Trash Furniture Afficianado

This week in Trash Furniture Afficianado: A lovely, Korean one piece combination breakfast, lunch, dinner table and night stand.

You can see I’ve already put it to good use. You can see the Korean textbook I bought Sunday night, my Zune, my phone charger (white cord), Zune charger (black cord), and the entirety of Aesop’s Fables (I’ll explain).

It’s shitty quality, but it shows just how low the table really it is. It isn’t nearly high enough to use comfortable from the couch (plus it’d totally mess up the chi flow of the room [and I’d probably fuck my shins over on bathroom trip in the dark]). In all probability, it was probably a Korean family’s dinner table until they threw it away. When I saw it in the trash, I figured perhaps one of the legs was broken or something, but aside from a little wear and tear on the finish on the table, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Monday I didn’t do much in any of my classes except talk with them about their weekend and my weekend. I’m technically not responsible for anything other than teaching them the program, but I really want them to get better at natural conversation rather than just regurgitating what they’ve memorized from the stories we use. Ultimately, I think it will help them with learning the programs more easily, but I can tell most of them hate it. I really have to push to get full sentences out of them. I told them about my trip to Yeouido and showed them some pictures from the blog. David, ever the quick one, immediately recognized my name in the title of the blog and asked me if it was my website. I said yes, but didn’t let him see the URL. He wouldn’t be able to understand what I write for the most part, but one never knows what kind of pictures I’ll post, so maybe one of my fourth graders knowing the website isn’t a good thing.

Today was another slow day for the kids. I went through and made all my classes take turns reading and then I’d ask comprehension questions. One of the big problems I have is getting the kids to think about what they’re reading and not just repeating without thinking. A lot of times they can read the sentence “The boy goes to the store” perfectly well, but if I ask “Where did the boy go?” they just stare at me blankly. I might be slightly sick. When I wake up there’s a little twinge in my throat and I had to yell a lot today. It doesn’t really hurt, but I can just tell something’s not right.

One of the big reasons I’m not really upset about being here six weeks and not having Internet in my place is the opportunities that being in DnD for a couple hours every other day or two affords me. I walked by on my way to dinner and saw Julia in here. I went to the Kim Bap place nearby and had a quick meal of bibimbap. I hadn’t had it for awhile because I’ve been trying a lot of new stuff. I almost forgot how delicious it is. I came back to DnD and Julia was still studying with a friend of hers. Next Friday, all the kids in my school have a big round of midterms. On Monday, when I asked what they did on the weekend, about 90% of the kids said that they didn’t do anything except study. The other ten percent went to grandma’s house.

While I was sitting here just reading through my various English teachers in Korea blogs and downloading some Korean learning stuff, I was biting my nails a lot. Julia got my attention and said “we are the same” and pointed at her fingernails. Then she said that she even bites the skin off her fingers sometimes and concluded “I am a hand hunter.”

When teaching or talking to Korean kids, you have to be ready for quick topic changes. A lot of times when I teach I’ll have at least some basic plan for what I want to be talking about, but a kid will pop up with something completely off-topic, but usually much more interesting. Plus, I never want to shoot down a chance for them to practice speaking unscripted English. So right after we finished the hand hunter conversation, Julia’s expression changed really quickly to a really sad one. In a kind of round-about way, she asked why Lawrence was her English teacher and not me, because she likes me more. Ain’t that just goddamn adorable. She said it made her angry and sad (her facial expression looked more like frustrated than anything else). I had to explain that I taught after school, so she’d have to ask her mom to put her in the program, and then I’d be her teacher. This is literally something Mr. Lee has asked me to do. He said I should hang out around the bang bang (lit: room room, but it’s the bouncy room near my apartment named after a bouncing sound) and make friends with the kids and tell them to ask their parents to enroll them in his program. I haven’t gone that far, but I actually do wish that Julia was in my classes because she’s a great kid.

I forgot my camera at home, so I went home real fast to get it, then came back and took a picture of Julia and her friend (Julia is on the right).

I’ve said it before, but she’s just one of those kids with a great energy about her. It’s one of those intangible things. It’s really hard to explain, but she’s a really awesome kid.

Actually, when I came back, I guess she’d done something to piss off her mom, because they were arguing and her mom kept slapping her on the hip and back and stuff. It was pretty comical. Didi (Julia’s mom) explained that in America if I saw someone hitting their kid I’d call the cops, but in Korea it’s completely normal for a parent to hit their kid, in public even. And it is. I think it’s part of the reason why Korean children play so roughly.

About Aesop’s Fables: Sunday night, Chang-ki picked Dave and I up. We got Dave a blanket and pillow, which Mr. Lee said he’d reimburse me for. He couldn’t do it himself because he was very sick. After we dropped Dave at home we went back to Yawoori and found a big bookstore in the main mall. I looked around and found a nice looking Korean textbook in just a couple minutes. We ended up staying there for like half an hour more because something caught my eye. American fiction and classics. Specifically, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Actually, I thought it was a pretty long, boring book (I read it on the recommendation of a girl – go figure), but I had tried explaining the phrase ‘catch-22’ to Chang-ki on a couple occasions (I still don’t think I’ve done a particularly good job of it), so it was relevant to the company.

The American fiction was crazy expensive. At least $20 for each book. Some of them were really great books, like The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien or Light in August by Faulkner, but not $20 good. I’ve already got those at home. They did have a decent selection of Penguin Classics, though, which were much more bargain priced. I kept fussing over them and couldn’t pick one before someone came along to tell us the book store was closing soon. Instead, I kept explaining things like Aesop’s Fables, what Middle English is (I read a passage from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales), the basic plot of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and that I liked reading Russian authors like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy because they write such thick books (you really get your money’s worth). Chang-ki took a couple pictures of the books I was talking about, then Monday he brought me Aesop’s Fables. He printed them off at work from some website he uses to find e-books.

One last humorous DnD event before I leave:

As I was writing this, a couple middle-aged Korean women came in and sat next to me. From the body language and how one of them was holding their phone, I was suspicious that they might be taking my picture. After awhile one approached me holding something and asked me if I liked the candy. I opened it, and from the smell I could tell it was made of kim — seaweed. I like seaweed, particularly with rice, and ever willing to try something I popped it in my mouth. The first thing I noticed was that it was extremely tough to chew. I guess one is supposed to suckle the sweet seaweed-y-ness from it. A moment later, one of the Korean ladies explained “Tomorrow you will go poop poop good. This candy cleans your colon.”

Bueno. That’s just what I need. Some seaweed flavored Colon Cleanse. I just laughed and thanked them, and kept eating it. A couple times it made me choke a little. The longer it was in my mouth and the more impatient I got with it being there, the more I chewed it and the worse it got. It’s gone now. I don’t think I’ll eat the other piece they gave me. Mayhap I’ll find another poor foreigner to try it out on.

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