Archive for November, 2010

Scooter Fever

Posted in Uncategorized on November 30, 2010 by kingcal

Well, if we’re not Facebook friends, then this’ll be fun news for you. I bought a scooter on Monday night. An acquaintance and his girlfriend are leaving Korea for good, and they were looking to unload his scooter on the cheap. Against some people’s advice, mostly due to the impending winter weather, I decided to buy the bike anyway.

Thursday, we met up and I got to test drive it. I’d only been on a bike once before, in German when I was 15. I was absolutely terrified, and ended up with a nasty 2nd degree burn on the inside of my calf where I touched the tail pipe. Before we met, I was slightly nervous about getting on the back of a bike again. Oddly enough, as soon as I got on and we were moving it all went away. We drove to the soccer stadium and I did a couple laps to make sure I could handle it, then parted ways and decided to meet up on Monday the day before he would leave, so he could pass the keys off to me.

Monday, around 7:15 PM I got the bike. I had initially expected that I would spend maybe a week or two driving on small streets, parking lots, or late at night when not many cars were on the road. Right after I got the bike, I decided to take it to the stadium, which is a pretty easy 5 minute drive. By the time I got there I felt so comfortable, I felt like I may as well drive all the way downtown and go to the language meet up I had kind of anticipated not going to.

It’s shocking how quickly I took to the bike. I expected to be nervous and pumped full of adrenaline. Honestly, it’s not even like a super exciting thing to do. It’s just really enjoyable. Part of it is the fact that I haven’t had a car in over 4 years, so just the freedom of driving is a huge deal. I can finally just get up and go somewhere and not worry about killing myself going up and down hills on a bike or waiting around for a bus and then taking half an hour to get somewhere because it goes so far out of the way.

Secondly, the degree of freedom you have within the flow of traffic on a scooter is ridiculous. My trip to downtown I was a little timid, but on the way back, I got much more bold. I was riding on sidewalks, in between cars and the curb, cutting to the front of lines at lights, running red lights, and even going into the on coming lane when there was no traffic. It’s just like the possibilities are endless. The travel time for a car and a scooter to and from the same place is completely different. It’s fucking awesome.

Monday, Mr. Lee came into my first class, the one from Hell. It’s been especially bad for the last two weeks because we don’t have Internet in that room for some reason. Someone came to fix it yesterday, though, so I hope it’s up and running again. Anyway, I had two students at the front of the class with their hands up, and another one at a desk at the front of the class to isolate him from the other students. When Mr. Lee came in, he told me I couldn’t punish students anymore. I was kind of taken aback. When I asked him what I should do when the students are being loud, misbehaving, etc… he just said “you should don’t care.” I don’t even know how the fuck he expects that to create an environment conducive to learning.

He told me that parents always call and complain that I punish their children, and the vice-principal of the school scolds him on my account. Yeah, okay. Too goddamn bad. This is literally the only class I ever punish students in, and it’s the same three students every day. When he came into class and I was disciplining them, the class was dead quiet and we were having a productive day reading. When he started in with the “don’t punish them” thing, in English, though I could tell the kids were picking up on it, because the longer he stayed in there and tried to fiddle with the computer, the crazier the kids got. They knew that I wasn’t really allowed to do anything to them.

So as soon as he left, I just went right back to what works for me. If the parents don’t like it, they can pull their kids. Honestly, if those three kids quit, I would not miss them at all. It sounds like a bad thing to say, but I’m not necessarily saying they’re bad kids. I’m just saying they’re bad students, and their presence in the classroom is a huge drain on what I’m able to do with other students, because I spend roughly 25% of my time in that class just telling them to sit down, be quiet, stop fighting, and then after several warnings, eventually disciplining them.  Mr. Lee said something about next week a Korean teacher coming into class with me to help out, but yeah, we’ll see about that. I’ve also been told that his hagwon was opening “next month” since I got here in March.

Also, yesterday I discovered that the printer in the 3rd floor room is gone. Apparently, Mr. Lee just decided to move it to his office. Sucks to our asmar, I suppose. Diane said that he said if we needed to print something, we could send it to him and he would print it out and deliver it. Yeah, like I have faith in that happening. Any time I ask for help or a favor, he’s just so terribly busy he can’t be bothered to do it. The day I put my faith in him and trust him to follow through for me on class materials being provided in a timely manner is a cold day in hell. Even the textbooks are like a day or two late.

Anyway, enough of the bitching. Tuesday I spent pretty much all day at work playing PowerPoint games. I’ve got shit all to do now, and seeing as how I can’t really make a worksheet for kids to do now, that’s about all I’ve got left. I also spent pretty much all day just thinking about getting off work so I could go driving. After work, I went to a nearby scooter shop and picked up a cover for my bike, since there’s no convenient place under an overhang to park my bike. I saw my bike selling new for 2.79 million won. I got it used for 550,000 won. Talk about a discount. That’s 80% off right there. After that, I got some gas in it. I think the attendant (all gas stations in Korea are full serve — you never pump your own gas) jokingly asked me for my driver’s license. As I have come to understand it, for the size of the scooter I have, I don’t need one. Then again, pretty much no foreigner with a scooter has a driver’s license. It’s not like police here enforce traffic laws anyway. 

After that, had a nice dinner. Went to a PC Bang to download the latest episode of Dexter, then drove to my hapkido class. All pretty normal, uneventful stuff. In hapkido, I had a level test. I didn’t know I was going to have one. Just had one. Apparently, I passed, though there were at least two things he told me I’d have to practice. I believe today I’ll be getting my blue belt then. Pretty sweet. That only took 20 minutes or so, and the rest of class was “free time”, which just meant me practicing on a body bag. Also, the master and some guest teacher taught me how to turn. It sounds ridiculous, but turning a perfect 180 degrees and keeping your back straight, head up, and stopping with your feet and shoulders in a perfect line is not that easy.

As class ended, I left the building, and slipped on a patch of ice  on the stairs. Landed right on my left arm and thigh. Hurt like hell. I was immediately not very excited for the ride home. When there’s ice on the roads, scooters are death traps. This much I know. I already told my master that I can drive to class now, but if it’s snowy or rainy, then I want him to pick me up still. Still, I think it was just the stairs that were icy. Usually, just the amount of driving that happens on these roads is enough to get rid of any morning ice. It was foggy as hell though once I got closer to home. It was creepy. I could barely see 30 yards in front of my bike.

Anyway, today is a short day. So I’m thankful for that. My last class is just finishing a movie, so I only have to prepare for two classes. I’m just so unmotivated to do it.


What’s Your Favorite Color?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2010 by kingcal

Well, I had pretty much as successful weekend as I’ve had in a long time. At least, all of the plans I made held up, so that’s a good sign that things went well.

Friday night was the Thanksgiving party at Dolce. Got a decent turkey sandwich and a lot of free shots at the door. Saw a friend who’d been in Thailand for like a month after finishing his contract in Korea, but he couldn’t find a job. He was only in Korea for the night, and flew out the next evening, but he said he’s going to try finding a job in Korea again after the holidays. I think a lot of times when people leave and say they’ll come back, it’s bullshit, but he seems fairly serious about it.

Saturday was a succession of small adventures. I had to go back to Itaewon to return some shoes I bought that ended up being too small. Steve, the new teacher, wanted to tag along and see what Seoul was like, so I told him I’d be in Seoul station around 2:30-3 PM. When I got to the station in Cheonan, a train that had been delayed a couple minutes was just pulling in, but the lady wouldn’t sell me a ticket for that train, because technically it had already left according to the train station’s time tables. So I bought a ticket for the next train and just ran and jumped on and stood in the area between cars.

I was a little nervous about what would happen if the attendents happened to be checking for tickets that day, but at the same time, it couldn’t have been that big of a problem. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have a ticket at all. I just didn’t have one for that train. And since I was standing in the unreserved area, it wasn’t like I was using someone else’s seat or something. Still, even though an attendent passed by like three times, she never checked tickets, so it was a moot issue.

Once I got to Seoul, queue lots of waiting. Steve still doesn’t have a phone, so he’s unreachable. He’s got his Blackberry from home, and I’ve tried calling it, but it doesn’t work. He’s able to call out, but I can’t reach him, so I just had to wait until he got a hold of me. Seoul Station has several kiosks with big, nice TVs that people are always crowded around. Even more so lately becase of the Asia Games. Think Olympics, but only Asia. Yeah. Anyway, I was watching a badminton match on one TV, for lack of something better to do, and I noticed that there was a large group of men just on the opposite side of the kiosk that had crowded together on one specific TV.

I thought it could be one of two things. Either a much more interesting sport was happening on the other side of the kiosk, or there was some kind of news program on and there was something about the recent conflect tensions between North Korea and South Korea. If you haven’t heard, last Friday, North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing two Marines and two civilians. South Korea retaliated with shells of their own, but North Korean losses are unknown. The last I heard, the US government was sending an aircraft carrier to the area, and North Korea threatened to declare war if the aircraft carrier didn’t go home. Honestly, most people seemed relatively unphased by what has happened. If you ask, most people are like “Yeah, it’s a little scary,” but life is still going on as usual here.

Anyway, I decided to go check it out, what was playing on the other TV, and it turned out to be a marathon. I was stunned. A group of at least 50 people were all gathered together just to watch a guy run for two hours. I was so surprised that I couldn’t help but stay and watch myself. As I was watching, a girl came up to me and asked me “Are you traveling alone?” I was so surprised that I had to ask her to repeat the question. I’m used to South Koreans being at least generally friendly enough to say hello, but it’s also usually only with kids or young teenagers that find it humorous as hell to say hello to a foreigner.

Anyway, this girl was just like “Well, I’m waiting for my friend and I’m bored, so I decided to talk to strangers, and Koreans don’t find me that interesting.” Now, this in itself, I think anywhere in the world, is quite strange. At least to me. This level of honesty and straightforwardness to a complete stranger is something completely outside of my capacity. I can’t just simply walk up to a stranger and start a conversation, at all. I feel like I have no reason to talk to them. Still, I’m accomodating when people do it to me.

We ended up having like a 40 minute conversation just standing there, waiting for our friends. I found out she was a high school girl, though she didn’t look it. She’s a senior, just took her university entrance exam and will graduate in February. She lived in Sri Lanka as a kid, hence the awesome English. She also did not have a phone. Now, let that just sink in. A high school girl did not have a cell phone. I’m not sure what plane of existence that would be normal in. Especially, here in Korea. In Korea, everyone has a cell phone. Every single one of my first graders has a cell phone. I was completely shocked.

Anyway, Steve finally showed up about an hour after I got to Seoul Station. The girl’s friend wasn’t going to be there for another like two hours, so just to be polite, I invited her to come to Itaewon with us, but she just as politely declined. She even seemed a little taken aback. Haha.

Anyway, Itaewon was rather uneventful. Exchanged my shoes for new ones. Checked out the rather large foreign book store there. Walked around a bit. Had Taco Bell. A girl I met in Hongdae on Halloween texted me to tell me she was off work and free to meet. Same girl that told me she couldn’t meet me last weekend because she slept until 9 PM. Steve went home because he didn’t want to spend more money. I headed to Hongdae to meet the girl. In the subway station, I was kind of looking at a map, but couldn’t exactly remember where Hongdae was, so I asked a foreigner that happened to be standing around. She showed me where it was and we struck up a conversation.

Now, I know I just said I can’t just strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, but honestly she did most of the work. I just asked where Hongdae was, and then she kind of went on about her own traveling plans and it went from there. Turns out she lives only a couple subway stops away from me. Our conversation only lasted two subway stops before she had to transfer. She told me to Facebook her, but I can’t find her. Oh well. Probably never see her again anyway.

So, I get to Hongdae, but it’s about an hour and a half before I’m set to meet this girl. Just walk around a bit. Charge my phone at a convenience store. Chill at a PC Bang for like an hour. Girl shows up about half an hour late. The whole time I waited I was a little nervous. She asked if I remembered what she looked like, and of course I had to say yes, but considering it’d been three weeks and at the time I was working on a serious slant, my recollection was general in detail at best. Also, I knew the girl’s English is not strong, so it was kind of all on me and my Korean skill to facilitate most of the communication.

I’ve got Korean friends with not great English, but this was the first time I was even in a one-on-one situation with someone, particularly in a bar setting. Anyway, we met up and had a great time. Just drank some beer at a sit down Korean joint, ate a little food, etc… Her English was a bit better than I remembered, so it wasn’t too bad. There were some small pauses in conversation, but nothing excruciating. In Hongdae especially, it’s not uncommon to see a foreigner with a Korean chick and they just sit at the table not talking, stirring their drinks, looking bored as hell. Luckily, it never came to that.

I found out the girl actually lives in Incheon, not Seoul as I had assumed. Hence the long time it took her to get to Hongdae. Also, she like most young adults still lives with her parents, so she had to go home earlier than I had expected, because they were mad. It was early in the night, but I got to Seoul Station about six minutes after the last train for Cheonan. I could’ve made it if I had taken a taxi, but that’s assuming I could’ve gotten a taxi at all. I think I’ve discussed the taxi situation in Hongdae before.

Anyway, I just went to the jjimjilbang I normally sleep at when I go to Seoul, but it was pretty bad. It was only around 12 AM when I got there, so a lot earlier than I’m accustomed to sleeping on a weekend. I was not at all drunk, so there was no help there. I putzed around a bit, spent some time on the computer in the PC Bang inside the jjimjilbang, and  finally tried sleeping a little before 1 AM. Sleep did not happen. At first, it was mostly me just not being tired at all. My mind was still running super fast. Also, it was just barely uncomfortably warm in the sleeping room. Not even enough to sweat, but just enough to be like “Goddamn, it is uncomfortably warm in here.”

When I finally did start getting sleepy is when the snoring started. I tried moving around and finding quieter sections of the room, but it was impossible. There’s actually a separate room for people who snore, but no one ever uses it. So, I tossed and turned, completely unable to get comfortable until abour 5:45 AM. At the most, all I ever got was a slight doze in.

I finally gave up, and I knew trains started running again at 5:30 AM, so I cut my losses and went back to the train station. I had enough time after buying my ticket, so I went to McDonalds and got breakfast. I ordered a set, but I didn’t want the coffee. I was definitely planning on sleeping after I got home, so coffee was not at all in my plans. However, the lady at the counter simply would not let me leave without taking the coffee. The set comes with coffee. You apparently can’t just not take it. So, I gave up, took the coffee, poured it into the trash and went home. I kind of felt like a dick pouring out a full cup of coffee, but she could’ve just as easily let me go without forcing coffee onto me.

Sunday, I got to sleep around maybe 7:30 AM, but my body woke up around 10:30 AM. I went back to sleep, but not very deeply. Woke up several times, and still only managed to stay in bed until around 11:45 AM.  Got up and had lunch. Wasted time at a PC Bang. Went and bought some socks at the store. Headed downtown for the study group. Another girl who had previously cancelled on meeting before actually showed up to the study group, so that was a pleasant surprise. She didn’t have a book or anything, so when I was practicing writing Korean in my book, I’d just have her translate to English for practice.

Afterwards, we grabbed some dinner with another person from the study group. There was a rather humorous moment. Just to make conversation, I asked her what her favorite color was. She said blue. When I asked if she meant light or dark blue, she said like the sky. Light then, right? Nope. She said she meant dark, not light. So, to clarify, I pointed to the bag she was carrying, which was navy blue, and asked if that’s what she meant. She then said, no, that’s not blue. Now, my color vocabulary in Korean is pretty small. And I’m told colors here are kind of complicated. Like, several words mean the same color, but their relationship of shades within a color is strange. Blue is one shade. To them, apparently, light and dark blue and everything in between is a foreign concept. Each color is singular.

So, she said the name of the color in Korean, and I pulled out my phone to check it out in the dictionary. This is the very first entry for what she said: “sodomy, pederasty, buggery, an unnatural act.” Understandably, I laughed really hard, and showed the other foreign guy there, who also got a kick out of it. So, she took out her phone and looked up the word sodomy. I got a slap for that one. Then she said something about how she was going to look it up on the Internet when she got home.

Me: No!
Her: Why?
Me: Just… don’t.
Her: Okay.
Me: Really. Don’t.
Her: Okay.

Also, she kept saying “somody” which was pretty goddamn funny.

Anyway, the other guy went  home, and it was still pretty early. She had time to kill before her bus would come to take her back to her university, so we went to the mall and I bought some books. I picked up Gulliver’s Travels and Flowers for Algernon. Flowers for Algernon is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s also a complete downer that completely wrenches your heart out, but it’s a good book. Gulliver’s Travels had actually been coming up a lot lately. I’d picked it up before in the store, but decided against buying it, and in the past couple weeks, it’s kept showing up in conversation. Baader-Meinhof, anyone (look it up)?

So, went home, read the first bit of Gulliver’s Travels, slept. Totally not ready for another work week, but today shouldn’t be terrible. It’s a short day, and I promised my last class we would watch a movie. I actually gave them a choice on Friday. I said we could start the movie Friday, but they would have homework, or we could work in class and start the movie next week and no homework on the weekend. They actually picked working in class over instant gratification. I was really surprised.

A Much Needed Weekend

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2010 by kingcal

Well, it’s just abotu 10 PM on Sunday night, and I’m winding down at a PC Bang, downloading a Korean movie. I had a pretty busy weekend, and I needed every minute of it to blow off the steam I had accumulated at work over the week.

Wednesday, Mr. Lee suggested to me that I might be too stressed at Buldang, and that I should switch to another school in the area, and let Steve, the new kid replacing Dave take my position. I was speechless for a moment. While I fully intend on finding a new job, and in no way am I considering renewing my contract another year, the thought of saying goodbye to my students right now really kicked me in the nuts. I told him I was perfectly okay to work at Buldang. Honestly, I think he had an alterior motive. He had mentioned earlier that the kid’s parents I disciplined got mad at him, and began calling other parents to talk shit about him, so like four parents wanted to pull their kids out of the program. There’s more than a little part of me that felt like he was just throwing me under the bus and sacrificing my job at the school as a way to appease some disgruntled parents. So Wednesday I was fairly stressed out at work.

Thursday and Friday were much better. I think the situation has pretty much blown over. Though I did have some weird work stress related dream a couple nights ago. I can’t even really remember what it was about. Just that I was at work and my boss and principal were super pissed at me for something. Parenthetically, I also had my second dream in Korean a couple nights ago. Shit is so strange. As far as I can tell, I don’t think that last Friday’s incident really made it out of the class. At least, if students in my other classes know about it, it hasn’t changed how they act around me. In fact, Friday I had some of the most fun I’ve ever had in two of my classes. Blue class on Fridays is just four three four third grade boys. We did some book work, and at the end of class, there were about ten extra minutes left. I don’t remember really how, but we just got into an eraser fight. The next class saw, and when they finished their work with about ten minutes left, they wanted to have an eraser fight, so it was pretty much me getting beaned with erasers by seven girls and one boy. This really is the best part of my job.

I have some girl students that like to sit on my lap. At first it made me a little uneasy. Coming from America, there’s always people that will question a relative stranger’s affection for a kid. Secondly, my principal is a Nazi, and he saw me sitting at my desk with three second graders on my lap, he’d probably have about eight conniptions apiece. Still, it’s hard to tell them no. One in particular, Angela, a really sweet girl who struggles a lot, but really likes me, will just sit on my lap and do her work for like ten minutes, if I don’t tell her to get up and go sit back down. It’s kind of weird, but at the same time, I really appreciate that my students are that comfortable with me.

Friday night I went to hapkido as usual. Pretty normal day. Still can’t do a goddamn handspring. But I landed a single-handed cartwheel for the first time. Not really the absolute first time, but the first really legit one. Before I wouldn’t extend my legs all the way, or I’d bail out with my second hand at the last second, but Friday I landed two legit single-handed cartwheels, so I was pretty stoked. Getting better and better at handstands. Up to like five seconds and a couple steps now. Pretty impressive considering before a month or so ago I couldn’t even do one at all. Also, I jumped a rope 300 times for the first time on Wednesday, and then again on Friday. I used to think that my legs were pretty muscular, but since I started hapkido I’ve seen a huge increase.

After hapkido, I met up with John and we went to a couple bars, had some drinks, etc… but most people wanted to call it a night a lot earlier than I did. Went to Dolce, but as soon as we got there, the only three other people there left, so I ended up going home around 2 AM. It was a pretty slow night.  Saturday I bummed around Cheonan all day, did some laundry, then went to Daejon for a friend’s birthday. The restaurant we went to dinner at was awesome. It was a German themed buffet. For 18,000 won we got unlimited food, steaks, and pitchers for German beer until 10 PM. We got loaded there. Went to the downtown area to drink more, but the first bar we went to was super packed and getting a drink seemed like a hassle. At one point, I swore someone suggested we go to another place, so he left, and I tried to follow him out, but somehow we got separated. I ended up on the street by myself and just said “fuck it” and got a cab to take me to a jjimjilbang.

Woke up around 10 AM and went home to shower, change clothes, and nap before I went to Seoul. I needed a new Korean book, and decided I could use some new clothes as well. I was supposed to meet a friend, but she never responded to my texts until about an hour ago. Apparently she got plastered last night and just woke up. At 9 PM. Okay, whatever. Anyway, I had a decent time traveling all over Seoul by myself. Did a little exploring, found the massive book store and got two Korean textbooks. Went to Itaewon and got some new work shirts and a new pair of shoes. Probably spent… 230,000 won on travel and purchases. I decided on Itaewon for dinner, with Mexican in mind, but when I saw the Subway, I had to go. I haven’t had Subway since I came here, and I used to eat there pretty often. It was about $8 for a footlong with a drink and chips. I think that’s slightly more than back home, but back home I only ever got $5 foot longs with no drinks or sides because I was cheap as fuck. I bought some ADIDAS sneakers today for 87,000 won. I have definitely never spent $70 or more on a pair of shoes before. I think the most before that was like $45 for Chucks. I’m slowly getting more and more used to having money.

Anyway, this week looks like it’ll be more managable. Hopefully things have calmed down for good. The only thing that sucks is I’m getting to the point where I have no bookwork left with some of my classes, so I’m going to be spending more and more of my mornings coming up with worksheets for class. Oh, boy.

A Bittersweet Night

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15, 2010 by kingcal

A short conclusion on the drama from my last post:

After lunch I had a meeting with Diane and the principal. It was just me getting lectured about the progressive steps I had to take. Not let my emotions control how I punished students. Remain consistent in discipline. It was kind of bullshit. The principal seemed totally uninterested in the circumstances of the kid’s behavior, and they pretty much ignored everything I said. The didn’t even really care about the pinch as much as the fact that I wanted to send the student out in the hall. Apparently that was in appropriate. They neglected to listen when I tried saying it wasn’t even a punishment as much as it was me trying to remove a disruption from the classroom. I didn’t demand the kid leave, only that he choose to quiet down and work, or go into the hallway to cry. Oh well. Not much you can do about it but nod and smile. Long story short, they said it shouldn’t really be that big of a deal.

Anyway, last night I didn’t have much planned. Just go to the study group, then go home and watch some American TV on my computer. Right as I got to the study group, a Korean friend told me that there was a small get together for a girl who was leaving Korea. She had a big bar night on Friday, but I wasn’t feeling very well and left around 11 PM. Since I didn’t really have anything better to do, and I wanted to say goodbye, I tagged along.

It was a really fun night, but at the same time, a little depressing. Really, for a mix of reasons. One being kind of personal and totally unrelated to my friend leaving, but the bad news had kind of put me in a gloomy mood before I even went to the language exchange. Once we were at the bar, it was just a lot of reminiscing and story telling, and it was really fun. But at the same time, I felt a little on the outside. Everyone else there pretty much considered the other people at the table to be among their best friends in Korea, if not ever.

I, on the other hand, have known most of them for 4-6 months, but have only really been hanging out with them even semi-regularly for a month or so. I told the girl that it sucks she’s leaving because I wish I had gotten to know her better. Back in September, I got my first taste of people leaving, but a lot of them were people I barely knew, many of them I met for the first time with less than a month left in their stay in Korea, so I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on anything.

With her, however, I had gotten to spend time with her and her friends to a large enough extent that with her departure, I feel a genuine sense of loss. A lot of the stories people told last night were stories that almost everyone there was a part of. Maybe some people don’t understand why you’d tell a story that everyone already experienced, but I do. And it kind of sucks being at a table full of people who are best friends, having a great time telling stories everyone already knows, and you’re the only one who wasn’t there.

This is not at all in any way anyone’s fault. I don’t want it to sound like that. It’s just how the situation happened. Talking with people who’ve been here several years, though, it’s something you kind of have to get used to. I know a lot of people that have been here 2-3 years, and even a handful in the 5-10 year range. Honestly, I think it’s harder staying in Korea sometimes than it was leaving America. I kind of had a couple weeks to say goodbye to people, also with the intention of returning, but it was basically an extended one time goodbye. Here it seems like at least every six months, there’s a good portion of your friends that will be going home, so every six months there are these bittersweet goodbye nights, and you can be almost certain you’ll never see the person again, unless there are some pretty extrodinary circumstances.

Anyway, I’m not sure of my weekend plans. I had weekend plans, but based on some recent flaky cancellations, I have less and less confidence that they’ll actually happen. Since I finished my second textbook set, I want to go to Seoul and get a new textbook. The bookstore in my city has mostly just beginner stuff, and not a very wide selection. Someone recommended that I go to Seoul and check out a couple book stores there. I don’t spend enough time in Seoul during the day, so I may use Saturday to do this.

Showdown at the SK Corral 2.0

Posted in Uncategorized on November 14, 2010 by kingcal

Well, if you’ve been reading long enough, you may recognize the title of this blog. Several months ago, I had a pretty bad run in with a student, which prompted her to quit the program. Friday, I had another argument with a student, which was much worse, which I didn’t think was possible.

For some background info, I have to explain some about this class. It’s my last class of the day Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. It’s the advanced class that uses the American textbooks. Recently, after receiving assigned seats and incorporating my points system, they have been much improved. The schedule for this class has been the same for about six or seven weeks now. Tuesday, we read a story, and I hand out a vocabulary list of words for the test which is on Friday of every week. Thursday, we finish a small amount of reading, do practice book work, and I assign a 10 sentence writing assignment for homework. I also end up handing out replacement vocabulary lists to several students who were abset on Tuesday or lost the list. Friday, we have a vocabulary test and they complete a fill in the blank vocabulary worksheet so I can tell if they know the words well enough to use them in context.

Friday, after the test was finished, I began handing out the worksheet. Several students, including some who’d been given a second vocabulary list claimed that they didn’t have theirs with them. I told them all to work with the student next to them. Many wanted to get up and sit with their friends to work. I didn’t allow this because I knew it would turn into nothing but chit-chat and they’d waste the last half of class doing nothing. I repeatedly told the students that they had to sit in their assigned seats and work with those around them that did bring the vocabulary sheet. Sure, I could have printed out more, but I’ve gotten sick and tired of students not coming prepared to class. Every day students come without pencils, erasers, books, paper, notebooks, etc… and I don’t feel like it’s my job to constantly be supplying them, because as a student their responsibility is to come to class prepared.

After several minutes, the students settled down and began working as I instructed, except one student. He simply refused to do what I said. I told him many times he could work with the girl next to him because she had the list, but he completely refused. After the third time he continued to get up and walk around, I came up from behind him and gave him a light pinch on the back of the neck with two fingers. This is something I do on a damn near daily basis. If a student refuses to stand up, particularly when being punished, or I want them to sit down, I gently take them by the skin of the neck with two fingers and sit them down or stand them up. The kids don’t generally enjoy it, but it’s also never been a gigantic issue before. The kids receive some much harsher punishment from Korean teachers.

Anyway, this prompts the kid into an absolute crygasm, which ends up lasting half an hour. At first, I was like “Okay, whatever. Kids cry pretty often. After 5-10 minutes he’ll wear out and calm down.” After ten minutes, which I pretty much ignored him, I began telling him to quiet down and get started on his work. Another five minutes goes by, and he continues crying loudly, yelling in in Korean, and being a general disruption. I stand next to him and spend five minutes explaining that he has a very easy choice to make. He can calm down and stay inside the classroom and begin working, or he can go into the hallway and cry until he’s calm enough to begin working.

The entire time I explain this, he just yells at me in Korean. I eventually navigate him out of the classroom, but he refuses to stay where I want. He tries leaving, but since his stuff was in the room he kept coming back in, trying to grab it and leave. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen. After awhile he seemed to be calming down, so I brought him back in. He was still crying a little, but he had managed it down to a polite sob. I’m not sure exactly what prompted it, but he started cussing in Korean, saying “fuck” and calling me a son of a bitch, so I was understandably a little upset, and pinched him by the back of the next and walked him to the back of the room and had him stand in the corner.

At this point, several kids pulled out their phones and started taking video. I was kind of upset about that, but just made them put it away. As I was letting all the students leave, his mom showed up and they were all outside having a heated discussion about what had happened. I let the student leave after he put up some extra chairs, then just left without even looking at the mom. Since I was feeling a little sick, I went home and took a nap. Half an hour later, I got a call from Mr. Lee, and he asked what had happened in class.

I began explaining, but he interrupted me and asked if I had beat the student. I had to ask him to repeat what he said, because I was so taken aback. Apparently, the kid’s father was under the impression that I had somehow beaten, choked, and shoved his kid around. He even said their was video evidence of me pushing the kid. At most, all it could have been was me holding the kid by the arm and walking him backwards or holding my hand on his chest to keep him from walking away.

Then Mr. Lee told me that Monday I would have to go in to the principal’s office and explain what happened. The way he described it, he made it sound like the kid and possibly his father would be there. I asked if he would help me explain what happened, but he said he was too busy, so Diane would do it. I contacted her, but she never replied as to whether or not she would be able to come in. I spent all week stressing over it. I was worried about whether in the heat of the moment I had possibly done something in appropriate and just been too upset or distracted to really notice. I was worried about how other students would view me. I feel like this is going to spread all over the school, and I don’t want my students thinking I’m some kind of hard ass.

I was also worried the kid would quit. Normally, he’s a very good student. He does well on the tests, he participates in class eagerly, and generally the worst he does is just talks too much during class, but especially with that class that’s nothing out of the ordinary.

This morning I talked with the principal around 10:30 AM. Diane never came in to help translate or anything. In my experience, the principal’s English is not strong. I waited a bit for Diane, and Mr. Lee called to ask if I had met with the principal yet a bit before 10 AM. Apparently, it wasn’t like I actually had an appointment to see him. It was more of a pre-emptive thing. Just get there before the father and bring it up first so I look less guilty, I suppose. I wrote the students name down and told him in Korean he had been really bad, cried, been loud, cursed at me in Korean, and explained that I had pinched the back of his neck. The principal seemed to take it in stride and just said he’d call the dad and solve the problem.

I had spent a decent amount of time this weekend working on the assumption that Diane wouldn’t come in, and I had been thinking about how to explain the situation in Korean. Actually, in my head, I was able to explain a pretty detailed account of what happened, in my own way. I ended up giving a really watered down version to the principal, because explaining why he was bad was the hard part, and simply saying he was bad, what he had done, and the worst punishment I had given him seemed like enough.

It’s not really over yet, but I feel like there’s a pretty good chance this won’t end up being as big a deal as I had feared it would be. Here’s for hoping, anyway. It was just a bad situation. Once a kid starts crying is when I really become stubborn, because I feel like if I begin cowtowing to a student just because their crying, it’ll snowball and all the kids will begin crying to get their way. To make matters worse, the more stubborn I got, the more stubborn he got. I think maybe the kid had just had a bad day and it was like the perfect storm in the classroom.

Lazy Thursday

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 by kingcal

Well, Thursday is here. It has turned into one of my longer days, de to the schedule change (again), but while I teach five classes and stay until 6 PM, they’re only 45 minutes each, so they’re not too terrible. The worst part is that it’s the fourth week, so pretty much all of my classes, except my advanced class which uses a different book, have nothing left to do. The fourth week is pretty much all me coming up with materials or activities to do for my classes. Not super hard, but while most of the kids will take most of the class time to do something, there’s always a couple curve breakers that finish 15 minutes in and get a little antsy. Yesterday, I had a student finish early and complain that there wasn’t any more studying to do. When was the last time you heard about a kid complaining that they wanted to study more? Not much I could do about that one. I just kept on going around helping other kids.

Tuesday was much better than I thought it would be. I really turned it around on my last class. There’s only 16 students (compared with 40 student sized classes my friends teach that’s nothing), but they can be extremely hard to keep focused. Tuesday I came up with assigned seats, so they couldn’t chit chat with their friends, then made a point of rewarding the few good students, hoping the rest would follow suit, as well as really coming down on the kids who wouldn’t listen (I made some kid hold his chair over his head for like five minutes). When we were reading and doing book work, they were much quieter. Not silent, but I wasn’t borderline shouting just to hear myself, so a drastic improvement. That and kids were actually volunteering to read and answer questions. Much more managable. I escaped that class without a pounding headache for once. Hopefully today it will be more of the same.

Hapkido’s been going well. I got my green belt Tuesday, and I didn’t even have to take a test. Actually, last night kind of pretty much sucked. The first half hour was just half an hour of sprinting back and forth across the gym, loser had to do ten pushups. I ended up doing around fifty pushups. Towards the end, when the sprints incorporated army crawling, walking on all fours, crab walking, etc… I managed to beat out some of the girls, so I didn’t end up just doing push ups all night.

After the sprints, I broke off with one other black belt to show me more advanced versions of some of the falls I already know. I know how to do them from a standing straight up position, but now I’m learning how to jump up into the air and then fall down. I’m pretty goddamn sore. Especially after running for half an hour, I was so tired that after maybe 10 minutes of practice, my arms especially became so tired they wouldn’t even hold my weight up when I fell on them. I definitely feel it this morning in my shoulders and back. I guess that goes with the territory once you start moving up from the most basic stuff.

I was really excited about bungee jumping this weekend, but the longer I go without hearing details back from people, the more I feel like it’s just going to fall apart and nothing will happen. I hope not, but I’m being realistic. I mean, there are plenty of bar conversations that end up this way. “Oh man, let’s totally go do X next week!” and everyone is all in agreement, but then it just never happens. That seems to happen even more in Korea. Not just drunk promises, but totally sober ones. People here are either too busy or flaky to stick to a plan.

If it doesn’t happen, I’m not sure what this weekend will hold. Mayhap I’ll go to Bucheon. I haven’t been there in a month and a half at least, and there’s an all you can drink event for just 12,000 won, so there’s a very strong possibility I’ll end up there.

Also, I finished translating the little children’s religious comic book I mentioned a long ass time ago. It only took like 30 minutes. I’ve just had other stuff on my plate and hadn’t gotten around to it. I hope to very soon start posting pictures and translations.

Some funny conversations with students (and my co-teacher) from this week.

A student singing ‘I Will Follow Him’.
Me: Where did you learn that song?
Student: Sister…
Me: Your sister?
Student: SISTER ACT!
Me: Good movie! Thumbs up.

Student: Give me 5,000 won.
Me: No.
Student: Give me 1,000 won.
Me: No.
Student: Give me 100 won.
Me: No.
Student: Give me 1,000 trillion won.
Me: I don’t have that much money.
Student: Give me infinity won!
Me: You don’t know how to haggle, kid.
Student: What?

I walk into my co-teacher’s office.
Diane: I saw you last night. In my dream.
Me: What was I doing?
Diane: You tried to kill me.
Me: How?
Diane: You broke the window and used a piece of glass.
Me: Ha!

Student: Why don’t you play with name witheld?
Me: We’re not friends.
Student: But WHY?
Me: We’re just not.
Student: But you used to be friends.
Me: Not really.
Student: Why?
Me: Grown up stuff. No big deal.
Student: But he’s from America and you’re from America, so you should be friends.
Me: And you’re from America. (This is Yuri, the girl who lived in NJ for two years. If you ask her she identifies equally as Korean and American — don’t rain on her parade by explaining the intracacies involved with obtaining legitimate American citizenship).
Student: But you’re a grown up and I’m a kid.
Me: So we’re not friends?
Student: No.
I make a sad face and pretend cry.