Archive for September, 2010

A Collection of Moments

Posted in Uncategorized on September 30, 2010 by kingcal

It’s only Thursday, so the week isn’t quite finished, but I’ll put down some of the more memorable moments from this week so far:

Me (whilst roaming a hallway between classes): Hey, Pak Boyeon.
PBY: Hey… Oh! You know my Korean name!
Me (in Korean): I know all.

It’s particularly amusing, since she’s not even a student of mine, but her younger sister is. I’d literally learned her name from her sister less than an hour before.

Me (to class): Okay, time to put away your books. Time for the test.
Me (to a student): Ark, put away your book.
As he puts it away, I see he has the words on the test written on his desk in pencil.
Me (in Korean): Have you lost your mind?! Erase it!
Ark (on my Korean): Oh! Very good!

A girl comes in from the bathroom, holding the door handle in her hand. A boy runs up and slams the door. I try to open the door but can’t.
Me: Well, good job, Mechanic (yes, that is his name). Now we’re locked in.
Class (chorus): 9-1-1! S.O.S.! Emergency!

As I walk through a crowded hallway.
Student: Father! Father!
It was kind of noisy so I wasn’t paying attention.
Student: Fuck! Shit!
This gets my attention. It’s the student, not even one of my own, I gave 500 won (45 cents) once, and he now pesters me for money every time I see him. He’s also inexplicably taken to calling me father. This is also the “I love you! I am gay!” kid.

Anyway, the first class I gave a test to did very well. As a reward, we’re watching Iron Man 2 tomorrow. I got a handful of 100% scores, and most students got about 75%. Only three students scored 50% or lower and I’m having them re-take it while the other kids watch a movie. The advanced class after them did atrocious. The best score was 90%, but everyone else averaged around 50%. I take that on me. They didn’t have the benefit of familiarizing themselves with the words for three weeks and know the Korean definition, so I’m going to dial it back a bit. We’re going to go back and learn all the Korean words, and next week they’ll have a Korean to English test.  The problem with this class is that because it’s advanced they expect me to just whizz through the material, but this vocab test showed that the kids have a very tenuous grasp on the material we’re covering, and their ability to follow the stories we’re reading is probably highly related to what’s going on in the pictures.

Today was all giving tests and worksheets or starting to review for a test that the class will have Friday or next week. There’s pretty much nothing left to do in the book for me, so I guess what I’m doing is better than just playing games or watching a movie. If anyone has a problem with it, they can go ahead and give me a better idea.

Tuesday, at hapkido, my master said that I’ll have my level test on Friday. I’m pretty stoked. Especially since I was told that it generally takes two months to get to that level. I’ve only been at it five weeks, and that’s at only a rate of three meetings a week, so it’s really only like three weeks. Fifteen hours in, and I’ve apparently learned 40 hours of hapkido. Hells yeah. I’m pretty confident that I’ll pass.

After that, I don’t have real plans for Friday night. Just bumming around Cheonan to see what’s popping. Saturday, I’ll probably be going back to Hongdae with some friends who haven’t been there yet. It’s strange to think that the first couple months I was in Korea, I didn’t really enjoy going to Seoul, but now I use any excuse I can to go there.


Back to the Grind

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 28, 2010 by kingcal

Well, Chuseok is officially over, and today was my second day at work. Monday morning I had the terrible feeling that the day was just going to be awful, but aside from being a long day (9 AM – 6 PM) it wasn’t too bad. I asked the kids what they did over the vacation and just got back into the swing of things with a little review. Tomorrow and Thursday I’ll actually be giving my first test completely independent of the Korean teachers. It’s like I’m a real teacher! The test is pretty simple.

I spent yesterday and today asking kids the definitions of their vocab words in English. It was kind of tough because I hadn’t stressed it as much the past month or two as I did before. Still, I could tell that the kids at least knew the Korean word, but I wanted them to start thinking in other terms in English. It didn’t have to be complicated. Lots of them were just opposites. Clean? Not dirty. Dirty? Not clean.

For the younger kids, I’m picking 20 words from their vocab list and I’ll give them multiple choice questions. For the older, advanced classes, I’m just giving them a word bank and a list of definitions. We’ll see how it goes over tomorrow.

Anyway, rewind a little. I spent all week in pretty much massive soreness. I spent most of the day laying in bed watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Tuesday through Thursday literally everything was closed. It was hard just finding a place to eat. At night, I hit up the bars, which were generally pretty empty, but I got to play pool with the owner of Dolce, the bar I frequent now, and play darts for beer.

Saturday, of course, was spent in Hongdae. A friend of mine had his birthday Saturday, so a group of us met in Itaewon to try some Greek restaurant. Good, but over-priced. We had a couple drinks in Itaweon, then headed to Hongdae. I didn’t get too crazy. Stuck to my promise and avoided soju all night. We went to a pretty cool club called Club 500. It was a basement club, and it was renovated to look like a cave. You even had to take your shoes off, so everyone there was barefoot. You could dance or sit in little side rooms to drink, smoke hookah, talk, etc… Unfortunately by that point, I was pretty tired so I took off to sleep on my own. Planning on going back to Hongdae this weekend, as well. I know a couple of people who haven’t been there yet, so I’m convincing them to come with me.

Korean Word of the Day:

쭉쭉빵빵 – jjuk jjuk bbang bbang –  쭉쭉 just means “in a line, a series” and 빵빵 is an onomatopoeic word like “bang” or “pow”. So what is that? A series of bangs? Oh, something like that. It’s Korean slang for a nice rack. My Korean friend (a woman) told me never to say it in front of a woman, particularly not directly to her. I think it’s probably as smooth as walking up to a girl and saying “Hey baby. You got nice gazongas.” You can expect to get smacked.

Last Day of Vacation

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2010 by kingcal

Copy and paste from Word:

Writing this blog post from a minbak in Jungsan-ri. The minbak pretty much blows. Small room for 25,000 won and there’s no bed or hot water. The upside is that it has cable TV with a couple English channels. Last night I watched The Fourth Kind and Wanted. Now I’m watching The Bourne Ultimatum and The Dark Knight. Also, the restaurant the minbak owners run is pretty decent. I’m probably heading home tomorrow, or at least some place with a bank. I’m out of cash, all three of the restaurants and the handful of convenience stores only take cash, and I’ve only got enough cash for dinner and a bus back to Jinju. Also, I’m pretty much dead.

I left the minbak just after 9 AM, and it took me until 6 PM to get back from the peak. Easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically. Pretty much all the clothes I wore are completely soaked with sweat. Sexy, I know. One the way up, I met this Korean guy, and he started talking to me in a mix of Korean and English. I could tell right away my Korean was better than his English, so we usually stuck to that. He was super kind. Gave me half of his apple, some Vienna sausages, and on the way back down he insisted I share his lunch with him. I also learned he was 48, had a son a little younger than me in college, and liked American music such as Eminem, Shakira, and Megadeath.

We got to the top about four hours after we started, which is what the park predicts it takes most people. Being 1915 meters high, the peak was actually enshrouded in a cloud. It was cold, windy, couldn’t see a goddamn thing, and it was actually raining a little. The raining was weird. It didn’t feel like water was falling onto you. It was more like a certain spot on your body was suddenly wet. Like it condensed directly onto my head. Stayed up there for maybe 20 minutes, then started coming back down.

At first, the going down part felt real good. Going up was a struggle, especially around the first hour, hour and a half. I actually felt like there was a pretty good chance I was going to throw up. Fortunately, a little water and candy bar break settled my stomach. One the way down, I was just congratulating myself for developing the surity of foot normally reserved for mountain goats or snow leopards, when I took one step on a metal staircase and slid down like 15 steps. I didn’t get hurt or anything, but after that the strength in my legs just started deteriorating really quickly. Knees were wobbling really bad, couldn’t support weight well, gave out unexpectedly. Coming down took longer than going up because I had to go so slow to prevent really hurting myself.

Also, my camera lens cover is broken. I dropped it taking a picture, and I watched it go sliding down a rock face. I had pretty much given it up for lost, but then it stopped, so I climbed down to retrieve it. Only to find it had lost the spring which locked it in place, so it’s completely useless now.

I hadn’t planned on returning to Cheonan until Thursday, but I’m so exhausted. I certainly won’t be doing any more hiking any time soon. I could go back to Jinju and hang out there, or maybe a city like Daejon (actually that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. It’s on the way home and a friend from home is there, so we could meet up and I might be able to crash on his floor.) and hang for a couple days before going home. The only thing that sucks is traffic will probably be mad crazy tomorrow and it could take like five hours to get to Daejon instead of just a little over two. I’m told literally everyone goes home for Chuseok – Korean Thanksgiving – so highways are basically parking lots.

Time travel to Friday:

Didn’t go to Daejon, just came home. Legs are so sore that anything aside from walking on level ground is torture. Probably not going to hapkido tonight. Tuesday through Thursday was boring as hell during the day. The neighborhood was dead as hell. Not a single car on the road. Every single business was closed. Just wasted time all day and drank by night. Just like a normal American holiday. Dunkin Donuts finally re-opened today, so I’m downloading some TV shows to catch up on what I missed since my vacation started. Gotta keep up on Jersey Shore and started re-watching It’s Always Sunny… for fun. Good times. No weekend plans. Hopefully I’ll recover by Monday so I won’t have to teach in pain.

You can check pics from my trip out here:

One More Day Before Vacation

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 by kingcal

I just got off work Thursday afternoon. Actually, I’m out sooner than I thought. Right as I was beginning my last class of the day, one of the Korean teachers came in and said she was teaching that class. Considering I had taught the same class the day before, and I wasn’t really in the mood to stick around, I didn’t bother telling her I was also scheduled to work then. That would’ve just complicated things. If you tell two people that they’re both working at the same time and place, one of them is just going to profit and call dibs on that Chance card. Clerical error in your favor. Leave work an hour early. Score.

Actually, the day wasn’t that bad. All I did with my classes was word searches, a listening test, and then we played a game. Pretty low impact day. I was just kind of in a lingering bad mood from the day before. The shitstorm I had feared on Monday arrived two days late on Wednesday. To quote a much wiser man than me, Wednesday was “A fucked to death pile of flaming shit.” New schedules were made again. I was given three new classes, and two of my favorite classes were taken away. I was not a happy camper.

Ten minutes before my class, I was told that I would be teaching Purple (the lowest level English, lots of trouble makers) instead of Gold (best students, most well behaved) because one foreign teacher now has to teach in Daejon Monday and Wednesday. So I’m covering for him. And another foreign teacher is covering for me. I was really confused as to why the third teacher just didn’t cover the absent teacher, as it creates unnecessary complications when you essentially replace two teachers instead of just one. The only response I got was that I had taught the students before, so I wasn’t really a “new teacher” for them, and parents had complained that we’ve had too many teachers come in and out of the program (a legitimate concern) so they didn’t want that group of students to have a completely new teacher. I can almost understand and accept this, except that it still means they’ve had something like six teachers in the last six months, which is the exact same number you’re creating in other classes by replacing me with another new teacher.

Also, I’ve been wicked sick all week. It’s really bad in the mornings. Wake up not able to breathe out of my nose, throat on fire, unable to swallow, really bad coughs, congested, etc… But as is the usual thing with me, I feel better and better as the day progresses. I feel so close to wanting to call off work, but the sheer impossibility of anyone being able to cover for me forces me in, and then by the time classes start, I’m more or less okay. Still a cough and all, but I can manage. It helps that I’ve run out of shit to do in the morning, so all it consists of is reading every article on college football on ESPN and chatting on Facebook. I’m certainly not straining myself.

Last night was the first time I didn’t enjoy myself at hapkido. Everyone picked up on it, too. It was a collection of factors. Tuesday when we were doing all the tumbling I fucked up my right shoulder. They gave me the Korean equivalent of Icy-Hot and I felt fine in the morning and all day, but as soon as we started tumbling again last night the soreness came back even worse. Also, I couldn’t do anything. I’m generally such a quick learner, that when I don’t get something really quickly, it’s really frustrating for me. And when I get frustrated trying to do something, I want to do it over and over until I get it right. But the master wasn’t really running that kind of game, so we’d do something two or three times, then move onto something else, so it felt like all night I didn’t accomplish anything.

We were doing some harder stuff like running dives, jumping over stuff four feet tall, running handsprints and shit. Stuff I know  I probably shouldn’t be able to get on the first try, but it was still really bothering me. Coupled with the bad day at work, being sick, and my shoulder really hurting (though I didn’t want to say anything and attract attention to it) I probably just looked really sour, and people were picking up on it. They tried encouraging me several times and said I was doing really well, etc… but I wasn’t really in the mood to hear it.

On the ride back to my place, they were trying to make me feel better again, and one of them was translating for my master and said that I was “precious” to them. I was kind of like “Yeah, thanks, whatever”, but then from behind me I heard one of the girls mutter “My precious…” in a Gollum voice and I couldn’t help but laugh. That girl’s English is pretty limited, so it was even funnier that she pulled it completely out of left field.

After today, though, I’m in a much better mood.  I’m looking forward to going back Friday. Generally, Fridays are a bit more open. The master usually just gives me something to do and then spends time with the blackbelts. Last Friday, I learned how to use nunchucks. Hell yeah. I picked them up so super fast the master was really surprised. It’s all about rhythm. I had a yo-yo as a kid. I played bass in high school. I played Rock Band drums. Rhythm I got.

Also, we’re all planning on going out to drink after the lesson Friday, so I’ll be able to blow off some steam.

I know I haven’t been putting in Korean words lately, but I don’t have a Korean keyboard, so I have to think about words at work and e-mail them to myself, which is a huge hassle, particularly when I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to write a blog after work. I hope to get back in the swing soon.

Some Wedding Pics

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 14, 2010 by kingcal

The church. Pretty goddamn big.

The first restaurant in the basement of the church. LOADED.

Pictured – Simpson’s back. The side room had some more seating available. I had jellyfish for the first time. It was kind of like crunchy yet wet noodles.

The parents of the bride and groom sat facing each other the whole ceremony, like forty minutes. Not one smile. It was so morbid. The shoulder in the bottom left belonged to some random guy. I noticed his friend and he were clapping along to some music totally off-beat. I thought they were doing one of my favorite gags, but then I realized they were deaf. Felt a little bad for laughing. Not much.

It’s a little hard to see, but there are four teenage girls doing a song and dance routine all the way to the right.

After the four girls, like twenty people got up and sang a song. They all had pink flowers and the girls all gave their flowers to the groom, and the guys gave their flowers to the bride.

Right as the bride and groom are bowing to the audience. As soon as they got up, the “Wedding’s Over!” music started playing and they walked up the aisle. No kiss or nothing. It only lasted 40 minutes, and I only saw the last 20 minutes. In Korea, you’re not really obligated to go in and watch the ceremony. Many people just chill outside and come in for pictures when it’s done.

Actually, most weddings aren’t held in churches in Korea. My friend Simpson was a little surprised when he found that out. He was also displeased that the restaurant didn’t serve alcohol. Instead, they’re usually held at wedding halls. It’s just like a six story building with all kinds of little wedding rooms so tons of people can get married at the same time. Services are also usually really short. Someone told me he went to an eight minute ceremony.

Parents picture.

Extended family.

The next picture I was in, it was actually for co-workers, but everyone I knew at the wedding was in it, so I jumped in on it. The photographer got them to step forward and have the groom kiss her cheek and he looked so reluctant and bashful while he was doing it. Aw, he’s shy. That’s cute.

Friends picture. Also, Asian midgets are about the same height as American midgets. Intriguing.

The couple. The woman on the bottom right was in charge of the dress. She was constantly messing with it during the pictures. Also, during the ceremony, because of the long train if turning around or walking was involved she had to carry it.

Here you can see the train. Also, the throwing of the bouquet is different in Korea. Instead of throwing it to all the girls and making them fight over it, they just come together and pick one girl and throw it directly to her. Women are usually reluctant to volunteer. It’s not like “Oh, that’s good luck! You’ll get married soon!” It’s more like “Hey. You. Get married. Now.” Catching the bouquet obligates you to get married within a year.

Looking nice with my friends.

One of my friends’ new car. It’s the newest Hyundae model. Just came out a month and a half ago. My friend Simpson designed the airbags. Baller.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 13, 2010 by kingcal

I had a good weekend. Friday I kicked it in Dolce. The good part about Dolce is that if I close the bar out, I get a free ride home. I walk in there saving seven bucks on a taxi.

Saturday, I got a ride with my friend Simpson to the wedding. I put pictures on Facebook. I do want to have a post just for the pictures though. Korean weddings are extremely different from American weddings, and I’m told the one I went to was a little different from normal Korean weddings, even. Most notably, it was short as hell. The ceremony only lasted forty minutes. Also, after the service is over, people take pictures, then go the fuck home. No dinner. No reception. No craziness. Get in. Get married. Get out. Most interestingly, attendance was optional. Lots of people never even showed up for the ceremony. They’d instead be eating in the restaurant in the church (yes) or outside smoking or something, then come in once it was over for pictures.

Anyway, I killed most of the afternoon, then got antsy and headed to Seoul a little early. I met up with some Korean friends. We started eating/drinking maybe 8:30 PM-ish. I had three bottles of soju to myself, which I think I’ve calculated to be around four shots of 80 proof American liquor. Needless to say, I had two more beers at the bar I had originally intended on going to and time traveled to the next morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my fair share of time traveling in college, but I suddenly feel much more guilty about it here. Probably because I don’t have the comfort of time traveling in my friend’s apartment, and there’s a real strong possibility that I could’ve done something terrible in a public place whilst in warp status. The thing is that I tend not to get drunk when I go out in Cheonan, but when I go to Seoul or Bucheon, I’m a horse of a different color, to use the parlance of our times.

Sunday I woke up and had already predestined that I would be heading to Itaewon to hit up South Korea’s only Taco Bell. Technically, there are other Taco Bells on army bases, or so I’m told, but these aren’t technically on Korean soil, and the only way for a public person to obtain said delicious Taco Bell is to have it delivered to the gate where they can pick it up (again, all hearsay). God knows how long that would take, and no one likes soggy nachos.

The menu was kind of small and definitely overpriced compared to American Taco Bells, but never has a spicy chicken Crunchwrap tasted so good. Also, the Taco Bell was three stories tall, but only because it was literally 20 feet wide, so they needed multiple floors for seating. Even then, I got one of the last available seats. Taco Bell seems to be faring well in Korea.

Sunday after I got home I just relaxed and watched some Korean movies. I managed to get through a Monday I’d dreaded since Friday afternoon, but it wasn’t that bad and I managed to avoid the promised shitstorm of a disaster Friday had presented. I didn’t tell any classes except my last one that it was my birthday. And then only that class because I referenced how old I was. I asked them what they got me, and one kid said he’d bring me something Wednesday. =3

I can finally stop telling people I’m only 22 years old. Still, being 23 still pegs me as just about the youngest person in any group, particularly of foreigners. Actually, turning 23 makes me feel even younger than when I was just 22 years old. I mean, it’s not like 23 is a huge turning point. It’s just like “Goddamn, I’ve been here six months and I’m still only 23 years old.”

Anyway, my only plans for tonight are skipping the study group to watch True Blood, then meet up with hapkido friends to go drinking. I want to say I’ll try not to overdue it, but there’s also a pretty good chance I’ll be late for work tomorrow. It’s the one time a year I think I’m due a mulligan the morning after.

Perhaps wedding photos and catching up on Korean Word of the Day/Konglish tomorrow since I get off work at 3 PM and will have some free time.

Six Month Anniversary!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9, 2010 by kingcal

It’s September 9th, here in the ROK (Republic of Korea), which means it’s my sixth month anniversary. I don’t actually have any plans for tonight, really. Probably just go study Korean in Yawoori and come home.  I’ve got a weekend with so many activities planned, though, so it’s okay. First of all, my friend Yuna is getting married, so I’m definitely going to that. I’ll make sure to take a ton of pictures and let you guys see what they’re like.  Also, later Saturday I’ll be meeting up with someone from home! I found out about a month ago through a Facebook event invitation for someone’s going away party that they were coming to teach in Korea. We weren’t super close friends or anything, but we drank together a couple times and had some English classes together, so it’ll definitely be cool to see someone from home. Together, we’ll be going back to Hongdae. I’m meeting a Korean friend there, then we’re meeting up with some people to go to a bar a friend from Cheonan is DJing at. So many activities.

Anyway, my posts have been few and far between lately, for which I apologize. Hapkido is taking up a lot of my time. It’s not just the hour of class, but having to get ready an hour before because we have to drive around and pick up a couple people, then wait around for everyone else to come, etc… I generally get picked up around 7:45 PM, and class usually starts at 8:30 PM or so. I generally don’t get home until 10 PM. If I get off work at 5:30 PM three days a week, sometimes my other Internetting (necessary Facebook time, reading other blogs, studying some Korean, downloading movies/TV shows etc…) sometimes doesn’t leave enough time for a post. Tuesday I get off t 3 PM and 3:30 PM Thursday, but I try to leave this rare free time during the weekend open to social interaction with the people I seem to see so little of anymore.

This week has been a vast improvement over the last. We got all the books and classes (for the most part) figured out, so I can actually just get into a normal teaching rhythm and feel productive. The only real hitch has been one of my new students. When I first started teaching her over summer break, she seemed to be one of the students, definitely one of the brightest. Unfortunately, lately her attitude has turned to shit.  Whenever I tell her to do something, she just asks me “Why” in Korean with an absolutely rude tone that tells me she just doesn’t want to do what I say. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to say “Because I’m the goddamn teacher and I say so is why” so I will insist a couple times, and if she doesn’t comply, kick her out. Today, she just got up and walked out of the room without asking permission. I didn’t even see it. I just turned around and she was gone. So I locked her out. She came back a minute or two later and I just told her to sit down on the bench outside. “Why?” Ugh.

Also, I pretty much make her cry every day I see her. I let her back in after everyone was done with the book work, and I was asking people for answers then writing them on the board. I told her to write the answers as we went over them, and she was extremely reluctant. Honestly, I didn’t even get very stern with her. I’d just look at her sitting there with her head on the desk not doing anything and say “Emily, write number blah blah blah” and she started crying halfway through the page. I let her cry it out for awhile while we finished the page, then came back to her and just sat/crouched by her and kept pressing until she finished it. What a kid.

The only other work thing is that I’ve started turning my phone off once I leave school on my early days. The past 2-3 weeks, it seems like at least once, if not twice a week, I would leave work and get called back to cover a class for a Korean teacher because she had so much other work to do. Sure enough, Tuesday, once I turned my phone back on, I had two missed calls, and Dave told me she tried to get him to cover for her, too, with a really lame bullshit reason. He had to go back to his other school, though, so he couldn’t stay. I’m not disputing that she probably does have work to do. I’m just sick of leaving work and being called back. I’m not a goddamn doctor on call. If you need to do something, you better ask me before I leave, otherwise I’m not helping. Once I leave work is my time. At first, I had a much more forgiving attitude about it, but the fact is that when Mr. Lee makes similar requests of her to do something after work or on the weekend, her response is “No, that’s my free time. I don’t want to.” Well, guess what, that door goes both ways.

The weather lately has been pretty strange. It’s rained every day for at least 2-3 weeks. Not necessarily super hard or all day, but at least some every day. Even the Koreans think it’s weird. The rainy season (which was unusually dry this year in Cheonan) ended about a month ago. Koreans tell me this year is weird in general. Winter lasted much longer with more snow than usual, summer was hotter and more humid than usual, and now the summer rains have come a month late. Crazy shit.

The hapkido is going really well. I’ve already seen marked improvement. First of all, I’m not pouring sweat by the time we’re done stretching. The first week, even just the stretching would really be hard for me. Now I can get through it without much problem. Also, last night, I actually got my forehead to touch my knee without bending my knee at all. Last night was just stretching, push-ups, ab exercises, some kicks and tumbling. The master just showed me how to do some rolls and let me work on them by myself while he worked with the black belts. That’s the thing about tumbling/falling down. It’s pretty easy to learn on your own. At the very least, you know when you’re doing something wrong because it fucking hurts.

At the end of class, he was joking around and saying that even though I was a white belt I was doing it perfectly and gave a couple of the black belts a hard time because they didn’t do as well with it. I know at least one of the girl’s black belts is in taekwondo, and from what I gather, they don’t really teach how to fall down gracefully, so it’s just as new to her as it is to me. I don’t know what the other black belt’s problem is. I think she’s just afraid she might herself. Shit, though. For me, fall down? No problem. Got it.