Thursday, November 25, 2010

This is pretty funny

A couple of weeks back, I screamed at one of my classes because of their poor behavior, and gave them a loooong lecture about behaving properly. At the end of my tirade, I assigned each of them an essay of ten sentences on proper behavior. Every student gave me what I expected - ten sentences of pretty normal "don't talk when the teacher is talking" language. Except for one. This is what I got.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The position in which I find myself

Sometimes teaching here can be just heartbreaking. I imagine it's the same all over, but it's still difficult for me to hear what I sometimes hear from these students, coming from where I came from.

Whether they're just honest, young, or aren't aware they're saying anything that most people would consider private (or if they're just Korean), I have no idea.

In another teacher's class, students responded to a prompt asking them to write about an invention they would like to make. One student said in broken English, and I paraphrase, "I would create an un-losable card, because I always make cards for my mother to make her happy, and she always loses them."

When asked to describe something embarrassing that has happened to them, one student responded, "I am embarrassed when my father hits me."

When giving a speaking test, one on one to one of my higher level students, I asked him the question from the sheet, "Describe the character of your best friend" to which he replied, "I don't have any friends." I probed, "Of course you have friends." He replied, "No teacher, I don't have any friends." I said again "Sure you do, in class." And he said, tears just beginning to form, "No teacher, I don't have any friends." I wrote down his response and continued the test.

In one of my classes, two boys joined who hate a third boy who was in the class already. They gang up on him and make fun, they isolate him on the other side of the room by refusing to sit near him, and the poor kid won't even break the "no speaking Korean" rule to defend himself.

Today I caught one of the two shit-boys pushing the third boy. I stopped both of them and sat them down and handled the situation. The shit-boy had tears rolling down his cheek. Not 2 minutes later, the second of the shit-boys (thinking that I've left, but I was just outside a door with a huge glass window in it) starts screaming at the third boy, the third boy -who has already had it so rough already and hasn't learned how to defend himself or take it in stride - picks up his text book and is about to hit the second shit-boy when I busted in and screamed at the whole group of them. The third boy burst out sobbing and covered his face while I continued my tirade, in extremely slow but carefully chosen so they could understand, angry English.

I told all three of them to speak with me after their next class (their teacher was waiting to begin). After class, I sat them all down and talked with them about how to properly handle their frustration and anger, and made them practice a phrase, "Please don't do that." I told them that if I heard them use that phrase, and the other person did not stop, the other person would have the fear of God hammered so forcibly into them that their next stop after SLP would be church to beg for absolution. In so many words.

What I hope is that by getting all three of them in trouble, together, I can give them a common ground on which to stand. And hopefully, at the very least, stop the constant abuse of the third boy.

It isn't my place to defend every poor little kid who needs help and would be better served learning to help himself, but its so god damned sad what happens out in the world sometimes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rafting, Etc.

This weekend I went river rafting with some friends. There is a website called Adventure Korea that offers affordable (usually) short excursions around South Korea for various activities. I got up a little after 4 on Saturday to make sure that I would be ready by our 4:50 meet time, after which we would head to the subway and make our way to Seoul.

The whole way into the city I was worried we weren't going to make our bus. One of the girls got stuck at the gate into the metro because she didn't have enough money on her card, and while she added credit to it we missed the first train (which should have gotten us to our destination about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time of 7:15 am). I guided our group through the subway system (not hard) and luckily we made it to the bus at about 6:58. As it turns out the bus didn't leave till about 7:10, so we would have been fine.

After a few stops and a few hours later, we arrived at the Hantan river and separated into our groups. Fortunately, one of the guys in our group spoke passable Korean, and so he could translate when English failed our guide. We learned how we should float down the river, should we be tossed overboard in the "dangerous" rapids, and then set out.

I swear, we were about par for the course in hitting rocks and getting stuck. Our guide was a sweetheart, so she was easily forgiven, but it was a little annoying. The "rapids" were very tame, and for the most part it was just a trip down the river with occasional opportunities to get out and swim. At one point there was a cliff you could jump off, but the Adventure Korea staff refused to let us saying that people had died there before because some places are more shallow than others, while we watched a Korean tour group jump off one after another.

It was all OK though, because it was still a really good time and a nice change from the usual routine of going out to bars on Friday and Saturday.

After rafting we had a very decent lunch and then travelled to a bungy jumping area. It looked really fun, but I just didn't want to spend the money (35,000 Won) to wait in a two hour line for a 3 second jump and a minute of hanging upside down. Instead I basked with some friends in the shade under the bridge, laughing at the girls who screamed hilariously all the way down.


Work has been good so far. I'm getting into the groove of things, but I'm a little annoyed at how challenging it is to prepare a lesson that is even slightly above average without putting hours of work in outside the office. I'm not complaining about getting work done, but I have about 12 different classes, each of which requires different prep (albeit minimal prep considering the straightforward idiot proof lesson design we're asked to follow). So it seems like a waste much of the time to prepare a genuinely good lesson, for a 40 minute class, that I'll never have another opportunity to reteach and tweak, unless I sign on for another year contract and happen to teach the exact same class with the exact some material (which always seems to be changing).

Not to mention many things that are common place in the US are challenging to make work here amidst the teaching styles these kids are used to combined with the lack of proficient English that the class needs to understand what exactly I'm asking them to do. For example, nobody ever does group work here. Ever. I don't know if it's a Korea thing or an SLP thing, but asking kids to get into groups and practice the words and phrases we've been learning can be a serious pain. They just stare blankly and say nothing to each other. I have to walk around and tap them on the shoulder and say "talk! Speak!" three or four times before they timidly roll out the phrases. The classes I've used group work with more than once are getting more used to it, so it's good to know it will take. Eventually.

So, my problem right now is demanding a high standard of behavior from my kids, while relying primarily on talking and asking for a single respondant, and writing and drawing liberally on the whiteboard. The kids who aren't getting called on sometimes start chatting (in broken English, bless them) or goofing around, and rightly so! They're bored! But I have so little time during which to teach them (usually a little less than 40 minutes), combined with the fact that, regardless of whether or not they understand a concept I have to move forward and finish a book, page for page, on schedule, makes it very difficult and seemingly a waste of time (or so I feel now) to put a considerable amount of effort into an excellent lesson.

What can I do?

What I'm considering, and I haven't figured out how yet, is adopting some sweeping behaviors and methods of presenting the information that I can use across the board in every class. That way my effort can be focused on creating a teaching and classroom style that is effective and engages everybody, not just the kid I happen to call on. If there is enough work for the day, I can break the lesson up workshop style and do some initial teaching, let them work, reel them in and reexplain and clarify, then finish work before the bell.

Ideas are more than welcome.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A little taste of culture

It was Friday night. I had been talking about going to a Norae Bong (Karaoke but in a private room with only your friends) for half the week and - I hear this happens a lot - all the morning teachers went out to dinner together and then to a norae bong without inviting the afternoon teachers. And I being new and having no phone or numbers, didn't know how to go meet up with them. I was sad but figured it wouldn't be so bad doing something else.

Tyler and I went to this Italian place near school called Basilico and met up with Shelly and Stephanie from school. We had dinner, and Stephanie texted the other group and found out where we could all meet up. I was excited.

We had a little time to kill so Stephanie and Shelly went to Home Plus to get some supplies and Tyler and I went to some batting cages a couple blocks from school. I'd never been to a batting cage, so it was pretty fun hitting 15 or so balls at a time for 500 won. There was a group of Korean guys there, goofing around, hitting the punching machine that measures your power level (I have yet to hit OVER 9000!!!), and batting. We started trading off the cage with them, and they start making fun as Tyler hits balls, yelling out "Strike!" and "Foul!" and "AHHH!" all with heavy Korean accents. They all gave him high fives and pats on the back when he came out.

We were about finished, when they handed Tyler another 500 won coin and motioned for him to bat again. He did, and then they handed me a coin and start talking excitedly. One of the guys comes up behind me and starts massaging my shoulders, as the whole group, in unison, starts singing the rocky theme song music. No word of a lie. I bat and do horribly, so one of the Korean guys gets up to do it and says "I immitate" and does this goobery little version of me hitting balls.

Soju commercial - hilarious

One of the guys with them spoke enough English to get by with us, and asked where we were going next. We told them, and they invited us to come out with them instead and get drinks. How could we refuse?

They took us to a little place where they ordered a couple plates of appetizers (a fruit plate and a plate with warm kimchi and tofu, then some shoestring french fries or "French potatoes" as one of the guys said, trying to explan) and seven bottles of Soju by the end of it. Soju is a Korean alcoholic drink that is almost as cheap as water, .

All the guys we went out with were a range of ages from 24-32 Korean age (You turn 1 when you're born, then age another year at the new year. Your actual birthdate doesn't factor into Korean age). I wish I knew all their names but I only remember Ji Hoo because he's the only one who made a big deal out of us learning it.

We learned a bit about Korean drinking customs, for instance when you pour you should put your free hand to your chest just below the shoulder joint, almost in your arm pit, and you should always serve from eldest to youngest in descending order out of respect. And you never pour your own drink. Some of the guys would put a finger in another person's shot glass (you drink soju shots, though not always all in one gulp) to see if there was any liquid left in the bottom, I assumed because if there is, it is a sign that they do not want to continue drinking.

We basically had a roudy good time, trying to communicate and pantomiming everything we couldn't get across in language. They all want to go out to Hongdae, a district in Seoul, and also want to play basketball, and one guy wants to spar with me in Judo.

After drinks, we all went to a norae bong so I could experience it for the first time. These guys had work the next day, and stayed out with us till almost 2 am (one guy passed out at the table at the soju place and everybody put him in a cab and sent him home, and another couple were passing out on couches at the norae bong). They didn't have a lot of conventional western songs at the norae bong, but they did have things that you would NEVER find in the states, like Avantasia and, most importantly, FULL MOON BY SONATA ARCTICA!

I sang my little heart out on that song. I haven't tried speaking this morning but I imagine it won't work out so well. We parted with them amidst numerous promises to e-mail and call as soon as we get phones. I hope we hang out with them again. That is how I'll have good opportunity to practice Korean.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Today was my first day being fully in charge of classes. I was nervous for the first couple but by the final few classes of the day, I was fine. It was really easy to slide back into the old student teaching groove and even to let loose.

It could just be that, because I'm a new teacher and a male in a very male dominated society (I will accept that as a potential factor in management and respect HERE in South Korea), that the students are being angels while they find my weak points. Heck, it probably is that, but right now I really don't see any problems in the future coming from my kids. Reigning in the "issues" left over from the previous teacher took about 4 minutes, and was really just my introduction and institution of a few rules. These kids are wonderful, thus far.

A few hiccups today. The kids in my very first class were supposed to be issued new books, but they hadn't been, so when I asked them to take out their books they go "Teacher! No book!" and I even checked a couple back packs to make sure they weren't lying. So, they got off without homework today.

Another class, when I opened up the books and lesson plans that were made for me today (my first few weeks of lesson plans were laid out by my supervisors, a few were made by me, but that's just how they do it here at first) the class had already done the work for today. In fact, they had it done for the next three weeks of plans in the book. So...we played hangman, I worked on learning their names, and we made a one word story where I wrote out their poor grammar and we corrected it all as a class.

My last class of the day we had no clue what to do with, except that they worked out of a particular book. Fortunately they're the highest level of students at this hogwan (private school) - 8th grade, approximately - and they told me where they were and what they needed to work on.

Some goof ups, but none of it was my fault so I'm not too worried. We straightened it all out, so it should be fine from here on out...hopefully.

Tomorrow I have what the previous teacher called her worst class. They've seemed like pretty solid kids to me, but we'll see how it goes. Awesome.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How Embarrassing

A short, goofy anecdote.

I was shopping at Home Plus, looking for an air mattress so I could stay the night at a friend's place in Seoul. I got what I wanted and was headed down to grab a bite before heading back home. Now, in Home Plus there are three floors and in order to go between floors you ride an escalator-ramp. Genius Korean engineers designed these escalators to keep you from crushing somebody or being crushed by your shopping cart as you go up or down. The cart locks into the grooved floor and you sit back and wait till you get to the end.

Grace told me that during the summer, very often escalators will shut down because people's sandals get trapped in the works and clog the whole thing up. I noted it, but thought nothing more on it.

Coming down with my air mattress, feeling especially efficacious due to my flawless ability to hand a cashier my wares and hand her more money than I know the items cost, I saw a small commotion in front of me at the bottom of the escalator-ramp. A girl seemed to trip slightly, no big deal. Except she didn't move away after recovering. Instead she starts talking and pointing at the base of the ramp, and there was her tiny sandal, wedged in the machine where it goes under the floor.

I moved aside to avoid the sandal, but the kid pushing a cart in front of me was completely unaware. His cart ran into the sandal and bunched it up into an effective rubber break. The cart stopped completely, but the escalator kept on moving under it. The first the kid knew of the whole deal was the cart trying to cram itself inside his chest and his feet still trying to move forward under it all. Reacting quickly and using my super human American strength, I picked up the front of the cart so it could move forward, freeing the kid, and then picked up the back end to get it off the escalator.

I did one good deed, it felt like the right time to cap it off with another. I reached down and attempted to wrench the sandal out of the works. While I focused, an old man coming down the escalator just barely noticed me, and started to backpedal in order to keep from falling over me. So here I am, surrounded by Koreans on an escalator covered in shoppers that isn't about to stop, trying to pull a sandal out that is only going to cause more problems. And like Lennie in Of Mice and Men, instead of doing the smart thing and letting go, I just pulled harder on the sandal instead of getting out of the older man's way. I tore the whole thing in half. Looked at the girl who it belonged to, told her in English, stupidly, that her sandal was stuck, and got the hell out of there.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

10,000 Won!?

I was certain when the waitress brought out this feast that I had somehow made a mistake in my order and asked for more food than I meant to. In front on the left is grilled teriyaki chicken on a bed of lettuce and cabbage with some kind of thick sauce. In back, three fried shrimp. On the right, a rice ball filled and covered with numerous small veggie oddities. Back right, alternating shrimp and salmon sushi. Miso soup on the right. The pile in the back left is actually four delicious rolls (crab I think) covered in what at first tasted quite unpleasant, but melted away into a saucy spicy delicious that I had to consciously stop myself from eating too quickly. Then a small bit of Kimchi. I'm still full.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The world is so closed when you're illiterate

I'm learning Hangul, and I plan on having a basic grasp of it within the next couple days, and to be reading (though not understanding, for lack of vocabulary) at a 3rd grade or so level by the end of this week.

It's easy enough once I remember what sounds come from which letters. Each symbol block in a word is a syllable. A lot of Korean menus and signs actually are written as phonetic English in Hangul, so I'll be making my life and ability to acquire vocabulary much easier by learning to read. I'll also get a lot more out of Rosetta Stone.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

PICTURES -Second Day of Work and Korean BBQ

Not much to say about my second day of work. Training and observation continued. I'm feeling more comfortable getting involved in the classes and am not spending the entire period sitting or walking around.

After work, Katherine (the girl I'm replacing) took Tyler and I out for Korean Barbecue. Like all things Korean, there was a heap of side dishes - but with a twist. You order uncooked meat which is brought to your table along with the side dishes, and then you use tongs and scissors to cut the meat up and barbecue it on a tiny grill set in the center of the table (pictures on my flickr, link at the bottom of post and in my profile). Once you've cooked your food to your liking, you can eat it as is OR take the side dishes and put them, along with your meat, into small lettuce wraps. Delicious. Also super low carb, so it would be easy to get back on that train if I ate Korean BBQ every day.

Katherine has been in the country for about a year and a half total, so her Hangeul and spoken Korean are better than mine and Tyler's (who has been here about a month). she ordered us two different types of pork. A type of pork chop and then what looked like super thick cuts of bacon. Very fatty, but very delicious.

Work is interesting on Tuesday/Thursday (or maybe just Tuesday? I'll find out soon). We finish with classes at 8:15pm, but then have to stick around work until 9. So what people end up doing is going out to dinner after class, then coming back to work to clock out. Nice.

Walked home alone for he first time. I got this now.

Here is the link to my Flickr page. I think. I've never used it before so if this doesn't work, let me know and I'll fix it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Day of Work

I was a little worried nobody would come to get me for my first day of work, to show me where exactly it is that I work. However, a couple of people, Stephanie and Tyler, came by to collect me a few minutes early, which was a relief.

SLP, contrary to what I had imagined, has a very nice interior. Air conditioned (for the most part), a very modern look, some fish tanks on one of the floors opposite the elevator, and dozens of small classrooms with variable themed names instead of room numbers. There is a floor of Greek god rooms (Apollo, Zeus, etc.), a floor of animal rooms (Tiger, Penguin, and weirdly enough, Dragon and Unicorn), and a floor of character trait rooms (courage, honor, etc.). Each class I teach will be no larger than 12 students. Twelve!! The curriculum is very structured, and lesson planning should be a breeze as it will, once I get the hang of it, consist of writing down what pages in the book are being covered that day, as well as any homework.

The school has a large kindergarten population, though I won't be teaching any kindergarteners. One of my first experiences in the elevator - they pack them with as many people as will fit - was with an entire class of kindergarteners. It was SO ADORABLE!! This flood of children carried me bodily into the elevator, constantly waving and shouting "Teacher! Teacher!" at Luke (my supervisor) who was showing me around the building. I had one kid patting me on the back to get my attention, and when I looked he just goes "hello!" and waves enthusiastically. I almost died for how cute it was.

I got the tour, met the director - Mr. Jeoung - introduced myself to the staff (about half foreigners, mostly American), went over some stuff like when I'll get a health check for immigration, when I'll get a bank account, paid, etc. Then for the rest of the day I shadowed the woman, Katherine, who I'll be taking over for.

A little ENVoY goes a long way over here. The kids were rambunctious, but when Katherine had them guessing information about me like how old I am and where I'm from, I told them I wanted to see hands, and I would wait until it was quiet before continuing. Silence, hands. Kudos, Fowler. I also observed one class on CCTV. Every classroom in the school can be monitored from the CCTV room by school staff or parents. They'd kill for that kind of monitoring back in the US.

Although I was nervous about getting settled in, the work I'll be doing doesn't seem near as demanding of me, my time, or my abilities as student teaching was, which is a shame, but it is good to know I'll do just fine.

I'm trying to settle in to a routine of getting up and getting some Rosetta Stone done, then breakfast before showering and heading to work. If I'm diligent with my language study, I do think I will be able to at least function at a a level close to a where a Korean Kindergartener is in English. Those kids are reading English and speaking basic sentences, at 4-5 years old, it's astounding. Word on the street is that Hangeul, the written Korean Language, is very easy to learn and once you have it down much of the written Korean on signs and such is actually English phonetically spelled with Hangeul.

After work, I went out and had drinks with Tyler and Michael. Michael is Korean, a sort of Security guard and hallway manager at SLP. Really good guys, we had a lot of fun. Making friends is about a thousand times easier than I imagined it would be before I came over.

I'm going to try to remember to bring my camera around with me when I go out for breakfast this morning, then post up some pics tonight.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shopping and Traditional Eating

Shopping at "Home Plus" in Korea is like a combination of Costco and an amusement park, where the sample people there in full force and accompanied by a contingent saleswomen with french street vendor tactics. Spend too much time showing interest in what they're selling and it will somehow end up in your basket. Kids were running around wild, shopping carts have unfixed back wheels so they can drift like a car or move completely sideways, and the whole place is made more incomprehensible by combination English and Korean writing. They also have a McDonalds (I tried a bacon tomato burger...DELICIOUS!).

Here I learned that there is no such concept as "excuse/pardon me" when moving past somebody or asking them to get out of the way. I had a woman literally run her cart into the back of me gently multiple times without ever saying a word, because in this culture, somehow the words would be more offensive than the nudging. It cracked me up though, I feel like none of this can possibly be real, especially the nudging in a country where convenience store clerks bow deferentially when selling umbrellas.

Paige and Forrest led me around a bit and talked to me about the culture and the goofy things to look out for or be aware of. They've been amazingly kind and helpful, and I'm currently attempting to concoct a way I can repay them for everything they've done for me up to this point.

They invited me out with them to have a traditional Korean meal with a woman (Grace) who runs a FREE Korean Language class across the street from my apartment. Grace and Cindy were extremely friendly and spoke reasonably good English. They took us to a restaurant that translates approximately to "Country Table", where the first word is in reference to the country style meals and cooking and the table is the traditional, low table that you sit or kneel at on a pad.

I wasn't even sure how we ordered. There was some discussion about it and I just said I was down for whatever, and somehow the waitress got the message. Eating works entirely different here. I actually needed instructions. The waitress brought out nineteen - yes, nineteen - different side dishes (two of each between five of us) which covered the entire table, and in addition to this we ordered one plate of a sort of barbecued beef bite. The side dishes are very small, perhaps a 3-4 inch plate in diameter (occasionally a larger bowl for soups or this strange egg dish). In addition to all this, each person has a bowl of rice and a seaweed soup.

Paige said it best, "I have no idea how much I've eaten." All the little dishes make it impossible for you to keep track of how much you've had as you sample from each one and mix and match flavors with rice and the beef dish. At some point I found myself full of apparently healthy food. Grace would tell us about each dish and how each one was "good for X" where X is any possible body function, part, or remedy for an ailment. We joked when we got in the car and the center seat had no seatbelt, that sitting in the center without a belt is good for the skin.

The only thing I didn't try was a rotten looking sort of grey crab. Red flags shot up when Cindy brushed flies away from one of those dishes. However I did eat about three different types of Kimche(sp), multiple lettuce/cabbage dishes, some kind of sauced up nuts/beans, a bean/meat paste, a couple of egg type things, etc etc. Most of it was good, but some of the flavors were just so foreign to me that I found it hard to make myself take a second bite. The whole meal cost 11,000 Korean Won per person, which is under 10 dollars (a steal when you think about how much food we left on our table).

After dinner, Grace took us on a little drive around Ansan and we stopped at a cultural center where every Saturday they have some sort of live performance, a concert, and then a movie all for free. I'm going to join her Korean class, which meets on Sundays. It'll make a nice supplement to my Rosetta Stone practice. I spoke two words of Korean at the table, and was complimented on my pronunciation on both. Despite the fact that I can't even recall what one of the words was (the other was thank you), I take this as a sign of my superior language abilities, and I will no doubt master the language in good time ;) .

I'm exhausted but I'm going to push to stay up for another hour or so. Tomorrow is my first day of work, I'm really hoping somebody shows up to take me to work because I would never be able to find SLP on my own.

I wish I had pictures of the meal. I set up a Flickr account, but didn't have my camera with me. There will be other opportunities.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Welcome to Ansan

Last night I arrived in South Korea about 7pm local time. Customs were a breeze. The plane ride wasn't that bad, Korean Air is pretty much awesome. I had my own little TV in the seat in front of me with a decent selection of movies to choose from, I ended up watching Ghost Writer with Ewen McGregor, Brothers and How to Train your Dragon. Two meals, about three hours total sleep, two albums of Avantasia and an amicable conversation with the Chinese guy next to me later, I arrived in Incheon International Airport.

My ride wasn't there to get me right away, which put a damper on my mood, but a nice Korean man asked me, in good English, if I was waiting for somebody and if I had their cell number. I did. He called for me and found out that my ride would arrive shortly but was having trouble finding parking. First contact with Koreans? Very positive first impression.

Mr. Kim showed up a short time later and bought me a water, put me on the phone with Luke from SLP (the school I work for) to give me the low down on what would happen tonight and next week, then put me on the phone with Don Park who welcomed me to Korea. We found the car, and left for Ansan. Incheon is on an island that is connected to the mainland by a TEN MILE BRIDGE. I was blown away, just looking around at the world like everything was new and beautiful, which of course it was to me. Mr. Kim was a little hard to understand, but we managed anyway. Very nice guy.

I've arrived during monsoon season and have already invested in an umbrella. It feels a bit like Florida. Very warm, humid as hell, and sometimes just drops rain like hell.

Mr. Kim took me to pick up Luke, who gave me a TV, and we drove to my place to get me settled in. My place isn't bad at all. It's actually nicer than most dorm rooms I've been in. My kitchen consists of a hot plate and a sink, so I'll have to learn to make due with that (seeing as how I'm practically a gourmet cook, that might be a challenge). The bathroom is interesting. The whole thing is the shower. So I've got my sink and my toilet, then the shower head just sticking out of the wall. Awesome. Then there's the main area with a nice (heated) tile floor, a desk, a couple shelves and cabinets, a couch, a fridge and some chairs. My bed is the coolest part. I have to climb some steep stairs and then it's up in a lofted area above the couch and the bathroom, with sweet windows to the lower area. It's just a mattress on the floor, but with some blankets and a pillow it's quite nice.

I met some other teachers in my building: Paige, Luke, Rich, Forrest, and Vic(toria). They're all super nice and all in the 23-24 age range. They took me out with them for some pizza and beer where they regaled me with hilarious stories of their time teaching here and really made me feel welcome. Great people. I learned a little more about Korean culture, for instance, there's no bathrooms in restaurants, at least restaurants like that. You have to get toilet paper from a table near the door and take it with you to a public restroom outside.

The people I've met have just been fantastic. They lent me an umbrella and even a key to the apartment complex.

Jet lag is going to be annoying, but I think I'll be over it after tonight.

If you're thinking about Skyping me or saying hello, South Korea is 16 hours ahead of Washington/Oregon. If i'm online on Skype, I'm probably at my computer.

That's it for now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Last full day in the US

I'm leaving tomorrow, the 16th. I've got my big suitcase packed and just have to throw some miscellaneous stuff into my smaller suitcase and I'll be ready to go. Figuring out how to adapt all my electronics (all two of them) has been annoying, but I think I've got it handled.

Now I've got almost an entire day (just a few small errands) during which to do...whatever, before I get on the place tomorrow.

I've been reading up on some Korean customs and culture, and there's a few things that bother me, but that also make me curious to see how they function in practice. "Kibun" for one, which doesn't translate directly but can be described as "pride, face, mood, or state of mind." As an example of this, the site says a person may lie to your face, even when you know they're lying, in order to preserve your Kibun. External appearances are much more important than the values represented by them, such as honesty. It also says a student might bow to you on meeting you or entering your class, but may also answer the phone during class, talk out of turn, and plagiarize work.

The drinking culture also shocks and excites me. As near as I can tell, the information I have is current, so some highlights are:
-Many business relations don't trust each other until they get very drunk together
-Drinking is often done as quick as possible to get real drunk, real fast
-If your glass is ever empty, it will be filled, so you have to leave alcohol in your glass if you want to stop
-Refusing can be impolite (but is becoming more acceptable)

Sounds dangerous. I'd love to teach some Korean friends "Double Jeopardy" and turn it into an international phenomenon!

I fully expect to embarass myself culturally a few (dozen) times, but hopefully I'll be forgiven for being an ignorant westerner.

Very exciting times.

Also, if you can find the picture associated with the title of this blog on or anywhere else, send it to me! It's a monkey relaxing, saying the title to somebody off camera. It's hilarious.