Monday, March 29, 2010

As of day 10, I hate my new job

I really expected a lot from this school because it's part of a well-known chain and is run very professionally. The kids are all very smart and have to test to get into this school. However, the actual job is not about teaching but about pleasing the parents, including putting students in classes way above their level where they can't understand the material and can't learn anything, and flat-out lying to parents in meetings and on report cards about how well their children do in class.

It's not that I have any difficutly in finding a way to write total B.S. about the kids with my degree in BS (aka PR), but I find the practice absolutely disgusting and morally reprehensible. I feel really guilty over having to do this. I even have to do the pre-k students' work for them so the parents see it's being done correctly because the children are incapable of performing at the level of their textbooks. And what do kids learn when I do the assignments for them?

I don't know what to do. These practices are not uncommon in private schools; I'm just amazed at seeing them in one with such an upstanding reputation. Let me know if you have any advice or suggestions for dealing with a job that violates your personal ethics.

I'm so stressed out over the long hours (9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) and these things required of me, to say nothing of having migraines 3 days a week because nearly everyone in Korea smokes nor of being called fat more times in one week than in 23 years. How come public school teachers are allowed to hit the children and I'm not?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Balkan Bonanza

Fundraiser event @ Club FF in Hongdae, 3/26/10, to buy instruments for Romani children. I'm usually more of a photo person, but I was on a video kick for this event.

(Instead of happily offering free publicity for all these very talented artists, I'm not posting ANY names because some performers are griping about their public performance being public.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bubi bubi

Korean advertising is awesome. I often find myself thinking, "I don't know what they're selling, but I want it," while watching commercials with sexy dancing girls for everything from digital cameras to ramyun to soju. This is not one of those.

Seriously, wtf is this?

March Hafla

A Middle Eastern food & dance party at Andalous in Itaewon, 3/20/10

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Talya took me shopping at Dongdaemun for my first time. It was super fun. My favorite was a little jewelry shop where I made out with a necklace, a bracelet, and 4 pairs of earrings for 3,500 won. Winna! I also got a super cute skirt for work and will be returning for more whenever I actually get paid.

The loot:


Poetry in my soul

Inspired by missing the St. Patrick's Day Festival in Seoul to spend 9 hours of my Saturday at work (and also by my time here). For the record, I have not embellished.

"Korea Is..."

The stink of garbage cluttering every street of every neighborhood from the most affluent to plywood lean-tos on dirt and rubbish lots, and the warm, wet, choking sewage carried on the breeze.

The acrid smoke of cigarettes burning your eyes, filling your nose, and clinging to your plate of food (which, by the way, should be the least of your worries considering there are no health codes) in many restaurants and cafes, especially in buildings and bathrooms lined with "No Smoking" signs.

A robot drone population in black and black, 4-inch heels, tights, and short skirts for every season with the diversity of two hairstyles: pin straight and half-permed.

Tinny-pitched teenagers joyfully delivering pre-packaged, mass-produced, hyper-saccharin, farcically sexualized songs and dance punctuated by the hawk and spit of old men, young men, and women desecrating the street.

Don't look down because there's spittle enough to disgust even a crude, snuff-chewing churl, but watch your step lest you disturb any number of the myriad vomit puddles dotting the sidewalk, the subway station, and the train itself.

It's gray skies, gray high-rises, bridges, and cities, gray days without end. I thought I saw a smidgen of blue sky once, peeking from between gray clouds, but I couldn't be sure through the perpetual gray haze of pollution.

More than a jostle in a crowd, it's a forceful check in an empty hall because you dared stand where ajosshi intended to walk, and more often it's violent shoves from a 4-foot 8-inch, hunched over ajumma with a "Fuck you" attitude, sharp elbows, and a fierce jab, unexpectedly spry in navigating public transit despite a crooked shuffle in the open.

It's vinegar and brine on your tongue, tempered with fire and garlic if you can take it. Lacking finesse, creativity, and skill in preparation, the cuisine wants for any and every taste except intensity.
Or it's plain: white rice with every meal, morning, noon, and night.
The only outstanding offering is a smorgasbord of mouth-watering international sensations.

The hot, humid, sour fetor of rotten cabbage rotting in bowels and spewing forth from the mouths of 50 other people on the subway crashing against you, drowning in it, inescapable.

Image over substance. Who cares if a child cannot comprehend a single word from her teacher's mouth if moving her to an advanced class looks good on the record, reflects well on the school, and appeases the parents with perceived academic growth? Nobody.

It's no reason to live but to win.

Did you know payment of blood money is not only legal but encouraged and accepted as the norm in place of justice as recourse?


Saturday, March 20, 2010


~Yesterday I finished my last day of training at the new job and will start teaching next week. Highlights include a pre-k student named Princess, a middle school boy named Joy, and a pre-k student getting a handful of boob on my second day. I thought she was going for my hair (which a lot of them do and I don't mind), but now I know better and will watch her hands in the future. Funny how only the girls ever go for my chest. Has anyone else ever had this problem?

~Last night I went for pizza with the other foreign teacher from Texas (Houston) and a new Korean teacher. They've been teaching one another new words, and the word of the day was "진짜?" (Really?) Surprisingly useful, one can use it in response to nearly any statement. In getting to know one another, we certainly ensured its overuse.

~This is my third migraine this week. :0(

~I counted 4 puddles of vomit within a 20 meter radius on my way home tonight.

~I had to get up at 6:30 this morning to be at work by 8 a.m. ON A SATURDAY to attend a workshop until 4 p.m. though we didn't get back until after 5. While I was not taking notes about how to read a syllabus, I was compelled to compose a scathing piece of poetry about Korea that I'm looking forward to editing and posting tomorrow.

~I saw a bumper sticker on a car today that read "I am KOREAN." "진짜?" I thought, but I don't think there's such a thing as sarcasm, so the joke is really only funny to me. I've been told Korean humor is limited to slapstick and poop, and I've seen nothing to the contrary on TV and in advertising.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jesus H. Christ

Your butchering the English language makes the baby Jesus cry.

Do NOT use prepositions with the word "debate." You can't debate ON anything except your ass (if you happen to be sitting).

I'm a copy editor, and I must learn to accept that I will never have a job or a friend that doesn't inspire rage daily.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I wanted pancakes for dinner today. I had pancake mix but the directions were all in Korean and the pictures on the package didn't clarify anything either. It's been sitting in my pantry well over a month waiting for me to gather the courage to do something with it. I figured 'what the hell?' and decided to mix some stuff, put it on the stove, and see what happened.

For those of you new to my acquaintance, I don't cook, not because I can't but because I'm not fond of it. Put a recipe in front of me and I'll make it happen, but my knowledge base and cooking repertoire is similar to that of a 9-year-old child: scrambled eggs, grilled cheese, French toast, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and can sauce, etc. So doing things from scratch is, at best, a very bad idea.

I cracked two eggs into my mixing bowl, poured in some milk (maybe a cup and 1/2?), added half a package of pancake mix and started mixing. In the 'wth' spirit of the endeavor, I tossed in a tsp or so of rum extract, some cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, and a diced banana.

The end result, though wholly unrelated to a pancake, turned out to be a surprisingly delicious sort of bizarro banana rum bread pudding garnished with more banana slices and, naturally, pancake syrup. I marvel and delight in the result but despair of the possibility I may never be able to recreate this unlikely masterpiece of newbie fu (aka beginner's luck).

In short: I am amazing, sporadically.

COEX Aquarium

COEX Mall @ Samseong Station, Line 2. The first half of the exhibit is lame sauce, but the surprise freak of nature and sharks made it all worth it. But skip the nearby Kimchi Museum. Regardless of one's opinion of kimchi, it was lame-o.

Balloonfish? "The body covered with sharp spines totally. Inflate if molested." Weirdest instructions I've ever read.


Sea stars

A big damn fish

A marsh snai [sic]

"When a man touches the fish, he/she can be fainted by the generated electricity."


Swellfish aka balloonfish in Korean-to-English

Did you ever have those plastic froggy toys as a child?

Shark attack!

This weird fish would not leave the ray the fuck alone. Fish kept rubbing up against Ray, and Ray looked so annoyed but would not acknowledge Fish. I think they had a lovers' quarrel.

Eels are ugly.

My arch nemeses. For anyone who's curious, I am rationally terrified of jellyfish.

Some screensaver fish and more of the terrors of the deep.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Namsan Tower and Teddy Bear Museum

There's a big tower on a hill in the middle of Seoul with a Teddy Bear Museum at its base. It's a popular tourist attraction and I went on Saturday.

View from the top. Yes, it is always this hazy from pollution.

Sweethearts write their names and a message on these locks and throw away the key.

The teddy bear museum is not an exhibit about teddy bears but about the history of Korea as portrayed by costumes teddy bears. I'll post video later today. I've never liked history, but if it were taught like this in school, I might reconsider. You see, I have a huge teddy bear collection back home; I love this.

Animatronic teddy bears:

How to get there: We caught a yellow #3 bus in Itaewon that took us all the way up the hill to the base of the tower. 12,000 won for combined Tower and Teddy Bear Museum admission.


Picture 1

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bizarre Korean Foods

I know it's a lot of material, but I found it entertaining enough to watch it all in one shot.

Raw sea squirt, raw mussel, wriggling tentacles:

8-year-old bean paste, fermented skate, dead body soup:

Boiled alive mudfish, ox tail soup, congealed blood cake, knee cartilage, samgyupsal:

Kimchi, dukboki, blood sausage, unidentified innards:

Turtle soup, blowfish, eel:

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I wonder if people on the subway watch me as much as I watch them. I don't think I succeed at being subtle about it either. Maybe it's because I flash my camera at people passed out or wearing funny clothes.

That guy I mentioned in the last post who was bothering me on the subway also prevented me from getting a picture of this crazy-looking hobo, thereby angering me even further aside from his just being creepy and annoying.

Do you find people on the subway as interesting as I do? Do you stare? Admit it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bumming around Itaewon

I hung out in Itaewon earlier this week. Everyone I meet hates the area, but I dig it. I started with a morning belly dance lesson and no plans for the rest of the day. My next stop was What the Book? where I scored the following titles:

~Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses by Isabel Allende
~Europe on a Shoestring
~1981 Collector's Edition Kama Sutra [Includes Explicit Photographs] (They're really awful; I love it.)

I spent a few hours at the Nescafe enjoying my finds and people-watching.

Yes, this person is passed out at 1:35 p.m. Looks comfy.

And then I headed home, only to be stalked by some creepy dude on the subway. Why oh why do men think it is OK to approach solo young women minding their own business? Ugh. I'm thinking about buying the biggest set of headphones I can find just to wear on the subway. No, I don't even have an mp3 player, but that's entirely beside the point.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's a love/hate thing

And I think it always will be. Here's a rare look inside my thoughts.

3 p.m. It's snowing. In March. God must really hate Korea, and I'm kinda with Him on this one.

5 p.m. Mmm... waffles. Korea numbah one-uh!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Internet longing

I'm sitting here at my first PC bang because I don't have internet at home. I'm paying for internet, but I don't have a modem. The person in the apartment before me took it with him (wtf?) and my boss said I'd have to go out and buy my own (wtf?), which sounded odd, but maybe the internet works differently in Korea? Not so much. I'll talk to her tomorrow and ask her to contact the internet company to bring me a modem.

Sorry for the resulting lack of update.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why do women blog?

Why do I blog?

I have a lot to say.
I have a story to tell.
I can't *not* write.
I want to be famous.
I want people to find my words interesting and entertaining.
I want to leave this legacy for my children when I leave this world.

But I think Shel Silverstein put it best in his poem "Put something in":

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance,
’Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.