Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There are three things I like in this life... paraphrase Liz Lemon in the Season 5 opener of 30 Rock. One most certainly is sweater weather.

It seems like I got back from Jeju, and the weather decided immediately to switch over to fall (PS opinions on this matter from Alaskans do not count)...the last couple days, it's been pleasantly cool in the mornings, a welcome change from the months of dripping sweat on my way to and from school. This morning, it was in the forties, so I decided to break out the sweaters again! Woo!

Of course, it'll be up near 70 this afternoon, so I will regret wearing a sweater. BUT I DON'T EVEN CARE RIGHT NOW. I AM WEARING A SWEATER AND IT IS SO GOOD.

Sweaters really do make everything feel better. It's like a hug from an old friend that lasts for 3-6 months, and I love them. I love them so much. Even when Korea is getting me down (say, because cheese is so expensive and crappy here, or because my school has decided to take away my overtime while still insisting I work my 11 afterschool assache classes), sweater weather really brings me back up again.

It's cloudy, chilly, and I'm sitting in my icebox classroom with a mug of green tea and a piece of Jeju chocolate. Life is pretty okay right now.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Foreign Lands Roundup

After much peer-pressure from a certain Jill who shall remain nameless, I have succumbed. "Fine," I said, "I'll go back and figure out what the hell happened in the world last week just so you all don't have to EVEN THOUGH I WAS ON VACATION."

So here you go, your Foreign Lands Roundup for last week.

Things are going well in Delhi. (photo via)
  •  The 2010 Commonwealth Games (some pretend-Olympics that Britons like to do to remind themselves that they once ruled the world) are scheduled to open in just a few weeks in Delhi, India. Many people will recognize Delhi as "that city from Slumdog Millionaire" (ed. This is false. That city is actually Mumbai), and also as "that city with all the Poors". Both are accurate visions of Delhi, so why on earth it was decided that it could host an international sporting competition is beyond your humble author. Predictably, though, the hosts have gone both "further than anyone thought possible" and are also "not nearly ready for the games." Which, coincidentally, is exactly what people said about South Africa this summer. And Beijing in '08 and Athens in '04. And pretty much every host city for every international sporting event ever. So who really knows what's going on with Delhi? Sure, there will be some problems. Sure, many workers are getting cholera because it is still 1870 and they have deplorable working conditions. But as long as someone doesn't bomb a crowd watching a concert for the games (LOOKING AT YOU, ATLANTA), I think we can consider these games a success. [BBC Sport]
A Swiss lady. (ed. Not really. That's Shirley Temple) (photo via)
  • Apparently even though Swiss ladies (such as Heidi from the novel Heidi, I assume) have only been able to vote since 1971, apparently they are popular enough in Switzerland now to make up more than half of the Swiss cabinet! Good for them. And good for you, Switzerland, for taking decades after most Western nations to allow women to decide who will represent them in government. You're still a bunch of horrible racists. [Reuters]
This is the face of evil. According to the Burmese government. (photo via)
  •  The ruling military junta has graciously allowed the Worst Dissident in the World (tm) the ability to vote in the upcoming elections in Myanmar. Which she has told her followers to protest by boycotting. Why the benevolent military junta would give this undeserving woman such a great honor is really unfathomable, but far be it from me to question them. They have even gone so far as to include her name on the ballot, though they wisely have decided to keep her under house arrest until one week after the election. All hail Than Shwe for his infinite wisdom! (Please don't hurt me, Myanmar.) [Reuters]

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oh good lord he's actually updating on time! Foreign Lands Roundup

OMG THIS IS THE MOST SHOCKING THING EVER! An on-time blog post? What even is that? Clearly I need some kadooz (thanks, Ramona from Real Housewives of NYC) for this.

Oh also, this week I will be on vacation at the beach. Without a laptop. So you all will have to follow the foreign lands on your own. DEAL WITH IT.

This is the face of a modern chic, inexpensive, DIY bedroom set Neo-Nazi party

  • Dear Europe, You no longer get to say a damn word to the United States about race relations. The surge of far-right parties whose roots go back to the most exciting neo-Nazi movements the world has seen really just confirms what everyone's been thinking since you decided to colonize everywhere: you're just as racist as everyone else. Oh sure, you can pretend that you're no longer a "neo-Nazi" party, but when your platform consists entirely of race-baiting anti-muslinism (and for clarification, the Republicans in the States have many other planks in their party platform, that's just one of many), GUESS WHAT. THAT'S RACIST. So thanks, Sweden (and Germany, and the Netherlands, and Belgium, and France, and the UK...) for just coming out and admitting it. It's good that you, too, Sweden can elect these racist assholes to public office so that they can put their ethnic cleansing plans (and yes, the expulsion of an entire religion amounts to as much, see Bosnia 1995) into effect. So now Sweden is good for two things: cheap chic DIY furniture and terrifying neo-Nazi politicians. [BBC News]
This is from Guinea. It is a country in Africa. Allegedly.
  • Guinea, one of the sad, unknown countries in west Africa, had a presidential election a couple months ago. As this seems to be the new hot trend for elections, no one person won a majority. However, unlike several other, more ridiculous developed nations (looking at you, Australia, Great Britain, and Sweden!) Guinea decided to do the sane thing and head to a runoff. I don't think, though, that "runoff" was properly explained to the people in charge in Guinea, as they seem to think it means "prolonging the election indefinitely." This is not American politics, people! Elections begin and end at a specified time, and if you have to have a runoff, you do it in a timely manner! We do have to cut them some slack, though - it was their first democratic elections since independence from France in 1958 (way to go, deGaulle), so it's understandable that they're a little confused. Now someone just hold their hand (again, preferably someone with experience in having sane, successful elections...Spain, maybe? Ireland? has that even happened before?) and walk them through the second round of voting and we can all be on our merry way, chalking up yet another African success story. Hooray! [France24]
Sorry guys, but I'm totally phoning this one. Some other stuff happened this week, like Nigerian election season kicking off, a deadly train crash in India, and something about Mexico, I think...but I'm just too checked out. I'm leaving for vacation in an hour, so these are all you get this week. Tell you what, though: if you're good, and promise to eat all your vegetables AND three bites of kimchi, I'll try to do another one on Monday PLUS trip updates next week. So be good everyone! OR ELSE.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


 Alright. That's it. I have had it up to HERE with this school. My elementary school has got to be one of the most ridiculous places on the PLANET. I am absolutely sick of this! "Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh," I am sure you are saying to yourselves, "here he goes again! Whine whine whine, bitch bitch bitch. At least you have a job, loser!"

Let me tell you what's been going on since school started up again a couple weeks ago. I was looking forward to this semester; I had been promised fewer afterschool classes to teach, and I would not be teaching the youngest students (grade 1 and 2). I was excited! I thought, "Man! I've got this teaching thing down! I think this is gonna be a good semester!"

And then, to borrow a line from Julia Sweeney, God said "Ha!"

I got my schedule for this semester last Friday. This semester, I will actually be getting paid overtime, which is definitely a plus. But the work I am doing for this over time makes me want to kill myself. Or more accurately, it makes me want to kill this school. I have to teach 11 after school classes - up from seven last semester - four of which consist PRIMARILY of 1st and 2nd graders. Remember? The ones I wasn't going to have to teach this semester?


What's worse is that, in these classes, I teach alone. No other person there to help with translation issues, should they arise. Add to that, I was told by my school to go out and purchase (personal copies of) textbooks for these classes, to be assigned to the students. Not a single student had any clue that they needed a textbook for the class, and why would they? It's not like anyone had told them! And have you ever tried to teach 1st and 2nd graders from a textbook? Entirely in English? With ZERO translation? It's impossible! Just not happening. 

So, instead of this easy and relaxing semester, I'm putting up facebook statuses like "Nolen Deibert time to do battle with my afterschool classes that inspire a rage in me so violent I want to throw small children in a lake filled with piranhas >:O" and make me feel like Carmen Maura in "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"

This is me. Very soon. A Spanish lady about to go into hysterics.

*A note of clarification. I do not have any real issues with the children. If there were someone to translate, or if we could just play games all day, it'd be just fine. I love the two times a week I go visit the nursery. But sometimes I just can't handle it all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Foreign Lands Roundup

Dag it seems like all I do on this blog anymore is Foreign Lands Roundups. Which is cool, cause I likes 'em. But probably I should do some other updates too...MAYBE THAT WILL HAPPEN THIS WEEK (it won't).
This is me.
This is me too. Deal with it.

Anyway, welcome to This Week in Foreign Lands, with your host, some terrifying amalgam of Gwen Ifill and John McLaughlin.


The Turks get very excited about these things, compared to Americans who usually cannot be bothered to vote
  • As part of its attempt to join the European Union, Turkish voters passed a package of constitutional changes this week to bring the Turkish constitution more in li::snooooooore:: Look. Turkey is pretty boring, politically. Basically hate the Kurds, hate the Armenians, and be nominally secular, and that's how you end up with the ruling AKP. Because this would otherwise be a SERIOUSLY boring story (Turkish EU membership is "all but guaranteed", meaning it will be stalled for about 5-10 more years), it's important to note that literally everyone in Istanbul voted against these reforms because they are scared that it is PM Erdogan's secret attempt to stage a Muslin Coup in Turkey. NOBODY TELL FOX NEWS! [BBC News]
Really, Serbia?
  • In another EU story, Serbia has agreed to soften its stance on Kosovo, the second-most recent breakaway Yugoslav republic, but possibly the most controversial. See, once again, Serbia really REALLY wants to be a part of the EU - and who wouldn't? I mean, have you seen their passports? You can basically get in everywhere! It's like being Heidi Montag! Anyway, there was a war fought over Kosovo, some Chinese embassies were inexplicably bombed by the US, and then in 2008 Kosovo officially declared its independence. Serbia called shenanigans, but now they are all like "oh well uh I guess we can talk or whatever." Racist Serbian nationalists are upset, so you can tell that this is a good thing. Anything that pisses off racist nationalists is a good thing.
Guess what Japan and China are measuring?
  •  Japanese officials seized a Chinese fishing boat after the boat collided with the Japanese vessel in disputed waters in the East China Sea. Apparently ocean rights are a BFD here in East Asia, as it seems that every country is pissed off at every other country because someone says that these shitty, useless rocks are theirs. I don't understand why these shitty rocks are so damned important, but now it means that China and Japan are engaged in a pissing contest, with China demanding the unconditional surrender release (DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE??) of the prisoners, and Japan planning on trying them in Japanese court. Whatever. Grown men (and probably some women) need to get over themselves. It's a fishing boat vs. some big ass Japanese boats (that are probably intent on destroying all the whales, for funsies)...not that big a deal. Of course, this, like every other oceanic incident in East Asia, was merely a pretext to re-ignite the fight over who actually owns the Diaoyu Islands. But didn't Pocahontas teach us you can't own land??? LEARN FROM DISNEY, PEOPLE!! [UPI]

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Foreigner Nod

I think I have an issue. I tend to be paralyzed with fear when I leave my house, because I am that worried about running into awkward social situations. One of the worst of these, in my opinion, is the Awkward Wave. You know the kind I'm talking about, where you see someone in a crowd waving and you assume that's meant for you. Even if you don't know the person waving. For some reason, there is a switch in the brain that says "Waving? Someone's waving?? OBVIOUSLY THEY ARE WAVING TO ME! HELLO PERSON! HELLOOOO!! I DO NOT KNOW YOU, BUT OBVIOUSLY WE ARE TO BECOME GREAT FRIENDS!"

This never works out. What actually happens, inevitably, is that the person will wave, and you will wave back, and the instant you think you are in the clear, you will turn behind you and see the wavee. And then you will feel more mortified than you could ever have thought possible.

Sometimes, though, your brain cooperates. You calmly look around to assess the situation, ensuring that no one is around who could possibly be the wavee besides you. After determining that you are, in fact, the only human being for about a block who could be waved at, you return the wave.


Guys? No one's gonna say anything about how I teleported in?
Where could that person have come from? They certainly weren't there approximately .2 seconds ago when you checked. I am certain that the universe places human beings behind bushes or makes them able to go temporarily invisible for just such occasions. It's terrible, because you are left with the shame of having thought someone might actually have liked you enough to greet you in passing on the street! And you know they are just going to talk about that creeper who was waving like a maniac back there.

When you're in a Foreign Land, however, especially where people don't look like you, it becomes doubly difficult to avoid these awkward situations. You're pretty well aware that when, for example, a Korean person is waving, they are not waving at you. It's those white people who really muck things up. See, there's this phenomenon called the "foreigner nod", where one foreigner, upon recognizing the foreign-ness of another foreigner, gives a slight nod. This nod is then returned, in solidarity of being a Foreign.

But sometimes, you're standing on a street corner, jamming out to Ke$ha legitimate music, when you see a Foreign waving. This is a bit more of a gesture than the typical foreigner nod, but hey, who are you to judge? So obviously, you wave back. And then you turn. And see the other Foreign. You know, the one for whom the wave was actually intended? Because the two of them ACTUALLY know each other? And this time, you don't even have the luxury of pretending you were waving to your friend behind them, because really. Who's gonna believe that you know that 50 year old ajumma standing on the corner? Come on now.

Suddenly, spontaneous sinkholes don't seem such a bad idea.

PS Photo is a screencap of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 classic, Girl in Golden Boots. Go watch it now.

Foreign Lands Roundup

Still not perfect, but I'm getting better - only a day late this time! Hooray!

Seriously, guys, WTF is up with these costumes?

  • The Basque separatist group, ETA, announced over the weekend that they will no longer carry out armed actions against the Spanish government. Which is funny, because the Spanish government hadn't thought about ETA since like 2003 when they made a snap decision to initially blame them for a terrorist attack. The problem is, ETA does not now and has not for the last several decades, had the capacity to carry attacks of any magnitude. Which is good for the people of Spain who either do not want Basque independence or do not care, but sort of problematic if you are Basque and chafe under the harsh rule of Madrid, who are doing such horrible things as "improving the Spanish economy" and "expanding minority rights". Poor ETA. So announcing this fake-cessez-le-feu (as the French would say) really is a way for them to pretend that they have any cache with the Spanish government. Madrid isn't buying it. Oh and what's up with those CREEPY masks? C'mon ETA, no one's going to take you seriously looking like a cheesy sci-fi B-movie villain. [BBC News, because they scooped this, even though I read about it on France24]
We can't eat, so we'll burn tires. TAKE THAT!
  •  Just when you thought the economic news couldn't get any better, it does! Turns out that whole "inflation" thing people are confused about (specifically, why aren't we having inflation right now???) is actually happening! It's just that it's happening in third world countries like Mozambique, which has been experiencing exiting riots over the last week because the people cannot afford to eat any longer! Honestly, Inflation, if you want us to take you seriously, you're gonna have to start affecting real countries, like America, or...well, America is the only real country out there, so come on, guy, get with the progrum. Apparently this is the worst violence in Mozambique since 2008. So...I guess 2009 was mostly nice? Good for you, Mozambique! You managed to have a nice year. I think we can just take that win and start thinking about the future.[Reuters]
  • I'm feeling lazy, so here's a brief rundown of other things this week: Moldova can't get enough people to vote, so the referendum on whether or not Presidents will be directly elected failed. I was unaware that there were people in Moldova. [BBCNews] There was a pretty massive earthquake in New Zealand, with ton(ne)s of damage around Christchurch, but apparently only two people and only a handful of sheep were seriously injured. Good for them. They beat Haiti and Chile! Also they talk really funny there. I mean even for Commonwealth people. [NZHerald]
And that's your roundup of Foreign Lands in This Week or whatever. Some other things happened, probably, but I mean whatever. It's not like they happened in America, AMIRITE?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

So it's apparently my six-month-aversery

Which I had not really been paying attention to, I've just been telling people it's six months since like...the beginning of August.

So anyway, six months of being in the ROK and what have I learned? That this country is a ridiculous place where ridiculous shit happens. Often. Most of what I thought was ridiculous in the beginning I've since become accustomed to, but I'm pretty sure that no matter how long I stay here, there will always be things that make me go "Whuuu...?"

Are you serious???

For example, yesterday was the first day of the second semester of school. I had known for several weeks leading up to the end of summer that many of my other public school friends were getting new administrators - either new vice principals or new principals. I did not think we were getting one, because no one had told me about it, and it seems like a thing one would give advance notice about. 

Apparently not, though. And I'm fairly certain that it's not my coworkers who held out on me - I was eating lunch with a couple of them during summer camp, and they were talking about the VP as though he was going to be there for a good long while. 

But no. About 10am on the first day of school, my coteacher comes in to tell me that we will be having a welcoming party for the new vice-principal. "Aroo?" I said, confused. "Be in the science lab at 3:30," she responded. 

Well obviously.
 Last-minuted again! Honestly, though, it's not that I'm upset...more just baffled and bemused. 

In other news, Typhoon Kompasu came through early this morning. Lots of wind and rain; lost power for a bit, but it's back on now. Minor damage only, so it all ended up being pretty fun. Man, I missed tropical cyclones.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Foreign Lands Roundup

Well for all my good intentions of doing this on a weekly we are at week 2 and I'm already two days late. We'll shoot for Monday for the next roundup, but no promises...

Not this Rwandan genocide.

  • Last week, a UN draft report was leaked which states that genocide may have been perpetrated by the Rwandan military in the DR Congo. Quelle surprise! Except that this report was not talking about the violence perpetrated by the Hutu majority against the Tutsi minority from 1992-1994. This time, in an exciting reversal of fortune, it was the predominantly Tutsi military of President Paul Kagame committing genocide against Hutu refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then called Zaire, a decidedly cooler name)! What fun for all! Genocide all around! The draft report alleges that systematic cleansing of Hutu refugee camps occurred during these years, apparently carried out by the Tutsi armies. This, however, can be chalked up to just another fun encounter between the Tutsi and Hutu (who are virtually indistinguishable), who have been attempting to exterminate each other for millennia. Keep working, guys! One day you'll get it! I suggest nuclear weapons. [France24, link is in French]

  • The Tornado Rock Festival in Miass, Russia - a nation known for its calm, collected, stoic peoples - was disrupted last weekend as a group of skinheads invaded, pushed their way past security cordons, and sought to cry 'Havoc!' and let loose the dogs of war. The malcontents, who are totally unique and not an endemic problem in Russian society, brought batons, sticks, and iron rods to their little jaunt to the rock festival, injuring somewhere between 10 and 100 people. Which is just incredibly specific for the Russian media. According to the radio station Ekho Moskvy, the skinheads were upset that the organizer of the festival will be running in the October legislative polls. Because that's a legitimate thing to do. I know when I am upset about an individual running for office, I go out and attack a crowd of festival-goers who are only tangentially related to said candidate, but generally it doesn't go so well for me. [RIA Novosti]
  • Another day, another appalling discovery in the current War On Everything That Moves being waged by the Mexican drug cartels. On August 26, however, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, the bodies of 72 migrants were discovered, likely killed by the cartel members who themselves died in a shoot-out with the Mexican police. It's like Kansas c. 1880 meets Chicago c. 1920. Jeez, Mexico, way to do everything we did about 100 years too late. One upshot for Tommy Tancredo and Lou Dobbs, though, is more migrants dead means fewer Illegals in the US! Though then they'd have to find something else to fall into fits of apoplectic fury maybe they wouldn't like this so much. I get so confused sometimes about these ludicrous wedge issues. [BBC News]