Archive for August, 2010

The Last Day of Summer (Vacation)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 31, 2010 by kingcal

So, tomorrow, September 1st, officially starts the second half of the school year here in Korea. Opposite of the fall start of schools in America, the school year here actually begins in March. I honestly have no idea what it’s going to be like tomorrow, other than pure chaos. I’ve received no schedule, which means of course that the students haven’t either. I think most of the day will be just ushering kids around and telling them where to go. Also, Diane ordered new books, but Mr. Lee isn’t sure when he’ll be able to get them, so we may be working without books for awhile. Joy. And the kicker is that two teachers are leaving again. That makes teachers six and seven. Jane at Oseong hasn’t quit just yet, as far as I know.

At first, all the teachers quitting was somewhat concerning. Then it became humorous. Now it’s a bit dumbfounding. I mean, working for Mr. Lee can be pretty unpleasant sometimes, but sometimes I just want to say come the fuck on. I can’t imagine working somewhere for three weeks and quitting. I’m beginning to think Koreans feel some kind of entitlement when it comes to jobs.

Monday all I did was collect the kids books and make sure they had finished all of the vocabulary pages. That’s all I’m in charge of. Diane only gives me like 10-20 pages of work in each book and takes the rest of the book for herself. Whatever. If they didn’t finish a page, I’d have them do it there in class, otherwise it was pretty much baby-sitting.

Today was a fairly normal day, until the end. I had my two schedule classes, and then as I was leaving, Diane asks me to correct a translated document. It was part of a contract for a new teacher. One of the other teachers had used Google Translate. Let me tell you, the thing was fucking gibberish. Combined legalese with the retarded way Google Translate works, it was damn near impossible to tell what the hell was going on. I ended up picking out keywords and pretty much writing it from scratch, trying to make it sound as much like I remember my contract sounding.

That took about half an hour, then I left, changed clothes, and went to DnD to relax. I get a call at 3:53 PM from Diane asking me where I am, because I need to come back to school and substitute a class since she had to go interview a new foreign teacher. Ugh. I love hearing with less than ten minutes to prepare (especially if I’ve already left school and changed clothes) that I have to teach an extra class. Still, it was my favorite class all summer, so we just finished a portion of the work Diane was supposed to do, did a word search, and then I left them fool around for like ten minutes while I finished checking their books.

Now I’m just relaxing back in the DnD, downloading some TV shows, waiting for dinner time to roll around. After dinner I have to bike to E-mart. I’ve recently run out of toothpaste and deodorant. It’s been raining every day for over the past week, but right now it’s taking a break, so I hope it lasts long enough to get dinner and E-mart it up. After that I’ve got hapkido. I’ve been looking forward to it since Friday night. I’m really surprised by how much I enjoy it.

I’ve noticed recently I’ve actually got the problem of being too busy.  I know so many people from different places, and I’ve got nearly every night planned with a specific activity, so weekends are my only true free time to see people at my leisure. I’ve got too many friends to see them all, so I feel bad, because I feel like I’m neglecting people. Since I spent the last couple weekends and I will spend the next one in Hongdae, I suppose I’ll stay in Cheonan and try to catch up with some people I haven’t seen in awhile.

Korean Word of the Day:

건어물녀 – geoneomul-nyeo – 건어물 (geoneomul) is the word for a specific type of dried fish. 녀 (nyeo) is just a general term for a female. So, what exactly is a dried fish female? It’s a kind of Korean slang for a girl that just sits around home all day, watching TV and eating, never doing her make up, never going out anywhere, no job, no school, and being a general waste of life.

(Almost) Another Week Down the Drain

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 26, 2010 by kingcal

Thursday, one of my short days, went by pretty quickly. I worked my first class a lot harder than usual. That means we did five whole pages out of the grammar book. Each page generally consists of 5-10 questions. It’s a second grade grammar book. The age range in the class is 3rd through 6th grade. Sometimes I’m not sure how I feel about their material. A good deal of the material seems to be far to easy for the majority of the class. However, some points do give them trouble, and the contrast between Treasures 1 and Treasures 2 (almost all 3rd graders, but most have lived in America or the Phillipines so they’re practically fluent) is dazzling.

My afternoon was Gold class. I’m not sure exactly how the classes were structured. I feel like Gold has to be the highest level for first graders in our program. We currently have Gold, Silver and Purple. I teach Gold and Silver on alternating days. I know that the students in Purple were generally my best students from Purple and Pink. However, I think the students in Gold in general grasp the material surprisingly fast. There are a couple students who seem to be out of their league, but most of the students are incredibly bright. I’m able to do games and activities that I simply wasn’t able to with my Purple and Pink classes.

I ran some errands after work. Got some new sandals. Waiting a little before I eat dinner. Tonight there’s a study group. I think we’ re trying to test out Thursdays again to see if enough people would come to make it worth it to make it a permanent fixture on the schedule. Since I’ll be in Yawoori anyway to play pool, I may as well go. I won’t be drinking though. I have to be at work at 8 AM, and I just think it would probably be best for me to cut back on the beer. I don’t think it’s at all possible for me to swear off alcohol completely, but I can reduce it a bit at least.

The last two nights were the first two nights of my hapkido lessons. From the reading I’ve done, hapkido is kind of a hybrid martial art. It’s a bit more technical, and tends to rely on technical prowess, footwork, leverage, and using an opponents size and strength against them.  However, there are also more traditional martial art techniques that range from long range kicks and short-range pressure point attacks, and even a wide range of weapons, including swords, ropes, nunchuks, and staves. All I’ve learned so far are a variety of kicks, how to fall down without getting hurt, and how to break out of holds.

The class was pretty small the first two days. Just myself, two girls, and the master. One girl is a white belt like me, but the other is a black belt. First day, I got my uniform, we did some stretching, kicks, some tumbling (the only thing I couldn’t do was the backwards somersault) and finished by practicing how to break out of holds and how to fall down without getting hurt. The master decided he was going to demonstrate how to counter holds on me for the class, so afterward I had a bit of a pain behind my shoulder.

Second day started off with the same stretching, but then we did 30 push-ups (it’s been a damn long time since I’ve done that many, and I’m glad I finished no matter how half-assed they were), 20 sit ups, and weird reverse sit ups. We laid on our stomachs, then our partner straddled our legs and we had to arch our torsos up with our arms off the ground and touch our head to the other person’s hand. Not really that hard, but a good stomach muscle work out.

After that, we went to the body bag and practiced kicks on it. Some I had already learned, but I learned a couple new ones, too. The last kick was the most fun. It’s a little hard to explain. Basically, if you start with your  left foot forward, you step forward while turning 180 degrees so your right foot is forward and you’re facing the opposite direction. Then you do 2-3 small hops on your right foot as you continue spinning in the same direction. As you come around, jump up and plant the left foot and bring your right around in a mid-height range roundhouse kick. I feel like I could definitely snap a rib on somebody doing this, however it takes kind of a long time to execute, so it seems like it would be pretty easy to dodge or block unless they’re already hurt or off-balance.

After maybe half an hour of various kicks on the bag (tee-hee) we practiced jump roping. I explained that I didn’t really know how. I mean, the logistics aren’t complicated. It’s just something I’ve never done. I remember picking up a jump rope as a kid, trying a couple times, failing and been like “Fuck this, I’m going to do something else.” I explained that in America jumping rope isn’t that popular. Maybe just some girls and athletes really ever do it a lot. Here everyone can jump rope. They have jump rope tests in gym class. You can see a fair number of kids on the playground every day just jumping rope for fun. Not even Double Dutch either. After just 10-15 minutes I had learned how to jump rope, jump rope on one foot, jump rope while switching feet, and jumping rope backwards. The last was the most challenging, but only because the rope kept catching on my pants. Once I pulled them up it was immediately easier to do.

My first day, the master asked how long I was going to be in Korea. I told him I wasn’t really sure, but maybe a couple years. He said that I could probably get a black belt in a year if I did my best. That really surprised me. I thought it took longer than that. When you get a black belt, you also get a card for your wallet that says you’re a black belt. I think they call it a license to kill. Anyway, the Koreans all seem super impressed with how quickly I can pick it up and execute it at least passably well. I’ve always been a quick learner. Just show me something once or twice, and generally I’ll get it down. This actually was part of my problem in college. I was used to not studying and retaining all the material, but in some of my zoology classes this just wasn’t feasible.

Anyway, this morning I was considerably sore. Arms and shoulders and back from the push-ups, and my left knee and calves from all the kicks. I don’t mind it much though. Lifting my arms over my head to put on/take off a t-shirt was probably the worst all day. I’m not going tonight because of the study group/pool night, but I’m already looking forward to Friday and whatever new I’ll be learning.

Korean Word of the Day:

누룽지: nurungji. The first time I got 볶음밥, boggeumbap or fried rice, with a friend they told me the rice that burns to the bottom of the pan was the most delicious. It pretty much is. It’s a little burnt, a little crispy, and a little chewy. Very satisfying. Anyway, recently I learned that this rice had a specific word for it. Apparently just describing it as burnt rice wasn’t good enough. So we get 누룽지. It amused the hell out of me that there was actually  a word for this. Indeed, you can even go to 누룽지 restaurants.

Thank God it’s Tuesday

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 24, 2010 by kingcal

Well, I had a pretty eventful weekend. Friday I went to a new bar in Cheonan. Rather, it’s existed for awhile, but it’s the first time I went. It was called Dolce, and it was decent. They were having food and unlimited beer for 20,000 won, so I made them regret it. The only two things that suck about it is that it’s a little far from Yawoori and out of the way, and the pool table their blows. Short, small, and has got about as much friction on it as a 60 year old whore. Balls run forever on it.

Anyway, Saturday, I studied a little, read a little, but I was super anxious about going to Seoul. Everyone was working on different schedules, so I just got fed up and headed to Seoul on my own. Met a friend who lives in Seoul in Hongdae and had a couple beers while I waited for people to show up. Fortunately, it only took maybe 20 minutes in between the first person to leave and the next people to show up.

We hung out for awhile in the central park area. There was a drum circle which was pretty cool, and a terrible band, but we had to wait for people to show up so we could start bar hopping. Actually, we only went to two bars. The first was cool as hell. Called Exit Bar. It was an old garage that someone turned into a bar. Actually, it looked like the set from the first Saw movie. The second bar was Club Drug, which had a dance party, but it was so packed we all pretty much just bought beer from the corner store and sat outside drinking and talking.

Now, I’m going to skip over some details and just say somehow I got separated from my friends. I suddenly realized I didn’t know anyone in the immediate area. I started walking around, but my phone was dying, so I didn’t have much opportunity to call people.  Just as I was about to get in a cab and head to a jjimjilbang, I ran into a friend. A rare stroke of luck for me.  I generally have the worst luck imaginable.

We went back to the Exit Bar, but after that kind of scare, I wasn’t really in the mood to drink anymore. At that point, I spent most of my time disliking the crowd there. They were all hipsters. Seemed so elitist and “Oh, yeah, I’m so in Korea.” That’s what I don’t like about Hongdae. Way too many goddamn foreigners. I joked with some Korean foreigners “Don’t tell them, but I don’t really like foreigners,” but it’s kind of true. I just think the bigger the city and the more kind of party/bar area, the more likely it is that the foreigners there are going to be douchebags.

Anyway, somewhere between 5-6 AM, I don’t really know except that the sun was rising, we went to a really nice jjimjilbang for some shut eye. Got up around 11 AM and headed back to Cheonan. Actually got home around 4 PM, but only because I had a lot of waiting in between trains. Went to my study groups as usual. Still pretty happy with how my Korean is progressing.

In my first group, I don’t do any strict studying, but eventually talk turns more to Korean, and I ask some questions. Mostly about single words. I taught them the slang phrases “cougar, black widow, and gold digger”. We were just talking about dating/women so they were relevant. They taught me some funny words, but more on that later.

Monday, I had to stay an hour late. Jane from Oseong was gone again, but they started the school year there, so gladly there weren’t any summer classes in the morning that would’ve forced me to cover Phonics again. Rumor is that she’s quitting. This is actually for medical reasons. She’s pregnant and has been feeling weak lately. Still, that’s six teachers in five and a half months. Gorsh.

I’m just glad it’s Tuesday right now. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my short days. Done at 2 PM. Sweet.  Also, tonight I’m going to my first hapkido lesson. Hapkido is a native martial art here, though not nearly as common as taekwondo. I got a message about it on my blog, and I’m looking for something to occupy the little bit of free time I have on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays before I go out. I’m pretty stoked about it.

Also, right now I’m looking forward to September. It’s going to be a good month. Just a quick breakdown.

Sep. 7th – going away party for a friend
Sep. 9th – 6 month anniversary in Korea
Sep. 11th – Wedding, going to Hongdae in Seoul to watch a friend DJ at a bar
Sep. 13th – My Birthday
Sept. 16th – a friend’s birthday
Sep. 21-23rd – Chuseok – Korean Thanksgiving – middle of the week, but they generally give the Monday before or Friday after off resulting in a 6 day weekend

There’s probably more but it’s slipping my mind right now.

Anyway, I’m bringing this to a close, but I do want to start something new. Korean Word of the Day. Now, I don’t at all intend to post every day, but more than once  week, so that’s just what I’ll call it. No, I haven’t forgotten about the Konglish, but I just got a little bored with it. I’ll get back with it later. Still, I’m just going to mix it up with some Korean vocabulary.

Korean Word of the Day:
꽃뱀 – ggot-baem – Literally, this word means “flower snake”. Can you guess what it means? Ggotbaem is an old slang word that translates to “gold digger” in English. Love it.

A Pretty Easy Week

Posted in Uncategorized on August 20, 2010 by kingcal

Some of my kids complained earlier this week that we never do anything fun (ever!) and they kept bugging me about watching a movie. I know that Diane shows her two hour grammar class in the morning like an hour of a movie every day. I’m sure that my students know it, too, which made it even worse. So I finally succumbed and promised I’d show them a movie Thursday and Friday.

Luckily, one of the computers already had some movies downloaded on it, Korean subtitles included, so I grabbed the hit classic Johnny English. As soon as the kids saw Rowan Atkinson, they shouted “Mr. Bean!” For some reason, every Korean knows who Mr. Bean is (also, every student I have, even the first graders that can’t read, know the word “cunning”. It’s their way of describing someone that’s cheating). I’d seen the movie when it came out in 2003, but I didn’t really recall much about it.

It seemed to go over pretty well. The first day, at first some kids said it was boring, but by the end of class, when I told them to go home they groaned because they wanted to keep watching.  The ending in particular seemed to have the kids in fits. I had my most advanced class write ten sentences about the movie. Just anything they wanted. What happened, if they liked it, who was in it, etc… A lot of kids described the main character as “stupid and genius”. I don’t know if solving a crime completely accidentally can grant one idiot savant status, but I’ll allow it.

Also, my last class played the Marco Polo game again with their free time after the movie. One may think that Rock, Paper, Scissors is a two, maybe three, person sport. Koreans would disagree with such a notion. I saw an eight-way battle royale go down. It took forever.

Anyway, the week wasn’t all peaches in cream. First of all, I had to watch Johnny English five times in two goddamn days, the first half seven times. Also, I got fed up with a student today. He’s basically just a class clown. He never brings his book. If he does, he doesn’t bring a pencil. He strolls into class 30 minutes late and prances around like a drum major. I got sick of it today. I didn’t yell. It would’ve been pointless. As soon as I saw him looking in through the door (waving and acting goofy), I just told him to go right back out and sit in the hallway. He got up a couple times and I just told him to sit back down.  Might as well just make him incapable of distracting the other kids and deprive him the privilege of watching the movie.

Also, Thursday morning, around 8:50 AM, Diane came into my office and asked me if I knew that I had to substitute teach the Phonics class. At 9 AM. For two hours. A teacher at another school was sick, so a teacher from our school went to sub for her, the Phonics teacher subbed for the teacher that left, and I had to substitute for the Phonics teacher. Thankfully, they were done with the alphabet, and we just spent two days covering the short I sound and doing a little review. Thursday they were atrocious. Friday, thankfully they were a little more subdued and manageable and we managed to have a little fun. Still, the room itself is awful because the air conditioner doesn’t work for shit, so I sweat like a motherfucker in there.

The class isn’t as overrun with trouble makers as you might expect. The girls are little sweethearts, and half of the boys aren’t bad (but they probably don’t belong in the class anyway, I’m not really sure why they’re there). Still, three trouble makers out of ten is enough. Today, I gave them a short break halfway through class to get some water, go to the bathroom, etc… I walk out of the room to see where they all were, just in to see them congregated around the top of the staircase. The worst trouble maker kicked off his “inside shoe”, which landed perfectly on the interior window ledge about twenty feet above the landing of the stairs. I told everyone to go back inside. He tried saying “But my shoe…” to which I just replied “Oh well. I don’t care (in Korean).” I think I would’ve been completely capable of knocking it down with a second shoe, but I’m not really going out of my way for that kid.

Tonight I don’t really know what the plan is, but I’m supposed to hang out with some friends. Tomorrow we’re going to Seoul to some bar in Hongdae that’s having some live music and a “dance party” as I’m told. I haven’t been to Hongdae since my second weekend in Korea, so I’ll make sure to make up for lost time. I’ll have to sleep in a  jimjjilbang again, but I’m told the guys I’m going with know a really good jimjjilbang with bunk beds. Money.

Korean Cultural Oddities Pt. 4

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by kingcal

So, I’m killing some time before I meet a friend for dinner, so I’m going to post a long overdue Korean Cultural Oddity post.

  • One of my Korean friends is getting married in two weeks. (“I’m getting married.” “What day?” “9-1-1.” “September 11th?” “Terror Day.”) She’s been seeing her boyfriend for about two years, which is actual fairly unusual in Korea. Most people get married much quicker. Many Koreans get married on their first year anniversary. Another friend said his uncle married a woman after 15 days. This is obviously not normal either, but I’ve also heard more than several stories about people getting married under 6 months. While on the rise, divorce is nowhere near as common here as in the States, so many of these quick marriages end up in unfulfilling marriages kept together mainly for kids and the sake of saving face.
  • Also, the whole engagement and proposal process is completely backasswards here. When I found out my friend was getting married she said “He proposed to me yesterday.” I asked her why I’d noticed her ring last week then. When Koreans are in a serious relationship, they just kind of assume that they’ll get married. It’s like an unspoken agreement. Eventually a date is just set. Then, perhaps a week or two before the date, the man will finally actually ask her if she’ll marry him. She said it took like an hour and a half. He took her to church saying he forgot something, and there was a path of candles, he asked her to marry him, then sang a song, played a video of some kind, and read some kind of love letter to her or something. Romantic, I’m sure, but completely strange.
  • Of course, before marriage, it’s quite normal for men and women to live at home with their parents until they’re married. While this obviously has an upper limit, and some people do choose to live on their own after college, most unmarried young people still live with their parents.
  • This has a lot of interesting consequences. I’d say pre-marital sex is about the same level here as America. Obviously, it happens. A lot. But it’s not necessarily talked about. However, if you’re both still living with your parents, it definitely complicates things. So what’s the answer? Love motels.  Love motels vary greatly. Some will only rent for an hour or two at a time, until after midnight. I’ve heard some come with their own computer right in the room. These are the place to take a date (or a hooker) when discretion is necessary.
  • I’ve talked about the sex industry here multiple times. Actually, I’ve picked up some cards to show you guys exactly what they look like. Soon. There’s also the double barber pole which essentially means “This way for a handjob”. Newly educated to me are Korean anmas. The word anma just means “massage, shampooing”. I think they’re the closest thing in Korea to the stereotypical “Asian massage parlor”. For the paltry fee of 80,000 won ($67.75) you get a veritable cornucopia of sexing. I’m told it starts with a shower, then a massage (someone described it more as a “Turkey Bath” in which the girl oiled herself up and just rubbed herself on him), and then the deed.
  • On a completely unrelated note, one of the most frustrating things about Korea is the complete lack of businesses that actually display their operating hours. Many will advertise that they’re open 24 hours, but almost no stores ever actually post when they open and close. It’s infuriating. I suppose one is just supposed to use their God granted Korean intuition to judge when the establishment will open or close, but as I lack this, I constantly find myself arriving to places too early or late.
  • Out with two Koreans last night, I learned a lot about Korean drinking culture. First of all, drinking games that involve cards just don’t exist.  They simply don’t have any card games to drink to. Such a stark contrast with the abundance of card drinking games in America baffled me. I couldn’t believe that didn’t have a single one.
  • They compensate for this short-coming by having fucking insane drinking games. The King game involves people basically drawing straws. One person is the King, and he will pick two numbers at random (without knowing who they correspond to) and dare them to do something together – make out, take off clothes, go to another person’s table and drink their beer (yes, this is a completely normal game to play in public), etc… A common punishment for refusing to perform a dare is to drink some concoction . I don’t remember the Korean word. It’s especially common to punish freshman in college with it. Basically, they take any number of alcohols, beer, soju, wine, liquor, etc… and mix them together. For added shame, they may “filter” it through a sock, spit in it, stir it with their fingers, put cigarette butts in it, and to top it off, force the poor person to drink this poison from a shoe. I was goddamn appalled when they told me this. Apparently, people have fucking DIED doing this. Yet, because they’re the youngest and older people are telling them to do it, they have to. I responded that in America, if someone told me to do that, I’d say “go fuck yourself.”
  • Obviously, drinking is huge in Korea. However, there are those times when you simply can’t have another. So, what’s one to do? Get someone to drink it for you, naturally. They actually have a term for this person. For a man it’s 흑기사 (heuk-gi-sa, “dark knight”) or 흑장미 (heuk-jang-mi, “black rose”) for women. One can ask someone to be their black knight/rose, or someone can offer to do it, but once you’ve done it, you’re theirs for the rest of the night. Sometimes, if a girl is interested in a guy, she’ll ask him to drink for her. But what happens if you ask Sir Black Knight to drink for you and he refuses? You have to take two shots. You don’t want this to happen. Consequently, 흑기사 has become one of my all-time favorite Korean words, and I’ll probably say it to everyone at the bar, mostly because I think it’ll throw the Koreans into absolute stitches.
  • So, naturally, hella hangovers happen in Korea. But of course, this has it’s Korean solution. Haejang-guk, literally “hangover soup” in Korean, is commonly eaten after a night of heavy drinking to ease one’s troubles. I’m actually having it tonight for dinner with a friend I was with last night. It’s spicy and hot, which is apparently a good thing to eat when you’re in as delicate state as that.
  • Actually, just about all Korean food is served somewhere in the neighborhood of the the goddamn sun. While not necessarily spicy, Korean food is hot as hell. I can think of about three native Korean dishes that are served “cold” and that’s just room temperature instead of boiling lava hot.
  • I’ve aired a bit of a complaint with Koreans about this. When it’s the middle of the summer, I’m a lot more interested in eating something cool than hot. However, Koreans don’t agree with me on this point. Quite the contrary. There’s a Korean idiom “When you’re hot, eat hot.” Basically, the reasoning behind it is that hot food will make you sweat, which will cool you off from the outside. Personally, I prefer a nice cooling from the inside, rather than even more sweating.
  • In another topic, Korean people can be unnervingly anti-social.  I ride the bus a lot, and I’ve observed that Koreans simply don’t want to sit next to strangers on the bus. I mean, no one in America loves it either, but if you get on and there’s an open seat you sit in it. Not here. This is particularly the case if the person whom the seat is next to is the opposite sex as you, or a foreigner. I’ve been in packed buses with an open seat next to me and no one will sit in it. It’s really kind of insulting, but whatever. Eventually an older person will get on and sit next to me.
  • Older men, ajeossi, and older women, ajuma, have their own culture in Korea. There’s a long list of things that it’s normal for the middle-aged to elderly group of people to do. This includes hiking, eating certain things (even eating certain things at specific times), specific drinking methods, etc… My Korean friends often tease me and call me ajeossi, because I routinely like doing all these things that only 40+ year old men do. Whenever they tell me something is an ajeossi activity, I tell them I’d probably love it then.

Candy Nickers

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 by kingcal

Well, I’m writing for the sake of getting back into the habit of writing every two days at least. It seems like lately I’ve been so busy with work and social functions that I just haven’t had the time to write as much as I’d like. Not having Internet at home complicates it, but I suppose I could always write something before bed in Word and copy it here. Still, even my time before bed is taken up with either studying Korean or reading.  I recently finished Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, as well as The Devils by Dostoevsky.

Saturday a friend from Seoul came to visit me in Cheonan, and afterward I had time to waste in Yawoori before I went to the Banana Bar, as per my usual Saturday night in Cheonan, so I bought four new books at the book store: Machiavelli’s The Prince, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, and finally Notes from the Underground by Dostoevsky (which I’ve read in parts at the library, yet never finished). I mentioned my purchases to someone at the bar, and they replied “Into the classics, eh?”, which I am, but also, buying classics is much cheaper than buying contemporary literature here. All four books together cost as much as one new fiction or non-fiction book would cost. I’m almost done with Tom Sawyer already.

Sunday I didn’t go to my language meeting. Half because I think almost everyone was out on some special hiking trip. I didn’t go mostly because the bus to the destination left at 6 AM, and I was trying to get drunk Saturday night. I went to a English conversation meeting that I know about through some Banana Bar friends. Until I came, it had been all Koreans meeting together to practice English, so I volunteered to go and help out.

Sunday night I met with some fellows I met at the Banana Bar, and they took me to a fantastic duck restaurant about a five minute walk from my place. If only it were a little less expensive. Still, it was awesome. Afterward, we went to one’s apartment to just relax and do a minor bit of drinking on the roof. One was wearing jeans and was much too hot, so he took off his pants, which lead to most of us deciding to take off our pants. Ah, male bonding. This inspired a Pantsless Party idea. The fellow whose place we were at is nearing the end of his contract. He’s staying another year, but he has time off at the end and wants to celebrate the year with a bang. I think it’s a splendid idea.

Monday, getting up at 7:30 AM was rough. Still, nothing that couldn’t be cured with some Dunkin Donuts. Once I’m fully awake it’s not so bad. Working in the morning means I get more free time at the end of the day. I finished my third textbook since I’ve been in Korea, and started on my fourth. While I wouldn’t say I enjoy working on them by any means, at least it makes my resume a bit more attractive. I’m definitely saving all the work I’m doing.

Class has been fine so far this week. Nothing particularly worth writing about. Oh, something funny did happen today. After lunch, I came back to my classroom and caught a first grade girl stealing candy out of my desk drawer. I walked in right as she was closing it and putting her hand in her pocket. I didn’t get mad or anything, but I just seemed super interested in what she had in her pocket. She first showed me 1,000 won she had in her right pocket, but when I pointed to her left pocket she became much more reluctant.

I applied steady pressure and she finally admitted it was candy. “Oh! Candy? Can I see?” She stammered a bit and tried to tell me brought it from home, but I kept insisting to see it, and she finally caved and showed me what she had in her pocket. Candy which had quite obviously been nicked from my drawer. I just laughed and told her she was a bad girl in Korean, gave her a flick on the forehead, and let her keep it. I’m sure she was having  a crisis inwardly up until that point, and I had tortured her enough as it was in my eyes. Besides, it’s been sitting there since like two or three months ago, and I’ve recently been giving it out sparingly just to get rid of it anyway.

Monday, as usual, I went to my language meeting, and it went really well. I’ve got a new, more advanced textbook, and I’m learning a lot more specific grammar stuffs that help me be a little more precise with what I want to say. I even practiced speaking. I hardly ever speak Korean, since I’m so self-conscious about it. Sometimes it’s because I don’t know the word for something, but more often it’s because I simply can’t speak as fast as I think in Korean. I know perfectly well how to say lots of things I need to say, but if I try to speak at a natural pace for me, I end up stumbling a lot and sounding dumb. If I talk slower, I won’ t make mistakes, but then I feel like people will think I’m unsure of what I’m saying if I speak slowly.

Anyway, I can definitely tell my Korean is improving. More and more I notice that I can understand at least the gist of most signs I read, if not completely. I understand more and more of what my kids are saying. It also seems like Korean is getting easier and easier to learn. I still need to get back into a habit of making flashcards and practicing to expand my vocabulary. Sometimes it sucks because even when I do that, I learn lots of words, but then they’re not immediately useful, so I forget them. However, whenever I’m on the bus, I read all the signs we pass, and whenever I don’t know a word, I look it up in my phone. Since I take the bus so much, I end up learning lots of words, and then I see them over and over on subsequent bus trips, so they stick.  That’s what you call a working vocabulary.

Anyway, later tonight I’m just meeting some Koreans from the Sunday conversation group at the Banana Bar to hang out. Can’t stay out too late though. Need to be up at 7:30 AM. Ugh. This weekend, it looks like I’ll be finally making my way back to Seoul for some fun. The guys I had duck with know of a club in Hongdae (the super popular college bar/club area in Seoul) that’s having a concert/dance party, so I’ll be going with them. Apparently, they know a good jimjjilbang complete with bunk beds. Sounds wonderful.

Lack of Updates

Posted in Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 by kingcal

So, I haven’t written in a week. I just haven’t had the time. I have tons of work to do. Since I get out of work early, Mr. Lee expects me to spend time outside of work finishing several projects. The only time I spend on my computer this week has been to make textbooks. After like two hours of making textbooks, my interest in writing a blog post is about zero. While not really hard, the tedious repetition involved with creating a new textbook is so mind-dulling that I wouldn’t be able to handle a blog post.

Also, besides work, I’ve also been pretty busy socially. My group of acquaintances is constantly expanding. I meet new people constantly. Part of it is due to a new batch of teachers who have just arrived to start teaching in September (school starts September 1st). There’s a pretty good number of teachers that come to my language meeting, and some of them have been here less than a month.

Also, I think I go to the Banana Bar way too much. As in, the owner has started giving me free drinks for no reason. Also, I’m pretty sure they don’t keep a very strict count on my tab. Last night I was at the bar from 9:45 PM or so until like 4 AM and I only spent 30,000 won, which at the prices there is just six beers. I wasn’t really counting either, but I feel quite certain I had more than six, plus a shot which are all at least 6,000 won, so it would’ve been quite impossible to end up with an even number.

Thursday night, I went to pool night as usual, then the Banana Bar afterward. Friday, there was a housewarming party for Joel, which ended up moving to the Banana Bar. Last night, I went to the Banana Bar by myself. I didn’t play much pool. I wasn’t drunk by any means, but for whatever reason, I just wasn’t playing well. Possibly just buzzed enough to lack the fine motor skills and depth perception that’s ever so necessary for pool. I mostly just hung out and talked with random people.

Towards the end of the night I started talking with these guys I’d met briefly before at pool night. We talked about a variety of things, but it eventually turned to future plans. One thing you have to know about living in Korea and meeting people is that the first conversation you have with someone is the same every time. “Where are you from? Where do you teach? How long have you been in Korea? How do you like it?” etc… For foreigners, at least. With Koreans, it’s more like “What’s your name? Are you a teacher? How old are  you?” (I’ve touched briefly on this before, but age is a crucial factor in pretty much all social interaction in Korea, so Koreans will ask you how old you are as soon as they meet you so they know how to act towards you. I usually never ask Koreans how old they are, just because it’s not an American habit, but last night I asked a girl how old she was and she asked “Why?” which surprised me. Even in a culture where age is so important some girls are still evasive.)

Anyway, we were talking about our plans for in Korea. His contract ends in two weeks and he’s already signed up to start teaching for another year at a new school. I’ve made no secret that I fully intend on staying in Korea. I won’t say for how long, because I really don’t know. The truth of the matter is that there’s really nothing for me to go back to. The one exception, is of course, friends, but unfortunately friends don’t pay bills. Still, it’s not just the people themselves that I miss from Columbus, but the relationships we had.

Here, I’m always meeting people, I have lots of acquaintances, lots of numbers to call if I want to hang out with somebody, etc…  However, I don’t have anything close to what I’d call a best friend. I don’t mean it to sound like I’m super depressed about it and constantly lamenting over it. It’s just a stark contrast to my last two years in the States. I had a super tight group of friends, with whom I’d hang out for a couple hours almost every day. Here, unless there’s some kind of event that everyone is attending, I don’t really hang out with people. For example, last night, nothing special was going on, so I just went to the bar by myself. I didn’t call anyone to see if they wanted to go, or see a movie, etc…

It’s not that I don’t like the people here. They’re almost all pretty great people. I just don’t have that kind of relationship with them. Sometimes I think I’m just weird. I kind of have three or four basic groups of friends. I know for a fact that the people in each group will hang out with each other a lot, without any special reason for getting together. However, I just kind of bounce between groups and don’t have any super meaningful ties yet.

The more write, the worse and worse it sounds. It’s not bad though. If nothing else, not having a solid set group of friends makes it a lot easier to meet new people. Last night at the bar I talked with quite a few new people, even got to try out my Korean a bit, and had a good night, for sure.

Anyway, the bad news for next week is that my boss found out I’ve been coming in at 10:30 AM and told me that I have to be there at 8 AM, regardless of the fact that my first class isn’t until 11 AM. If nothing else, it’ll give me time to work on textbooks inside work time, and I’ll feel less obligated to do it outside of work, so I may be able to write more frequently again, since I know how much you enjoy reading these.