Archive for February, 2011

First Farewells

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2011 by kingcal

Well, it’s Thursday, which means this is the last day I’ll teach five of my classes. Two of them are my favorites, too. It hasn’t really hit me yet, but after lunch I’m gonna go home and get my camera so I can get some pictures with my students. I think when I say goodbye to Yellow and Orange class it’s really going to be hard on me. Gonna have to sack up and not get misty-eyed in front of fourth graders.

Since it’s the last day, with three of my classe we’re just playing games. Those being Red, Yellow and Orange. My first class, Silver, I don’t even know. I don’t care either. It’s my worst class and they’re not even like half finished with their books, so I’ll probably just assign them a couple pages and that’s it. Tuesday I gave them 4 pages and it lasted like 45 minutes. Actually, most of those students I don’t even really want a picture of. Just one or two. Another of my favorite students from that class hasn’t been there in awhile. I’ve noticed attendance has dropped noticably in the past couple weeks. I don’t know if it’s because the parents found out the program was ending or what. Shit, you paid for a month. May as well use it.

Then I’ll play games for three classes. After that, I’ve got Treasures class. It’s not a bad class, really. The students are all fairly smart, though some lack the motivation to apply themselves, but overall they’re good. It’s just the book, an American 3rd grade textbook, is perhaps a little too advanced for some of them, and the amount of material I’m given coupled with only seeing them two times a week means I can never really have fun with them. It’s always reading a story on Tuesday and doing book work Thursday. I feel bad, but at this point, whatever.

I won’t just be saying goodbye to my students either. Last night, when I got to my hapkido lesson, the master called me into his office and told me that he was moving to another city, so there wouldn’t be anymore lessons there. That really sucks. He told me of two other places I could go to continue learning. I want to keep learning, especially since I just got my red belt, so I’m only 2-3 months away from a black belt. It would be pointless to stop now. But starting all over again at a new place would be awkward.

He was a little weird about it though. At one place, he’s college friends with the master, and he knows it’s a good place, but he said that I shouldn’t tell him that he moved. I should just say I wanted to go somewhere closer to my home. It would be, except I’m moving downtown, so it’d be really out of the way. The other place would be downtown, near where I’d be living, but he said if I go there, I should lie and say I’ve been studying hapkido for 9-10 months, because if they found out I got my red belt in six months, they’d still wait until I reached a year of studying to take my black belt test. That kind of makes me feel like I’m underqualified to be a red belt or something.

So, tomorrow I’ll have to say my goodbyes to all the people in my hapkido class. I mean, I still have their phone numbers and all, but we’ve tried hanging out before, and they always flake, so I just kind of stopped trying to make plans with them. I guess it’s good that I’ll get some free time next week at least. The hapkido class did kind of cut into socializing. I guess I’ll take a week or two off to get settled into the new place and what not, then try getting back into it in mid-March.

I still haven’t started packing yet. That’s probably bad. I keep saying I’ll start tomorrow. I know other people leaving to go home or on vacation and they say they’ve been packing for weeks. Kind of makes me a little nervous. I remember when I was in college, every time I went into an exam, I’d just sit and wait patiently. My feeling was that if I didn’t know it already, no amount of panicked studying would help out in the five minutes before a test. And yet, as I sat there and saw other people flipping through their notes in a panic, it still made me a little bit uneasy, like I should be more concerned or urgent in my emotions or whatever. Kind of the same thing.

I know, A) being a guy, and B) being me particularly, not only do I not have that much shit to pack that I can’t throw out, but I can also get it done fairly goddamn quickly. The only problem is that I have acquired a fair amount of books, and I only have one suitcase… I may just have to go to a store and steal some of the free boxes they have there. In Korea, at department stores, they charge money for plastic bags, but cardboard boxes are free. Much more recycling minded society here.

Anyway, it’s about lunch time, so I’m gonna go grab some chow.

Roof Top Sugar

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2011 by kingcal

So, I had a pretty productive morning. I finally got my release letter, so I had to meet with the new director to drop off all my documents so he could get my visa taken care of. I needed four passport photos, but I only had three, and they were old anyway, so last night I went to have them taken, but I came in late, so they couldn’t be printed before the shop closed. So I headed to meet the director around 9 AM, then had to wait around for him to show up at 10 AM. I swore he said “before 10 AM”, but in Konglish that can mean at 10 AM. Anyway, I met most of the teachers there, though most are leaving. I think only two of the five are staying.

After that, I grabbed some lunch, then went back to the shop to get my photos and went back to the academy. It was a special day there. Graduation is at the end of the week, so the classes were putting on “dramas”. For most of them, that meant a choreographed dance to a taped song, but I think I saw some of the older students singing, perhaps in English. Anyway, it was cute, and we never do anything fun like that at my current job.

Anyway, it seems like things are finally sorted out and settled. Except the students still don’t really know the deal. I’m going to tell my older classes today. I think they deserve to know. Especially since the classes I teach today I’ll only see again on Thursday and then never again. I’ve still got three more classes with my Mon, Wed, Fri classes. Originally I was told my last day was the 28th, then it was pushed up to the 25th, now it’s the 28th again. I don’t care. Most of those classes are about done with their books, so tomorrow is games, Friday is god knows what, and Monday I’ll probably just show a movie all day. I’m really beyond caring at this point.

At first I was a little upset about the day being pushed back. I would’ve liked to just said all my goodbyes this week and finish it, then spend next week transitioning. I’m over it. I also talked to the director today about my housing situation, and he said I should be able to move in to an apartment on March 2nd or so. That only really leaves me with one full day of homelessness, which should hopefully be easy to fix. At worst, maybe I store my shit at a friend’s place or two and spend the night in a jjimjilbang.

I’m beyond excited to get started at the new job. I just need a change. It can’t come to soon. I feel like today is going to be hard. It’s my long day. I have to teach 5 hours, instead of 4 like all the other days. Ugh. So not excited for the first class in particular. Except one, perhaps two students, I can’t say I’d miss them. In fact, several I can very definitely say I’m glad I’ll never see again. That sounds bad, but if you spent a year with some of these kids, you wouldn’t ever want to see them again.

That’s another thing, perhaps it was because it was a special day and parents were around to watch the “dramas”, but the kids at the new place all seemed really well-behaved. And when I was originally hired, he said I would have 9 classes, which seemed extreme, but the day is just split into 9 periods. From 10 AM to 2:2o PM, I’d be teaching my own kindergarten class which I would have every day, all year. I’d teach in 40 minute blocks or so, then have a small break, then go back. Then maybe a 30 hour break before older students came. That’s a little more complicated, like some students only come certain days a week, and some only come for the first or second half or both or whatever, but it’s not like I have 9 completely different classes. More like 3-4 classes total with all the different possible permutations.

Anyway, class starts in about half an hour. I don’t really have anything prepared. Just gonna kind of wing it today. I did that yesterday. Basically finished the books in two classes, which only took like 30-40 minutes.  The rest of the time was just playing around. That was fun.

Also, the weather today was awesome as hell. I hope it stays warm like this. It’s getting late in winter. Hopefully the snow we got last week was the last of it.

Graduation Day

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2011 by kingcal

No, I’m not talking about a Denzel movie. It’s graduation day in Buldang Elementary. I’m not sure, but from what my students said, the ceremony is only for the sixth graders, of which I only have one. And he’s not exactly my favorite student. He’s not bad in a behavioral sense. He doesn’t do anything. Literally nothing. He comes in and stares blankly at his book for an hour, then class ends and he leaves. For a long time I spent a lot of energy to make him work, but I finally gave up. So, I don’t think I’ll be attending the ceremony.

It also means that I think attendance in my classes will be pretty light today. Yesterday, Mia wrote a note on the board and asked me to let the kids know that they still had class on Friday as usual. At first, I didn’t understand why we needed to make special note of this, but then she mentioned the graduation thing and that there’s no school tomorrow, but still an after school program. A lot of the kids seemed incredulous that we’d have our program today. Many students told me that they wouldn’t be coming to class. My response? “Good! Thumbs up“. That’s always my response when students say they’re not coming to class. Not because I dislike them and don’t want to see them (okay, well maybe sometimes), but because I feel like any day these kids get a break and aren’t in school is a good day for them.

My first class yesterday was pretty rough. Actually, the worst student didn’t show up, miracle of miracles, since he hardly ever misses a day. But two other kids really stepped up their game, and nothing I did could settle them down. I tried the hands up thing, but that didn’t work. Tried making them hold up books, but that didn’t work. I actually gave one kid so many books he physically couldn’t fit all of them into his hand, and he was still laughing about it, dancing around, making a goddamn scene. Really tested my patience. After class, I kept them, them walked them to the Korean teacher’s room and told Mia how bad they had been and asked her to call their mom’s. When she said that, their demeanor changed pretty goddamn fast. Good.

I have to admit, all of February, knowing it was the last three weeks I’d be teaching and the last three weeks of the program at the school, my work ethic and motivation to teach has dropped to about zero. Some of the classes with smaller books I’ve pretty much finished, but other classes with thicker books, I knew I wouldn’t finish and have not even really tried to. I could assign a shit ton of homework to finish, but at this point I just don’t give a shit.

Today shouldn’t be too bad, though. I’ve got my good first grade class to start. Then the next two classes I’ve just got a game to play. I feel bad, since all month, because of my loss of motivation and enthusiasm, I haven’t really been having fun with my classes. It’s just been “Okay class, time to read. Next, get your books. Do these pages. Okay, class is over, leave.” I feel like I’m taking it out on the kids a bit, so we’re playing games. Then I’ve got my free hour before my last class of the day. With them, it’s not like we work really hard, but it’s also not very fun either. Still, I have just enough time to finish the book, so I can’t just totally blow it off, so the last hour will be just book work, though that class I always end like 5-7 minutes early. They also have zero motivation to do work, so halfway through class I just say “Okay, we need to finish these pages. As soon as you’re done, you can leave. Faster you work, faster you go. Chop chop.” Literally.

Extra curricularly speaking, this weekend is looking fuzzy. Tonight there’s a salsa party at Dolce. There’s usually a good turn out for those, though not being much of a dancer, it’s not exactly my kind of scene either. I may leave early with other people if they’re interested in finding something else to do. Saturday, I’ll be in Hongdae, though I’m not entirely at what time, with who, or what for. So, whatever happens happens, I guess.

Valentine’s Day in Korea

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 by kingcal

Well, Valentine’s Day has come and passed. And for those in Korea, you probably don’t know how different Valentine’s Day is. While in America, technically gifts are supposed to be given both ways, I’m sure most people realize guys don’t really care for the gifts. At least, not nearly as much as girls do. Valentine’s Day is much more geared towards the females of America. I’m not saying this is bad, just saying that’s how it is. Valentine’s Day here is pretty much the opposite.

While it’s not exactly against the rules to give your girlfriend a gift on Valentine’s Day, the normal procedure is that women are supposed to give men the gifts. This isn’t just some chauvanistic, male ego-driven thing, though. Conversely, one month later on March 14th is White Day. On White Day is the intended day for men to give gifts and chocolates to their girlfriends. So, essentially speaking, Korea has two Valentine’s Days. Talk about taking capitalist consumerism to heart.

And, for the single, be not faint of heart! You have a day as well! After enduring two straight months of couples holidays on the 14th, April 14th is your day. Black Day. It doesn’t really sound that fun or happy. But, I don’t think “black” is supposed to take on the connotation that an American would give it, especially in this context. On Black Day, single people can go out and eat a special kind of noodle dish, famous for it’s black sauce. Yet another victory for consumerism.

Actually, there are a lot of these holidays that I have noticed. Nov. 11th is Ppeppero Day, which are basically like Korean Pocky – cracker sticks covered in chocolate. It’s on that day, because the long, straight shape of the cookie resembles a number one. So, 11/11 is Ppeppero Day. Also, coming up in a couple days is Samgyeopsal Day. Samgyeopsal is a famous dish in Korea. It’s not like you need a reason to go eat it, it’s one of the most popular dishes. Yet, coincidentally enough “sam” means “three”, so on March 3rd, we have Samgyeopsal Day.

My own Valentine’s Day wasn’t that great. I got some chocolate, but it’s pretty common for female co-workers to just give all the male co-workers chocolate, and Monday was also my language meeting, so everyone kind of brought chocolate to share. I kind of bombed, though. Made a Valentine’s Day card for someone (how 3rd grade) and sent a picture of it, since I wouldn’t see her until Saturday and didn’t want to wait that long, then never got a response. I’m not dumb. I know what that means.

The next morning, at work, I finally got a response back, and the conversation was pretty short. She just wasn’t feeling it, but wanted to be friends. I said that I was sorry, but I can’t really do that because it’d make it harder for me to move on, so we said goodbye. Wasn’t the first time it’s happened, won’t be the last, but I’ll admit, it stung a bit. Maybe I invested myself a little too deeply, since we’d only met a couple times, but I liked her. So whatever. It happens. Can’t be too upset about it. Can’t make somebody feel something they don’t.

I’m “over it” in the sense that I can open about about it and talk about it without getting really emotional, but I’m not “over it” enough that I’d be able to see her and not have some kind of weird feeling. I mean, yeah, it’s only been a day, and I do tend to have very intense, short-lived feelings that come and go pretty quickly, but seeing or talking to her still would just really draw out the process and make it last way too long. I deleted her from my phone, and even cleaned out the inbox of my text messages, so I couldn’t even find her number that way. The tie has been cut, and it’s too late now. It sucks. I’ll miss her, but as the prophet Vonnegut says:

So it goes.

Deeper Shade of Soul

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2011 by kingcal

Yo, I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. I guess I’ve been busy. Right now I’m sick as a dog. It didn’t keep me from driving all over and running some errands. Every pharmacy seems to be closed on Sunday. Such a bummer.

Anyway, I’m down to about two weeks of work left. Eleven days to be exact. My final day is February 28th. I’m still working on getting my release letter, but I have all my other paperwork in order. I think, maybe worst case scenario at this point is that I may have to go to Japan or something for a couple days if my boss really won’t give me a release letter, but since he’d have to pay for the ticket, I don’t imagine he’d choose spending more money rather than to just give me a piece of paper.

I’m not sure exactly why, but Friday night was a super slow night. Nobody was anywhere. I suppose a lot of people were on vacation and out of the country. I know a couple people going to… Thailand maybe? right now. While all the schools in the city were back in session this week, middle and high schools go right back to a two week vacation until March 1st essentially. I guess this week is for making up missed classes (like they’d ever cancel school for snow here) and moving kids to their new classrooms. I’m not sure exactly when the switch over happens at Buldang, but I’m assuming March.

My work week was pretty normal. Thursday was really terrible for some reason. My two youngest classes were just in the attitude to be complete brats. That gave me a wanger of a headache. Then my older, smarter classes, they were just boring as shit. There was like nothing good about that day. I made plans to meet people for dinner, so I ate a lot later than usual, which made my headache worse. On the way downtown, my bus was in a minor accident. Actually, it wasn’t even the bus. As we pulled up to a stop, a scooter rode between the bus and the sidewalk. I thought that was pretty ball-sy, especially considering at a bus stop you’d expect people to be getting off. Not two seconds after I think this, a second scooter comes through and slams into some guy stepping off the bus. They both go down. Then the guy on the scooter gets up and starts bitching at the bus driver for not pulling closer to the curb. Like it wasn’t completely his fucking fault. It was insane. So they bus driver basically told everyone to get off and wait for the next bus while he dealt with shit on the phone. And then we had to pay again to get on the second bus. I was livid.

Friday was much better. I took it pretty easy in my first two classes, then for my third and fourth periods I had a pizza party and showed The Emperor’s New Groove to Yellow class. Luckily, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I now have a free period right before my last class, so they were able to stay and finish the movie. I certainly wasn’t wasting another precious day I have left with them to watch the last 20 minutes of a movie. Anyway, it felt really good to reward them. They’re very enthusiastic about the no Korean rule. I don’t even have to say anything, but as soon as kids walk in they’re all like “All right! No more Korean!” and get on each other’s case if they hear someone speaking Korean. It’s exactly how I wanted the rule to work out. Instead of getting mad at me for being disciplined, they get mad at the kid and bitch them out for me. Then, when other classes are like “Teacher, why do they have pizza party?” I just answer “They’re a very good class. They never speak Korean.”

Friday night was pretty slow with everybody out of town. I was kind of sick Friday when I woke up, so going out to the bars and screaming over music made it even worse when I woke up Saturday. Voice is shot. Bad sore throat. Really thick, congested, chesty cough. It’s not fun. Saturday night I just chilled at Oscar’s and watched a couple movies then went home. Somehow I feel even worse today. Which is why I wanted to buy medicine for the first time in like three years, but  naturally all the pharmacies are closed and department stores here don’t seem to have in-store pharmacies like in America. Perfect. I’m debating whether or not to go to the meeting tonight. If I don’t, I’m just going to sit home and do nothing. If I do go, I’m certainly not driving. It’s fine during the day, but at night it’s still cold as fuck driving on the scooter.

It finally seems like all the ice is off the road, so I’ve got my confidence completely back. After the little accident I had, I wasn’t exactly scared of driving, but I was certainly more cautious and aware of the possibility of there still being ice, even if I don’t see it, and the consequences. I feel rather lucky all I did in the accident was skin my knee, rip my jeans and knock a turn signal off. It could’ve been much worse for me, particularly considering I wasn’t wearing my helmet at the time.

Anyway, I think that’s about it for this blog. Just wasting some time while I download another Korean movie.

Wish You Were Here

Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2011 by kingcal

Well, I’ve had a pretty long, eventful week. Let’s recap!

Monday – Didn’t go to work. Ignored several calls from Mr. Lee. Went to Songtan with Steve to bum around. Had some really good Turkish food.

Tuesday – Skipped work again. Went to an interview. Got the job and signed a new contract. I should start the first or second week of March. I’m teaching in Cheonan, much closer to downtown, and my apartment will actually be in the downtown area, but I don’t know exactly where yet. Pretty stoked. I’m super excited about the new job, but it almost makes the last three weeks of this job even harder to accomplish.

Wedesday – Went to Hongdae to meet a friend. Just coffee, walking around, and dinner. Great time, though. Came back and had a couple beers at Dolce that night, but nothing too crazy.

Thursday – Just a night on the town in Cheonan. It was the Chinese New Year so pretty much everything was closed. I barely ate anything.

Friday/Saturday – Went back to Seoul to meet a friend, and joined up with some more Cheonan people later in the day. I’m not really sure how late I stayed out, but it was a good time. I didn’t get much sleep though, so Saturday after bumming around a couple new areas of Seoul, I went back home because I was so tired and my back ached so bad I couldn’t have survived another night in Seoul. I did end up in Dolce out of boredom, but after four beers I left.

Sunday – Caught up on some much needed sleep. Kind of did nothing all day. Watched a Korean movie. Really good. Really sad. Went to the language exchange. Honestly, I didn’t really want to go. I was kind of depressed, but it was a good way to kill a couple hours. I got cheered up a little. Still, not excited about going to work tomorrow. I’m going to ask my co-teacher Mia when we should tell the kids the program is going to be ending at the end of the month. Part of me wants to just do it as soon as possible so they all know. However, I don’t want to spill the beans too soon if Mia thinks it’d make the situation. I’m not really sure how it would, but whatever. I also spent a lot of time thinking about saying goodbye to my students. I’ve known for quite awhile in the back of my head that I would have to, but now that it’s just three weeks away, it’s much more tangible, I suppose. It’s going to be super hard to say goodbye to some of the kids. Knowing that I’m going to see some of my students only six more times, and then no more hurts a little, to be honest.

Oh well. I’ll just have to get over it.