Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Nostalgia - it's delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, "nostalgia" literally means "the pain from an old wound." It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards... it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It's not called the wheel, it's called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels - around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved. 
-Mad Men, Season 1 Episode 13
So I think I have written about homesickness already. And if not, it's not necessarily because I don't feel it. I have actually been fairly homesick lately, though the interwebiverse serves as a good mitigator of that mess. Still, it's a weird feeling to know that the world keeps turning without you around. Life events happen whether we are there to observe them or not, and that point was unexpectedly driven home yesterday with the news of two of my college friends' engagement (PS congrats, losers. Have fun being shackled together for the rest of eternity).

But that's not really what prompted this entry (I've been working it out mentally for about a week now), and that's not really the kind of homesickness I'm talking about. Of course I do miss specific people, places, and things (BUT NOT IDEAS! NEVER IDEAS!), but what I think I've been missing more is the sense of comfort and security from knowing that we are in a place we can call "home". 

See, we (and I say "we" because I am pretty sure most of my readers grew up like I did in safe, relatively secure families who for the most part provided well for us) grew up with a distinct sense of security. Most of us had families who loved us, and provided for us. Even though there was turmoil in our lives, it was relatively minor - our entire lives/livelihoods/families were not destroyed by acts of nature or war; nor did we have to actively fight for our own survival on the mean streets of Rotterdam or something (twenty five points to whomever gets that reference). 

So we grow up in this relatively easy way until we take the next natural step and leave the nest. (Again, for most of the people reading this) that next step was college - which leads into this horrible, seemingly-interminable phase called Transitioning To Adulthood. In college, we are surrounded by our peers. And while for me it involved moving EVERY GODDAMN SUMMER, it was still a relatively stable place. I knew that I would be coming back at the end of every summer to (mostly) the same people in (mostly) the same place. 

But after graduation, all that changed. I wouldn't actually move again for another three months, but I immediately lost any secure sense of place. Yes, I still had my friends and family supporting me, and yes, I still had a place to live, but as a consequence of being underemployed, I always felt this constant struggle to settle down into a comfortable rhythm, so I could start building stability. And even then, I felt like I was in a holding pattern before I went off to grad school. And now I'm here in Korea, again without a stable, comfortable sense of place following two enormous moves in six months, bringing the total number of moves I've made since 2004 to 10. It creates this sense that I am, in some way, out of sync with the world around me. An outsider looking in on all these people's real lives.

And I don't think this is unique to me. One of my friends calls it the second puberty, and I think that's particularly apt. It's a growing pain, emblematic of all 20-somethings (a barf term, I know) who are really only just now starting to figure out who the hell they are.We stumble through, figuring out what it is we want out of life. And not just the nice car or the big house, but that singular driving force that will push us forward. I think the Olds call this "youthful idealism". I call it a necessary part of growing up.

So what does this have to do with nostalgia and homesickness? It's like Don Draper says - nostalgia is a twinge in your heart more powerful than memory alone. To paraphrase, it is a desire, a longing to go back home. Maybe not "home" in some specific sense - I'm not desperate to move back to Katy, TX or even the USA for that matter. But what I - and what I think EVERYONE my age is looking for - is that stability, that comfort, that sense of belonging to a place that we had when we were kids. And it's not going to go away just yet, because it's not just a place we can pack up and move to (I've clearly tried). It's a place we all have to build, in our own ways. We build it with our community, we build it with our careers, but most of all, we build it just by living our lives. So keep on living - one day, perhaps one, five, ten years from now, we'll wake up living and realize we are, in fact, home.

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy, morose post. Here is a funny video to lighten the mood!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Yesterday, I was given a cucumber.

No special occasion, I was just leaving school yesterday and one of my coworkers came up to me, handed me a cucumber and said "for you". Which...yay? I was just thinking the other day that I needed to introduce more fruits and vegetables into my diet. And I do rather like cucumbers. But I am pretty sure this is the first time I have ever been given one as a gift.

My life here is pretty...well, ridiculous. Recently, a friend of mine asked me how life was here in Korea, to which responded "ridiculous as normal." I didn't mean this in a necessarily negative sense, though. It's more like...standard? I guess? Like someone gives me a cucumber for a gift, or I see an old ajosshi peeing on a street corner and now my brain goes "oh yes, that is the expectedly ridiculous Korea. This is perfectly normal."

*I should pause here to note that really, ALL cultures have their ridiculousness. Because humans are ridiculous creatures. You just don't necessarily notice how ridiculous your own culture is, because it seems perfectly normal to you - after all, it's what you've known your whole life.

Back to the story, though. I think this acceptance of the ridiculous is part of becoming more integrated to my surroundings. Which is a good thing! But sometimes, things just stand out.

Last week, as I was coming back to my househome from an evening jog along the river, I was walking in front of this middle aged guy, listening to my music. Now I'm not really sure what happened, but all of a sudden I felt something wet hit my leg. I briefly lost my stride, PRAYING that it was rain, or maybe even bird crap, but no. Of course it wouldn't be.

I had been spat on.

It didn't connect right away. I wasn't exactly expecting to be spit on just at that moment in time. I mean, really! Who (aside from possibly teevee star New York) would expect that?? So I didn't check my leg until I got to the streetlight to confirm my worse fears. I looked back, but the culprit, whoever he was, had gone.

I'd like to believe that it was an accident, a tragic byproduct of the excessive (and SERIOUSLY nasty) spitting culture here. But maybe not. Maybe I had done something to piss the guy off. Regardless, you'd better believe that if I had immediately recognized the loogie for what it was, I would have turned around and let holy hell loose on this guy. I REALLY wanted to have gone all VH1 reality star on this jackass...and not the juiced up testosterone gorilla alpha male kind. I'm talking about the weave-snatchin', nail-clawin', cat-fightin', brawlin' Classy Ladies they showcase on their Sophisticated Entertainment Programs. I think New York would have been proud.

Caution parents: The following video contains language not suitable for minors. Also some crazy-ass bitchez up in heah.

You $#@(*&%@^&@in' wh*re! You put your @#$(in' fingers in my face?? You spit in my $&%*#$&%*in' hair???

PS sorry for the formatting, but I am just not talented enough. Tom, if you want to help feel free.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Doctor Who? Doctor FISH!


To make up for it, here is a post about a gross thing I did (AND I LIKED IT!):

Every once in a while, we all just need a bit of pampering. Some of us want to watch a day-long marathon of Golden Girls, some of us want to read a book, and some of us want to get our feet eaten by fish.

Wait, what?

You heard me! Can't you read?? Well Capt. Illiterate, let me spell it out for you: there is a new spa treatment taking Asia by storm called Doctor Fish. Basically, they take these small fish, put them in a pool of water, and then you stick your feet in there. And the fish eat off all the dead skin. It is simultaneously horrific and awesome. And I did it this weekend! Totally randomly, too...I had no plans to have organisms consume any part of me, but sometimes things just work out that way. 

So without further ado, here are some pictures of me being eaten alive.

This feels like a Bond movie.

So when we got there, there were a few people already in the pool...and the whole thing had this terrible air of inevitability, like when James Bond is being lowered into a lagoon filled with sharks by whichever evil S.P.E.C.T.R.E. henchman is doing it at the time. I was about to willingly let myself be consumed by tiny sea monsters. So, steeling myself with thoughts of Bond, I took the (six-inch-deep) plunge.

Oh crap! Here they come!!!

The first couple of bites were the worst...so shocking. So unpleasant. And I could watch it all happen. I imagine this is what shark attack victims feel like during the process of their attack.

 Clearly I am delicious to demon sea-monster-fish

And then the swarm came. Like lions to a weak gazelle, the fish just kept coming. In droves. It was not long until most of my feet were covered. The above photo is only representative of about halfway there.


I think this an appropriate face to have made. It actually felt okay after a while, just like having put my feet in seriously bubbly water. Until I looked down. And realized THAT MY FEET WERE BEING EATEN WTF IS WRONG WITH ME???

 Most delicious feet ever.

You should have seen how delicious the fish thought my feet were. I suppose technically you can see above. All the fishes loved my feet WAY more than the other feet in the pool. Which was just fantastic.

  The result.

Was it worth it? I'm not sure...it was weird, but also awesome. And it was mostly effective...I think one or two more treatments would do my feet some serious good. We'll see.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Young Love in the English Room

Today was not shaping up to be the greatest of days. The day dawned cloudy (though that might have been the thick layer of pollution) and seriously humid for about the fourth day in a row. Another day of threatening rain, but receiving none; one of those days where the atmosphere is pregnant with expectation and everyone seems just a little thrown off. Add to that the serious loss of South Korea to Argentina and my continued struggles to transfer money back to America, and I was in a very unpleasant mood. I wasn't snapping at people, more a general lethargy combined with a scowling depression. 

The morning didn't go particularly well, either. The atmosphere in the classroom was leaden from the humidity, lack of circulation and general disappointment, and it seemed like pulling teeth to get my students to participate in anything. But trudge on we did, and I made the decision to skip my lunch and try once and for all to do something about my money transferring problems.

One of the scarier parts of that particular issue was the fact that I had been carrying around 3,000,000 won in cash with me for about a day - yesterday I had tried to transfer the money, but was handed the cash from my bank and told "We can't wire money overseas here. Try the other bank next door". So I went there, and thinking my ARC would be better than my passport (we had to have our passport to get the ARC, after all), did not bring my passport. Of course the one thing I actually needed was my passport. So stuck with nearly $2500 in cash, in my bag, I raced home assuming every passing stranger was secretly a bandit who could smell the money and terror on me and would rob me in an instant.

So no lunch. Which did not help my mood any - I am a VERY unpleasant person when I skip meals, as many people who have ever known me can attest. Instead, I tried in vain to find a cab, walking most of the way to the bank before one would stop for me. Now I know what minorities in New York City feel like. But I got there, sticky-sweaty mess that I was, and got the money wired. Which was a huge relief. I picked up a sangwich and found a cab and headed back to school for my afternoon classes.

Which actually turned out to be a pretty decent part of the day. It was as if someone had flipped a switch - the kids were energetic, probably too energetic. My second class of the afternoon proved VERY difficult to control. But my second class of the afternoon also has my favorite students - namely, Goatcheese.

Now his name isn't actually Goatcheese. It's Gum Gongmin. But I call him Goatcheese. Not to his face! But when I am talking about him to friends. He's my favorite student, and I think I am one of his favorite teachers - he's basically a small anime character come to life. Every time I see him, it's "Hi Teacher!" and some sort of attack (the other day he tried to knock me over with a bear hug). When he came into class today, though, he was SO EXCITED to tell me about the result of his math test. He'd gotten a 100! I was seriously proud of him, even though I have never talked to him about math, and probably would have ruined his perfect score if I had.

But what made this especially exciting for me was that he was clearly excited to tell ME about it. I felt like Sally Field winning her second Oscar for Places in the Heart. You like me, you really like me! That was such a cool feeling.

AND THEN. He was equally excited about his result as he was for Kang Eunyoung, who had also scored a 100. Now Goatcheese and Eunyoung (I need to come up with a better name for her. You know, better than the one her parents gave her) have spend most of the semester "fighting" with each other - but the kind of elementary school fights boys and girls have. The kind that just give them an excuse to be close to each other. So I have been teasing them for the better part of 3 months about how they are in love - and you know what? I think I'm right. For Goatcheese, at least. He just seemed so genuinely excited about Eunyoung's result that it seems hard to come to another conclusion. 

Goatcheese is the class clown. And Eunyoung is definitely one of the pretty girls. So while they play now, I just don't see them going anywhere in the future. It'll be one of those John Hughes romances, only without the nerdy girl getting the jock or the nerdy best friend getting the girl whose nose he's been under since, well, forever.

They'll go their separate ways when middle school starts, she with her friends and he with his. They'll probably meet again one day, twenty years from now, and smile at each other. But it will be like two ships passing in the night. With a flicker os something once lost, they'll remember the carefree days of elementary school. But of couse they will be just too far apart by now. Already on their separate ways, down different paths. They'll be starting on their own lives by then, and there's no going back to those days. 

So maybe that was the promise of the morning. That what we have is the burden of the past, the oppressive knowledge of better times gone bye. But I'm not sure. I think that keeping those times with us - by remembering the past - we allow ourselves a more enriched present. For them, the memory of their lives way back when - not wishing they could go back but remembering - will be what they hold on to. 

Because that is something to hold on to. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

These are my confessions

Just when I thought I said all I could say, my chick--

Wait. Those are Usher's confessions. Sorry. Here are my confessions:

I don't think I'm cut out for elementary school teaching. I mean, I like the students and all, and they're pretty fun to play with, but GOOD LORD I need slightly more mature conversations. Even if it's about terrible pop music! I happen to like terrible pop music!

The bigger problem for me right now is crafts. I don't like arts and crafts. I am possibly the least crafty person on the face of the planet. Don't get me wrong! I am an excellent appreciator of art. I can design the CRAP out of a room with appropriate resources. Just don't expect me to actually MAKE any of the art.

And when it comes to using glue sticks and scissors? Forget it. My hands end up coated in that wonderful non-stick crap they call glue and somehow the moment I grab a pair of scissors it looks like I'm trying to cut things with my feet. It's just embarrassing. I am fairly certain that a pre-schooler would have done a better job than I have of decorating my classroom.

That's a Big Deal in elementary school too, this decorating business. My coteacher even said to me (about some typed labels I was making for my personal folders came out looking like they had gone through a shredder) "It's like you don't care!" And you know what? For those folders, she was right. And for all of the decorations for this room, she's been the one with the initiative to do them. If I had it my way, it would be simple and clean (not that there is a single spot in this school that even remotely resembles "clean"), and probably pretty tech-focused. Maybe a few select English posters on the wall, but I'd prefer more books than pictures in my classroom. In elementary school, though, that's just not something you can get away with. The visual stimulation is kind of important to keep the kids interested in what's going on in the classroom. But that's just not me.

Guys I cannot stress enough how much hate I feel towards glue sticks and scissors right now. Scissors less so because they have functions other than horrible arts and crafts projects. But the glue sticks? ABSOLUTELY NOT. It is like they are this terrible creation sent to earth by Satan, designed for the sole purpose of sticking to NOTHING but your fingers. And don't get me started on macaroni and glitter. Macaroni = food and food alone. The end. Period. And there is no reason whatsoever for glitter to inhabit this world. All that ends up happening with these terrible projects is that SHIT. GETS. EVERYWHERE. And I cannot stand that. Yes, I am not the neatest person in the world. But I do clean up after myself! And I don't particularly like the trashy scraps getting all mixed up in with my work-in-progress. Which inevitably happens when I am doing arts and crafts. I will have construction paper scraps sticking out from under whatever I'd tried to glue down (using approximately half a tube of glue stick), and somehow will be covered in glitter EVEN THOUGH I DIDN'T USE ANY. RAGE.

So there you go. Arts and crafts. I feel very strongly opposed to them and that, ladies and gents, is why I am quite simply not cut out to teach elementary. Or summer camp, apparently. Except Space Camp. I could probably teach at Space Camp. That would be fun.

Long story short (too late!), if I am teaching here for another year, it will really need to be high school. Or middle school. But not elementary school. I just couldn't do it again.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The ajumma landlady

Anyone of us spending some time teaching here in South Korea will, at some point or another, have an experience with our landlady (and I have yet to meet someone with a landlord, just in case you were wondering why that noun is so specifically gendered). The experience, in a word, will almost certainly prove to be...dynamic. For example:

Yesterday morning, I woke up, had a piece of toast-
Sorry, you don't want to hear about that part. What happened was I went into my laundry room to grab some clean clothes when I noticed there was an alarming amount of water pooled on the "floor". So I lifted the "floor" (because it is an inlaid linoleum that isn't even glued down), and I was SUPER excited to find that there was a quarter inch of water underneath my "floor"! EXACTLY HOW I WANTED TO START MY MORNING.

So my coteacher called my landlady and she said she'd be by between 5 and 7pm yesterday evening. Apparently the ajumma landladies here are in cahoots with the cable guys in America, because 7 rolled around and...nothing. Nothing at 7:30 either, and so I decided to go for my already-put-off run for the evening. I got back, and was walking up the stairs to my building when there she was! My ajumma landlady, shining in all her tiny ajumma glory (no visor, though :( ), only two hours late.

So I let her in, and she pokes around my laundry room, and through a series of wild gesticulations, she was either yelling at me to not lift the "floor" (which I did to try to prevent mold, thank you very much!), or telling me that she could not fix it tonight. Probably it was both, as she will be coming back today to (hopefully) shopvac all the water out from there and FIXITFIXITFIXIT!!! She also told me (I think) that the hose needs to be out the window to drain condensation (sorry for never having used a lame wall unit air conditioner before!) out of my househome. So.

Anyway, it will hopefully be fixed soon, and likely with lots more crazy gestures.The upshot is, it's making me clear out all the boxes I was "storing" back there. It'll be nice to have a free and clear (and dry!) laundry area again.

Monday, June 14, 2010

MIKA! MIKA! I WENT TO SEE MIKA! (and also World Cup ROK-Greece)

MIKA LIVE IN SEOUL. Yes, Virginia, this will be a photo dump.

Saturday woke up grey and rainy. Perfect weather for staying inside and having a Glee or Battlestar Galactica marathon, but I had other plans. You see, Saturday was The Day. The day I had been waiting for for several months - MIKA was playing a concert in Seoul. So a friend of mine grabbed our umbrellas and headed for Olympic Park, the centerpiece of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games and what I am sure is a lovely place to walk around when the weather's not quite so crappy.

You can see it was raining. A lot.

But that did not deter hoards of Mika fans from showing up and going crazy!

Except, of course for the people in my section, who seemed to have taken an entire bottle of Ambien EACH before the concert. Everyone else was up on their feet except for them. My friend and I were not just the only two foreigners in the section, but we were also the only two up on our feet for the entire show.

This is the giant cankle that rose from the crowd during the performance of Big Girls (You Are Beautiful).

And now some performance shots:

Final bows after the encore (Grace Kelly):

And now for the World Cup! Korea vs Greece - and Korea ran ALL OVER Greece. Great times.

Here we are, decked out in our Reds gear. We were one of only a handful of weigooks to stay for the game afterwords

A bit smaller crowd for the game, but it sounded about 10 times louder. ESPECIALLY when Park Jisung scored the goal to put Korea up 2-0. It was like the second coming

And here is a terrible shot of the jumbo screens we watched the game on. All in all, a great experience.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup Update

Alright folks just wanted to post a quick update of my experience watching the World Cup in Korea. I'll have photos from the game (and the Mika concert yay!) tomorrow probably.

So last night was South Korea's first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, against Greece, so the country basically stopped dead in its tracks to watch the game. And when I say stopped dead in its tracks, I mean there is not a single human being I have spoken to in this country who did not watch the match last night. And most watched with about seventy billion other Koreans, all dressed in red, cheering and going crazy during the game.

Me, I was at a concert beforehand in Olympic Park, so we decided to stay and watch the game there. As it began, the concert venue seemed oddly empty - probably because nearly every person in Seoul was at City Hall, from what I have been told. I was honestly a little disappointed...I was really hoping for one of those everyone-on-top of each other, massive crowd events, but pretty much everyone had a seat during the game.

My concerns were quickly allayed, however, when Korea scored its first goal unit (or whatever it's called). There were maybe 500-600 people there, but the roars that erupted from the crowd made it feel like ten times that. The atmosphere was electric, with cheers of "Daehan Minguk! clapclap clapclap clap" erupting every few seconds, and it was easy to fall into the game. And when the clock ran out, and Korea had won 2-0, it felt like they'd won the Super Bowl, or the World Series. But not the NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup, because who gives a crap about hockey and basketball?? Whatever.

So you can be sure that I will be wearing my red for the games against Argentina and Nigeria, who look to be the real tests for the Red Devils. But I cannot wait! Daehan Minguk!

Oh, also, I really REALLY want a vuvuzela. NEW LIFE GOAL.

PS Yes, Tom. I AM better at the internet than you. HOW DOES THAT FEEL, BIATCH!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Obligatory World Cup Post

Being an American living in a Foreign Land where soccer (or "football" as some people call it for indiscernible reasons) is a big deal, it is mandatory that one writes a post on the World Cup, should it happen while you are in town. The reason for this is, I think, that we as Americans really only have limited reference for just how big a deal this is in other countries. It's sort of like ((Super Bowl - commercials)(Olympics + poor people))^3.

And I'm not even sure you can really equate it. It's like trying to convert apples to oranges, or kilograms to pounds. You just can't do it! Also, I'm pretty skittish around "math" so you're going to have to cut me some slack here.

Anyway, since it IS World Cup time, you should probably know that, yes, I will be watching at least one of the games in a crowded area filled with crazed South Koreans shouting "Daehan Minguk!" And I will post pictures once this happens. I have my Red Devils shirt all ready to go and everything!

One of the other things that inevitably happens anytime Americans get even remotely involved in soccer is that certain wingnuts tend to write intellectually void articles proclaimint soccer to be "fundamentally un-American" or "something Real AmericansTM could never get behind" or even "socialist." Yes, this last one somehow happens. I won't link to the articles themselves (because really all they are is link bait to generate traffic to their respective sites), but if you want read through the Gawker article. The links are there, and they check out.

Perhaps the most "coherent" of the Rube Goldberg arguments I have heard came from author Chuck Klosterman, who claimed that soccer, at its heart, was fundamentally a team sport, while beloved American pastimes such as baseball and football were far more individualist - and therefore, in line with the American mode of thought. His reasoning goes, you can envision a single player winning a baseball or football game, but this is somehow not possible in soccer. I can't even begin to tell you where that goes wrong...is it his willful ignorance of the cooperation amongst players in baseball in football? Or the fact that a single person could win a soccer match in the exact same way that someone could win a football game on his own (which, by the way, would be INFINITELY easier than one person winning a baseball game)? Suffice it to say, his intellectual train jumped the track several stops back.

(PS for my non-American readers, should any of you be actual, live humans, football here refers to American football. Not soccer, or Aussie rules, or whatever else you might have)

Look, ultimately these articles that get written every four years are only put out there so the author can generate some name traffic - even if people are talking about how ridiculous it is, they are still talking. But still. These days, when it's fashionable to call every bogeyman a socialist (a term which has lost all political meaning, thanks TEA PARTY), it's worth expending just the tiniest bit of critical thought to understand just how ridiculous those claims are.

And anyway, I hope that wherever you are, be it America, South Korea, or the Socialist Colony of Moon, you will join the other 7 billion humans on the planet and I in participating in this most socialist of events, the FIFA World Cup. Let's Go Reds!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Courtesy of Betsy

The long, hot days of summer seem to have arrived all at once to the Republic of Korea. This weekend, the temperatures shot up about 10-15 degrees (fahrenheit, obvs), and the Time of Sweating began. This is made especially exciting because of the near complete lack of airconditioning (aircon, a/c, depends on where you're from) in my school. Outside, the temperature is a warm but bearable 87-88, but inside my classroom I am fairly certain the ambient temperature is THE SURFACE OF THE SUN. Seriously! Even the hallways in my school are approximately infinity times cooler than my room! Of course, this leaves us with the unpleasant task of deciding whether to open all the windows in the classroom and deal with the outside distractions (both in the hallway and on the field, which my classroom overlooks), or face the very real potential of melting into a puddle of goo. Or spontaneously combusting. One of the two is sure to happen.

All this leads to the perennial question: how do you beat the heat? Of course, there's always the option of frozen drinks (preferably with alcohol in them!), but alcohol on school grounds is frowned upon. You can eat ice cream, but who wants to pack on the calories in the middle of bikini season! I've got to look good on the beach! Speaking of, there's always the tried-and-true method of lakes, rivers, the ocean, swimming pools, kiddie pools, even slip-n-slides to cool one off on a hot day - but I don't have my bathing suit here, not to mention reliable access to water. So what's a guy to do after a hot day of sweating in front of a classroom? Fortunately, I have my friend (and possible soulmate?) Betsy to thank for these four simple words that have revolutionized my life:

Fan. On. Pants. Off.

Fan On, Pants Off
TM is the easy, but remarkably effective way to beat the oppressive heat of a day of a classroom filled with sweat and the stench of fear. It takes only three simple steps! Step 1: Take off your pants. Step 2: Turn on your fan. Step 3: Lay in front of (or under! it doesn't matter!) your fan. AND BAM. FAN ON, PANTS OFF ACHIEVED.

Note: Steps 1 and 2 can be interchanged. That's how easy this is!!!!

Fan On, Pants Off (FOPO)
TM can be used for just about anything. Too hot outside? FOPOTM. Had a rough day corralling kids/interneting at work? FOPOTM. Indegestion from too much kimchi at dinner? FOPOTM! Did your wife leave you? Do you have an incurable disease? Probably you should seek professional help, but also FOPOTM. I am not kidding folks. Just take your pants off and turn your fan on and FEEL the difference.

FOPO is a registered trademark of the Nolen and Betsy Are Way Awesomer Than You (NABAWATY) Corporation. All rights reserved. Copyright 2010.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Procrastination

I have a not-insignificant amount of work to finish this evening. So of course, I am doing a great job perfecting my procrastination skills. Here's how it goes:

Step 1: Turn on computer

Step 2: Open MS Word & the appropriate document to complete. Wait the 5 minutes it takes Word to open on this infernal machine. WHY WON'T YOU OPEN FASTER???

Step 3: Wonder how much it would cost to get a new computer. Or a new version of Word, since yours was pirated obtained legally

Step 4: Stare at the blinking cursor. Forget, then remember, what exactly you were supposed to be doing here. Oh right. Lesson plans. UGH

Step 5: BOO LESSON PLANS. Become all put-upon that you have to do so many lesson plans by tomorrow. It's not like they're even going to resemble the lesson that actually goes down in the class! WEH WEH WEH

Step 6: It's awfully quiet in here. Turn on teevee. Find something in English. Failing that, find something mildly palatable in Korean. Search the channels at least twice - what if you missed something??? Also turn on music. Consider carefully what music you will put on! It could be the most important choice of the evening! What will your last.fm followers think??

Step 7: Dag, you're hungry. Go out to the convenience store to pick up something to eat as a side dish for your dinner. Sabor de Soledad doritos? Peanut-corn puffs? Sun Chips? WHO EVEN KNOWS! Return, make dinner.

Step 8: Sit back at computer. Stare at the blinking cursor, not wanting to risk getting crumbs on the keyboard. Don't let that stop you from surfing the interwebiverse, though!

Step 9: Put on an episode of Battlestar Galactica. Promise self that you will also plan lessons while watching BSG

Step 10: Do not plan lessons. Put on second episode of BSG.


Step 12: Go on Facebook IMMEDIATELY to determine the level of importance of the email. It is super important.

Step 13: YES someone has a new photo album. Look wistfully at the water pictures and desire greatly that you should go to there soon.

Step 14: Remember you are going to America in about 6 weeks. Check airfare online. STILL SUPER EXPENSIVE

Step 15: Since you're on the internet, might as well check out what's new on BBC News. Many fascinating stories about Burmese elections and Nikki Haley and dire warnings from the IMF about British/German/Spanish/Hungarian/Everyone debt.

Step 16: Wikipedia Hungarian debt, then Hungary, then somehow end up reading about Charles Shulz. Hooray Wikipedia links game!

Step 17: My eyeballs hurt

Step 18: Why do my eyeballs hurt?

Step 19: Probably cause they are some little bitches

Step 20: Decide that this needs to be blogged about ASAP.

Step 21: Feel vaguely bad about not planning lessons, but feel worse about your eyeballs.

Step 22: Write long-winded blog post about procrastination that gets entirely too meta towards step 20. Ish.

Step 23: Scour IM list for people to chat with. Start several conversations and immediately get WAY too involved in them.

Step 24: Remember Word is still open. Which is probably why your eyeballs hurt, jerkass.

Step 25: Plan a couple lessons. Feel so good you need to take a break.

Step 26: Repeat. Be successful.

Yes folks, that's right. You are in the presence of a WINNER. Try not to get excessively jealous.

Monday, June 7, 2010

An open letter to the hot water heater in my apartment

Dear Hot Water Heater,

I know we haven't known each other for very long - only a little over three months - but I think we need to have a talk. You may think this forward of me, but I am a little upset with you. Perhaps I just haven't taken the time to get to know your quirks. I do try to spend a little time with you daily, whether it's in the shower or doing my dishes. I like to think we were starting to build a rapport together!

But a month or so ago, all that changed. I'm not sure what I did to anger you, but apparently it was bad. For some reason, the nice showers you gave me and the lovely heat you radiated from my floor just got to be all too much. And then you decided that 10 minutes of hot water was really all I needed. I'm not sure why you allotted me only 10 minutes, but I thought, "okay, I can work with this while I try to make amends to HWH."

Perhaps that was it. Perhaps the nickname came too early in our relationship. If that's the case, I am truly sorry. I can easily switch back to the more formal Hot Water Heater, if it will help us out. Because I do believe there can still be an us! We just have to work together to figure it all out - we are, after all, in this together. You and I, sailing down the whitewater rapids that is life in dynamic Korea.

But then again, maybe not. Maybe it is time to let go. Since yesterday, it seems like you have let go. Of course it happened while I had a guest over who needed to shower. I am not sure why you felt the need to take our fight public - a fight which, by the by, I wasn't even aware we were having. But to suddenly decide to produce no hot water whatsoever? Not cool! Not cool at all.

So now it's been two days. Two days, Hot Water Heater, of me being unable to shower, unable to wash my dishes. And that's just two days too long! I can understand the need to take a brief respite from your duties every once in a while. But it would be great if you took that rest and came back full force, ready to heat water to the best of your ability. Two days is just unacceptable. I am tired and dirty and just generally thrown off now! I need my morning shower like some people need their coffee - I just can't function without it.

And I miss you, Hot Water Heater. We had some good times, right? Me trying to figure out how to turn you on even though I can't read you. You alternating between boiling lava and ice at the slightest nudge of the faucet. I miss that! I miss...us. There I said it. I miss us! Come back to me, Hot Water Heater!

I know this will be difficult, but that's why I've enlisted some outside help. Yes, I called the landlord. Because I know we can get past this! But it's silly to try it on our own. We just need to admit that this is bigger than us. It's not something we can figure out on our own, but I am sure with the right professional help we can at the very least come to an understanding that will let coexist peacefully. Because Hot Water Heater, whatever I did to upset you, the dishes are starting to pile up. And I am starting to radiate stank lines. It's time for this standoff to end once and for all.

Please come back to me Hot Water Heater. I need you. I miss you.

With all my warmest affection and tenderness,

Friday, June 4, 2010

Look at what one of my kids just did!

LOOK AT THIS. LOOK. This is the best drawing of me anyone has ever done. One of my students did this while I was teaching the class on demonstrative adjectives. Would I rather she learned this, that, these, and those? Sure. But this works okay too, I guess...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

To prevent from being injured, please take off your earrings while running

More on this in a minute

As countless other Korean bloggers have mentioned, yesterday (June 2) was election day here in the ROK. The campaign season here is marked by trucks blaring campaign songs, campaign dancers, banners everywhere, and a blissfully short two-week period. As opposed to America, where campaign season lasts for infinity (and somehow, in spite of myself, I still love it). You can read other peoples' takes on the campaigns themselves on other blogs, but my sense is that it ultimately is not that much different from anywhere else. If you're curious, the elections were for provincial and local offices, and the opposition Democratic Party far outpaced expectations, likely indicating some dissatisfaction with the ruling Grand National Party. The DP won unexpected governorships in several provinces where polls had them trailing by double digit margins, and came unexpectedly close to winning the Seoul mayor's office, despite being some 15 points behind in polls. If you want to read a more thorough write up of the results, you can check out what the Korea Times has to say.

As someone with a degree in international politics, these elections were of keen interest to me. So I did what most people with my background would do on election day: I went to an amusement park. Not just any dinky ol' amusement park, though. No, sir! Nothing but the (second) best for this afficionado. Rather impromptu (aka the night before), my friend Chris and I decided we'd head to Lotte World, a (mostly) indoor theme park in Seoul.

Lotte World is not just an indoor theme park. It is, in fact, the LARGEST indoor theme park in the world, boasting several roller coasters, a flume ride, a rapid river ride, games, a kid's area, and an ice rink (and that's just the inside!). It is also connected to a 11-story department store because that is just what you do with indoor amusement parks.

All kidding aside, though, Lotte World was pretty awesome. Let's go to the photos:

Raccoon-chipmunk hybrid?

My first taste of Lotte World. Big, blaring, and filled with some kind of raccoon-chipmunk hybrid.
The house you see in the background is the location of the Desperadoes "ride" where you sit on mechanical horses and shoot bad guys on the screen. Not an auspicious beginning. We continued our way through the park:

Monkeys playing bongos? What is this, the 1970s?

An interesting thing one quickly notices walking through the park are the eerie similarities with a certain American amusement park system represented by a mouse mascot.

The performance stage inside

...Disney. I'm talking about Disney, folks

Welcome to Disney Lotte World

We resemble, but are legally distinct from...

In true Korean form, on of the more popular roller coaster rides, the French Revolution, comes with a convenient mirror to make sure your hair looks good right before you get on the roller coaster. Where you will inevitably mess it up.

No seriously, does my hair look okay?

For all the weirdness surrounding the amusement park, though, I have to say it was pretty awesome. The rides were good, especially the roller coasters Atlantis and French Connection. There was a good tower drop, where my experience went a little something like "Oh look at the nice view! Hey the line for the Gyro Spin doesn't look too- WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH CRAP WE'RE GOING DOWN!!!!!!"

My terrified face just after a trip on the French Revolution

There was also lots of fantastic Konglish. My favorite was the warning for the French Revolution regarding earrings that titles this post. Just in case you were thinking about running with earrings on whilst on this ride. It's really good advice, people!


In all, it was a nice escape. I had a great time, and really appreciated what will be my last day off until summer vacation. And now I'm going to leave you with a picture of adorable Korean babies driving mechanized animal rides, often straight into other adorable Korean babies or their parents.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My seafood-venture!

Those of you who are at all averse to fish or other sea-dwelling creatures, be advised: THERE WILL BE NO ESCAPE FROM THIS POST.

So last night, I went to dinner with a friend of mine from college who is hear visiting her family. This was possibly my last opportunity to visit with her before she goes back to America, so I am really glad I got the opportunity. However, I might have been a bit more hesitant had I fully comprehended the tremendous undertaking this dinner would be.

I knew from the outset that it would likely involve raw fish, but I was wholly unaware that it would also involve five hours total in transit time. That was just a lovely surprise! Hurray! So I left my school at my normal time, knowing that it would take me at least an hour to make it to the station where I was to meet my friend Junghee. Once I arrived, I was informed that we'd be taking a bus to get to Sorae fish market near Incheon harbor, and that the bus would be about an hour. And let me tell you! I was super excited for all this transit time!

It turns out I should have been...guys, fish caught fresh from the ocean is just AMAZING. Especially when it's only been killed approximately 90 seconds before you eat it. So we started out with a quick walk around the fish market to see what was there, and also to get a few amuse-bouches, such as sweet black bean cakes or roasted boll weevils. I know, right? And yes, I did try some of the boll weevils. They tasted like meat-flavored lima beans. Not terrible, but not something I think I'll order on my own.

Then we began walking the outer stalls in earnest. These are the stalls where you select your fish that is swimming around in the tank, and the owner then plucks it from its temporary home, kills it, and fillets it for you to eat raw. I believe the Korean word for this is hoe (the hangul on this computer doesn't work so I can't write it out for you in Korean, sorry. You can see our delicacy here:

Our fish included whitefish, flounder, these gross pink things that looked like wangs, and conch
The darker fish on either side of the very white flounder was our white fish. He splashed us, so we ate him. SUCKA.The whitefish, the flounder, and the wang-looking fish were good. The conch was not my favorite. We also had, not pictured here, sea cucumber. It has a very interesting texture, much firmer than I was expecting, and not a bad flavor at all!

And then they brought out the surprise. Sannakji, which literally means "live octopus". This particular octopus was no longer alive, but that was a VERY recent development in its personal history. The tentacles were still furiously wriggling, and the suckers were still...sucking... It's a delicacy here, and one I was not sure I would actually try, and definitely not so soon!

They are still wriggling around on the plate! It was mildly terrifying.

But as you can see, I definitely went for it. Really, it wasn't that bad! You just have to chew furiously as the tentacles are wriggling around in your mouth so the suckers don't stick to your throat on the way down and the octopus takes its final revenge. Death to the land-walkers!

I was scared. I think it's reasonable.

The taste was surprisingly good. Very mild, and it easily picks up whatever sauce you dip it in.

Following our raw course, it was time to move on to the main meal: GRILLED CLAMS.

I think this photo says it all

We had: approximately 2 and a half pounds of clams, plus oysters, and about a pound of shrimp grilled on a bed of rock salt.

It was delicioius!

And we ate the whole danged thing. The ajumma taking our money looked at our check and said "Yuk man won??" with a tone of incredulity that these three people could possibly have eaten 60000 won worth of seafood. Oh but we most certainly did.

Three hours later and I'm back at home exhausted, stuffed, and thoroughly happy
with my decisions for my evening. It was a win if there ever was one.