Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sports Day

Great day at work – no classes. We had a sports day and it was hella fun. Kids ran races and played dodgeball and danced to K-pop. A boy gave me a balloon with my face drawn on it and my name below that. He said his dream job is to be an English teacher. He also critiqued the English of one of my co-teacher’s (I have two Korean co-teachers and one is usually present in class with me), and it’s true, he has less of an accent than her.

After school, went to dinner at a traditional Korean restaurant with about ten co-workers and I sat next to the vice principal. We started to drink Korean wine and somehow the two of us drank more than the others. I was fine, keeping it under control, and even though I drank more than the VP, he ended up pretty wasted. I think some of the others got a little uncomfortable. Some drank a little, but not as much as us, and the Christian women were probably squirming the most. I just wonder how much of it was my fault… did I encourage it? He didn’t make a total fool of himself - just a few sentimental speeches in Korean but I got the gist...

As we were all going our separate ways after dinner he stepped toward the women and I could see them take a step back... funny. I just hope he doesn’t think he embarrassed himself and blame me. I hope the others don’t blame me for revealing that side of him. But I think it will be okay.

The won totally gained value against the dollar today! If it stays down I'm wiring a few grand to my US account tomorrow and obliterating my student loan *KA-BLAM*!!!$%$!!%%

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jail Life is No Picnic

I was reading a novel that has a car accident and it sparked my memory of my teenage years, when four guys at my high school were killed in a car accident. Thanks to google, it is preserved in luridly written prose:

It was 6:20 a.m., July 29, 1995. Starting home from an overnight camping trip with seven friends, he lost control of his father's 1987 Chevrolet Suburban and sent it tumbling across a barren stretch of the Mojave Desert north of Victorville. Like a Ferris wheel set free of its mooring, the 5,000-pound truck rolled across the desert floor, and with each revolution a friend vanished, a family shattered, a future dissolved.

When everything came to a shuddering stop, he opened his eyes and saw Jono, beautiful Jono, a swimmer with out-to-here shoulders and bottomless brown eyes that made all the girls weak, and he knew right away that Jono was dead. He turned to look in the backseat at John, a snowboarder with a taste for adventure, and he knew at once that John was dead, too. He looked out the window and saw the others, scattered in the wake of the truck. Steven, Drake, Pig, Joe, Tony. He jumped out the window and ran to each one, begging them to be alive.

Encrusted with bits of windshield and chrome, the desert glittered in the morning sun like a diamond field. Nearby campers and dirt bikers, thinking a plane must have crashed nose first, came running toward the swirling plumes of smoke and found him sitting in the glassy dust, stroking the hand of Pig, his best friend since grade school. "It's my fault," he told them, sobbing. "I killed my friends!"

Yes, James, you killed your friends (!). I found his myspace page, where he has this awesome quote:
"Concerts are always killer but has to be the right band with the right friends."

But wait! He's also got a newly (ahem) "published" book about his time in jail!

("What's it like in the big house, Mickey?")

Wow, order me 140 copies and sell that mofo out!

Don't confuse this James Patterson with the bestselling author of the same name. V for Vendetta!

You know, I once had a writing teacher named Dan Brown. But not the famous one.

I swear, I'm the only one who made it out of Orange County.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The largest Korean bill is 10,000 won, which is only like $10 (actually only about 3 cents at the current exchange rate). So you gotta carry a wad when you want serious change on your person. The money is different sizes and colors, and I still confuse them because there's so many fucking zeros. Much like American money, Korean money features old dead guys.


I love my Korean bank. Oh, did I say I love my Korean bank? I'm sorry, I meant I hate my Korean bank. Korean banks in general are incredibly inefficient and you usually have to take a number and wait 20 minutes to see a teller. Plus their hours are retarded, usually M-F 8:30-4:30. Hey, that sounds familiar...? Oh yeah, that's my work schedule, so I always have to go during work hours. I have time between classes and at lunch, but it'd be nice to have a few Saturday hours available.

Oh, but here's the real nifty part: to use the ATM, your own bank's ATM, you have to pay a fee on the weekend and after business hours! It's only a small fee, like 50 cents, but still - does using an ATM on the weekend costs the bank more? I don't think so.

The banks are also incredibly insecure. There's a guy who assists people when they come in and he has a gun. But the tellers aren't behind glass and I've seen stacks of cash just sitting behind the counter. I don't think Korea has a lot of armed robbery.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: a lot of Korea is stuck in the 1950s and is just waiting for its Beat Generation and 1960s to revamp and revitalize it. The only things holding it back are the country's small size, large population, and desperate economy. People have to conform if they want to survive and get a job. I don't envy the youth of Korea. Plus, men have to serve two years in the army.

Most Koreans I know have studied or traveled abroad, and as they continue to do so they'll bring bits of the world back to Korea. Change is inevitable. An expanded international consciousness, less alcohol, a healthy marijuana culture, and meditation would greatly improve Korea. These things will also destroy a lot of traditional Korean culture, a lot of the stifling elements, and some of the softer aspects unfortunately.

As an English teacher, the thing I find most amusing is their attitude to English. The public schools don't begin English lessons till 3rd grade! Why wait so long? Do you want to learn English or don't you? If they really want to learn it, start as soon as possible. Instead they wait and the kids have an accent and struggle for years with English, cramming and going to hagwons. Why is it like this?

From what I understand, older Koreans are afraid English will destroy traditional Korean culture. And that's understandable. Nobody likes to have another culture come in and say, "Start talking like us because our language is more important than yours." But English is more important to Korea's economy, and every Korean college student knows this.

Okay, I'm just rattling on now.

Having lived here four months, I understand the idea of culture shock better now. Maybe it's not shock... maybe it's "culture irritation". There will always be things about Korean culture that make me angry and think WHY ARE YOU PEOPLE SO FUCKING STUPID? But I suppose foreigners feel the same way in America and elsewhere. And there are things about Korea that run smoother and easier. It's just a trade-off, I guess.

I had six classes today! Two of them I did solo (no co-teacher) and they were beginner classes. Maybe they're what annoy me about the English curriculum in Korea. The classes are too large with too many speaking levels in one class, and I know a lot of those beginners don't learn anything from me. There are few things as frustrating as teaching someone English when they don't speak any English and you don't speak any Korean. Plus you have 37 other students to deal with. Fortunately Korea is desperate for white English teachers, believing they magically speak and teach purer English, and always preferring them to Asian or (gasp) black teachers.

Anyway, I love Korean money. It'd be nice if it had more value than toilet paper. I have a ton of it, and I'd love to send it back to the US and pay off my loan etc. But I just can't bring myself to do it at the current exchange rate... it'd be throwing too much away. I wonder if it will ever rise again. The president says so (the Korean president), but he seems like an asshole to me, like a Korean Giuliani (eww, weird image), saying whatever the people want to hear. And Korean politics have so much crap about saving face and honor and respect and bleh, it almost makes American politics refreshing (almost).

Alright, it's been good to rant - I usually don't allow myself to do it long in the blog and it's nice to get it out. Most of the things I'm whining about aren't a big deal. The exchange rate is all I really want to improve. Everything else I can live with.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Piracy Will Save the World

Here are three albums from the 1970s that are disturbingly out of print.

Watertown - concept album by Frank Sinatra at his best.

Pussy Cats - a Harry Nilsson album produced by John Lennon. A little uneven but worth it for the good songs. The opening track is amazing.

Slow Dazzle - one of John Cale's most consistent works. Features a bleak cover of "Heartbreak Hotel" followed by the sappy yet awesome "Ski Patrol". Also has a great Brian Wilson tribute/lamentation.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Guess Again

I was eating lunch today with my co-workers in the cafeteria, as usual. The food is almost the same every day: rice, a variety of soup, kimchi (I always leave it), some cold gross vegetable, and the main dish, which changes each day.

Today's main dish was spongy dark tube. "What is it?" I asked my co-teacher.

"Do you really want to know?" she said.

Did I really want to know?

"Y-yes," I said.

She said the Korean name for the food, then added, "Normally, it's pig intestines."


"Normally," she continued. "But this isn't the real thing. This is an imitation of {Korean word} made from noodles and flour."

"Oh." Relief. Not pig intestines. Not monkey brains or sheep testicles. Just flour. Thank God. Then something occurred to me: "Why is it black if it's made from noodles and flour?"

"Well, in Korea we make flour from many other things. Like potatoes, for instance."

"Oh," I said.

"But that's not why it's so dark," she said. "It's dark because they put pig blood in it."

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The IMAX Decade

I thought of a name for the first decade of the 21st century: The IMAX Decade.

Like IMAX, the 00's have been loud, violent, big-budget, and focused on explosions and special effects - all at the expense of a good plot (but you can ignore plot holes when you get the IMAX experience).

The 00's were suddenly more expensive... we were told it would be a better experience, but it actually made us kink our necks to see the whole picture.

As we left the theater we were surounded by children who were thrilled they got to see giant robots blow up dinosaurs. We'd never cared about these things before, but the kids seemed to find them important and wonderful.

I'm hoping the next decade will be less fascinated by bling and sensory terrorism, and more interested in cheezy lightning bolt energy going through its collective chest.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Morpian Nights

Looking at an ESL website I found this quote:

"Known as Noughts & Crosses in Britain and Morpian in France, Tic-Tac-Toe is incredibly versatile and useful in the classroom."

Morpian? Googling it isn't very helpful.

I know I have several thousand French readers, so maybe you lot can enlighten me. Morpian? Really? Methinksnot.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008


Crazy day met JK in Hongdae and Mexican food then bowling, drinking, taxi to Sinchon for batting cages, then walked around got street food and sat at the woman’s campus then a bus and a long walk to a sam gae tang restaurant mmmmm. Then a hof for couple beers then noraebang@!@@!! SUCCESS: One Korean cultural experience checked off!!!!#@#@#! Then home and now shower then sleep and tomorrow field trip with the kids thank god no classes.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Back in the B.U.C.

Damn, it's good to be back. My apartment in Bucheon never felt more like home. I've spent the last four days attending lectures and playing ping pong and tennis. It's trippy to suddenly leave my totally Korean neighborhood and go to a compound with a few hundred English speakers from Canada, the US, the UK, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

I actually didn't do any drinking and related better to a Mormon and a Christian guy than the teachers who went into town every night to get drunk. There's something about most foreigners here that kind of disgusts me. That's why I usually prefer to hang out with Koreans.

Also saw a great Nanta performance, which only uses traditional Korean percussion instruments. Pretty awesome actually.

That's it! I'm back. Made some new contacts in my 'hood (including a girl born in Ghana who lives in the next building).

Let's move on.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Back on Friday

My school loves to not tell me things. Yes, they told me I had a training, but they wouldn't tell me where until today. I thought it would just be in Seoul or Incheon and I'd commute every day. Turns out it's a few hours away and I have to stay at a hotel and share a room with two other teachers (ugh). Oh, and it's four days, not three. It's be nice to be in the loop. As the token foreigner at my school, I only get told what I need to know or ask about, and not even that sometimes. Boring training sure, but no classes till next Tuesday! Yesss. I'm not supposed to drink alcohol during my days at the training - who are they kidding with that malarkey?

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Fun

I'll try to get my blog inertia going this week. I have a training from Tuesday to Thursday so only two days of teaching this week! I don't think I've ever been to a useful training.

For now here's a link to my delicious links. I add to it sporadically and a lot is redundant to this blog. Keeps you busy.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Energy Monkey

Guess I'll blog - it's been a while.

I was trying to find something to blog about that isn't complaining . . . which is strange because I'm out of sickness feeling good feeling great how are you? My students were gone Monday thru Wednesday at work so it's been slow. I don't like doing class prep. I do like being in the classroom . I'm an energy vampire for the young. They help stabilize my mood. When I'm sick I get dark and depressed and I know it's only because I'm sick that I feel that way... but that doesn't make it go away. Feel great now though.

Here's something I've been listening to.

It's a 17-CD set of music from Muslim countries. Some of it's crap boring - I'd say about 80% is good. I see a connection with Native American music I never heard before. Give it to your terrorist friends.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008


Week's been busy. But now a 3-day weekend and I have no idea what the holiday means. What it means to me is my last holiday till Christmas, alas alas. I've overbooked the next three days with people. I should probably not drink because my sickness is not quite wellness yet but hwtavere.

I had a DMT flashback tonight that was kind of scary. I was thinking about a house where I lived as a kid in Garden Grove, California, and I was trying to remember my mom or brother or grandma inside the house, but I couldn't remember anyone. Just the house and me in the house, like everyone else had been taken from the memory. Then my lungs started contracting out of control like when I take a hit, like I was being breathed by the universe, and I collapsed on my couch, unable to move and entering the border realm of that place where there is no Other and boundaries dissolve.

I wonder what I'll do when I'm done with this year in Korea. Sometimes I enjoy Korea, but I don't know if I'll ever love it. I want to try living in Europe, but I don't want to teach. English is okay, as far as language goes, but teaching it (especially when I don't speak my students' language) is just too basic.

I want to live on a beach with a cat and a deaf-mute wife and just read Krazy and Ignatz and smoke pot all day. Krazy Kat gets my vote for the greatest creation in world history and if I had a stable home in America I'd order all the Fantagraphics volumes and soak it up.

The world is really polluted and there are a lot of people. But there are more ants. Did you know there are more than 12,000 species of ants? Animals are interesting. Ants, bees, dolphins, cats, whales, and octopi get my vote for most interesting animals. That's all the voting I'll be doing this year.

I've been eating kind of shitty lately and feel unhealthy right now, even though I look real thin. I bought a pizza the other night for $6 that could feed two people and ate it all myself because I don't do leftovers. I have a microwave but it's in the closet and I've never used it.

That sounds like a good note to end on. Good night.

Quote of the day:

"You have purchased or stolen the full 95-CD audio instructional program entitled The Areas of My Expertise."