Thursday, April 29, 2010

Beyond clumsy

On Wednesday one of my 4-year-olds fell off the table and bumped her head on the floor. (They like to sit on the table while they're ignoring story time, which is all the same to me.) I didn't push her and she wasn't hurt, but she did spend the rest of the class sobbing, gasping, and sniffling for like 20 minutes.

Yesterday she fell off her chair, from a sitting position, not even 12 inches from the floor. I don't know how. She looked stunned and close to crying until the other student distracted her again. But not 10 minutes later she was jumping up and down on the table, and none to gracefully I might add. I snatched her down saying, "Oh no, no, no, my darling little dumbbell. Don't you remember what happened yesterday? You silly thing." Of course she couldn't understand a word I said.

It just goes to show that common sense cannot be taught and has never been bred into the Korean bloodline.

And then TODAY, she fell on her face from standing on her own two feet. She jerked back as I reached for her hand and then tumbled on the floor, her head narrowly missing the wall. I breathed a sigh of relief when she jumped back up to keep goofing around. I'm really clumsy, but 진짜? Maybe "accident prone" is the phrase I'm looking for.

Yesterday one of my older students argued with me about the proper spelling of "boost." The word "boots" absolutely was not on that spelling test, but I don't think he's ever gotten a less-than-perfect score before then. It was a tragic thing to witness, let me tell you.

Later, one of the teachers warned me the same student was being disagreeable because he was hungry. Even at his best, I think the boy a foul, bothersome child. I found that you can tame train bribe placate the monsters with candy. Yay.

The most notable part of my day was walking home with another teacher and just as we passed a little old lady, ajumma let loose an impressive, rip-roaring, might-want-to-check-your-pants toot. I couldn't hold back my all-too-loud peal of laughter and prayed she didn't turn around to beat me senseless. I may be going to hell for that one, but holy shit, it was the funniest damn thing I've heard in months. And we laughed about it all the way home, too.

That night, I sat on a guy on the subway. I usually have pretty good aim when squeezing my behind into a tight spot, so I can only conclude that he saw me coming and kicked out his knee just a little farther so the dirty foreigner wouldn't try to sit there. Too slow, I sat on him instead. Luckily I don't know "sorry" in Korean; I didn't really want to say it anyway.

Thursday was made for comedy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I just finished "Wicked" last night and am amazed at the depth of such a popular book. The characters, setting, and plot are all beautiful, dynamic, and well-developed. It really is as good as everyone says, and I look forward to reading more from Gregory Maguire.


At the beginning of the week, we print out spelling lists to hand in to the front desk to be posted online for students for their end-of-the-week spelling tests. This isn't even my class, but my director just called me in to interrogate me about the issue. Her first question was if it was my handwriting, to which I replied (honestly), "no." So she went on to explain that somebody marked out "calendar" by hand and wrote in "calender" on one of the official lists, so a lot of students got it wrong and now she needs an explanation to give to the parents, as if this were my fault. She asked me "Well, whose handwriting is it?" I'm really sorry, but I really don't know. I can only identify the other native female teacher's handwriting because it's girly, so I can only tell you it's neither mine nor hers.

Maybe I forgot that I had fudged my resume by adding "graphology" on my list of skills, right there beside "gift of prophecy," as mentioned in an earlier post. My bad.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who can say their time in Korea is complete without having puked both on the street and from a taxi? That was my Saturday night. No rockin' party, friends, or even booze was involved. No, I was trapped in the city with a migraine by 7 p.m. and nowhere to go but a jimjilbang. But I couldn't even handle the taxi ride from Noksapyeong to Itaewon without having to stick my head out the window, just barely missing someone standing in the road.

I lack the words to describe how miserable the remainder of my night was in the hot, humid, stuffy spa, lying on a marble slab with no pillow, waiting hours for the families and their children to all shut the hell up and go to sleep, listening to the same cell phone ringing 3 or 4 times in the night in the SLEEPING AREA. Ugh.

Most days I don't believe I'll make it out of this country alive.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"I came here with good intentions. Something changes over time.Your belief that you are making a difference in the students’ lives turns into a lost cause. Your belief that they (students/teachers/admin) give a rat’s ass – disappears. Your belief that they are actually capable teachers – vanishes. You will remain, alone, to spend your year in purgatory. Teaching in South Korea is the midway point of nowhere. You won’t grow professionally or skillfully. You will instead grow to hate your job."

From Teaching English Sucks in Korea, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Evolution of Shadows

I read this book for the Seoul Women's Book Club this month, and I ADORE it.

In 1995 a missing photojournalist's former lover, his interpreter, and his mentor travel to Sarajevo to search for any sign of him after the war. The book tells each person's history with him alternating with accounts of their current search. Moving, sexy, gripping, and stunning, I highly recommend this book and will probably read it a second time before the month is out.

"About three things I was absolutely certain. First, Edwart was most likely my soul mate, maybe. Second, there was a vampire part of him–which I assumed was wildly out of his control–that wanted me dead. And third, I unconditionally, irrevocably, impenetrably, heterogeneously, gynecologically, and disreputably wished he had kissed me."

A Twilight parody from The Harvard Lampoon. There are a few good laughs, especially toward the beginning, but even at a mere 154 pages, the thing does tend to drag on a bit. It's worth thumbing through at the bookstore but not purchasing.

My favorite quotes:

Edwart "was muscular, like a man who could pin you up against the wall as easily as a poster, yet lean, like a man who would rather cradle you in his arms. He had reddish, blonde-brown hair that was groomed heterosexually. He looked older than the other boys in the room—maybe not as old as God or my father, but certainly a viable replacement. Imagine if you took every woman's idea of a hot guy and averaged it out into one man. This was that man."

"I had recently come into possession of a Thesaurus. You would not believe how many words there are! When I opened that book, I was like, whoa! Word party!"

Friday, April 16, 2010

This week I gave up on the hope that I might ever live in a mold-free environment and put some posters and things on my walls. Yesterday, my boss informed me that she still can't get a hold of the landlord about getting the wallpaper redone, so she didn't pay my rent this month so he will call her.

Or I'll come home one day to find a cute Korean family in my officetel and all my stuff on the street.

And I bet the late fee will be deducted from my paycheck, too.


I think my foot is broken

Seriously, though. My left foot's been hurting pretty badly since Saturday's hash (I didn't run, but there were a ton of staris on the walking trail.) and after last night's belly dance lesson, I'm limping today. It hurts near the middle of the ball when I stand, walk, or put any weight on it, but it's not surface pain and doesn't feel like a sprain. I don't think a mere bruise would make me limp either. I have an ankle brace, but it doesn't even touch the part that hurts.

Someone told me you can't get a fracture without having caused notable trauma, but women get stress fractures in their feet all the time from wearing crappy shoes. I'm not saying I wear crappy shoes...much, but it makes sense that there could be additional, seemingly benign, fracture triggers, right?

The good news is I only spend 3.5 hours a week walking nearly a mile to and from work (or usually running to avoid being late), 32 hours a week standing in a classroom, and my entire weekend walking around seeing sights. At least I usually tennis shoes. Unfortunately, arch supports give me blisters.

Maybe I'll go to the doctor tomorrow. I'll point at my foot, and he'll look in my mouth and nose and prescribe me some antibiotics. I'll be good as new in no time at all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Please no

I overheard some teachers talking about how their jobs here are good practice for having children later. I gasped and thought to myself, "Please, God, no! Don't let that be true!" Because if it is, if teaching is even remotely akin to parenting, you can be sure I will never EVER have children. Someone please tell me the two are wholly unrelated and that just because my students inspire me to sepuku, it doesn't mean I wouldn't necessarily enjoy raising my own children as much as I've always imagined I would.

Pretty please?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Being awesome

The Saturday morning hash at Ichon was a little rough. I've been sticking to walking trails because running hurts my shins and I don't know how to work my way back up to it. But this walking trail blew. There were so many fucking stairs that my knees, feet, and shins still hurt today. And I have good sneakers. Meh. It ended at Yongsan Family Park, though, which was gorgeous despite gray skies. The moment we set foot in the park, the sounds of the busy streets faded away and I felt instantly calmed. Outwardly, the place is entirely unremarkable, but it's so peaceful and relaxing. I hope I have a chance to go back sometime. I highly recommend it for a short visit or picnic.

I met some new friends for lunch at Zelen, a Bulgarian place in Itaewon. The group and their vibe was fantastic, and I can't wait to go camping with them for Beltaine. The food- not as much. I liked the appetizer salads comprised of cucumber, tomato, and cheese, but the main courses were heavy meat dishes with heavy sauces. Meh.

The good company led to a shopping trip in Hongdae, but not before stopping in at the Tartine pie shop down a nearby alley in Itaewon. Oh-em-gee. We all creamed ourselves at first bite. Seriously, we sounded like an "Oh!" chorus. I got a stamp card and can't wait to go back this weekend, since I've been spending nearly every weekend out there anyway.

I didn't know there was shopping in Hongdae. I've also never been there in daylight. But we stopped in at a piercing shop, a condom shop, and a craft fair at the playground. It happens every Saturday, but this was the first I'd heard of it. There was handmade jewelry, t-shirts, hair goods, leather goods, postcards, caricatures, beautiful paintings, and more. This is another event I recommend for those who can appreciate the folksy feel to it.
(I'm I am here, where in the hell is the demon?)

One of our party led us to Club Oi for a drink, though I only had time to poke my head in. I'd read about the place, but the article's photos could hardly do it justice. It's like something from the mind of Gaudi. Good music, too. Love it.

I had dinner with the students from the free Korean lessons I used to attend before I found more interesting things to do with my Saturday afternoons. I can now say I don't like Japanese food. And not just because they forgot my order, brought it out an hour after everything else, and it burned the hell off the roof of my mouth. Anyway, as the party of 12 broke up, 4 of us headed to the Aussie Bar in Itaewon. I've been wanting to go but hadn't had the chance. I'd tell you how it was, except we didn't even go in because it was crowded. Instead, we grabbed a little table on the patio and shared a carafe of an awesome house red. Yum.

Sufficiently buzzed, I made my way down the block to Bless U, where two hashers' joint birthday and goodbye party was just getting started. Free drinks from new friends for my broke ass ftw! The party moved to an apartment up the street and then back out around various bars I couldn't possibly remember. I was pretty smashed, had only bought myself one drink all night, and had a hell of a time. Things finally wound down in McDonald's with a desperately needed burger and horrendous fries before heading to a friend's place to crash for a bit before calling the party host in the a.m. to retrieve my overnight bag.

I woke up still drunk and barely headed off a surely stupendous hangover with a bottle of juice and breakfast at Paris Baguette while debating whether to go home or show up for the event to which I'd R.S.V.P.ed. I cleaned up in a subway bathroom, brushed my teeth, changed my socks, applied makeup, and felt miraculously better. So I made my way to a zoo outing with 20 adults and 15 Korean orphans.
I can't believe I'd forgotten why I hate zoos. A mere 10 minutes inside the gate, I remembered. Bleck. What a miserable place. Anyway, the kids were cute and sweet and amazingly well-behaved, thereby debunking my hypothesis about my students' parents not beating them enough. Damn. They had a blast and we got to see an unremarkable dolphin show and hit Baskin Robbins before finally heading home. Oh yeah, told the kids we'd get ice cream, but they wanted silkworm larvae. What a sad, sad childhood to have in Korea, not allowed to be adopted after 6 months of age and choosing bugs over ice cream.

A lousy joke

Guest post at Lousy Korea:

Two women board a crowded subway car with 9 children in tow, all under the age of 10. How many people offer their seats to the beleaguered moms?

Just me- a dirty, fat foreigner with a distaste for Korean children.

The fun part was how this forced the children to stand closer to me, all of them looking moderately uncomfortable except for the youngest (maybe 4-ish?) who stared at me unabashedly for a full half hour before something shiny broke her concentration.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Dear United Airlines,

I recently had the misfortune of booking a flight on your airline. Flight 844 to fly from Seattle, Washington to San Francisco, California from 11:51am-2pm on April 5, 2010. I say misfortune because the events of that flight have left such a poor taste in my mouth and horrible feelings in regards to the personnel working for you that I highly doubt myself or any of my friends, family, and acquaintances will every use your airlines again." (Click above link for full letter.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lousy lines

Really? How hard is it to draw a lousy line? Come on now.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Insanity gene marker

I think there's an insanity gene marker attached to the Korean one.

About a third of our preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten students have been out sick this week. One teacher was ill Monday and Tuesday and the other two tried to call in sick today. I laughed when the first ill teacher told me and asked how that would work (since there are only 4 of us, who all teach classes every hour). He said it's not. They're coming in.

Later the director called us all into her office for a meeting. She told us the history of how up until a year ago, none of the teachers' contracts offered sick days and they would have their pay docked if they missed any days. But because she's such a benevolent dictator director, the contracts now offer (maybe) 3 sick days with pay, and so she expects us to show more enthusiasm for our work by going to the doctor before we become ill. You know, because we all included the gift of prophesy on our résumés.

Also, the parents don't appreciate that classes have to be combined when a teacher is ill and spread rumors that teachers choose not to show up for work because the dictator director doesn't pay them enough. Because what could possibly possess a teacher to take a sick day?

Henceforth, the only way our sick days will be excused is if we bring a note from the doctor whose office is next door to the school. Because if we're too ill to walk nearly a mile to school, then we should have no problem walking nearly a mile to see the doctor. And if we've already made it that far and gotten a prescription, why not just come in and infect as many students as possible so as to keep their parents happy?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wet paint

I have nothing to say about our school not having *washable* paints for pre-k arts and crafts time except that one of my classes will never paint in my presence again. Aside from my semi-permanently stained fingers, I am amazed to say I got away paint free - a good thing, too, because I rather like this shirt. Though I do wonder a bit what Joey's mother will think of the hot pink stain 3 inches in diameter on the knee of his bright yellow school uniform. Maybe he shouldn't crawl on the fucking table covered in paint, but then again, common sense is not a part of either the school curriculum or at-home training in Korea. Which explains a whole hell of a lot.

Thank you, BA in B.S.

I had to write a paragraph introduction to be placed on the school's Web site with my picture, basically detailing how much I love teaching. I'm not into lying (thank goodness for my pr degree), so this is what I came up with:

Hello, I'm -----, born in and raised near Dallas, Texas. I graduated from the University of North Texas in 2008 with a journalism public relations degree. Teaching came as an unexpected opportunity,* and I have been doing so in Korea since November 2009. I find ---- School students are the most amazing I have met.** I expect the coming school year to hold a lot of excitement in store.***

*Read: I have no desire to teach and do not enjoy it.
**They amaze me with their raised-by-wolves behavior, disrespect, and lack of common sense.
***This is the part where I don't say how much I look forward to teaching your children...because I don't, and where I don't explicitly state whether I intend to fulfill my contract...because I don't.

What a fun writing exercise.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Write something positive

Inspired by "The Day of Silver Linings" Facebook event occurring Friday to promote positive thinking for a day, I've decided to write a post detailing the positives of today.

~The teacher who's been sick came back today, so I was no longer in charge of the horde of pre-k students for 3 classes out of 4.
~My first class went really smoothly. My students all followed the instructions and did what they were supposed to with needing minimal individual help. One worked quite a bit slower than the others, but she finished before class ended, so it was OK.
~My outfit today was pretty sexy depsite no real effort on my part.
~I was lucky enough to find some very soft, very fresh wheat and nut bread at the store last night, so I enjoyed a fantastic pb&j sandwich for lunch today.
~The "Inspector Gadget" movie was on TV at lunch. I hadn't seen it or heard anything good about it, but I <3 Matthew Broderick.
~The sun was shining and it was a beautiful, breezy spring day.
~I picked up the apartment today at lunch. It looks a lot nicer.
~The students often finish the work quickly and are allowed to watch YouTube videos until the end of class. Because I was so effing sick of Mr. Bean and Mario gameplay (the things they love to watch), I exerted my dictatorial power and watched explosions and cat videos in class today. Cat videos in class FTW.
~Someone brought birthday cake to school.
~I realized one good thing about the new job is that I'm taller than all my students.
~I heard a juicy rumor from one of the teachers, who heard from one of the parents, who claims to have heard "from the source" that our director doesn't pay the teachers on time, which is why another teacher, who cannot, in fact, confirm this craziness, is leaving in a few weeks. Can you imagine what they'll think when another teacher puts in her 30 days notice around the same time?
~There are lots of fun things to look forward to this weekend including a trip to the zoo and wearing my new "Parfait Happy Virus" t-shirt.
~I opened my own stuck jars of jelly and spaghetti sauce today.
~I'm currently making spaghetti.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mayhem in the making

One teacher was sick today, so somebody decided the best plan of action was to combine the two pre-k classes for the greenest teacher there, me. This means I got to teach 17 5-year-olds all at once. Can you imagine? Really, just picture more than a dozen little Korean children in one small space. Yikes.

Actually, it was surprisingly civil. The more advanced class was very patient and helped the other class with some of the assignments. I was supposed to teach them "music" for 40 minutes, but having never taught it before and having no idea what to do, we opted for playroom time instead. What a madhouse; yet there were no fights and the big group was better behaved than each smaller class usually is in the playroom. It was a nice change for the one boy in a class of girls to have 6 other boys to play with and for the 2 girls in a class of boys to have 8 other girls to play with.

I just have one more combined pre-k class period after lunch to manage. I've decided to scrap the lesson (which involves 17 children with scissors) in favor of coloring. Can't wait.


I started hashing last week with the Seoul PMS Hash House Harriettes, a women only group, and really enjoyed it. We walked the trail, which was perfect since I haven't run in 4 months (with the weather being so cold) and come from a country (Texas, I mean) that doesn't have crazy hills like Korea.

This week I went with the Yongsan Kimchi H3 group, which had a good walking trail and fun afterparty. They sang a bunch of super bawdy songs, so I shared a few of my Amtgard ones and will have to remember more for next time.

I'm not really feeling the evening bar group, though. Everyone calls me "oh, a baby" because I'm the youngest person in the room by 3 years. That's a little cute the first or second time, less much the fifth and so on. Also, there are a lot of loud personalities and really annoying drunks, which wouldn't be so bad if they'd just leave me be since I fall into neither category. I have more fun watching and listening than being dragged into conversation just because I'm new.

Hash House Harriers are "a drinking club with a running problem" that meets on the weekends, and there are innumerable chapters throughout the world. A few members go ahead to mark a trail with chalk, and everyone else follows later to end at someone's apartment or a bar for drinks.

I'm desperately looking for reasons not to hate Korea, and I think hashing can be a big one. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can comfortably integrate with one or more groups and stick with this. With most of the members being much older than me, they remind me a bit of my Amtgard friends, and I hope I can find a similar connection here.

Yongsan Kimchi HHH
The wikipedia run-down

Pillow fight

Can you believe it went on for any hour before being broken up?