Monday, March 31, 2008

What Teaching? Teaching What?

DPP (D. Pucaaiaiaiai! Pilipina) asks about education.

Just like in the US, not so very much.

But since I nearly ran off with DPP to smuggle guano to the Solomon Islands (Alas, a handsome Anglo named Bruce Geer stole her away with his manly and direct glance. These things happen. It turned out for the best as I have the OAF and DPP now lives in her cluttered office amongst half-eaten candies, dog-eared books, and two book-eared dogs.) I thought I might start on about that.

Since I’m always going on about something.

The commitment to “learning” English is stated but not real.

While I teach a “conversational” class, the final the students take to assess their ‘conversational’ skills will be 100% written. A deaf mute could pass these tests.

I was talking to my coordinator about the fact that they have given us a textbook which presents us with 7 “exercises” to do in 90 minutes. In 75 minutes, actually, since a 15 minute break is given. So assume 5 minutes for taking roll, announcements, getting the chairs shifted, and so forth, we have 10 minutes per exercise to include explanation of the task, modeling (most of the books are big on modeling), and then the actual exercise.

This is unattainable in even the most frenetic forced lockstep. So, you assign some as homework and hope it gets done. When I had this conversation with my director he shrugged (this is his response, similar to the program director’s sigh and faraway unfocused stare) and said, “it happens every term. They assign us a certain amount of chapters and by the midterm we are far behind.” But the next semester they give us the same number of chapters. Since most of the courses are curved I suppose that none of this matters, 10-20% will get A’s and the rest will follow below. I’m not teaching at a prestigious university. But no one is learning conversational English here.

I have noted the number of Koreans one can see, in Seoul, on the underground reading a book in English. And not just any book, frequently books of some heft, both physically and in the canon. I’ve seen Dickens, Shakespeare, Wuthering Heights, you name it. But any attempt to speak with these readers would be futile. They can’t speak more than a few words of English, and certainly couldn’t construct a spoken sentence under any circumstances. The Korean educational approach to instruction is one of the many reasons this is so.

Most Koreans don’t see this as a problem. Korean men in the United States are sometimes referred to as “hi-bye” men because of their lack of fluency. Kim Seong-kon, writing in the Korea Herald notes that the problem really is that the goal of Korean education is to pass tests. Kim refers students to US institutions and says that the institutions are always amazed at the high TOEFL and GRE scores of Korean applicants. He says, “Indeed, who could be better-trained than Korean students when it comes to choosing the right answer on an exam sheet? Due to the notorious college entrance exam that decides one’s future, Korean students begin training to choose the right answer as early as elementary school. Kim goes on to note that the second “amazement” these institutions get is when the Korean students arrive in the US and are not able to speak English.” Kim says that he has to walk these people through an understanding that test-taking and speaking ability are essentially uncoupled in Korea. While in the United States tests are supposed to measure, and even increase, knowledge, in Korea the tests are supposed to measure, well, test-taking ability.

And so it is that, somewhere in there, the little kids on the street who can speak limited, but pretty accentless English, become the college Freshmen who are entirely unfamiliar with English. 12 years of education has done its job and rendered these students entirely mute.

Society is pleased.

And I get paid, so it’s ALL good.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Roam The Alleys!

Probably, it's more like I haunt them.

The alleys among houses are usually deserted here, so as I walk them I meet no one. But god knows what a sight I must be to those few who do come around some bend and run into me.

I particularly pity the poor ajumma who rounds a bend and comes face to face with an old, fat, white man in a leather jacket slamming through the alleyways with his iPod turned to eleven. His arms wave in spastic approximation of TV on The Radio and his mouth howls (well it looks like that - the monster actually makes no noise besides the stretching and rubbing of leather overstrained by the body inside it. In some ways, I'm sure, the fact that no sound at all is coming out makes the scene even more terrifying) the lyrics.

It must look something like Hell Come To Earth to the poor old woman. I always drop my best Anyeong Haseyo, but it never seems to make up for the shock I have given. Then, I return to my perambulating Joe Cocker impersonation.

Got a curse we cannot lift
shines when the sunset shifts
there's a cure comes with a kiss the bite
that binds the gift that gives

No, I don't actually kiss or bite them.


Today was too shitty to head out to Expo Park. It didn't exactly rain, but it was overcast all day and that normally makes for cruddy outside shots. Diffuse natural lighting is pretty good for taking pictures of humans.. but most inanimate objects and natural scenes are pretty blah. Sometimes a good opportunity for B&W photography, but I'm not good enough to do that yet. So, alleys it was. A walk through the "old town" here in Daejeon on my way downtown. First to the train station and then off to, by some sort of indirection, good luck, and point to point navigation, find the Starbucks.
In retrospect, the fact that I immediately turned away from the Starbucks might seem odd. But recall - my plan began with indirection. So did I.

I wandered for a bit and then realized I was doing a sort of reverse version of the walk I had done on my first Saturday in town. I was heading over to the Solbridge Business Building. So I swung hard left and wandered very randomly through the near town. I bothered to stop and take one picture.

Regular readers (Hi ma!) might remember that I purchased some kind of "food" that I could never figure out the use for or provenance of. I'm afraid I have found the latter and it is demonstrated in the lovely photo there to the right. The mystery food is first extruded, and then sliced from the anu...... well, you can see for yourself.
After a long counter-clockwise-ish loop I began to feel I was recognizing things and then got to a rubber coated road lacing through a market area. It was tantalizingly familiar and I was sure I was on the track of the Starbucks. Also, I could see the two new buildings being constructed on the backside of Daejeon Station, so I also knew which way home was. That's always a comforting feeling.

Here I also discovered a shop that in some obscure way reminded me of MAF. So I took a quick shot of the thing that she might enjoy it as much as I had.
All of a sudden I realized, "hey, if I turn left here I will walk two blocks and the Starbucks will be right there on the corner." Which I did. The Starbucks, unfortunately, was not there. Nutted by reality.

I headed back into the market and kept walking. I passed by this startling diorama - it is of the classic Korean folk horror-tale that adults use to scare unruly little children (if the story of alley-lurking fat voiceless waygook singer don't do). The Korean tale of the headless wedding party is built to scare both as a horror story and as an abrogation of normal Confucian relationships. It is so scary that, someday, I will have to come up with the particulars of it. ;-)

Eventually I did find the correct left turn. Finding the Starbucks was the highlight of my day, which is probably why I was entranced.. maybe even hypnotized, by the old lady sharpening knife blades on an old-fashioned whetstone.
I walked into the closed part of the mall and took various pictures of things that homicidal ajummas were trying to pass off as food. The sign, if I am translating it properly, says, "Piles of incredibly nasty stuff. But surprisingly inexpensive!" The numbers underneath the Hangul are to local emergency rooms and poison control centers.

That arm? It does bend inwards my friends, it does bend inwards.

With all of this excitement finally behind me, I hied myself hither to the PCBang to grab some IM time with the OAF. Who, currently, is like the Starbucks - not quite where I expect or want it/her.



Because I'm a Very Clean Old Man

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Looking Down On Creation

There is some pleasure to getting things organized. With the big sickness not so very far behind me and the rain ahead (just starting, actually) it didn't seem like a day for roaming. I stayed within about 10 blocks of the Bohemian Love Pad. Did laundry, hit the PCBang, bought some folders to organize my projects. Took a look at the ScriptFrenzy site and grabbed a cool software yclept Celtx which lays out screenplays. Also took heed of the sites’advice that I should have an outline and came home to look at the work I have on the computer as well as in a beat up old notebook that I’ve been carting around for years (decades? Maybe. I am that fucking old). It seems to lend itself to an episodic approach and I quickly limned out 10 of the episodes. Sort of an ongoing story-line with individual flashbacks to previous, failed, crimes as well as previous (failed?) introductions and friendships. I always wanted to write a screenplay and, this April, away I go. I’m aiming at about 120 pages, but will be ecstatic if I finish the thing. ;-)

Once that was done I started organizing the Korean marketing piece, as I intend to submit that for consideration of the 4th World Congress of Korean Studies in Fukuoka, Japan. An acceptance there would be major. I am not sanguine, but if it gets me to finish the piece anything beyond is lagniappe.

I wolfed around the neighborhood trying to find pieces of furniture being tossed out – I need something to organize documents – but everything was either of another nature, or too ratty. I may give in and purchase something, though that goes entirely against my “bag-lady pimpin' Caligula scrimpin’” scheme here.

With the heat on, the rain outside, and the beautiful buzzing in my head (It’s 5:45 in the afternoon on a Saturday. I made a lovely Soju cocktail and am pretty certain there may be another in my immediate future) I can’t say I have anything to complain about.

Which pretty much renders me mute. ;-)

That picture is of some of the lads in my Japanese Studies students (my favorites by a mile – Korean kids studying BOTH Japanese and English) going all south-central (Korea) on they bad selves.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Report to the Empire: Part One

Back In The Saddle Again

Aaah.. it doesn’t take much getting better to feel better. Got up this morning, did my normal morning things and headed up to my Computer Science class for which I was massively unprepared. Got there early so I could buy the student book that I had lost but, alas, the bookstore was out of it. Still, they said they would have it by the time I got out of my first class and I took that as a good omen. Even better, as usual half of my Computer Science class had gone missing. This always makes it more fun to teach as with a handful of students I get a better vibe (better kibun?) and I can spend more time with the ones who really aren’t getting it. Class went splendidly and I talked to the kid who spent high-school in Ohio. Asked him how bored he was and if he would help the kid who is flushing down the drain (despite showing up – he will get his 20% for attendance!). Also asked if he would consider helping me (for pay) when I get around to Ms. Kim Yong-Ik. He said sure on the first (in fact was also proposing it as a way to blunt his boredom) and maybe on the second – he wants to make sure he can actually help me. So that all was splendid.

Walking in to all of this I passed the Pink Courtesy Women who swarm over the campus each morning. They clean, move desks, and do weeding in big waves of Ajummassivity. Here they are weeding. Some morning I need to film them at their tasks.

Went to the bookstore and the book was in. Went to the Post Office and paid my bills; 85K which is not as bad as it could have been and still leaves me well within my projected budget for this month.

Headed over to the cafeteria for my healthy Korean lunch and pondered that eternal question. If you’re having Kimchi rice, why do you also need a bowl of Kimchi? Shouldn’t you also then need a bowl of rice?

Although I study the tricksy Koreans daily, I fear I will never understand them.

Then off to my JS3 Class (Should have some pics of that tomorrow) and they never fail to entertain me. They are quite rambunctious, but also respectful and good learners. They and the CS class have cottoned to the “full sentence” and “how to make a sentence out of the question you are asked” trick and even compete with each other to make more complicated ones. It’s my class of retarded Chinese students that still concerns me.

Then back to the office for an hour of palaver with the LSM (Leaving Scotts Man) and a timeous departure to academic writing. Always a fun class and I’m starting to get the sense that one of these women is smarter than I am.

Not possible, of course, based on the fact that she’s a chick. Still, she’s smart.

Then back home. It’s Social Club night, but that has already begun and I haven’t headed up. Just not feeling it tonight and LSM and a few other key folks don’t plan to show up.

Today even the weather cooperated. It was sunny and mild and I enjoyed my walk home. Even at 8:30 this evening, it was playing relatively nice.

Yesterday afternoon, as I walked home under a nearly entirely clear sky, the Korean heavens mysteriously opened up and pelted me with icy rain. This country, for good or bad, seems to pile on.

Tomorrow is glorious Friday (and 8.333333% of the way through my contract. Not that I’m counting) and on the weekend I have some writing to do, but will also take whichever day is clear to head to Expo Park for a photostravaganza of globally ubiquitous hubbed nature.

Cause I’m down with Korea. It’s like it’s sparkling, or something!

Finally, the last picture shows two of the three cigarette receptacles that lie within ten feet of the door to my CS class. Let’s just say that Korea isn’t going to go for any of that pansy “25 feet from a door” smoking prohibition thing.

Cause they’re ultra-manly.

It’s a good thing they drink their coffee adulterated with all kinds of nasty shit (sickly creams, sugar, artificial flavors). If they drank their coffee black they’d probably rule the world (by what I call the “Starbucks Coefficient” which is that numerical relationship between the ongoing fruitification of US Coffee and our descent from a world power into buffoonery – I suppose there is also a “George Bush Coefficient” in there, but the trend began long before his monkey ass jumped on and accelerated it).

And, now, having written the longest parenthetical ever, I retire, gracefully, from the fray.

Is it I, or were there a lot of commas in that last sentence?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sick As A Dog

Holy Cow. I haven’t been this sick from a cold in a very long time. This reminds me of childhood days when I would just bed out for three consecutive days, but that would not be very good at BPU. The extra class today was a pain (and I skipped Korean because I was coughing so badly) and the stay for the late class really sucked. The OAF was gonna come online and chat but something came up, so I sat there and stared at my computer screen. I was able to pump it up for the classes, but as soon as they were over the chute opened. At least the class I was subbing for was a great, involved one and included on woman who knew English enough to translate the more complicated thoughts. I was reduced to charades and drawing on the chalkboard. And then if freaking started to drizzle (in the very windy cold night). Thank god the folks in the apartments around me seem to have turned their heat up. My flat was a toastyish 22 (in savage degrees) and in expectation of a horrible day tomorrow I did my stretches already. Now it’s just me, three 1.6 liter Cass’s and that codeine (only for it’s cough-reducing properties, I swear).

Let’s hope this bastard breaks tonight. I am NOT looking forward to my unruly class of Chinese Management students. Oh well, just that one class and possibly a stumble back here to bed.

Man - Practically had visions last night. Also swinging from feverish to chilled. Waiting for my class to show up. Then office hours, then home.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I huffed yellow dust, and I got dusted..


Sorta wasted day. Caught a cold over the night and was groggy and out of sorts. This cold came courtesy of an office-mate who teaches the little kids. When they first get together they are pretty much an experimental breeding grounds for disease.

Also discovered I have to pick someone else’s class (they had to go to Japan on an emergency Visa run). The good news is that they are teaching on of my books, and because of the MT last week and their early class, they had two lessons planned out that I have coming up. So with the help of their lesson plans and the book, I hammered ahead on my lesson planning. Also added some cool stuff to the plans, so they will be even better.

On a bitterly cold night I went out to an “international” steak and salad house with the rest of my office. 22K won and not really worth it. That kind of money buys me a week’s worth of groceries and the food, while plentiful, wasn’t really good. I haven’t been in town long enough to be totally jonesing for western food (some of the rest of the table have been) so for me it was more a social thing, though not a ton of that either as I was groggy with my cold. Thank god we split a cab home (well, two nut-cases did walk) so I didn’t freeze my ass off with the cold already set in. Yellow dust count seems to be on the rise and I would surely like to beat most of this cold before it gets up there in count.

With nothing else going on, here are some pictures that turned up as I sorted through my various websites.

Tomorrow – today for you, or something, will be another long one…

It will also mark my one-month anniversary in Korea which, except for lack of sleep and this here cold, has been grand.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

As I noted briefly last night, the trip up the big hill was cancelled because it began raining the evening before. My boy ADA came up to tell me this, but asked if I liked coffee because he was gonna propose we all meet at the Starbucks anyway. So at about 10:30 we hopped up over the college to the bus and headed downtown. Got to Starbucks and I had a delicious coffee (black, the only way that is proper*) as well as a scone. Trust the Koreans to make everything their own in some way – right below my “berry” scone was a “red bean” scone. Which sounds perfectly gross to me but I’m not going to order it, and if it helps the Starbucks stay open, I’m down wit it.

Cause I roll that way homie. That’s why.

*Confucius would agree

A Third Mousekeeter showed up, a guy named Shirraz (I choked back the rather stupid collection of wine jokes that immediately swarmed up into my mind) and we compared equipment (so to speak).

After a while, we wandered off into the market section of the “mid” downtown and I immediately saw a rather immoderately stoned frogish thing that I snapped for BAX. Two steps later I saw the lovely “69 Motel,” obviously a love motel, and because the name was so tawdry I had to take a picture of that as well. I also, finally, saw some evidence of Easter-ness as these Christian lads were walking down the street holding 24-packs of colored eggs. I’m particularly amused that the chubby lad in the middle has apparently been trying to eat the eggs out of the tray as he has been walking. Check out his chin.

We wandered around in semi-confused circles and decided we would go to the “park.” This led us underground, to one of the many underground malls in Korean cities and back to a place I had been a few days earlier, the tube-stop by the Canon store. I had not been able to take a picture of its rather remarkable underground naturama (I swear to god that is a live tree) the previous time, as I was in search of a battery charger, but this time I was all charged up. So there’s the cherry tree verdant (“pinkant?”) in a ring of daffodils. There were also lovely little fountains all around and slightly less charming Jehovah’s Witnesses swarming like God had knocked their little anthill over. I was three days unshaven and this kept them off of me, but ADA was not so lucky. We finally waded through them and came to the end of the mall. Up the stairs and we were at the park which featured an absolutely ear-splitting concert of Christian singers. Really bad. It made me long for the nice choirs that SVC used to have come around for Black History Month. The weather had somewhat crippled attendance as the two pics show.

Then we squished across the park (like all public grass in Korea that I have seen, this stuff was stunted, crushed, barely yellow and barely hanging on) and discovered a little bird sanctuary/jail. The outside of it was the jail, with dispirited pheasants and peacocks moping about in dark cages. But the inside was a nice little pond with one tremendously obese duck and a bunch of the little critters in the pictures here. Certainly aquatic, but not any duck I recognized. Prettier. It’s a nice change from the pigeons that seem to make up 90% of this cities’ avian population.

We headed into a Costco, which was just as at home, except populated primarily by Koreans. We had pizza, ADA bought bagels, and we slipped out rather quickish.

Somewhere along the way I snapped the picture I now include to infuriate the OAF. ;-)

But goddamit, doesn’t he look noble!?!?!?

I also picked up that USB camera port for about 13 bucks. Probably more than I needed to pay, but more than anything I wanted to have my kit back working.

On the way back I showed ADA a new way back to our apartments. There is an “old” part of Daejeon on the hill and it has the totally cool little warren of houses and small alleys that old-towns have. We snaked this way and that and came out one street above the one we would have normally taken. No traffic and still older than our place. ADA said, “I’ve been here 4 years and I think I saw something new” (he had been across the river in the new town). I think we’re gonna make a good wandering team.

I haven’t figured it out yet, but there are also some good photos in the alleyways.

Then, as we walked on, we saw something familiar - children playing in a little park.. As we walked up ADA smiled and said, “you’re Korean children, you’re supposed to come up and yell “hi” at us.” Just as I was theorizing that these were evil Japanese chilluns, they ran up to us and did the “hi” thing. Some expats take this for mockery, but I take it as kids being kids. God knows that most of the kids speak better English than the college students we are teaching. Something disappears in the period between.

All in all a good day, and far better than sitting in my apartment and drinking 8 bottles of Soju and then consecutively sending them crashing down on the heads of the noisy pedestrians below.

That’ll be work for later this evening, I think. ;-p

I end with one more pic of the mystery birds. Perhaps MSM or BAX can divert one of the birdwatchers in their neighborhood to the computer to have a peek.

Then, do the merciful thing, and kill them.

Sing a bit of the old Aerosmith Van to them....
Checkmate honey, beat you at your own damn game
No dice honey, I’m living on my astral plane
Feets on the ground and your head’s going down the drain
Oh heads I win, and tails you lose to the nether plain
When I draw the line

The Photo Walk Went on.. sorta..

So we made it to Starbucks and one other intrepid photographer showed up. It stopped raining for a while so, for almost 4 hours we walked around town including a slice of (real!) pizza in Costco and a tromp past an Easter Celebration that was a bit ragged on account of the rain. We also stopped in a electronics mart, so I know have a USB card-reader for my camera, which means that you shall all shortly see more of my incomprehensible, out-of-focus, under-exposed and grainy photos.

Also, I include this lovely map of the Yellow Dust level in Cheonan (the nearest US Army Base to BPU). Clicking on this graphic will take you to the Yellow Dust Page where all is revealed.


The excellent photo-trek has been cancelled on account of rain - which at least, washes Daejeon free of some of it's fragrant bouquet.
Yesterday, on a little jaunt, I snapped a picture of the image to the left. The Black guy is weird enough, but the blue-eyed blonde woman with the painted on black skin and the big mallet is alarming.
MAF asks, about a previous post, what is "MT."
MT is "Management Training" and it is a department by department thing - more like a team-building party than any formal training. The students and instructors go off to a resort, play drinking games and get stinking drunk. Also, it is where freshmen hook up for the next two years, until the boys have to go off and do their military service.
Even though the photo shoot was cancelled most of us are still planning to meet at a Starbuck's downtown. So I will have my first real coffee in, geez, almost a month...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mystery Ick Redux

I took another stab at preparing the “unknown food” last night. Having had uncertain luck the first time I decided I would try it in some kind of mash-up. First came the delicious vegetables and half a sausage of mystery lunchmeat. A splash of hot bean sauce on that and it was into the frying pan.

At the same time, as the instructions (seem?) to show, I boiled the unknown food and after a few minutes at full boil (which had no apparent effect on the stuff) strained it, which only revealed that some of the starch had been cooked loose from the ???? and I sluiced that off because it looked repulsively like some kind of body fluid.
A quick taste of the ??? revealed that boiling it, if anything, resulted in something slightly worse than frying it. At least frying it had resulted in small burnt patches that tasted like charcoal – That’s a taste that my cooking ‘skills’ frequently create. ;-) This stuff tasted like sticky nothing.

Nothing to do but toss it into the frying pan with the other stuff and let some of the sticky cook off it.

The end result was pretty palatable, but primarily because of the other ingredients. I don’t think, even if Ed ever identifies this stuff for me, it will be getting into my shopping basket again.
The thought occurs to me that perhaps it isn't food? There really is no way for me to tell that I haven't been eating something like a bushing for a washing machine.

Random Photos

This is what I call "The Waiting Room" because if you fall down on it, you will probably have to visit the doctor. It is the soccer pitch and I was told that the last person who slid on it (playing softball, actually) was at the hospital the next day with an entirely infected leg. I thought this might be a story, but I watched a soccer game and there was absolutely no tackling and even the goalie never went to the ground attempting a save. The dirt is a combination of yellow-dust (from China), spit, and whatever else garbage blows around on it. I walk around it. ;-)

In the back is one of our pink buildings.

My Computer Science Class hard at work

I assigned a warmup exercise, boys against girls and the boys immediately went into this huddle. It didn't help them at all, as the women crushed them using a more relaxed Monkey-Style Learn-Fu.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Socially Clubbed...

It was a good Social Club and primarily because of who wasn’t there. The bitter crew did not show up, and the newbies (minus a Canadian and me, who had to teach) weren’t there. So it was a small group and conversation flowed, as did the beer (I write this at 1AM, which is wildly outside of my “awake” time here in Korea) and this group quickly boiled down to about 8 who were evenly split between lifers and newbies, but none of whom had the “hate Korea” thing going on. So we drank and joked (I just realized, only one smoker tonight – I wonder what the relationship between smoking and bitterness is?) until we were tired of drinking (Except for the Australian, who never tires of drinking – in this way Korean bars are uniquely suited for him as they have no required closing time and will normally stay open until the last group of customers leaves) and then we joked a bit more and headed into the chilly night.

The Aussie and I are in the same building, so we walked down and talked a bit more – primarily about the drunken Ajeoshi who spat a big old loogie of snot onto the floor of the restaurant because.. well .. because he’s Korean goddamnit and they do stuff like that. His lovely wife stuffed too much of some leafy vegetable in her mouth and had to be aided by a friend across the table in removing all of it. Drunken Korean behavior can be quite odd by Western standards.
I’m sure this is all going to hurt tomorrow.. but only because Thumper is gonna wake me up at 6:45.

A good, but wasted, night. Which is double-plus good.

Got a job for hire to do..and need to push 1,000 more words into the marketing piece. Bank, mop, laundry.. two days of domestic stuff then the photo expedition..

Should be a good weekend, except for the fact my USB card reader is going the way of all flesh. I imagine the Nikon store has an answer to that.

The bank was enirely too easy. I had brought all my Hangul words having to do with banking; this planning entirely erased by the lure of the easy “In English” button. Sure enough, the check was in there and I pulled 300,000 Won out with the intent that 400K will get me through a month… we shall see.. If it does I will have piled up a good savings this month and that is a big part of the ongoing plan.

Thumper McStomp was blessedly quiet this morning and I slept til 9:30. This is the closest thing I’ve had to a hangover (I’m sure Soju would cure it!) since I got to Korea and I’m really not enjoying it. The long walk to the bank helped, but I think reading a bit more of “Creation” and taking a nap will really be the thing for it.

I’ll head back to PC Bang to try to catch the OAF – Who has been “evicted” to Antioch because her landlady’s ex-husband has taken to getting drunk and smashing his way into the house through whatever locked window suits him.

So that’s two car crashes, three jobs and three moves/evictions in the last year. A pretty impressive record for chaos.

If only (viz. Mr. Rotten) we all got cash for chaos.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Stuffed Nose in the Champagne Room?

Today was about, finally, getting a slight illness. A month in without more than a hint of illness – well, minus one slightly runny (in two senses) Saturday.

It may be about to be ruint.

They added a perfectly round Canadian woman (with hair that would do the Predator proud) to our office and she is teaching the kiddies. The kiddies, other than being a rich field for the alleged white pedophiles who Korea believe stalk Korea relentlessly, are also an incubatory experiment. As in every country, when young kids get together, with their developing immune systems and varied bacteria and virii, many interesting diseases shoot through the classroom. Miss Canada is our disease vector to that broth of disease. Effing Canadians, they really mess everything up, eh hoser?

I have slight premonitory feelings in the throat and nose that I am attempting to drown in Soju.

Unrelated, I discover that I am missing (which probably really means “I lost”) the student book for my morning class. Perversely, this may result in a better class for them, as I have combed very carefully through the workbook and teacher’s manual to make sure I’m on track, and it has resulted in what must surely be my most detailed lesson plan. I sincerely hope it has something to do with what is in their textbooks. ;-)

If I do bust through this disease by tomorrow night, a beautiful thing might develop. My Friday class has been cancelled for an MT (and if I never explain that, please remind me to do so - it is a critical collegiate rite of passage here and has some bacchanalian aspects that are interesting.. or at least cause too much drinking and hooking up) and so I might be able to go to this killer presentation at Seoul University that, LO and BEHOLD, has something to do with my interest in marketing and Korea, and marketing Korea…

The cancelled class, in combination with the conference in Seoul, seems to be one of those “pssst… hey buddy… over here..” moments. Except I probably won’t get mugged or laid by someone in the alley that is Seoul University. If I’m feeling half decent tomorrow I will get details on the conference and shoot up to Seoul on Friday morning (Thursday to that half of the world that is eternally behind the Korean Wave).

I’m feeling that academic thing again.

Heck, it’s worth that trip if only because the bullet trains in Korea (and probably most of the rest of the first world) reveal how lame AMTRAK is, no matter how much I like it.

Also.. I’ve got all my instructional sound-files on the iPod and am beginning to love iTunes, which I previously hated. It’s still a sack of shit about rights protection and burning CDs.. but I’ve finally started making logical playlists and.. DUH.. they make life quite convenient. I always forget.. Apple is about making things stylish and easy for incompetents such as myself..

But now I have a playlist for each class and when my boy Adam gets me the bone-speaker-thingie I will have:

a) an in-class tool much smaller and more convenient than the other instructors who are lugging little boom-boxes around, and

b) A home stereo to .. you know… to help ease the transition from a sex act to a grade…

You feel me…

I know you feel me.

Would you like a relaxing glass of Champagne?

Or an A+?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hang ul and ALLA these other Korean Speakers

Korean language lessons began today and, as it turns out, it is a language I’m not familiar with. This made learning it surprisingly difficult and even simple things such as speaking fluently did not go easily. In fact, did not go at all.

One amusing thing was the instructor, a Korean who speaks almost no English, looked at the class (about 30 people maybe) muttered “too many” (which is half of the words he has in English) and rushed off to his Division office. In about 3 minutes he returned and the class was divided into two. I idly wondered if an itinerant Wayguk could do this with his 2IM English class full of 37 heathen Chinese, but alas, I imagine not.

As I looked at the first lesson I saw a series of classroom scenarios on the handout. I thought, “how nice, he’s tailored his class for our needs.” I thought this because, despite what some of my skeptical, even angry, friends believe, I care about human links (this is not a reference to any kind of food product), human efforts, all of warm sweating humanity, really. Then, of course, I realized the swine started with these particular scenarios so we would know what he was saying when he ordered us around like human puppets, we dancing on his infernal strings to the demented music echoing in his head.

Here was a teacher I could respect.

Class went well, though his written hangul is INCREDIBLY sloppy which makes spelling complicated. The study group is thinking about hiring a Korean tutor to

a) check our pronunciation
b) make sure the spelling we pick up off the board is in the realm of the real.

Then it was off to the office to swap lies with J, my amusing but oddly unfocused office-mate. He’s 32 and trying to figure out what it is he wants to do with his life, so we get along. Did I say he’s oddly unfocused? I can’t remember, he’s rubbing off on me.

He took me around the corner for a Kimchi dish with rice and an egg. It was the first restaurant meal I’d had in a while and it was brilliant. He helped me with some food pronunciations, and I think I’ll venture out a bit more once the paycheck lands.

I also got my camera-battery charger today. At 70 bucks it was a complete rip-off, but there’s a photo trip to some mountain this Sunday and I want to get up and out. I was going to go to Expo Park today, but I am told it is not worth the trip. I need to get some household supplies anyway, so I may just put this off til Saturday. Worth the trip or not, I should check it out just to day I did.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Late Afternoon in DAEJEON!

It was a lovely day in Daejeon. Where some of you sceptics (I'm looking at you MAF and HYS) seem to think I am not. Some seem to believe that I am holed up in Santa Clara's Korean Town with a toothless hooker and a tub of Soju. Not so, and I have included the following pictures to prove I am in Korea.
#1) I took quick trip up to Seoul (At the 'request' of the Korean government) for some fingerprints at the sight of the Gate arson. One of the officers snapped this picture of me:
After the fingerprints came up negative I,
2) Visited a lovely snow-covered temple in Central Korea:

And then came back to Daejeon to pose with the dance team for the Hanwha Eagles:

I think I have made my point....

Lazing on A Sunday Afternoon

Sunday was an attempt to get my battery charger. I had some directions from Adam (the guy who lives below me) and from yesterday’s ramble I knew where the Daejeon Train Station and subway lines were. I walked over to the station – a sunny but windy and cold walk. Got into the subway and there was no station with the name that Adam had given me, but by looking at all the stops (thank god there is only one subway line in Daejeon) I could make out which stop it probably had to be and that Adam had been using a contracted name of the station.

No worries, the rest of his directions were supernaturally precise and I arrived right in front of the Canon store at about 12:15. Which was good. But the store was closed, which was bad. Anyway, now I know how the subway works and have a map in my head of where it goes. This is going to make it easier to explore the town in the weekends that are ahead. I walked back home and had a two part lunch consisting of things that can’t be explained in English and probably not digested by a wayguk stomach.

Worked some on my marketing piece – there’s a Korean Studies conference in September in Fukuoka Japan and I’m going to send in an abstract and see if I can present there. This may be a little stretch, but we shall see. Perhaps I’ll see if I can buddy up with someone from the tourism school here at BPU. Anyway, that article is up to about 3K words, which I suppose leads me to those goals I had when I got here..

There were things I was going to do this here year in the Land of the Mourning of Calm…. This list was:

1) Oh Shit – Finish piece of fiction I began in Master’s Program
2) OP – lyrics for an album of old punk songs
3) Book on Kim Yong-ik
5) Legal Habit (ScriptFrenzy month)
6) Touch my toes ;-)
7) Lose 30 lbs
8) Get the website sorted so the other one is the “formal” one.
9) Transcribe notebooks to computer
10) Articles/Publications –
* Korean Wave for EIA Due when?
* When Whales Fight for EIA Due When
* Marketing Piece
11) Learn Stinky Korean

So far I have converted on #9. This was an easy one, but still, it is done… So, 10 to go….

The Marketing piece is coming along well as I noted above. When it’s done I’ll toss it in a drawer for a bit and then polish it up if I’m accepted to the conference..

I have lost a couple of pounds (sez my jeans), but until I get into the gym I can’t say how much.

Korean language begins this week and the website sorting is well underway.

Next month is ScriptFrenzy and I will try to get Legal Habit (which may end up merging with “Oh Shit” as I think about it) up to 100 pages of script. After that I will begin to chase down Kim Yong-ik info.

Much remains in process, but I will update this every so often, if for no other reason to shame myself into continuing along.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Working for the Weekend

Today was all about shopping and walking..

Headed towards .. well.. I wasn’t sure.. took the same bad route I took last Saturday (without the intestinal complications), but cut to the left and followed signs to the Daejeon train station. There I found all the photo-shops that, I had been assured, would not have a battery charger for a Canon camera.

These assurances were 100% correct.

So I got some more hangers, some diet coke, some of the red bean paste, and headed home. On the way back I ate a slice of…


Well, pizza I suppose.

Very much like it but also not like it. It was something like the kind of “pizza” you’d get charged extra for in the Bay Area – under the cheese lay corn, peas, all kinds of things that are normal in Korea but not so much in pizza. As I walked along the dead river I pretended I was eating at some snooty restaurant in Berkeley and enjoyed it tremendously. Mostly because it would have cost me 5 bucks in the gourmet ghetto on 6th st Bezerekely.

An old man came up to me as I waited for a green light and gave me the kind of up and down that you’d get in a gay bathhouse. I mean.. you know.. I imagine you’d get that in a gay bathhouse.

Anyway, he pointed at my wrist and gibbered in that language they gibber around here. Something like Japanese.

I pulled my hand out of my pocket and showed him I had no watch. He nodded sadly. A few seconds passed until I realized I had the time on my ipod. I pulled it out and showed him that it was 11:34. He nodded ecstatically. For one brief second I thought I had created a moment of intercultural amity. Until he rolled out the only word of English he probably knew.


Ah.. the iPod had only convinced him I was some rich easy-mark from the Occident.

Fortunately, on my first Korean trip the BKF’s first Korean lesson to me was on the subway when a beggar hit me: “obseyo” – “don’t have”

I popped that out on the old dude and watched his toothless mouth cave in a bit more.

I had assumed the White Man’s Burden!

Later, I purchased some sliced octopus.

Well, it was octopus until I got it home and cooked it up when it turned into… well .. similar to the “pizza” it was very much like octopus but also not like it. I have included a picture of it here in case BKF can identify it for me. It has an octopus-like taste, but it cooks up like some kind of bread item.

I dunno, if it doesn’t turn out to be something like pattied octopus crap I’ll buy it again as it cooks up well with other foods despite the fact the I fried it and the pictures on the back pretty well indicate that I was supposed to have boiled it.

Who am I lying to? Even if it is octopus crap formed into patties I’ll buy the.. er.. “shit” … since I can identify it in the store (there are many boxes and bags of ferocious looking stuff that I can’t identify) and it hasn’t killed me yet.

This is the life of the expatriate.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Not So Very Jet Setting

create your own visited countries map

Two Week Summary(?)

Can there be a 2 week summary?

If so, here’s mine. I really like Korea although parts of it are messy and silly. It is impossible, at this moment, to disentangle how much I might like Korea from how much I am relieved to be out of the Bay Area and out of the soul-sucking marketing job. I suppose that relationship will be far clearer in long retrospect. And, of course, even having been in Korea twice before I am in the honeymoon period.

But BPU is agreeably disorganized and I am well suited for that. The students are, at worst, inattentive and the good ones are nearly fawning. Also, Korean students at college age are still much more like high-schoolers. They, almost unanimously, live at home with the exception being the older men, some of whom have done their military service. I haven’t paid much attention to this distinction, but I think I will in the future. Just to see what the service seems to do to personalities. There is no shortage of horror stories about military service here and that should play out in how they act in class. God knows, the women are still in cocoons. That's spooky. But the mix of high-school and college is quite amusing.

The housing is adequate, except for the thumper who lives above me (and I should say he has been peepless for two consecutive nights). It did not surprise me that, at the last 901 club he sat down and immediately knocked his bottle of beer onto the table. Nor did it surprise me that the waitress was over with a rag before he even moved. I think he is one of those characters who just doesn’t see effects, or can’t empathize (in the non weepy sense) with others.

The view from the housing is great. Smoggy neon and hills rendered artificially distant by haze. I don’t mind this at all and if I make up my mind to stay here for another year I will quickly purchase an air-purifier and start loading the place up with plants. O2 is my friend.

The neighborhood is noisy (part of which I defeated with my window treatments), but it is noisy in the way that a city on the hustle is noisy. Shit is being knocked down willy-nilly and new shit succeeds it. It is the classic human delusion that progress can be made and it is fun to live in a city laboring under that delusion.

The time alone, to think, is the grandest thing of all. I have a phone on my table. I went to the trouble of picking it up and, lo and behold, it has a dial tone. Blessedly, it does not ring. I have no idea what the phone number is, so I can’t give it out. It is in all ways the “parfit” phone.
I haven’t even begun to learn the language or head up to Seoul (or even to the local temples) and that should add a whole new level of fun to the game. It looks like the OAF will be here sooner than planned and I imagine this will come at the perfect time since I am starting to feel vestigial twitches of “where my peeps at?”

In two weeks, I imagine, I will wish all the Korean brutes exterminated and be drinking weepy beers with other disaffected expatriates. For the moment, however, Korea is what I expected and perhaps a bit better.

So tomorrow? A drunken Ajeoshi (is that redundant?) should attack me on the street.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Garbage In?

Garbage is handled differently in Korea, if by differently you mean "a way that makes a Westerner say WTF?" There is no overarching municipal garbage company so each 'area' is taken care of by a different garbage outfit. Garbage is generally just bagged up and tossed out onto the sidewalk. This is supposed to be in city-sponsored green bags (the collection of these green bags is apparently how payment is calculated for the garbage companies) but in poorer neighborhoods, like mine, it is just tossed out in whatever you have.

Also, there really aren't city dumps, so everything is tossed out onto the sidewalk and left for pickup. Which includes that lovely bookcase you see there to the left. I noticed it yesterday morning and swore that if it remained there by nightfall, it would be mine. Oh yes, IT WOULD BE MINE! And so, when I left the 901 club I hefted this badboy onto my shoulders, named it George, and took it home. On the way into work this morning I also nicked a lovely Asian picture of some sort, and that should go home with me tonight.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


It is the story of a man versus a machine. I am that man, and the machine is Korea’s clanking, whistling, thumping, hawking and spitting, hollering, honking, loudspeaker vending, crap-dragging, ajumma recycling, random construction noise-making machine.

This story is of is how I, if not defeating the monster, tamed it a little. And I did it using the following household tools (first three as seen in the illustrative graphic):

1) USB cord (for measuring purposes)
2) Costco Envelope (marked for measuring purposes)
3) Knife (for cutting and dreaming.. oh yes.. dreaming….)
4) Half-full bottle of grape juice
5) About the same amount of Soju

Korea being Korea, all the parts needed were found within a five-block radius. Korea is the homeland of distributed marketing and all I had to do was take a short walk before I found a little garage that sold all manner of construction materials. All materials involved in this triumph of the will came to me at a cost slightly below $7.50 (American, for whatever that’s worth? In some other post I’ll complain about the Won being the only currency in the universe that is actually slipping against the dollar). It took a bit of measuring, about the same amount of cutting, and then a bit of shaving (and I tell yah it’s true, I can feel every draft in the room ) and the thing was done.

I have one window left to do (either with the scraps I have left, or for aesthetic reasons with another $3 worth of foam) and then I will top both windows off with a tasteful bit of fabric, to bring out the wallpaper and particularly the fact that the wallpaper features the skull of Bucky Katt (“Get Fuzzy”) in it’s pattern. But that is a post for another day.

Flushed with victory and Soju, I give you “Triumph of the Ill,” the web video. It does not include the “final” look of victory, because that has only been applied to the small window. But as soon as the other window is done, I will send a picture along, perhaps featuring a video of me painting my ass blue and dancing naked in celebration (As the result of my beloved Sister’s last comment I’m not sure if I’m Roman, Scottish, British, or just some Scandinavian cur. All I know for sure is that my name is Hadrian. I will work on this and figure out an appropriate celebration.)

Today was good. Had the whole morning off but opted to go in to watch on of the semi-directors teach. Just to see if I was in the ballpark. As it turns out, I very much am and that was reassuring indeed.

Then, as I was chatting with office-mates and getting some copying together (in some ways the most difficult part of this job is the endless copying) the word came in that my Alien Registration Card had landed and I was off to the bank to get set up there. It wasn’t the bank I wanted, but it will do. I may go back later and change banks. Came back to finish the copying and put some stuff together for my evening class, Academic Writing.

Man, is that the best class ever. I had heard all kinds of scary things about different levels and expectations. When I got there were only four women sitting there, which means no matter how different their skills were, it would be no problem to teach. launched into a lecture about the writing process and all the bullshit came back. I could talk about how to write for weeks. Unfortunately I had to wedge in some time for them to actually write. ;-)

I was a bit worried about one older woman – she had a mask and gloves on and wouldn’t answer much – I had her pegged for an evil ajumma (because, you know, after two weeks here I know everything). But as I gave them some pair work to do she became increasingly animated and when I had them do a writing sample she started writing happily away. I collected the writing samples and they were better writers than most of our ESL students were at Swamp Valley College. I was happy to see that not one of them went off on the “I kept my baby” track (Which I noted/named at my old college when I noticed that if I used abortion as a paper topic at least three single-mothers would completely ignore the actual question and go on some rant about how they had kept their baby and therefore women who get abortions should be killed)

And with only four students I’m going to be able to really work with them. On the spot I decided this was a case for a portfolio, and I sent them away with a short homework assignment.

think I’ll do a bit of work from the workbook (because it has silly tests and crosswords), and give at least one test on that (Koreans love tests) but most of the work will be in assignment and then rewrite. I have no idea why BPU gave me this awesome class, but I am properly thankful. ;-)

I’ve just graded my four (4!!!) papers and the “ajumma” is a wildly fluid writer. Long, loping sentences, when she makes a mistake she self-identifies and fixes them. My heart, it swells mightily; just the way the oversized heart of a fat man would right before it exploded.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Whiskey Tango Foxtrottery

On my way to one of my classes I walked up with a teacher working another section of the same class. He’s a fine old Scottish reprobate who liked me well enough to try to find some kind of Scottish blood in the surname Montgomery. As we walked up the 103 stairs (Yes I counted, and I’m dreading this when the monsoon/hot season comes) he complained about the steps but, looking up to the skirted coeds who were easily escaping us, said, “but you can’t complain when you’re following such fine young lassies.”

We also compared syllabi and were interested to find that my syllabus and his, for the exact same class, were, well, quite dissimilar. Mine had quizzes, his didn’t. Mine was curved, his wasn’t (oh.. sorry.. that was later in the men’s room).

Today I caught up with the uber-director and asked him what was up. He told me to go ask Clerical Employee #1 for the “real” syllabus. I thought this odd, since she deals with the College courses and these were University courses (Tech Voc versus Evergreen Courses, essentially). I went and she told me to go to the University as she had nothing to do with it.

While I was talking to her about the syllabus problem another instructor came in and said, “wait, the syllabus is wrong?” Turns out her mentee (and some day I must write down how charming and feckless MY mentor was) was teaching the same class. The correct syllabus was pulled and it was not the one that either of us had.

Another trip to the uber-director. He did the look over my shoulder to the long-distance and sigh thing. “Ah, Clerical Employee #1 is normally so good with this.” Just at that moment the other instructor came in. He looked over her shoulder and sighed, “Clerical Employee #1 is normally so good with this.” The other instructor looked at him and said, “Clerical Employee #1?” He sighed again. “Clerical Employee #1.” She said, “Clerical Employee #1 has nothing to do with this, it’s a University course.” This occasioned a particularly pained sigh.

The other instructor said, “I noticed something else, on the schedule this is a 1.5 hour course, but on the folder you give to the instructors it is a 2 hour class.” The uber-director must have been, just over our shoulders, trying to see Japan by now. “Oh, well, you should always go by the folder, the schedule doesn’t really mean anything.”

At that moment I realized that CC type colleges are alike the world over. For the entire time I worked at SVC we could never turn out an accurate schedule. Just before I left we turned out one with extra holidays, three different academic schedules, and three different websites for registration. If Genius the world over holds hands a feels a spark of recognition, at this moment of shared clumsiness I felt, at least, a shared desire to find a bar, cliff, or rope.

The uber-director, in closing, thanked me for discovering this and chasing it down, but as he looked over my shoulder and sighed, I knew he wished that he was very far away and that I was very fucking dead.

Another day brilliant day at BPU.

PS.. the weather was good.

Monday, March 10, 2008

One Step Closer to Snapping like a Rotted Twig in a Drought!

Well, baffled at any rate...

Came in this morning to my desk to discover that over the weekend my computer had disappeared. How very odd. So the first minutes of the day were spent lugging a computer from the "bad" desk to the "good" desk. Then it was jibber-jabber with some other instructors and a half-hearted attempt to look at the material I was presenting today.

I will say this - working from a canned curriculum is very easy. I even managed to, barely, get the 7 sections in that I wanted to do. But the pair work was nearly impossible to judge, since the room is small and the noise is vast.

Oh well..

Tomorrow I have to gather various body parts of the written language and pray for enough lightening to power them up into some sort of syllabus for my Academic Writing class. Shouldn't be onerous, but new ground so who knows..

The Noisy Sounds of Silence

I don’t want you to try to save me

No I don’t want you at all
If we’re through
then you don’t blame me
Cause that won’t do at all

If you talk too much my head will explode…

You’ve no time to reconcile me
There’s no time left to call
I’ll take my shit and then I’ll vanish
I don’t want my shit at all..

If you talk too much my head will explode…

I don’t want you to try and save me
No I don’t want you at all

If you talk too much my head will explode…

As I lay on the mattress on the floor, reading another John Irving novel that could easily be used as ballast for a sea-faring vessel (Heft, not content – it’s a darned fine book), my iPod plays “If You Talk To Much My Head Will Explode.

It occurs (reoccurs?) to me that I love being alone. I don’t like contact with other people. I don’t think I like people. The MAF, with whom I talk about his most often, is openly hostile to the notion that I’m not some kind of super-clown who lives off of peanuts tossed to me by circus goers. My semi-loathing metaphor for this is the clown-car. It pulls up and I roll out, like 23 dwarfs in frills and makeup.

Of course, it is my own fault. If I pull the clown-car to the curb and roll out with balloons and confetti, then who would believe I prefer to be back at the clown-car garage?

This short time in Daejeon, however, has reinstated in me the understanding I had in my 20’s. Being alone, reading, writing and thinking, is the most funnest thing ever. When I did this in my 20’s I was snorting quite a bit of cocaine, drinking madly, and suckling off the SSI teat.

That made it even better.

I’m too old for that shit now, but man… the vistas of “no fucking people” here in Korea are vast. They’re all Korean. They don’t speak English and I’m completely socially irrelevant to them. Brilliant.

I wonder if any of my compatriots are here for similar reasons?

I’m not saying I don’t get bored (hey, no TV and no intarwebs), but I am saying (with week 2 hubris) that I’m loving the lack of requirement to communicate.

Silenceology.. the science of shutting the fuck up.

More people should study it.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Saturday, March 08, 2008

One Inch of Intestine


I was trying to walk to downtown (I think I was lost, but don't know) and felt a bit of rumbling in my stomach. Couldn't be anything, sez I to myself, as I had taken care of all that nonsense at home. Until 5 minutes later it became clear that it was something - the fabled Korean Grippe. I was nowhere near a bathroom and I had left my toilet paper at home. In Korea you really can't trust that your toilet stall (with toilet or squat-toilet) will have toilet paper and so you carry your own. With some regret I turned around (noted a Samsung store on the other side of the street) and scooted, increasingly clenched, home.

That 5 minutes almost turned out to be tragic and if it had been 5 minutes and 30 seconds it would have been too long. Let's say that I made it and then pull a veil over this unfortunate incident.

I was bummed, but after sitting around (so to speak) for an hour, all seemed returned to normal and I took another walk about town which resulted in procuring thumbtacks and a mini-DV tape. I also spotted the place that I will be purchasing my "Window Stuffer Anti-Korean Honking, Hawking and Spitting, and Yelling into a Cell Phone System" (patent pending). The only thing I'm having difficulty finding is western-style hangers for my shirts.

Still, 3 out of 4 isn't bad and I didn't have to do too much idiotic pantomime to get the things. Korean class begins on Tuesday, with study group on Friday, and I hope this will speed things up a bit.

I have a slightly better grasp on the classes and next week, when we get into our canned curriculum I will have a bit more to learn. But two weeks after that I hope to be confident enough to take a weekend off and head up to Seoul.

The mini-DV tape should mean a video-post quite shortly.. perhaps exploring the contested terrain (me versus the mold) of my apartment. ;-)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Living on the Cheap, In the Land of the Morning Calm…

So, you get up in the morning and have a delicious crab-sandwich from the GS 25 store, 1,000 measly Won. You wander over to work, where you grab the ‘mocha coffee stick” and open it into a small Dixie-like cup. Then you get hot water from the machine and you have sugar-coffee (certain to reduce moral fiber, but all you’re gonna get around here). Free, gloriously free! Up to your heated office and some computer dorking. Then class.

Lunch is late, because of one thing or another and so you push it to an early-ish dinner. Stop at the store to get

1) 4 mild Ramen
2) Container of Garlic in water
3) Small bottle Soju (it’s Friday baby!)
4) Grape juice.

The Ramen and Garlic will last several more days. The entire expenditure for this is 7,200 won (about 7 bucks) and with some chopped up veggies and a small sausage, you got dinner for well under 4 bucks. Later, I’ll check to see if the strawberries are still tasty and if they are, that’s dessert.

Simple, cheap, and with bottled water and my multivitamin, reasonably healthy.

So my question to me is –

Why was this not possible when I lived in San Jose?

I blame society. ;-)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

So Now That I Know it All.... ;-)

Second day of teaching went better, although my class is now up to 37 students which makes group work absolutely cacophonous. I can’t whine about this, since I hated instructors in the States who complained about their “workload.”

Some people never do have a real job. Lucky sods.

There were mix-ups in student scheduling that had to be dealt with afterwards. I discovered, to my intense joy, that there is a wireless network in that building so I was able to upload some changes I’m making to my websites. I think I need to designate one as my official website for business/education/marketing uses and the other as my play site. So a few things will be coming along to Spunangel.

Then, more hassling with class planning. They promise me that the Academic Writing class will likely be small and completely up to my discretion as to content and grading. All a bunch of “blah, blah, blah” that sounded to me like, “sex for grades.” ;-) Well, in the hands on one less trustworthy than I. In any case, I’ll need to think about this one over the weekend. Tomorrow I meet two new classes with the lesson-plan adjustments learned in the first one. Should go better.

Didn’t get out in time to do any of the shopping I wanted to. The effing Canon website is OUT of the battery chargers for my camera. Perfectly understandable as no on uses the Digital Rebel these days.

On the way home I stopped at the GS 25 Mart and it was out of its little crab sammiches! What to do? What to do? Everything else looked so very… Korean. I took a chance on a small triangular wedge of something green. I figured it was small enough to finish, even if it was bad. Lo and behold, when I got to the counter it was knocked down from 700 Won to 500 Won because it was late in the day. Koreans frequently do this to a foodstuff they deem better served fresh. Even the large grocery stores start discounting meat on the first day.. the later you shop, the better the deal you get. And it was delicious! The suspicious green was, of course, seaweed. But the inside was rice and some kind of savory (maybe meat-based?) sauce/stew. The seaweed gave the thing just the right amount of bite, so now I have another “safe” thing to buy. Well, of course, they probably stuff these things with everything from rice and beans to rice and fermented Skunk belly-button. My luck to get the best one first, and the next one will be between the Skunk belly-button and the pepper-sauced e-coli paste. As I think about it, those last two would be 900 Won each, because they would be reputed to have special healing powers (In a Nietschzean kind of way).

Still, it was a win.

I had been planning to eat in the school cafeteria, but as I had left my wallet at home, I only had about 1,400 Won in change in my pockets. Turned out ok though. I didn’t have to use my AK.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Quotidian Nation

Ho-hum.. most of yesterday was dealing with simple things.. getting the copies I needed for my classes since the copy-boy will be gone (again!) tomorrow. As it turns out he was gone yesterday because someone had sent him over to the campus to help the police guide traffic. This makes no sense at all, but I’m not Korean. I think I copied what I need. Then putting together lesson plans which went at a glacial pace, but I will at least have outlines for all of these books by the time this semester is over. This seems like one-time hard graft and then, if the books don’t change, just adapting as I go.

It was interesting to note that one of my classes is heavily dependent on a CD. I say “interesting” because I have yet to step foot in a classroom with a CD player. Given the level of coordination I’ve seen here so far, I have no reason to believe there will be one in my classroom either. Oh well, I’ll figure something out. I will do an interpretive dance. I believe the little beggars will enjoy it.

I have arranged to go observe one of the apparently more successful instructors on Tuesday and I think I should get a much better sense of how to handle the classroom. Nothing went wrong in my class on Monday, but I did come out of it with more ideas on how to begin my other classes, and that’s a good thing. Learning experience I guess. In fact I might ask the guy who lives below me if I can observe his class as well.

Made a little dinner (half a thing of ramen, cucumbers, green peppers, and half a sausage all done up in soybean oil) and now the question is if I want to start Lord Jim before I go to sleep. This is the other good news besides finally getting my office key – I discovered where the big old bookshelf of English books is. Grabbed some science fiction, which I have finished tonight, and Lord Jim because it is one of Conrad’s works that I remember nothing about.

When what to read is the big issue, it’s pretty much domestic blister….

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

REMINDER: Mean Mail #1 Has just gone out

To those who would like an occasional update that can't be placed on my blog for reasons of acute superiority complex...

Email me if you would like to get these random posts

A U-Curve on the Road of Life..

I made it through the first week here. This is largely due to the fact that I no longer trust the tapwater. The first two times I was here I was unaware that it was unsafe. The unsafetiness (Yeah, that’s a word buddy. I’m an English Instructor, I’d know) was not communicated to me by my BKF, though his wolfish laughter each time I drank tapwater would have been a signal to me if I wasn’t so consistently drunk, tired, or sick.

I sometimes forget that Korea is in some ways a very third-world, first world country. They did all this shite since 1950 and that’s commendable work in a short time frame. But if the new government is looking for something to do? It might work on the water.

Then there’s my impending suicide.

As I look through the “training manual” (which, so far has helped me in exactly no situation) I discover that from the minute I landed in Korea I’ve been on an inevitable and precipitous slide towards the brink (I actually have no idea what that last phrase means, but it sounds good so I’ll let it stand). The bad news is that, given the time frame that this graphic presents, there is no chance I will be able to purchase any kind of automatic weapon. The good news, I suppose, is that this means my fat ass won’t have to climb any kind of tower to find killshots. If I have to be a depressed lunatic I’d just as soon be a lazy one.

This is where Korea has brought me.

The rest of you?

I have no idea. I suspect you have all lost your houses in the great crash of ’08. Hard to say.

None of you email me and many of you are clearly afraid of the reality of that graphic, since you duck out of IM as soon as I log on…


Off to research gun ownership laws in the Land of the Morning Calm.

P.S. My decline into suicidal rage has been hastened this morning by the news I still don't have an office key.

Monday, March 03, 2008

SJCC Reprographics, you rocked..

Just a few signs that this may not be the most organized unit in the Army fighting for the eventual victory of the English language (just before Chinese swallows it whole).

1) I get up early to check out my classroom and, heeding the map which helpfully notes that the Woosong Tower is either building N or Q depending on what class you teach. I head to the tower where I discover that my first class, scheduled in Q-301, is therefore to be taught somewhere in the middle of the on-campus Post Office. This can't be, but I wander in slightly larger concentric circles and discover it must be. OK, I figure, I'll head over the WLI building and get this straightened out.

2) The packet I have received for my first class (the one in the PO) was mysteriously absent a syllabus. I head over to the syllabus office where the nice woman tells me there isn't a syllabus and there isn't about to be one and I should really just leave because I'm in the way. OK, I figure, I'll head over to the Director's office and get this straightened out.

I head to his office and ask him if I need to write my own syllabus for this class. He says, "no, just go up to the syllabus office and pick it up." I tell him my story and he asks if the nice lady said when the syllabus would show up. I reply that she seemed to be saying, never. He looks off into the middle distance, bemused. "That's odd, I just off the phone talking to her about his, she really shouldn't have told you that." Turns out this is a "new" class with a new textbook and the department was supposed to create a syllabus but apparently hasn't. This is interesting and there's nothing I can do. I grabbed an old (electronic at least) syllabus and mark "Draft" all over it and adjust what I can.

3) Then I ask the director about where the mysterious "Q" building is? I tell him that it is marked as the Woosong Tower and he looks at the map and asks, "where did you get this map from?" I respond that I tore it out of the orientation manual that he himself gave me at orientation. Once again he looks off into the middle distance. "Well, that's wrong." He pulls me over to a window and points to the Q building which is right across the street, but nowhere near its position on the map. Good enough. I've got that.

4) Then I go to get my office key. The office man grabs every single key he has (in an unsorted pile on the top of his desk) and heads up to the 7th floor where he tries them all individually. None of them fit. I wonder if I might mention that keys could be.. oh.. marked in some manner? But I know better. Finally, he sighs, pulls his master key and lets me in. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to lock up when I leave.

5) But it's ok. I fix the paper jam in the printer and print out the syllabus and a page of "In English We Think" $500 bills (I'll explain that later). I also have a two-sided assignment that I'm going to give the students while I conduct brief one-on-one interviews to assess them all. I head down to 'reprographics' and it is a small room in the basement with one B&W copying machine. It is also locked tight. When I go upstairs to inquire they say, "oh he's working off-site this morning."

On the first day of classes? Surely you might guess someone would need copying done on that day? But no, the inscrutable Korean mind does not see it that way and so a steady stream of professors wander into the office, lone sad copies in hand, and hear the news, "come back later."

So I shall. I sit and cultivate an asian attitude of resigned patience. And build grudges. Oh yes, I build grudges! ;-)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Cleaning out my Closet

Today has been laid back.. reading and some research.. but I have been relentlessly cleaning my computer and trying to get it in order..

As I did that I came across this lovely screenshot I took some time ago while searching Craigslist for jobs in Korea..

It strikes me that if you're gonna get all bent about how your skills in English are ignored?

Y0u should spell "available" correctly....
But I'm a purist....

Saturday, March 01, 2008


No intarwebs at home as the laptop seems to have damaged Ethernet port. No doubt a symptom of the "Great Drop of '08".

But here's the pix...

That one there on the right is the bedroom I am not sleeping in...

The one down below itis going to be of the Awesome Party Deck. And, yeah, I am trademarking that.

Finally.. down there is a hastily cobbled together version of my view from the deck.. Click here for a bigger one.. man..

Alien Whale Pods

Today was Alien Registration Card Day. About 10 or 11 of us stuffed into two cars to head to the local consulate. In “Monday’s Mean Mail” I will refer to the fact that many of our group are pretty fat. How fat? So fat that I didn’t have the slightest chance of getting into the front seat of either car. The last two times I was in Korea, I was always in the front seat. In any random group of Koreans I’m gonna be the fat guy and thus get the coveted front seat. In this group I wasn’t in consideration – I’d have to pack on at least 50 pounds to even be in the running and I’d still have to be in the ‘lighter’ of the two cars to earn the front seat. We be fat!

So three of us fatties, without seatbelts, for there was not even room for a wafer-thin mint between us, were jammed in the back seat as we careened through downtown Daejeon.

I can’t imagine what local Koreans thought about all the avoirdupois stuffed into, and then pouring out of, these two medium sized cars except possibly to call for the Japanese guys with the harpoons.

All went well for all but two of us. Most of us are on the more prestigious E1 (professor) visa, but two of us were on the E2 (teaching kids) visa and as it turned out they need to go to the hospital and get a blood and urine test (primarily for THC and AIDS screening, but also for other drugs that might pop up). Not me though, so now I am safe to go back to the Chinese Rock.

As I looked back on previous posts I note that I left out a picture of the bedroom and the rather astoundingly large deck. I sense some lawnchair parties before this whole thing is over. As soon as the intarwebs man lands at my apartment, I will post these pictures as well as a snapshot of Daejeon's Lovely Panorama.