You mean Dorothy from Wizard of Oz?" "Yes, today you are her!"

"Teacher, teacher!!" "Hi!" Breathless student, "Hi! I remember your family name. You said yesterday." "Oh that's good, what is it?" "Hymen!" Then I died of laughter.

"Chyennipur teacher! I love you! Marry me!" "Ok, let's get married tomorrow." "Oh!" runs away.

"Teacher! I want to go to England to eat the national food of fish and chips and Indian food and David Beckam." "You want to eat David Beckam?" "Yes, oh, what?"

"I will use the fickle finger of fate to choose the next person." "Teacher! That is an alliteration!" Holy crap, they are retaining information!

"Did you break it?"

"No teacher! Bad magic! Bad magic break it!"






"What is your favorite day?" "My favorite day is Wednesday because I only have 3 academies to go to, and then tae kwan do, and then homework, and then I can take a rest." "Oh.... Um, and what is your favorite day (other student)" "My favorite day is Saturday because I can collect bugs." "Oh! Me too! We will be bug scientists!" "That's called an entomologist." "Oh, ok, I want to be that."

"What is your favorite day?" "I hate every day." "Why?" "Because days are stupid. I like night. I am a vampire. My English name is Edward." "Okie dokie Sparkle Vampire, what is your favorite night?"

"Don't kill each other!" "Hahaha, oh teacher, he MUST die!"

"A, no, no, B! No! Q!" "Ahhh, you make him dead!" "It's ok, we will just play agai.." Little boy looks at the little girl with murder in his eyes, "I hate you now. I want you die." "Um, it's just hangman. Say you are sorry." "I not sorry, I want her dead." "Ok, game over!"

"Chyennipur! Super model!" "Aw, thanksaaag!" As I get a slap on the back from the principal that sends me careening into the cafeteria door. Then, in line: You try! Korean hamburger! You try!!! As he shoves bulgogi wrapped in kimchee into my mouth. Good for you buddy, who needs rules of personal space or etiquette?

"Chyennipur Teacher, I want to clean your room today." "Oh, I think you have to wait two weeks until you are back in here to clean." "I am so sad." "Would it make you feel better to come over and clean my apartment?" "REALLY? I can?" "Ooooh, ummm, oh look, your class is leaving." There is going to be a 5th grader with a broom and dust pan waiting outside my apartment now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Five Cities Three Days

I get to leave school early on Fridays because I work late a few nights a week and my school doesn't want to pay me extra. It works out nicely for me because I can go to the bank and post office, both of which close before I can get there on a normal day. I can then go home, take care of a few things, read: nap, and then head out. This past Friday was no different.

Friday afternoon I left school, walked home accompanied part of the way by two of my 6th grade students. It is normal for me to be accosted by students on my way home. I often feel like Snow White at Disney Land, with the kids flocking towards me. I rather like it, as it makes me feel important. At some point though I want to put in my earphones and just be alone for a bit. This particular Friday, in an effort to get some Jenn time, I handed the girls 1000 won and told them to get some candy. They took it and started to run off, only to be attacked by a wizened ajuma who, in perfect English, smacked them and shouted, "Say thank you!" The girls bowed profusely, said thank you, and then scampered into the store for their candy. The little old lady then turned to me and said, "So beautiful!" then went on her way. I love her now.

After paying some bills and ending up at home, I accidentally fell asleep for a few hours. Upon waking it was time to shower, throw on some new clothes and head to Gyeongju for a going away party. Gyeongju was city number one on my whirlwind adventure. Fun was had, Lizzi and Howard said goodbye to everyone, John sang, tears were shed, and then it was time to find a motel for the night. I ventured back towards the bus station thinking it would be easy to get a room. This is important: Because I thought it would be quick and easy, I did not use the bathroom before I left the bar. I entered the first motel and was greeted by a woman making an ex sign with her arms. In Korea this means no. Slightly crestfallen, I left and headed to the next nice looking motel. Cue the fail buzzer again. Number three was no better, and at this point my teeth hurt, I had to pee so badly. Motel number four was also a no go, and by number five I was near tears. Thankfully the little old man had a room for me. He looked a bit worried though and kept saying, "Ondol, ondol!" That meant I would be sleeping on the floor, traditional Korean style. I didn't care, as long as it had a toilet and a pillow... which it did. Ten minutes later I was greatly relieved and passed out on a heated mat on the floor.

Day two started with me waking up confused. Where was I and why was on the floor? Once that got sorted out in my head it was time to pack up my stuff and head back to the bus. I had to catch the 10am but to Busan, in order to meet Marie at 1pm. By some strange miracle I actually managed to be on the bus by 9:58am. Armed with water, a can of coffee, and some yogurt, I was ready to go. One hour long bus ride later I was in Busan, city number two. Another hour on the subway and I was in Marie's apartment. My efforts were well rewarded by getting to see Marie and her lovely South African goodies. Hmm, let me rephrase that. Marie recently went back to South Africa and brought me some candy. Well armed with chocolate we headed out for the next leg of the journey. Jinhae for the cherry blossom festival.

It turns out that Jinhae is a popular place to visit during the festival. According to one of my co teachers it is where the first cherry trees in Korea were planted. We had to wait next to something fairly malodorous (old food and gasoline maybe?) for about 20 minutes before being allowed on a bus. We were lucky though, we were able to get seats. Some others had to stand for the hour ride, one with a comically large decor plant.

In Jinhae I wanted to find a motel room right away, to avoid a replay of the night before. Once that was settled it was time to head to the festival itself. Into the crush of people we forged, found a stall, got some seats, and got lunch, Korean pancakes with green onions, other vegetables, and octopus. Pictures were taken of the trees and people. Marie kept expecting a bride to appear, walking through the almost entirely white trees. They were all fluffy and soft looking, like they had been frosted. The people were pretty interesting too, with couples, and sometimes whole families, dressing in matching outfits.

After we had our fill of sight seeing, we camped out in a coffee shop for what turned out to be about two hours. Marie eventually had to head back to Busan, so she handed me off to another friend who was in Jinhae and headed home. My friend and I had dinner, pork roasted on a spit over hot coals which nearly gave me a food orgasm, had a bit of a wander, and then called it a night.

Day three and time to head home. After breakfast my friend and I tried to take a cab to the bus station. Apparently the cab driver thought he could just drive us all the way back to Gyeongju. Nervous laughter and a couple of phone calls to Koreans later we were unceremoniously dropped at a bus terminal in Masan... not exactly where we planned to be. Luckily the ride afforded some more sight seeing and a funny story. Masan was city number 4. City number 5 was Daegu, otherwise known as the only bus we could get anywhere near our actual destination. From Daegu it was back to Gyeongju, and then home sweet home, Pohang.

So, that was my crazy weekend. Now it is time to put squid ink in my hair.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Stood up

I've been stood up. I rushed home, changed, cleaned up the apartment, and here I sit. Alone. Sad. Dirty clothing with no where to go. The washing machine repair man was supposed to be here at 7. It is now 9:30 and there is no repair man. He has forsaken me. He has forsaken my clothing. Now he says he won't come until Friday. I need him now! My life is meaningless without him. I have shit to wash!
I weep for my laundry.

Ham hocks and kasha

When I was little, I would ask my mom what was for dinner and would often get, "ham hocks and kasha." To this day I am still not entirely clear on what kasha is, other than some kind of grain thing from eastern Europe. Ham hocks are generally not eaten, unless you live in South Korea and buy yourself the sliced up leg of a pig. Here is a story about eating (probably) ham hocks.

Tonight was a Korean food night in the small studio of Miss Jennifer Harris. As she sat around, waiting for the washing machine repair man to show up (still hasn't, grrr), she thought to herself, "It sure would be a waste if I let that pig leg I bought yesterday just sit in the fridge. I wonder if the bok choi is still good as well," and a dinner was formed. From the feet of a pig to the Asian cabbage about to go off in her enormous refrigerator she cobbled together a meal. Using soy sauce, sirracha, and some oyster sauce she made the bok choi edible. The meat was a bit easier, requiring only a few minutes in the wok and some hoisin (imported from the US as it turns out). On to the plate they went, and then quickly into her mouth, as the taste was surprisingly good. Her taste buds were pleased with her efforts and danced a happy jig.

Now Jennifer sits on her bed, fondly reminiscing about her meal, sure in the knowledge that some elves are doing her dishes... and still waiting for that fucking repair man. Seriously, he was supposed to be here an hour and a half ago.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Teaching the Teachers

Korean culture is a delicate thing. I think I am given some leeway because I am western and don't know any better, but generally the social structure is rigid and unforgiving. Saying "I don't know," is seen as a weakness, especially in a teacher. Asking, "why," to a superior is rarely done. These aspects of society put me in a weird spot a few times a week as I settle in to teach the teachers at my school and in Pohang in general.

I am younger than all but one of the teachers in my school. I am younger than many of the teachers in Pohang. A few times a week I have to teach these same teachers English. At my school I spend much of class sitting there, being ignored by the older teachers, as they chat away in Korean. I hate teaching the beginner teachers as they are often terrible students. They refuse to talk, they refuse to listen, and they refuse to be called to order. One told me, earlier this week, that it was very difficult for her to learn English because I was younger than her and she wasn't sure it was right. Fine, I am younger and you are trained to think that I am not worth as much respect, but can we all agree that I speak English better than you and you signed up to take an English class? I am not sure why she, or any of the others, show up. I am not going to narc on them for skipping my class. I could be using that time to play scrabble online.I am hoping next week's lesson will be better, when I teach them cooking terminology.

The intermediate class is a little better. A friend of mine is in the class, as well as my co teacher and a teacher who I think views me as a fascinating pet. They talk very little, but they at least listen when I speak. I have decided to make their classes more fun by just teaching them slang. Last week the word was "cougar." This week the word was "jacked." My friend is my age and speaks English the best, the other two just stare at me. I think I fascinate them. I feel like some strange creature from another planet in their eyes. They look at me, and I think they see this humanoid who embodies every stereotype they have every heard about western culture, true or not. They have asked me if I own guns, if things they see in movies are true, and have intimated that my brothers are smarter than me simply because they are boys. I take it all with a grain of salt and a big pinch of different culture. I try to set them straight when I can, and the rest of the time, I just sort of smile and nod. They will never really listen to me because I am younger than them.

I also teach classes at the Middle School next door. I don't do it every day, but once or twice a week I go there to teach the Pohang teachers. I have only done a few, but here is what I have noticed: The older men don't respect me at all, the older women seem to pity me as I certainly can't take care of myself. The teachers closer to my age seem to want to be my friend, and two teachers who are younger than me look at me with such disdain, I want to knock their heads together like coconuts. Oh, and one asked me out. The older men in the class obviously see me as someone who is below them, and I am fairly certain they were forced to take the class. The older women also see me as below them, but they want to take care of me. A younger, unmarried woman is some for which you must feel sorry. She is lonely and needs to be married off as soon as possible. Most of the English they speak involves asking me about my love and personal life. Do I have a boyfriend? Can I cook? Am I lonely? The female teachers closer to my age want me to hang out with them. I think they are a little jealous of the freedoms the perceive western women to have. The two young men teachers who I want to bop on the head are just jerks. They remind me of my smug elementary school students.

I hear a screaming child in my stairwell which means it is time for me to close up shop and jump in the shower. Happy April Fools Day!